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British Imam Says Muslims Should 'Aspire To Be Like' Qassem Soleimani In Tribute To 'Martyred' General At London Islamic Centre

New Age Islam News Bureau

6 Jan 2020

Massoud Shadjareh, chair of the influential Islamic Human Rights Commission, addressed mourners and heaped praise on the slain general


• British Imam Says Muslims Should 'Aspire To Be Like' Qassem Soleimani In Tribute To 'Martyred' General At London Islamic Centre

• Trump Repeats Assertion That Islamic Cultural Sites in Iran Are Fair Game For Military Attack

• "BJP Always Believed Indian Muslims Are Real Indians, There's Nothing New In Owaisi's Statement: BJP MLC from Telangana

• Pres. Rouhani: Americans Not Committed To Any Political, Legal, Moral Obligation

• This Is Australia: Muslim Heroes Travel To Fire-Ravaged Victoria To Cook Meals For Exhausted Fire-Fighters Battling The Blaze

• How the Sharia Economy Shapes Democracy In Indonesia

• Egypt Rules Coptic Inheritance Governed By Christian Law

• Killing of Soleimani Puts Afghanistan In Tight Spot

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau




• Coalition must continue fight against Islamic State in Iraq: France's Le Drian

• In 2020, Pope Francis may prove to be a great friend to Islam

• Judge complains after being left to wait while Muslim defendant went to pray

• Another mosque attack in Germany



North America

• U.S.-Led Coalition Suspends Operations against Islamic State

• US not to leave Iraq, unless they pay for our base: Trump

• Prepare for the second coming: The US resurrects the Islamic State

• US will hit Iran with world's best weapons of war: Trump




• Thiruvananthapuram: BJP’s CAA outreach begins with Kiren Rijiju’s ‘good Muslims’ gaffe

• Owaisi trying to become 'political Sultan' of Indian Muslims by hiding truth about CAA, NRC: BJP

• Yogi Adityanath starts CAA Muslim outreach from his turf

• CAA Omits Muslim Community To Humiliate Them: Yashwant Sinha

• BJP national VP meets Pune Muslims, Dalits to address CAA-NRC concerns

• CAA-NRC attempt to divide Hindu, Muslim, says JDU's Pavan Varma in letter to Nitish Kumar

• SC upholds law on appointment of teachers in Madrasas

• Anubhav Sinha supports Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan’s silence over CAA protests: 5 years back, no one stood up for them




• Slain Iran General Qassim Soleimani's Successor And Daughter Warn US Troops

• Jerusalem: More than 23 incursions into Al-Aqsa Mosque in December

• Hamas, Islamic Jihad heads give condolences to Iran’s FM on Soleimani’s death

• Iraq’s top Shia cleric condoles with Ayatollah Khamenei on Soleimani's martyrdom

• Leader of Islamic Revolution leads prayers on body of Lt. Gen. Soleimani

• Ayatollah Sistani condoles with Imam Khamenei on General Soleimani's martyrdom

• Libyan Warlord Declares “Jihad” Against Turkey

• Huge crowds in Iran for commander's funeral, daughter warns US of 'dark day'

• Iran will no longer abide by nuclear deal limits

• Lebanese refuse Nasrallah’s ‘declaration of war’ on US



Southeast Asia

• China calls for restraint, urges US to seek dialogue with Iran instead of ‘force’

• Most Malay-Muslim Malaysians prefer Mahathir as PM instead of Anwar, survey shows

• Muslims advised to change perception that performing Haj is to cure illness or to die in Holy Land

• Malaysian financier denies masterminding 1MDB graft scandal



Arab World

• 'Mohammed bin Salman Project for Historical Mosques Renovation' Covers 130 Mosques in Saudi Arabia

• Undersecretary of Hajj and Umrah Ministry Meets with Vice President of the Islamic Society of the People's Republic of China

• Saudi Arabia's non-oil business outlook remains positive, despite PMI slip

• Saudi Arabia 'not consulted' over US strike to kill Iran general

• Saudi's King Salman joins growing calls for de-escalation in US-Iran crisis

• The Egyptian foreign ministry will meet with France, Italy, Greece, and Cyprus on • Wednesday to discuss the Libyan situation



South Asia

• NRC scare may have forced thousands to return to Bangladesh

• Court asks police to investigate case against Tarique, 10 others

• Armed men kill 22 years old Ali Sina Zafari in Kabul

• Ghani signs decree to help the fight with Kabul’s air pollution

• Arrest Warrant against Ex-Bangladesh Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha in Fraud Case




• US, Iran War: Buhari Told To Place Islamic Movement in Nigeria On Watch List

• Three Americans killed in al-Shabaab terror attack in Kenya

• Sudanese official calls for Sudan’s withdrawal from Yemen

• Brunei’s first ‘gay’ crime since introduction of Sharia law

• Burkina Faso: Armed Islamist Atrocities Surge




• Pakistan Will Not Allow Its Soil To Be Used Against Anyone, Says DG ISPR

• PTI stages rally in support of Indian Muslims

• Imran Khan Condemns Attack On Gurdwara, Accuses Modi Of Attacking Muslims

• Pakistan renews offer to mediate in Middle East crisis

• Parliamentary committee to take up issue of 4,000 Pakistanis jailed in Bosnia

• Achakzai wants exemplary action for Constitution violators

• FM Qureshi asks world to support rights of Kashmiris



British imam says Muslims should 'aspire to be like' Qassem Soleimani in tribute to 'martyred' general at London Islamic Centre


5 January 2020

An imam paid a passionate tribute to assassinated Iranian general Qassem Soleimani outside the Islamic Centre of England yesterday, describing him as a martyr and saying that people should 'aspire to be like him'.

Dozens of Muslims attended a memorial service held at the religious hub in Maida Vale, London.

The imam, speaking in front of the building, addressed mourners and heaped praise on the slain general. 

The crowds had squeezed into the building and sat beneath a painting of the Islamic Republic's second-in-command and Iraqi military commander Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, as they paid their respects to those massacred in the US airstrikes.

The imam said: 'I would like to give you all my condolences but I would also like to congratulate you.

'We are lucky enough to live in a time where we can see, touch and feel a man like Qassem Soleimani and we hope and we pray and we work hard to make sure that there will be many many more Qassem Soleimanis.

'We aspire to become like him, we are jealous and we want the same thing for ourselves and our loved ones.

'The beauty of Islam is that we can turn around to our enemy and say ''do your worst'' because the worst is the best that can happen to me.'

A large group of men, with some young boys, was seen gathering at the Islamic Centre in Maida Vale, London, following the assassination.

The memorial service was held 25 minutes after a man was arrested outside the centre to prevent the breach of peace and for obstructing officers.

The Islamic Centre's director has reportedly referred to Soleimani as an 'honourable Islamic commander' in a message of condolence.   

Thousands lined the streets of Baghdad and Tehran yesterday in memory of the dead commanders, while protests against the attack took place across the US, Middle East and outside 10 Downing Street, London.

Soleimani, who died with five other men in the strike outside Baghdad airport, has been accused of helping Shia militias murder hundreds of American troops during the Invasion of Iraq.

US President Donald Trump said the strike was carried out to save the lives of hundreds in America and Europe.

Demonstrators took to the streets of New York, Washington DC and London to denounce the violence and call on Trump to de-escalate the conflict.

Outside Downing Street protesters chanted against the war while British-Iranians arrived holding placards that read 'Down with Khamenei' and others raised the pre-Islamic flag of Iran.

Palestinians also burned American flags in Gaza City, while an angry mob set fire to US flags in Pakistan, and around 150 pro-Iranian demonstrators held Iraqi militia flags and condemned the US as an aggressor.

However, the assassination was also met with celebrations by some groups in Iraq and in Canada, where people were pictured dancing in the street.

Three missiles from an MQ-9 Reaper drone hit the convoy Soleimani was travelling in outside Baghdad International Airport, killing the architect of the country's regional security strategy and five others.

Tehran has reacted angrily to the attack, saying the US's move is tantamount to a 'declaration of war' and promising a 'severe revenge'.

Iraq's prime minister has also threatened to expel all US troops from the country after the 'brazen violation of Iraq's sovereignty'.

The Islamic Republic was previously accused of masterminding a bomb attack on Pan Am Flight 103 as it flew over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 243 passengers.

The attack took place less than five months after a US battleship shot down an Iran Air passenger jet as it flew over the Persian Gulf, killing all 290 people on board.

Libya has also been blamed, although at the time Iran's allies and proxy forces promised to take revenge.

President Trump responded to the official's death in a celebratory fashion by suggesting Soleimani had 'made the death of innocent people his sick passion' and ordered his death to stop a war.

The US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has said regional allies including Israel and Saudi Arabia had been very helpful to American forces, while its traditional European allies had stood back.

He accused the firm NATO allies of not being as helpful as they could have been. The UK was reportedly not warned about the attack, despite having troops in the area.



Trump repeats assertion that Islamic cultural sites in Iran are fair game for military attack

President Donald Trump insisted today that Iranian cultural sites were fair game for the US military, dismissing concerns within his own administration that doing so would constitute a war crime under international law. He also warned Iraq that the US would levy punishing sanctions if it expelled American troops in retaliation for a US strike in Baghdad that killed a top Iranian official.

Trump’s comments came amid escalating tensions in the Middle East following last week’s strike on Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds force. Iran has vowed to retaliate and Iraq’s parliament responded by voting Sunday to oust US troops based in the country.

“They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural sites? It doesn’t work that way,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One as he returned to Washington from a holiday stay at his Florida estate.

Trump cast his response to Parliament's decision in monetary terms, saying the US expected to be paid for its military investments in Iraq before leaving the country and threatening economic sanctions if the US is not treated properly.

“We have a very extraordinarily expensive air base that’s there. It cost billions of dollars to build. Long before my time. We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it," he told reporters.

“If they do ask us to leave, if we don’t do it in a very friendly basis, we will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever. It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame," he said. “If there’s any hostility, that they do anything we think is inappropriate, we are going to put sanctions on Iraq, very big sanctions on Iraq.”

He added: “We’re not leaving until they pay us back for it.”

Earlier Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US military may strike more Iranian leaders if the Islamic Republic retaliates. His comments came as other repercussions from the attack played out: the US military coalition in Baghdad suspended training of Iraqi forces to concentrate on defending coalition troops; and in Beirut, the Lebanese Hezbollah chief said US forces throughout the Mideast are fair targets for retaliation.

In Tehran, Iranian state television reported that the country will no longer abide by any limits of the 2015 nuclear deal it signed with the United States and other world powers. Trump withdrew the US from the deal in 2018 and stepped up economic sanctions on Tehran — actions that accelerated a cycle of hostilities leading to the Soleimani killing.

The State Department had no immediate comment on Iran reportedly abandoning the nuclear deal, a move that holds the prospect of Iran accelerating its production of materials for a nuclear weapon.

Trump had issued warnings to Iran by tweet Sunday afternoon. “These Media Posts will serve as notification to the United States Congress that should Iran strike any US person or target, the United States will quickly & fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner," he wrote. “Such legal notice is not required, but is given nevertheless!”

That tweet also appeared to serve as a warning to Congress – that Trump would respond quickly to any attack and without first gaining the approval of lawmakers. Democrats in Congress have complained that Trump’s order to kill Soleimani took place without first consulting with or informing top lawmakers, noting that Congress still holds sole power to declare war. Trump did meet the 48-hour deadline required by the War Powers Act to notify Congress of the deadly drone strike, though the document provided Saturday was entirely classified and no public version was released.

The White House faced a barrage of questions about the killing's legality. Pompeo said the administration would have been “culpably negligent” in its duty to protect the United States if it had not killed Soleimani, although he did not provide evidence for his previous claims that Soleimani was plotting imminent attacks on Americans. Instead of arguing that an attack had been imminent, he said it was inevitable.

"We watched him continue to actively build out for what was going to be a significant attack – that’s what we believed – and we made the right decision,” he said, adding later: “We continue to prepare for whatever it is the Iranian regime may put in front of us within the next 10 minutes, within the next 10 days, and within the next 10 weeks.”

Congressional Democrats were sceptical.

“I really worry that the actions the president took will get us into what he calls another endless war in the Middle East. He promised we wouldn't have that,” said Chuck Schumer of New York, the Senate's top Democrat.

Schumer said Trump lacks the authority to engage militarily with Iran and Congress needs a new war powers resolution “to be a check on this president.” To which Pompeo said: “We have all the authority we need to do what we’ve done to date.”

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said the administration violated the Constitution by not consulting with Congress in advance.

“It's also important because one, you potentially get members of Congress to buy in ahead of time, and two, they may ask that hard question that's not asked in an insular group,” Warner said.

Congressional staffs got their first briefings from the administration on Friday, and members were expected to be briefed this week.

Pompeo's appearance on six news shows may have been aimed at dissuading Iran from launching a major retaliation for the Soleimani killing. The Iranians have said the US should expect a strong response. They have a range of options, from cyberattacks to military assaults.

It was unclear whether the administration would attempt a back-door communication with Iran in pursuit of its stated goal of “de-escalation” of tensions. Retired Gen. David Petraeus, an ex-CIA director and former commander of US forces in Iraq, said he believes the administration needs a strategy for tamping down the chances of all-out war.

“I think the real question for the United States is, will there be a diplomatic initiative that says, OK, look, this is not headed in a good direction. We truly do want to de-escalate. Everyone is going to lose if this continues to ratchet upward. Can we now sit down and talk,” Petraeus said.

Pompeo declined to say whether he had sought to communicate with Iran since Friday. He stressed the US resolve to hold Iran accountable for its interventions in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the Mideast.



"BJP Always Believed Indian Muslims Are Real Indians, There's Nothing New In Owaisi's Statement: BJP MLC From Telangana

January 6, 2020

Reacting to AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi's statements, where he asked Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to not worry about Indian Muslims, BJP MLC from Telangana Ramchander Rao said that his party has always thought of Muslims as real Indians.

"What Asaduddin Owaisi must think is that the BJP has always believed that Indian Muslims are the real Indians because when they had the opportunity to go away during partition, they decided to stay in India. Therefore, there is nothing new in these statements by Owaisi. He has only repeated what Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah have said. We believe that they are Indians as they are here with us," Rao told ANI on Sunday.

He, however, criticized Owaisi for his earlier acts of "inciting the Muslims against the Central government", but welcomed the change in his stance.

"He has been inciting the Indian Muslims against the Indian Government till now. Now that the CAA has come, they are taking the Indian flag in hand and singing the national anthem, we welcome it," he added.

He said that the change in the tone of the AIMIM MP from Telangana had come after hearing the statements of the Prime Minister and the Home Minister of the country.

Earlier on Saturday, Owaisi had slammed Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan for peddling a seven-year-old violence video from Bangladesh as a case of what he claimed to be "Indian police's pogrom against Muslims in UP".

The Hyderabad MP further said that Khan should worry about the state of affairs in Pakistan rather than worrying about the Indian Muslims. "Pakistan's Prime Minister posted a video from Bangladesh falsely claiming it to be from India. Mr Khan you worry about your own country. We have rejected the wrong theory of Jinnah, we are proud Indian Muslims and will remain so," Owaisi had said at an event.



Pres. Rouhani: Americans not committed to any political, legal, moral obligation

January 5, 2020

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): President of the Islamic Republic of Iran stressed, "The Americans have kept their aggressive nature and have never been committed to their political, legal and moral obligations and have violated the rights of nations”.

Speaking in a phone call with President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan on Sunday, President Hassan Rouhani described the martyrdom of General Qasem Soleimani an unprecedented crime by American statesmen and said, "We expect our friendly and neighbouring governments to unanimously condemn this evil, criminal act”.

The president emphasised that the United States is unreliable, adding, "The Islamic Republic of Iran has never initiated any act of aggression or even tension with the United States, and Iran's actions have always been a response to the American aggression".

Dr Rouhani said that Iran-Afghanistan relations have been well-developed over the past few years, and expressed hope that political, economic and cultural relations further deepen with the wisdom of Tehran-Kabul officials.

The President continued, "Afghanistan's peace and stability is of great importance to Iran and we consider peace and stability in Afghanistan as beneficial to the people of both countries”.

Appreciating the condolences of the Afghan President, Dr Rouhani added, "We know that the people of Afghanistan, like the Iranian nation, are mourning this incident”.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani expressed his condolences over the martyrdom of Major General Haj Qasem Soleimani and expressed the sympathy of the Afghan people with the Iranians.

Emphasising the preservation of the common interests of the two countries in the region, the President of Afghanistan stated, "Iran's security is our security and the efforts of the Afghan government and nation will be to promote peace, stability and brotherhood”.

Ashraf Ghani praised the good neighbourliness of the Iranian nation with Afghanistan over the past decades, referring to the long-standing and historic ties between the two nations.



This is Australia: Muslim heroes travel to fire-ravaged Victoria to cook meals for exhausted firefighters battling the blaze


A Muslim group have travelled to a fire-ravaged town to offer support to those who have been affected by the devastating blazes.

Members of the Newport Islamic Society cooked meals for exhausted firefighters at the Johnsonville Volunteer Fire Brigade over the weekend.

The brave firemen have been working tirelessly to contain blazes that have been raging in East Gippsland for the past week.

'It was very emotional to see how tired and drained they were. They were just exhausted,' volunteer Lookman El Kurdi told Daily Mail Australia.

'It felt really good to at least give them a feed and prey for them and show we are thinking about them.'

Mr El Kurdi said the group felt compelled to help after seeing what was happening around the country.

Along with cooking the meal, the group also collected five truckloads of much-needed items to be delivered across the region.

'We were seeing all these bushfires that were happening around Australia and felt we needed to do something.

'We put the call out and within 48 hours we had collected so many items.'

Hundreds of homes have been destroyed as a result of the bushfires across East Gippsland.

Many communities have been displaced as a result of the devastating infernos.

Fire fighters have been working around the clock to save what they can, with more than 766,000 hectares of land being burnout in the area.

However, some reprieve was promised with 10 millimetres expected in the area on Monday.

But communities would be back in the firing line later in the week when blazes threaten to flare up.



How the sharia economy shapes democracy in Indonesia

Syafiq Hasyim

6 Jan, 2020

In Indonesia [1], there has been an increasing tendency to incorporate sharia into the legal and public sphere (shariatisation) in the post-reform era since 1998. The country’s openness provides a space not only for the conventional economy, but also a religious or faith-based economy. For the last 20 years, the Indonesian government has introduced many state laws that were influenced by sharia, such as Islamic banking and halal product assurance.

A clear trajectory for the shariatisation of the economy was established during the first administration of President Joko Widodo [2] (popularly known as Jokowi) from 2014-2019. Under the second Jokowi administration, such sharia-influenced laws are expected to be increasingly clearer and stronger considering that Ma’ruf Amin, an important figure behind the initiative, is now vice-president.

Sharia economy should gain broader support from the state and society because it is perceived by some groups as a system that can improve the economic prospects of Indonesian Muslims. This expectation, however, is not free of a deeper political interest, and support by Muslim elites is also for personal benefit.

The implementation of sharia economy in Indonesia is not purely related to economics, but is also very much about the politics of identity and the winning of votes. In this regard, it is intended to produce more political than economic benefits. For some Indonesian Muslims, sharia economy is not only instrumental in establishing social justice and welfare for inner Muslim groups, it is also a demonstration of their religious and political identity as Muslims.

