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Islamic World News ( 17 Sept 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Different Religious and Human Traditions Can Lead To a Cohesive International Community: Interfaith Group KAICIID

New Age Islam News Bureau

17 Sept 2019

People belonging to the Sunni, Shia, Christian, Yazidi and Orthodox perspectives, participate in an interfaith dialogue.(AFP)


 Different Religious and Human Traditions Can Lead To a Cohesive International Community: Interfaith Group KAICIID

 18 Non-Muslim Places Of Worship in Abu Dhabi to Get Licences

 Russia, Iran, Turkey Say Syria Constitutional Committee Ready

 Far-Right Extremists Target Mosque In The Netherlands, Hang Anti-Islam Banners

 Will Meet India, Pakistan PMs Soon: Trump

 Trump Says US Doesn’t Need Middle East Oil; Data, Experts Prove Otherwise

 By Appointing Arif Mohammad Khan as Governor, the BJP May Be Hoping To Win Over the Confidence of the Minority Community in Kerala

 Ayodhya: Muslim Parties in SC Oppose Making 'Birth Place' Of Lord Ram as Party

 Pakistan to Send Astronaut into Space by 2022 with the Help of Its Close Ally China

 Over 110 Militants Killed As Afghan Forces Increase Pressure: Officials

 Will Umno-PAS Pact Create 2 Malaysias?

 Palestinian Authority: All Israeli Settlements Illegal


Arab World

 Different Religious and Human Traditions Can Lead To a Cohesive International Community: Interfaith Group KAICIID

 18 Non-Muslim Places Of Worship in Abu Dhabi to Get Licences

 Saudi Oil Attack Photos Implicate Iran, U.S. Says; Trump Hints at Military Action

 They Left to Join ISIS. Now Europe Is Leaving Their Citizens to Die in Iraq.

 Religious Conference in Cairo Warns of Extremist Groups' Comeback

 Crown Prince: Saudi Arabia Capable of Confronting Terrorist Attack

 Weapons used in Saudi attacks ‘came from Iran’: coalition

 US Sends Tens of Trucks Carrying New Military Aids to Kurdish Militias in Eastern Syria

 US Helps ISIL with Aerial-Intel for Penetration into Iraq’s Diyala Province

 ISIS leader al-Baghdadi calls on fighters to free detained comrades

 UAE’s FM Anwar Gargash says Aramco attacks are dangerous escalation

 On Saudi attacks, Erdogan: We have to look at how the Yemen conflict started

 Iraq launches fifth phase of Will of Victory operation against Daesh remnants

 Nusra terrorists continue preventing civilians from leaving Idlib



 Russia, Iran, Turkey Say Syria Constitutional Committee Ready

 Far-Right Extremists Target Mosque In The Netherlands, Hang Anti-Islam Banners

 France to Press to Drop Sudan from US Terror List

 Bomb team searches Maidenhead property after terror arrest

 EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Says Many ISIS Militants Back From Conflict Zones

 Russia offers Saudi missile defenses after attack

 UK says attack on Saudi Aramco violation of international law

 Italy arrests ‘torturers’ after migrants denounce Libya camp horrors

 China and US clash over ‘belt and road’ in Afghan resolution

 2,800 Turks applied for Swiss asylum since coup bid


North America

 Will Meet India, Pakistan PMs Soon: Trump

 Trump Says US Doesn’t Need Middle East Oil; Data, Experts Prove Otherwise

 Oil surges more than 19% after attacks halve Saudi output

 Qatar-Funded Group Engages In ‘Propagandistic Activities’ While Divvying Out Millions To US Schools, Experts Say

 NATO chief ‘extremely concerned’ after attacks on Saudi Arabia

 US, allies working to address Saudi oil attacks: Esper

 Attack on Saudi oil sets in motion mysterious explanations



 By Appointing Arif Mohammad Khan as Governor, the BJP May Be Hoping To Win Over the Confidence of the Minority Community in Kerala

 Ayodhya: Muslim Parties in SC Oppose Making 'Birth Place' Of Lord Ram as Party

 Janmabhoomi Nyas has no locus in Ayodhya case: Sunni Wakf Board

 Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhara junk mediation idea

 Kartarpur Corridor to be opened for Indian pilgrims on November 9: Pakistan

 Farooq Abdullah detained under Public Safety Act, can be held for a year

 Restore normalcy in Kashmir, but protect national interest: Supreme Court

 India, Iran review progress on full operationalisation of Chabahar port

 JeM operatives planned attacks across India: NIA

 Rohingyas, Bangladeshi refugees’ likely target of Khattar govt’s updated NRC

 Pulwama to Aug 5: Jammu and Kashmir HC indicted Govt for PSA arrests — in 80% cases



 Pakistan to Send Astronaut into Space by 2022 with the Help of Its Close Ally China

 Imran Khan Called Out For ‘Hypocrisy’ On Uighurs in China

 Pakistan May Seek US Intervention against Terms Of FATF, IMF

 Pakistani authorities shield Hindu principal accused of blasphemy

 PML-N leader surfaces in London to submit ‘video evidence’

 Nawaz directs PML-N to fully support JUI-F’s ‘Azadi March’

 Enhanced tax revenue, reduced fiscal deficit top priority of govt, says Firdous

 Pakistan identifies two Indian spies involved in Balochistan terrorism


South Asia

 Over 110 Militants Killed As Afghan Forces Increase Pressure: Officials

 Rohingyas In Myanmar: Six Lakh Face ‘Serious Risk Of Genocide’

 Afghan Special Forces Kill More Than 20 Militants; Destroy Caches of Weapons In Ghazni

 8 ISIS Militants Killed, Wounded In Nangarhar Artillery and Airstrikes

 Afghan security chief warns of "connections" between foreign extremists and the West

 NDS Special Forces arrest prominent Taliban leader in Kabul city

 Militants cut electricity supply to Kabul, several other provinces by destroying power pylons

 Taliban Delegation In Iran For Talks On Afghanistan Peace

 Two Afghan Taliban shadow governors killed as air strikes step up


Southeast Asia

 Will Umno-PAS Pact Create 2 Malaysias?

 Narendra Modi didn’t ask me to return Zakir Naik: Malaysia PM

 Hadi eyes PAS-GPS pact to stop ‘racist’ DAP from taking Sarawak

 China slams as ‘irresponsible’ US accusations of Iran involvement in Saudi oil attack



 Palestinian Authority: All Israeli Settlements Illegal

 Netanyahu Vows To Begin Annexing “All West Bank Settlements” After Elections

 Israel votes on Benjamin Netanyahu’s political survival

 Scores of civilians tortured to death in Houthi prisons in Yemen

 Saudi Arabia to pay $500m for Yemen aid next week, says UN aid chief

 Russia, Iran, Turkey say Syrian constitution committee ready

 Yemeni Security Officials Say Houthis Killed 13 Civilians

 Iran Categorically Dismisses Involvement in Yemen's Attacks on Saudi Oil Facilities

 Yemen: New Attack on Saudi Facilities Imminent

 Rouhani says Saudi attacks were self-defense by Yemen militia

 Yemeni missile hits gathering of mercenaries in Saudi Arabia’s Asir province

 Saudi officials detain another Hamas leader in crackdown on Palestinian movement

 Iran’s supreme leader rules out negotiations with US



 Somalia: Al-Shabab Attacks Kill 17

 Tunisia Kills ‘Terrorist’ Who Pledged Allegiance to Al-Qaeda

 Libya: LNA Carries Out Air Strikes on GNA Position in Sirte

 Islamic State fills the void in Nigeria as soldiers retreat to 'super camps'

 Cameroon soldiers killed in ‘Boko Haram’ attack near Fotokol

 Al-Shabaab Militants Kill Eight Government Officials in Somalia

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Different Religious and Human Traditions Can Lead To a Cohesive International Community: Interfaith Group KAICIID


September 17, 2019

JEDDAH: Different religious and human traditions can lead to a cohesive international community, and tolerance can replace hate rhetoric through responsible dialogue centers such as the King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID), its secretary-general has said. 

Faisal bin Muammar said that global dialogue, through activating the role of religious and human values in dealing with international issues, has become one of the most important axes in the global forums, for its impact on relations between individuals, leaders and religious institutions of different religions and religious affiliations with policymakers everywhere, in particular international bodies and organizations.


Commenting on international support for KAICIID, Bin Muammar said: “I can confidently say that we have succeeded, with the support of Saudi Arabia and the participation of Spain, Austria and the Vatican, in achieving a global achievement through the KAICIID’s initiative for dialogue between followers of religions and cultures.

“The initiative aims at promoting humanitarian partnerships and consolidating coexistence under the umbrella of shared citizenship. We have, in fact, witnessed various patterns where we can utilize efforts of different initiatives specialized in humanitarian and religious values to assist policymakers,” Bin Muammar said.

He said that the center was able to create partnerships with countries, global institutions and religious leaderships to convince the international community that religious values should be considered part of the solution, not the origin of the problem, especially, he added, as 84 percent of the world’s population had a religious identity or tradition.

Bin Muammar said that people associated with religion are potential advocates for tolerance and respect. “For that reason, KAICIID invests in promoting interreligious dialogue to unite different religions in securing social cohesion. That outcome is an essential contribution toward human security and inclusive development.”

KAICIID requested policymakers and the international community to adopt this approach, which would contribute to building security, peace and coexistence.

The secretary-general said that religious and human values have become a major part of the foundation’s local and global mission.

“With its strong and effective presence in global forums, the KAICIID has moved to the forefront of dialogue and cultural institutions. This could have not happened if it was not Allah’s help, the support of the founding members and the board consisting of Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists and Hindus,” he said.

He said that one factor that had helped KAICIID become a globally leading interreligious and intercultural dialogue center was that its 50-member advisory forum represents about 15 religions and beliefs.

“Moreover, the center’s representatives come from 30 countries. In addition, the center has various platforms such as the refugee platform, the Muslim Jewish Council of Europe, the dialogue platform in Central Africa, the Muslim-Christian dialogue platform in Nigeria, the Myanmar platform for dialogue between the Muslims and the Buddhists, the dialogue platform for dialogue and cooperation between Muslims and Christians and the fellows programs in five continents,” he said.

Social cohesion

The KAICIID International Fellows Program brings together leaders and educators from Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and other religious backgrounds from around the world for training in dialogue facilitation, intercultural communication and promoting social cohesion by KAICIID experts. The program equips fellows with the skills to educate their students and communities about interreligious dialogue so they can become facilitators and leaders in the dialogue and active peace advocates in their communities.

Bin Muammar said that KAICIID’s achievements included joining the UN’s advisory council, which consists of 50 institutions worldwide.

“In the UN recent elections, the secretary-general of KAICIID was elected to co-chair the Faith Advisory Council of the United Nations Interagency Taskforce on Religion and Development together with Ms. Tarja Kantola, Chair of Finn Church Aid’s board of directors,” he said.

He said that the multi-religious coalition — Religions for Peace — (RfP) had elected the KAICIID secretary-general as an honorary president at its 10th World Assembly in Lindau, Germany.

“The choice is a recognition of KAICIID’s mandate and my team’s efforts to bring peace through dialogue,” he said. “We cannot achieve peaceful and cohesive societies without organizations like RfP, a very important partner for KAICIID since its establishment in 2012.”



18 non-Muslim places of worship in Abu Dhabi to get licences

September 17, 2019

Places of worship such as churches, temples and gurudwaras will now be regulated by the DCD.

Eighteen non-Muslim places of worship across Abu Dhabi will be granted licences at a special event scheduled for next week.

Under the slogan 'A Call for harmony', the Department of Community Development in Abu Dhabi (DCD) announced on Monday that it will organise the ceremony to license these existing places of worship at at the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi on September 22, 2019.

The decision is to bring all the institutions of worship under one licence umbrella in an effort to assist their day to day running, according to authorities.

Worship places such as churches, temples and gurudwaras for Sikhs will now be regulated by the DCD.

Previously, non-Muslim places of worship were not officially recognised by law, according to authorities.

"The aim of licencing the worship places to provide an official unified channel within the government for religious bodies to go to for special services and when they need advice or support," Sultan al Dhaheri, the Executive Director of Community Engagement and Sport at the DCD told Khaleej Times on Monday.

"If any public or private entities want to establish new places of worship or set up related services, they should contact the department."

Al Dhaheri explained that the department has put in place several requirements to be submitted in by the worship places and if all the requirements are met, the application will be opened which goes through several stages of approval before a licence is granted or rejected.

According to the DCD, licencing these places of worship will contribute to boosting Abu Dhabi's regional and global standing, as it advocates peace, tolerance and coexistence.

The licensing ceremony, which will be attended by around 250 government leaders, in addition to a number of religious figures, businessmen and media representatives, emphasizes Abu Dhabi's efforts in promoting the values of brotherhood, love, and harmony amongst all segments of society.

The department said it has worked on developing legal frameworks, policies and procedures which ensure the rights of citizens of all religions to practice their faith seamlessly, in accordance with UAE laws and regulations, and without affecting the authenticity of UAE's customs and traditions.

The DCD officials have met with all those in charge of places of worship, as well as a number of religious figures representing different religions and sects, and they were introduced to the conditions and policies that must be met in order for places of worship to obtain licences.

The licensing ceremony will include a number of events highlighting religious, cultural and demographic diversity in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, while highlighting Abu Dhabi's societal integration and coexistence that has been one of the emirate's distinguishing attributes throughout history.

Abu Dhabi is home to several churches and a gurudwara. The foundation stone for the region's first traditional stone Hindu temple was laid in the capital in April this year.



Russia, Iran, Turkey Say Syria Constitutional Committee Ready

16 September, 2019

The leaders of Russia, Iran and Turkey announced Monday that they agreed to form a committee tasked with rewriting Syria's constitution as part of a political solution to the country's civil war, now in its ninth year.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told journalists at the end of the meeting with Russia's Vladimir Putin and Iran's Hassan Rouhani in the Turkish capital Ankara that the last hitches blocking the formation of the committee have been overcome.

Russia and Iran are key allies of Syrian regime leader Bashar Assad while Turkey backs Syrian opposition factions seeking to oust him.

The parties agreed on a constitutional committee — to be made up of pro-regime, opposition and independent members — paving the way for speedy talks in Geneva, Putin told reporters.

Rouhani said he hoped for elections to take place in Syria in 2020 or 2021.

The leaders also agreed to de-escalate the volatile situation in Idlib — the last remaining opposition stronghold in Syria — while combatting extremists and protecting civilians.

A ceasefire that went into effect at the end of August has been holding despite some violations.

Idlib is dominated by the al-Qaeda-linked group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. Syrian regime forces, backed by Russia, targeted the armed group in a four-month ground and air offensive but civilians have been widely affected. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians, some already displaced from other parts of the war-torn country, have moved toward Turkey's border.

A major conflict in Idlib has raised the possibility of a mass refugee flow to Turkey, which already hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees.

Erdogan has previously warned that Turkey could "open its gates" and allow Syrians already living in his country to flood Western countries if Turkey is left to shoulder the refugee burden alone.

Monday's talks were the fifth trilateral meeting among countries that stand on opposing sides of the conflict.

Erdogan repeated Turkish demands from the United States for a so-called "safe zone" in northeastern Syria along the Turkish border east of the Euphrates River where joint patrols have begun but threatened Turkey would go it alone if its establishment was delayed.

Turkey wants a buffer zone on its border that is clear of US-backed Syrian Kurdish forces that Ankara considers terrorists, alleging they have ties to a Kurdish insurgency within Turkey.



Far-right extremists target mosque in the Netherlands, hang anti-Islam banners


Agroup of far-right extremists targeted a mosque in the Netherlands' Almere city in an Islamophobic attack, media reports said Monday.

The extremists hung banners bearing anti-Islam on the Abou Bakr Assadik Mosque's walls. "Islam must be stopped," "No to mosques," read some of the banners.

The far-right "Rechts in Verzet (Right in Resistance)" movement claimed responsibility for the attack through a statement they shared on their social media accounts.

Hassan Buyatui


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The administration of the mosque also shared photos of the banners on their social media account, with a statement saying: "Nothing can be achieved in this way. Completely unfair and childish."

The same group had also claimed responsibility for a similar attack in January 2018, in which anti-Islam banners were hung in front of the Emir Sultan Mosque in Amsterdam along with a headless model.



Will meet India, Pakistan PMs soon: Trump

Sep 17, 2019

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Monday said he will be meeting the prime ministers of India and Pakistan soon, even as he maintained that tension between the two Asian countries had reduced.

While Trump will address Indian-Americans, along with PM Modi, at the "Howdy Modi!" event in Houston on September 22, the American president did not say when or where will he be meeting PM Khan.

"I'll see Prime Minister Modi and I will — we'll — be meeting with (prime ministers of) India and Pakistan," Trump told reporters in response to a question at the White House on Monday.

According to Trump's schedule, he could meet the Pakistani Prime Minister on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly Session in New York later this month.

After addressing a record crowd of more than 50,000 Indian-Americans at the "Howdy Modi!" event , Trump will travel to Ohio and then is expected to fly to New York to attend the Annual General Assembly Sessions of the United Nations.

Without mentioning Kashmir, Trump said a "lot of progress has been made in reducing tension" between India and Pakistan.

Tension between India and Pakistan escalated after New Delhi revoked Jammu and Kashmir's special status on August 5. Reacting to India's move on Kashmir, Pakistan downgraded diplomatic ties with New Delhi and expelled the Indian High Commissioner.

Pakistan has been trying to internationalise the Kashmir issue but India has asserted that the abrogation of Article 370 was its "internal matter". New Delhi has also asked Islamabad to accept the reality and stop its anti-India rhetoric.

The "Howdy, Modi!" event would the first time that an American president addresses thousands of Indian-Americans at one place in the US.

It comes ahead of the 2020 presidential elections in the US in which the influential Indian-American community members are expected to play a greater role. President Trump, a Republican, has already announced his candidature.

India's Ambassador to the US Harsh Vardhan Shringla has called Trump's participation in the "Howdy, Modi!" event "historic" and "unprecedented".

"It is reflective of the strong bonds of friendship and cooperation that has developed between India and the US," Shringla told PTI.



Trump says US doesn’t need Middle East oil; data, experts prove otherwise

Sep 17, 2019

US President Donald Trump has been accused by experts of “hyperbole” for falsely claiming that America has become a net energy exporter and no longer needs to import oil from the Middle East.

Trump started one of his busier twitter days on Monday by sending out several posts about the recent attacks on the world’s largest refinery in Saudi Arabia, which slashed the kingdom’s oil production by about half and caused global oil prices to jump.

He gave himself credit for turning America into “the Number One Energy Producer in the World,” implying that his country was immune to the consequences of the devastating attack on Saudi Arabia’s state oil company Aramco.

“Because we have done so well with Energy over the last few years (thank you, Mr. President!), we are a net Energy Exporter, & now the Number One Energy Producer in the World,” he wrote. “We don’t need Middle Eastern Oil & Gas, & in fact have very few tankers there, but will help our Allies!”

Donald J. Trump


Because we have done so well with Energy over the last few years (thank you, Mr. President!), we are a net Energy Exporter, & now the Number One Energy Producer in the World. We don’t need Middle Eastern Oil & Gas, & in fact have very few tankers there, but will help our Allies!


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The claim contradicted the US government’s own data, which showed that while the US has indeed become a large producer of oil and gas thanks to a technology-driven drilling boom that over a decade ago, it still imported large amounts of crude oil and petroleum products from the Persian Gulf region in 2019.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in its latest available report that last year, the US imported about 9.93 million barrels per day of petroleum from some 86 countries, of which 78 percent was crude oil.

Interestingly, Saudi Arabia was the second largest oil provider for the US, selling around 900,000 bpd. Iraq was ranked fifth on the list with a little more than half a million bpd. Canada topped the list by selling an average of 4.28 million bpd to the US.

America produces around 12 million barrels of oil a day but consumes an staggering 20 million bpd, meaning that it needs to import a substantial amount to meet its needs.

Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, is the world largest oil exporters by shipping about 7 million barrels of crude daily around the globe, Reuters reported.

“By and large, we are still importing quite a bit and not totally immune to the world market,” Jean-François Seznec, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center, told reporters on Monday.

Phillip Cornell, another senior fellow with the Council, who has also worked for Aramco as an adviser, called Trump’s tweet “nonsense.”

“He’s a guy who likes hyperbole,” Cornell said.

America’s dependence on Middle Eastern oil is not just an issue of high consumption, however, as several key refineries across the US are also set up to work with the type of crude that comes from the countries in the region.

As an example, Saudi Arabia’s Aramco owns half of the biggest American oil refinery, Motiva Enterprises LLC in Texas, works best with Saudi crude.

There are other refineries in the US, particularly in California, which are located far away from big oil fields and therefore rely on cargoes that come from other countries.

The EIA states that in 2018, the US imported an average of 48 million barrels per month of crude oil and petroleum products from the Persian Gulf region, a third down from a decade ago but still around the same levels as in 1995 and 1996.

Later on Monday, Trump retweeted a White House post that boasted oil production in the state of New Mexico -- where Trump was scheduled to hold a rally -- "is up an incredible 110 percent."

US gas prices expected to rise after Saudi attack

Meanwhile, market analysts are warning American motorists of higher gas prices following the global price hike caused by the attacks on the Saudi oil industry.

The attacks on Saturday forced cut Saudi oil production by around 5.7 million bpd, more than 5 percent of global oil supply, sending up oil prices by as much as 20 percent.

Analysts said that US pump prices were likely to rise in the coming days following a more than 10-percent hike in gasoline on Sunday trading.

California motorists were expected to be hit the hardest because its refineries needed to import oil for supplies as they were not connected to oil-rich states such as Texas via pipelines.

Data by the California Energy Commission show that Saudi Arabia accounted for about 37 percent of the state’s total foreign oil imports last year.

“Saudi Arabia has always sought to portray itself as a reliable supplier of crude to the market and for this reason we think they will opt to supply the export market for crude first then products,” Robert Campbell, head of oil products research at Energy Aspects, said.



By Appointing Arif Mohammad Khan as Governor, the BJP May Be Hoping To Win Over the Confidence of the Minority Community in Kerala

By Santosh Kumar


The BJP leadership in Kerala is not very enthused over the appointment of Arif Mohammad Khan as the new governor of the state.

Although the state leadership has not come out with any public statement, privately they express “disappointment” over the choice.

