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Islamic World News ( 21 Aug 2023, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Delhi Police Stops Hindu Sena ‘Mahapanchayat’ Midway: Vishnu Gupta of The Hindu Sena Alleged That Nuh and Mewat Have Turned Into “Forts of Jihadists and Terrorists”

New Age Islam News Bureau

21 August 2023

 

Yati Narsinghanand, the controversial head priest of Ghaziabad’s Dasna Devi temple. (PTI file)

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India

·         At one with US, India readies poll message for Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina

·         'Censorship' cry as Centre blocks website and social media handles of The Kashmir Walla

·         17 Indians, hailing from Punjab and Haryana, evacuated from Libya

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Pakistan

·         Punjab Cabinet Joins Prayers at Ransacked Church in Jaranwala

·         Interfaith committee formed to address Jaranwala incident

·         President denies signing bills amending Official Secrets Act, Army Act: Alvi’s belated tweet plunges country into constitutional controversy

·         ECP urged to ensure redrawn constituencies have equal population

·         What are the amendments made to Army Act and Official Secrets Act?

·         Saudi Hajj Minister arrives in Pakistan on four-day visit

·         UAE commends Pakistan's actions after Jaranwala tragedy

·         PM vows uplift of far-flung areas of Balochistan

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South Asia

·         From Independence to Challenges: Afghanistan’s Complex Journey

·         Iran admits Afghanistan’s acute drought

·         No Other Entity Has Right to Interfere in Media Work:Dy. Minister of Information and Culture

·         'No Fundamental Work' Done for Athletes Over Past 2 Decades: Muttaqi

·         38 Aid Workers Killed in Two Years in Afghanistan: UN

·         Security forces kill four kidnappers in Kabul

·         Afghanistan exports fresh grapes to Russia through Hairatan port

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Mideast

·         Egypt’s President Pardons Prominent Activist Ahmed Douma

·         Houthis shell villages in Yemen’s Dhale, Lahj, Marib, Taiz provinces

·         Tel Aviv to return to Stone Age by threatening Beirut

·         Israeli woman killed, man seriously wounded in West Bank shooting

·         Global aid official appeals for funds to help Sudanese trapped in war between generals

·         Illegal logging turns Syria’s forests into ‘barren land’

·         Iran to send first Latin American trade attaché to Sao Paulo

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Africa

·         Young Zimbabwean voters dream of 'change'

·         Mauritanian migrants explore new routes to the United States

·         ECOWAS envoys in Niger to find peaceful solution to crisis

·         Thousands of pro-coup supporters throng Niger’s capital; slam France, ECOWAS

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Europe

·         The UK Charity Commission Probing Islamic Centre Linked to Iran Which Has Hosted Hardline Islamic Clerics

·         Biden Rival Labels F-16s For Ukraine ‘A Disaster for Humanity’

·         Ukraine issues new warning to Israel

·         EU states to give F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine

·         UK F35s will take off from a road covered with aluminium mats

·         Ukrainian troops liberated 3 square kilometres near Bakhmut over past week

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Arab World

·         How Saudi Arabia’s SAMI is driving the localization of the Kingdom’s defence industry

·         Saudi Arabia launches $200m fund for early investment in high-tech companies

·         Saudi Heritage Commission organizes activities at Buraidah Date Festival

·         KSrelief’s Masam project dismantles 867 mines in Yemen

·         Saudi education minister meets Canadian, Iraqi ambassadors

·         Saudi-Jordanian Joint Committee holds meeting in Riyadh

·         Crown Prince launches new strategy of KAUST, focusing on economically productive innovations

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Southeast Asia

·         Two Assemblymen Want Kelantan MB to Apologise for Alleging They Have Rejected ‘Islamic Struggle’

·         Deputy IGP: 15 police personnel suspended from duty after arrest at entertainment centre in Seremban

·         Seven new faces among 10 Kedah exco members sworn in on Aug 21

·         Datuk K for the defence: Siti's husband to testify on Zahid's behalf in YAB trial

·         Guan Eng ordered to pay RM250,000 in damages to Azeez for defamation

·         Amirudin finally sworn in as S’gor MB after days of uncertainty

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North America

·         Artificial Intelligence Generated Art Can’t Be Copyrighted – US Judge

·         Hundreds Of Flights Cancelled as Storm Hilary Hurtles Towards US Southwest

·         US doesn’t have enough ballistic missiles for Ukraine – FT

·         US demands Ukraine be ‘less risk-averse’ – FT

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

 

URL:   https://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/hindu-sena-mahapanchayat-jihadists-and-terrorists/d/130492

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Delhi Police Stops Hindu Sena ‘Mahapanchayat’ Midway: Vishnu Gupta of The Hindu Sena Alleged That Nuh and Mewat Have Turned Into “Forts of Jihadists and Terrorists”

 

Yati Narsinghanand, the controversial head priest of Ghaziabad’s Dasna Devi temple. (PTI file)

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By Aniruddha Dhar

Aug 21, 2023

A ‘mahapanchayat’ organised by Hindu Sena and a few other fringe groups, at News Delhi's Jantar Mantar on Sunday over the recent communal violence in Haryana's Nuh was stopped by police midway after some speakers, including Yati Narsinghanand, allegedly delivered “inflammatory speeches”.

According to a police officer, the cops had asked organisers not to say anything about any particular religion, yet they made inflammatory speeches. After which, they were directed to stop the event, news agency PTI reported.

Yati Narsinghanand, the controversial head priest of Ghaziabad’s Dasna Devi temple, were among the speakers for which the police gave “verbal permission”, according to the organisers. The police, however, denied giving permission to hold the event.

Addressing the ‘Mahapanchayat', also organised by the All India Sanatan Foundation and other outfits, Yati Narsinghanand said, “If the population of Hindus decreases and that of Muslims grows like this, then the history of thousand years will repeat itself. Then what happened to Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh will be repeated here.”

While he was speaking, the police officer objected to his speech.

Then Vishnu Gupta of the Hindu Sena took the stage. He alleged that Nuh and Mewat have turned into “forts of jihadists and terrorists” and demanded that the Indian Army and CRPF camps be set up there.

“The country was divided in 1947 on the basis of religion. The partition will not be complete as long as a single Muslim is here,” Gupta said.

While he was speaking, the police officer intervened again and asked the participants to leave the site.

“You, the organisers, were asked not to say anything about any particular religion. Despite this you are not following it so this 'mahapanchayat' ends here,” the officer said.

The event came just nine days after the Supreme Court on August 11 said hate speeches against any religious community are unacceptable. “Some sensitisation has to be done among the police force. On that, we would like the assistance of Centre and states. There are problem areas. After all, it is in the interest of everybody to have peace,” the Supreme Court said in its observation over alleged hate speeches and Muslim boycott calls given in the wake of communal clashes in Nuh.

Who is Yati Narsinghanand?

Narsinghanand is, however, not new to such controversies. He has been booked in the past for making inflammatory remarks.

Narsinghanand is currently on bail in connection with the Haridwar hate speech case.

Earlier, the Dasna temple priest was granted bail in the hate speech case, but he remained behind bars for other cases slapped against him, including one under section 509 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for making objectionable comments against women and abusing journalists.

In December 2021, Narasinghanand had participated in a three-day religious conclave in Haridwar namely ‘Dharma Sansad’ wherein he could be heard calling for genocide and usage of arms against Muslims.

Later in an interview last year, the Hindu priest had said that those who believe in the Constitution, the Supreme Court, the politicians, and the Army will “die a dog's death”.

In July this year, the Supreme Court issued a notice to Narsinghanand on a contempt petition filed against him for his alleged derogatory remarks against the judiciary last year.

Last year, the Delhi Police registered a first information report (FIR) against the Dasna Devi temple head priest for allegedly making derogatory comments against Mahatma Gandhi, after a video of the controversial right-wing leader hurling abuses at the father of the nation went viral on social media.

Was hate speech delivered?

Asked if hate speech was delivered at the Delhi mahapanchayat on Sunday, a senior police officer said, “This matter is being examined. Action as per law will be taken.”

Gupta of the Hindu Sena denied any "inflammatory speech" being delivered at the meeting. "Hindus were killed in Nuh. We are the victims, can't we protest against what happened to us in Nuh," Gupta said.