To gain support from the Muslim community, the narrative of sharia economy is developed towards addressing the relative backwardness of Indonesian Muslims in the economic arena. Non-Muslims are perceived as dominating the economy at the cost of Muslims’ well-being. The Muslims in turn, as the majority, think that they should have control over the country’s economy, and sharia economy is perceived as a means for achieving this goal.

The MUI (Ulama Council of Indonesia) established two important pillars for sharia economy. The first is sharia-based banking and financial businesses, designed to improve the welfare of the community and nation. The second pillar is halal economy, enforcing the lawfulness of goods produced and consumed by Indonesian Muslims through the issuance of halal certification.

In October 2019, Indonesia passed a law on halal product assurance, transferring the authority for halal certification to a state body, but the MUI still has a significant role in the process, as the issuer of halal fatwa.

The launch of the Indonesia Masterplan of Sharia Economy 2019-2024, demonstrates Jokowi’s support for sharia economy.

The two pillars underpinning the emergence of sharia economy reflect a significant change of the shariatisation model in Indonesia from cultural to structural. Since the establishment of various Islamic organisations in Indonesia, in particular MUI, the shariatisation of some aspects of public life has been undertaken through the model of cultural shariatisation. All sharia-associated economic activities initiated by MUI for instance were done without any direct intervention from the state.

However, the current state intervention in the development of the two pillars demonstrates its strong will to be involved in the shariatisation project. This also indicates that the position of the Indonesian state to Islam is not neutral. In many cases, although the first initiative of shariatisation comes from MUI, when the state sees opportunity and benefit it takes over the shariatisation. This is evident in halal economy.

The state’s support for sharia economy ties up with its priority to promote national economic development. As a Muslim majority country, and with both Muslim and non-Muslim scholars declaring that Islam is compatible with economic growth, the government feels that the sharia economy must be addressed at a policy level. It needs to devise an appropriate strategy in ensuring the promotion of sharia economy does not jeopardise Indonesia`s ability to sustain economic growth, secure access to international markets and retain investor confidence. In other words, state support for sharia economy is prompted by political necessity, but also constrained by current economic realities.

The structural shariatisation of the economy is problematic for the future of Indonesian democracy because it can lead to the shariatisation of other sectors. In a democratic system, structural shariatisation should not be allowed to happen because the state is not allowed to exhibit favouritism of one dominant legal system over others. Halal economy is an obvious example of proliferating the supremacy of one legal system over other legal systems in Indonesia.

Sharia economy, particularly halal economy, is perceived by non-Muslim groups in Indonesia as an economic system that deepens social segregation. In some big cities like Jakarta and Medan, halal-based social segregation has started to appear in the public sphere. People have the tendency to avoid consuming food provided by different religious groups. The legislative process of state laws on sharia economy and halal economy also tends to exclude the interests of minority groups.

Sharia economy is not only about the implementation of sharia doctrine in the economic field but also about its implementation in the legal and public sphere. Some laws on sharia economy – such as sharia banking and halal economy – indicate shariatisation from the cultural and structural angle. The production of state laws in relation to this issue is an obvious sign that the state plays a key role in shariatisation. It means that the position of the state is no longer neutral. In fact, in the last 20 years, it has accelerated the process through a growing number of sharia-related state laws.

Importantly, sharia economy goes beyond economics and affects politics within the country as well, as the implementation of sharia economy is supported by political efforts. Therefore, it is difficult to separate one from the other.



Egypt rules Coptic inheritance governed by Christian law

January 05, 2020

CAIRO: An Egyptian court has ruled that Coptic citizens should be governed by Christian inheritance norms, including gender equality, a lawyer told AFP on Sunday.

“Until now, Islamic law (which provides that men should inherit twice as much as women) was applied to Coptic citizens, even though Orthodox rules guarantee equality between men and women,” said lawyer Hoda Nasrallah, who brought a test case.

Nasrallah said she was forced to go to court to ensure her father’s estate was “fairly shared” between her and her two brothers.

The court decision was based on article three of Egypt’s 2014 constitution, which said Christian inheritance rules govern Christian citizens.

Previous rulings by the Coptic Orthodox church guarantee gender equality in inheritance matters.

Coptic Christians, the largest non-Muslim religious minority in the Middle East, make up about 10-15 percent of Egypt’s predominantly Sunni Muslim population of 100 million.

Up until now, a law dating from the 1940s has continued to apply Islamic inheritance law to Coptic citizens.



Killing of Soleimani puts Afghanistan in tight spot

Shadi Khan Saif


KABUL, Afghanistan

The assassination of a top Iranian commander by the U.S. has put neighboring Afghanistan in a precarious situation to walk a tight rope of neutrality between Tehran and Washington.

Many hours after Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps' (IRGC) Quds Force, was killed in a U.S. airstrike in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, the Afghan government issued a carefully crafted statement aimed at maintaining friendly relations with Tehran as a neighbor and working ties with Washington as its strategic partner.

Although the Pentagon has charged Soleimani and his Quds Force of being responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has warned that "severe revenge awaits the criminals who have stained their hands with his & the other martyrs' blood".

Kabul chooses words carefully

Besides deep-rooted historic and cultural ties, Iran and Afghanistan share a long land border, around 920.5 kilometers (572 miles) in length.

Expressing concerns over escalating tensions in the region, President Ashraf Ghani said in a statement that Afghanistan is closely monitoring the situation and is determined to maintain good bilateral and multilateral ties with all countries of the world. The statement said that during the telephon conversation with Secretary Pompeo, President Ghani stressed upon not using Afghan soil against any third country or for any other regional conflict.

Ghani's power-sharing Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah has expressed regret over the assassination of the slain Iranian general, and said: "Afghanistan, as a victim of terrorism and violence, calls for de-escalation in tensions in regional and international relations, and hopes that the recent events will not negatively affect the situation and the cooperation of our friends and allies in Afghanistan."

Spokesman for the country's National Security Council, Javid Faisal, told Anadolu Agency that Afghanistan is committed to maintain its neutrality. "We assured our respectful citizens and all of our neighbors that in line with the Bilateral Security Agreement with the U.S., the soil of Afghanistan would not be used under any circumstances against any foreign country", he said.

Fatemiyoun connection

The Iranian general was known for establishing the Fatemiyoun division of the IRGC, comprising mainly of Afghan Shia immigrants to Iran to fight alongside government forces in the Syrian conflict.

A number of key former anti-Taliban Northern Alliance commanders and political figures hailed Soleimani as a heroic figure in fight against Daesh/ISIS and extremism.

Mohammad Mohaqiq -- an ethnic Shia-Hazara politician and deputy chief executive officer of Afghanistan -- has condemned the killing of Soleimani.

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has also condemned the U.S. drone strike that assassinated the Iran's Quds force commander, and said on Twitter: "This action brazenly violates all international norms and threatens to further destabilize the region."

Muhib Ullah, a defense and security expert, believed the Soleimani's assassination is likely to cause panic in the region, and said: "It is likely to affect Afghanistan as well, but the likely effects are not going to be frightening for Afghanistan or for the peace process between the U.S. and the Taliban."

There were no immediate reactions from the Taliban on this key regional development in Afghanistan's neighborhood. But a former Taliban-era official Syed Akbar told Anadolu Agency that the spillover impact of Soleimani's assassination is not a major threat for Afghanistan.

Soleimani's killing came as the U.S. and Taliban are engaged in rejuvenated, yet fragile peace process in the Qatari capital Doha.

About 14,000 U.S. troops are currently stationed in Afghanistan, according to The New York Times.

Washington awaits feedback from the Taliban delegates busy in consultation with their leaders in Pakistan over likely ceasefire or at least some sort of reduction in violence in Afghanistan ahead of the next round of talks, sources close privy to these talks told Anadolu Agency.





Coalition must continue fight against Islamic State in Iraq: France's Le Drian

JANUARY 6, 2020

PARIS (Reuters) - French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Sunday that he had spoken by phone with Iraq’s prime minister, and stressed the importance of allowing the international coalition to fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s office had said earlier on Sunday that Mahdi told Le Drian in a phone call that officials were currently working on implementing the Iraq parliament’s resolution on expelling foreign troops.



In 2020, Pope Francis may prove to be a great friend to Islam


Michael W. Higgins is the distinguished professor of Catholic thought at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn.

The film The Two Popes, by writer Anthony McCarten and director Fernando Meirelles, sensitively and accurately captures the essential humanity of two very different popes: the cerebral and Eurocentric Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict XVI, and the instinctual globalist Jorge Mario Bergoglio, then Cardinal-Archbishop of Buenos Aires and soon-to-be Pope Francis, Benedict’s successor.

Of course, effective drama depends on conflict, and reportage thrives on easily encapsulated polarities. All the more welcome, then, to see that Mr. McCarten and Mr. Meirelles eschew caricature and instead create a portrait of fully fleshed individuals of unlike backgrounds and divergent views, but with a shared faith and a genuine affection for each other.

Benedict, in his prior position as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, rarely spoke of other religious traditions and harboured some serious theological misgivings about ever-expanding doctrinal horizons when it came to ecumenical and interfaith agreements. As a priest and as a bishop, he had a very limited pastoral experience, spending most of his time as a professor in a German faculty of theology or as the orthodoxy invigilator in Rome.

Francis, by contrast, is a Jesuit with a well-honed predilection for a “culture of encounter” when it comes to the “other.” He spent the majority of his pre-pontifical days in active pastoral ministry.

Nowhere is the difference between the two popes more evident than in their approaches to Islam. Early in his papacy, in September, 2006, Benedict gave his controversial University of Regensburg address, “Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and reflections,” a dense work not given to soundbites or immediate comprehension by those outside the world of theological discourse (an audience Benedict did not have in mind).

By quoting 14th-century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II, who spoke disparagingly of Mohammed, Benedict generated a media and political storm that saw formal denunciations by various world figures. Outraged Muslim spiritual leaders demanded a recantation, and protests and even violence occurred in some countries, leaving the Pope reeling, his curia in disarray and the Vatican press office scrambling to provide explanations.

Although Benedict made clear that the quotation did not in any way reflect his own view, the damage was done. As far away as Argentina, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires was identified as saying that the Regensburg statements “will serve to destroy in 20 seconds the careful construction of a relationship with Islam that Pope John Paul II built over the last 20 years.” The Vatican was apoplectic, and by way of appeasement the Archbishop’s spokesman, Guillermo Marco, took the hit and resigned. But as Francis biographer Paul Vallely makes clear, those in the know have no doubt that Father Marco reflected the views of his boss.

For Pope Francis, relations between the Catholic world and Islam became a spiritual and political priority. In part this was an effort to continue the strategy of reparation that Benedict, post-Regensburg, had himself initiated. But it was also conceived as a more hands-on, person-to-person undertaking that relegated doctrinal and historical controversies to the side, opting for an encounter of like spirits rather than like minds.

To that end, in 2014, Francis invited both his close rabbi friend, Abraham Skorka, and his close Muslim friend, Omar Abboud, to accompany him to the Holy Land. He personally invited the president of Israel, Shimon Peres, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to come to his home in the Vatican to pray for peace. He travelled to countries racked by internecine warfare that played on Muslim-Catholic tribalism, the Philippines and the Balkans, interceding on behalf of peace and mutual understanding. In 2017, he visited Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the premiere seat of Sunni learning, and spent time with the Grand Imam, Sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb, with whom two years later in Abu Dhabi he would sign the document “On Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together.”

Importantly, his first trip as Pope was to the Italian island of Lampedusa to welcome migrants fleeing Africa – the majority of whom were Muslim – and to advocate on their behalf in a frightened and populist Europe.

He has annually washed the feet of Muslim women on Holy Thursday in imitation of Christ at the Last Supper.

Francis also beatified the Tibhirine Trappist monks who had sought to serve as a conduit between their Muslim neighbours in Algeria and the Catholic faith, not by proselytizing but by reverencing their traditions.

As 2020 begins, with the Middle East still in turmoil, the Islamic State poised for a resurgence, and autocratic leaders flourishing in a time of frantic uncertainty, Francis may prove to be a great friend to Islam – like his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, a channel of peace and light in a tortured time.



Judge complains after being left to wait while Muslim defendant went to pray

Verity Bowman

5 JANUARY 2020

ACrown Court judge has complained after he was left waiting for a violent paedophile to finish praying.

Ronald Ali was ordered to appear for sentencing at 2pm, but the court was kept waiting after the went to attend a prison wide Islamic prayer at HMP Highdown instead.

Judge Peter Moss commented: "I'm sat here twiddling my thumbs. It is not a very happy situation."

29-year-old Ali was jailed after going on a crime spree shortly after arriving in the UK with his fiance, a British woman who had met the defendant while on holiday in his native Trinidad & Tobago, Guildford Crown Court heard.

Two weeks before his wedding day and while on a temporary visa in the UK, Ali had followed a 15-year-old girl who was in her uniform while on the way to school on September 9 last year and made sexual remarks, prosecutors said.

Ali had attacked his fiancé on their wedding day when he worried she would jilt him and he would be deported, the judge was told.

While the court waited for Ali to finish praying, Judge Moss asked the prison: "As Highdown was fully aware of the hearing at 2pm and the pre-conference at quarter to 2pm, why could Mr Ali's prayer not have been scheduled so he was available for the hearing?"

A guard at HMP Highdown, via video link, said: "The Muslim prayers are prison-wide, not individual. In addition, I would never have known he attended Muslim prayers, so when we went to collect him, obviously we then found out."

Judge Moss was kept waiting for over 20 minutes until defending lawyer Ed Butler arrived in court and apologised for his client's lateness.

Ali denied two counts of common assault and one of sending abusive or menacing messages but was convicted and jailed for 13 months.



Another mosque attack in Germany

Unidentified assailants attacked a mosque late Saturday in the Bavarian town of Munchberg in Germany, where Muslims have been exposed to increasing anti-Muslim acts.

A glass door of the Mimar Sinan Mosque, which is managed by the Turkish Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), was broken during the attack.

The director of Mimar Sinan Mosque, Hikmet Kıylıoğlu, said that people who came for morning prayer immediately reported the incident to police, who said they have launched an investigation.

He also drew attention to the increasing attacks recently, asking legal authorities to arrest and give the necessary punishments to those responsible for the attack.

Germany, a country of over 81 million people, has the second-largest Muslim population in Western Europe after France. Among the country's nearly 4.7 million Muslims, 3 million have Turkish roots. Many Turkish Germans are second and third-generation descendants of Turkish immigrants, who moved to the country during the 1960s.

Germany has witnessed growing anti-Muslim sentiments and hatred of migrants in recent years triggered by far-right parties, which have exploited fears over the refugee crisis and terrorism.

Police recorded 813 hate crimes against Muslims in 2018. At least 54 Muslims were injured in those attacks carried out mostly by far-right extremists. The attacks come as anti-Muslim groups gain more political ground and power in Europe, as well as deadly assaults on mosques in Western countries, including the attack in Christchurch, New Zealand this March that took 51 lives and caused serious injuries.



North America


U.S.-Led Coalition Suspends Operations Against Islamic State

Colin Keatinge

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S.-led joint task force against Islamic State has suspended operations against the terror group in Iraq to focus on protecting bases that have recently come under attack.

“Our first priority is protecting all coalition personnel committed to the defeat” of Islamic State, according to an emailed statement.

Iraq’s parliament Sunday asked the government to end the presence of U.S. troops in the country, and Iranian allies have vowed to attack American soldiers and bases across the region to avenge the assassination of a top Iranian general last week.

“We remain resolute as partners of the government of Iraq and the Iraqi people that have welcomed us into their country to help defeat ISIS,” the joint task force said in the statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Colin Keatinge in London at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sunil Kesur at, Sara Marley, Andrew Davis



US not to leave Iraq, unless they pay for our base: Trump

January 6, 2020

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): US President Donald Trump has vowed to launch sanctions on Iraq after the parliament votes to ban the American forces’ presence in the country.

Speaking to reporters on Air Force One Sunday, the American commander-in-chief’s comments came as tensions were spiraling between Tehran and Washington over the US assassination of Major General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).

Trump further defended his earlier remarks about striking Iran’s cultural sites, falsely accusing Tehran of terrorism.

"They're allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people and we're not allowed to touch their cultural sites? It doesn't work that way," he said.

This is while targeting cultural sites with military action is considered a war crime under the international law, a point previously brought up by Iranian officials.

“We have a very extraordinarily expensive air base that’s there. It cost billions of dollars to build, long before my time. We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it," he said.

The president vowed to introduce sanctions on Baghdad, ones even harsher than those imposed on Iran.

"We will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever. It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame,” Trump said.

Tehran has vowed to retaliate the terrorist attack that led to the martyrdom of the General Soleimani on Thursday.

Thousands of mourners took to the streets in the region to pay homage to the anti-terrorism hero, a household name in Iran.



Prepare for the second coming: The US resurrects the Islamic State

January 5, 2020

The immediate fallout of the US killing of General Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds force and popular orchestrator of Iranian fronts across West Asia and North Africa, is the clear and distinct possibility of escalation of both regional tensions and the price of oil. Neither is good news for India. Worse would be the likely long-term consequences: faster US withdrawal from Iraq, leaving Iraq as yet another failed state of the region, ready to host resurgence of the Islamic State, and opening the doors for China to entrench itself as a regional powerbroker, along with Russia – it has already conducted joint military exercises with Russia and Iran.

After the strike, President Trump tweeted that Iran has never won a war or lost a negotiation. He might be holding out, while warning Tehran against a war, an olive branch, an offer to negotiate a revised nuclear deal, an exercise, to undertake which, Trump believes he is well-placed, having acted tough on Gen Soleimani and thus insulated himself against any charge of going soft on Iran. However, it is not just President Trump who has to contend with domestic public opinion. Gen Soleimani was a popular hero of Iranian nationalism and the Iranian regime would be loath to be seen to be swallowing his killing while on an official visit to a neighbouring country in return for some crumbs of economic concessions.

It is not just Iran that will see the missile strike from an American drone as an act of war. So will Iraq. In fact, the US drone strike on some militias associated with the Iraqi government had already provoked the beleaguered government there, whose prime minister has had to quit following prolonged protests. The US sees the militias’ attack on US facilities in Iraq that resulted in the death of a US contractor and injuries to several others as an act of war, quite apart from the protesters’ breaching of the secured perimeter of the US embassy in Baghdad.

Trump’s America-First policy offers little justification for staying on in Iraq if the Iraqi government asks it to leave. America’s shale revolution has degraded West Asia’s strategic importance for the superpower: the US is now a net exporter of energy. From Barak Obama’s time onwards, the US has been reluctant to risk American lives fighting wars to sort out local rivalries in distant lands.

Israel and Saudi Arabia are America’s staunchest allies in the region. And because of this, these nations are at risk from Iranian retaliation. Israel is capable of looking after itself in conventional war and is vulnerable only to stray rocket launches by Iran-backed forces in its neighbourhood. But Saudi Arabia is more vulnerable as the recent drone attack on its oil facilities made clear. The attacks were attributed to the Houthis, whom Saudi Arabia is fighting in Yemen. The Houthis are backed by Iran.

Iran wields influence in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon and has sectional support among the Shias who chafe under Sunni rule in most Arab states, including Iraq. Iran can target US facilities and personnel anywhere in the region, and the logical thing for a risk-averse American president to do is to withdraw troops from the region, except for those deployed in traditional bases, and rely on satellite and other intelligence and drone strikes to exert its might. Of course, the US cannot be seen to be turning tail and running; so, an initial show of force can be expected, killing more Arabs and arousing even more anger. The tweeted test to destroy sites important to Iranian culture touches a new low, however. Iranian culture is valuable human heritage, and by threatening to destroy its sites, President Trump lowers himself and American forces to the level of the Taliban, who destroyed the Bamian Buddhas, and the Islamic State, which plundered and destroyed invaluable archaeological sites in Iraq.