It was obvious that the leadership was expecting someone with a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh background to take over from Justice P. Sathasivam, especially in the absence of anyone from the central leadership to guide the party in the state at present.

Two central leaders, Naleen Kumar Kateel and B.L. Santhosh, who were in charge of Kerala, have been entrusted with higher responsibilities by the central leadership. Kateel was in the midst of a high-level party meeting in Kochi when the announcement of his new post as Karnataka BJP president took place. Santhosh was made general secretary of the party before that.

Since no immediate replacements for the two have come forth, state leaders were looking for someone capable of “putting the CPM government in its place” at the Raj Bhavan in Thiruvananthapuram.

Justice Sathasivam, according to some state BJP leaders, was a “big letdown”. In the past too, they haven’t minced words or hidden their disappointment with the former governor.

They genuinely feel that other than bringing political murders in the state to the national limelight by demanding a report from the chief minister, Sathasivam had always “sided with the Left Front government” in the state.

He had even developed a cordial relationship with the opposition Congress, which had opposed his posting in the beginning. His attitude of non-interference in matters of governance during the height of the Sabarimala agitation, when thousands of BJP leaders and workers were under detention, had turned the entire BJP leadership in the state against Sathasivam.

They had expected Sathasivam to send at least a negative report about the law and order situation to the Centre. There was even talk of dismissing the government. BJP president Amit Shah himself had threatened to do so at a public meeting in Kerala. However, nothing of that sort ever happened. Sathasivam stuck to the rule book, much to the dismay of BJP leaders in the state.

In such a scenario, it was quite natural for the state BJP leadership to expect the Narendra Modi government to appoint a more “assertive” governor, with his eyes and ears always open to their views.

It seems the Centre has different ideas. For one, revamping the state BJP is not its immediate priority.

Shah, it is learnt, has told the leadership categorically that there would be no more spoon- feeding by Delhi. The party has to broaden its base through its own efforts. Shah has also cold-shouldered long-standing demands of its main ally in the state, Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS), for administrative sops.

Its founder leader belonging to the strong Ezhava community, Vellappally Natesan, whose son is heading the BDJS, is still nursing ambitions of getting a governor’s post, something very unlikely to come through.

In the absence of any benefits, there is a sense of dejection among the few partners of NDA. Some like Adivasi leader C.K. Janu have gone back to the CPM fold. But nothing seems to deter Shah from the belief that unless and until the BJP stands on its own in the state, there is no hope for the party in Kerala.

Its over-dependence on the RSS’s state unit, which is reportedly at loggerheads with Shah, is there to be seen. This was evident when the former state president Kummanam Rajashekharan, a Sangh parivar acolyte, was summarily removed from the post.

Although he was brought back to fight the Lok Sabha elections under pressure from the RSS, there seems to be no move by the central BJP leadership to give him another term as state unit president.

The current president, P.S. Sreedharan Pillai, has not been able to deliver the goods for the party. The only solace is that infighting within the party has reduced, mainly because the two warring faction leaders have been taken out of the state. V. Muraleedharan is now a Union minister and P.K. Krishna Das has been entrusted with party matters in Andhra Pradesh.

By appointing Arif Mohammad Khan as governor, the BJP may be hoping to win over the confidence of the minority community in Kerala, something the state BJP leadership has failed to do so far.

According to 2011 census, Kerala has a Muslim population of 26.56 per cent, fourth largest in the country state-wise. Shah, by referring to the Wayanad constituency from where Rahul Gandhi won the Lok Sabha election as a “Mini Pakistan”, may have damaged BJP’s chances in building bridges with the community in the state.

But all is not lost. In the wake of the passage of the instant triple talaq bill, rumblings of dissent are being heard in both the Indian Union Muslim League and the All India Muslim League. Talaq is a much more sensitive issue in Kerala than the Babri Masjid controversy. A majority of Muslims in the state knows that reforms in the community are close to Arif Khan’s heart.

As one Muslim scholar pointed out, it is to be seen how the political and religious organisations in the state react to the positions taken by Khan regarding certain issues affecting the community.

During the last Modi government, the BJP had offered a ministry berth, overlooking many eligible party leaders from the state, to former bureaucrat Alphons Kannanthanam, in the hope of appeasing the Christian community. It didn’t work that time, mostly because Kannanthanam has no roots in the state, less said about his political acumen.

Arif Khan may not bring hordes of supporters for the BJP from the Muslim community in the state, but he may succeed in putting across the Centre’s point of view regarding contentious issues to members of the community there. Above all, Arif Khan is most likely to follow the “non-controversial” path of his predecessor, something the state BJP is worried about.



Ayodhya: Muslim parties in SC oppose making 'birth place' of Lord Ram as party

Sep 16, 2019

NEW DELHI: Muslim parties on Monday opposed in the Supreme Court the decision to make 'janmabhoomi' (birth place) of Lord Ram as a party besides the deity and alleged it has been done with the sole motive to ensure that no other person can make a claim over the disputed Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri masjid land.

It was earlier alleged by the counsel for 'Ram Lalla Virajman' that the birth place of Lord Ram is also a deity and Muslims cannot claim right over the 2.77-acre disputed land as any division of the property would amount to "destruction" and "mutilation" of the deity itself.

A 5-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was told by senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for Sunni Waqf Board and others including original litigant M Siddiq, that the birthplace cannot be a juristic entity and moreover, it has been made a party in 1989 to ensure that no law applies to it and other claimants are "knocked off".

"If it was idol only, then this case could have been resolved much more easily. But, if it is Janmbhoomi, then it means all hands should be off the place including that of this court. There can be no legal remedy," he told the bench, also comprising justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer.

On the 24th day of the day-to-day hearing in the politically sensitive case, the top court took note of Dhavan's submission on making "corporeal" property also a party.

"This problem would have arisen if they (the next friend of the deity and others) would have filed the (law) suit only in the name of 'janmasthan'. But they have also made the deity as the first plaintiff," the bench said.

Dhavan responded by saying that the place as a party and as a deity has created all the problems.

Neither the Limitation Law, nor the doctrine of adverse possession nor the acquisition of land would apply on the land as it has the status of the deity on account of Hindu belief, he said.

The bench then asked Dhavan about the difference of legal status of an idol with that of the place recognised as an idol.

The senior lawyer said that the idols, through its 'shebait' (devotee), can sue and be sued and all the legal principles would apply.

"As far as Ram Janmbhoomni as a party is concerned, it is linked with two things, one is belief and the second is the recognition of the area as a deity to establish its distinctiveness and the consequence of this would be that the area will become legally impregnable," he said.

If the concept that place is the deity is believed then neither Babur nor Britishers could become the owner of the land.

He also countered with the submissions of the Hindu party that there was no such concept that "once a mosque, always a mosque".

The submission that except the mosques at Mecca and Madina, other such mosques are not integral to Islamic faith was wrong and would violate the fundamental right to practice religions under Article 25 of the Constitution, he said.

There cannot be discrimination between "Indic religions" and other religions which have come from outside, he said, adding that it would be wrong to say that besides Jerusalem and Vatican, no other churches are integral to the faith for Christians.

At the outset, Dhavan referred to the pleadings of the lawsuit of the deity and said it was filed in 1989 in contrast of the fact that Nirmohi Akahara had first moved the court in 1885.

The 'Ram Janmbhoomi Nyas' was set up by the 'Vishwa Hindu Parishad' to create a new temple and All India Hindu Mahasabha was also made a trustee and the deity and others filed the lawsuit to just oust 'Nirmohi Akahara', he said.

No averments have been made in the lawsuit with regard to misappropriation of the disputed property by others, he said.

The lawsuit of the deity, filed through the next friend Deoki Nand Agrawal, could not file the case till the time Akahara was there as 'Shebait', he said.

The plea that Lord Ram has the unimpeachable authority cannot pass the civil test and the Akahara can be ousted only if it act against the interest of the deity, he said.

The bench asked Dhavan as to when the place as the deity could have made a party.

"They could have done so in 1885 and not in 1989," he said, adding that the idol worship was being carried out since 1885 at 'Ram Chabutara' in the outer courtyard and later it was placed inside the inner courtyard in 1949.

He also opposed the contents of the SLP filed on behalf of the deity in which divinity of the Hindu God Lord Ram has been discussed.

"I have never seen such type of divine invocation in any special leave petition (SLP), he said.

Dhavan would resume advancing arguments on Tuesday.

The Allahabad High Court, in its judgment of 2010 on four civil lawsuits, had partitioned the 2.77-acre disputed land equally among Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla. Fourteen appeals have been filed in the Supreme Court against the verdict.



Pakistan to Send Astronaut into Space by 2022 with the Help of Its Close Ally China

Sep 17, 2019

Pakistan plans to send its first astronaut to space by 2022 with the help of its close ally China, it’s minister for science and technology has said.

The selection process for the astronaut would start in 2020, federal minister for science and technology, Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said on Sunday.

China will collaborate with Pakistan in its space mission; Fawad was quoted as saying by the News International reported.

He said that initially, 50 individuals would be selected after which the list will be shortened to 25 in 2022. And out of them only one would be sent to space.

The Pakistan Air Force would play an important role in the selection process of the astronaut, the report said.

He said the collaboration of Pakistan and India in the fields of science and technology could prove fruitful for the region.

Fawad said Pakistan was the second in Asia after the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), which had sent its rocket into the space in 1963.

The Pakistan Space Science Education Centre was playing an important role for the promotion of space sciences in the country, he added.

Last year, Pakistan launched two indigenously-built satellites into the orbit, using a Chinese launch vehicle.

The satellites were launched onboard the Chinese Long March (LM-2C) rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre located at the Gobi desert, China, The Express Tribune reported.

One of them was a remote sensing satellite a dual-purpose Earth observational and optical satellite.

The second test satellite launched was a PAK-TES-1A to enhance satellite manufacture capabilities in the country.

Sindh riot arrests

Police in Pakistan’s Sindh province on Monday registered three cases against 218 rioters for vandalising properties, including a temple, after a school principal from the minority Hindu community was booked on charges of alleged blasphemy, according to media reports.

Widespread protests erupted in Ghotki district on Sunday after an FIR was filed against the principal of Sindh Public School on the complaint of Abdul Aziz Rajput, a student’s father who claimed that the teacher had committed blasphemy by his anti-Islam remarks.

Following the riots, protesters demanded the police to arrest the principal, who was identified as Notan Mal.



Over 110 militants killed as Afghan forces increase pressure: Officials


KABUL, Sept. 15 (Xinhua) -- More than 110 militants have been killed in Afghanistan over the past 24 hours as government forces have increased pressure on the Taliban outfit, officials said Sunday.

In the latest crackdown, the government forces launched massive offensive from the ground and air against the Taliban in Yangi Qala district of the northern Takhar province Sunday morning.

Besides recapturing the restive district and killing five armed militants including their commander Mullah Wazir, the military also attacked Taliban positions in the neighboring Darqad district, provincial government spokesman Mohammad Jawad Hajari said.

Similarly, fighting aircrafts stormed a Taliban hideout in Dara-e-Suf Payan district of the northern Samangan province on the same day Sunday, killing 12 militants including Mawlawi Noorudin, the shadow governor of the armed group for the troubled province, army spokesman in the northern region Mohammad Hanif Rezai told Xinhua.

Seven more militants have been killed in Garziwan district of the northern Faryab province over the past 24 hours, Rezai added.

More than 90 militants have been killed and 20 others injured as security forces backed by fighting planes stormed Taliban hideouts in parts of the eastern Paktika province since Saturday, provincial police spokesman Shah Mohammad Aryan said.

The increase in the government forces' crackdowns on Taliban fighters is taking place in the wake of the cancelation of U.S.-Taliban peace talks last week.

After a suicide bombing that rocked Kabul on Sept. 5 and killed 12 people including an American soldier and injured 42 Afghan civilians, U.S. President Donald Trump called off the talks and stressed for mounting pressure on the militants.

According to local officials, the U.S.-led coalition forces' fighting planes have backed the Afghan forces in crackdown on the armed militants.

Taliban fighters have also stepped up operations since the cancelation of the peace talks and challenging government forces in several provinces.

The armed outfit has gained ground and even blocked the main highway linking the national capital Kabul to eight northern provinces.

According to Abdul Qadir, a power company official, Taliban militants have destroyed three pylons in the northern Baghlan province and thus cutting some electricity supply to Kabul.



Will Umno-PAS pact create 2 Malaysias?

A. Kathirasen

September 17, 2019

It is significant that as we celebrate 56 years of being Malaysia and 62 years of Merdeka, a significant political shift is taking shape.

Umno and PAS, which have been bitter rivals most of their political lives but which have also formally cooperated in 1974, have once again entered the love phase of their love-hate relationship.

The two parties signed a pact on Sept 14 to unite and work for the betterment of the Malays and Muslims in multi-racial, multi-religious Malaysia, although they were politically savvy enough to add that non-Malays and non-Muslims won’t be left out of their version of Malaysia.

It is normal for political parties to sign cooperation pacts in an attempt to win power or retain power, and there is nothing wrong with it. We cannot fault the two parties for this move.

In fact, the coming together of Umno and PAS is a good political strategy. Umno knows it is unlikely to win power on its own. The Barisan Nasional is as good as dead as all its components, except for the MCA and MIC, have abandoned Umno. And it will be a miracle if the MCA and MIC ever regain their strength.

So Umno has decided to take a different route to return to power, one that gels with PAS’ thinking. PAS knows that on its own it will never be able to form the government and that non-Muslims and urban Malays will always be wary of it. The best bet for its goal of a Muslim nation is to team up with Umno.

Of course, whether the pact will last remains to be seen; for this cooperation will be tested, and may even evaporate, when the reality of who should wield more power arises at the next general election.

But however you look at it, this coming together of powerful Malay-Muslim forces is a politically expedient move, one that may bring both parties closer to power as the electorate is largely Malay-Muslim. Indubitably, their cooperation will pose a major threat to Pakatan Harapan (PH), the ruling multi-racial coalition.

But it has wider, and damaging, ramifications.

In my column of June 19, 2018 I spoke of the danger to the nation of the multi-racial coalition of Barisan Nasional disbanding and Umno going it alone. I added: “There may come a time when we have a fully Malay race-based party and a Malay-religious based party, PAS, or they could team up. If that happens, the country’s social fabric will be even more sorely tested, perhaps even ravaged.”

Umno and PAS say their pact will not just benefit Malays and Muslims but all Malaysians. Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said: “The cooperation is the best formula towards creating a harmonious country for generations to come.” Non-Muslims have nothing to fear, the two parties assure.

The leaders of Umno and PAS may say that this will not harm the multi-racial, multi-religious nation; they may even work towards ensuring this but the message that will seep into the minds of the grassroots is “Malay-Muslim first and foremost”. It won’t be “Malaysian first”, or even just “Malaysians”.

Instead of making Malaysians aware of their Malaysian-ness, of their similarities, it is going to make them feel they are different. The “other” will get accentuated in this political power play. The “Ketuanan Melayu” concept will receive more fuel.

My fear is, more Malays may start thinking we are “Malay-Muslim” and consider the non-Malays as “others” who should be grateful they had been granted citizenship. It may trigger a similar reaction from the non-Malays who may begin to think of the Malay-Muslim as the “other”.

Based on the reported remarks of PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang at the pact signing gathering, it is likely that non-Malays will begin to think like this. Hadi said the forefathers of the Malay-Muslims were the original inhabitants of the country and had initiated the fight for independence. The inference is that non-Muslims are the “other” and it downplays the role of non-Muslims in the fight for independence.

He also insisted that the country be governed by Muslims. It is already an accepted fact, but stressing it again and again will only make the non-Muslims feel things may get worse and that they may not have a place in the nation in future.

The Umno-PAS narrative, and those of groups aligned to them, is that Malay rights are being eroded under the PH government. The Umno-PAS “national unity charter” also speaks of restoring the confidence of the people in the “leadership of Islam, the Malays and the Bumiputeras”.

The question is: Aren’t the Malay-Muslims in charge of, or running, the government, the civil service, the armed forces, the police, the banking system, the multi-billion ringgit government-linked companies, sports bodies, and the local entertainment industry? Isn’t the current situation reflective of the leadership of the Malays and Islam?

So, what is the real aim of Umno, PAS and others in pushing this argument?

It makes me wonder. What if the Chinese political parties or all the non-Malay political parties in the country were to decide to sign a pact to work together for the betterment of the non-Malays?

What if the DAP, MCA, MIC, and non-Muslim parties in Sabah and Sarawak were to come together to form a pact to win more seats in the next general election?

What if they were to say: “Once we were holding many senior positions in government and the civil service, the first governor of Melaka was a Chinese, the banks were under our control, etc etc. We have lost so much. We need to unite and protect our rights to ensure a more harmonious Malaysia. We need to restore the confidence of the people in the leadership of non-Malay parties.”

What would Umno and PAS, or NGOs aligned to them, say to this? We’ll never know of course, because non-Malay parties know the ground reality and would never venture into this territory. But PAS and Umno have.

The formalisation of the pact between the two parties will almost certainly result in worsening racial and religious relations in the nation, even if the leaders of Umno and PAS do not intend it.

My fear is that we may see the dangerous emergence of two Malaysias.

Unless, of course Umno and PAS get non-Malay parties, including from Sabah and Sarawak, actively involved in their pact and become a voice for all Malaysians, not just Malay-Muslims.

Unless, of course, ordinary Malaysians ignore the politicians and the political play in motion and continue to think of themselves as Malaysians first and cooperate with fellow Malaysians using the Federal Constitution as their pact.



Palestinian Authority: All Israeli settlements illegal

Sep 16, 2019

Palestinian leadership slammed the Israeli regime’s approval of an outpost in the Jordan valley near the city of Jericho in the occupied West Bank. The Palestinians stress that there’s nothing called authorized settlements and unofficial outposts, because all Israeli settlements and outposts in the occupied Palestinian territories are illegal.

PA spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said the international community should immediately intervene to stop the Israeli madness aimed at destroying all the foundations of the political process.

On Sunday Netanyahu held a special meeting of his cabinet in the Jordan valley specifically in the outpost of Mevo'ot Yeriho.

Mevo'ot Yeriho was first established in 1999.

Outposts are settlements built by settlers without official permits from the Israeli authorities. Israel usually retroactively approves these outposts that are constructed on Palestinian private lands seized by force.

Netanyahu, who is running the electoral race as head of Likud party list, had in recent days promised to impose Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. The UN said the move would be devastating to regional peace and the very essence of a two-state solution.

All Israeli settlements and outposts are illegal, and under international law would be dismantled to allow the establishment of a viable Palestinian state on conjoined lands. Observers warn that if Netanyahu wins another term, he will do his best to make this impossible on all levels.



Arab World


Saudi Oil Attack Photos Implicate Iran, U.S. Says; Trump Hints at Military Action

By Eric Schmitt, Farnaz Fassihi and David D. Kirkpatrick

Sept. 15, 2019

The Trump administration intensified its focus on Iran Sunday as the likely culprit behind attacks on important Saudi Arabian oil facilities over the weekend, with officials citing intelligence assessments to support the accusation and President Trump warning that he was prepared to take military action.

The government released satellite photographs showing what officials said were at least 17 points of impact at several Saudi energy facilities from strikes they said came from the north or northwest. That would be consistent with an attack coming from the direction of the northern Persian Gulf, Iran or Iraq, rather than from Yemen, where the Iranian-backed Houthi militia that claimed responsibility for the strikes operates.

Administration officials, in a background briefing for reporters as well as in separate interviews on Sunday, also said a combination of drones and cruise missiles — “both and a lot of them,” as one senior United States official put it — might have been used. That would indicate a degree of scope, precision and sophistication beyond the ability of the Houthi rebels alone.

Mr. Trump, however, did not name Iran, saying he needed to consult with Saudi Arabia first.

“Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked,” he said in a tweet on Sunday evening. “There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Saturday that Iran was behind what he called “an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply” and asserted that there was “no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.” He did not, however, say where they came from, and the Saudis refrained from directly blaming Iran.

The administration’s determination that Iran played a direct role in the attack marked a significant escalation in months of back-and-forth tensions between the United States and Iran. It raised questions about how Washington might retaliate — and why Iran would have risked such a confrontation.

Mr. Trump’s warning echoed one he made in June after Iran shot down an American surveillance drone. He said then that the military had been “cocked and loaded” for a strike against Iran.

He said he called off the strike with 10 minutes to spare when a general told him that 150 people would probably die in the attack, which he said would have been disproportionate.

Administration officials said on Sunday they would seek to declassify more intelligence to buttress their case against Iran in the coming days. The satellite photographs released on Sunday did not appear as clear cut as officials suggested, with some appearing to show damage on the western side of the facilities, not from the direction of Iran or Iraq.

American officials said that more than 17 weapons were directed at the Saudi facilities, but not all reached their targets. Forensic analyses of the recovered weapons could answer questions about what they were, who manufactured them and who launched them.

Iran forcefully rejected Mr. Pompeo’s accusation on Sunday, with the foreign minister dismissing it as “max deceit.” The office of the Iraqi prime minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, also rejected any suggestion that Iranian operatives carried out the attack from Iraqi territory, saying Iraq would act firmly if its territory were used to attack other countries.

If Iran, or one of its proxies in Iraq or Yemen, carried out the attacks, it would fit into a strategy Iran has followed for months in its escalating confrontation with the Trump administration.

Squeezed by sweeping American sanctions on its oil sales, Iran has sought to inflict a similar pain on its adversaries — threatening the ability of Saudi Arabia and other American allies in the Persian Gulf to sell oil and holding out the possibility of driving up international oil prices in the months before President Trump seeks re-election.

“Iran wants to show that instead of a win-lose contest, Iran can turn this into a lose-lose dynamic for everyone,” said Ali Vaez, head of the Iran Project at the International Crisis Group.

Yet Iran has stopped short of carrying out the kind of direct, open attack on United States allies that might trigger a military response, preferring to let regional allies do the work or at least share the blame.

How the War in Yemen Became a Bloody Stalemate — and the Worst Humanitarian Crisis in the World

Saudi Arabia thought a bombing campaign would quickly crush its enemies in Yemen. But three years later, the Houthis refuse to give up, even as 14 million people face starvation.

“Plausible deniability is a trademark of Iran’s pushback strategy,” Mr. Vaez said.