Nuh violence

Six people, including two home guards and a cleric, died in the communal clashes that erupted in Nuh in Haryana on July 31 when a Vishva Hindu Parishad procession was attacked by mobs and later spread to Gurugram and other areas.

(With inputs from agencies)

Source: hindustantimes.com

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https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/delhi-police-stops-hindu-sena-mahapanchayat-midway-who-is-yati-narsinghanand-101692575990730.html

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JKLF Distances Itself from Incarcerated Leader Yasin Malik’s WifeMushaal Malik’s Selection as PM’s Aide

 

Kashmir freedom movement leader Yasin Malik and his wife Mushaal Mullick. PHOTO: File

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August 21, 2023

Tariq Naqash

MUZAFFARABAD: Pro-independence Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front has declared that the organisation or its incarcerated leader Yasin Malik has nothing to do with the appointment of Mushaal Hussein Malik as special assistant to the caretaker prime minister (SAPM).

Ms Malik, who married the JKLF chief in 2009 during his Pakistan visit, became one of the five SAPMs with ministerial status in the cabinet of caretaker PM Anwarul Haq Kakar.

She was assigned the portfolio of human rights and women’s empowerment.

The appointment received extensive coverage in Indian media, prompting varied reactions on social media, including concerns for the safety of her spouse languishing in an Indian jail.

In a statement, Raja Haq Nawaz, the acting chairman of Rawalpindi-based JKLF, said, “The Pakistani citizen, Mushaal Hussein Mullick, is not a member of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front that any statement or actions of hers can be ascribed to the organisation… Neither has she ever made any such claim.”

“As the spouse of our chairman, she is respectable to us. Where the entire Kashmiri nation together with the JKLF is upset and worried about India’s exploits against Yasin Malik, his family is also distressed,” he added. Mr Nawaz highlighted that JKLF supporters globally are actively advocating for Mr Malik through appropriate political and diplomatic channels.

He praised Mr Malik’s peaceful, non-religious, non-extremist and non-violent struggle for freedom of Indian-held Kashmir, considering him the national spokesperson for the true freedom movement.

Source: dawn.com

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https://www.dawn.com/news/1771280/jklf-distances-itself-from-mushaal-maliks-selection-as-pms-aide

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Taliban Bringing Water To Afghanistan’s Parched Plains Via Massive Canal

 

A farmer prays on a dried-out patch of land in Sholgara, an area affected by drought near the city of Mazar-e Sharif in northern Afghanistan, in April. (Lorenzo Tugnoli for The Washington Post)

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By Gerry Shih

August 20, 2023

AQCHA, Afghanistan — The morning sun was still rising over the shriveled wheat fields, and the villagers were already worrying about another day without water.

Rainwater stored in the village well would run out in 30 days, one farmer said nervously. The groundwater pumps gave nothing, complained another. The canals, brimming decades ago with melted snow from the Hindu Kush, now dry up by spring, said a third.

Village chief Mohammed Ishfaq threw his hands up. If everyone could hold out for two more years, he said, then the excavators and engineers — hundreds of them already working over the horizon — would arrive. “If we only had that water,” Ishfaq said, “everything will be solved.”

Two years after its takeover of Afghanistan, the Taliban is overseeing its first major infrastructure project, the 115-mile Qosh Tepa canal, designed to divert 20 percent of the water from the Amu Darya river across the parched plains of northern Afghanistan.

The canal promises to be a game changer for villages like Ishfaq’s in Jowzjan province. Like elsewhere in the country, residents here are suffering from a confluence of worsening food shortages, four decades of war, three consecutive seasons of severe drought and a changing climate that has wreaked havoc on rainfall patterns. Average temperatures across Afghanistan have risen by 1.8 degrees Celsius in the past 70 years (3.2 degrees Fahrenheit), or twice the global average.

The Qosh Tepa canal under construction in northern Afghanistan, the Taliban government's largest infrastructure project. (Lorenzo Tugnoli for The Washington Post)

Once the canal is completed — provisionally, two years from now — it could irrigate 550,000 hectares (more than 2,100 square miles) of desert, effectively increasing Afghanistan’s arable land by a third and even making the country self-sufficient in food production for the first time since the 1980s, according to Afghan officials and researchers. “It could impact every household in the country,” said Zabibullah Miri, the project’s head engineer at the state-owned National Development Corporation (NDC).

But for the internationally isolated Taliban, the canal represents a crucial test of its ability to govern.

The canal project was initially conceived in the 1970s under the first Afghan president, Mohammed Daoud Khan, and construction finally began in 2021 under the last, Ashraf Ghani. When the Taliban seized power in August 2021, it inherited the project and swiftly approved about $100 million for its construction, amounting to about a quarter of Afghanistan’s yearly tax income.

About 6,000 workers are now operating excavators and heavy-duty trucks around-the-clock, working to carve a ditch 100 meters (328 feet) wide — wider than the California Aqueduct.

Taliban leaders have seized on the canal as a tool to burnish their image.

“Praise be to God, the work is progressing as planned,” Abdul Ghani Baradar, the deputy prime minister and a senior Taliban leader, said in March during one of several site visits. The project would be completed “at any cost,” he said on his page on X (formerly known as Twitter), which sometimes shares aerial footage of the construction, photos of Taliban officials surveying work and triumphant music.

Trove of EV metals could boost Taliban and its new Chinese partners

“Qosh Tepa provides the Taliban with a good narrative: ‘See, this is a project fully designed and fully funded by Afghans with no foreign support; we can do whatever the previous government couldn’t with Western support,’” said Mohammed Faizee, a former deputy foreign minister under the previous Afghan government who was responsible for overseeing water and border issues.

The canal will be built and financed not by international aid but by Afghanistan’s revenue from domestic coal mines, NDC officials say. But overseas Afghan experts say the country could face challenges not only in building the mega-canal — but also in operating it.

Workers collect mud to build a wall in the village of Qultagh in Dawlatabad. In this village, the water from the wells is too acidic and salty because of depletion of water resources in the area. (Lorenzo Tugnoli for The Washington Post)

To save costs, the canal bed has not been sealed with cement, and along some stretches, briny groundwater has already seeped into the canal, tainting freshwater meant for irrigation.

Najibullah Sadid, a water resources engineer and researcher at the Federal Waterways Engineering and Research Institute in Germany, said feasibility studies have shown that 22 percent of water would be lost to seepage along some sections. Sediment might also clog the intake mechanism where the canal joins the Amu Darya, potentially requiring prohibitively expensive repairs, he said.

Sadid, who has previously trained employees at the Afghan Water Ministry, said he has held meetings with project officials in Afghanistan to show them his computer models, but got mostly blank feedback. “I don’t think the canal authority has employees with specialized expertise,” he said. “You need to be 100 percent sure with design. There’s no such thing as random engineering.”

Then there is the question of how much water Afghanistan will draw from the Amu Darya. Already, neighboring Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have signaled their concerns that the reduced flow from the Amu Darya would affect their lucrative cotton fields. Uzbek Water Resources Minister Shavkat Khamraev said in June that a delegation had been sent to Kabul to convey Uzbek concerns.

Faizee, the for

Afghanistan, preoccupied by internal conflict, has long struggled to assert its claims over transboundary water resources while its neighbors, including Iran, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, have used more than their fair share, Faizee said. Although four Central Asian Soviet republics signed an agreement to allocate the Amu Darya’s water in 1987, the deal cut out Afghanistan.

If the new northern canal were not properly managed, Faizee said, it could lead to conflict similar to Afghanistan’s perennial dispute over the Helmand River with Iran, which has sometimes led to Iranian residents attacking Afghan refugees and Iranian officials threatening to invade Afghanistan. After three border guards — two Iranian and one Afghan — were killed in a shootout in May, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisitraveled to the area to champion “the water rights of Iranians.”

In a statement, Abdul Qahar Balkhi, a spokesman at the Afghan Foreign Ministry, acknowledged there were “questions” about the Taliban’s ability to manage the canal and contain water disputes, but said they would be solved.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan retains experienced water management experts and remains committed to water rights of neighbors in line with existing treaties,” Balkhi said. “As climate change has disproportionately harmed Afghanistan and the region due to consecutive drought years and depletion of water reserves, it is therefore vital that major carbon emitting countries take lead in tackling this crisis.”