The result would almost certainly be to reinforce the popular perception of the US as the Great Satan, as Ayatollah Khomeini had branded the superpower at the height of the Iranian revolution. Anti-Americanism will likely spread in the region, and morph into rejection of the West and, in reaction, greater reliance on puritanical Islam, which is amenable to interpretations that justify terror. Reinforcement of the culture and ideology of Jihad would nurture the Islamic State and its offshoots, as well as the tendency for self-radicalisation by Muslims whose knowledge of the scripture is weaker than their access to the Internet and its plentiful supply of sectarian hatred.

The premier spy agencies of the US and Pakistan, the CIA and the ISI, had collaborated to train the Taliban as a motivated, fanatical force to drive the Soviet Red Army out of Afghanistan. A flailing economy back home and weak leadership led Russia out of Afghanistan. The result was to leave Afghanistan in the hands of the Taliban, who allowed Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda to use the country as their base. The Americans realised on September 11, 2001 that creating failed states under terrorist suzerainty is dangerous for them, too. But that realisation did not translate into policy. The destabilisation of Iraq after the second Iraq war led to the emergence of the Islamic State, which promised Sunnis Islamic rule in a Caliphate that would eventually spread over the globe, in place of anarchy under nominal rule by a Shia supported by the Americans.

The Islamic State wrought havoc in the Levant, forcing the US and its Nato allies to send troops to fight them in the region. Gen Soleimani was a staunch ally in that fight against the Islamic State. After the West’s defeat in Syria, Syria is no longer a haven for the Islamic State, the rule of the Assad regime slowly asserting its authority across the country except for Idlib.

However, Libya is another place where no one is in charge and offers itself up as a place where the Islamic State can regroup. Unilateral American withdrawal from the Kurdish regions bordering Turkey broke trust, alliances and the barrier to the Islamic State’s regrouping. Now, Iraq is being destabilised once again, with local militias up in arms against American bases and troops. When the US leaves, of course, after delivering some lethal blows to the militias to show that America is still top dog, Iraq will once again become the stomping ground of Jihad.

Iraq will serve as the launchpad for Jihad’s sustained spread to Asia. The Islamic State already has a foothold in Indonesia and the Philippines and is eagerly seeking occupy its most prized target, India. India, too, will pay a price for US unilateralism and myopia under President Trump.

India must support Iran at this moment, as it is the power that can play a decisive role in stabilising the region and routing the Islamic State. India values the US as a strategic partner, but cannot accept unilateral use of superior military might as a legitimate instrumentality of settling disputes among nations. Especially when such might is used in a manner that further strengthens China as a global power.

An of course, India must pursue policies that strengthen national cohesion, not divisive pursuit of majoritarian glory. It must strengthen its economy and, use that strength to build technological and military capability that can underpin strategic autonomy.

The urgent steps we take now must not be in a direction that takes us away from that goal.



US will hit Iran with world's best weapons of war: Trump

January 5, 2020

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): US President Donald Trump has once again threatened to strike Iran “harder than they have ever been hit before” using what he called “by far the BEST in the World” military equipment.

Trump made the threat on Twitter hours after he threatened to hit 52 Iranian sites if the Iranians attempted to take retaliatory action against the US for the assassination of a senior military commander.

Major General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), were assassinated in US airstrikes in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on Friday.

Trump's threats came after Iranian authorities said they would show a harsh response to the US strikes.

In his new tweets, Trump said that the US would use “brand new beautiful equipment” to hit the Islamic Republic “without hesitation.”

Outraged by president's threats, many social media users have taken to Twitter criticizing him.

Meanwhile, Trump's Democratic presidential rival for the 2020 election, Joe Biden, said in an interview that the president's remarks on Twitter were "dangerous and irresponsible."

"When he makes statements like that, it just seems to me to be he's going off on a tweet storm on his own, and it's incredibly dangerous and irresponsible," Biden told reporters, according to a video posted to Twitter by CBS News's Bo Erickson.

Trump has drawn widespread condemnation across the United States as groups of protesters took to the streets in Washington and other cities on Saturday to criticize him for ordering to conduct the airstrike in Iraq and to send about 3,000 more troops to the Middle East.





Thiruvananthapuram: BJP’s CAA outreach begins with Kiren Rijiju’s ‘good Muslims’ gaffe

Jan 6, 2020

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Union minister Kiren Rijiju dismissed the Kerala assembly resolution against CAA as a ‘political gimmick’, but quickly realised the depth of public anger against the controversial citizen act when noted Malayalam writer George Onakkoor told him to his face that excluding Muslims alone from the Act was against India’s deep-rooted secularism.

“We have so many castes and religions. We also have several ideologies. But we respect each other. We are secular. This Act has created concern among the people,” Onakkoor told Rijiju, when the latter met him at his home as part of BJP’s door-to-door campaign in the state on the issue.

Rijiju met several important people, including Latin Catholic archbishop Soosa Pakiam, who too voiced concern over the Act. Accepting the apprehensions in good faith, the minister said: “It is the beauty of democracy that everyone has the freedom to criticise.”

The Union minister said the central government has not excluded any particular religion from citizenship. “We have given citizenship to several good Muslims like singer Adnan Sami in the past. We have only said that illegal immigrants will not be given citizenship. It is not against Muslims,’’ he said. When asked to clarify on what he meant by ‘good Muslims’, Rijiju responded, “what I meant was Muslims with no criminal backgrounds. There is no good or bad Muslims. What I wanted to say was Muslims with no criminal track record’’.



Owaisi trying to become 'political Sutlan' of Indian Muslims by hiding truth about CAA, NRC: BJP

January 6, 2020

BJP leader T Srinivas accused AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi of trying to become the "political sultan" of Indian Muslims by not speaking the truth on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

"Owaisi, in order to consolidate his vote bank and become the undisputed political sultan of the Muslims in India chose not to tell the truth and did not care to tell his followers what in reality the CAA and NRC stand for," Srinivas told ANI here.

The BJP NRI Committee Chairman further said that the AIMIM MP had shown his frustration by opposing the CAA.

"He has revealed his utter frustration on the pro-minority bills (CAA) which was passed in Parliament under the leadership of Narendra Modi. Why this open rebellion now? Has his faith in the Indian constitution started wavering because the BJP-NDA has started passing them in both the houses?" Srinivas said.

He reminded Owaisi that his brother, Akbaruddin Owaisi's statement had once caused "nearly riot-like situations," and added, "Owaisi always swears by the Constitution of India and the Article of freedom to preach and practice one's religion."

The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, seeks to grant Indian citizenship to Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist and Parsi refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh and who entered India on or before December 31, 2014. NRC seeks to identify illegal immigrants in the country. It was rolled out in Assam on the directions of the Supreme Court where 19 lakh people were excluded in the final list.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)



Yogi Adityanath starts CAA Muslim outreach from his turf

Jan 6, 2020

GORAKHPUR: After launching a crackdown on anti-CAA rioters and slapping recovery notices on many others for allegedly damaging public property, UP CM Yogi Adityanath on Sunday embarked on an outreach programme in the Muslim-dominated Gorakhnath area to "dispel doubts" and drum up support for the new citizenship law.

Launching the campaign from his mutt, Yogi walked down to a shop owned by one Chowdhary Kaifulwara and stood facing a crowd. Handing out copies of a booklet that purportedly clears the air on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, he said the law had been amended to give citizenship rather than snatch it from any community.

"Read the booklet to remove your doubts," he said.

Appealing to the Muslim community not to pay heed to rumours, he said: "It is our tradition to give shelter to persecuted people from other countries. PM Modi brought CAA to give citizenship to these people, but Congress, Samajwadi Party and its allies are trying to mislead people by spreading confusion and fomenting violence."

On behalf of the community, Kaifulwara submitted three memorandums to the CM, one of which seeks the release of "protesters without a criminal background".

All of these people were arrested during the anti-CAA protests in Gorakhpur on December 20. Raja Ram Yadav, who teaches chemistry at Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gorakhpur University, told TOI that the outreach should have been launched before the law was passed, triggering protests. Ashfaq, another resident, said: "The CM has rightly said we should read about CAA before staging protests."



CAA omits Muslim community to humiliate them: Yashwant Sinha

JANUARY 05, 2020

Ahead of the 22-day yatra in protest against the amended Citizenship Act and the proposed National Population Register, former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha said on Sunday the deliberate exclusion of the Muslim community from the legislation was to ‘humiliate’ them.

The Rashtra Manch, an organisation helmed by Mr. Sinha along with two other groups, is undertaking a 3,000-km “Gandhi Shanti Yatra” that will begin from Mumbai’s Apollo Bunder on January 9 and conclude at the Raj Ghat on January 30.

“Many like me feel that by discriminating on the basis of religion the government has violated the basic structure of the Constitution. And the omission of the Muslim community from the legislation has been done to humiliate them,” Mr. Sinha told The Hindu.

Mr. Sinha said if the government’s intentions were right they would have included the ‘Rohingya’ community who had been forced to flee Myanmar. Pakistan, Bangaldesh and Afghanistan are not the only Islamic countries of the world. There are 54 members of the Organisation of Islamic Countries which have many Hindu residents, so why not include these countries too, he asked. The government had also chosen to ignore the long-standing refugee communities in our country comprising the Tibetans and the Tamil community from Sri Lanka, he said.

“The basic purpose of the government is to keep the nation and the people involved in this communal debate and not talk about the more basic issues of economy.”

The yatra will seek to re-direct the narrative on more pressing and basic problems of the perilous state of economy and the agrarian crisis, he said.

On the NRC, Mr. Sinha said the government was trying to create confusion with its double-speak. “The government has been lying repeatedly. Home Minister Amit Shah has repeatedly said both inside and outside Parliament that it will be implemented and all ghupaitye [infiltrators] will be weeded out. And now the Prime Minister says his government never spoke about the NRC. It’s a blatant lie,” Mr. Sinha said.



BJP national VP meets Pune Muslims, Dalits to address CAA-NRC concerns

Jan 05, 2020

With the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register for Citizens (NRC) continuing to draw criticism, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and began an outreach programme in Pune to ally fears among concerned communities.

Rajya Sabha MP and BJP national vice-president Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, on Sunday, interacted with Muslim and Dalit intellectuals in Pune. Rajesh Pande, general secretary of BJP had organised the meet.

“I met at least half a dozen Muslim intellectuals and explained to them what is the background of CAA-NRC, why it was in brought and what would its impact be. They were happy to have their doubts being addressed. They were appreciative of the fact that government has resolutely brought in some reforms like banning triple talaq. The interaction was encouraging and we also told them that we are ready to consider their suggestions and are even welcome to critical assessments,” said Sahasrabuddhe

Sahasrabuddhe explained that according to the feedback he received, many people, especially those who are underprivileged, marginalised and economically disadvantaged have been fed with wrong information and rumours. He said that the party will be effectively reaching out them.

“We are on a public awakening campaign spree. My job was to make people see the reason behind the new amendment in the act and convince them that there is nothing objectionable. Whatever the misinformation campaign that is being conducted by the opposition members, they see that it is meaningless and there is no reason that they should believe in it ,” he said.

Businessman Ali Daruwala, who was present at the interaction, said, “Sahasrabuddhe explained that CAA-NRC was not against Muslims or people of other communities.”



CAA-NRC attempt to divide Hindu, Muslim, says JDU's Pavan Varma in letter to Nitish Kumar

05th January 2020

PATNA: Expressing his disagreement, diplomat-turned-politician and national general secretary of JD (U) Pavan K Verma on Sunday urged Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar to categorically reject the Citizenship Act.

Verma, who shot off a letter to the chief minister stated that the country has come at a crucial crossroads. "The choice before the political leaders is stark: either to work to save the idea of India as a plural, composite, multi-religious nation in which there is respect for all faiths, and social harmony and prevailing peace, or to see it being divided by organised attempts at creating discord and acrimony amongst Indians on the basis of religion," said the former Rajya Sabha MP in his letter.

Verma on Sunday through his letter further reminded Bihar CM Nitish Kumar that he (Kumar) has always stood for a secular India, where there is peace, respect and goodwill among all communities.

Taking a jibe at BJP leader and deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi, Verma has stated in the letter that unilateral announcement by Sushil Kumar Modi that the NPR will be carried out in Bihar between May 15 and May 28 in 2020 took him by utter surprise. "As you are aware, the government has categorically stated that the NPR is the first step to implementing the NRC. Since you have said that Bihar will not have the NRC, it follows that you must say no to the revised NPR as well," Verma has stated in the letter.

Citing some instances of violence including murder of a youth protesting against CAA in Patna's Phulwari Sharif, Verma  requested Nitish Kumar to 'take a principled stand against the CAA-NPR-NRC and reject its nefarious agenda to divide India and create a great deal of unnecessary social turbulence'. He advised Kumar that a clear cut statement by him(Nitish Kumar) to this issue would be a major step towards preserving and strengthening the idea of India  to which Nitish Kumar is committed.

"India is greater than individual position or power or electoral success or failure or such transient considerations."

On Saturday, before Verma wrote a letter, Bihar industry minister Shyam Rajak has also expressed his dismay over Sushil Kumar Modi's announcement of date for NPR in Bihar without government or JDU consent.

The letter assumes significance after deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi announced dates for implementation of NPR in Bihar on Saturday. "No state government can refuse to work on NPR updating because it is a statutory exercise. Denial of it by anyone would be a punishable offence inviting 3-year of imprisonment or financial penalty," Modi stated further adding that census directors were appointed in all states including Bihar to monitor works on NPR upgradation from May 15 to 28.

After JD-U vice President and poll strategist Prashant Kishor, it is Verma, who vented his displeasure over the Nitish Kumar's support to CAA after it was legislated in the parliament. Kishor had stated that the CAA-NRC combo is divisive and discriminatory and the revised NPR is the first step towards the NRC.



SC upholds law on appointment of teachers in Madrasas

Jan 6, 2020

NEW DELHI: In an important verdict on administration of minority institutions, the Supreme Court on Monday upheld law framed by West Bengal in 2008 to appoint an independent commission for appointment of teachers in madrassas.

Upholding the constitutional validity of 'West Bengal Madrasah Service Commission Act, 2008' the apex court ruled that the governments or organisations that aid minority institutions will now also have the authority to not just recommend prospective teachers but also appoint them directly.

Managing committees of various madrasas had challenged the constitutional validity of the 2008 Act in Calcutta high court, under which appointment of teachers in madrasas was to be decided by the commission.

Under the Act, a Commission was constituted and as per section 8 of the Act "notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force or in any contract, custom or usage to the contrary, it shall be the duty of the Commission to select and recommend persons to be appointed to the vacant posts of teachers."

The high court ruled the Act was unconstitutional saying it is violative of Article 30 which says all minorities shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.

The HC verdict was thereafter challenged in the SC by teachers who were appointed under the new law. The SC granted interim relief to the teachers appointed under the new law and directed the state government not to remove them from their jobs till final order and release them salary.

As no appointment was done during the legal dispute resulting in more than 2,600 vacancies, the apex court in May 2018 allowed filling up of the posts.

The case and the ruling is expected to settle an ambiguity in the law as while governments that fund or aid minority institutions can recommend guidelines for appointments, but till now, they have not been able to make the placements themselves.



Anubhav Sinha supports Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan’s silence over CAA protests: 5 years back, no one stood up for them

Jan 6, 2020

A lot is being spoken and written about the current situation of unrest and violence in the country. Even Bollywood celebs Anubhav Sinha, Anurag Kashyap, Swara Bhaskar, Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub and others have been keeping their views on social media and questioning the government for the same.

Yesterday, some goons with their faces covered attacked the students of JNU in Delhi. They went on to hit the students with the rods and several videos and pictures have been doing the rounds on the internet. It has left everyone fuming with anger around the nation.

While B-town celebs are voicing their opinions on the same but people are also expecting Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan to keep their opinions forward because of their influence. SRK didn’t even make any statement when his alma mater Jamia Millia Islamia students were attacked last month. While everyone is attacking the Khans, director Anubhav Sinha has come out in support of the superstars. He tweeted a few hours back about how SRK and Aamir had said 5 years ago about people becoming intolerant. Then, both the actors had faced a lot of criticism for their statements. Sinha’s tweet read, “Do you remember five years back two superstars of India used a word that they were condemned for and NO ONE stood up for them? NO ONE. The stars were Shah Rukh and Aamir. The word was INTOLERANCE and they were so damn right......”

Earlier, the King Khan spoke about the growing intolerance and how it is stupid to be intolerant. It has become the biggest issue.





Slain Iran general Qassim Soleimani's successor and daughter warn US troops

Jan 6, 2020

TEHRAN: An Iranian general who replaced the leader killed by a US airstrike in Baghdad vowed in remarks aired Monday to take revenge as Tehran abandoned the remaining limits of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in response to the slaying.

Esmail Ghaani's threat comes as the blowback over the US killing of top Iranian general Qassim Soleimani. Separately, Iraq's parliament has called for the expulsion of all American troops from Iraqi soil.

The three developments could bring Iran closer to building an atomic bomb, set off a proxy or military attack launched by Tehran against America and enable the Islamic state group to stage a comeback in Iraq, making the Middle East a far more dangerous and unstable place.

Adding to the tensions, President Donald Trump threatened to demand billions of dollars in compensation from Iraq or impose "sanctions like they've never seen before" if it goes through with expelling US troops.

Soleimani's daughter, Zeinab, directly threatened an attack on the US military in the Mideast while speaking to a crowd of hundreds of thousands in Tehran that stretched as far as the eye could see.

"The families of US soldiers in the Middle East will spend their days waiting for death of their children," she said to cheers.

Ghaani made his remarks in an interview with Iranian state television aired Monday. "God the almighty has promised to get his revenge, and God is the main avenger. Certainly actions will be taken," he said.

Ghaani now serves as the head of the Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force, an expeditionary arm of the paramilitary organization answerable only to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. As Soleimani's longtime deputy, Ghaani has been sanctioned by the US since 2012 for his work funding its operations around the world, including its work with proxies in Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.

Those proxies likely will be involved in any operation targeting US interests in the Mideast or elsewhere in the world.

Already, the US embassy in Saudi Arabia warned Americans "of the heightened risk of missile and drone attacks." In Lebanon, the leader of the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah said Soleimani's killing made US military bases, warships and service members across the region fair game for attacks. A former Iranian Revolutionary Guard leader suggested the Israeli city of Haifa and others could be targeted should the US attack Iran.

"We promise to continue down martyr Soleimani's path as firmly as before with help of God, and in return for his martyrdom we aim to get rid of America from the region," Ghaani said.

On the nuclear deal, Iranian state television cited Sunday a statement by President Hassan Rouhani's administration saying the country would not observe the nuclear deal's restrictions on fuel enrichment, on the size of its enriched uranium stockpile and on its research and development activities.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran no longer faces any limitations in operations," a state TV broadcaster said.

German chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson specifically urged Iran to "withdraw all measures" not in line with the 2015 agreement that was intended to stop Tehran from pursuing its atomic weapons program.

Iran insisted that it remains open to negotiations with European partners over its nuclear program. And it did not back off from earlier promises that it wouldn't seek a nuclear weapon.

However, the announcement represents the clearest nuclear proliferation threat yet made by Iran since Trump unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018 and reimposed sanctions. It further raises regional tensions, as Iran's longtime foe Israel has promised never to allow Iran to produce an atomic bomb.