The combination of military pressure and deniability also fits with a strategy of increasing Iran’s bargaining power before possible talks at the United Nations this month.

President Emanuel Macron of France has said he hopes the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, which opens Tuesday, will be an opportunity for de-escalation between the United States and Iran. The recent hostilities began when the Trump administration withdrew last year from an agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program and then this year imposed sweeping sanctions to try to force Iran into a more restrictive covenant.

Several other world powers, including France, also signed the original agreement and still support it, and Mr. Macron has said he hopes to hold talks at the General Assembly about saving the agreement. Mr. Trump said this month that he was open to a possible meeting there with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran.

Even as Iranian diplomats denied any role in the attack, others close to Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps were reveling in the damage at the Saudi oil facilities, which process the vast majority of the country’s crude output.

The Trump administration, said Naser Imani, a former member of the guard’s political bureau, should take it as a warning to the United States and its Persian Gulf partners.

“If a few Houthis can cause this extensive damage, imagine what Iran could do if it was forced into a military conflict,” he said in a telephone interview on Sunday. “Iran has proved in the past few months that it has the will to pull the trigger as well as the military power to do so.”

A military strategist with the Revolutionary Guards, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, also questioned whether the Houthis alone could have carried out such a complex and effective attack without Iranian help.

But whoever carried out the attack, the Iranian strategist said, the message to the West and its regional allies was the same. If the United States strikes Iran, “the flames of war in the Persian Gulf will burn you all,” he said.

A senior commander for the Revolutionary Guards insisted that the country was ready for “full-fledged” war, the semiofficial Tasnim news agency reported, according to Reuters.

“Everybody should know that all American bases and their aircraft carriers in a distance of up to 2,000 kilometers around Iran are within the range of our missiles,” said Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ air force.

How the Trump administration responds remains to be seen. Breaking with a pattern under both Democratic and Republican presidents, the Trump administration has said that it intends to hold Iran fully responsible for any attacks carried out by the Houthis or other regional allies that the administration deems Iranian proxies.

Previous administrations have said that Iran was arming and training allied groups such as the Lebanese militia Hezbollah and Shiite militias in Syria or Iraq to extend its regional influence. Yet in the past, the United States has generally declined to retaliate against Iran militarily even when those groups have attacked the American military, as Iranian-backed Shiite militias did during American occupation of Iraq.

Reporting was contributed by Stanley Reed, Falih Hassan, Michael Wolgelenter and Michael D. Shear.



They Left to Join ISIS. Now Europe Is Leaving Their Citizens to Die in Iraq.


SEPTEMBER 15, 2019

BAGHDAD—There was no other way out. After months under siege in the Syrian city of Raqqa, the Belgian Islamic State member Bilal al-Marchohi decided to escape. He fled his post as a religious police officer at the break of dawn on August 29, 2017, and ran with his wife and son to the closest enemy checkpoint. With his arms up, he handed himself over to the Kurdish militants in the hope of eventually being repatriated to Belgium. The family was immediately separated, and his spouse and child were transferred to a nearby Islamic State relatives camp.

Along with other jihadi comrades, al-Marchohi was driven to a prison near the city of Tabqa, where he was interrogated by U.S. officials on his role in the organization, his closest companions, and on weaponry manufacturing. The 23-year-old jihadi told them he used to attend the Friday prayers at De Koepel mosque in Antwerp, whose imam, Youssef, ended up joining the fight in Syria. Al-Marchohi waited until he turned 18 to cross the Turkish-Syrian border with his girlfriend and other acquaintances, first joining the Nusra Front and later deserting to the Islamic State, after internal clashes erupted within the armed opposition brigades.

U.S. soldiers took him to Kobani in northern Syria and from there to Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan by helicopter, he recalls. “I was alone. I stayed there for two months and I went crazy. It was very hard. … Because of the strong lights, I was not able to sleep,” al-Marchohi told Foreign Policy in an exclusive interview. The Belgian was one of the first jihadis transferred by the U.S. army from Syria to Iraq after the liberation of Raqqa, as part of a series of renditions, during which at least three other European citizens were handed over to the Iraqi judiciaryThe Belgian was one of the first jihadis transferred by the U.S. army from Syria to Iraq after the liberation of Raqqa, as part of a series of renditions, during which at least three other European citizens were handed over to the Iraqi judiciary, possibly in contravention of international law. 

“I even met the Belgians there and I cooperated with them,” he said, referring to Belgian intelligence agents. “They told me: ‘We will take you to the local government now, and you will wait to see the judge and maybe you go back to Belgium, maybe not.’” But al-Marchohi wasn’t repatriated; instead he was escorted from Erbil to Baghdad, where he was delivered to Iraqi counterterrorism forces and subjected to a new, harsher round of interrogations.

Western governments are generally reluctant to facilitate the repatriation of Islamic State militants. After the departure of more than 5,000 European citizens, European countries don’t wan’t to deal with the returnees file. “Except Germany, no other European country is interested in the return of their citizens accused of being Daesh members,” claimed Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi researcher who briefs officials on jihadi group dynamics. “Western countries don’t have a policy for jihadi returnees, they are not ready for their arrival. … And if they get a death penalty in Iraq, they will be thankful,” he says.

It’s a political matter more than anything; lawmakers won’t dare to defy public opinion. In France, 89 percent of respondents are against the return of adult jihadisIt’s a political matter more than anything; lawmakers won’t dare to defy public opinion. In France, 89 percent of respondents are against the return of adult jihadis; and 67 percent oppose the repatriation of children, according to a survey by Odoxa.

The issue of repatriation would also require consensus across the European Union from a security perspective. If a returnee enters the Schengen Area, all of that territory would be at risk because of free movement. A returned Belgian could strike in Spain.

Bringing Islamic State members back also exposes a judicial weakness; a lack of evidence could lead to short prison sentences, and jihadis might only serve three- to five-year jail terms before they are back on the streets. If a terrorist attack were perpetrated by a repatriated fighter in coming years, the political party that approved their return would face devastating consequences.

Bilal al-Marchohi in Baghdad this year. Pilar Cebrián for Foreign Policy

Al-Marchohi has become a pawn in this international political chess match—rejected by his own nation and subject to the judicial system of one where he has never lived. He claims Iraqi officers fabricated a confession to show he could therefore be tried under Iraqi jurisdiction. “They wrote that I got arrested in Mosul, and forced me to put my fingerprints on it,” he explains, despite the fact that he surrendered in Raqqa. An investigative judge examined this evidence and passed his case on to a criminal court.

It was not until a year later that al-Marchohi attended his first hearing, at Rusafa court in Baghdad. In front of three magistrates, confined in a wooden cage, the Belgian got a court-appointed defense lawyer with whom he couldn’t communicate before the trial. During the third hearing, with Belgian consular officials in attendance, he was sentenced to death by hanging for “belonging to a terrorist organization and his involvement in fighting against Iraqi forces in Mosul.”

The Iraqi Supreme Court later published a purported quote by Abu Fadel al-Belgiki (al-Marchohi’s Islamic State nom de guerre) following the formal resolution: “We fought fierce battles with Iraqi forces in Mosul and when the army began to advance and control most of the area, I fled towards Syria, but I could not escape and was arrested inside Iraqi territory.”

His fingerprints were taken, and the U.S. military personnel took a picture of him looking exhausted and wild-haired. The classified report establishes the place of detention as “Raqqah, Syria.” It doesn’t mention Iraq at all.

But there is evidence that contradicts this supposed confession. When al-Marchohi was interrogated in Syria, the information was compiled under Operation Gallant Phoenix by the U.S. Army, which gathers data and evidence on foreign terrorist fighters for the multinational mission there. His fingerprints were taken, and the U.S. military personnel took a picture of him looking exhausted and wild-haired. The classified tactical report establishes the place of detention as “Raqqah, Syria” on “29/0400/Z/AUG/17” (Aug. 29, 2017, at 4 a.m.), and doesn’t mention Iraq at all.

Nevertheless, this evidence wasn’t introduced during the court hearing. The confidential information is “provided only for intelligence purposes in an effort to develop investigative leads,”  the report explained “and cannot be used in affidavits, court proceedings, subpoenas, or for other legal or judicial purposes.” But this doesn’t mean the Belgian authorities were not briefed. Indeed, “Belgian Military Intelligence and Security Service is always required before transmission of any information contained in this document,” according to the classified file.

Al-Marchohi was not the first European jihadi to be sentenced to death in Iraq. The Belgian Tarik Jadaoun received the same sentence a year earlier, as did 11 French men transferred from Syria in January 2019. Lamia K., a German national, faced the same fate until officials in Berlin insisted on Germany’s stance against capital punishment and, after the appeals process, her sentence was commuted to a 20-year jail term. So far none of them have been executed.

Belgian officials claim, like their counterparts in other European countries, that they will lobby, through diplomatic channels, against al-Marchohi’s death penalty if it is eventually imposedBelgian officials claim, like their counterparts in other European countries, that they will lobby, through diplomatic channels, against al-Marchohi’s death penalty if it is eventually imposed after the appeal process. “We always fight for the abolition of the death penalty, whether it is through international organizations and fora or in our bilateral relations in countries where it is still in vigor,” said Nadia Benini, the deputy spokesperson of the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Nevertheless, they insist they respect Iraqi sovereignty and that they “try to remain discreet in consular affairs.”

Each EU member state addresses the returnees differently: The U.K. has stripped terror suspects of citizenship, as was the case with Shamima Begum, the London teenager who traveled to Syria at the age of 15. Under the 2006 amendment of the 1981 British Nationality Act, a person can be deprived of citizenship if it would be “conducive to the public good” and the person is eligible for another passport. The U.K. has made her stateless, an illegal act according to international conventions, because she never applied for her parents’ Bangladeshi nationality.

The U.K. “is not even considering sending the children back,” said Richard Barrett, a former director of global counterterrorism at the British foreign intelligence service MI6. “They say no to anybody and they’re not talking about it. It’s basically waiting for a crunch. Only if they escape and go back to Turkey, they might be sent back to the U.K. in a week.”

France and Belgium are examining fighters on a case-by-case basis, and have repatriated at least 21, children, some of them orphans, since the fall of the Islamic State’s last territory. But the return of adults is still unlikely. Lawyers in Baghdad have even suggested that there has been diplomatic interference in the judicial process, as was allegedly the case with the French jihadi Mélina Boughedir: “Between the first and the second session of the trial the French ambassador in Iraq had a meeting with the head of the [Supreme] Judicial Council Faiq Zidan,” claimed NasserAddin Madlool Abed, Boughedir’s Iraqi attorney. She was initially sentenced to a seven-month jail term, “but in the second hearing recess, the main judge left to a private room. He was on the phone for 15 minutes and when he came back … he gave her a life sentence,” he recalled.

Moreover, Germany, which has recently accepted four children from Syria, accepts there is not a strategy to bring foreign fighters back: “We examine case by case,” said a member of the German diplomatic service. “The cases come to us and not vice versa. … Because, is there a legal framework?” he asked rhetorically, pointing out the lack of extradition agreements.

The subject has even been a source of disagreement within the international coalition that fought the Islamic State. The United States has lobbied EU members to take their citizens back. “We are still trying to get the countries to repatriate them but first, they don’t want to do it; and second, if they do it they want to keep it entirely quiet. Which I don’t personally agree with,”said U.S. Col. Sean Ryan, a coalition spokesman.

The transfer of terrorist suspects from Syria to Iraq is being used as a mechanism to circumvent the judicial and political vacuum in northern Syria.

The Kurdish-led authority, derived from the postwar partition of Syria and administered by the Democratic Union Party (PYD), does not have international diplomatic recognition. This means Kurdish courts cannot prosecute foreign Islamic State convicts. Furthermore, European governments fear that imprisonment in an unstable territory might lead to a prison break—as happened in Derik prison near the Iraqi-Syrian border in April, when French detainees turned against their guards, although no one managed to escape—or encourage bribery.

The most publicized rendition transfer was the handover of the 11 French jihadis in January. During a subsequent visit by Iraqi President Barham Salih to Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron admitted that the operation had taken place, and disavowed responsibility by saying that it was up to the Iraqi authorities “to decide, sovereignly,” if captured jihadis had to be subjected to legal proceedings. “They are accused of having commanded operations against Iraqis,” added Salih. But although there is evidence that some of the 13 French detainees had previously entered Iraqi territory, there is no such evidence in the case of al-Marchohi.

The Iraqi judicial labyrinth, labeled by human rights defenders as “Guantánamo East,” does not grant the accused basic human rights and procedural guarantees. It seems to be the path favored by many European countries to prosecute the jihadis.The Iraqi judicial labyrinth, labeled by human rights defenders as “Guantánamo East,” does not grant the accused basic human rights and procedural guarantees. It seems to be the path favored by many European countries to prosecute the jihadis. The Americans took al-Marchohi out “because the U.S. unfortunately can do whatever they like to prosecute a foreigner,” explained Clive Stafford Smith, founder of the London legal-action charity Reprieve and a Guantánamo detainees’ lawyer who has been hired by some relatives of Western-born Islamic State members. “No European country can do it because under European law it’s illegal. Rendition is illegal,” he added. “You are rendering someone into a nonfair trial, to face the death penalty, which is also illegal … so the Americans have to be in charge of that.”

Iraqi prosecutors also lack proper evidence to prosecute foreign fighters, claimed Thomas Renard, a researcher at the Egmont Institute in Brussels and the author of a report on European jihadi returnees. “Some of them may not have been in Iraq … so what is the legitimacy of this country to prosecute them?” he asked. “The judicial system is not up to international standards either. We’ve witnessed trials with no lawyers, that last 15 minutes, where children of 12 years old or less have been tried,” he added. “And when they are convicted, they end up in Iraqi jails that are not meeting international standards of detention.”

Those who have been relocated from Syrian to Iraqi jails have hugely varied profiles: One of them is Lahcen Gueboudj, a 59-year-old French man who claims to have traveled to Raqqa in search of his son, and who is now serving life in prison; another is a 30-year-old Austrian of Afghan descent, whom the Iraqis accuse of being a fighter, although he insisted in an interview with Foreign Policy that he entered Syria to join his relatives and live under sharia rule. His trial is scheduled for October.

Families are trucked to al Hol on March 10. They came during and after the fall of Baghouz, a farming hamlet that was the final area under Islamic State control. Most had few belongings left.

The Kids of the Islamic State

A lens on the thousands of children detained in northeast Syria’s al-Hol camp and the unanticipated humanitarian crisis brought on by the fight against terrorism.

Fighters from the Iraqi Imam Ali Brigade, take part in a training exercise in Iraq's central city of Najaf on March 7, 2015, ahead of joining the military operation in the city of Tikrit.

ISIS Is a Survivor

Donald Trump claims to have defeated the Islamic State—but the group was designed to prove him wrong.

An Iraqi judge, who presides over some of these proceedings and prefers to remain anonymous, sees it differently. “Even if the ISIS crimes have been committed abroad outside of Iraq, this group ISIS has destroyed our country, so we can sentence them here anyway,” he said in an interview. But universal jurisdiction can be exercised only after national legislation recognizes the relevant crimes. And the Iraqi penal code doesn’t define such offenses as sex slavery, mass executions, beheadings, or crucifixion of prisoners.

“Although this is a big burden for me … and also very expensive, some countries are not behaving properly,” he told Foreign Policy, suggesting that foreign fighters’ home countries are responsible for taking them back, but are unwilling to do so. “As a consequence, Iraq will become the cemetery of the remaining of Daesh,” he adds, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.

In the meantime, men like al-Marchohi await justice or execution in Iraqi jails. It’s a situation that should make Belgian—and other European officials—think twice.

Belgium has seen a huge wave of Islamic State recruitment and became the No. 1 source of jihadis per capita in Europe; at least 413 traveled to Iraq and Syria, and 125 have returned so far. Deradicalization programs are often not effective, because of their voluntary nature. Attendance is optional and they don’t commute any part of the sentence. The only programs that seem to get good results are those carried out by imams, who teach deradicalization by deconstructing jihadi theology, as the imam Ahmed Zerdoua does in Antwerp prison.

The caliphate’s history suggests that recruits from Belgium were the vanguard of the European presence in the Islamic State. They even introduced technical advances to the battlefield, such as drones, rocket metalwork, and the development of anti-aircraft missiles equipped with a heat-sensor mechanism—a project that was halted by the military offensive in Raqqa, where the research center was located. Belgians even established their own checkpoints, forcing the local population to pay high taxes. But their crimes should not strip them of their European citizenship rights.Belgians even established their own checkpoints, forcing the local population to pay high taxes. But their crimes should not strip them of their European citizenship rights.

It’s a matter of security, too. The case of the Belgian Oussama Atar demonstrates that incarceration abroad is often a path to deeper indoctrination and international terrorism networking. Atar waged jihad in Iraq in 2004, in the ranks of al Qaeda, until his detention in Ramadi a year later. The captive ended up in Camp Bucca and Abu Ghraib jails, where he served a seven-year jail term with the future founders of the Islamic State.

It was likely there that he made the connections he used 10 years later in Syria to become one of the masterminds, according to French intelligence services, of the November 2015 Paris and March 2016 Brussels attacks that killed 130 and 32 people, respectively.

If Atar had been extradited to Belgium after his verdict, he’d have never spent countless hours locked with other extremist Iraqi jihadis, he’d have never established strong links with the leaders of the Islamic State, and he might have never adopted their hardcore terrorist mindset—a course of events that led him back to Belgium briefly in 2012 and then back to the battlefield in Syria in 2013, from where he helped plan two of the Islamic State’s bloodiest terrorist attacks on European soil.

Full report at:



Religious Conference in Cairo Warns of Extremist Groups' Comeback

16 September, 2019

Representatives of 50 states have warned at a religious conference in Cairo that extremist groups are seeking to reorganize in more than 55 countries

The conference was organized by the Egyptian Ministry of Awqaf in Cairo under the theme “Nation-building in Islamic Jurisprudence” and under the patronage of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the presence of 500 personalities including 50 muftis, scholars and ministers from across the world.

Participants at the 30th International Conference of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs said that its aim is to combat extremism.

Representing Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli, Minister of Endowments Mohammed Mokhtar Jomaa said in his inaugural speech that the state’s power also means the power of the people, the country, and the nation.

Jomaa stressed that extremist groups rise from the ruins of the state, and their personal interest tops that of the country.

Dr. Nazeer Mohamed Ayyad, Secretary-General of the Islamic Research Institute, said in his speech as a representative of Grand Imam Dr. Ahmed Al-Tayeb that coexistence is based on justice, safety and equality among society’s individuals regardless of their sects and beliefs.

Ayyad added that Islamic history is rich in events and incidents that prove equality and respect for everyone.

Further, Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs, Call and Guidance Sheikh Dr. Abdullatif bin Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh said that the conference’s theme comes at a delicate time in the nation’s history due to the fabricated information and misconceptions promoted by extremist terrorist groups.

Al-Sheikh extended thanks to Sisi for his sincere defense of the country against terrorists.

Egyptian Grand Mufti Shawki Allam affirmed that the Prophet Mohammed set the 'Charter of Medina' to reinforce coextensive and tolerance. He then started building the state economically and militarily. Then enemies started to spread rumors against the state, similar to terrorist extremist groups nowadays.

Lebanon's Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Darian said: “Our mission is to back security and stability and the only way to achieve this is through the state.”

Full report at:



Crown Prince: Saudi Arabia Capable of Confronting Terrorist Attack

14 September, 2019

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense received on Saturday a telephone call from US President Donald Trump, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

During the conversation, the US President told the Crown Prince that Washington was ready to work with the Kingdom to guarantee its security and stability, SPA said.

According to the state-run agency, Trump said the attacks on two Aramco facilities had a negative impact on the American as well as global economies.

Full report at:



Weapons used in Saudi attacks ‘came from Iran’: coalition

September 17, 2019

RIYADH: The weapons used to strike Saudi oil facilities were Iranian-made, the Riyadh-led coalition said on Monday, heightening fears of regional conflict after the US hinted at a military response to the assault.

The weekend strikes on Abqaiq — the world’s largest oil processing facility — and the Khurais oil field in eastern Saudi Arabia have roiled global energy markets with prices spiking Monday to record highs.

Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the strikes but Washington has squarely blamed Iran, with President Donald Trump saying the US is “locked and loaded” to respond.

Saudi’s energy infrastructure has been hit before, but this strike was of a different order, abruptly halting 5.7 million barrels per day (bpd) or about six percent of the world’s oil supply.

The Saudi-led coalition, which is bogged down in a five-year war in neighbouring Yemen, reiterated the assessment that the Houthis were not behind it, pointing the finger at Iran for providing the weapons.

Russia urged “all countries to avoid hasty steps or conclusions that could exacerbate the situation” while the European Union stressed all sides should show “maximum restraint”.

China also called on the US and Iran to “exercise restraint... in the absence of a conclusive investigation or verdict.” “All indications are that weapons used in both attacks came from Iran,” coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki told reporters in Riyadh, adding they were now probing “from where they were fired”.

“This strike didn’t come from Yemen territory as the Houthi militia are pretending,” Maliki said, adding an investigation had been opened.

He labelled the Houthis “a tool in the hands of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the terrorist regime of Iran”.

Full report at:



US Sends Tens of Trucks Carrying New Military Aids to Kurdish Militias in Eastern Syria

Sep 16, 2019

The US military convoy comprising at least 150 trucks packed with military and logistics support arrived in the city of al-Malekiyeh in Northeastern Hasaka from Iraq via Simalka border crossing, the SANA News Agency quoted local sources as saying.

The sources said that US military convoy has been sent to support the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and reinforce their military positions in areas under their control in Eastern Euphrates.

Meantime, the SDF still continues to attack and arrest the local residents and young people to send them to the military camps for forced recruitment.

In a relevant development earlier in September, the Anadolu news agency quoted local sources in Eastern Syria as saying that hundreds of Kurdish militias have undergone training in some regions of Eastern Euphrates over last several weeks.

The sources also said that the Kurdish militias have been trained by the US troops at military bases in the cities of Raqqa, al-Tabaqa and the town of al-Shadadi in Southern Hasaka on how to make use of different types of weapons.

They pointed to the continuation of the US logistical and military aids to the Kurdish militias on the pretext of combatting the ISIL, and said that around 2,000 US troops are currently stationed at 18 military bases and centers in the occupied regions of Syria.