Cash-strapped Taliban selling tickets to ruins of Buddhas it blew up

Today, construction has progressed about 100 miles, reaching deep into a part of Afghanistan that researchers say has become increasingly desertified over the past century.

Sand dunes tower over a construction site for the Qosh Tepa canal. (Lorenzo Tugnoli for The Washington Post)

Next to a turn in the Amu Darya, workers are still driving piles into the earth for the canal’s intake. The first 30-mile stretch is already filled with groundwater, and workers have been experimenting with growing tree saplings along graded banks, next to towering sand dunes. After that, the canal dries out. The sun-blasted terrain seems devoid of life except for shrubs and construction workers toiling amid layers of sand and rock that blend into the sky.

After Taliban bans opium, a guilt-racked commander winks at harvest

Beyond the 100-mile mark, the canal remains but a plan. Ishfaq, the village chief, said he was told it would cross near the Aqcha bazaar, about a kilometer away, and surveyors had already come. But other villagers didn’t know much about the project. They only knew how their land and their rivers have changed over two generations, and how badly they needed it.

The river water from central Afghanistan, which used to flow until August, now runs dry by March. Droughts used to occur once a decade, not every two years.

Even wheat crops failed, said Azizullah Walizada, 62, as he crumbled tassels in his fingers that were too dry to yield any grain. The northern drought began three years ago, and his income began to dwindle. Like other villagers, Walizada sold off his cattle to make money to buy food, keeping one last emaciated cow.

“Even the trees are dying,” Walizada said.

Source: washingtonpost.com

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https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/08/20/afghanistan-taliban-canal-amu-darya/

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Saudi Forces Killed Hundreds of Ethiopians at Yemen Border, Report Says

 

Ethiopian migrants reach Yemen in 2019. (Nariman El-Mofty/AP)

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By Sarah Dadouch

August 21, 2023

Saudi security forces have killed hundreds of Ethiopian migrants and asylum seekers attempting to cross the country’s border with Yemen, Human Rights Watch said, shooting people at close range and firing explosive weapons at groups in the mountains in what could amount to crimes against humanity.

In a report released Monday, the New-York based human rights organization detailed a pattern of killings it said was widespread and systematic, based on interviews with witnesses and an analysis of photos, videos and satellite imagery going back to 2021.

“If committed as part of a Saudi government policy to murder migrants, these killings would be a crime against humanity,” Human Rights Watch said.

The report accuses Saudi forces — including border guards and possibly specialized units — of killing “hundreds, possibly thousands” of Ethiopians in recent years while subjecting survivors and detainees to torture, rape and other inhumane treatment. The Saudi Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment. Human Rights Watch also said it wrote to multiple Saudi institutions — including the Interior Ministry and Human Rights Commission — but did not receive a response at the time of publication.

Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen have been called war crimes. Many relied on U.S. support.

The United States considers Saudi Arabia an important strategic partner — and U.S. service members and personnel have trained Saudi security forces, including the border guard, as part of a long-standing security assistance mission there.

The alleged abuses come as Yemen and Ethiopia are both mired in conflict, protracted crises that have stirred migration from the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. In 2020, violent conflict exploded in Ethiopia’s Tigray region between government forces and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, a paramilitary group whose political wing once ruled the country.

The fighting set off a wider humanitarian disaster, including an exodus, and in 2022, more than 24 million people affected by conflict, drought and hunger in Ethiopia received humanitarian assistance, the United Nations said.

Human Rights Watch now estimates that Ethiopians — fleeing war, hunger and persecution — make up more than 90 percent of migrants traveling to Saudi Arabia along the “Eastern Route.” It’s a perilous path that starts in the Horn of Africa, crosses the Gulf of Aden and snakes through war-torn Yemen to the jagged mountains of Saudi Arabia’s Jizan province.

About 750,000 Ethiopians live in Saudi Arabia, and most of them arrived through “irregular means,” according to the International Organization of Migration. Both Saudi Arabia and Yemen’s Houthi movement, which controls the northern Saada province near the Saudi border, are accused of holding migrants in poor conditions and exposing them to abuse, Human Rights Watch said.

Hundreds massacred in Ethiopia even as peace deal was being reached

But it was against this backdrop of broader instability that the rights group says it has documented the surge in violence against Ethiopians at the border, where interviewees told harrowing tales of rapacious smugglers, piles of corpses, and devastating mortar and rocket attacks that left migrants dismembered and dying on the trail.

“I saw people killed in a way I have never imagined. I saw 30 killed people on the spot,” the report quoted a 14-year-old girl, Hamdiya, as saying. She crossed the border in a group of 60 in February, Human Rights Watch said.

After the mass killing, she threw herself under a rock and slept. “I could feel people sleeping around me,” she said. “I realized what I thought were people sleeping around me were actually dead bodies.”

In another account, 20-year-old Munira describes scenes of horror and chaos after Saudi border guards released her and 19 others at the border with Yemen — only to fire mortars at them minutes later as they rested.

“They fired on us like rain,” said Munira, who is from Ethiopia’s Oromia region. “I saw a guy calling for help, he lost both his legs. He was screaming; he was saying, ‘Are you leaving me here? Please don’t leave me.’ We couldn’t help him because we were running for our lives.”

The report’s findings are drawn from similar interviews with 42 Ethiopians, either migrants or asylum seekers who attempted the journey themselves, or friends and relatives of those who tried to cross between March 2022 and June 2023. It also includes analyses of over 350 photos and videos taken between 2021 and July, as well as more than 100 square miles of satellite imagery captured between February 2022 and July 2023.

The material, Human Rights Watch said, helped corroborate the locations of border posts and detention camps, as well as the presence of corpses along the routes and a growing number of makeshift burial sites for migrants on either side of the border.

“Saudi officials are killing hundreds of migrants and asylum seekers in this remote border area out of view of the rest of the world,” Nadia Hardman, refugee and migrant rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement Monday. But, she said, “Saudi border guards knew or should have known they were firing on unarmed civilians.”

The alleged crimes should be “independently and impartially investigated,” Human Rights Watch said, including by the United Nations.

“Saudi Arabia’s documented record of failing to address serious human rights abuses … casts doubt on its willingness to conduct any meaningful investigation, despite the seriousness of the alleged abuses,” the report said.

Source: washingtonpost.com

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https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/08/21/saudi-arabia-human-rights-watch-yemen-ethiopia/

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Burkina Faso Police Kill 40 Islamic Fighters After Ambush – Army

 

Photo: People Gazette

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August 21, 2023

Emmanuel Yashim

The Police in Burkina Faso have killed 40 Islamist fighters, the army said on Sunday.

The terrorists ambushed a police reconnaissance mission in Koulpelogo province in the north-east of the country on Saturday, the military said.

Five police officers were also killed during the attack.

Armed groups have been active in the Sahel state and its neighbours Mali and Niger for years.

Some of the armed groups have sworn allegiance to the terrorist groups Islamic State and al-Qaeda.

Thousands have died in the conflict with armed groups with millions of people displaced.

All three countries are led by military leaders who took power in military coups – the most recent of which was in Niger on July 26.

Burkina Faso, which has a population of around 21 million, is led by a military transitional government that promised the population after a coup in autumn to eradicate the jihadists – but so far without success. (dpa/NAN)

Source: newsdiaryonline.com

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https://newsdiaryonline.com/burkina-faso-police-kill-40-islamic-fighters-after-ambush-army/

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India

 

At one with US, India readies poll message for Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina

 21.08.23

Devadeep Purohit

The Indian establishment is likely to convey two clear messages to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during her Delhi visit next month to attend G20 events — that the upcoming general election in Bangladesh must be free and fair, and that her Awami League will have to purge all pro-Chinese and pro-Islamist leaders and choose non-communal and popular candidates.

The twin messages for Hasina, a source in India’s security establishment said, indicate a broad consensus between India and the US on the elections in Bangladesh scheduled to be held in January 2024.

“There has been a series of discussions between top officials of the security establishments of the two countries (India and the US) over the elections in Bangladesh.... The meetings took place in India and some other countries in the region,” the source said.