Iran did not elaborate on what levels it would immediately reach in its program.Tehran has already broken some of the deal's limits as part of a step-by-step pressure campaign to get sanctions relief. It already has increased its production, begun enriching uranium to 5% and restarted enrichment at an underground facility.

While it does not possess uranium enriched to weapons-grade levels of 90%, any push forward narrows the estimated one-year "breakout time" needed for it to have enough material to build a nuclear weapon if it chose to do so.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations watchdog observing Iran's program, did not respond to a request for comment. However, Iran said that its cooperation with the IAEA "will continue as before."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi earlier told journalists that Soleimani's killing would prompt Iranian officials to take a bigger step away from the nuclear deal.

"In the world of politics, all developments are interconnected," Mousavi said.

Soleimani's killing has escalated the crisis between Tehran and Washington after months of back-and-forth attacks and threats that have put the wider Middle East on edge. Iran has promised "harsh revenge" for the US attack, while Trump has vowed on Twitter that the US will strike back at 52 targets "VERY FAST AND VERY HARD."

He doubled down on that threat Sunday, dismissing warnings that targeting cultural sites could be a war crime under international law.

"They're allowed to kill our people. They're allowed to torture and maim our people. They're allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we're not allowed to touch their cultural sites? It doesn't work that way," Trump told reporters.

On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of mourners accompanied the coffin carrying Soleimani's remains in the Iranian cities of Ahvaz and Mashhad. A similar procession was expected in Qom and Tehran on Monday. Tens of thousands already filled the streets of the Iranian capital early Monday morning.

Mourners wearing black beat their chests and carried posters with Soleimani's portrait. Demonstrators also unfurled red Shiite flags, which traditionally symbolize both the spilled blood of someone unjustly killed and a call for vengeance.

The processions mark the first time Iran honored a single man with a multi-city ceremony. Not even Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who founded the Islamic Republic, received such a processional with his death in 1989. Soleimani on Monday will lie in state at Tehran's famed Musalla mosque as the revolutionary leader did before him.

He will be buried in his hometown of Kerman.



Jerusalem: More than 23 incursions into Al-Aqsa Mosque in December

January 6, 2020

The Ministry of Endowments said in its monthly report of December 2019 that the occupation has defiled Al-Aqsa Mosque more than 23 times, practised the policy of banishment and detention of worshipers and protesters, and prohibited prayer calls in Sanctuary of Abraham 49 times, in addition to committing several violations against it.

The report prepared by the Ministry’s Public Relations and Information Department stated that the occupation and its settlers intensified their incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque during the Hanukkah. Extremist voices were raised to organise collective incursions in large numbers through the so-called “Solomon’s Temple groups”, announcing a program of action and activities focused on the permissibility to undermine Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Old City in occupied Jerusalem. The occupation police pushed more of its members and the select units to the heart of the Holy City to provide protection and guarding for settler gangs during their marches, provocative incursions and their riots in the city.

The report monitored that the extremist Glick stormed Al-Aqsa more than three times during December, and the so-called leader of the occupation police in Jerusalem stormed Al-Aqsa leading a riot group.

During December, there had been repeated assaults and incursions into the Gate of Mercy, preventing worshipers from getting closer to it, and arresting a number of them.

The occupation continued its Judaisation campaign against the city, especially near Al-Aqsa Mosque, through several projects, including the occupation government’s plans to establish Judaisation projects in the city of Jerusalem, specifically in Silwan, south of Al-Aqsa Mosque, to impose more control over the city, change the status quo, and continuing the excavation work below the mosque and in the Umayyad palaces area.

This is in addition to the inauguration of a Judaic railway project linking Tel Aviv and occupied Jerusalem, as well as the long-ago prepared project, namely the establishment of a cable car line in Jerusalem aimed at Judaising the horizon, running over the Arab neighbourhoods in Jerusalem and next to Al-Aqsa Mosque, connecting the Mount of Olives with Wailing Wall, passing over several points in the Old City of occupied Jerusalem and around its historical walls. It is expected to be opened in 2021. Moreover, Israeli settlement associations have established a three-storey biblical museum with an area of 1,390 square meters in Ein Al-Fawqa area in Silwan, which is only dozens of meters away from Al-Aqsa Mosque from the southwest side.

The Ministry of Endowments’ Undersecretary, Hossam Abu Al-Rab, said that Israeli attempts to change the identity and character of the Old City of occupied Jerusalem, especially Al-Aqsa Mosque and its adjacent sites, will not succeed thanks to the legendary steadfastness of our people. He warned at the same time of the occupation’s policy in increasing the incursions, the pace of Judaisation, the intervention in Al-Aqsa Mosque’s affairs, the system of siege and the barriers around it.

The report revealed that the occupation prevented restoration works in the Dome of the Rock, arrested a guard, and practised the policy of banishment, as it used to do every month, against sextons, protesters, and worshipers.

In the Sanctuary of Abraham, the occupation prohibited prayer-calls 49 times and continued its violation against the mosque by placing a menorah on its roof. A plan was developed to make additions to the Sanctuary of Abraham at the cost of half a million shekels. This would include the designing an elevator for the disabled and other additions for the use of settlers. Also, settlers performed dances and shouts on the Sanctuary of Abraham’s soil in Hebron, in a flagrant violation of the sanctity of the dead.

In Jerusalem, the occupation changed the electricity cables in the outer courtyard of the Tomb of Samuel Mosque, in a new violation against it. Also, a settler stormed the Church of the Holy Sepulcher with a knife and terrorised the worshipers.

In Nablus, the Israeli occupation forces secured 2500 settlers’ incursion of Joseph’s Tomb. In Halhoul, about 250 settlers stormed the area of Beit Tzur to light candles of the Israeli Hanukkah.



Hamas, Islamic Jihad heads give condolences to Iran’s FM on Soleimani’s death


5 January 2020

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh and Islamic Jihad secretary-general Ziad al-Nakhalah called Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday and expressed their condolences to him on the death of powerful Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in an American strike on Friday, according to the terror groups.

Soleimani was the commander of the elite Quds Force in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, the body responsible for Tehran’s military campaigns and expeditions abroad.

Haniyeh spoke highly to Zarif of Soleimani’s “role in supporting the resistance and backing the Palestinian people’s rights,” Hamas said in a report posted on its website.

Iran is widely believed to significantly support the military wings of both Hamas and Islamic Jihad with weapons and training.

Zarif thanked the Hamas chairman for the call and stated that Iran would continue to back “the Palestinian people’s rights and resistance in defense of its land and holy sites,” the terror group’s report said.

The death of Soleimani marks a major escalation in a standoff between Washington and Tehran, which has careened from one crisis to another since US President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and imposed crippling sanctions.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has vowed “harsh retaliation” for Soleimani’s killing and dubbed the deceased commander the “international face of resistance.” Khamenei has also declared three days of public mourning and appointed General Esmail Ghaani, who was Soleimani’s deputy, to replace him as head of the Quds Force.

Nakhaleh, Islamic Jihad’s head, told Zarif that the US’s decision to kill Soleimani is an “indication of the major role this man [played] in strengthening the resistance axis and the struggle for Palestine,” a report on the terror group’s website said.

Nakhaleh also said that Soleimani’s death was a “huge loss but at the same time he will be a model for all Muslims and free people in the world regarding how to confront America and the Zionist entity,” the report said.

Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad put out statements on Friday mourning Soleimani’s death.

Meanwhile, the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, which maintains relations with many of Iran’s rivals such as Saudi Arabia, has not taken a position on the Iranian general’s killing.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, declined on Sunday to express an opinion on the matter.

“It is an issue that we don’t have anything to deal with it [sic],” Abu Rudeineh told a group of Israeli reporters in Ramallah in English-language remarks, contending that the killing is an “Israeli-American-Iranian problem.”

“Our policy has always been clear: We don’t interfere in the politics of the others [sic] — whether Israel, Iran or America,” he added.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



Iraq’s top Shia cleric condoles with Ayatollah Khamenei on Soleimani's martyrdom

5 January 2020

TEHRAN, Jan. 05 (MNA) – Iraq’s top Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has expressed his deepest condolences over the martyrdom of Lt. Gen. Soleimani to Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Khamenei.

He also extended his condolences to the Iranian people, especially the people of Kerman.

In a message on Sunday, Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani added that “the unique role of martyr Soleimani during the years of fighting with the elements of ISIL in Iraq, as well as the many hardships he suffered in this regard, will not be forgotten.”

Iraq’s top Shia cleric had on Friday condemned the US assassination of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani and his comrades, calling them the “heroes of fight against Daesh (ISIL or ISIS)” terrorist group.

Ayatollah Sistani described the attack as a violation of Iraq’s national sovereignty and international charters, and called those assassinated the “heroes of the battles for victory against Daesh terrorists”.



Leader of Islamic Revolution leads prayers on body of Lt. Gen. Soleimani

6 January 2020

TEHRAN, Jan. 06 (MNA) – Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei led prayers on the body of martyr Lt. Gen. Qasem Soleimani and his martyred companions at the campus of University of Tehran.

After performing prayers, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution bid farewell with the body of martyr Lt. Gen. Qasem Soleimani.

The funeral procession for Lt. Gen. Qasem Solaimani and his companions is underway in Tehran with the massive turnout of mourners in capital Tehran. 

The United States terrorist forces assassinated Lt. General Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraq’s pro-government Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) — better known as Hashd al-Sha’abi — in an airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport early on Friday.

Iran has vowed a harsh vengeance "in due time and right place" on criminals behind Soleimani's assassination.



Ayatollah Sistani condoles with Imam Khamenei on General Soleimani's martyrdom

January 5, 2020

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): Iraq’s top Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has expressed his deepest condolences over the martyrdom of Lt. Gen. Soleimani to Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Khamenei.

He also extended his condolences to the Iranian people, especially the people of Kerman.

In a message on Sunday, Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani added that “the unique role of martyr Soleimani during the years of fighting with the elements of ISIL in Iraq, as well as the many hardships he suffered in this regard, will not be forgotten.”

Iraq’s top Shia cleric had on Friday condemned the US assassination of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani and his comrades, calling them the “heroes of fight against Daesh (ISIL or ISIS)” terrorist group.

Ayatollah Sistani described the attack as a violation of Iraq’s national sovereignty and international charters, and called those assassinated the “heroes of the battles for victory against Daesh terrorists”.



Libyan Warlord Declares “Jihad” Against Turkey

January 05, 2020

In what reminds us of Muammar Gaddafi during his final days in power, warlord Khalifa Haftar appears on television and declares Jihad and general mobilization as Turkey prepares to deploy troops to support the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA).

Erdogan’s decision to deploy troops to assist the Tripoli-based Government of Fayez al-Sarraj was approved by parliament on Thursday, but deployment could still be unlikely if Khalifa Haftar halts his offensive on the Libyan capital.

General Haftar’s self-declared Libyan National Army (LNA) launched an offensive in April 2019, against the UN-backed government in Tripoli. The armed conflict in the southern outskirts of Tripoli has so far resulted in more than 2000 deaths and over 140 thousand people displaced.

While the GNA was left stranded, General Haftar’s forces have received assistance from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and France in the battle to take control of Tripoli, including support from foreign mercenaries and paramilitary groups from Russia and Sudan.

Tripoli’s request for military assistance from Ankara comes after the increasing presence of Russian mercenaries fighting alongside Khalifa Haftar’s forces. Officials in the West have revealed that over 1000 Wagner mercenaries have been deployed to the frontlines in Tripoli in recent months, fueling the conflict even further.

The United Arab Emirates which has been operating in Al-Khadim airbase in East Libya since 2015, has condemned the Turkish decision to send military forces to Libya, saying that such interference represents a clear threat to Arab national security and the stability of the Mediterranean region.

Observers warn of further escalation in the region that would attract more players and lead to stronger engagement by General Haftar’s allies. An intervention by Turkey would threaten the balance that has been established in favor of warlord Khalifa Haftar and lead to further retreat of his forces from the Western region.



Huge crowds in Iran for commander's funeral, daughter warns US of 'dark day'

Jan 6, 2020

DUBAI/WASHINGTON: Tens of thousands of Iranians thronged the streets of Tehran on Monday for the funeral of Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani who was killed in a US air strike last week and his daughter said his death would bring a "dark day" for the United States.

"Crazy Trump, don't think that everything is over with my father's martyrdom," Zeinab Soleimani said in her address broadcast on state television after US President Donald Trump ordered Friday's strike that killed the top Iranian general.

Iran has promised to avenge the killing of Soleimani, the architect of Iran's drive to extend its influence across the region and a national hero among many Iranians, even many of those who did not consider themselves devoted supporters of the Islamic Republic's clerical rulers.

The scale of the crowds in Tehran shown on television mirrored the masses that gathered in 1989 for the funeral of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

In response to Iran's warnings, Trump has threatened to hit 52 Iranian sites, including cultural targets, if Tehran attacks Americans or US assets, deepening a crisis that has heightened fears of a major Middle East conflagration.

The coffins of the Iranian general and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was also killed in Friday's attack on Baghdad airport, were passed across the heads of mourners massed in central Tehran, many of them chanting "Death to America".

One of the Islamic Republic's major regional goals, namely to drive US forces out of neighbouring Iraq, came a step closer on Sunday when the Iraqi parliament backed a recommendation by the prime minister for all foreign troops to be ordered out.

"Despite the internal and external difficulties that we might face, it remains best for Iraq on principle and practically," said Iraqi caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, who resigned in November amid anti-government protests.

Iraq's rival Shi'ite leaders, including ones opposed to Iranian influence, have united since Friday's attack in calling for the expulsion of US troops.

Esmail Qaani, the new head of the Quds Force, the Revolutionary Guards' unit in charge of activities abroad, said Iran would continue Soleimani's path and said "the only compensation for us would be to remove America from the region."


Prayers at Soleimani's funeral in Tehran, which will later move to his southern home city of Kerman, were led by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Soleimani was widely seen as the second most powerful figure in Iran behind Khamenei.

The funeral was attended by some of Iran's allies in the region, including Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Palestinian group Hamas who said: "I declare that the martyred commander Soleimani is a martyr of Jerusalem."

Adding to tensions, Iran said it was taking another step back from commitments under a 2015 nuclear deal with six major powers, a pact from which the United States withdrew in 2018.

Washington has since imposed tough sanctions on Iran, describing its policy as "maximum pressure" and saying it wanted to drive down Iranian oil exports - the main source of government revenues - to zero.

Talking to reporters aboard Air Force One on the way to Washington from Florida on Sunday, Trump stood by his remarks to include cultural sites on his list of potential targets, despite drawing criticism from US politicians.

"They're allowed to kill our people. They're allowed to torture and maim our people. They're allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we're not allowed to touch their cultural sites? It doesn't work that way," Trump said.

Democratic critics of the Republican president have said Trump was reckless in authorizing the strike, and some said his comments about targeting cultural sites amounted to threats to commit war crimes. Many asked why Soleimani, long seen as a threat by US authorities, had to be killed now.

Republicans in the US Congress have generally backed Trump's move.

Trump also threatened sanctions against Iraq and said that if US troops were required to leave the country, Iraq's government would have to pay Washington for the cost of a "very extraordinarily expensive" air base there.

He said if Iraq asked US forces to leave on an unfriendly basis, "we will charge them sanctions like they've never seen before ever. It'll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame."



Iran will no longer abide by nuclear deal limits

Jan 6, 2020

TEHRAN: The blowback over the US killing of a top Iranian general mounted Sunday as Iran announced it will no longer abide by the limits contained in the 2015 nuclear deal and Iraq's Parliament called for the expulsion of all American troops from Iraqi soil.

The twin developments could bring Iran closer to building an atomic bomb and enable the Islamic State group to stage a comeback in Iraq, making the Middle East a far more dangerous and unstable place.

Adding to the tensions, US President Donald Trump threatened to demand billions of dollars in compensation from Iraq or impose "sanctions like they've never seen before" if it goes through with expelling US troops.

Iranian state television cited a statement by President Hassan Rouhani's administration saying the country would not observe the nuclear deal's restrictions on fuel enrichment, on the size of its enriched uranium stockpile and on its research and development activities.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran no longer faces any limitations in operations," a state TV broadcaster said.

In Iraq, meanwhile, lawmakers voted in favor of a resolution calling for an end to the foreign military presence in the country, including the estimated 5,200 US troops stationed to help fight Islamic State extremists. The bill is subject to approval by the Iraqi government but has the backing of the outgoing prime minister.

In yet another sign of rising tensions and threats of retaliation over the deadly airstrike, the US-led military coalition in Iraq said it is putting the battle against IS on hold to focus on protecting its own troops and bases.

The string of developments capped a day of mass mourning over Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad on Friday. Hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets in the cities of Ahvaz and Mashhad to walk alongside the casket of Soleimani, who was the architect of Iran's proxy wars across the Mideast and was blamed for the deaths of hundreds of Americans in roadside bombings and other attacks.

Trump responded to the Parliament's troop withdrawal vote with a monetary threat, saying the US expected to be paid for its military investments in Iraq before leaving and threatening economic sanctions if the U.S. is not treated properly.

"We have a very extraordinarily expensive air base that's there. It cost billions of dollars to build. Long before my time. We're not leaving unless they pay us back for it," he told reporters aboard Air Force One.

"If they do ask us to leave, if we don't do it in a very friendly basis, we will charge them sanctions like they've never seen before ever. It'll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame," he said

He added: "We're not leaving until they pay us back for it.''

State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus earlier said the US is awaiting clarification on its legal meaning but was "disappointed" by the move and strongly urged Iraq to reconsider.

"We believe it is in the shared interests of the United States and Iraq to continue fighting ISIS together," Ortagus said.

The leaders of Germany, France and Britain issued a joint statement on Sunday calling on Iran to abide by the terms of the nuclear deal and refrain from conducting or supporting further ``violent acts.''

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson specifically urged Iran to ``withdraw all measures'' not in line with the 2015 agreement that was intended to stop Tehran from pursuing its atomic weapons program.

Iran insisted that it remains open to negotiations with European partners over its nuclear program. And it did not back off from earlier promises that it wouldn't seek a nuclear weapon.

However, the announcement represents the clearest nuclear proliferation threat yet made by Iran since Trump unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018 and reimposed sanctions. It further raises regional tensions, as Iran's longtime foe Israel has promised never to allow Iran to produce an atomic bomb.

Iran did not elaborate on what levels it would immediately reach in its program. Tehran has already broken some of the deal's limits as part of a step-by-step pressure campaign to get sanctions relief. It has increased its production, begun enriching uranium to 5% and restarted enrichment at an underground facility.

While it does not possess uranium enriched to weapons-grade levels of 90%, any push forward narrows the estimated one-year ``breakout time'' needed for it to have enough material to build a nuclear weapon if it chose to do so.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations watchdog observing Iran's program, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, Iran said that its cooperation with the IAEA "will continue as before."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi earlier told journalists that Soleimani's killing would prompt Iranian officials to take a bigger step away from the nuclear deal.

"In the world of politics, all developments are interconnected," Mousavi said.

In Iraq, where the airstrike has been denounced as a violation of the country's sovereignty, Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi said that the government has two choices: End the presence of foreign troops or restrict their mission to training Iraqi forces. He called for the first option.

The majority of about 180 legislators present in Parliament voted in favor of the troop-removal resolution. It was backed by most Shiite members of Parliament, who hold a majority of seats. Many Sunni and Kurdish legislators did not show up for the session, apparently because they oppose abolishing the deal.