Full report at:



US Helps ISIL with Aerial-Intel for Penetration into Iraq’s Diyala Province

Sep 16, 2019

The Arabic-language al-Ma’aloumeh news website quoted Head of Muslim Ulemmas Union in Diyala Province Jabar al-Mamouri as saying that the ISIL terrorists have recently infiltrated Diyala province with the help of the US Army troops.

He noted that the ISIL terrorists have penetrated into some parts of Diyala province from the neighboring Salahuddin province with the US Army troops.

Al-Mamouri also said that the US is not seeking destruction of the ISIL because Washington wants to make use of the terrorist group to achieve its goals in destabilizing Iraq.

In a relevant development in late August, a political official said that the Israeli drones have provided huge support for terrorists to penetrate into Diyala from Salahuddin province.

“The ISIL has resumed its terrorist activities between Diyala and Salahuddin provinces while enjoying massive foreign support, including from Israel,” Head of Diyala Security Council Committee Sadeq al-Hosseini told al-Ma’aloumeh.

He reiterated that Israel’s spy drones have provided the ISIL with intel, and said that Israel is investing in terrorist organizations in line with its goals, including making Iraq destabilized.

Full report at:



ISIS leader al-Baghdadi calls on fighters to free detained comrades

16 September 2019

The leader of ISIS released a new alleged audio recording on Monday calling on members of the terrorist organization to do all they can to free ISIS detainees and women held in jails and camps.

The purported audio by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in which he also said that his organization is carrying out attacks in different countries, was his first public statement since April, when the shadowy leader appeared in a video for the first time in five years.

In the 30-minute recording released by a media arm of the group, Al-Furqan, al-Baghdadi asked: “How can a Muslim enjoy life?” when Muslim women are held in camps he called “prisons of humiliation run by Crusaders and their Shiite followers.”

With a $25 million US bounty on his head, al-Baghdadi is the world’s most wanted man, responsible for steering his chillingly violent organization into mass slaughter of opponents and directing and inspiring terror attacks across continents and in the heart of Europe.

ISIS was defeated in Iraq in 2017, while in Syria, it lost its last territory in March, marking the end of the terrorists’ self-declared caliphate.

Despite these battlefield defeats, ISIS sleeper cells have continued to launch attacks in both Iraq and Syria.

Al-Baghdadi said in the new recording that militants should target interrogators and judges who are questioning ISIS members.

He also urged detainees and women held in camps to be patient.

One of the largest camps is al-Hol camp in Syria’s northeastern Hasakeh province. It is home to some 73,000 people, many of them families of ISIS who emerged from the organization’s last bastion in Syria.

Tens of thousands of fighters and other members of the organization are held in detention centers across northern Syria and in Iraq.

Full report at:



UAE’s FM Anwar Gargash says Aramco attacks are dangerous escalation

17 September 2019

UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said on Tuesday that the Aramco attacks are a dangerous escalation.

Justifying the terrorist attacks on the two oil facilities as a result of developments in the war in Yemen is “completely unacceptable,” Gargash said on Twitter.

The international community must stand with Saudi Arabia to ensure security and stability in the region, he added.

President Donald Trump said it is “looking like” Iran was responsible for the attacks on key oil installations in Saudi Arabia, but he said he doesn’t want war.

Trump said on Monday at the White House that the US is not looking at retaliatory options until he has “definitive proof” that Iran was responsible.

Still, Trump told reporters in the Oval Office that the US “is prepared” if the attacks warrant a response.

Full report at:



On Saudi attacks, Erdogan: We have to look at how the Yemen conflict started

17 September 2019

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday linked Saturday's attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities with the war in Yemen.

When asked about the impact of the recent attacks on Saudi Aramco oil facilities in Abqaiq and Hijrat Khurais, Erdogan responded by saying: “We have to look at how the conflict in Yemen started. This country was completely destroyed - who caused it?”

The war in Yemen began in 2014 when the Iran-backed Houthi militia overthrew the internationally recognized Yemeni government. The Arab Coalition was subequently assembled and intervened to combat the Houthis.

Erdogan had previously voiced support for the Arab Coalition's role in Yemen. In March, 2015, Erdogan said “we support Saudi Arabia’s intervention,” adding that “Turkey may consider providing logistical support based on the evolution of the situation,” in an interview with news channel France 24.

Erdogan's recent comments came during a press conference in Ankara, after a trilateral meeting  on Syria with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani.

Although the Iran-backed Houthi militia has claimed it launched the attack from Yemen, US officials pointed to satellite imagery that they said showed the attacks were launched from a west-northwest direction.

Multiple reports quoted US intelligence sources as saying that the attack originated from Iran. US President Donald Trump previously said on Monday that it was “looking like” Iran was responsible for the attack.

The Arab Coalition spokesperson Turki al-Malki said that the initial investigations indicated that the weapons used in the attacks on two Saudi Aramco oil facilities are Iranian.

Full report at:



Iraq launches fifth phase of Will of Victory operation against Daesh remnants

Sep 16, 2019

Iraq has launched a new operation against the sleeper cells of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group to secure areas in the central parts of the country as well as a sector of the vast western desert leading to the border with Saudi Arabia.

The media bureau of the volunteer forces, better known by the Arabic name Hashd al-Sha’abi, announced in a statement that the fifth phase of Will of Victory operation began early on Monday morning, and would push to clear the remote territory between the provinces of Karbala, Najaf and Anbar.

The statement added that members of the Iraqi army, police and units of the Hashd Sha’abi – supported by Iraqi Air Force warplanes – are all taking part in the offensive.

On August 27, the Iraqi military announced the conclusion of the fourth phase of the Will of Victory operation in western Iraq.

A statement by the media office of the Joint Operations Command said on August 5 that the Iraqi army, police and Hashd al-Sha’abi units, backed by the Iraqi Air Force fighter jets, had launched the third phase of the major offensive in the eastern Diyala province and Nineveh province in the north.

The statement said the troops had begun search operations in rural areas near the towns of Miqdadiyah, Jalawla and Khanaqin in Diyala province.

Also in Nineveh province, the troops launched an operation to clear the rugged areas of al-Atshanah and the mountain ranges of Badush and Sheikh Ibrahim in west and northwest of the provincial capital city of Mosul.

The second-in-command of the Joint Operations Command (JOC), Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Rasheed Yarallah, said in a statement on July 20 that Iraqi military forces had launched the second phase of the Will of Victory operation to hunt down Daesh remnants north of Baghdad and areas nearby.

The statement noted that the offensive aims to “beef up security and stability in areas north of Baghdad and surrounding areas in the provinces of Diyala, Salahuddin and Anbar.”

It said that units from the Baghdad Operations Command, command operations from Diyala, Samarra and Anbar, the Federal Police Command, rapid response teams, Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters and the special forces regiment of the Operations Department of the Chief of Staff of the Army as well as the Special Task Force of the Directorate of Military Intelligence were participating in the offensive.

Full report at:



Nusra terrorists continue preventing civilians from leaving Idlib

Sep 16, 2019

The Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist group, formerly known as al-Nusra Front, has for the fourth consecutive day prevented citizens from leaving via the Abu al-Duhur corridor in the northwestern province of Idlib, Syria’s state-run media outlet says.

The official SANA news agency reported on Monday that the corridor, which was prepared and secured by the Syrian army for the safe passage of civilians, has been blocked by the terrorist outfit over the past four days.

SANA added that authorities in cooperation with Syrian government forces, however, continue to take all measures to receive civilians aiming to leave the terrorist-held areas in Idlib via the corridor.

The terrorists use civilians in villages and cities in the northwestern province as human shields.

Idlib remains the only large area in the hands of foreign-backed terrorists after the Syrian army, backed by Iran and Russia, managed to wrest back control of almost all of the country's land, undoing militants’ gains.

The government forces have gained more ground against Takfiri militants in the southern edge of Idlib in their latest offensive that was launched last month.

On August 5, the Syrian army declared in a statement the start of an offensive against foreign-sponsored militants in Idlib after those positioned in the de-escalation zone failed to honor a ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey and continued to target civilian neighborhoods.

Full report at:





France to Press to Drop Sudan from US Terror List

16 September, 2019

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Monday that Paris will exert efforts to drop Sudan from the US blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism and to support efforts to reintegrate the country into the international community.

Le Drian was in Khartoum for a one-day visit, the first such trip to Sudan by France's top diplomat in more than a decade.

His visit comes as the northeast African country transitions to civilian rule after decades of authoritarianism.

"We will use our influence to ensure that Sudan is removed from this list," Le Drian said at a joint press conference with his Sudanese counterpart Asma Mohamed Abdalla after the two held talks.

"It is the way to ensure that we can consider a new relationship (for Sudan) with financial institutions, everything is obviously linked," he said, asked by AFP if France would back efforts to remove Sudan from Washington's blacklist.

Decades of US blacklisting along with a trade embargo imposed on Sudan in 1997 has kept overseas investors away from the country, in turn isolating it from the global economy.

Sudan's worsening economic situation was the key trigger for nationwide protests that finally led to the ouster of longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir in April.

Washington lifted the sanctions in October 2017, but kept Sudan in the terrorism list along with North Korea, Iran and Syria.

Washington's measures were imposed for Khartoum's alleged support formilitant groups.

Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden resided in Sudan between 1992 and 1996.

Le Drian said the pivotal role played by Sudan's army in the uprising against Bashir would help in removing Sudan from the US blacklist.

"The way the army perceived its role during this period, (that) goes in the direction of removing Sudan from this list," he said.

The army overthrew Bashir in a palace coup on April 11 on the back of months of nationwide protests.

But a military council seized power after ousting him and for months resisted calls from protesters to transfer it to a civilian administration.

Only last month after sustained agitation, a joint civilian-military sovereign council was sworn in to oversee Sudan's transition to civilian rule, the key demand of protesters.

On September 8, Sudan's first cabinet led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was sworn in to run the daily affairs of the country.

During his short visit to Khartoum, Le Drian also met Hamdok and General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the civilian-military ruling council.

Le Drian also reiterated French support for Sudan's priorities such as rebuilding the economy and striking peace agreements with rebel groups in conflict zones of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.



Bomb team searches Maidenhead property after terror arrest

15 September 2019

Counter terrorism officers and a bomb disposal team are searching a property in Maidenhead after a man was arrested on suspicion of terrorism offences.

Officers from Counter Terrorism Policing South East (CTPSE) arrested the 52-year-old Berkshire man under the Terrorism Act on Friday afternoon.

He has since been released on bail.

Despite the involvement of the EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) team, CTPSE said there was "no immediate risk to the public".

Full report at:



EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Says Many ISIS Militants Back From Conflict Zones

14 September, 2019

Many ISIS members have actually returned to Europe, said EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles De Kerchove.

He added that some have been killed in fighting areas and others’ fate is unknown as they might have gone to Libya or Afghanistan.

In his statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, De Kerchove warned of ISIS activities elsewhere, following their defeat in Syria and Iraq, with the continued activity of their leaders there so far.

The European official pointed to the terrorist group’s activities in other parts of the world.

His remarks were made on the sidelines of launching the first European anti-terrorism judicial record under the supervision of the European Justice Agency (Eurojust).

Responding to a question on the importance of this judicial record, De Kerchove said it aims at linking parts of the case together in order to have access to its details.

Intelligence and security agencies exchange information and this is what we need to do for judicial information, he explained.

Such record allows concerned parties to know about the ongoing trials and verdicts, which facilitates linking figures and organizations and finding the relationship between terrorism and organized crime, he further noted.

Regarding the return of European foreign fighters from conflict zones, he said “there is no unified decision on the European fighters detained in Syria and Iraq.”

“European countries want to pursue their cases, and we are working to collect information that allows their prosecution.”

“We are also considering the possibility of their return, but, so far, there is no final decision at the level of the European Union on dealing with the European ISIS militants,” he stressed.

De Kerchove pointed out that this case also has a humanitarian dimension, which is represented in ISIS militants’ widows and children and the difficult circumstances in which they live within camps opened to receive them.

Regarding the possibility of prosecuting European fighters, he said: “we can help, and we will have a role.”

“We have shown willingness to cooperate, and we have already made several contacts,” the EU official said.

“It is important that in case these people returned, we have a judicial record including all the information about them.”

Concerning fears of ISIS re-emergence in another country after its defeat in the border area between Syria and Iraq, he said ISIS already still exists through its influence on people in different parts of the world.

He gave as an example the attack targeting a church in Sri Lanka, which killed a great number of civilians.

“ISIS leaders are still active in several areas in Syria and Iraq and are developing terrorist schemes. So, it is not easy for anyone to say that ISIS is over.”

It is noteworthy that a number of European capitals, including Brussels, The Hague, London, Paris, and others, have been facing great controversy for some time now on the issue of the return of ISIS militants’ widows and children.

Full report at:



Russia offers Saudi missile defenses after attack

16 September 2019

Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to sell Saudi Arabia its missile defense systems on Monday in the wake of the attack on its oil facilities.

“We are ready to help Saudi Arabia so that she can protect her territory.

“She can do so in the same way that Iran has already done in buying the S-300 Russian missile system and the same way that Turkey has already done in buying the S-400 Russian missile system,” Putin said at a press conference in Ankara, alongside the Turkish and Iranian leaders.



UK says attack on Saudi Aramco violation of international law

16 September 2019

Britain on Monday said an attack on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities was serious and outrageous.

The attack “was a wanton violation of international law,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said, adding that the United Kingdom stood firmly behind Saudi Arabia.

“This was a very serious attack on Saudi Arabia and the oil installations and it has implications for global oil markets and supply,” Raab said. “It's a very serious, an outrageous act, and we need to have a clear and as united as possible international response to it.”

Full report at:



Italy arrests ‘torturers’ after migrants denounce Libya camp horrors

September 17, 2019

ROME: Italian police arrested three people on Monday accused of the kidnap, torture and trafficking of migrants hoping to set sail from Libya to Europe.

Their accusers described a catalogue of abuse including the systematic rape of women and the murder of some migrants.

A 27-year old man from Guinea and two Egyptians, aged 24 and 26, were taken into custody in a detention center in Messina, Sicily, after police gathered testimony against them from other migrants.

The arrested men had crossed the Mediterranean themselves, landing in Lampedusa before being transferred to Sicily.

Witnesses said the three ran a prisoners’ camp in a former military base in Zawyia in Libya, where those ready to attempt the perilous sea crossing were forcibly held until they could pay a ransom.

Those interviewed said they had been “beaten with sticks, rifle butts, rubber pipes, whipped or given electric shocks,” and had seen other prisoners die, police said.

They had also been refused water or medical attention for their wounds or for diseases contracted in the camp, they said.

Anyone unable to pay up was passed on to other traffickers “for sexual and/or work exploitation,” or was killed. The testimonies were gathered from migrants spread in reception centers across Sicily and on the island of Lampedusa.

“All the women who were with us ... were systematically and repeatedly raped,” one witness was quoted as saying.

“They gave us seawater to drink and, sometimes, hard bread to eat. We men were beaten to get our relatives to pay sums of money in exchange for our release,” he said.

“I saw the organizers shoot two migrants who had tried to escape.”

Another said he was “whipped by electrical wires. Other times I was beaten, even around the head.”

One survivor described how the electric shocks “made you fall to the ground unconscious,” adding that he had “personally witnessed many murders by electric shock.”

Some migrants died of hunger, according to another cited witness, who described seeing a jailer “shoot a Nigerian in the legs for having taken a piece of bread.”

Libya, despite being wracked by chaos and conflict since the 2011 uprising that killed the dictator Muammar Qaddafi, has remained a major transit route for migrants, especially from sub-Saharan Africa.

According to figures from the International Organization for Migration in July, at least 5,200 people are currently trapped in official detention centers in Libya, often in appalling conditions.

There are no figures for the number of people held in illegal centers run by human traffickers, who brutally torture them to try to extort money from their families.

Italy’s tough line on migrants arriving from North Africa, and EU cooperation with the Libyan coast guard, has seen some of those attempting the crossing picked up at sea and returned to the chaos-wracked country.

Full report at:



China and US clash over ‘belt and road’ in Afghan resolution

September 17, 2019

UNITED NATIONS: China and Russia clashed with the US and other Security Council members Monday over China’s insistence on including a reference to Beijing’s $1 trillion “belt and road” global infrastructure program in a resolution on the UN political mission in Afghanistan.

The mission’s six-month mandate expires Tuesday and council members met behind closed doors for over 2 1/2 hours Monday, unable to agree on a text because of China’s demand.

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, the current council president, told reporters afterward that diplomats were working on a new text and “we’re in the process of reaching a compromise.”

He said the council would meet again late Tuesday morning in hopes of reaching unanimous agreement.

This is the second time in six months that the resolution to keep the UN political mission in Afghanistan operating has become embroiled in controversy over “belt and road” language.

Resolutions extending the mandate of the Afghan mission for a year in 2016, 2017 and 2018 had language welcoming and urging further efforts to strengthen regional economic cooperation involving Afghanistan, including through the huge “belt and road” initiative to link China to other parts of Asia as well as Europe and Africa.

But in March, when the mandate renewal came up, US deputy ambassador Jonathan Cohen objected, saying Beijing was insisting on making the resolution “about Chinese national political priorities rather than the people of Afghanistan.”

He said the Trump administration opposed China’s demand “that the resolution highlight its belt and road initiative, despite its tenuous ties to Afghanistan and known problems with corruption, debt distress, environmental damage, and lack of transparency.”

China’s deputy ambassador, Wu Haitao, countered at the time that one council member — almost certainly referring to the US — “poisoned the atmosphere.” He said the “belt and road” initiative was “conducive to Afghanistan’s reconstruction and economic development,” saying that since it was launched six years ago 123 countries and 29 international organizations had signed agreements with China on joint development programs.

The result of the standoff was that instead of a one-year mandate renewal for the Afghan mission, the mandate was renewed in March for just six months in a simple text, without any substance.

Ahead of this month’s mandate expiration, Germany and Indonesia drafted a substantive resolution that would extend the mandate for a year. It focused on UN support for an Afghan-led and Afghan-controlled peace process, UN assistance in the Sept. 28 presidential election and strong backing for Afghan security forces “in their fight against terrorism.” It made no reference to China’s “belt and road” initiative.

So China and close ally Russia circulated a rival draft resolution that removes all the substantive language and simply extends the mission for a year.

Full report at:



2,800 Turks applied for Swiss asylum since coup bid

Bayram Altug  



Around 2,800 Turkish citizens have applied for asylum in Switzerland since August 2016, after the bloody coup attempt of Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) in Turkey, according to local media.

NZZ am Sonntag reported that there was a 130% increase in applications compared to the previous three years, basing its story on State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) sources.

Secretariat spokesperson Lukas Rieder was also quoted by the newspaper saying that "the increase in Turkish asylum seekers is a result of internal developments in Turkey," hinting at the defeated coup attempt and an attempt by FETO terror group members to get asylum.

Turkey has complained that European countries have failed to recognize FETO as a terror group and do not comply with its extradition requests.

The acceptance rate of Turkish citizens’ asylum applications was 62%, reportedly higher than overall rate of other countries' citizens.

It was also reported that Turkey was the number two country for citizens applying to Switzerland for asylum as of last July.

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

Full report at:



North America


Oil surges more than 19% after attacks halve Saudi output

Jennifer Gnana

Sep 17, 2019

Oil prices jumped more than 19 per cent as it resumed trading on Monday – the highest in more than two decades – after attacks on Saudi Arabian facilities took half the country’s output offline.

Brent, the European benchmark for light, sweet crude rose as high as $71.95 per barrel as markets began to price in a geopolitical risk premium into prices after the facility in Abqaiq, the largest oil stabilisation plant in the kingdom, came under attack.

West Texas Intermediate, the benchmark tracking largely North American crude, jumped 15 per cent to reach $63.34 per barrel at the start of trading. Prices subsequently fell back and by 6.15pm UAE time, Brent was trading up 9 per cent at $66.40 per barrel, while WTI had also settled up 9 per cent at $60.30.

Saudi Aramco has shut 5.7 million bpd of production – or 5 per cent of global supply – after plants in Abqaiq and the Khurais oilfields were attacked by more than 10 drones and, possibly, cruise missiles. The air strikes were claimed by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest exporter of oil, accounting for 13 per cent of global production capacity, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2019. The kingdom, which has maintained production below 10 million bpd as part of a global pact to restrain output, pumped 9.80 million bpd last month.

The attacks, which hit at the centre of the Saudi energy hub in the Eastern Province, which has the world’s largest oilfield, are the most debilitating so far on the kingdom’s energy sector. Earlier attacks, which the Houthis also claimed, caused less damage to a pipeline with a capacity to transport 5 million bpd and a gas facility. There have also been several attacks on Saudi tankers transiting the Strait of Hormuz.

Saudi Arabia intends to meet its export requirements by drawing on its crude stocks, the new Energy Minster, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, said on Sunday. Around 50 per cent of the country’s gas production has also been shut down.

Saudi Aramco said in a statement in the early hours of Sunday morning that further updates on the damage and restoration of production would be available “in 48 hours”.

As a result of loss of production, Saudi Arabia’s real gross domestic product growth could be lowered by 1.2 to 1.4 percentage points in a scenario where it will take a month to fully restore its output, according to Monica Malik, chief economist at ADCB. The bank based its assumptions on a loss of 5.7 million bpd for the first two weeks, and a 2.5 million bpd loss for the subsequent two weeks.

"This lower growth outlook also takes into account the potential impact on Saudi petrochemical companies, including Sabic, due to curtailment of feedstock supplies,” she said.

Ratings agency Moody's on Monday said the attacks on the Saudi facilities were "credit negative" calling the production disruption "significant" but unlikely to leave "a long-lasting impact on Saudi Aramco’s financial profile".

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump said on Twitter on Monday he would open up his country’s strategic reserves to supply the markets, if needed.

Donald J. Trump


Based on the attack on Saudi Arabia, which may have an impact on oil prices, I have authorized the release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, if needed, in a to-be-determined amount....


3:25 AM - Sep 16, 2019

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25.6K people are talking about this

Donald J. Trump


Replying to @realDonaldTrump

....sufficient to keep the markets well-supplied. I have also informed all appropriate agencies to expedite approvals of the oil pipelines currently in the permitting process in Texas and various other States.