“Unlike in the past, when India and the US had major differences over elections in Bangladesh (like the last one in 2018), this time there seems to be a broad consensus and it has been decided that the two messages will be conveyed to the Bangladesh Prime Minister when she is in Delhi for the G20 events,” the source added.

Although Hasina maintains that elections on her watch have been free and fair, questions on the nature of the upcoming polls can be traced back to the last two rounds of voting in 2014 and 2018 that prompted the US and several other western countries to doubt the democratic standards in Bangladesh.

On the contrary, New Delhi never asked any questions about the allegations swirling around the elections — Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the first to congratulate Hasina after the controversial 2018 polls in which the alliance led by her party bagged more than 96 per cent of the seats. The general perception has been that India would not concern itself with the fairness of the polls as long as the outcome was in favour of Hasina, whom New Delhi has always considered the most trusted ally in its neighbourhood.

“There is little doubt that she still remains India’s favourite.... But a variety of strategic concerns have cropped up in the last few years and New Delhi is unlikely to allow her to have her way this time unless she addresses India’s concerns,” said a strategic affairs expert in Dhaka.

Although the Awami League government has delivered on a number of India’s wishes — from cracking down on Islamist terrorists to allowing transit for goods movement to the northeastern states — the primary concern for New Delhi is the Hasina regime’s apparent proximity with China. This factor has brought India and the US on the same page vis-a-vis the upcoming elections in Bangladesh.

Conversations with sources aware of the deliberations the Indian and US security establishments have had on the Bangladesh elections have thrown up the following pointers:

The broad convergence of the views of India and the US on the upcoming Bangladesh elections, multiple sources said, is a significant development not only because of their past differences in matters related to Bangladesh.

“If Bangladesh holds free and fair elections, it will strengthen the democratic institutions. The young generation, who are otherwise not interested in politics, will be enthused to join the process of nation-building. Proper selection of candidates based on their popularity, not their allegiance to cliques in the ruling party, will make the Awami League stronger.... Finally, tough action on corrupt

practices will have a positive impact on the Bangladesh economy,” said a source in Dhaka.

The question is, he added, whether Hasina — a strong leader with major reservations vis-a-vis the US — will heed the advice.

Source: telegraphindia.com

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https://www.telegraphindia.com/world/at-one-with-us-india-readies-poll-message-for-bangladesh-pm-sheikh-hasina/cid/1960392

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'Censorship' cry as Centre blocks website and social media handles of The Kashmir Walla

21.08.23

Muzaffar Raina

The Centre has blocked the website and social media handles of The Kashmir Walla, one of the few surviving independent media outlets in the Valley since the 2019 crackdown following the revocation of the erstwhile state’s special status under Article 370.

The news portal, which cannot be accessed, began displaying a message from Sunday night: “The website has been blocked as per order of Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology under IT Act, 2000.”

Employees of the news portal, who said they have not been able to upload articles on the website since Saturday evening, alleged that no reason had been cited for the blocking. No government official has commented on the move.

The portal’s editor, Fahad Shah, and reporter Sajad Gul are under arrest since early 2022. Shah has been accused of “glorifying terrorism, spreading fake news and inciting violence”.

The Kashmir Walla is one of the few media outlets that spoke truth to power after the 2019 scrapping of special status, writing on the government crackdown on dissent and on alleged rights violations.

Yashraj Sharma, the interim editor of The Kashmir Walla, posted a statement earlier on Sunday saying the website and social media handles of the news portal had been blocked. “When we contacted The Kashmir Walla’s server provider to ask why http://thekashmirwalla.com was inaccessible, they informed us that our website has been blocked in India by the MEITY under the IT Act, 2000,” he tweeted. MEITY is abbreviation for the ministry of electronics and information technology.

The post said the server provider had informed the staff on Saturday that the ministry had blocked their access to the website under the Information Technology Act, 2000.

The statement said the staff discovered that The Kashmir Walla’s Facebook page with nearly half a million followers had been removed and its X (formerly Twitter) account had been withheld “in response to a legal demand”.

The statement said no notice was served to the website before the blocking.

The portal described the action as “gut-wrenching”, “opaque censorship” and “another deadly blow” to media freedom in Jammu and Kashmir.

“Since 2011, The Kashmir Walla has strived to remain an independent, credible

and courageous voice of the region in the face of unimaginable pressure from the authorities while we watched our (organisation) being ripped apart, bit by bit,” the statement said.

“For the past 18 months, we have lived a horrifying nightmare — with the arrest and imprisonment of our founder editor, Fahad Shah, and harassment of our reporters and staff amid an already inhospitable climate for journalism in the region.”

The statement noted that the action had been taken at a time when The Kashmir Walla staff were in the process of vacating their office in Srinagar after being served an eviction notice by the landlord.

A four-page dossier giving the “Grounds for Detention” of editor Shah had used pejorative labels such as “anti-national”, “anti-India” and an “instigator” peddling “ISI/separatist propaganda” who is filled with “hate against India” and is “glorifying terrorism”, but had cited no example to back the claims.

The Kashmir Walla said this was “the beginning of the saga of his revolving door arrests” and the harassment of the portal’s staff.

“He (Shah) went on to be arrested five times within four months,” the statement said. “Three FIRs under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and one Public Safety Act have been registered against him.”

Gul, who worked with The Kashmir Walla as a trainee reporter, is in a prison in Uttar Pradesh under the Public Safety Act. The journalist was arrested in January last year after he posted a video of a family shouting anti-India slogans after their relative was killed in a gunfight in Srinagar.

“The Kashmir Walla’s story is the tale of the rise and fall of press freedom in the region. Over the past 18 months, we have lost everything but you — our readers. The Kashmir Walla is beyond thankful that we were read avidly for 12 years by millions,” the statement said.

The blocking of the website has come at a time the government has terminated the services of journalist-turned-chief manager of Jammu and Kashmir Bank, Sajad Bazaz, after deeming him a threat to “security interests”. Bazaz was a widely read columnist on economic affairs and banking and wrote for the Greater Kashmir daily.

Source: telegraphindia.com

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17 Indians, hailing from Punjab and Haryana, evacuated from Libya

PTI

New Delhi d 21.08.23

Seventeen Indian nationals, who were held captive by an armed group in Libya, have been rescued and brought back to India following sustained efforts by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), people familiar with the matter said on Monday.

The Indian nationals, hailing from Punjab and Haryana, reached Delhi on Sunday evening, they said.

The Indian embassy in Tunis played a key role in evacuation of the Indians, the people said.

The case was brought to the attention of the Indian embassy in Tunis on May 26 by the family members of the stranded Indian nationals. The Indians were being held captive by an armed group in Zwara City in Libya after they were trafficked to that country, the people cited above said.

The Indian embassy in Tunis regularly pursued the matter with Libyan authorities throughout May and June, as well as through informal channels, they said.

On June 13, Libyan authorities were able to rescue the Indian nationals, but kept them in their custody, given that they had illegally entered the country, the people said.

Following high-level intervention by our ambassador in Tunis and senior MEA officials from New Delhi, Libyan authorities agreed to release them, they said.

During their stay in Libya, the Indian embassy looked after the needs of the Indians, including providing essential food items, medicines and clothes. Since they did not have passports, emergency certificates were issued for their travel to India, the people said.

Tickets for return to India were also provided and paid for by the Indian embassy, they added.

Source: telegraphindia.com

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Pakistan

 

Punjab cabinet joins prayers at ransacked church in Jaranwala

August 21, 2023

Tariq Saeed

TOBA TEK SINGH: The Punjab caretaker cabinet joined the Christian community in Jaranwala on Sunday as they sat among the rubble of a ransacked church for the first Sunday service after mobs fuelled by allegations of blasphemy burned down over a dozen homes and places of worship in the city.

Caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi and his team reached Essa Nagri by bus and attended Sunday prayers in the AEC Church alongside the Christian community.

On the occasion, the CM announced the restoration of other churches at the earliest after he was informed that ACE Church had been renovated. It was also decided that at least 94 families would receive compensation of Rs2 million each within the next 48 hours, which would help them rebuild their houses damaged in the violence.

“Pakistan belongs to every Pakistani whether they are Muslim, Christian, Sikh, or Hindu. All are one. I am with the oppressed and every oppressor will have to face the punishment under the law,” the CM vowed.