A US pullout could not only undermine the fight against the Islamic State but could also enable Iran to increase its influence in Iraq, which like Iran is a majority-Shiite country.

Soleimani's killing has escalated the crisis between Tehran and Washington after months of back-and-forth attacks and threats that have put the wider Middle East on edge. Iran has promised "harsh revenge" for the US attack, while Trump has vowed on Twitter that the US will strike back at 52 targets "VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. "

....targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very…

He doubled down on that threat Sunday, dismissing warnings that targeting cultural sites could be a war crime under international law.

"They're allowed to kill our people. They're allowed to torture and maim our people. They're allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we're not allowed to touch their cultural sites? It doesn't work that way," Trump told reporters.

The US Embassy in Saudi Arabia warned Americans "of the heightened risk of missile and drone attacks." In Lebanon, the leader of the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah said Soleimani's killing made US military bases, warships and service members across the region fair game for attacks. A former Iranian Revolutionary Guard leader suggested the Israeli city of Haifa and centers like Tel Aviv could be targeted should the US attack Iran.

Iranian state TV estimated that millions of mourners came out in Ahvaz and Mashhad to pay their respects to Soleimani.

The casket moved slowly through streets choked with mourners wearing black, beating their chests and carrying posters with Soleimani's portrait. Demonstrators also carried red Shiite flags, which traditionally symbolize both the spilled blood of someone unjustly killed and a call for vengeance.

The processions marked the first time Iran honored a single man with a multi-city ceremony. Not even Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who founded the Islamic Republic, received such a processional with his death in 1989. Soleimani on Monday will lie in state at Tehran's famed Musalla mosque as the revolutionary leader did before him.

Soleimani's remains will go to Tehran and Qom on Monday for public mourning processions. He will be buried in his hometown of Kerman.



Lebanese refuse Nasrallah’s ‘declaration of war’ on US


January 06, 2020

BEIRUT: There were mixed responses in Lebanon to a speech by Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah on Sunday about the assassination of Qassem Soleimani.

A media activist, who declined to be named, said Nasrallah’s speech amounted to “a declaration of war” on the US. “How can the leader of a Lebanese party declare such war?”

Former MP Fares Saeed said: “There is nothing new in Nasrallah’s speech except that it is a high tone, an attempt to call to arms and a statement that Iran’s prestige still exists despite the assassination of Soleimani.”

“The results will not change what is happening,” he said. “There is an American decision to blockade Iran.”

On the impact of the speech on internal matters in Lebanon, he said: “Before and after the assassination, Lebanon is governed by Hezbollah and it is unable to save Lebanon from the crises that it is suffering from, economically and financially.”

But Wafa Sharif, a retired employee, said that she listened to Nasrallah’s speech to find out what would happen and “he assured me that there is no war in Lebanon but (the war is) in Iraq. There are no American bases in Lebanon. And if this is the limit of revenge, then this is reassuring, but I do not know how far they will succeed and what are the repercussions of this step.”

Hania Kinao, a Twitter activist, said: “Go back to Iran; we know that you don’t care about Lebanon.”

In his speech, Nasrallah called the assassination of Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force, “a landmark separating two stages in the region. (It is) A new phase not only in the history of Iran or Iraq but for the whole region.”

“Trump’s policy aims to bring Iran to the negotiating table, but his term will end before Iran goes to him, and he will not receive a phone call,” he said.

Nasrallah said that the deputy head of the Popular Mobilization Forces, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, “was with me about two months ago in the southern suburbs of Beirut and asked me to pray for him to be a martyr.”

“The bombing of the convoy of Soleimani and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis turned everyone into pieces that are difficult to distinguish,” he said.

“The Iraqis were united in the funeral of Soleimani and Al-Muhandis, and they will not let any American soldier stay in Iraq,” he said. “The resistance forces must cooperate because the region is going to a different stage. The resistance forces must decide how to deal with or act with this event. Iran will not ask for anything. It is not permissible to content ourselves with consolation and memorial, the process is not against Iran, but against all our axis, and we must all work for just retribution.”

“This means the American military presence in the region, the military bases, the American military battleships, every American officer and soldier on our lands. The American army is the one that killed, and it will pay the price.”

He said: “By fair retribution, we do not mean the American people throughout our region. There are American citizens who should not be harmed. Harming them serves Trump’s policy.”

He added: “The martyrdom seekers who drove the Americans out of our area in the past are still there and much more than they were before. And when the American coffins return to the US, Trump and his administration will realize that they lost the region, they will lose the elections, and the response to the killing of Soleimani is to remove the American forces from all of our region and the goal will be achieved.”

Nasrallah’s speech was accompanied by the deployment of the Lebanese army in the southern suburbs of Beirut, on the roads from Baalbek to Dahr Al-Baydar, and from Sidon to Beirut.

Pictures of Soleimani were hung on billboards on the Beirut airport road and in the southern suburbs. Supporters of Hezbollah also raised a picture of Soleimani at the Barakat Al-Naqqar Gate on the border with the occupied Lebanese Shebaa Farms and wrote on it: “With your blood, we will cross it.”

The pictures on the Beirut airport road were criticized by social media activists. Rania Al-Khatib published a picture of the scene and commented: “These pictures are not in Iran but in Lebanon on the airport road.”

Another activist said: “Hanging the pictures on the airport road is totally and completely rejected. Those who love him should hang his picture in their homes; the airport and the airport road are only for the Lebanese. We respect your sorrow, respect our Lebanese identity.”



Southeast Asia


China calls for restraint, urges US to seek dialogue with Iran instead of ‘force’

MON, JAN 6 2020

Evelyn Cheng

Beijing is urging calm as geopolitical tensions escalate in the Middle East, a region that China depends on heavily for oil.

On Saturday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi “took a telephone call” from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, according to an English-language statement on the Chinese Foreign Ministry website. The comments followed news late last week that Iran’s top commander, Gen. Qasem Soleimani, was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad.

“China opposes the use of force in international relations,” Yi said, according to the online posting. “Military means will lead nowhere. Maximum pressure won’t work either. China urges the U.S. to seek resolutions through dialogue instead of abusing force.”

“China will continue to uphold an objective and just position and play a constructive role in safeguarding peace and security in the Gulf region of the Middle East,“ Yi added.

The call came days after Zarif met Yi in Beijing on Dec. 31, the Iranian minister’s fourth visit to China for that year, according to China’s Foreign Ministry website.

Iranian leaders have vowed to retaliate against the U.S. During Saturday’s call, Zarif said he “hopes China can play an important role in preventing escalation of regional tensions,” according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry statement.

“If the US and Iran engage in war, it would do more harm than good to China,” China’s state-owned tabloid Global Times said in an English-language editorial published on Sunday.

“If there is serious chaos in the Middle East, the US would indeed be more stuck in the region and distracted,” the article added. “But Chinese purchases of oil from the Middle East lead the world by volume, which means China is far more dependent on the region’s oil than the US. China also has large investments in Iran, Iraq and many other Middle Eastern countries already linked to China’s economic interests.”

Shares of state-owned energy giants PetroChina and Sinopec rose 5% and 2%, respectively, in Monday afternoon trading. Oil prices rose more than 2%, with Brent crude topping $70 a barrel.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., also responded to the news of the U.S. drone strike by issuing a safety warning on Sunday. The Chinese-language alert reminded Chinese citizens in America to be vigilant and avoid public places.

A separate Global Times editorial published Sunday emphasized that China is able to defend itself from drone attacks, contrary to Chinese netizens’ fears that targeted strikes from drones could one day threaten the country.



Most Malay-Muslim Malaysians prefer Mahathir as PM instead of Anwar, survey shows

Shannon Teoh

KUALA LUMPUR - Opinion polls show Malaysians, and crucially most of the Malay-Muslim majority, prefer Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to lead the country instead of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, reflecting the political ramifications for Pakatan Harapan (PH) as the clock ticks on the transition pledge agreed before the coalition's unexpected 2018 election win.

Some 42 per cent of Malaysians surveyed by the country's top pollster Merdeka Center in November picked the 94-year-old Dr Mahathir, compared to less than a third who selected Mr Anwar, president of the coalition component party Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).

Among Malays, who are the majority in 122 out of 222 parliamentary wards, the gap widens to 58 against 13 per cent.

However, the increasing dissatisfaction among Chinese and Indians over perceived pro-Malay policies since Malaysia's unprecedented change of government in May 2018 see 58 and 62 per cent of the two minority groups wanting an Anwar administration, versus 20 and 14 per cent for Tun Dr Mahathir.

In the report sighted by The Straits Times, Merdeka Center said there is "increased uncertainties over nature, timing and outcome of the transfer of premiership" and pointed to "internal dynamics and friction between the two leaders" leading to "increased speculation and suspicion".

A positive note for Mr Anwar is that his overall backing has improved from 28 per cent last year and a low of 16 per cent in July, while Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) chief Mahathir's support has ebbed from 47 per cent last year and a high of 57 per cent in July.

Despite low support for Mr Anwar, Malaysians appear more inclined towards PH carrying out its transition pledge despite their preference for Dr Mahathir. Half of Malaysians want the handover to happen versus 41 per cent who say there should be no change until the next election due in 2023.

A quarter of those polled want Dr Mahathir to relinquish the premiership immediately, and the same number say he should do so by May 2020 - the two-year mark which Mr Anwar, who had to be pardoned from a controversial sodomy conviction after the May 2018 election, and his allies have set as their expected timeline.

However, Dr Mahathir has firmly said he wants to lead Malaysia in hosting the Apec Summit this year, therefore ruling out an exit before November.

The Straits Times reported in November last year that PH is split over the transition, including even leaders within Mr Anwar's own PKR, leaving him short of the 112 MPs needed to secure control of Parliament.

This has opened the door to possible realignments, especially to co-opt lawmakers from the two Malay-Muslim giants in opposition - Umno and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) - to shore up support from the community that has overwhelmingly backed the opposition in by-elections over the past year.

Some 52 per cent of Malays want Dr Mahathir to extend his second stint in charge to the end of the term and so do 62 per cent of Muslims from indigenous tribes. However, only 19 and 22 per cent of Chinese and Indians respectively want to see PM Mahathir continue to lead.

The ruling PH is already suffering ebbing support across all races since its shock victory that gave Malaysia its first ever change of government.

A string of by-election defeats last year was capped off with the worst-ever performance by a ruling party in the Tanjung Piai vote on Nov 16, where PH only took a quarter of the ballots.

The galvanising of Umno and PAS into a formal opposition pact is also applying increasing pressure on the government as fears are being stoked among Malays of losing state-sanctioned privileges.

But PH's concessions to Malays has led to backlash from minorities, particularly over the introduction of Arabic calligraphy in schools and the failure to deport fugitive Indian-born Muslim preacher Zakir Naik after he questioned the loyalty of non-Malays.

While the Merdeka Center report did not include approval ratings for PH, it did show that only 26 per cent of Malaysians felt Malaysia was headed in the right direction.

The "right direction" metric has been a good proxy for government approval in the past, with the June level at 40 per cent while PH popularity was at 41 per cent.



Muslims advised to change perception that performing Haj is to cure illness or to die in Holy Land

Monday, 06 Jan 2020

MELAKA, Jan 6 — The public perception that the Haj pilgrimage can be performed with the intention of curing illness or so that the pilgrim can die in the Holy Land needs to be corrected, said Malaysian 1440H/2019M Haj Delegation deputy head (medical) Dr Mohammad Faid Abd Rashid.

This is because the pilgrimage, as the fifth pillar of Islam, is compulsory for all able Muslims, health-wise, and good health or istita’ah is a requirement to perform it.

“Hence, those who do not have good health are not obligated to perform the Haj,” said Dr Mohammad Faid who is also Negri Sembilan Health Department’s deputy director of public health and will be leading the Malaysian Haj medical team for the fifth time this year.

“The Haj is not the same as other ibadah (religious requirements) such as prayers as those who cannot perform them properly can do so sitting down, but for the Haj, you need to be physically able.

“The purpose of performing the Haj is to attain Haj mabrur, not to cure illness or to die there. We (the medical team) will help the pilgrims enjoy good health and attain the Haj mabrur,” he told Bernama recently.

Dr Mohammad Faid said the most important factor in determining whether a person is qualified, health-wise, is the medical checkup done in his home country before leaving for the Holy Land.

He urged future pilgrims to perform the medical check-up early, so that they can to detect any illnesses early and get treatment.

“They have to stabilise the medical condition, and if need be, seek a specialist doctor who can tell them what to do. If not, they are deemed incapable of performing the Haj and it is not compulsory for them,” he said.

He added that mental diseases and kidney problems are some of the medical issues where the patient is exempted from performing the Haj.

Dr Mohammad Faid also said another misconception is that pilgrims with health conditions will not have a problem performing the Haj as they can depend on the health and medical facilities provided in the Holy Land.

He said the facilities provided by the Health Ministry and Tabung Haji are focused on treating the illnesses contracted by the pilgrims while in the Holy Land, rather than treating diseases brought from Malaysia.

“Many think that just because we have medical specialists and good medical facilities, those with illnesses can go, this is not true because there are illnesses that are beyond our control. For instance, those with anemia need to be sent to the hospital in Saudi Arabia for blood transfusion.

“Although our health and medical facilities are very good, we cannot treat every patient. We are worried that the condition of pilgrims with health problems will worsen and they die in the Holy Land,” he said.

However, Dr Mohammad Faid stressed that pilgrims who passed their medical check-ups in Malaysia, despite suffering from a serious illness, will get the best treatment and will be assisted through programmes such as Safari Wukuf to help them complete their pilgrimage.

“During the last Haj season, there were 119 pilgrims in the Safari Wukuf programme, we took them in special buses and ambulances for them to perform the wukuf in Arafah. Arrangements were also made for pilgrims who were unable to stay longer there to return early to Malaysia,” he said. — Bernama



Malaysian financier denies masterminding 1MDB graft scandal

Jan 6, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: The fugitive Malaysian financier at the centre of a multi-billion-dollar corruption scandal insisted he had not led the plundering of the 1MDB fund, a report said Monday.

Low Taek Jho -- commonly known as Jho Low -- has been charged in Malaysia and the US for allegedly playing a major role in the theft of billions of dollars from sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

Looted money was used to buy everything from a super-yacht to art, in a fraud that allegedly involved former leader Najib Razak and contributed to his government's downfall in 2018.

In a rare interview, Low told Singapore's Straits Times newspaper that he was an "intermediary" who was sought after due to his "good relationships with influential foreign businessmen and decision makers".

"The idea that I am some kind of 'mastermind' is just wrong," said the financier, who acted as an unofficial adviser to 1MDB.

The 38-year-old -- who consistently denies wrongdoing over the scandal -- said various institutions, bankers and lawyers had also worked with the fund, in emailed responses to the paper.

"The inordinate amount of media scrutiny on me compared to that placed on the global financial and other institutions and advisers that actually organised and facilitated the fundraisings at issue is astounding," he said.

"The reality is that I am an easy target."

Malaysia has charged Goldman Sachs and some current and former employees over the bank's role in arranging bond issues for 1MDB, with authorities claiming large sums were misappropriated.

The bank has vowed to fight the charges.

Najib has been put on trial over the scandal since losing power, and a key part of his defence is that Low masterminded the fraud and he was ignorant of what was happening.

Low refused to be drawn on his current whereabouts. He has been reported to be in locations ranging from the United Arab Emirates to China.

In October, he struck a settlement with US authorities to forfeit assets worth $700 million, including a Beverly Hills hotel and a private jet, as part of efforts to recover stolen cash.



Arab World


'Mohammed bin Salman Project for Historical Mosques Renovation' Covers 130 Mosques in Saudi Arabia

05 Jan, 2020

'Mohammed bin Salman Project for Historical Mosques Renovation' achieved development and rehabilitation of all mosques of the first phase of the project which reached 30 mosques in 10 regions of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at a cost of more than SR50 million during 423 days with direction and follow-up by His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, within HRH the Crown Prince's direvtive to renovate 130 historical mosques in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia over several stages.

HRH the Crown Prince's directive sets for the implementation of renovation projects during the first phase by Saudi companies that are experienced and specialized in heritage buildings with the importance of involving Saudi engineers to ensure the preservation of the authentic urban identity of each mosque since its foundation, which was done through the program for the reconstruction of historical mosques at the Ministry of Culture in partnership with the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Call and Guidance, the General Authority for Tourism and National Heritage and the Saudi Society for the Preservation of Heritage.

The project took into account the small details to recover the basic design of the mosques using new and high quality materials, and added new necessary elements, such as prayer rooms for women, services for people with the disabilities and service facilities and the development of service facilities such as air conditioning, lighting and acoustics, and their implementation in a manner consistent with the mosque's historical identity.

The age of these historical mosques varies between 1432 and 60 years. One of them was established in the era of the Prophet's companion Jarir bin Abdullah Al-Bajali (May Allah Be Pleased with Him), namely Jarir Al-Bajali Mosque in Taif Governorate. Some of these historical mosques were known as a scholarly beacon, such as Sheikh Abu Bakr Mosque which was established more than 300 years ago in Al-Ahsa Governorate.

Since the beginning of the month of Jumada Al-Awwal of the current year 1441H, the mosques renovated under the project's first phase started to receive worshipers after being closed for more than 40 years to start a new stage for these mosques, to become a historical religious symbol that would preserve religious heritage and Islamic architecture and revive heritage villages and the centers of historical cities.

HRH the Crown Prince's support for the historical mosques, which is the largest in history in terms of the number of mosques and the total cost, emanates from the mosques' great position in the Islamic religion, in addition to being one of the most important features of the urban architectural heritage, and for the originality of its architectural character and its importance in highlighting the features of the local architecture of mosques and their diversity in terms of design and building materials in line with the geographical and climatic nature and building materials in various regions of the Kingdom.

The renovation works started with conducting studies, documenting the historical and architectural dimensions of each mosque, reviewing all challenges surrounding these mosques, and maintaining the architectural style that distinguishes each region of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which some of them depend on building with stones and others with clay and the use of local wood that characterizes each region.

The renovation process has preserved the architectural character of the mosques in terms of stucco decoration and heritage ceilings and mosque courtyards that were the meeting place of the people of the villages on their occasions and receiving their guests and for consultations in achieving social solidarity and conflict resolution. Moreover, the renovation process focused on restoring sections that have long been distinguished by old mosques, such as the "Khalwah", a term that means an underground pray area or a backend pray area at a certain height that protects the worshipers from cold weather while performing prayers. Reception sites for guests passing through the mosque which are attached to the mosque, as well as ablution places and traditional wells of the mosque were also preserved.

'Mohammed bin Salman Project for Historical Mosques Renovation' will boost interest in developing the villages, heritage cities and the centers of the historical cities in the Kingdom, and the rehabilitation of those mosques for worship and prayer after desertion in the past years, after the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during the past four decades went through a rapid urban development, one of the effects of which was the trend towards building modern mosques, neglecting most of the historical mosques, and sometimes even demolishing them, building new ones in their place, or leaving historical mosques and moving to other modern mosques, which led to the disappearance of many of them, where many of these mosques are located in heritage villages, most of them deserted, in addition to emphasizing restoring their architectural originality according to their geographical locations data. The project will enhance the preservation of historical mosques and highlight the architectural characteristics in their design and benefit from them in developing the design of modern mosques, especially that most elements of the design of historical mosques coincide with the trend towards sustainability and green architecture. Also, the preservation and development of historical mosques contribute mainly to highlighting the cultural dimension of the Kingdom, which is stressed by Vision 2030.