3:25 AM - Sep 16, 2019

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19.1K people are talking about this

The current US administration has been pushing for lower prices, especially in the run-up to the next presidential election in 2020.



Qatar-Funded Group Engages In ‘Propagandistic Activities’ While Divvying Out Millions To US Schools, Experts Say

September 15, 2019

A U.S.-based organization funded by Qatar and tasked with furthering the allegedly terror-linked country’s national vision is openly influencing K-12 public school curriculums across America. A legal loophole allows it to do so without registering as a foreign agent, but experts say the group has at times stretched that boundary by pushing overt propaganda.

The Washington, D.C.-based Qatar Foundation International (QFI) has disbursed more than $30 million to U.S. public schools to fund Arabic language programs, The Wall Street Journal reported in 2017. Public documents and news reports indicate the Doha, Qatar-based Qatar Foundation has funded QFI from its 2009 founding through at least 2017. The Qatar Foundation has been registered as a foreign principal since 2006 and is tasked with carrying out the vision of the country’s royal family.

QFI memos state that it exists to further the Middle Eastern nation’s goals, and its executive director has stated publicly that her bosses include a member of the Qatari royal family and the CEO of the foreign Qatar Foundation. Despite this, QFI is not required to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, because it says it’s strictly an educational organization.

“Given QFI’s very close association with the Qatar Foundation and the Qatari government – both of which have extensive political functions in the United States designed to influence public policy – the FARA Unit of the Department of Justice should take a close look at QFI to ensure that the organization is what it says it is,” government affairs lobbyist Craig Holman of the left-leaning Public Citizen told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

“If its educational programs in any way seek to shape public opinion in a propagandistic manner, then QFI should be registered and disclose its funding,” Holman continued.

He and a second expert, Middle East Forum analyst Oren Litwin, both believe QFI has pushed overt propaganda for the government of Qatar, which would require the organization to register as a foreign agent under FARA.

“Some of their activities are very clearly crossing the line, and further, if you back up and look at everything they do in the larger context of what the strategic goal is, it’s very clear that even their educational component is part of an influence operation,” Litwin told the DCNF.

He pointed to what he called a “propaganda video” QFI and Al Jazeera co-produced in 2017 that featured Qatari residents speaking out about a land and sea blockade neighboring countries imposed. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have accused Qatar of funding terror, backing Iran and engaging in foreign meddling.

The video is “very clearly not part of QFI’s educational mission,” Litwin said. “It’s clearly advocacy.”

Republican lawmakers questioned the Justice Department in June about whether Al Jazeera, which they called a “messaging tool for the Qatari government,” should be required to register as a foreign agent of the Middle Eastern nation.

Holman also said the Al Jazeera and QFI co-produced video should be considered foreign propaganda.

“That video crosses the line and QFI should have registered and disclosed for that video,” Holman said. “If there are other such propagandistic activities ongoing today, then QFI should register” as a foreign agent.

Saudi Arabian state news said in 2017 it cut diplomatic ties with Qatar to “protect national security from the dangers of terrorism and extremism.” The UAE said Qatar was “funding and hosting” the Muslim Brotherhood, which the federation considers a terrorist organization, when it announced that it, too, was cutting diplomatic ties with the nation.

Qatar has denied accusations that it harbors terrorists and engages in efforts to destabilize the region.

QFI did not return a request for comment.

QFI Exists To Further The Goals Of Its Foreign Benefactor

QFI is funding Arabic language programs at 22 K-12 public schools across the country, the DCNF previously reported. (RELATED: Qatar Foundation International Funds Arabic Programs In Select US Schools)

QFI reorganized from a private charity to an LLC in 2011, according to Washington, D.C., business registration documents the DCNF obtained. Unlike charities, LLCs are not required to disclose their funding sources, meaning QFI’s reorganization obscures that the Qatar Foundation, a registered foreign principal, funds it.

QFI’s only source of income when it was operating as a charity in 2009, 2010 and 2011 was the Qatar Foundation, which provided $10,276,831, according to its Form 990s covering those years filed with the IRS.

The Qatar Foundation continued funding QFI after it reorganized into an LLC, according to a WSJ report showing the foundation had funneled $30.6 million into QFI between 2009 and 2017.

QFI stated in a 2015 memorandum of understanding with a Houston school district that it was formed “for the purpose of advancing the vision of Her Highness Sheikha [Mozah] bint Nasser and the vision of the Qatar Foundation.”

Mozah, the second wife of a former Qatari emir, is the chairwoman of the Qatar Foundation. The Qatari government mandated the foundation in 2008 be the “engine” driving the Middle Eastern country’s “National Vision 2030,” a plan that outlines how Qatar will leverage its vast oil wealth to transform into a knowledge-based economy.

“Qatar Foundation was built by Qatar, it is sustained by Qatar, and it belongs to the people of Qatar, regardless of their background and occupation,” former Qatar Foundation President Saad Al Muhannadi said in 2013 after Mozah appointed him to the post.

QFI Executive Director Maggie Mitchell Salem tweeted in 2018 that Mozah and Qatar Foundation’s current CEO are her “bosses.”

Mitchell Salem also has close ties to slain Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, which intelligence reports found was assassinated in a Saudi consulate in Turkey.

Mitchell Salem “at times shaped the columns he submitted to The Washington Post, proposing topics, drafting material and prodding him to take a harder line against the Saudi government,” The Post reported after Khashoggi’s death in 2018.

The Post also reported that a QFI researcher and translator assisted Khashoggi in the drafting of his columns published in the newspaper.

“We should not be comfortable with the idea that a foreign country placed an information operator at a major U.S. paper and fed him information, corrected his stuff, and then The Washington Post ran it with not a disclaimer in sight — and everybody ate it up like it was the truth,” the president of the national security think tank Security Studies Group, Jim Hanson, said during a February conference on Qatar’s “malign influence.”

Mitchell Salem insisted the assistance she gave to Khashoggi had nothing to do with QFI.

“He and I talked about issues of the day as people who had come together, caring about the same part of the world,” Mitchell Salem told The Post. “Jamal was never an employee, never a consultant, never anything to [the foundation]. Never.”

QFI Has Direct Access To US K-12 Students

U.S. public schools that accept QFI’s grant money are contractually required to give over a degree of access to the foreign-funded organization, according to a 2013 agreement between QFI and the Tucson Unified School District in Arizona.

The contract stipulated that Tucson teachers participating in the QFI-funded Arabic program would allow QFI staff to:

observe classroom activities and speak with students;

have access to a program to monitor student progress;

request that teachers administer an Arabic language proficiency test to students and share their results with QFI; and

receive enrollment information for the Arabic classes, “including the number of students in each class and grade.”

The contract also stated that Tucson teachers “will be required to organize or facilitate at least 6-8 cultural activities inside and outside of the classroom.”

Full report at:



NATO chief ‘extremely concerned’ after attacks on Saudi Arabia

16 September 2019

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Monday he was “extremely concerned” about escalating tension following strikes on Saudi oil facilities at the weekend, accusing Iran of destabilizing the region.

Speaking to AFP in Baghdad, Stoltenberg’s comments were his first on the strikes on two major Saudi oil facilities, which were claimed by Yemen’s Houthi militia but which both Washington and Riyadh have blamed on Tehran.

“We call on all parties to prevent any such attacks occurring again because that can have negative consequences for the whole region, and we are also extremely concerned about a risk of escalation,” the secretary general said.

Stoltenberg, who said the alliance “strongly condemned” the attacks because of the destabilizing effect on oil supplies, also had a message for Iraq’s neighbor, Iran.

“We are concerned about what we see, especially from Iran. Iran is supporting different terrorist groups and being responsible for destabilizing the whole region,” he charged.

The strikes on Abqaiq - the world’s largest oil processing facility - and the Khurais oil field in eastern Saudi Arabia have roiled global energy markets and sent prices spiking.

The Houthis said they carried out the attacks with 10 drones, but American media have reported that US officials had satellite images showing the attacks - possibly with drones and cruise missiles - had come from the north or northwest, rather than Yemen. The Arab Coalition on Monday said its preliminary probe had found Houthis were not responsible, while squarely pointing the finger at Iran for providing the weapons used in the attacks.

It said it was still investigating where the strikes had originated.

Iraq, home to several Iran-backed paramilitary factions, has been placed in an awkward situation amid rising tensions between its two main allies, Iran and the US.

Baghdad has denied the attacks were launched from its country, with Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi reiterating Iraq’s aim to stay neutral in a call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday.

Full report at:



US, allies working to address Saudi oil attacks: Esper

Servet Gunerigok  



The U.S. military will address the weekend attacks on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Monday.

"The United States military, with our interagency team, is working with our partners to address this unprecedented attack and defend the international rules-based order that is being undermined by Iran," Esper said on Twitter.

Esper said he joined a meeting at the White House and Pentagon leaders and other officials briefed President Donald Trump on the situation.

He also said he spoke with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and Iraqi Defense Minister Najah al-Shammari over the weekend about the attack.

On Sunday, Trump tweeted that the U.S. was "locked and loaded" after the attacks Saturday on two of Saudi state-owned oil company Aramco’s oil facilities.

Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the U.S. was quick to deny that claim.

On Twitter, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said "there is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen," accusing Iran of launching "an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply."

Full report at:



Attack on Saudi oil sets in motion mysterious explanations

Khaled Yacoub Oweis

Sep 16, 2019

Until there is much more clarity on how a pinpoint attack took out half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production, speculation will swirl about the methods its foes used to strike so deep into the kingdom.

With opinion varying on the weapons used on Saturday to damage a major refinery and an oilfield in the eastern heartland, one of the few things on which specialists and officials agree is that Iranian weapons were probably used in the attack, whether they were drones or missiles, launched from Yemen, Iraq or even Iran.

In Tehran, officials denied Washington’s accusations that Iran was responsible.

They warned the White House that, in case of retaliation, US bases and aircraft carriers in the region are within the 2,000-kilometre range of Iranian missiles.

Washington had disputed a Houthi announcement that the group carried out the attack using 10 drones, saying there was no evidence.

US officials say the attack was more likely to have been carried out by Tehran's proxies in Iraq or launched from Iran.

The Arab Coalition said Iranian weapons were used, and not from Houthi-held territory.

It said the location of the launch was unknown and that an investigation was continuing.

The office of Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said yesterday that Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, indicated to him in a call that the attack had not been launched from Iraq.

Washington made no immediate comment.

Fayez Al Doueri, a prominent Jordanian military commentator, said that in the absence of evidence, the Houthi claim could not be discounted.

“At this stage, the issue is not whether it was Hezbollah, militias in Basra or the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps,” Mr Al Doueri, a retired general, told The National from Amman.

“What is crucial, militarily, is to protect the Saudi airspace.”

Mr Al Doueri said the latest attack was the third major breach in the past few months that had damaged Saudi oil infrastructure on the upstream and downstream sides.

Saudi Arabia has one of the largest military budgets in the world, per capita and in absolute numbers.

Mr Al Doueri said the kingdom had the technical means to secure its strategic sites.

The attack cut off five per cent of the world’s oil supplies and drove the price of the benchmark Brent crude up 20 per cent before it slipped to 10 per cent, to $66.3 a barrel, by afternoon trading in London.

Fabian Hinz, a researcher at the James Martin Centre for Nonproliferation Studies in California, suggested that missiles developed by Tehran especially for use by its proxies with “no exact Iranian equivalent” may have been involved in the attack.

In an article published this week in the Arms Control Wonk blog, Mr Hinz asked: “Is Iran secretly designing, testing and producing missile systems for exclusive use by its proxies?”

Full report at:





Janmabhoomi Nyas has no locus in Ayodhya case: Sunni Wakf Board

September 17, 2019

The Sunni Central Wakf Board on Monday questioned the locus standi of Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas in the Ayodhya litigation and wondered who would get the right of management if the court decides to give charge to the Hindu parties: — the Nirmohi Akhara, which had the shebait rights, or the Nyas, “set up only in 1985”.

“The Nyas has no locus in the matter, nor can it be party to any suit…. Suppose your lordships were to decide to give charge to, whom would you give to — the shebait or a new body (trust) created in 1985 which wants to throw everyone out and which is also asking for title,” senior counsel Rajeev Dhavan, representing the Board and one of the appellants, M Siddiq, told a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.

A shebait under Hindu law is entrusted with the task of maintaining and preserving an idol and its property.

The bench, also comprising Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer, is hearing appeals against the September 30, 2010 verdict of Allahabad High Court in the Ayodhya dispute.

Dhavan said that according to the Akhara, the Nyas “had no relation with the case whatsoever”. He added, “I say it was created for a different purpose.”

He said the entire object of suit number five filed by Ramlalla, Nyas and Deoki Nandan Agarwal as next friend of the deity was for a new temple under the Nyas.

Dhavan, who had earlier accepted that the Akhara had shebait rights in respect of idols of Hindu deities placed in the outer courtyard of the disputed site in Ayodhya, said the petitioners had contended that Akhara was removed from managing it because of misappropriation,

“If there was misappropriation, there must have been evidence”, he said, adding that no such evidence has been brought on record. On Ram Janmabhoomi — the birthplace of Ram — being one of the plaintiffs, Dhavan said this was done only to ensure that no other person can make a claim over the disputed land.

He said that the submission that mosques other than the ones at Mecca and Medina are not integral to Islamic faith, or churches other than Jerusalem or the Vatican are not integral to Christians, would violate the fundamental right to practice religions under Article 25 of the Constitution. “There cannot be discrimination between Indic religions and other religions which have come from outside,” he submitted.

Dhavan also posed questions on the locus of Agarwal, who had filed the suit as next friend of Ramlalla Virajman (the deity of Ayodhya). He said members of VHP were authorised to be included as trustees of the Nyas, and accordingly Agarwal had been made a trustee.

He said, “This is how Deoki Nandan Agarwal got locus to file the suit as friend of deity…. Deoki Nandan had no role. He was not a believer…he was brought in to usurp…” Meanwhile, the three-member panel appointed by the court to explore mediation in the matter informed it on Monday that Sunni Wakf Board and Nirvani Akhara had written to it, requesting that the mediation proceedings that had been dropped earlier be resumed, and be proceeded simultaneously with the hearing.

In a related development, the court asked its registry to inform on the time required to activate live streaming of the proceedings of the case.



Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhara junk mediation idea

by shameen

September 16, 2019

New Delhi: In a new twist in Ayodhya title dispute, the legal team of the Sunni Waqf Board and the representative of Nirmohi Akhara have rubbished the claims of any mediation amidst the day-to-day hearing conducted by the Supreme Court on the matter.

The apex court had appointed, on March 8, a 3-member mediation panel headed by former Supreme Court Judge F.M.I. Kalifulla and consisting of spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu to explore negotiations in the vexed Ayodhya dispute. The committee was disbanded after it submitted a report that it had failed to develop a consensus among parties to reach an amicable solution.

According to sources, this committee filed a short memorandum before the apex court seeking its permission to resume talks as parties across the religious divide have approached the panel seeking resumption of negotiations on the dispute. However, at the same time, the parties, according to the panel, do not want the Ayodhya title dispute, being heard by a Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, to stop.

The Sunni Waqf Board had purportedly written to the panel seeking resumption of the mediation process, as it was close to a negotiated settlement. However, the lawyer, representing it, said: “What is the relevance of this committee now? It has already been disbanded and post that the court has begun daily hearing on the matter. A letter from the board member was sent in personal capacity, and we were never consulted on it. The hearing is in progress in court.”

A total of 14 appeals have been filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment, which was delivered on four civil suits. The High Court judgement partitioned the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya equally among the three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.

The spokesperson of the Nirmohi Akhara also categorically denied any resumption of meditation process by the panel. “We do not require any mediation panel. Only in case, if the apex court wants us to directly talk with the Sunni Waqf Board, we will consider it. But, we are not ready to delay the case proceedings currently ongoing in the top court. The hearing must continue,” said the spokesperson said.

Full report at:



Kartarpur Corridor to be opened for Indian pilgrims on November 9: Pakistan

September 16, 2019

Pakistan Monday said it would open the Kartarpur corridor for Indian Sikh pilgrims on November 9, three days before the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, PTI reported. The announcement comes amid heightened tensions between the neighbours after India removed special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370.

Addressing journalists visiting the proposed Kartarpur corridor in Narowal, some 125 km from Lahore, Project Director Atif Majid said 86 per cent of the work on the corridor had been done so far and it would be completed by next month.

Talking about the facilities, Majid said, “About 76 immigration counters have been set up to cater to 5,000 Sikh pilgrims from India every day.” He also said the number of counters would be increased later as the pilgrim count was expected to touch 10,000.

The corridor will connect Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district of Punjab and facilitate visa-free movement of Indian pilgrims, who will have to just obtain a permit to visit Kartarpur Sahib.

Last week, Pakistan announced that it would charge $20 per person as service fee for passage through the Kartarpur Corridor, a move which was opposed by Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh.

In a letter to PM Modi, Amarinder Singh suggested that the Ministry of External Affairs take up the matter in bilateral meetings, a statement said. Pakistan’s insistence on a service charge would impose a significant financial burden on the lakhs of pilgrims seeking darshan, many of whom may not be so well-off, said the CM.

Full report at:



Farooq Abdullah detained under Public Safety Act, can be held for a year

Sep 17, 2019

NEW DELHI/ SRINAGAR: Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and MP Farooq Abdullah was detained at his residence in Srinagar on Sunday night under the Public Safety Act (PSA), making him the first political figure to be held under the Act and under a section that can mean detention for up to a year.

The National Conference ‘patron’ has been held for “acting in manner prejudicial to maintenance of public order”. He is the first political leader to be proceeded under the stringent PSA after the abrogation of J&K’s special status under Article 370, sources in the state government said.

The PSA provision applied in Abdullah’s case allows him to be detained for a maximum period of a year without trial. His son Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, both also former CMs, are being held under Section 107 of the Criminal Procedure Code which is applied in apprehension of likely breach of peace or disturbance of public tranquillity.

Abdullah’s formal detention order came ahead of a hearing on a petition filed by MDMK leader Vaiko in the Supreme Court seeking reasons for his confinement since the August 5 presidential order altering the status of J&K. Hearing the petition on Monday, the bench sought a response from the Centre and the state government by September 30. Vaiko alleged there was no reason for Abdullah’s detention.

Interestingly, J&K Public Safety Act was passed by Abdullah’s late father Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in 1978 to take action against timber smugglers which enabled the government to detain a person for six months in the first instance and, thereafter, extend the detention for two years without any trial.

Abdullah is said to be ailing for some time now and underwent a kidney transplant two years ago. He is 82.

After Article 370 was rendered a dead letter, Abdullah was under ‘unofficial’ house arrest with restrictions on his movement beyond the official residence. However, there was no paperwork to back the house arrest or restrictions nor, apparently, did the leader make much of an issue of it. In fact, home minister Amit Shah had last month told Parliament that Abdullah was not under detention. “Farooq Abdullah has neither been detained nor arrested,” he had said.

Sources told TOI the octogenarian leader was booked by the J&K home department under the PSA clause dealing with “activities prejudicial to maintenance of public order”, particularly in the present security scenario, in wake of his recent statements and several incidents as a prelude to it.

The J&K home department approved his file, agreeing to his detention for 12 days in first instance, till the case goes to the advisory board after a formal notification. The board is competent to fix the period of detention. Abdullah, however, continues to stay at his Srinagar residence, which has been declared a sub-jail. There shall be no bar on his meeting relatives or friends, said sources.

Full report at:



Restore normalcy in Kashmir, but protect national interest: Supreme Court

Sep 17, 2019

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday directed the J&K government to take all steps to restore normalcy in Kashmir and ensure smooth access of public to healthcare facilities, public transports and educational institutions in the wake of the state’s special status being withdrawn.

The court was hearing pleas relating to the August 5 decision to turn Article 370 into a dead letter and division of the state into two Union territories, coupled with imposition of restrictions on movement and political activity and a communication lockdown.

SC quote

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S A Bobde and S Abdul Nazeer ordered, “The state of J&K keeping in mind the national interest and internal security, shall make all endeavours to ensure normal life is restored; people have access to healthcare facilities and schools, colleges and other educational institutions and public transport function and operate normally. All forms of communication... shall be normalised, if required on a selective basis, particularly for healthcare facilities.”

‘Valley would’ve been volatile without curbs’

The court asked the Centre and the state to file response affidavits to a host of petitions challenging the August 5 decision and the rationale behind clampdown on mobile phone and internet services in the Valley. The SC posted all petitions for further hearing on September 30.

Appearing for the Centre and J&K, respectively, attorney general K K Venugopal and solicitor general Tushar Mehta told the court that the spate of petitions questioning the rationale behind suspension of communications was surprising as none of them moved the SC or the HC in 2016 when, after Burhan Wani’s death in an encounter, the then state government suspended telecommunications services for three months.

Full report at:



India, Iran review progress on full operationalisation of Chabahar port

Sep 16, 2019

NEW DELHI: India and Iran on Monday reviewed ongoing connectivity and infrastructure development projects, including the progress on full operationalisation of the strategic Chabahar port. The review took place during the sixteenth round of the foreign office consultations that were held between the two sides in Tehran with the Indian side led by foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale and the Iranian side headed by deputy foreign minister Seyyed Abbas Araghchi.

Gokhale also called on Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif and Senior Advisor to Supreme Leader Ali Akbar Velayati, the ministry of external affairs said in a statement.

During the consultations, the two sides reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral cooperation, ongoing connectivity and infrastructure development projects, including development of the Shahid Behesthi Port, Chabahar, and full operationalisation of the Trilateral Transit Agreement (Chabahar Agreement) between India, Iran and Afghanistan.

India is participating in the development of the first phase of the Shahid Behesti Port in Chabahar in cooperation with Iran.

Indian company, India Ports Global Limited, had taken over the port operations in December 2018 and has been successfully handling cargo since then.

Both sides also exchanged views on regional and international issues of mutual interest, the MEA said.

It was agreed to maintain the momentum of mutually beneficial multi-faceted bilateral cooperation and exchanges between the two sides, and to hold the next round of the Joint Commission Meeting at the level of the external affairs minister at an early date in Iran, the statement said.

The next round of Foreign Office Consultations will be held in New Delhi on mutually convenient dates, it said.

The consultations comes at a time when the energy ties between the two countries have taken a big hit due to US ban on buying oil from Iran.