He was also briefed by Faisalabad Commissioner Silwat Saeed about the rehabilitation process for displaced families, including the establishment of a relief camp at a government school. The CM also visited the relief camp where he assured the Christian families that they would be compensated for their losses and directed officials to register all affected families.

Later, CM Naqvi held a meeting with religious leaders of Jamia Masjid Sabri, who expressed ‘satisfaction’ over the steps being taken by the administration for the restoration of normalcy in Jaranwala.

In a press release, Caretaker Information Minister Amir Mir said the rights of individuals with affiliations to various faiths would be safeguarded at all costs, while those who engage in ‘mistreatment’ will be made an example of.

Sharing details of Sunday’s cabinet meeting, the caretaker minister said immediate actions were decided upon to provide justice to the victim community, with 94 Christian families set to receive compensation of Rs2 million for the damages to their homes within the next 48 hours.

“This compensation aims to swiftly alleviate their hardships,” he said, adding that the CM instructed the relevant authorities to promptly restore the churches and expedite repairs on the remaining ones.

Mr Mir assured that the “instigators behind this plot would soon be unveiled” as the provincial government “remains steadfast in its commitment to ensuring the rights of minority communities”.

Sunday service

Around 200 Christians sat in chairs set up in a narrow alley alongside the main Salvation Army Church — its cross still missing after being ripped down by the crowds, AFP reported.

“We used to come here without any fear but today we need the police,” 29-year-old housewife Nosheen Farman, who cannot yet return to her burned home, told AFP. “We did not bring our children, the ones who we teach that they must come to church.” A choir girl sang alongside a tabla player, as dozens of security personnel guarded the area. The crowds joined their hands together in prayer, except to occasionally wipe their eyes. Many of the attendees had come from surrounding cities to show support.

While the church was too damaged to host the service, Christians entered in small groups to survey the blackened windows and cracked ceilings.

“After the recent incident, we have a lot of security doubts. We are wondering whether we are safe or not, 32-year-old Sara Ejaz, a teacher who is staying with relatives nearby, told AFP.

Hundreds of Christians are unable to return with their houses gutted and broken contents strewn across the street. “These buildings and houses will be restored, but it will be difficult for girls and children to come out of this trauma. They will always remember the terror they faced, that they had to flee their own homes,” said 44-year-old Samson Salamat.

Source: dawn.com

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Interfaith committee formed to address Jaranwala incident

August 21, 2023

Pakistan Ulema Council and Church of Pakistan have jointly established a 24-member committee to address the tragic incident in Jaranwala, foster interfaith unity, and quell extremist narratives.

Co-chaired by Pakistan Ulema Council Chairman Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi and Church of Pakistan President Bishop Azad Marshal, the committee comprises diverse leaders, including from Christian community.

During a media interaction in Islamabad, the Pakistan Ulema Council Chairman stressed the need to promote tolerance, respect, and patience in the society and reject any attempts to exploit religion for personal or political gains.

He said concerted efforts will be made across all levels to discourage illegal actions under the guise of blasphemy or religious insult.

Source: radio.gov.pk

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President denies signing bills amending Official Secrets Act, Army Act: Alvi’s belated tweet plunges country into constitutional controversy

August 21, 2023

 Asim Yasin

ISLAMABAD: In a twist of events on Sunday, President Dr Arif Alvi denied signing the Official Secrets Amendment bill 2023 and Pakistan Army Amendment Act 2023 and claimed that he had found out that his staff had undermined his will and command.

He also tendered an apology to those who would be affected by the passage and implementation of these laws.

He took to social media platform X (previously Twitter) with a post saying, “As God is my witness, I did not sign [the] Official Secrets Amendment Bill 2023 & Pakistan Army Amendment Bill 2023, as I disagreed with these laws.”

He posted that he had asked his staff to return the bills unsigned within the stipulated time period to make them ineffective. “I confirmed from them many times whether they [bills] have been returned, & [I] was assured that they were [sent back]. However, I have found out today that my staff undermined my will and command,” claimed the president.

Arif Alvi wrote, “As Allah knows all, He will forgive IA [Insha-Allah]. But I ask forgiveness from those who will be effected [affected].”

The statement opened a Pandora’s box as immediately after the post, the Ministry of Law and Justice said in a press statement that it had noted with grave concern the president’s recent tweet.

The ministry’s statement said that as per Article 75 of the Constitution, when a bill is sent for assent, the president has two options: either give assent, or refer the matter to the parliament with specific observations. The Article 75 does not provide for any third option.

It stated that in the instant matter, neither of the requirements were fulfilled. Instead, the president purposely delayed the assent. The statement said returning of bills without any observations or assent is not provided for in the Constitution. “Such a course of action is against letter and spirit of the Constitution,” it stated.

It said that if the president had any reservations, he could have returned the bills with his observations like he did in the recent and distant past. “He could have also issued a press release to that effect,” the statement added.

The statement said, “It is a matter of concern that the president has chosen to discredit his own officials. The President should take responsibility for his own actions.”

Separately, Caretaker Minister for Law and Justice Ahmed Irfan Aslam said Sunday under Article 75 of the Constitution, a bill automatically becomes a law if the president does not approve or reject it within the stipulated time period of 10 days.

He was addressing a press conference along with Caretaker Minister for Information Murtaza Solangi here. The law minister said that the caretaker government had no political agenda and its mandate was also limited. He said that being the head of the Federation, “the president is revered in all of our hearts”.

He said: “The Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill 2023 was received by the presidency on August 2, while Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill reached there on August 8, after being passed by the two houses of the parliament.” Before today, “no such situation has come before us that anything has returned from the Presidency without the signatures of the president,” he said.

The law minister said that these two bills have not been received back from the President’s Office despite Article 75 of the Constitution clearly provides a period of 10 days in order to avoid any political ambiguity. “If the President does not exercise the authority within the given time period, the bill is considered to be approved and automatically becomes a law as per the Constitution,” he opined.

Caretaker Minister for Information and Broadcasting Murtaza Solangi said a clarification issued by the Ministry of Law and Justice had removed the ambiguity, created by a statement posted by President Dr Arif Alvi on its personal account on X regarding signing of two legislations. “The president is the head of the state, and his position demands respect. No one should expect that we would speak against the respect of the president,” said the information minister while addressing a news conference here.

The minister said there was no need to politicise the caretaker government’s efforts that were aimed at removing ambiguity on important matters.

To a query, Solangi said he did not have any knowledge about the president’s intentions and desires, particularly concerning his continuation in office. Institutions existed in the country for enforcement of laws, and a complete system was in place to ensure provision of rights to citizens and uphold the supremacy of the Constitution and laws, the minister said in response to another question.

Meanwhile, the Official Secrets Amendment bill 2023 and Pakistan Army Amendment Act 2023 were published in the official gazette and also posted on websites of the Senate and National Assembly. The notifications about both laws were notified on official gazette on August 18.

Source: thenews.com.pk

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ECP urged to ensure redrawn constituencies have equal population

August 21, 2023

ISLAMABAD: As the Election Commission moves to redraw constituencies based on the latest census, the monitoring group Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) has urged the electoral watchdog to strictly ensure each constituency has roughly the same number of residents.

The delimitation of constituencies follows recent amendments to the Elections Act, 2017, including the insertion of a new proviso to Section 20(3), which now does not require the ECP to “strictly adhere” to the existing district boundaries if doing so causes the variance in the population of constituencies of an assembly to surpass 10 per cent.

Fafen said such measures were necessary to hold fair elections, as required under Article 218(3) of the Constitution. It said unequal constituencies also violated the spirit of the constitutionally guaranteed equality of citizens before the law under Article 25.

The group said the new proviso had neutralised the requirement in Section 20(1), which compelled the Election Commission to regard the existing boundaries of administrative units when redrawing constituencies.

It would also minimise the executive’s influence on the delimitation process, which previously might do so by creating or redefining the boundaries of an existing administrative unit.

Fafen said strictly adhering to district boundaries during the delimitation of the National Assembly and provincial assembly constituencies completed in 2022 resulted in 82 National Assembly and 88 provincial assembly constituencies having a population varying by more than 10pc from the respective quotas per seat, i.e. average population of a constituency for each province, as calculated under Rules 8(1) and 8(4) of the Election Rules, 2017.