The mosques that were renovated during the project's first phase are:

Al-Dakhlah Mosque (Sudair, Riyadh); Al-Zarqa Mosque (Tharmada, Riyadh); Al-Twaim Mosque (Al-Twaim, Riyadh); Qasr Al-Sharia Mosque (Hayatham, Riyadh); Al-Mansaf Mosque (Zulfi, Riyadh); Sudirah Mosque (Shaqra, Riyadh); Al-Saderah Mosque (Taif, Makkah); Al-Bajali bin Malik Mosque (Taif, Makkah); Al-Habeish Mosque (Hofuf, Eastern Region); Abu Bakr Mosque (Hofuf, Eastern Region); Al-Saro Village Mosque (Al-Saro, Asir); Al-Nassab Mosque (Abha, Asir); Sadr Aed Mosque (Namas, Asir); Al Akasah Mosque (Namas, Asir); Al-Mudhafah Mosque (Balsamer, Asir); Al-Ajlan Mosque (Buraidah, Qassim); Mohammed Al-Muqbel Mosque (Buraidah, Qassim); Al-Barqaa Mosque (Asiah, Qassim); The Old Mosque (Oqlat Alsqoor, Qassim); Al-Atawlah Heritage Mosque (Atawlah, Baha); Al-Dhafeer Heritage Mosque (Baha); Al-Malad Heritage Village Mosque (Mald, Baha); Taboot Mosque (Farsan Island, Jazan); Al-Maghaydhah Mosque (Hail); Qafar Mosque (Hail); Al-Jalud Mosque (Sumaira, Hail); Al-Rahebeen Mosque (Sakaka, Jouf); Al-Haditha Mosque (Haditha, Jouf); Al-Issawiya Mosque (Issawiya, Jouf); and Abu Bakr Mosque (Thar, Najran).



Undersecretary of Hajj and Umrah Ministry Meets with Vice President of the Islamic Society of the People's Republic of China


Makkah, January 5, 2020, SPA -- Dr. Hussein bin Nasser Al-Sharif, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah for Hajj Affairs, met here today with Vice President of the Islamic Society of China Adel Haj Karim, and the accompanying delegation, within the framework of early preparations for the Hajj season this year 1441H to discuss and coordinate the arrangements and services to be provided for pilgrims.

During the meeting, a number of issues of common interest in the field of Hajj were discussed, including the facilities provided to the pilgrims to conclude their procedures easily.

Then, the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah for Hajj Affairs and the Vice President of the Islamic Society of China signed an agreement for arranging Hajj affairs for the Hajj season 1441 AH. The agreement aims to organize the arrival of pilgrims coming from China and all their requirements through service agencies participating in the pilgrim services system during their stay in the Holy Sites to perform Hajj rituals.



Saudi Arabia's non-oil business outlook remains positive, despite PMI slip

Mon 6 Jan 2020

The business outlook for Saudi Arabia’s non-oil private sector remains positive, despite showing the weakest improvement for five months, according to the IHS Markit Saudi Arabia Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI).

Blaming increased competition for new work and a failure to convert interest into sales, the index slipped to 56.9 in December, from 58.3 in November, its lowest recording for the kingdom since July 2019.

Total new business volumes increased “sharply” in December, although at a more moderate rate than the four-and-a-half year peak witnessed in November.

The latest survey indicated one of the strongest rises in stocks of purchases seen over the past two years, while the rate of inflation was the slowest for four months, which reflected a slower rise in average staff salaries.

Tim Moore, economics associate director at HIS Markit, said: “The latest Saudi Arabia PMI points to a shirt-term setback for the non-oil private sector, with growth of business activity and new work slipping since November.

“However, the survey continues to indicate a much stronger improvement in business conditions than at the same time during 2018, particularly in relation to new order books.”

Employment numbers also increased for the ninth consecutive month across the non-oil private sector.

According to the survey, non-oil private sector companies remain optimistic about their growth prospects for the next 12 months.

"Latest data also suggests that non-oil firms in Saudi Arabia are confident about the outlook for 2020, with business optimism holding at a much higher level than seen in the middle of last year,” added Moore.



Saudi Arabia 'not consulted' over US strike to kill Iran general

Sun 5 Jan 2020

Saudi Arabia was not consulted by Washington over a US drone strike that killed a top Iranian general, an official said Sunday, as the kingdom sought to defuse soaring regional tensions.

Saudi Arabia is vulnerable to possible Iranian reprisals after Tehran vowed "revenge" following the strike on Friday that killed powerful commander Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad.

"The kingdom of Saudi Arabia was not consulted regarding the US strike," a Saudi official told AFP, requesting anonymity.

"In light of the rapid developments, the kingdom stresses the importance of exercising restraint to guard against all acts that may lead to escalation, with severe consequences," the official added.

Saudi Arabia's foreign ministry echoed a similar call for restraint at the weekend and King Salman emphasised the need for measures to calm tensions in a phone call on Saturday with Iraqi President Barham Saleh.

In a separate phone call with Iraq's Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stressed "the need to make efforts to calm the situation and de-escalate tensions", the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

The crown prince has instructed Prince Khalid bin Salman, his younger brother and deputy defence minister, to travel to Washington and London in the next few days to urge restraint, the pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported.

Prince Khalid will meet White House and US defence officials, the paper said, citing unnamed sources.

The killing of Soleimani, seen as the second most powerful man in Iran, is the most dramatic escalation yet in spiralling tensions between Washington and Tehran and has prompted fears of a major conflagration in the Middle East.

US President Donald Trump, who ordered the drone strike, has warned that Washington will hit Iran "very fast and very hard" if the Islamic republic attacks American personnel or assets.

A string of attacks attributed to Iran has caused anxiety in recent months as Riyadh and Washington deliberated over how to react.

In particular, devastating strikes against Saudi oil installations last September led Riyadh and Abu Dhabi to adopt a more conciliatory approach aimed at avoiding confrontation with Tehran.

Analysts warn that pro-Iran groups have the capacity to carry out attacks on US bases in the region as well as against shipping in the Strait of Hormuz - the strategic waterway that Tehran could close at will.



Saudi's King Salman joins growing calls for de-escalation in US-Iran crisis

Sun 5 Jan 2020

King Salman of Saudi Arabia has held a discussion with Iraqi president Berham Saleh to discuss the importance of de-escalating tensions in the wake of a US airstrike which killed Iranian general Qassem Suleimani in Baghdad, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

According to the SPA, King Salman told the Iraqi leader that Saudi Arabia supports Iraq’s stability and security.

The phone call between the two leaders comes amid growing calls for mediation and negotiations between the United States and Iran following a series of violent incidents which culminated in Suleimani’s death in Baghdad.

On Friday, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Mohammad Gargash tweeted that “in light of the rapid regional developments, it is necessary to put wisdom, balance and political solutions above confrontation and escalation.”

“The region has been facing complicated issues, and suffers from a loss of confidence between parties,” he wrote. “This situation requires adopting a rational approach that is free of emotions.”

On Saturday, French President Emmanuel Macron also discussed the developing situation with Iraqi president Saleh, as well as with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.



The Egyptian foreign ministry will meet with France, Italy, Greece, and Cyprus on Wednesday to discuss the Libyan situation

January 06, 2020

The Egyptian foreign ministry will meet with France, Italy, Greece, and Cyprus on Wednesday to discuss the Libyan situation.



South Asia


NRC scare may have forced thousands to return to Bangladesh

Jan 6, 2020

KOLKATA: The spurt in infiltration arrests in Bangladesh over the past couple of months - around 450 since mid-November - is the tip of the iceberg. The actual number of Bangladeshis who have returned illegally to their homeland in the wake of the NRC scare could be in the thousands, indicate intelligence and other sources. A process of regular low-key pushbacks is also on, they said.

According to state intelligence sources, over the past few weeks around 200 people have infiltrated into Bangladesh every day through North 24 Parganas alone. People are crossing over in large numbers through the porous border in South 24 Parganas, too, and through Nadia, sources said. An official in Bangladesh said most of those arrested for illegally entering Bangladesh came from Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi. Many of them were carrying Indian ration cards and Aadhaar cards, and some even had Indian voter ID cards, he added.

A North 24 Parganas-based tout, who is part of a racket that sends people without passports to Bangladesh, told TOI that in the past two months they had sent around 5,000 people across the border, several times the usual number.

And the "fee" that ghatmaliks (touts) charge each dhur (client) has also risen. Till a couple of months ago, the charge for sending a person to Bangladesh was around Rs 4,000. "Then people started pouring in from Bengaluru. The charge has now increased to Rs 5,000 and, if the border is 'bad' (if there's strict vigil), Rs 6,000. But these days, the border is rarely bad," he added.

Bangladesh administration has formed resistance committees involving border villagers to keep vigil and prevent infiltration. Alamgir Hossain, a member of one such committee in Bangladesh's Jhinaidaha district, said: "We are on alert. We are trying our best to stop infiltration."

The Border Security Force would not officially comment on the reverse migration. Sources, however, said Bangladeshis illegally staying in India are being pushed back. On December 29, at a joint press briefing by the BSF and Border Guards Bangladesh, the BGB DG, Shafeenul Islam, said: "We regularly apprehend people who cross the border. These are Bangladeshis who came into India inadvertently or for work." In all, 446 people were arrested by the BGB since November, Islam said."But since they are originally from Bangladesh, the charges being made against them are very light so that they can easily get bail," a Bangladeshi official told TOI.

"They told us their horror stories - of being threatened and slapped, of midnight knocks on doors by members of a particular political party. They claimed they didn't get any help from the administration or police," said the official.

TOI tried to contact the Bangladeshi deputy high commissioner regarding the issue but there was no response.



Court asks police to investigate case against Tarique, 10 others

DHAKA, Jan 5, 2020 (BSS) – A Dhaka court today asked police to probe a case filed against 11 BNP men, including its acting chairman Tarique Rahman, over issuing death threat to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Jananetri Parishad president AB Siddiqui.

Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate Satyabrata Shikder passed the order to Hatirjheel police station to investigate the matter and submit the report before the court on February 18 next.

Other accused of the case includes Dhaka City North unit vice-chairman of BNP Rabiul Awal Sohel and Jamaat leader Afzal Hossain.

On January 2, Jananetri Parishad president AB Siddiqui filed the case against the accused with the court.

According to the case statement, the accused with the directive of Tarique Rahman, acting chairman of BNP who is now staying in London, issued death threat to the plaintiff and the Premier going to his office located in city’s Mirpur on December 27, 2019.

The accused threatened that they would kill the Prime Minister as well as the plaintiff if all the cases filed against BNP leaders, including BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia, and activists would not be withdrawn immediately.



Armed men kill 22 years old Ali Sina Zafari in Kabul

Sunday, 05 Jan 2020

Ali Sina Zafari, a third-year student at the American University of Afghanistan (AUOA), was snubbed to death by armed men while showing resistance to hand over his personal computer and laptop on Saturday night, in the 13th district of Kabul City.

Ali Sina Zafari’s close relatives say that the horrifying incident occurred around 8:30 PM, while Zafari was on his way home. Zafari was pursuing Journalism at the American University of Afghanistan. In the meantime, he was working as a finance employee at one of the private companies in Kabul.

Zafari’s family members state that police arrived in the crime scene one and a half-hour after the incident took place, and the victim was already transferred to a private hospital. So far, nobody has claimed the responsibility of this killing. 

Meanwhile, social media users and social activists have launched a campaign titled “Kabul Is Not Safe” – while aiming to express their views about the ongoing murder cases and target-killings, they have accused police of being less proactive to provide security for civilians.

Ferdaws Faramarz, the Kabul police spokesperson, said police efforts are underway to arrest the perpetrators of the killing and deal with them accordingly.



Ghani signs decree to help the fight with Kabul’s air pollution

Sunday, 05 Jan 2020

Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has signed two decrees which are said to help authorities who are tasked to fight with the deadly air pollution in Kabul city.

In his first decree, President Ghani has ordered that ‘standard air filtering systems’ for the townships and residential towers are obligatory from now on.

The second decree has banned the combustion of tires and plastic materials by the industries and enterprises.

Shah Zaman Maiwandi, the General Director of The National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) has tweeted that NEPA will be responsible for implementing President’s degrees.

Air pollution in capital Kabul city has increased and has now become hazardous and poisonous that have so far killed dozens of the residence.

According to Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health (MOPH), the deadly air pollution in Kabul has claimed at least 17 lives in the previous weeks.

Only 8,800 patients had referred to public health facility centers in a week, the Ministry of Public Health had said.



Arrest Warrant Against Ex-Bangladesh Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha In Fraud Case

January 05, 2020

Dhaka: An arrest warrant has been issued against former Bangladesh Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha for embezzling 40 million taka, court officials said on Sunday.

Surendra Kumar Sinha, who lives in the US, has been described as a "fugitive" by Bangladesh's Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in its chargesheet.

Judge KM Emrul Kayesh of Dhaka's Senior Special Judges'' Court took cognizance of the graft charges brought against the former Chief Justice "The judge ordered his arrest along with 10 others. He has been accused of misappropriating and laundering about 4 crore taka (USD 471,993) in 2016," public prosecutor Taposh Kumar Pal told reporters. The others accused in the scam are top officials.

Bangladesh's anti-corruption body said Surendra Sinha and 10 others embezzled 40 million taka from Farmers Bank. Officials found evidence of fraud involving transactions of 40 million taka borrowed with fake documents by two businessmen from the bank while the amount was deposited in Sinha's account.

Surendra Sinha, who is said to have sought asylum in the US, served as the 21st Chief Justice of Bangladesh from January, 2015 to November, 2017. The case came days after his newly-launched autobiography brought him in political spotlight over two years after he was forced to quit amid a row with the government.

He was forced to resign in 2017 following intimidation and threats, drawing a sharp reaction from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who accused some anti-government newspapers of backing him.





US, Iran war: Buhari told to place Islamic Movement in Nigeria on watch list

January 5, 2020

By John Owen Nwachukwu

The Global Action for Peace has raised alarm on the threat posed by the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) to citizens of the United States of America and the United Kingdom in Nigeria and the need for greater action.

GAP said the alarm became imperative following the ongoing war between America and Iran.

According to the group, all hands must be on deck to tackle whatever violent uprising that the IMN is planning in Nigeria against US and UK and other foreign citizens in the country.

President of the group, Agbo Joseph

who made this call at a press conference on Sunday, opined that IMN be put on the terror watch list of the United States and the United Kingdom, and measures put in place to protect US and UK citizens in Nigeria.

His statement added that

“The Global Action for Peace views with concern the posturing of members of the IMN that was evident in the public demonstration in some parts of northern Nigeria declaring a “jihad” on the United States of America and the United Kingdom.

“These threats are very typical of the terrorist activities of the IMN as an organization whose ideology is deeply rooted in violence and religious intolerance.

“This action by the IMN should give all well-meaning Nigerians a cause for concern given the fact that the Federal Government of Nigeria hasn’t made any official statement given the position of the United Nations over the military face-off between the United States of America and Iran.

“However, you may recall that it was because of its extremist and terrorist tendencies and the attendant dangers it posed to national security that the Kaduna state government and later the Federal Government of Nigeria proscribed the activities of the IMN in Nigeria.

“The Global Action for Peace wishes to state that the threat issued by the IMN to citizens of the United States and the United Kingdom in Nigeria is an affront to our collective sensibilities as Nigerians, which must be looked into by the security agencies.

“The action of the IMN is an indication of the zero regards they have for constituted authorities in Nigeria, hence their disregard for the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“The Global Action for Peace wishes to alert the relevant authorities in the United States and the United Kingdom that given the antecedents of the IMN that is rooted in deep hatred for those that do not share in their ideology, there is a high tendency that they would go a step further from the protest to inflict bodily harm on citizens of the United States of America and the United Kingdom in Nigeria through violent means.

:This is also on the heels that it is an incontrovertible fact that the IMN has Iran as their spiritual base as well as the support base for the entrenchment of their nefarious activities all over the world. This is cognizant of the fact that there are indications that Iran may turn to targets in Africa to exert revenge using proxies such as the IMN.

“The Global Action for Peace consequently wishes to draw the attention of Nigerians, as well as the security agencies of the apparent threat to life and properties by the adherents of the IMN in Nigeria. This is because of the ongoing mobilization by the leadership of the IMN to carry out massive protests across the country with specific directives from the Iranian authorities to target US and UK citizens.

“The Global Action for Peace wishes to state that it is on record that the Nigerian authorities have, on numerous occasions, indicated how the IMN as agents of the Iranian government had engaged in terrorist activities in Nigeria that have brought untold hardship and bodily harm on innocent and unarmed Nigerians.

“Also, the IMN has, on numerous occasions, confronted security operatives in Nigeria, including one that led to the death of a senior police officer and many others.

“We must, therefore, be concerned that the current situation across the globe demands action that the IMN be put on the terror watch list of the United States and the United Kingdom, and measures put in place to protect US and UK citizens in Nigeria.

“The Global Action for Peace wishes to reiterate that should the IMN not placed on the terror watch list, their propensity to carry out the whims and caprices of the Iranian authorities on US and UK citizens in Nigeria would be institutionalized.

“The posturing of the IMN is indeed a red alert, and as such, there is every need for all hands to be on deck to tackle whatever violent uprising that the IMN is planning in Nigeria.

“The Global Action for Peace wishes to advise the United States and the United Kingdom to see this as a clarion call and activate measures that would support the efforts of the security agencies in Nigeria in curtailing the threats posed by the IMN. This is highly necessary given the fact that the IMN is now a global threat.”



Three Americans killed in al-Shabaab terror attack in Kenya

January 5, 2020

Three Americans were killed and several planes destroyed early Sunday when Islamist terrorists from al-Shabaab stormed a key military base in Kenya that is used by US counterterrorism forces, according to authorities.

One US service member and two Department of Defense contractors were killed in a fierce battle with extremists from the Somali-based terror group that has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda.

Two other Americans were injured and were being evacuated in stable condition, according to the US Africa Command, or AFRICOM.

Five terrorists were eventually killed during the attack on the Manda Bay military base that started just before dawn Sunday, Kenyan military spokesman Paul Njuguna said.

US Army General Stephen Townsend said the attack would only “harden our resolve” to “pursue those responsible for this attack and al-Shabaab who seeks to harm Americans and U.S. interests.”

“We remain committed to preventing al-Shabaab from maintaining a safe haven to plan deadly attacks against the U.S. homeland, East African, and international partners.”

The attack on the compound “involved indirect and small arms fire,” AFRICOM said in a statement, before “Kenya Defense Forces and U.S. Africa Command repelled the al-Shabaab attack.”

The attack left at least six contractor-operated civilian aircraft damaged, the statement confirmed.

An internal Kenyan police report seen by the Associated Press said two fixed-wing aircraft — a US Cessna and a Kenyan one — were destroyed along with two American helicopters and multiple other vehicles.

The report said explosions were heard at around 5:30 a.m. from the direction of the airstrip.

As of Sunday afternoon, officials had not identified the dead Americans, citing an ongoing notification process for their next of kin.

Townsend said the US force’s presence in East Africa “counters malign influence, and maintains critical pressure on terrorist networks.

“Our efforts directly contribute to counterterrorism, maritime surveillance, and intelligence sharing missions with our Kenyan partners. This activity enables enhanced security and stability in the region and for America.”

Al-Shabaab was also blamed in a truck-bombing that left at least 90 people dead last week in Mogadishu, the Somali capital.