In November, the US had granted a six-month waiver to India, China, Greece, Italy, Taiwan, Japan, Turkey and South Korea to continue importing oil from Iran. The temporary waiver ended on May 2.

Full report at:



JeM operatives planned attacks across India: NIA

Sep 16, 2019

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has filed a charge sheet against Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) operative Sajjad Ahmad Khan, a close aide of February 14 Pulwama attack mastermind Mudassir Ahmad Khan, for planning terror attacks in different parts of India including the National Capital Region.

Sajjad Khan is also suspected to be involved in the Pulwama attack where a Jaish operative carried out a suicide bombing that resulted in the death of 40 CRPF troopers. The attack brought India, and Pakistan, where JeM is based, to the brink of war.

Along with Sajjad, NIA has filed charge sheet against three other JeM men -- Tanveer Ahmed Ganie, Bilal Ahmad Mir, and Muzaffar Ahmad Bhat. All four are residents of Pulwama.

Mudassir Khan was the mastermind behind the attack . He was killed in an encounter with security forces in March, the agency said in its report.

“Investigation has established that the accused persons are members of proscribed terrorist organization JeM, who were planning to carry out terrorist attacks and also propagating the activities of JeM. The slain terrorist Mudassir Ahmad Khan was the mastermind behind this conspiracy. He was one of the main conspirators in Pulwama terror Attack and was killed in an encounter with security forces, in village Pinglish, Tral in the night of March 9-10,” the report added.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) claimed that Sajjad Khan and Muzaffar Ahmad Bhat were directly in touch with Mudassir Khan.

Full report at:



Rohingyas, Bangladeshi refugees’ likely target of Khattar govt’s updated NRC

Hitender Rao

Sep 17, 2019

The recent decision of the BJP government in Haryana to verify the citizenship of the state residents by updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) seems to be aimed at ‘getting rid’ of Rohingyas and Bangladeshi refugees concentrated mainly in the national capital region (NCR) districts of Gurgaon, Faridabad and Nuh, through a legal framework.

Chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, who on Sunday announced implementation of NRC on the lines of Assam, indicated that services of former judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Justice HS Bhalla, would be utilised for NRC updation.

‘Facilities provided at par with Indian citizens’

The Rohingyas, an ethnic community of Muslims from Myanmar, who became stateless after enactment of a citizenship law in their country, are residing in camps in Mewat region of Haryana besides a few in Faridabad district.

Top government officials said there are about 430 families, comprising about 1,600 Rohingya migrants, who have sought refuge in Haryana.

“The numbers of illegal immigrants (Rohingya) are not high at the moment. But they will continue to increase. The state government would like to get rid of them using the legal framework available under the Citizenship Act, 1955, the law from which the NRC draws its powers,’’ an officer said.

A Supreme Court-appointed committee, to look into the complaints of denial of basic rights and amenities to Rohingya immigrants residing in Mewat camps, had told the apex court that Rohingyas were not being discriminated against despite being illegal immigrants.

“They are being provided with basic facilities like health care, water, sanitation and education. The quality and comprehensiveness of the services provided are not less than those provided to the Indian citizens and are within the available infrastructure and resources of the district,’’ the committee said in its report.

Growing influx of Bangladeshi refugees

Besides Rohingya immigrants, police officials said there has been an influx of Bangladeshi refugees in Gurgaon and Faridabad who work as labourers and domestic helps.

Full report at:



Pulwama to Aug 5: Jammu and Kashmir HC indicted Govt for PSA arrests — in 80% cases

by Kaunain Sheriff M

September 17, 2019

There is no official count but since August 5, as many as 4,000 people are said to have been detained in Jammu and Kashmir, almost 300 under the draconian Public Safety Act. Yet, because of the continuing lockdown, there have been barely a dozen habeas corpus petitions — pleas challenging the detention and asking the government to produce the detainee in court.

In sharp contrast, since the Pulwama attack on February 14 and until August 4, records accessed by The Indian Express show, that as many as 150 habeas corpus petitions were filed in the Srinagar bench of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court. Of these, verdicts came in 39 cases — in almost 80 per cent, the court quashed the detention and ordered the release of the detainee. All these pleas involved those booked under the PSA.

Records show that the High Court’s indictment — as per the law laid down by the Supreme Court — quashed the detention orders broadly on six grounds: violation of Constitutional rights; serious procedural lapses; no need of PSA when normal laws sufficient to take action; and the absence of fresh facts to justify detention.

Three key observations by the HC touch almost every verdict: The law providing for preventive detention has to be “strictly construed” keeping in view the delicate balance between social security and citizen freedom; because the personal liberty of an individual is the “most precious and prized right guaranteed under the Constitution,” the laws of preventive detention are required to be exercised with due caution; an exceptional case has to be made out for passing the preventive order.

These assume significance given the government’s decision to invoke PSA against National Conference veteran Farooq Abdullah.

An analysis of the 39 orders quashing the detentions reveals a telling pattern that the Abdullah order will be tested against if and when there is a legal challenge:

* In eight cases, the court quashed the order on the grounds that there was “non application of mind” on the part of the District Magistrate. In three cases, the court pointed out that the DM wasn’t himself clear if the activities of the detainee were prejudicial to the “maintenance of public order” or to “the security of the State.”

In five other cases, the court pulled up the government for its “serious lapse” of not mentioning that criminal courts had already granted bail to the detainee.

* In nine cases, the High Court ruled that the government failed to give “compelling” reasons for detaining the persons. In three cases, the High Court pulled up the government observing that persons could not have been “detained after taking recourse to the provisions of the Public Safety Act when he was already in the custody of the police authorities in the cases.”

* Again, in nine cases, the court quashed detention saying the accused could not make “effective representation” against their detention as the government did not give them all material related to the detention orders.

This was “violative of Constitutional rights” of the detained person, the court said. “If the detenue is not supplied the material on which detention order is based, the detenue cannot be in a position to make an effective representation against his detention,” the court said in seven cases.

* In three cases, the High Court quashed detention orders on the ground the government did not follow “procedural safeguards” guaranteed. These safeguards include giving the accused all material in the language he/she understands.

* In two cases, the High Court quashed the orders stating that “…normal law was sufficient to prevent the detenue from acting in any manner prejudicial to the ‘Security of the State’.”

* In six cases, the High Court quashed the orders arguing that the government had detained persons on the basis of previous detentions orders stating that “there must be fresh facts for passing a subsequent order.”

Full report at:





Imran Khan called out for ‘hypocrisy’ on Uighurs in China

Sep 17, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s silence on Uighur Muslims being placed in concentration camp-like conditions in Xinjiang came in for criticism by Dolkun Isa, the president of the world Uighur Congress.

In Geneva, where he is attending the UNHRC session, Isa was quoted as saying, “Pakistan PM very well knows what Chinese government is doing to Uighur Muslims but he doesn’t want to talk on this.” PM Imran Khan, asked about whether Pakistan would condemn Chinese treatment of Uighurs, said he was “too busy” looking after Pakistan’s interests to worry about Uighurs. However, in his diatribes, Khan has asked the world to stop Indian “genocide” against its minorities.



Pakistan may seek US intervention against terms of FATF, IMF

Sep 17, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Cash-strapped Pakistan may seek the intervention of the US for relief from the tough conditions of the FATF and the IMF in lieu of its its services for the peaceful exit of American troops from Afghanistan, according to a media report.

PM Imran Khan is likely to persuade the Trump administration for relief from the FATF and the IMF during his meeting with US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the UN general assembly session in New York this month.

The anti-money laundering watchdog Financial Action Task Force last year placed Pakistan on the grey list of countries whose domestic laws are considered weak to tackle the challenges of money laundering and terrorism financing. The body warned Islamabad to meet its commitment by October or face action, which could possibly lead to the country getting blacklisted.

“The FATF is going to meet sometime in October where it will decide Pakistan’s fate. The same month, the IMF will also initiate review of first quarter of Pakistan’s output under $6 billion programme loan,” a Cabinet member told The News. One of the economic ministers told the daily Pakistan subscribed the toughest ever IMF loan programme without negotiations and now the economic managers had started feeling the heat.

Full report at:



Pakistani authorities shield Hindu principal accused of blasphemy

September 16, 2019

Falah Gulzar

Police react to widespread riots in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province following a Hindu school principal being accused of blasphemy by a pupil’s father. Abdul Aziz Rajput, the child’s father, filed a first information report (FIR) against the principal of Sindh Public School in Ghotki district.

The FIR was lodged under Article 295(c) — that pertains to "derogatory remarks in respect of the Holy Prophet (PBUH)" — of the Pakistan Penal Code.

Rioters took to the streets to protest and demanded that the police arrest the Hindu man immediately and issued a call for a shutter-down strike, according to a report by Pakistani newspaper Dawn.

As of now, Ghotki police lodged three cases against rioters who vandalised the area, Sukkur Additional Inspector General (AIG) Jamil Ahmed was quoted as saying by Dawn.

Alleged perpetrator at undisclosed location

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MNA Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, who is also the head of the Pakistan Hindu Council, told Dawn newspaper that the case has been handed over to Hyderabad Deputy Inspector General Naeem Shaikh who will further investigate the matter. He added that the principal was at an undisclosed location for safety reasons and will be handed over to Shaikh.

"I have talked to Sindh Inspector General of Police Kaleem Imam who has assured me the police will fully protect the accused, therefore, I am going to hand [the principal] over to police either in Karachi or in Hyderabad today," Vankwani was quoted as saying.

According to Vankwani, the protestors vandalised three temples in the area, a private school and multiple houses belonging to people from the Hindu community. He added that he had asked police to register an FIR against people involved in the riots.

The 1998 census of Pakistan recorded less than 2.5 million Hindus in the country. The majority of Hindus in Pakistan are concentrated in the Sindh province. Throughout the years, cases of discrimination and violence against the minority group have emerged.

According to Pakistani media reports, police attempted to control the situation and posted guards to protect Hindus around the area. Reports stated that for support, rangers were also deployed at the scene.

Social media users react

The issue was widely discussed online in Pakistan, and #Ghotki and #Ghotki_burning have become one of the top trends on Twitter in the country.

Videos of protesters armed with sticks were shared on Twitter, in which they were seen vandalising a Hindu temple and damaging the school where the alleged incident took place.

Pakistani social media users were largely outraged by the rioters’ behaviour and called for solidarity with the Hindu community in the country. Many asked the government to take action to control the situation promptly.

Journalist Ali Salman Alvi, @alisalmanalvi, tweeted: “Vandalised Hindu temples in #Ghotki are a stark reminder that minorities in Pakistan are at the mercy of the mighty majority. The state needs to act with zero tolerance against hate crimes.”

Ali Salman Alvi


Vandalized Hindu temples in  #Ghotki are a stark reminder that minorities in Pakistan are at the mercy of the mighty majority. The state needs to act with zero tolerance against hate crimes.


11:59 PM - Sep 15, 2019

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Actor Hamza Ali Abbasi, @iamhamzaabbasi, posted: “#Ghotki As a Muslim, a Pakistani, I am ashamed today and I want to apologise to our Pakistani Hindu community. We all must seek forgiveness from Allah for this atrocity. The time has come to launch an organised ideological effort against this mindset which results in such incidents.”

People gathered at temples to ‘protect’ Hindus

According to pictures and posts circulating online, social media users said that some locals arrived at temples in the district to “guard” the area.

User @Team_Sindhi tweeted images and wrote: “A massive crowd of Muslims of entire #Ghotki gathered at Mandir [temple] to ensure Hindus there are safe here. People sit in Mandir whole night and guard the Hindus and Mandir from mobs. Tomorrow many of people throughout the #Sindh ready to go #Ghotki for protection of Hindus.”



A massive crowd of Muslims of entire #Ghotki gathered at Mandir to ensure Hindus they are safe here.. People sit in mandir whole night and guard the hindus and mandir from mobs.. Tomorrow many of people throughout the #Sindh ready to go #Ghotki for protection of Hindus.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter


6:55 AM - Sep 16, 2019

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The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, @HRCP87, also tweeted regarding the issue and shared a video of protesters breaking the infrastructure of the school where the incident allegedly took place.

"Alarming reports of accusations of blasphemy in Ghotki and the outbreak of mob violence," the tweet said.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan


Alarming reports of accusations of blasphemy in #Ghotki and the outbreak of mob violence. …

Bilal Farooqi


A Hindu principal in Ghotki, Sindh has purportedly been accused of committing blasphemy by extremists, who have vandalised his school. Hindu community in the area is in danger. They must be provided with protection immediately! Video & report via Shankar Meghwar

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4:21 PM - Sep 15, 2019

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In a consecutive tweet, the organisation wrote: “#Ghotki The authorities must take prompt action to quell the violence and ensure the safety of the school principal being targeted. The video circulated earlier is chilling: mob violence against a member of a religious minority is barbaric, unacceptable.”

Solidarity march

Twitter user @AbdullahDayo shared pictures of people taking to the streets to march in solidarity of the Hindus: “Ghotki will never let us down. Today, hundreds of citizens from different walks of life marched in the streets to show their solidarity with the Hindu community by holding white flags. They condemned the acts of harming the holly places of Hindus and demanded their arrest.”

Abdullah Dayo


Ghotki will never let us down. Today, hundreds of citizens from different walks of life marched in the streets to show their solidarity with the Hindu community by holding white flags. They condemned the acts of harming the holly places of Hindus and demanded their arrest.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter


12:31 PM - Sep 16, 2019

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PML-N leader surfaces in London to submit ‘video evidence’

Atika Rehman

September 17, 2019

LONDON: The central figure in the controversy surrounding leaked videos of district and sessions court judge Arshad Malik surfaced here on Monday and was seen submitting “evidence” to the Pakistan High Commission.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Nasir Butt, who is said to have recorded the controversial statements of judge Malik, approached the high commission in London to submit what is being claimed as “authenticated evidence” of the videos. Footage of Mr Butt walking into the mission premises in Lowndes Square appeared on social media.

The high commission made no comment on the details of his visit, but an official told Dawn that Mr Butt came for “consular services” and that the consular department was processing his request in the matter.

Mr Butt came into the spotlight on July 6 this year, when the PML-N leadership held a press conference and alleged that the judge had been “blackmailed” into passing a verdict against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the Al-Azizia reference.

PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz made a set of videos public at the press conference, which purportedly show Mr Butt in conversation with judge Malik at the latter’s house.

The PML-N accuses judge Malik of convicting Mr Sharif under duress. However, the judge claims he was blackmailed by PML-N supporters.

In July, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) conducted a raid at a Rawalpindi house owned by Mr Butt and claimed to have recovered “important documents”.

Full report at:



Nawaz directs PML-N to fully support JUI-F’s ‘Azadi March’

Sep 17, 2019

LAHORE: Incarcerated former prime minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif on Monday directed his party to fully support the ‘Azadi March’ announced by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman.

Nawaz gave the directions during a meeting with his younger brother and PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif who met him at the Kot Lakhpat Jail. Their meeting continued for over three hours.

The meeting, which was also attended by PML-N leaders Ahsan Iqbal and Khawaja Asif, and Nawaz’s lawyer Azam Nazir Tarar, also discussed matters pertaining to consultation with the JUI-F chief for the anti-government movement and cases against the Sharif family.

According to reports, Shehbaz asked Nawaz to reconsider his decision but the latter reaffirmed his stance.

The PML-N president also proposed to change the date of the sit-in due to current situation of the country, however, the elder Sharif said every possible step needed to be taken “to save the country”.

On Sunday, Shehbaz Sharif held a meeting with Fazlur Rehman during which he expressed the PML-N’s support for JUI-F’s plan to lockdown Islamabad. However, Shehbaz said a final decision will be taken by the PML-N in its central executive committee meeting –which will also be attended by a JUI-F delegation – on September 30.

The date for Islamabad lockdown will be announced by both parties after mutual consultations, said Ahsan Iqbal while addressing a joint press conference with JUI-F’s Akram Durrani.

It may be noted here that the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has already distanced itself from the long march, saying the PPP was against dharna politics. However, the party will lend moral support to Fazl.

“We support Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s politics and the issues he is raising. We provide moral support, political support for his initiative [but] strategically, we don’t see eye to eye,” PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had said in a presser.

Bilawal had announced that he will go around the country as part of his mass contact campaign and raise the same issues as Rehman.

Full report at:



Enhanced tax revenue, reduced fiscal deficit top priority of govt, says Firdous

Sep 17, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Firdous Ashiq Awan on Monday said that the federal government’s measures for the prosperity of the general public and national development have started yielding results.

In a series of tweets, she said the government was implementing the agenda of economic reforms under the leadership of PM Imran Khan and was taking steps to improve economic condition of the state.

Awan said enhancement of tax revenue and reduction in fiscal deficit were included in the government’s top priorities.

She said the government has collected Rs580 billion tax in the first two months of the new fiscal year as compared to Rs509 billion in the corresponding period of the last year.

She said 600,000 new tax filers have been added into the list of filers of the Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR).

She said, “credit for such success goes to Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has for the first time [in the history of Pakistan] turned tax revenue collection into a national movement.”

Awan said it was for the first time that the national exchequer was increasing and not the assets of rulers. “This is good news for the country and the entire nation.”

She termed a 73 percent reduction in current account deficit as “a major achievement,” adding that there has been a significant increase in exports and decrease in imports.

She said Rs70 billion have been received from two cellular companies under license fee, and another Rs70 billion are expected from another cellular company. As a whole, Rs200 billion will be collected from this sector.

The PTI stalwart said the government was striving to promote economic activities and facilitate the business community.

Awan said the government has reduced its expenditures. “No supplementary grant was approved for two months, and the government has saved Rs246 billion due to appreciation in the currency value in the last few weeks.

Full report at:



Pakistan identifies two Indian spies involved in Balochistan terrorism

Sep 17, 2019

QUETTA: Pakistan on Monday identified two more Indian spies actively involved in terrorist activities in Balochistan.

According to details, the spies identified as Swami Asemanand and Goband Part, sneaked into Pakistan through Iran’s port city of Chabahar. It merits a mention here that Kalbhushan Jadhav, the in-service Indian Naval commander currently in Pakistan’s captivity, was also using Irani soil to execute terrorist activities in Pakistan.

Reportedly, the Indian spies had conducted a terrorist activity in Mastung before fleeing to Afghanistan.

Full report at:



South Asia


Rohingyas in Myanmar: Six lakh face ‘serious risk of genocide’

September 17, 2019 

Rohingya Muslims remaining in Myanmar still face a “serious risk of genocide”, UN investigators said yesterday, warning the repatriation of a million already driven from the country by the army remains “impossible”.

The fact-finding mission to Myanmar, set up by the Human Rights Council, last year branded the army operations in 2017 as “genocide” and called for the prosecution of top generals, including army chief Min Aung Hlaing.

Some 740,000 Rohingya fled burning villages, bringing accounts of murder, rape and torture over the border to sprawling refugee camps in Bangladesh, where survivors of previous waves of persecution already languished.

But in a damning report, the United Nations team said the 600,000 Rohingya still inside Myanmar’s Rakhine state remain in deteriorating and “deplorable” conditions.

“Myanmar continues to harbour genocidal intent and the Rohingya remain under serious risk of genocide,” the investigators said in their final report on Myanmar, due to be presented today in Geneva.

The country is “denying wrongdoing, destroying evidence, refusing to conduct effective investigations and clearing, razing, confiscating and building on land from which it displaced Rohingya”, it said.

Rohingya were living in “inhumane” conditions, the report continued, adding more than 40,000 structures had been destroyed in the 2017 crackdown.

Meanwhile, UN human rights experts yesterday urged the Bangladesh government to carry out an “independent, impartial and effective investigation” into all the deaths that have occurred in Rohingya camps, reported UNB.

“The search for justice for the young Bangladeshi man killed on August 22 is of the utmost importance, but it’s equally necessary to ensure that the presumption of innocence is upheld and that reactionary, summary and ad hoc justice is not doled out solely to placate the legitimate concerns of the host community,” said a joint media release issued by the experts from Geneva.


The UN mission reiterated calls for the UN Security Council to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or to set up a tribunal, like for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

It said it had a confidential list of more than 100 names, including officials, suspected of being involved in genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, in addition to the six generals named publicly last year.

The report also repeated calls for foreign governments and companies to sever all business ties with the military, urging a “moratorium” on investment and development assistance in Rakhine state.

The maligned Muslim community has long been subjected to tight movement restrictions, making it difficult or impossible to access healthcare, work and education.

The Rohingya are denied citizenship in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and are accused of being illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.

The army justified the crackdown as a means of rooting out Rohingya insurgents.

Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a repatriation deal two years ago, but virtually no refugees have returned to date.

The investigators described conditions in Myanmar as “unsafe, unsustainable and impossible” for returns to take place.

Nearly 130,000 Rohingya have been trapped in camps in central Rakhine since a previous bout of violence seven years ago.

Described as “open-air prisons” by Amnesty International, people there remain reliant on humanitarian aid and are rarely granted permission to leave.

Those outside the camps fare little better, needing special authorisation -- and often hefty bribes -- to leave their village boundaries.

Their homes flattened by bulldozers and land commandeered, refugees in Bangladesh fear they will be subjected to the same, or even worse, treatment if they return to the processing camps built by Myanmar.

The UN team also accused the army of fresh “war crimes”, including forced labour and torture, against civilians in the north of Rakhine state.

The area has once again become embroiled in conflict as the military wages war on the Arakan Army (AA), rebels fighting for the rights of ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.

Myanmar military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun rejected the team’s findings, calling them “one-sided”.

“Instead of making biased accusations, they should go onto the ground to see the reality,” Zaw Min Tun told AFP.

The UN investigators have never been granted permission to enter Myanmar or access Rakhine.

The team has handed its report to an investigative panel, which aims to build up evidence to support any future prosecution.

“The scandal of international inaction has to end,” mission expert Christopher Sidoti said.

“Unless the United Nations and the international community take effective action this time, this sad history is destined to be repeated.”



Afghan Special Forces Kill More Than 20 Militants; Destroy Caches of Weapons In Ghazni

17 Sep 2019

The Afghan Special Forces killed 22 Taliban militants during an operation in South-eastern Ghazni province.

The military officials said Tuesday that the Special Forces killed the militants during the multiple raids which they conducted in Ghazni district.

The officials further added that the Special Forces also arrested 3 Taliban militants during the same raids.