It said National Assembly constituencies with more than 10pc population variations included 34 constituencies in Punjab, 22 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 23 in Sindh, and three in Balochistan. The provincial assembly constituencies included 30 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 28 in Balochistan, 18 in Sindh, and 12 in Punjab.

The largest NA constituency — NA-39 Bannu, with a population of over 1.2 million — was nearly three times bigger than the smallest constituency, NA-42 Tank having a population of 427,044.

For the provincial assemblies, the largest constituency of Balochistan Assembly PB-3 Killa Saifullah (342,932) had around three times more population than PB-23 Awaran (121,821); in KP, PK-108 Tank (427,044) had 2.5 times more population than the smallest PK-1 Upper Chitral (169,297); in Punjab, PP-83 Khushab-II (444,166) had 1.3 times more population than the smallest PP-93 Chiniot-I (324,878); and, in Sindh, PS-34 Naushehro Feroze-II (436,288) had 1.3 times more population than the smallest PS-80 Jamshoro-I (315,390).

Fafen estimates that if district boundaries are to be respected like in the past, the population variance of National Assembly constituencies from their respective regional quotas may exceed 10pc for constituencies of two-thirds of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa districts, half of Sindh districts, one-third of Punjab districts and all Balochistan districts.

The monitoring group has recommended that the Election Commission may consider amending its rules on the redrawing constituencies to materialise the spirit of the newly added proviso to Section 20(3) of the Elections Act.

It has also recommended amendments to Rules 10(4) and 10(5) to limit population variance to a maximum of 10pc within a province instead of 5pc within a district.

Additionally, in the interest of electoral transparency, the ECP must also add a column in Form 7 (final list of constituencies) to provide an updated population of final constituencies after the disposal of representations filed on the draft list of constituencies.

The commission may also make it binding upon delimitation committees to provide a constituency-wise explanation of the exceptional cases where variance exceeds 10pc. Although the Preliminary Report of Delimitation of Constituencies, 2022, mentioned reasons for deviations, an exhaustive list of the reasons for each such case was missing, Fafen noted.

The group urged the ECP to also consider inserting in its rules a clear definition of the cognate factors to be regarded during the delimitation of constituencies as provided in Section 20(1) of the Act to minimise the discretionary space available to delimitation committees.

Fafen also recommends amending Rules 12 and 13 concerning making, hearing and disposing of representations to facilitate those voters who wish to make representations on the delimitation proposals.

It said the ECP might consider pre-hearing scrutiny of the representations to identify only those that offer convincing evidence and grounds for their proposed changes.

Fafen reiterated that substantial improvements in delimitation were critical to improving the electoral process, preventing population imbalance across electoral precincts, and ensuring the representative-ness of all geographical, linguist, ethnic, and religious diversity in the elected bodies.

Source: dawn.com

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What are the amendments made to Army Act and Official Secrets Act?

August 20, 2023

After President Arif Alvi’s astonishing remarks on Sunday that he did not sign the bills amending the Official Secrets Act and the Pakistan Army Act into law, it’s worth knowing what changes these bills proposed.

Both bills, widely criticised by both the opposition and treasury benches, were passed by the Senate and National Assembly and sent to the president for his approval a few weeks ago.

Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill, 2023

The amendments in the secrets act have broadened the definitions of military installations and brought digital and modern means of communication into the law’s ambit. According to experts, this could bring vloggers and bloggers within the ambit of the law as well.

The definition of a “document” has been widened as it now includes “any written, unwritten, electronic, digital, or any other tangible or intangible instrument” related to the military’s procurements and capabilities.

Likewise, the definition of “enemy” introduced in the proposed law states: “Any person who is directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally working for or engaged with a foreign power, foreign agent, non-state actor, organisation, entity, association or group guilty of a particular act… prejudicial to the safety and interest of Pakistan.”

Experts term this section “against the principles of natural justice” as it treats unintentional contact at par with planned espionage.

Section 6-A of the Official Secrets Act amendment bill creates a new offence of unauthorised disclosure of the identities of members of intelligence agencies, informants or sources. The offence would be punishable by up to three years in jail and a fine of up to Rs10 million.

Moreover, clauses related to prohibited areas have also been amended and it would be an offence if “someone access, intrude, approach or attack any military installation, office, camp office or part of building”.

At present, the offence is restricted to such movement during the time of war only, however, the proposed legislation has expanded this to peacetime as well.

Section 3 is being renamed from “penalties for spying” to “offences”.

With slight amendments to the existing offences, it has also added the photography through drone cameras of prohibited areas as a crime.

The amendments in Section 4 also term a visit to the address of a foreign agent within or outside Pakistan as an offence.

The proposed law empowers the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the officials of intelligence agencies to investigate suspects for violation of the Official Secrets Act.

It says: “An investigating officer under this act shall be an officer of the Federal Investigation Agency not below the rank of BPS-17 or equivalent. The said officer shall be designated by the Director General [of] FIA for the purpose of investigation. If the Director General [of] FIA deems necessary, he may constitute a joint investigation team (JIT), convene by such officer and consisting [of] such other officers of intelligence agencies as he may appoint.”

The JIT is supposed to complete the investigation in 30 working days and the challan would be submitted to the special court through public prosecutor.

The law also deals with the admissibility of the evidence and states: “All material collected during the course of inquiry or investigation, including electronic devices, data, information, documents, or such other related material, which facilitates the commission of any offence under this act, shall be admissible.”

A bare perusal of the proposed law suggests as it was drafted while keeping in mind the May 9 violence, which erupted after the first arrest of PTI chief Imran Khan that day.

Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2023

The Army Act amendment bill paves the way for the punishment of up to five-year rigorous imprisonment to any person guilty of disclosing any information, acquired in an official capacity that is or may be prejudicial to the security and interest of Pakistan or the armed forces.

One of the amendments in the act accords more powers to the army chief and bars ex-servicemen from engaging in politics as well as taking up ventures, which could come into conflict with the army’s interest. It also proposed imprisonment for defamation of the army.

The bill proposes introducing Section 26-B to the law, which forbids any person subject to the army act from engaging in any kind of political activity for two years from the date of their “retirement, release, resignation, discharge, removal or dismissal from the service”.

It further says those who “remained posted, employed, seconded, tasked or otherwise attached on sensitive duties” are forbidden from taking part in “political activity of any kind, during a period of five years from the date of his retirement, release, resignation, discharge, removal or dismissal from the service”.

In case of violation, a court constituted under the army act can punish them with “rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years”.

Section 55-A forbids any person subject to the army act in the past five years from “directly or indirectly enter[ing] into employment, consultation or other engagement with an entity having a conflict of interest” with the activities of the army or its affiliates. However, the law does not apply to those who seek prior approval from the army chief. A person guilty of the said offence can be imprisoned for up to “two years with fine not exceeding Rs500,000 or with both”, the bill states.

Section 55-B states that any person, who is or has been subject to the army act, and commits an offence under the Peca 2016 “with the mala fide intention to undermine, ridicule, or scandalise the armed forces” shall be punished in the manner as prescribed in the Peca law.

Section 55-C states that a person who is or has been subject to the army act, “intentionally ridicules, scandalises, brings into hatred or otherwise attempts to lower the armed forces of Pakistan or any part will be punished with imprisonment which may extend to two years or fine or with both”.

A clause introduced to Section 176-C proposes that the army chief “may delegate any of his powers and functions conferred by, or delegated under this act, to any officer or authority subordinate to him”.

Meanwhile, the addition of Section 176-E proposes that the laws under the act “shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent contained in any other law, rules or regulations for the time being in force”, adding that any such inconsistent law shall, “to the extent of any inconsistency, cease to have effect”.

Section 175-E of the legislation says that the army, upon direction from or with the concurrence of relevant authorities of the federal or provincial governments, may directly or indirectly carry out activities related to national development and advancement of national or strategic interests.

“Provided that all such activities already undertaken shall be deemed and always to have done under this Act,” the clause says.

Source: dawn.com

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Saudi Hajj Minister arrives in Pakistan on four-day visit

August 20, 2023

Saudi Minister for Hajj and Umra Dr. Taufeeq Bin Fawzan Al-Rabiya along with a delegation arrived in Islamabad on Sunday evening on a four-day visit.