Sudanese official calls for Sudan’s withdrawal from Yemen

January 5, 2020

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): Mohamed Youssef, the leader of the Sudanese Professionals Group, called for the withdrawal of his country's forces from Yemen, after news of reducing the forces by 10 thousand individuals.

"All forces present in Yemen must return, because it is not in the interest of Yemen, Sudan, or the entire Arab region," Youssef said.

The leader of the Professionals Group added, the Sudanese people do not yet know why our forces went to Yemen, because there is no announced agreement.

"We woke up after the revolution and found that we have forces fighting in Yemen, we did not know anything about when it left the country nor terms of the agreement by which it was sent."

Since August 21st, Sudan has witnessed a 39-month transitional period that ends with elections, during which power is shared by both the Military Council and the Declaration of Freedom and Change forces, the leader of the popular movement.

A constitutional document, signed on August 17th, prohibits the participation of the party of ousted President Omar al-Bashir, the National Congress, in Sudanese political life, throughout the transition period of 39 months.



Brunei’s first ‘gay’ crime since introduction of Sharia law


A Magistrate’s Court hearing on Sunday indicted a man charged with Brunei’s first ‘gay’ crime since the 2019 introduction of Sharia law. The court remanded the man for further investigation. Brunei’s implementation of Sharia law in regard to sexual ‘crimes’ threatened punishments including the death penalty for gay sex. The autocratic Sultan of Brunei later announced a moratorium on the death penalty after global protests.

The Borneo Bulletin reports the Magistrate’s Court indicted a permanent resident on charges of hiring two men for sexual services.

The Magistrate’s Court cannot impose the death sentence for a sexual crime. That remains the realm of the Sharia courts.

Sources tell QNews the man is a local Malay.

On 18 December, the defendant allegedly obtained sexual services in return for the payment of money. In addition to not paying the man, the defendant stole three items of clothing from him.

Then on 25 December, he allegedly repeated his action with a second victim. This time, he again stole three items of clothing but also a Samsung S6 phone.

The man risks a jail term of three years, a fine, or both for each of the theft charges. It appears other charges relate to either procuring the men for sex or for the actual sex acts. Those additional charges carry the risk of one year in prison and a fine for a single conviction. However, every subsequent conviction is punished with a three-year jail term and an increased fine.

Sharia Court

Despite the sexual aspect of the case, it was heard before a magistrate, not in the Sharia Court.

Sharia Courts are sitting in Brunei. Also on Sunday, a man convicted of stealing a jacket from a shop received a sentence of four month’s jail. Another man who stole an iPhone XS received an eight-month sentence. The Borneo Bulletin reports the Sharia High Court heard both cases.

There has been no mention of charges against the two men who supplied the sexual services to the man charged in the Magistrate’s Court.

The magistrate adjourned the case until 8 January.

The only recent, known execution of a person for same-sex activity reportedly occurred in Iran on 6 December. Social media reports suggest the Islamic Republic executed renowned Kurdish singer Mohsen Lorestani on that date. Recent protests saw many Kurds and other Iranians murdered by the regime. The ayatollahs also disrupted the internet within the country during the protests and official verification of Mohsen’s death has not been forthcoming.



Burkina Faso: Armed Islamist Atrocities Surge

January 6, 2020

(New York) – Armed Islamist groups in Burkina Faso have committed targeted attacks and summary executions that have killed over 250 civilians since April 2019, Human Rights Watch said today. Witnesses said that assailants sought to justify killings by linking victims to the government, the West, or Christian beliefs. A surge in attacks in recent months have caused hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee their homes.

The armed Islamist groups responsible for the attacks began operating in neighboring Mali and from 2016 spread into Burkina Faso. Initially concentrated in Burkina Faso’s northern Sahel region, the attacks have steadily spread to the Nord, Centre-Nord, Boucle du Mouhoun, and Est regions. The groups have concentrated recruitment efforts on the nomadic Peuhl, or Fulani, by exploiting community grievances over poverty and public sector corruption. This has inflamed tensions with other largely agrarian communities, notably the Foulse, Mossi, Songhai, and Gourmantche, who have been the victims of most attacks.

“Armed Islamist groups in Burkina Faso have attacked civilians with unmitigated cruelty and utter disregard for human life,” said Corinne Dufka, West Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Deliberately targeting farmers, worshippers, mine workers, displaced people and traders are war crimes.”

Human Rights Watch interviewed 54 victims and witnesses of abuses in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, in November and by telephone in December 2019. The attacks documented took place between April and December 2019. Human Rights Watch previously conducted research into abuses by armed Islamist groups and government security forces in Burkina Faso.

Human Rights Watch documented 256 killings of civilians in 20 attacks since April 2019 by groups allied with Al-Qaeda, including the local armed group Ansaroul Islam, and the Islamic State in Greater Sahara (ISGS). Witnesses said that victims were gunned down in marketplaces and villages, as they worshipped in churches and mosques, and as they transported aid to displacement camps. Many others were killed during ambushes, including 39 mine workers in November 2019. Armed Islamist groups have rarely claimed responsibility for attacks.

The fighting between the Burkina Faso government and armed groups amounts to a non-international armed conflict under the laws of war. Applicable law includes Common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and other treaty and customary laws of war, which apply to non-state armed groups as well as national armed forces. The laws of war prohibit attacks on civilians and summary executions, torture and other ill-treatment, sexual violence, and looting. Serious violations of the laws of war committed by individuals with criminal intent are war crimes.

“The Islamist armed groups need to immediately end their attacks on civilians,” Dufka said. “At the same time, the Burkina Faso government should take stronger steps to protect vulnerable communities from harm and impartially investigate and appropriately prosecute those implicated in war crimes.”

Attack on mine workers, Est region

On November 6, 2019, an apparent armed Islamist group ambushed a five-bus convoy carrying 241 workers in a mine owned by Canada’s West Africa Mining Exploration Corporation (SEMAFO). The attack killed 39 people and wounded another 60. The convoy was about 40 kilometers from the Boungou gold mine in Est region and had a Burkinabè military escort. Human Rights Watch interviewed seven survivors of the attack.

The witnesses said the military escort included several soldiers on motorcycles and two armored cars, which were at least 50 meters in front of the buses and several company vehicles. One vehicle, a pickup truck, belonged to a private security company, Techno-Security, and carried at least one armed man. Each bus had one unarmed Techno-Security officer with a walkie-talkie.

The witnesses described dozens of attackers dressed in a combination of military camouflage and traditional robes known as boubous. They wore ammunition vests and were armed with AK- 47 assault weapons, PKM 12 machine guns, pistols, and knives. Witnesses heard them speaking in French, Fulfulde, Gourmanchéma, Mooré, and Zerma (a language largely spoken in Niger).

The attack occurred in a forested area with no cellphone coverage. At about 9:15 a.m., the first armored vehicle hit a powerful explosive device, immobilizing it, which was followed by rapid gunfire which lasted approximately one hour.

Two of the buses and a few company vehicles maneuvered through the ambush to safety. The remaining three buses and vehicles were forced to stop because the drivers had been killed or fled, or the vehicles had been immobilized by gunfire. Gunmen killed and wounded numerous passengers, then retreated. One mine worker said:

We’d left the mine at 7:30 a.m. and picked up the army escort at 8:05 a.m. I’d put my seat back and was looking at my phone when at 9:17 a.m. I heard an explosion, thinking a tire exploded, then gunfire. Just then, a window exploded … My seatmate had been hit in the chest and was bleeding profusely … He fell down on me and died soon after.

Thinking the attack was over, some mine workers left the buses seeking a cell phone signal and bringing out the dead and wounded in anticipation of a medical evacuation. However, 15 to 30 minutes later, the attackers reemerged from the forest and began executing numerous people, including several wounded people, near or inside the buses. The witnesses said they no longer heard the army firing back. “It was us against them,” one said. Another witness said: 

I was on the third bus. Our driver had been killed and I’d been grazed on my head. After heavy fire we thought it was over and were evacuating a colleague who’d been shot twice. Two of us propped him up against a tree. He said he was thirsty and asked that we bring his backpack, which had a bottle of water. Heading back to the bus to retrieve it, I saw the jihadists emerging from the bush, firing as they advanced. I had no choice but to run… Later, I learned my wounded colleague had been executed.

Another wounded man said:

We were on our phones or watching TV when suddenly…Pa! Pa! Pa! Bullets flew. I touched my back, there was blood. We hit the floor until it was over. But they came back. I opened a window and jumped down, still bleeding, dragging myself 20 meters to a ditch where I remained for 10 minutes … I saw them surrounding the bus. I put my head down, listening to footsteps [about] five meters away. When I heard one say, “Kill them and burn this bus,” I got up and ran…bullets whizzing by.  

The witnesses said the armed men boarded at least one bus, killing numerous people, including women and the wounded, at close range. They said of some 35 people on this bus, only about five were unscathed. One man said:

We lay quiet, between the seats. I heard the attackers say they’d burn the bus and smelled gasoline as they removed it from the tank. Minutes later, two attackers got on the bus, stealing phones and bags and then executed several people point blank before spraying us with bullets. One of the attackers said, “We told you we’re against the whites, and not to work for them.” They walked around, kicking us to see who was still alive. They kicked me two times...and tapped me with their gun, but I was under a few dead colleagues… This is how I survived.

Another survivor on the fifth bus said: 

Before they boarded, I heard voices of my colleagues saying, “Please, forgive us,” and then gunfire. After boarding the bus, I heard them [the attackers] say to a wounded man, “Ah, you are still suffering?” And then pam, pam, and “Allahu Akbar” – God is most great. Then they shot three women huddled together, one died, and another was wounded, then a man who works in drilling, then a large man who wasn’t well and couldn’t manage to lie down, was shot in the head.

“When the attack was over, we just wept,” one man said. “Even the soldiers who came to help us.” “Few women work at the mine…and we are close,” said a female colleague. “I was joking with my friend that morning … My heart aches that she is no longer.” “I keep seeing the faces of my colleagues,” another said. “When I see a bus, or hear a loud noise, I relive the attack again and again. I feel the world has no value if this kind of thing can happen.”

Attacks on churches, Centre-Nord, Sahel and Est regions

On May 12, 2019, about 30 armed Islamists carried out an attack on the Catholic Church in Dablo, Centre-Nord region. Six witnesses described the attack, which left six men dead including Father Simeon Yampa.

One witness said:

The mass started at 8:30 a.m. Around 8:45 a.m., we heard the motorcycles…then saw them through the windows. The church was so full that dozens of worshippers had to celebrate outside. One group of jihadists surrounded those outside then another entered the church, creating panic…Those who could scrambled out. But then they blocked the doors.

A worshipper who was hiding meters from the church said:

Father Yampa fled outside through his dressing chamber. He ran about three meters, but a jihadist pointed his gun at him saying, “You will not escape.” The priest turned around, raised his hands, clutching the Bible, and sunk to his knees. And the jihadist shot him in the chest, saying, “Allahu Akbar.”

Another worshipper described what happened inside the church:

Dozens of us were trapped, including many from the choir. We were ordered to exit the church one-by-one after giving the jihadists our ID cards and phones. They ordered about 20 men to lie down outside, a few meters from the church, all face down in a row. Then they started killing. I couldn’t look. …I just prayed... Then one of them received a phone call – and the killing stopped.

A woman said that, “the Islamists ordered us to abandon Christianity and said if they returned to find us [the women] unveiled, they’d kill us.” Another said that after the executions, “they burned robes used by the catechists, tam tams [drums], church documents, Bibles, cloth used to cover the altar, and, before leaving, stole motorcycles, looted goods, and burned two cars and part of the market.”

One man said that the church attack “signaled the beginning of a severe deterioration of security in our area, which is largely Christian.” Another said, “Since May, there are more and more jihadists. Dozens of people have been killed on their farms, in village attacks and in ambushes.” Community leaders said tens of thousands of villagers have fled this area since May 2019. 

On May 13, the day after the Dablo attack, armed Islamists attacked a procession of Catholic worshippers carrying a statue of the Virgin Mary from village to village in Bam province, in Centre-Nord region, as part of the Marian devotions. The attacker executed four men and burned the statue. A witness said: 

We were around 70 people accompanying the Virgin from village to village, when suddenly, I saw seven motorcycles with two heavily armed men on each come racing towards us. The Virgin was in a motorized tricycle with about 10 people and the rest of us were walking. All who could, including me, scattered, but those in the tricycle didn’t have time. Some minutes later, I heard gunfire. …Pam! Pam! Around 4 p.m., we returned and found the bodies of our four brothers, face down, about 40 meters from the path. The attackers had freed the children and a young woman. The tricycle, with the Virgin, was burned a few meters away.

Earlier, on April 28, armed Islamists executed six congregants of the Assemblies of God Protestant church, including the pastor, in Silgadji village, Sahel region. The victims, all men, appeared to have been targeted for their real or perceived support of a local defense group. One witness, hiding about 20 meters from the church, said:

As the service ended, I saw around 20 armed men surrounding the church as the women prepared lunch. Twenty others blocked the paths out of the village. One jihadist took out a list of people they said were working with the Kogloweago [a local defense group], calling out the names, which included the elderly Pastor Pierre Ouédraogo and his son. They ordered them to lie face down, then a jihadist shot them ... two times each in the head. People were horrified… The victims were all [ethnic] Mossi. Then they took the food that had been prepared, put it in the tricycle belonging to one of the men executed, and left.

On December 1, 2019, alleged armed Islamists executed 14 congregants of the Protestant church in Hantoukoura, Est region. All of the dead were ethnic Gourmantché, and they included the pastor, Woba Noé, and a boy of around 12 years old. A man who survived by hiding meters from the church said:

Service finished around 12:45. As I left church, I saw six jihadists standing some distance away. I knew something bad was coming, so I ran, turning around only once to see them herding people together. They wore turbans; most had big rifles with bullet clips in their vests. Minutes later, I heard gunfire. When I knew the jihadists were gone, I rushed back, finding 14 of our people, face down, about five meters from the church, each shot in the head. Before the killing started, I was told they ordered the women to move away, and that they’d blamed us for supporting the Kogloweogo, but they’d deserted our village two months earlier. The women wailed in grief. My cousin was among the dead…the jihadists took the men’s CNIB (identify cards) and, from my cousin, they also took his bible.

Killing of at least 35 civilians in December in Arbinda, Sahel region

At around 4 a.m. on December 24, an armed Islamist group carried out simultaneous attacks against a gendarme base and an informal internally displaced persons camp in Arbinda, the capital of Arbinda department. The attack killed 7 security force personnel and at least 35 civilians, mostly women. The camp was approximately one kilometer from the gendarme base.

On December 27, the Islamic State took responsibility for the attack on the security force base but failed to mention the killing of civilians. One witness said she saw 37 dead including 30 women, 5 men, and 2 small children. She said:

When the shooting started, I hit the ground, and crawled to a mud hut where I hid until it was over. I saw them shooting at everything that moved and setting tents on fire. Nearly all of the dead were displaced people. Five of the dead were women who’d left early that morning to fetch water in the nearby village of Ourondou. We think the assailants killed them as they retreated.

Another witness said:

I heard the sound of scores of motorcycles…some went to the gendarmerie, others opened fire on us in the refugee neighborhood. I saw 22 of my neighbors dead, including two infants. I survived by hiding behind a clay stove. Two terrorists opened my door but didn't see me. Then they entered my neighbor’s hut, killing her … They argued about whether to kill her baby…but eventually shot him. The firing only stopped when a plane flew overhead, which sent them running.

Killing of 19 people transporting food aid, Centre-Nord region

On September 8, 2019, an alleged armed Islamist group attacked a convoy of motorized tricycles bringing food aid from Dablo to Kelbo, 15 kilometers away. Kelbo hosts tens of thousands of civilians displaced by the rising insecurity. A government communique said 14 men were killed but a witness said he saw 19 bodies at or near the scene:

The jihadists have stopped us from farming and this convoy was bringing corn and millet provided by the government to feed about 20 villages. I went to the scene: the attack was a few kilometers from Dablo… Most of the drivers were from there but some of the victims were displaced youth from our communities. I saw 12 men – drivers and their helpers – face down near the road in a line, all shot dead. Several others had apparently tried to flee … We found seven more bodies in the bush. They stole three tricycles of aid – 20 large sacks in each -- and burned several others.

Killing of 23 outside artisanal gold mine, Sahel region

On October 4, 2019, at about 4 p.m., alleged armed Islamists executed at least 23 men in a market adjacent to an artisanal gold mine in Dolmane, near Gorgadji village, Sahel region. One witness described seeing a group of some 25 men he described as “jihadists” gathered just outside the market shortly before the attack began. Another described the killing of seven men near the local butchery:

Around 4 p.m., dozens of jihadists swarmed the market. Turbans covered their faces. They had guns the white man uses. From where I hid, I saw four of them come to the butcher shop, stopping seven men who were chatting there. They stole their phones and money, ordered them to lie down, then one jihadist ordered the group to open fire. They all spoke the Pulaar [language] used in our region. I hid until they left … The seven dead were all gold miners.

A gold miner who helped bury the dead said:

The next morning, I went searching for two nephews who hadn’t returned home, but they were among the dead. There were 23 bodies around the market – Bella, Mossi, Peuhl, and Foulse – people of all ethnicities do artisanal mining. Seven bodies were near the butchers; six by the mill; six at a gold shop, four near a boutique. All were lying face down, shot in the head and chest. They’d pillaged the boutiques and stolen money, a car and motorcycles. They’re buried in seven common graves.

Killing of 13 in Pobe Mengao village, Sahel region

On October 26, 2019, armed Islamists executed 11 men in Pobe Mengao village, Sahel region. The attackers accused the villagers of collaborating with government security forces, who witnesses said had recently conducted an operation near their village. Two more men were later found dead in the surrounding area. A witness said:

They came from the west on motorbikes and motorized tricycles, blocking all paths out. They went house to house, ordering the men out. A military plane flew overhead, and they rushed us into a house. After it left, one jihadist said, in Fulfulde, “You dogs, we told you not to work with the enemies of Allah, the FDS [Defense and Security Forces] and you refused. Will they protect you now? We have no mercy for collaborators.” Then they picked 11 men – they knew whom they wanted – ordered them to lie down. They told the rest of us to get out. … As I fled, the shooting started. 

A villager who participated in the burial said:

I saw 11 dead…executed in a line – in the middle of the village, many shot in the head. The dead were between 40 to 75 years old. We later found two others in the bush. The 13 were buried in three common graves. We used to see the jihadists frequently. In recent months they burned a bar, kidnapped construction workers building a health center, and executed a few people. But after this massacre, we all fled.

A farmer said that, “They were turbaned and armed with AK-47s. I’d escaped and hoped my cousin had as well but when I called him to make sure he was ok, a jihadist answered his phone, saying, “Your cousin is no longer.”

Killing of 22 in Dibilou village, Centre-Nord region

On July 25, 2019, alleged armed Islamists killed 22 civilians during an attack on Dibilou village, Centre-Nord region. A farmer, who survived by hiding in a shower, said:

It was 4:45 p.m. I was in the market. They came into town on about 25 motorcycles, two on each, armed with military weapons, and long belts of bullets. I ran into the nearest house, hid and prayed for two hours. There was shooting, the smell of fire, and the sound of people screaming… “In God’s name, please don’t kill me,” followed by Arabic words, then pam, pam and silence. We weren’t armed – we had no self-defense force – they’d fled in January – and no gendarmes to protect us. They burned the market, including motorcycles, looted, and killed people at random.