Full report at:



8 ISIS militants killed, wounded in Nangarhar artillery and airstrikes

16 Sep 2019

The security forces killed or wounded at least 8 ISIS militants during the operation in eastern Nangarhar province.

The 201st Silab Corps said in a statement that the security forces conducted airstrikes and artillery strikes against ISIS militants in Achin district in the past 24 hours.

The statement further added that the security forces killed 5 ISIS militants and wounded 3 others during the operations.

Full report at:



Afghan security chief warns of "connections" between foreign extremists and the West

September 13, 2019

Kabul, Afghanistan — A U.S. airstrike killed a major ISIS recruiter in eastern Afghanistan. No other details are known, but this comes as ISIS, al Qaeda and the Taliban are all increasing their attacks in Afghanistan.

The Taliban may have doubled down on their efforts to gain leverage over the U.S. in recent talks, but Brigadier General Khoshal Sadat told CBS News they paid a heavy price.

"We inflicted a huge amount of casualties, it's been unprecedented. Within a matter of hours, hundreds of them just gone," Sadat said.

The country's top security chief issued a sober warning to Americans.

"We have seen connections, communications between ISIS fighters and some al Qaeda here and Europe and the United States," Sadat said.

Contact between ISIS and al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan and the U.S. is the very reason why U.S. forces invaded the country in the first place. The mission then and now, is to destroy Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network. Eighteen years on, that terrorist group is still in Afghanistan.

The Taliban has promised to never again harbor America's enemies, but National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib said that's a non-starter.

"In their ranks today there are all kinds of terrorists fighting from all around the world. They have Chechens, Uzbeks, Arabs, Pakistanis, you name it," he said.

Full report at:



NDS Special Forces arrest prominent Taliban leader in Kabul city

16 Sep 2019

The Special Forces of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) arrested a senior Taliban leader during an operation in Kabul city.

The National Directorate of Security said in a statement that the NDS Special Forces arrested Sardar Mohammad, the shadow district chief of Taliban for Kalakan district of Kabul.

The statement further added that the NDS Special Forces arrested Sardar Mohammad in the 8th district of Kabul city.

Furthermore, the NDS Special Forces arrested Sher Padshah, Malik and Haseebullah, the three comades of Sardar Mohammad.

The National Directorate of Security also added that Sardar Mohammad and his comrades have carried out numerous criminal and terrorist related activities including rocket attack on Bagram airfield, looting and forcefully obtaining money from people.

Full report at:



Militants cut electricity supply to Kabul, several other provinces by destroying power pylons

15 Sep 2019

The Taliban militants destroyed three power pylons in Baghlan province, cutting electricity supply to several provinces including Kabul.

Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat, the State-run power company said in a statement that the militants destroyed the power pylons in in Balak Mirzad Hasan Tal Village of Baghlan.

The statement further added that the militants detonated improvised explosive devices near the power pylons, cutting electricity supply to Kabul and several other provinces in the South and South-east.

The power company also added that the militants had earlier destroyed power pylons in Dand-e Shahabuddin of Baghlan and Buz Kandahari of Kunduz province.

Full report at:



Taliban delegation in Iran for talks on Afghanistan peace

Sep 16, 2019

Members of Taliban's Qatar-based political bureau have visited Tehran and held talks with Iranian officials on the latest developments of the Afghan peace process, including the breakdown of US-Taliban negotiations.

The delegation has reportedly conferred with a number of political and foreign ministry officials of Iran on the Afghan peace talks and the intra-Afghan negotiations.

The visit to Tehran was the second foreign trip of the Taliban delegation after the collapse of its talks with the United States. The Afghan group earlier paid a visit to Moscow, Russia.

A senior Taliban leader in Qatar had earlier said, “The purpose of these visits is to inform leaders of these countries about the peace talks and [US] President [Donald] Trump’s decision to call off the peace process at a time when both sides had resolved all outstanding issues and were about to sign a peace agreement."

US President Donald Trump canceled high-level talks with the group last week, citing a deadly bomb blast in Kabul that also left an American soldier dead.

“They thought that to kill people in order to put themselves in a little better negotiating position when they did that they killed 12 people … And you can’t do that can’t do that with me. So they’re dead as far as I’m concerned," he said.

The US and its allies invaded Afghanistan under the guise of the war on terror. Some 18 years on, Taliban has only boosted its campaign of violence across the country and Washington has sought a truce with the militants.

After nine rounds of negotiations in Doha, which began in October 2018, American and Taliban officials agreed a draft accord that would have seen some 5,000 US troops withdrawn from Afghanistan in exchange for security guarantees from the Taliban.

However, Trump cancelled the talks in a move that surprised the Taliban leaders.

Full report at:



Two Afghan Taliban shadow governors killed as air strikes step up

SEPTEMBER 15, 2019

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan security forces, backed by U.S. air strikes, killed two of the movement’s shadow provincial governors on Sunday, as fighting stepped up in the wake of the collapse of talks aimed at ending the conflict, officials said.

The operations, launched on Saturday night, were aimed at foiling attacks planned by the Taliban on Afghan forces, said a senior security official in the capital Kabul, adding that clashes have escalated following the collapse of diplomatic talks between the United States and the Taliban.

The defense ministry in a statement said at least 85 Taliban fighters were killed in a joint ground and air operation in southern Paktika province on Saturday night.

The figure was rejected by the Taliban, who said seven fighters had been killed and 11 wounded while casualties among the security forces were over 20.

“The rest of the claims are baseless,” the movement’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.

Clashes between the hardline insurgent group and Afghan forces intensified in northern Samangan province on Saturday where the Taliban’s shadow provincial governor, Mawlavi Nooruddin, was killed along with four fighters in an air strike in Dara-e-Soof Payeen district, local officials said.

The Taliban, who have validated a parallel provincial governance structure, separate from the Afghan government, denied the governor had been killed.

“He (Nooruddin) is alive,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman said in a statement.

In a separate incident, Mullah Sayed Azim, a Taliban shadow governor for Anar Dara district in western Farah was killed in a joint Afghan and foreign force raid.

“Sayed Azim was killed along with 34 other insurgents in Anar Dara,” said Mohibullah Mohib, a spokesman for Farah provincial police.

Senior security officials in Kabul said several joint operations will be launched against Taliban and Islamic State fighters to prevent attacks on Afghan forces and civilians ahead of the presidential polls on Sept. 28.

Fighting picked up in several parts of Afghanistan last week after U.S. President Donald Trump’s abrupt cancellation of talks with the Taliban aimed at withdrawing U.S. troops and opening the way to end to 18 year-long war in Afghanistan.

Last week the Taliban killed four Afghan special force members in a car bomb blast.

The Taliban, who now control the most territory they have had since 2001, are demanding the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan.

Full report at:



Southeast Asia


Narendra Modi didn’t ask me to return Zakir Naik: Malaysia PM

Sep 17, 2019

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Tuesday said that his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi did not request him to return controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, who is a fugitive in India and has taken shelter in the Asian nation.

Malaysia PM Mahathir added that Modi, whom he met in Russia during an economic forum earlier this month, made no extradition request for Naik despite an official notice from New Delhi, reports Malay Mail.

“Not many countries want him. I met with Modi. He didn’t ask me for this man,” Mahathir told the Kuala Lumpur-based BFM Malaysia radio station on Tuesday morning.

He said that the city of Putrajaya is still looking for a place to send the 53-year-old Naik.

Mahathir also reaffirmed that Naik will no longer be allowed to publicly speak in Malaysia following his racially divisive remarks which include saying that the Chinese should be sent back to China.

“Well, he’s not a national of this country. He has been given, I think by the previous government, permanent residence status. A permanent resident isn’t supposed to make any comments on this country’s systems and politics. He has breached that. He is now not allowed to speak.

“We are trying to find some place he can go to but at the moment, no one wants to accept him,” the Prime Minister added.

Naik is wanted in India for serious charges related to terrorism after his name cropped in connection with a ghastly terror attack at Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka in July 2016.

The Mumbai-born founder of the controversial ‘Peace TV’ has been living in Malaysia since 2017 after fleeing from India.

Last month, Naik was banned from delivering public talks in every state in Malaysia by the police in the interest of national security.

On August 3, he said that Hindus in Malaysia get “100 times more rights” than the Muslim minority gets in India, and yet they support the “Prime Minister of India and not the Prime Minister of Malaysia”.



Hadi eyes PAS-GPS pact to stop ‘racist’ DAP from taking Sarawak

17 September 2019


IPOH, Sept 17 — Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang believes Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) to be more trustworthy than the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition that has DAP as a component party.

With an eye on the next state election due by September 2021, the PAS president his party is open to collaborate with the ruling Sarawak coalition if that will stop the DAP from winning, The Borneo Post reported today.

“We cannot allow DAP, which is a racist and extremist party, from taking control. We don’t deny the rights of the Chinese, but don’t be extreme.

“In this matter, we trust GPS more than Pakatan Harapan, which has been given power for a year but could not adhere to their manifesto as promised,” he told reporters after attending a PAS Malaysia Day gathering at Rumah Gima, along Jepak-Tatau coastal road in Sarawak yesterday.

Abdul Hadi also said that the possibility of PAS working alongside GPS in the future would depend on the coalition, as he points out that GPS understand the needs of the locals better.

“To have a relation with GPS, we will look at cooperating to bring changes in Sarawak.

“For the local Chinese, please choose a non-extreme party and not DAP, while for local Bumiputera, don’t choose PH,” he was quoted saying.

Commenting on PAS’ Malaysia Day gathering at the longhouse, Abdul Hadi said that it aimed at getting all races in the grassroots together especially among the native population.

Full report at:



China slams as ‘irresponsible’ US accusations of Iran involvement in Saudi oil attack

Sep 16, 2019

China's Foreign Ministry has censured as “irresponsible” the US accusations that Iran was behind the recent attacks on Saudi Arabia’s key oil installations.

"Pondering who is to blame in the absence of a conclusive investigation, I think, is in itself not very responsible,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular news briefing in Beijing on Monday.

“China's position is that we oppose any moves that expand or intensify conflict," she added.

The spokeswoman also urged relevant parties to exercise restraint and “avoid taking actions that bring about an escalation in regional tensions.”

Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah fighters conducted drone strikes on Saudi Arabia’s two oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais on Saturday. The attack led to a halt in about 50 percent of the kingdom’s crude and gas production, causing a record surge in oil prices.

The United States used the opportunity to hold Iran responsible for the raids without providing any evidence.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed in a tweet that “Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia” and that “there is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen,” adding that Washington would ensure "Iran is held accountable for its aggression." Tehran, however, dismissed the allegations as sheer deceit and part of Washington's new strategy of dealing with its failures.

President Donald Trump has said that the United States is “locked and loaded” for a possible response to the attack, awaiting word from Saudi Arabia as to who they think the culprit is.

The Yemeni military has assumed full responsibility for the attack, saying there is no use in accusing Iran, Iraq or Hezbollah of having a hand in the attack.

Full report at:





Netanyahu vows to begin annexing “all West Bank settlements” after elections

Sep 16, 2019

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he plans to annex “all” settlements in the occupied West Bank if he emerges victorious in the forthcoming general elections.

“I intend to impose Israeli sovereignty on all blocs and settlements and sites of importance to the Jewish heritage,” Netanyahu told Army Radio on Monday.

He said that settlements, such as Kiryat Arba next to the Palestinian city of al-Khalil, “will be part of” the occupied territories.

The Israeli prime minister added that he has told President Donald Trump about his plan, adding that the US administration will announce its proposal for “peace” between the Israeli regime and the Palestinians, the so-called the deal of the century, “shortly after the elections.”

The report follows Netanyahu’s pledge last week to annex the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea if he wins the September 17 snap polls.

Israel occupied the West Bank in the 1967 Six-Day War, in a move never recognized by the international community.

On Tuesday evening, Netanyahu promised to annex the Jordan Valley if he wins the general elections, drawing sharp criticism from the Palestinians as well as countries in the Middle East, including Jordan, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

He also reiterated his intention to annex Israeli settlements throughout the West Bank if re-elected. Netanyahu said the move would be in coordination with Trump.

The Jordan Valley accounts for around one-third of the West Bank. Israeli right-wing politicians have long viewed the 2,400-square kilometer (926.65-square mile) strategic area as part of the territory they would never retreat from and stated that the Israeli military would maintain its control there under any peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu went on to say that he would wait for the Trump administration to announce “the deal of the century,” before the Tel Aviv regime makes any major policy changes on the status of Israeli settlements.



Israel votes on Benjamin Netanyahu’s political survival

September 17, 2019

JERUSALEM: Israel began voting in its second election in five months Tuesday that will decide whether to extend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s term as the country’s longest-serving prime minister despite corruption allegations against him.

Polls opened at 7:00 am (0400 GMT) and were due to close in most areas at 10:00 pm.

At one Jerusalem polling station, a trickle of voters arrived just after it opened.

“I think Bibi needs to go,” said Gruny Tzivin, a 37-year-old teacher, using Netanyahu’s nickname.

“After so many years it is time for a change and I think it fits with what I believe in for this country.”

The stakes could not be much higher for the 69-year-old right-wing leader who, as in April polls, faces a strong challenge from ex-military chief Benny Gantz and his centrist Blue and White alliance.

Ex-defense minister Avigdor Lieberman, Netanyahu’s former right-hand man turned rival, could play a kingmaker role with his campaign to “make Israel normal again.”

Some 6.4 million people are eligible to vote.

The first exit surveys will be released just after polls close, while official results are not expected until Wednesday.

Opinion polls have indicated another tight race, showing Netanyahu’s Likud and Blue and White winning around 32 seats each in the 120-seat parliament.

Both Netanyahu and Gantz paid a last-minute visit Monday night to Jerusalem’s Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews are allowed to pray.

Netanyahu enters the election after having suffered one of the biggest defeats of his political career following the April vote.

His Likud along with its right-wing and religious allies won a majority, leading Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to task the premier with forming a new government.

But following weeks of discussions, Netanyahu failed, leading him to opt for an unprecedented second election rather than risk having Rivlin choose someone else.

The danger for Netanyahu extends beyond remaining prime minister, a post he has held for a total of more than 13 years.

If he wins, many believe he will seek to have parliament grant him immunity from prosecution while facing the possibility of a corruption indictment in the weeks ahead.

Recognizing the stakes, Netanyahu spent the final days of the campaign seeking to appeal to right-wing nationalists — key to his re-election bid — and to boost turnout among his base.

Those efforts have included a controversial pledge to annex the Jordan Valley, which makes up a third of the occupied West Bank.

He has issued unfounded warnings that the vote could be stolen by fraud in Arab communities, leading critics to accuse him of racism.

But Netanyahu has also highlighted the country’s growing economy and his relationships with world leaders such as US President Donald Trump.

He has tried to label his main opponents “weak” and “leftist” despite their security credentials.

“This is the choice that is open to you: their left-wing government or a strong right-wing government led by me,” he said on Monday.

Gantz has campaigned by presenting himself as an honorable alternative.

He has repeatedly spoken of Netanyahu’s willingness to form a coalition with far-right parties that could help him secure immunity.

Gantz says his alliance, which includes three former armed forces chiefs of staff, wants a unity government that the vast majority of Israelis would support.

“Netanyahu continues to spread rude lies in a desperate attempt to save his government,” Gantz said Monday. “He lies, scolds, skewers, divides.”

Opinion polls show the campaign by Lieberman’s nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party has resonated with voters.

His “make Israel normal again” slogan refers to what the staunch secularist says is the undue influence of ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties on the country’s politics.

He accuses them of seeking to impose Jewish religious law on Israel’s secular population and wants legislation ending the exemption of the ultra-Orthodox from mandatory military service.

Lieberman prevented Netanyahu from forming a coalition after April polls by refusing to relent on his demand that the ultra-Orthodox be required to serve in the military like all other Israelis.

Full report at:



Scores of civilians tortured to death in Houthi prisons in Yemen

September 17, 2019

DUBAI: Scores of civilians, including women, children and the elderly have been tortured to death in Houthi prisons over four years, a human rights organization has revealed.

The Yemeni Coalition for Monitoring Human Rights Violations documented 170 deaths - including nine children - from September 2014 to December 2018 in jails run by the Iran-backed militia.

The report, which was revealed at the 42nd session of the Human Rights Council, in Geneva, Switzerland also highlighted 455 cases of torture committed by the Houthis.

Full report at:



Saudi Arabia to pay $500m for Yemen aid next week, says UN aid chief

September 17, 2019

UNITED NATIONS/RIYADH: UN aid chief Mark Lowcock said Saudi Arabia will pay $500 million to the world body next week to help fund its humanitarian response in Yemen.

Lowcock said Saudi Arabia planned to pay on Sept. 25 and that the UAE had also recently made a payment of $200 million.

1,980 mines cleared in Yemen

MASAM, the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center’s (KSRelief) project for clearing mines in Yemen, cleared 1,980 mines during the second week of September.

Experts extracted two antipersonnel mines, 332 anti-tank, 1,629 unexploded ordnance and 17 explosive devices.

Since the beginning of the project, 89,761 landmines planted by the Iranian-backed Houthis have been cleared.

The project aims to help cut the number of deaths and injuries caused to Yemenis by hidden explosive devices.

The mines were randomly planted to target civilians, causing permanent injuries and chronic disabilities to children and the elderly among other victims.

Full report at:



Russia, Iran, Turkey say Syrian constitution committee ready

By Suzan Fraser and Zeynep Bilginsoy

September 17, 2019

ANKARA, Turkey — The leaders of Turkey, Russia and Iran announced Monday that an agreement has been finally reached on the composition of a committee tasked with rewriting Syria’s constitution as part of a political solution to the country’s civil war, now in its ninth year.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told journalists at the end of the meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani in the Turkish capital Ankara that differences on one last committee member has been overcome, paving the way for the committee to start working as soon as possible.

“We portrayed a constructive and flexible attitude to determine constitutional committee members and rules of procedure. We made an effort for the political process to move forward. In short, hitches regarding the establishment of the committee were eliminated by our mutual efforts,” Erdogan said.

The leaders did not provide a timeframe for the committee — set to be made up of Syrian government and opposition figures — to begin its proceedings. The procedural rules still have to be worked out, Putin told reporters.

“The proceedings must begin rapidly,” Putin said. “Extremist groups may try and destroy this process because they do not want a final agreement since they gain money from war.”

Russia and Iran are key allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad while Turkey backs Syrian rebels seeking to oust him.

Rouhani said he hoped for elections to take place in Syria in 2020 or 2021.

The leaders also agreed to de-escalate the volatile situation in Idlib — the last remaining rebel stronghold in Syria — while combatting extremists and protecting civilians. A cease-fire that went into effect at the end of August has been holding despite some violations.

Idlib is dominated by the al-Qaida-linked group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. Syrian forces, backed by Russia, targeted the armed group in a four-month ground and air offensive but civilians have been widely affected. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians, some already displaced from other parts of the war-torn country, have moved toward Turkey’s border.

A major conflict in Idlib has raised the possibility of a mass refugee flow to Turkey, which already hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees.

“We cannot stand by and watch a new tragedy that would affect 4 million people right next to our border,” Erdogan said, adding: “Such a calamitous development would not only affect our country but also all of Europe.”

A joint statement issued at the end of the meeting said the three leaders underscored the need “to fully implement” an agreement reached between Turkey and Russia last year for a de-escalation zone in Idlib.

 The statement said the sides had agreed to take concrete steps to reduce violations.” They expressed alarm “about the risk of further deterioration of the humanitarian situation,” according to the statement.

“We all stand for Syria’s territorial integrity and insist that after the problems of security and the fight against terrorists are resolved, Syria’s territorial integrity will be fully restored. This concerns withdrawal of all foreign troops from Syria’s territory,” the statement said.

Erdogan has previously warned that Turkey could “open its gates” and allow Syrians already living in his country to flood Western countries if Turkey is left to shoulder the refugee burden alone.

Monday’s talks were the fifth trilateral meeting among countries that stand on opposing sides of the conflict.

Erdogan repeated Turkish demands from the United States for a so-called “safe zone” in northeastern Syria along the Turkish border east of the Euphrates River where joint patrols have begun but threatened Turkey would go it alone if its establishment was delayed.

Turkey wants a buffer zone on its border that is clear of U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces that Ankara considers terrorists, alleging they have ties to a Kurdish insurgency within Turkey.

While acknowledging Turkey’s security needs, both Rouhani and Putin took aim at U.S. military involvement in Syria, saying its presence there was illegal and undermined Syria’s territorial integrity.

“We all stand for Syria’s territorial integrity and insist that after the problems of security and the fight against terrorists are resolved, Syria’s territorial integrity will be fully restored. This concerns withdrawal of all foreign troops from Syria’s territory,” Putin said.

Full report at:



Yemeni Security Officials Say Houthis Killed 13 Civilians

14 September, 2019

Yemeni security officials said on Saturday that shelling by Houthi militias has killed at least 13 civilians in the provinces of Hodeida and Taiz.

The victims included women and children, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

The officials said the attacks killed at least 11 people, including six from one family, south of the Red Sea city of Hodeida in the past 24 hours.

They also said another two children were killed by mortar fire late Friday in the Salih district in the southwestern province of Taiz.

The officials were not authorized to brief the media and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Full report at:



Iran Categorically Dismisses Involvement in Yemen's Attacks on Saudi Oil Facilities

Sep 16, 2019

"Yemen has been entangled in war for 5 years and Iran has naturally clearly announced that it supports the Yemeni people and their rights, but blaming Iran for such measures is in line with (the American officials' policy of) maximum lie," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi told reporters in a press conference in Tehran on Monday, commenting on the US officials' claims that the attack on the Saudi oil facilities had been carried out with Iran's assistance.

"Such remarks are essentially baseless and untrue," he added.

His remarks came after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed the Saturday drone attacks by the Yemeni army against Saudi Arabia's oil installations on Iran claiming on Twitter that there was “no evidence the attacks came from Yemen”.

After his comments, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blasted Pompeo for allegations against Tehran, saying that Washington which had failed in pressures against Iran was now resorting to lies and deceits.

"Having failed at max pressure, Pompeo's turning to max deceit," Zarif wrote on his twitter page on Sunday.

"The US and its clients are stuck in Yemen because of illusion that weapon superiority will lead to military victory," Zarif added.