He was cordially welcomed by caretaker Federal Minister for religious Affairs Aneeq Ahmad and Saudi Ambassador Nawaf Saeed Almalki at the airport.

During the visit, the Saudi delegation will discuss with Pakistani officials various issues related to the facilities being provided to the Pakistani Hajj and Umra pilgrims, Road to Mecca project.

Saudi Minister for Hajj will also meet with the President caretaker Prime Minister and the Chief of Army Staff.

The visiting Saudi delegation comprises heads of the Saudi civil aviation and airlines and other department.

Source: radio.gov.pk

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UAE commends Pakistan's actions after Jaranwala tragedy

August 21, 2023

Mariana Babar

ISLAMABAD: The United Arab Emirates has commended the efforts and diligence of the Pakistani government and the measures it implemented in the Jarawanal tragedy.

In a statement, the USE Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) strongly condemned the burning of a number of churches and dozens of homes by extremists in Pakistan, and denounced the coinciding violence that has taken place.

The MoFA commended the efforts and diligence of the Pakistani government and the measures it implemented in confronting these criminal acts.

The ministry affirmed the UAE’s permanent rejection of all practices aimed at undermining security and stability in contravention of human and moral values and principles, stressing that hate speech and extremism contradict international efforts to spread the values of tolerance, coexistence and peace among peoples.

Furthermore, the ministry stressed the need to respect religious symbols and avoid incitement and polarization at a time when the international community needs to work together to reaffirm a commitment to upholding the universal principles of tolerance and peaceful coexistence, which should be promoted and implemented to achieve stability and sustainable development.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs stated the government of Pakistan will not rest until those responsible for the vile acts in Jaranwala were apprehended and brought to justice.

Responding to media queries on Sunday about the remarks by some governments on August 16 violence in Jaranwala, minstry’s spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said: “We reiterate what we have said earlier. The Faisalabad incident is a sad reprehensible incident that has hurt the sentiments of Christians across Pakistan. The incident has been strongly condemned by Pakistan’s leadership and the entire Pakistani society. Such intolerant and violent acts are unacceptable to the ethos of Pakistani society.”

She said, “The wheels of justice have been set in motion. The incident has also reignited an inter-faith dialogue of tolerance and mutual respect and understanding in Pakistan,” she added.

Source: thenews.com.pk

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PM vows uplift of far-flung areas of Balochistan

August 21, 2023

ISLAMABAD:

Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar said on Sunday the government would make efforts to provide employment opportunities to the people and maintain peace and security, while expediting the development process.

Addressing a reception via a video link, organised by the All Parties Conference in his native village of Kan Mehtarzai, in Qila Saifullah district, Karar said that he would visit the area soon and review the issues facing the local people.

He thanked the organizers of the reception for felicitating him after his nomination as caretaker prime minister. On the occasion, the area people reposed confidence in Kakar leadership.

They expressed the confidence that Kakar as caretaker prime minister would play his key role in the elimination of terrorism in the country, conduct of transparent elections and the restoration of law and order.

Meanwhile, Kakar met with Senator Arbab Umar Kasi and discussed issues related to Balochistan. The caretaker prime minister assured Senator Kasi of resolving all the issues of his area.

On the occasion, Kasi felicitated him on assuming the office of prime minister. He apprised Kakar of the flood situation in Hanna Orak after the recent rains and stressed the need for repair of Spera Ragha-Loralai road.

Also former member of Balochistan Assembly Mir Saleem Khoso called on caretaker Prime Minister Kakar and discussed matters of mutual interest. Khoso felicitated Kakar on assuming the office of prime minister.

Meanwhile, Kakar strongly condemned a terrorist attack in North Waziristan and expressed grief over loss of lives in “the senseless act of violence”. He said that his stood in solidarity with the affected families.

Source: tribune.com.pk

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South Asia

 

From Independence to Challenges: Afghanistan’s Complex Journey

By Khaama Press

August 19, 2023

In the early 20th century, Afghanistan was on the cusp of a transformational journey. King Amanullah Khan’s declaration of independence in 1919 marked the nation’s resolve to break free from foreign influence and chart its own destiny. As the sun of independence rose, casting aside the shadows of colonial rule, Afghanistan embarked on a journey fraught with challenges, conflicts, and aspirations.

King Amanullah’s vision for Afghanistan was to modernize and foster progress, aligning the nation with global developments. However, this vision was met with formidable obstacles from the start. The conservative tribal forces, deeply rooted in tradition, resisted the rapid pace of change introduced by the King’s reforms. The struggle between modernization and tradition became a recurring theme throughout Afghanistan’s post-independence history.

The years following independence were marked by internal strife, external pressures, and territorial disputes. The tribal and religious divides that had long simmered beneath the surface resurfaced, leading to periods of instability and conflict. These divisions, coupled with foreign interventions, hindered the nation’s progress and derailed attempts at sustainable development.

Afghanistan’s history in the last century has been marred by conflicts, including the Soviet-Afghan War, the rise of the Taliban, and the ensuing U.S.-led military interventions. Each conflict left its scars on the nation, leaving behind a trail of destruction and societal fragmentation. The tribal and religious disputes that had plagued Afghanistan for decades were further exacerbated by these conflicts, creating an environment of mistrust and animosity.

One of the tragic consequences of these conflicts was the disruption of education, particularly for women and girls. Under the Taliban’s rule, education for females was severely restricted, denying them the right to learn and grow. However, in recent years, efforts have been made to rekindle the flame of education for Afghan women and girls. Despite challenges and resistance, significant strides have been taken, opening the doors of learning and empowerment to a new generation.

The cyclical nature of conflict and the accompanying instability have perpetuated Afghanistan’s dependence on foreign aid. The inability to develop self-sustaining industries and economic structures has kept the nation trapped in a cycle of aid-driven development. This dependence not only hampers economic growth but also compromises the country’s sovereignty and self-reliance.

Yet, amidst the challenges, Afghanistan boasts untapped potential. The nation is blessed with vast reserves of minerals, including lithium, copper, and rare earth elements. These resources, if harnessed sustainably, could be a catalyst for economic growth and development. However, realizing this potential requires a stable and conducive environment, free from conflicts and foreign interventions.

Nation and state building in Afghanistan has been a complex endeavor, with decades of instability impeding progress. The absence of cohesive national institutions, the legacy of tribalism, and the recurring conflict dynamics have hindered the creation of a unified identity. The challenge of reconciling diverse ethnic and religious groups into a cohesive nation remains a monumental task.

Today, Afghanistan finds itself at a crossroads. The withdrawal of foreign forces and the rise of the Taliban once again pose challenges to the nation’s stability and progress. The international community’s commitment to aiding Afghanistan’s development remains essential, but the nation’s future lies in its ability to chart a course toward self-sufficiency and peace.

Afghanistan’s women and girls, who were long denied their rights, have emerged as powerful agents of change. Their resilience and determination to reclaim their rightful place in society reflect the indomitable spirit of Afghanistan. The progress made in women’s education and participation in various sectors is a testament to the nation’s potential for positive transformation.

Building a united Afghanistan requires addressing historical divisions, establishing strong institutions, and fostering inclusivity. A nation cannot be built on the sands of exclusion and mistrust. It demands a collective effort to bridge divides and forge a shared vision for the future. The process of nation building is intricate and slow, requiring the dedication of generations to come.

Afghanistan’s journey from independence to the present day has been marked by a series of challenges, conflicts, and aspirations. The nation’s struggle to balance modernization with tradition, its resilience in the face of external pressures, and its ongoing efforts to establish a sustainable future all reflect the complexity of Afghanistan’s history. As the nation stands on the precipice of a new era, the hope for lasting peace, inclusive development, and a unified identity remains alive. Afghanistan’s past is a testament to its ability to overcome adversity, and its future holds the promise of a better tomorrow.

Source: khaama.com

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Iran admits Afghanistan’s acute drought

By Fidel Rahmati

August 21, 2023

Iran’s energy minister said that after inspecting the Deh Rawood hydrometric station in Helmand province, it was confirmed that Afghanistan is facing a ‘serious’ drought.