A witness who helped bury the dead described finding the bodies in the market, on the roads, and up to four kilometers away:

We buried 19 in town: four people were in the market, a few in their shops; one man was hidden under a prayer rug in the mosque, others on the road, some in their houses. A few days later, we went in search of people who were unaccounted for, and found three more in their farms, shot in the head. There were 22 souls, all men, ages from 70 to 25, and all Mossi.

Killing of 18 in Béléhédé village, Sahel region

An alleged armed Islamist attack on Béléhédé village, Sahel region, on June 18, 2019, killed 18 men. Witnesses said that armed Islamists repeatedly accused the villagers of collaborating with a major military operation being carried out at the time. An elderly woman said: “Suddenly there was gunfire and bullets and screaming and fires all around. After they left, I found my husband, a tailor, dead a few meters away from home. He had nothing to do with this war.” Another witness said:

Around 3 p.m., I saw dozens of jihadists ride in on motorcycles.… Some broke into houses and killed, others stole our animals and pillaged from stores. I hunkered down to save myself and my family. Two hours later, it was over. I participated in the retrieval of our dead: 18 people, all Foulse and Mossi, including four adolescents. Ten were in their houses – a few were shot hiding under their mattresses; some were dragged out of their house and murdered; others were found dead on paths as if fleeing. I heard them saying they would exterminate us: “You’re providing information…all that is happening is because of you.”

Another witness said that during “Operation Doofu,” the army set up in Béléhédé’s school for about a week and launched their patrols in the area: “The jihadists blamed us for supporting the FDS, massacring us just a few weeks later. …The army also engaged in excesses in our zone. … The jihadists blamed us for their bad behavior.”

Killing of 9 in Zoura village, Centre-Nord region

On October 20, 2019, alleged armed Islamists killed nine civilians during an attack on Zoura village, in Bam province, Centre-Nord region. A villager said, “Eight motorcycles – two [people] on each – screamed into the village, firing randomly. Some wore boubous, others camouflage, all had turbans. They jumped off their bikes and went into the market and people’s houses. Nearly the entire village has fled.” Another villager said:

We buried nine civilians, including an elderly man and his brother, both killed near the market, two others near the maternity clinic, one in front of his boutique, three in the family compound of a tailor named Benjamin, and another, found dead near his motorcycle a few meters from his home.

Killing of 14 in Salmossi village, Sahel region

On October 11, 2019, alleged armed Islamists executed at least 14 men, the majority ethnic Songhai, most as they left the village mosque after evening prayer in Salmossi village, Sahel region. Three witnesses said they believed the killings were in retaliation for the killing of two youth by a local village defense force, a few days before. One witness said: “The assailants had threatened the chief, looted and stolen our livestock. We organized a vigilance group to protect ourselves and some days before the attack had caught two suspects who were killed in their custody.”

Killing of 19 in Arbinda, Sahel region

On June 9, 2019, an attack by alleged armed Islamists on Arbinda, Sahel region, left 19 civilians dead. The population of Arbinda has swelled with displaced civilians and has a considerable presence of security forces. Two witnesses said the armed men infiltrated the town undetected during a wind and sandstorm. A witness said:

The jihadists feared the security forces would catch them so didn’t even get off their motorcycles. Instead they sped through town in a cloud of dust shooting at anything that moved. It started around 4 p.m. and was over quickly. Over a dozen civilians were wounded and 19 people killed, including the son of the traditional chief of Arbinda. The market area was hardest hit; lots of traders were among the dead. 

Execution of government officials and others, Sahel region

On November 3, 2019, armed Islamists executed Oumarou Dicko, the Djibo city mayor and parliament member for Djibo province, and two other men after ambushing their car on the road from Djibo to Ouagadougou. A fourth man, the driver, was also shot but survived. A passenger in a bus who was a witness to the killings said:

Around the village of Namsiguia, we came upon what we thought was a traffic accident: a car overturned on the side of the road. The bus driver stopped but as we scrambled down to help the occupants, four armed assailants with walkie-talkies emerged from the forest pointing their rifles at us. They ordered all male passengers down, then told us to turn over the vehicle. I recognized the mayor, and saw he had a forehead injury, but it wasn’t serious. He told me their vehicle had been ambushed.

After he got out, an assailant asked, “Mr. Mayor, is that you?” The mayor didn’t answer and moved toward the bus passengers. But the assailant said, “Don’t move.” The mayor said, “No, these are my people and I will join them.” The assailant grabbed his arm and forcefully pulled him aside. Meanwhile, another assailant was on the walkie talkie. The person on the other side asked, “Are you sure it is the mayor?” to which he said, “Yes, we have him.” They ordered us back on the bus and as we moved, they executed the mayor, and then heard more shots as they executed the mayor’s companions.

Human Rights Watch also documented the killing, in early April 2019, of a prominent religious sheikh, Youssouf Wérèm, and three others in Hamkan village, near Arbinda; the April 11 killing of the village chief of Gasseliki and village councilor of Aladjou village; and the September 12 killing of two men in Nassoumbou, all in the Sahel region. Alleged armed Islamists were implicated in each of these cases.





Pakistan will not allow its soil to be used against anyone, says DG ISPR

January 05, 2020

Army spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor on Sunday, while speaking to ARY News, said that Pakistan will not allow its soil to be used against anyone and will play its role to secure peace in the region.

Maj Gen Ghafoor said the aforementioned sentiments had been expressed by both the Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of Army Staff General (COAS) Qamar Javed Bajwa.

"Pakistan will not be party to anyone or anything but will be a partner of peace and peace alone," he said, quoting Prime Minister Imran.

The director-general of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), in reply to a question regarding the killing of Iran's Major General Qasem Soleimani in a US strike on Friday, said the regional situation had been altered and Pakistan would play its role in helping peace prevail.

Maj Gen Soleimani was killed on Friday morning in a US strike on Baghdad's international airport, in a dramatic escalation of tensions between the two countries.

Shortly after, Gen Bajwa in a call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had emphasised the "need for maximum restraint and constructive engagement" following the killing of Soleimani.

Discussing the phone call between the army chief and Pompeo, Ghafoor said Gen Bajwa had said two things.

Firstly, he said that the region was improving from very bad conditions, adding that the Afghan reconciliation process is very important for this improvement. He added that Pakistan would play its role in this and wants the focus to remain on the issue.

Secondly, he said the army chief had told Pompeo that tensions in the region should be reduced. He said all relevant countries should move forward with constructive practices and dialogue.

"Pakistan will support all peaceful efforts and hopes the region doesn't go towards another war," he quoted the army chief as saying.

Responding to a question regarding rumours that Pakistan would participate in the war by supporting the United States against Iran, Ghafoor said such rumours were circulating on social media. He clarified, however, that this was not the first call [between Pompeo and Gen Bajwa].

"From the Afghan reconciliation process to the regional security, the army chief has an important role," he said, adding that the Foreign Office had also issued a statement.

The Foreign Office via a statement had also expressed "deep concern" over the tensions, urging all sides to exercise restraint.

"My request to the people and media would be to only pay attention to statements from an authentic source," he said, adding that they should not pay attention to "propaganda" and "rumours of enemies of the country".

"India is playing the lead role in spreading these rumours," he said, adding that he had read an Indian news article that Pakistan had ditched Iran and the resumption of Pakistan's participation in a US military training and educational programme.

"In our bilateral relations with America, training cooperation was suspended. For the past four to five months, America has been talking about restoring this because training engagement in military to military cooperation goes on.

"Linking something that has been going on for quite a few months to this incident is part of that propaganda campaign."

The army's spokesman said that peace had been achieved in Pakistan after a lot of sacrifices, adding that the nation will play its role for peace in the region.

"We will not be part of any effort to ruin this peace," he said.

'Path India on will lead to its own destruction'

Speaking about the new Indian army chief's threatening statements against Pakistan, Maj Gen Ghafoor said that Lt Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane had been newly installed as the army chief and is "busy trying to make a place for himself" but is not new to the institution itself.

"He knows full well the situation in the region and the capability of the Pakistan army.

"He was part of the Indian force on Feb 27 as well. So he's not new."

Maj Gen Ghafoor expressed hope that Gen Naravane "will no longer let go of reason". "The Pakistan army knows how to defend the country and India also knows this," he said.

The army spokesperson said that Pakistan desires peace in the region but will make no comprises when it comes to safeguarding its security.

"The Indian army chief should, instead of giving such statements, end the clampdown in occupied Kashmir, end oppression there, and play his role in ending the ongoing tyranny in India due to the Hindutva thought," said Maj Gen Ghafoor.

He said that the path India is on "will lead to its own destruction".



PTI stages rally in support of Indian Muslims

January 06, 2020

UMERKOT / KHOKHRAPAR / MIRPURKHAS: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Sunday staged a huge rally at Khokhrapar Zero Point to express solidarity with the Muslims of India and occupied Kashmir.

Speaking at the Karwan-i-Difa Wa Yakjehti Rally, PTI’s parliamentary party leader in the Sindh Assembly Haleem Adil Sheikh said that Narendra Modi had converted ‘secular’ India into an extremist country.

He told the participants of the rally organised jointly by the PTI and the Hindu community that the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act passed by the Indian parliament was an attack on religious minorities.

Mr Sheikh, who is also PTI’s central vice president, said this rally was an expression of full support to the armed forces and all citizens of Pakistan were ready to fight on the borders along with security forces.

He said Modi was engaged in state-sponsored terrorism in occupied Kashmir and all across India, but he could not suppress the voice of freedom lovers.

‘Minorities enjoy full rights and security in Pakistan’

He said the Modi government would soon fall and India would be divided into several parts.

“Minorities enjoy full rights and live peacefully in Pakistan with security.”

The PTI leader said he was thankful to the patriotic citizens from all walks of life for coming to the border to give a strong message to India.

Speaking at the rally, MNA Jay Parkash Lohana said the minorities were completely safe and secure in Pakistan and living a peaceful life. He said Indian army would face defeat in occupied Kashmir.

MPA Saanju Gangwani said they were showing Modi how Hindus and other religious communities were safe in Pakistan. He said they were ready to sacrifice their lives for the sake of the country.

MPA Dua Bhutto said Modi had desecrated mosques and he was suppressing the Muslims living in India and occupied Kashmir with brute force. Sindh Bailtul Mal chairman Huniad Lakhani said Modi was hated by the masses of his own country.

MPA Razzaq Rahimoon said both Muslims and Hindus living in Pakistan were patriotic citizens and they were ready to sacrifice their lives for the country.

The rally, which originated from Hyderabad and marched to Khokhrapar Zero Point via Tando Allahyar, Mirpurkhas and Umerkot, was warmly welcomed by citizens at different towns and villages.

The PTI leaders paid tribute to the Rangers at one of border check-posts and presented the national flag to them. The Rangers jawans raised ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ slogan.



Imran Khan condemns attack on gurdwara, accuses Modi of attacking Muslims

January 5, 2020

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Sunday he has "zero tolerance" for the people who attacked a Sikh shrine near Lahore, alleging that unlike Indian leader Narendra Modi he doesn’t support violence against minorities.

Gurdwara Nankana Sahib, where the first Guru of Sikhs, Guru Nanak, was born was attacked by a mob and pelted with stones on Friday before the police stepped, said media reports.

There is a "major difference between the condemnable Nankana incident and the ongoing attacks across India on Muslims and other minorities," said Khan on Twitter.

"The former is against my vision & will find zero tolerance & protection from the govt incl police & judiciary (sic)," he tweeted, referring to the Nankana Sahib incident.

Khan claimed that Prime Minister Modi's "vision supports minorities oppression and the targeted attacks against Muslims." He also alleged that the Indian police, supported by the government, are leading attacks against Muslims.

India has strongly condemned vandalism at the gurdwara and called upon the Pakistan government to take immediate steps to ensure the safety and security of the Sikh community there.

Indian leaders cutting across party lines have condemned the mob attack, terming it as "cowardly" and "shameful".

Hundreds of protesters thronged the streets near the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi demanding that Islamabad provide adequate security to Sikh shrines and community members there.

Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandhak Committee (SGPC), the apex body which manages Sikh shrines in India, said it will send a four-member delegation to Pakistan to take stock of the situation and urged the Pakistan government to take stringent action against the culprits who attacked the gurdwara - one of the holiest sites in Sikhism.

Pakistan's Foreign Office on Friday rejected the media reports that Gurdwara Nanakana Sahib was desecrated in a mob attack, saying the birthplace of founder of Sikhism remains "untouched and undamaged" and the "claims of destruction" of one of the holiest Sikh shrines are "false".



Pakistan renews offer to mediate in Middle East crisis

Jan 6, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has renewed its offer for mediating in the Middle East crisis and reaffirmed its resolve not to become a part of any conflict in the region, it was reported.

The offer was formally conveyed by foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi during a telephonic conversation with his counterparts from Iran (Mohammad Javad Zarif), Saudi Arabia (Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud), the United Arab Emirates (Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed) and Turkey (Mevlut Cavusoglu) on Sunday, reports Dawn news.

This was the first time Qureshi contacted the leadership in Tehran after the January 3 US airstrike that killed Iranian Army General Qasem Soleimani.

According to an official announcement by the ministry of foreign affairs, there was a wide-ranging exchange of views between Qureshi and the four foreign ministers on "the unfolding situation in the region".

The Minister also reaffirmed that Pakistan would neither let its soil be used against any other state nor become part of any regional conflict.

Qureshi is expected to make a policy statement on the Middle East situation in the National Assembly or the Senate on Monday (today).

Qureshi's calls to his counterparts comes after Army spokesman and Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor declared in categorical terms that Pakistan would not allow its soil to be used against anyone and would continue to play its role in establishing durable peace in the region, said Dawn news.

During an interview with ARY News TV channel, he acknowledged that Soleimani's death had "changed the situation in the region", saying Pakistan desired that the region "does not go towards another war".



Parliamentary committee to take up issue of 4,000 Pakistanis jailed in Bosnia

January 06, 2020

ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary committee that will meet twice this week will take up the issue of 4,000 Pakistanis jailed in Bosnia who according to Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) are waiting for an opportunity to flee into Europe instead of returning home.

The Senate Standing Committee on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development was surprised to learn that the illegal Pakistani immigrants preferred to stay jailed hoping that some day they would secure a legal status in Europe.

At its last meeting, MoFA told members that most of the Pakistanis were asylum seekers who tore their passports, even faced extreme hardships in jails and refused voluntary repatriation or any assistance from Pakistani missions.

MoFA was particularly talking about the estimated 4,000 Pakistanis jailed in Jungle Migrants Camp at Vucjak, Bosnia Herzegovina. The camp is about 400 kilometres away from the Pakistani mission.

These Pakistanis are waiting for an opportunity to flee into Europe rather than return home, says ministry

The committee was surprised to learn that the Bosnian government did not have resources to look after the inmates. The exact number of Pakistani immigrants there is still not confirmed.

Nonetheless, the committee argued that its members had been receiving complaints that many Pakistanis were stranded abroad and in need of assistance.

“They are Pakistanis and it is the duty of the government to look after them and bring them home safely,” said chairman of the committee, Hilalur Rehman.

The committee will also look into human trafficking which its members believed was rising, causing embarrassment to the country. The lawmakers had reasons to believe that travel agencies were involved in human trafficking, and directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to take legal action.

About 400 human trafficking cases have been sent by Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis to the FIA for investigation.

The committee members said many licensed travel agencies were involved in human trafficking, selling people to gangs abroad who forced the immigrants to do jobs on meagre salaries.

Similarly, an estimated 50,000 Pakistani immigrants are awaiting repatriation from Turkey.

The committee directed the FIA to lodge cases against travel agents involved in human trafficking and present a report.

The meeting was also informed that 50,000 to 60,000 Pakistanis were also expected to be repatriated from Saudi Arabia.

According to the Overseas Pakistanis Foundation (OPF), these individuals were non-productive and made no significant contributions through foreign remittances.



Achakzai wants exemplary action for Constitution violators

Muhammad Akbar Notezai

January 06, 2020

QUETTA: Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai has said that those who violate the Constitution should be awarded exemplary punishment.

Addressing a press conference at the Quetta Press Club on Sunday, he said: “The Constitution of Pakistan defines limitations for all the [state] institutions to work within their domains. The same Constitution states that parliament is the centre of power. However, deplorably, our current parliament is a ‘selected’ one.”

In an apparent reference to the government move to provide parliamentary cover to the extension in the army chief’s tenure, Mr Achakzai said: “Those who coined the term ‘selected’ [for the prime minister and parliament] after the last general elections and other parties are now talking of an amendment in the same parliament. But they must remember that history is brutal and it does not like dishonesty.”

The PkMAP leader said it was the obligation of every institution, including the army, to abide by the Constitution as it builds up trust between the state and the citizens of Pakistan.

Says there should be no compromise on democracy

“If this country is run according to the wishes of its people, they will stand by the state of their own free will,” he said, adding: “It is my and my party’s point of view that in every government department, including the army, if someone completes the term, he/she should go.”

Welcoming the verdict in the high treason case against Gen Musharraf, he said the former dictator was behind the killings of Nawab Akbar Bugti, lawyers and the May 12 violence. “He [Musharraf] did not even allow Nawab Bugti’s family members to bury him and offer prayer for his soul at the graveyard,” he added.

“Like Gen Zia, Musharraf had said that he would throw the Cons­titution of Pakistan into the dustbin,” he said.

“Pakistan is dear to us and we and our elders have offered sacrifices for it,” Mr Achakzai said.

“It is time for all of us to mend our ways and put our country on the path to democracy because now we as a country are on the verge of destruction due to misconceived policies and political experiments,” he said.

“If the powers that be want to strengthen Pakistan, then they must trust the 200 million people of the country,” he said, adding that unfortunately “they have done otherwise, which is why Pakistan, instead of strengthening, is becoming weaker by the day”.

“If we want to see the country strengthened, we must not compromise on the question of democracy,” he insisted.

“Pakistan is a volunteer federation formed by Pakhtuns, Punjabis, Sindhis and Baloch. All the ethnic groups live on their own lands, which is why they must be given their due rights,” he said.

In reply to a question about the recent move to amend the Army Act, he said that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had been nurtured under the shadow of the establishment, but later he had stood up against the powers that be. “Now he is a democratic Punjabi during whose tenure two generals retired on time. This is why, history will forgive him.”

About the Pakistan Peoples Party, he said it was “close to democracy and has veteran and educated politicians in its fold who know more than us. So we can ask them what to do over the amendments in parliament”.

Mr Achakzai reiterated the allegation that the 2018 elections had been rigged and called for snap elections in the country.



FM Qureshi asks world to support rights of Kashmiris

January 6, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Sunday has said that India’s illegal and unilateral actions of 5 August last year are aimed at altering the disputed status of occupied Kashmir and bringing about demographic change to undermine the right to self-determination of Kashmiris have been widely rejected.

In a message on Right to Self-Determination Day observed on Sunday the minister said that India’s unrestrained oppression has reached unprecedented levels with the inhuman lockdown now in place for over 150 days. He said each additional second on the curfew clock is a burden on the world’s collective conscience.

He said the international community must act in support of the fundamental freedoms and basic human rights of Kashmiris and urge India to allow the UN Fact Finding Mission to occupied Kashmir to ascertain the reports of grave human rights violations there.

Meanwhile President Arif Alvi said that the people of occupied Kashmir are being subjected to collective punishment by Indian occupation forces who have converted the territory into the largest militarised zone in the world. He said the current situation in occupied Kashmir is the worst in recent history where people have been deprived of their fundamental rights including right to life food health freedom of expression and assembly.




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