He noted that blaming Iran won't end disaster, saying that the US and the Saudi-led coalition should accept Iran's "April 15 proposal to end war and begin talks" to resolve the crisis in Yemen politically.

Mousavi had also on Sunday blasted Pompeo for his big lies against Tehran, and categorically rejected his allegations about Iran's involvement in Yemeni attacks on Saudi Arabia.

Mousavi said that the Yemen war has been kept alive for five years by the Saudi-led coalition's aggressions against the poor Arab country and the Yemenis have only displayed resistance.

"Such allegations and blind and fruitless remarks are meaningless and not understood in diplomatic framework," he added.

Mousavi noted that such hostile remarks by the US officials sound like the plots of the intelligence agencies and secret services to distort the face of a country in a bid to lay the groundwork for future moves.

"The Americans have opted for a policy named maximum pressure (against Iran), but it has apparently tilted towards maximum lies for their failures," he said.

He further mentioned stop of the Saudi-led coalition's attacks and aggression, cut off of the western states' political and arms assistance to the aggressors and launch of efforts to find a political solution as the only way to establish calm and tranquility in the region and end the fruitless crisis in Yemen.

Yemen’s Ansarullah movement announced on Saturday that its drones had successfully attacked two oil plants in the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry, stressing that the attacks were a firm response to Riyadh’s relentless bombardment of Yemen.

The recent operation came just weeks after Yemeni forces conducted attacks on an oil field affiliated to Saudi Aramco in the East of the kingdom in retaliation for Riyadh’s war on their country. Oil facilities at Shaybah, which has the largest strategic oil reserve in Saudi Arabia near the UAE border and operated by state-oil company Saudi Aramco, were targeted by 10 Yemeni drones.

In mid-May, Yemeni soldiers, backed by allied fighters from Popular Committees, launched a major operation against the strategic oil facility in Saudi Arabia in retaliation for the Riyadh regime’s devastating military aggression and siege of the impoverished country. Following the attack, Saudi Arabia stopped pumping crude oil on the major pipeline across the country. The retaliatory attack also led to the rise of oil prices and fall of stock markets in Persian Gulf Arab countries.

The attack bears extra significance at this stage of the war because the Yemeni forces could fly armed drones so far and carry out precision strikes and then fly them back while evading all Saudi defenses on the way. The long-range drones open unlimited possibilities for Yemeni resistance forces, which have already surpassed all expectations by surviving the massive Saudi onslaught and mounted a potent response with an arsenal of ballistic missiles.

Yemen's Ansarullah movement has also warned that its recent attack on a major Saudi oil facility was the start of operations against 300 vital targets in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The Ansarullah said its drone attack on pumping stations of the Saudi state oil company Aramco was the start of operations against 300 vital targets. The group added that other planned targets include military headquarters and facilities in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the aim of bringing the government of former Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crushing the Ansarullah movement.

Despite Riyadh's claims that it is bombing the positions of the Ansarullah fighters, Saudi bombers are flattening residential areas and civilian infrastructures. Weddings, funerals, schools and hospitals, as well as water and electricity plants, have been targeted, killing and wounding hundreds of thousands.

France, the United States, the United Kingdom and some other Western countries have faced criticisms over arms sales to the Saudi Arabia and the UAE, whose aggression against Yemen has affected 28 million people and caused what the United Nations calls “one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world". According to the world body, Yemen is suffering from the most severe famine in more than 100 years.

Full report at:



Yemen: New Attack on Saudi Facilities Imminent

Sep 16, 2019

Speaking to Arabic-language al-Masireh news channel, Brigadier General Saree said today the Yemeni forces used ordinary and jet engines in their drones which hit Saudi oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais during Operation Equation Deterrence II.

He then warned that another attack may be soon launched on Saudi facilities, and urged foreign companies and operators working at energy, power and other facilities to immediately leave the sites to avoid being hurt in the attacks.

The Yemeni commander then addressed Saudi officials and underlined that the Yemeni Army is capable of hitting any target in Saudi Arabia at any time it wishes.

“Riyadh must reconsider its calculations and stop its attacks and blockade against Yemen,” he affirmed.

Yemen’s Ansarullah movement announced on Saturday that its drones had successfully attacked two oil plants in the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry, stressing that the attacks were a firm response to Riyadh’s relentless bombardment of Yemen.

Abqaiq, 60 km (37 miles) Southwest of Dhahran in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, contains the world’s largest oil processing plant. Khurais, 190 km further Southwest, contains the country’s second largest oilfield.

Saudi stocks fell sharply on Sunday, after attacks on two plants at the heart of the kingdom’s oil industry on Saturday knocked out more than half of the crude output.

It came just weeks after Yemeni forces conducted attacks on an oil field affiliated to Saudi Aramco in the East of the kingdom in retaliation for Riyadh’s war on their country. Oil facilities at Shaybah, which has the largest strategic oil reserve in Saudi Arabia near the UAE border and operated by state-oil company Saudi Aramco, were targeted by 10 Yemeni drones.

In mid-May, Yemeni soldiers, backed by allied fighters from Popular Committees, launched a major operation against the strategic oil facility in Saudi Arabia in retaliation for the Riyadh regime’s devastating military aggression and siege of the impoverished country. Following the attack, Saudi Arabia stopped pumping crude oil on the major pipeline across the country. The retaliatory attack also led to the rise of oil prices and fall of stock markets in Persian Gulf Arab countries.

The attack bears extra significance at this stage of the war because the Yemeni forces could fly armed drones so far and carry out precision strikes and then fly them back while evading all Saudi defenses on the way. The long-range drones open unlimited possibilities for Yemeni resistance forces, which have already surpassed all expectations by surviving the massive Saudi onslaught and mounted a potent response with an arsenal of ballistic missiles.

Yemen's Ansarullah movement has also warned that its recent attack on a major Saudi oil facility was the start of operations against 300 vital targets in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The Ansarullah said its drone attack on pumping stations of the Saudi state oil company Aramco was the start of operations against 300 vital targets. The group added that other planned targets include military headquarters and facilities in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the aim of bringing the government of former Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crushing the Ansarullah movement.

Despite Riyadh's claims that it is bombing the positions of the Ansarullah fighters, Saudi bombers are flattening residential areas and civilian infrastructures. Weddings, funerals, schools and hospitals, as well as water and electricity plants, have been targeted, killing and wounding hundreds of thousands.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) announced in late August that the total number of reported fatalities in Yemen has passed the 91,000 mark over the past four and a half years.

France, the United States, the United Kingdom and some other Western countries have faced criticisms over arms sales to the Saudi Arabia and the UAE, whose aggression against Yemen has affected 28 million people and caused what the United Nations calls “one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world". According to the world body, Yemen is suffering from the most severe famine in more than 100 years.

Full report at:



Rouhani says Saudi attacks were self-defense by Yemen militia

16 September 2019

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Monday that weekend attacks on Saudi oil facilities were an act of self-defense by Yemeni militia.

“Yemen is the target of daily bombings ... The people of Yemen have been forced to respond, they are only defending themselves,” Rouhani told a news conference in Ankara, alongside the leaders of Russia and Turkey.



Yemeni missile hits gathering of mercenaries in Saudi Arabia’s Asir province

Sep 16, 2019

Yemeni forces have targeted gathering of mercenaries fighting for the Riyadh regime in Saudi Arabia’s southwestern province of Asir with a domestically-manufactured missile.

Citing an unnamed military source, Yemen’s Arabic-language al-Masirah news website reported that Yemeni missile defense units successfully hit one gathering of Saudi mercenaries near the Alab crossing with a Zelzal-1 (Earthquake-1) missile on Monday.

The strike followed another attack by Yemeni troops on the same area on Sunday, al-Masirah said, adding that Yemeni missile defense units have dealt blows to the mercenaries and their positions near the crossing with at least seven Zelzal-1 missiles over the past two days.

In a separate report on Monday, al-Masirah, citing an unnamed military source, said Yemeni forces targeted another gathering of the same sort in Mas camp in Yemen's central province of Ma'rib with a volley of rockets.

It added that Yemeni snipers also managed to shoot dead at least nine mercenaries in Yemen’s northwestern province of Hajjah earlier in the day.

On Saturday, Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah fighters conducted drone strikes on Saudi Arabia’s two oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais, reducing output of mainly light crude grades by 5.7 million barrels. The attacks led to a halt in about 50 percent of the Arab kingdom’s crude and gas production, causing a record surge in oil prices.

Earlier on Monday, the spokesman for the Yemeni armed forces, General Yahya Sare'a, said in a statement that the Yemeni army and its allied forces “assure the Saudi regime that our long hand can reach any place we want at any time we choose.”

Yemeni forces regularly target positions inside Saudi Arabia in retaliation for the Saudi war, which began in March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall the country's Riyadh-allied former regime and crush the popular Houthi Ansarullah movement.

Full report at:



Saudi officials detain another Hamas leader in crackdown on Palestinian movement

Sep 16, 2019

Saudi authorities have reportedly arrested another senior Hamas leader, as the conservative kingdom steps up its crackdown and repressive measures against the Palestinian resistance movement as well as those seeking to collect donations for people living in the impoverished Gaza Strip.

Palestinian political and family sources told Arabic-language al-Khaleej Online news website on Sunday that Saudi officials have detained Saudi Arabian citizen Abu Ubaydah Khayri Hafiz al-Agha – the son of one of the most prominent founders of Hamas, identified as Khayri al-Agha, who died of natural causes in Saudi Arabia in 2014.

The source added that Saudi authorities had put Agha in Dhahban Central Prison, which is a maximum security prison facility located near the Red Sea port city of Jeddah.

The director general of al-Zaytouna Center for Studies and Consultations, Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh, told Khaleej Online that Agha is being kept behind bars for more than a year and a half, without any specific information about the reason for his detention.

On Saturday, Hamas called on Saudi authorities to immediately release its high-ranking official Muhammad al-Khudari, who was detained in the country five months ago without any clear charges.

Khudari, who has been living in Saudi Arabia for over 30 years, represented Hamas between mid-1990s and 2003 in Saudi Arabia. He has held other important positions in the Palestinian resistance movement as well.

Back on June 3, Lebanese Arabic-language daily newspaper al-Akhbar, citing informed sources who requested anonymity, reported that Saudi officials had been holding dozens of Saudi nationals and Palestinian expatriates in detention for months over affiliation to Hamas.

The report added that the most prominent figure among those arrested was Dr. Khudari.

Al-Ahbar went on to say that the campaign of arrests coincided with the closure and tight control of bank accounts, and a ban on sending any money from Saudi Arabia to the Gaza Strip.

Over the past two years, Saudi authorities have deported more than 100 Palestinians from the kingdom, mostly on charges of supporting Hamas financially, politically or through social networking sites.

The Riyadh regime has imposed strict control over Palestinian funds in Saudi Arabia since the end of 2017.

All remittances of Palestinian expatriates are being tightly controlled, under the pretext that these funds could be diverted indirectly and through other countries to Hamas.

Full report at:



Iran’s supreme leader rules out negotiations with US

September 17, 2019

TEHRAN: Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday ruled out negotiations with the US, as tensions mount between the arch-foes after Washington blamed Tehran for attacks on Saudi oil installations.

“The policy of ‘maximum pressure’ against the Iranian nation is worthless and all Islamic Republic of Iran officials unanimously believe there will be no negotiations with the US at any level,” he said, quoted on his official website.





Somalia: Al-Shabab Attacks Kill 17

By Harun Maruf

September 15, 2019

The al-Shabab militant group launched a series of attacks since Saturday that led to the death of at least 17 people in Somalia.

Lower Shabelle region officials told VOA Somali that the militants attacked the town of Qoryoley late Saturday using rocket propelled grenades and heavy machine guns, killing nine people.

The town’s Mayor Sayid Ali Ibrajim told VOA that an RPG fired by the militants caused most of the casualties.

Somali government forces with support from African Union forces, who are based outside the town, repelled the attack, according to officials.

Some of the residents in Qoryoley alleged that heavy weapons fired by AU troops caused some of the civilians casualties.

The Governor of the region Ibrahim Adan Najah told VOA Somali that they are investigating the allegations. AMISOM forces did not immediately respond to the allegations.

Also in Lower Shabelle region on Saturday, two civilians were killed after al-Shabab militants fired mortars on the ancient port town of Marka during a visit by the Prime Minister of Somalia Hassan Ai Khaire.

Al-Shabab claimed they were targeting the prime minister but the Governor Najah told VOA Somali that the incident took place outside the town. Residents and security sources said one of the mortars landed in a residential area killing two women. The prime minister was unharmed and has returned to Mogadishu safely.

Governor Najah himself was attacked on Sunday after his convoy was targeted with a remote-controlled explosion while travelling in an agricultural area near the town of Shalanbod, about 20 kilometers south of Qoryoley town. According to security sources, two bodyguards were killed and four others were injured including two junior regional officials.

In the neighboring Middle Shabelle region, al-Shabab carried out a roadside explosion that killed four regional officials and injured six others on Saturday. Among the dead was Abdullahi Shitawe, deputy governor for finances, Sabrie Osman a former regional deputy minister for business, and businessman Hassan Baldos. A fourth person said to be a bodyguard was also killed. They were travelling on a road in the north of the agricultural town of Bal’ad, about 40 kilometers north of Mogadishu.



Tunisia Kills ‘Terrorist’ Who Pledged Allegiance to Al-Qaeda

16 September, 2019

Tunisian security services specialized in the fight against terrorism have killed a militant belonging to the terrorist “Uqba ibn Nafi battalion,” which pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Security sources said that the defendant, 30, resided in Monastir (central eastern Tunisia). He was accused of glorifying terrorism, adopting the takfiri ideology, and inciting people to join terrorist organizations.

Preliminary security investigations revealed that he had downloaded data and information about the Uqba ibn Nafi battalion on his own account and was communicating with extremist elements who have joined terrorist organizations abroad.

The defendant asserted that he has adopted the extremist ideology within the branch of the Africa Foundation, an affiliate of the Uqba ibn Nafi battalion in Monastir.

It is noteworthy that the battalion has been established in Tunisia since 2012, and is affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Most of its elements have carried out operations within Ansar al-Sharia organization, which has been classified as a terrorist organization by the Tunisian authorities and the USA.

This battalion is accused of carrying out a series of terrorist attacks, including the 2013 attack on Tunisian military personnel that left 15 soldiers dead, and the 2015 terrorist attack on the Bardo National Museum west of Tunis, that left 21 tourists dead along with a Tunisian security element.

Its members have also planted mines throughout the route in which security forces and the army pass in order to hinder their pursuit of militants, which had left a large number of casualties.

In Tunis, several sleeper cells remain active and have not been uncovered yet, especially that their elements are not listed in the security services’ records.

Tunisian experts estimate the number of these sleeper terrorist cells to be between 300 to 400 and deployed in a number of popular neighborhoods in the outskirts of Tunisia’s largest cities.

Full report at:



Libya: LNA Carries Out Air Strikes on GNA Position in Sirte

16 September, 2019

The Libyan National Army on Monday mounted air strikes on positions in the central city of Sirte held by the Government of National Accord, an official and residents said.

Khalifa Haftar's LNA has been trying since April to take Tripoli from militias loyal to the GNA headed by Fayez al-Sarraj.

There had been LNA-claimed strikes in recent days on the outskirts of Sirte, some 450km east of Tripoli, but not the city center itself, residents told Reuters.

A strike hit a building near a feedstock plant, but an LNA official said the force had targeted a military position.

Full report at:



Islamic State fills the void in Nigeria as soldiers retreat to 'super camps'

Paul Carsten

SEPTEMBER 16, 2019

ABUJA/MAIDUGURI, Reuters (Reuters) - When Islamic State gunmen stormed the northeast Nigerian town of Magumeri on the night of August 21, they had free rein.

Nigerian soldiers had left the town earlier that month under a new strategy of withdrawing to “super camps” that can be more easily defended against insurgents the army has been struggling to contain for a decade.

Unchallenged, the Islamist militants torched a clinic in Magumeri, ransacked government buildings and looted shops before returning to another town they had raided that night called Gubio, residents said.

The new military strategy announced by President Muhammadu Buhari in July to concentrate soldiers in big bases is designed to give troops a secure platform from which they can respond quickly to threats in the region and raid militant camps.

People familiar with the military’s thinking and security officials, however, say the new tactic for fighting Islamic State’s West Africa branch and Boko Haram is mainly an attempt to stem casualties.

The military did not respond to requests for more details about its strategy or the impact it will have on the region.

“We strongly believe the days of BH (Boko Haram) moving freely and passing in between static defensive locations are over,” Major General Olusegun Adeniyi, who commands the anti-insurgency operation, told reporters last month.

Boko Haram launched an insurgency in 2009 to overthrow the government and establish an Islamic caliphate. The group, whose unofficial name means “Western education is forbidden”, held territory the size of Belgium in 2014 but a multinational offensive recaptured much of it the following year.

The group split in 2016 and the faction that has been the greater threat ever since won the recognition of Islamic State.

The decade of war has killed more than 30,000 civilians and spawned what the United Nations calls one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, which foreign nations are trying to contain with billions of dollars of aid.

But the crisis shows no sign of abating.


The army’s withdrawal into large bases has coincided with a string of insurgent raids on newly unprotected towns and has left the militants free to set up checkpoints on roads as they roam more freely across the countryside, according to three briefing notes from an international aid and development organization, two security officials and residents.

That has left thousands of civilians without access to aid, according to the briefing notes seen by Reuters.

Soldiers are no longer protecting some key roads, cutting off access for humanitarians workers as more of the region falls under the sway of the insurgents, aid and security sources said.

“It’s a mess, militarily, and a disaster for humanitarian actors,” one foreign security official said.

The population of towns being abandoned by the military is a combined 223,000 people, according to one of the aid agency briefing notes.

The military departures so far have cut off more than 100,000 people from aid and if more soldiers go, as many as 121,000 other civilians could flee their towns, one aid agency briefing note said.

“The impact will be one of continued skirmishes - soldiers under constant strain to deal with the insurgency where Islamic State and Boko Haram dictate the momentum,” said Jasmine Opperman, a terrorism expert based in South Africa.

It’s not yet clear how many “super camps” the army plans to set up, where they will be nor how many soldiers each will hold.


The new strategy follows a series of setbacks for the army which has failed to keep a tight grip on territory it has clawed back since 2015. Last year, insurgents repeatedly overran smaller bases and sent soldiers and tens of thousands of people fleeing from larger towns.

Security experts put the military death toll since June 2018 at anywhere from hundreds of soldiers to in excess of 1,000.

The military has not released casualty figures but denies that many soldiers have been killed.

One security adviser at an international aid organization said a major goal of the new large bases was damage control, rather than going on the offensive.

“It is to consolidate all of the strength in one place to prevent them being overrun every week,” the adviser said.

He said the areas vacated were being filled by insurgents and that would make it harder for the military to re-enter, leaving civilians vulnerable.

Those concerns were echoed by the governor of Borno - the birthplace of Boko Haram and the state worst hit by the insurgency. Governor Babagana Umara Zulum told reporters last month that recent attacks were the result of a “serious vacuum” following the withdrawal of soldiers.

Islamic State is also using its newfound freedom to woo locals. Drained by the decade-long conflict, some are open to moving into areas controlled by the insurgents where life can be more stable, residents said.

Before hitting Magumeri last month, the militants had passed through the town of Gubio, some 40 km (25 miles) to the north.

There, an Islamic State fighter led evening prayers followed by a sermon, according to six residents.

Full report at:



Cameroon soldiers killed in ‘Boko Haram’ attack near Fotokol

SEPTEMBER 15, 2019

Six Cameroonian soldiers were killed in the Far North Region near the border with Nigeria in an attack blamed on “Boko Haram,” authorities said on Sunday.

Nine other soldiers were injured in the attack on a military post at Soueram near Fotokol in the Lake Chad area by armed men, an army officer and two high-ranking officials in the local administration told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Fotokol is a major crossing point to Gamboru on the Nigeria side of the border.

CamerounWeb on Sunday reported the attack occurred overnight on Friday, September 13, and the casualty toll as five soldiers killed and eight injured.

One of the officials told AFP that five soldiers died during the attack and a sixth died from his injuries on Sunday. The number was confirmed by the other official, as well as an army officer, who also said the killers were members of Boko Haram.

On June 10, 17 Cameroon soldiers were killed in an attack in the same region.

It is unclear which faction of Boko Haram carried out the Soueram attack.

The jihadist group known as Boko Haram began its bloody insurgency in northeastern Nigeria in 2009, but it has since spread into neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting a regional military response.

Boko Haram split into two factions in mid-2016. One, led by long-time leader Abubakar Shekau, is notorious for suicide bombings and indiscriminate killings of civilians. Shekau pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi in March 2015, but ISIS central only gives formal backing to the other faction, which it calls Islamic State West Africa Province.

ISWAP is the dominant insurgent group in the Lake Chad area, particularly in Nigeria, Chad and Niger. The group has carried out attacks in Cameroon, but the Shekau faction is also active in the region on both sides of the border, although its primary area of operations is further south.

In May and June, ISIS claimed ISWAP attacks in the Fotokol area.

The ISWAP faction, which largely focuses on attacking military and government targets, was led by Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawi, but in March, audio recordings revealed that ISIS appointed Abu Abdullah Idris bin Umar, also known as Ibn Umar al-Barnawi and Ba Idrisa, as leader. Despite releasing several videos featuring ISWAP since, ISIS has not yet made a public statement confirming the change.

On September 10, the United States added Ba Idrisa to its Specially Designated Global Terrorist list. The U.S. Treasury Department sanctions listing named him as Abu Abdullah Idris bin Umar Al-Barnawi and “Ba Idrisa” and said that he was born in Maiduguri between 1989 and 1994. The listing did not specify which faction he belongs to.

The U.S. assesses that Boko Haram and ISWAP have been responsible for more than 35,000 deaths since 2011. More than two million people have been displaced, sparking a dire humanitarian crisis in the region.

Full report at:



Al-Shabaab Militants Kill Eight Government Officials in Somalia

By Mohamed Sheikh Nor

September 14, 2019

At least eight government officials were killed in Somalia in attacks claimed by al-Shabaab militants.

The deputy governor of Somalia’s Middle Shabelle region was among five people killed when a roadside bomb hit the vehicle they were traveling in, Mohamed Abdi Ware, president of Hirshabelle state, said Saturday. Ware’s adviser was also killed in the same attack.




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