“Recently, our colleagues visited Deh Rawood hydrometric station in Helmand. This visit showed that the drought in Afghanistan is also serious,” Ali Akbar Mehrabian said, as cited by ISNA news agency.

Hassan Kazemi Qomi, Iran’s special representative for Afghanistan affairs, also said that the water level at Deh Rawood hydrometric station was below the average for a typical monthly water year.

In the past few months, tensions between Iran and the Taliban administration have significantly heightened, primarily stemming from Tehran’s allegations that Kabul has been deliberately constraining water flow.

This situation has prompted a notable escalation in bilateral tensions as both sides grapple with the complex issue of water resource management and its implications for their relations.

These mounting tensions have sparked concerns about the potential consequences for regional stability and cooperation, underscoring the critical need for diplomatic dialogue and collaboration to address the underlying concerns and prevent further escalation.

Recently, Abdul Kabir, political deputy of the Taliban administration’s PM, said that “the water issue with Iran has been resolved, with great happiness, with talks, instead of war.”

Source: khaama.com

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No Other Entity Has Right to Interfere in Media Work:Dy. Minister of Information and Culture

By Nasir Ahmad Salehi, TOLO news Reporter

20 August 2023

Earlier, the Islamic Emirate’s spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, said that the detentions of the journalists was not due to their career.

The deputy Minister of Information and Culture, Hayatullah Mahajar Farahi, said that no other entity but the culture ministry has the right to interfere in media work.

Speaking at a press conference in Herat, Farahi said that some journalists have been detained on charges of working with the media that is against the Islamic Emirate.

“We have finalized the law of the media and we will send it to the leadership and after approval of the Islamic Emirate leader, it will become effective,” he said.

“Without the Ministry of Information and Culture, no one has the right to interfere in the work of the media and if there is any problem, we have a commission of media law violation that will address the problem,” he said.

This comes as earlier as Reporters Sans Borders reported that “nine journalists have been arbitrarily arrested” by Islamic Emirate security forces in the past ten days in Afghanistan in a “crackdown without precedent this year.”

“The Ministry has always said that no one has the right to interfere in media work. So, they should stick to it,” said Mohsin Karimi, a journalist.

“I call on other organizations to not interfere in the work of the media and journalists. The detention of journalists has recently increased,” said Abdul Karim Azim, a journalist.

Earlier, the Islamic Emirate’s spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, said that the detentions of the journalists was not due to their career.

“The detention of the journalists has not had any link with their career in journalism. The allegations about them are something outside of their career. After they give some explanation, their issue will be solved and we will try to release them,” he said then.

Source: tolonews.com

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'No Fundamental Work' Done for Athletes Over Past 2 Decades: Muttaqi

By Homayuon Ashna,

20 August 2023

The athletes meanwhile called on the interim government to support them in preparing for international competitions.

The acting Foreign Minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, said that no fundamental work has been done for athletes and youth within the past two decades in Afghanistan.

He said that Afghan youth were "misused."

Speaking at a gathering held by the athletes to celebrate the Independence Day of Afghanistan, the acting FM meanwhile urged the youth to work for the development of Afghanistan.

“In the past 20 years, unfortunately, our youth have been misused in wrong ways. There have been 4 million drug addicts within the past 20 years in our country,” he said.

The head of the General Directorate of Physical Education and Sport, AhmadullahWassiq, said that the Islamic Emirate will support athletes in national and international competitions.

“We promise all athletes that we will support them and we will provide them with facilities and we will pay a lot of attention to them,” he said.

The athletes meanwhile called on the interim government to support them in preparing for international competitions.

“Either it is a financial or technical problem which caused us to lose most of our competitions,” said Ali Sina, an athlete.

“We call on the government to support different sports programs so we can find our way through national and international competitions,” said Kabir Khoshbin, a disabled athlete.

Source: tolonews.com

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38 Aid Workers Killed in Two Years in Afghanistan: UN

By Mitra Majeedy

21 August 2023

The OCHA humanitarian coordinator for Afghanistan, claimed that 38 workers were killed during the last two years.

Daniel Endres said that most of them were polio vaccinators and deminers in Afghanistan.

“We salute their courage and celebrate their dedication to serving humanity we also take a moment to pause to recognize those humanitarian workers who have lost their lives and were injured, abducted, arrested or remain in captivity or detention… 38 workers were killed during the last two years many of whom were polio vaccinators and deminers.” Said Daniel Endres.

“The Taliban government, which is currently in power, has a legal obligation to ensure the safety of aid workers and those who are engaged in distributing aid to the people of Afghanistan,” said Asadullah Nadim, a military analyst.

Despite the lack of funding for humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, last year UN employees provided humanitarian aid to more than 26 million people in 401 districts of Afghanistan.

“Humanitarian needs in Afghanistan reached more than 29 million people in need of assistance,” said Daniel Endres.

Meanwhile, the spokesman of the Islamic Emirate rejected the comments of the coordinator of humanitarian aid and said that the aid workers in Afghanistan have the support of the Islamic Emirate.

“The Western institutions are all coordinated in presenting Afghanistan as an unsafe region and have started and are continuing their propaganda. This is not true; the Afghans are witnessing, and we are also witnessing that the aid workers were not harmed,” said Zabiullah Mujahid.

In February 2022, eight health workers--including four women--were shot and killed in separate attacks by unidentified gunmen in the northern provinces of Kunduz and Takhar.

Source: tolonews.com

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Security forces kill four kidnappers in Kabul

By Fidel Rahmati

August 20, 2023

The Ministry of Interior has officially confirmed that four kidnappers were successfully neutralized during a meticulously executed operation in the Paghman district of Kabul province on Saturday night.

In a statement, the ministry said that the operation conducted by specialized units was initiated precisely at 9:45 p.m. on a Saturday, specifically within the vicinity of the Pusht Badam area in the Paghman district.

The statement said that the kidnappers had forcibly taken an individual identified as Mohammad Amin captive, a distressing incident that occurred three days ago.

However, the hostage was saved due to the meticulously executed operation.

The Ministry of Interior has confirmed that the security forces engaged in the operation emerged without casualties.

Simultaneously, authorities have reported that four kidnappers were killed in the operation. This outcome serves as a testament to the security forces’ resolute stance in upholding law and order, solidifying their unwavering dedication to ensuring the safety and protection of people and their possessions of those within their jurisdiction.

Source: khaama.com

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Afghanistan exports fresh grapes to Russia through Hairatan port

By Fidel Rahmati

August 20, 2023

Afghanistan exported 2,000 cartons of fresh grapes to Russia on Saturday. According to the Balkh Chamber of Commerce and Investment, the shipment was sent through the Hairatan border crossing in Afghanistan’s Northern Province.

On Saturday, these fresh grapes were transported to Uzbekistan via refrigerated trucks, originating from the Haritan

port in the province. As reported by Asadullah Asadi, the leader of the Balkh Chamber of Commerce and Industries, the grapes were subsequently sent to Russia.

He further highlighted that there had been a noticeable rise in the export of goods from Afghanistan to its neighbouring countries over the recent months.

He said that shortly, traders would utilize the same land port to export a variety of fruits, including pomegranates and apples.

The Hairatan dry port and border checkpoint are located on the Amu River, serving as the border with Uzbekistan. The Afghanistan-Uzbekistan Friendship Bridge connects the two nations, emerging as a vital trade route linking Afghanistan and neighbouring countries to the north.

Afghanistan primarily exports fresh and dried fruits to India and Pakistan, constituting a significant portion of its trade.

Afghanistan’s exports to Central Asian countries, including Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, have surged this year, according to the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment.

Source: khaama.com

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Mideast

 

Egypt’s president pardons prominent activist Ahmed Douma

By Claire Parker

August 19, 2023

CAIRO — Egyptian President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi pardoned the prominent Arab Spring activist Ahmed Douma and more than 30 other political prisoners on Saturday, in his latest gesture toward improving his government’s human rights record as Egypt seeks badly needed international funding.

Tarek El-Khouly, a member of parliament who sits on the presidential pardon committee, wrote on social media early Saturday afternoon that Douma was among the prisoners who would be pardoned under a decree Sisi issued on Saturday. Several hours later, videos shared on social media showed a grinning Douma outside of the prison, hugging friends and fellow activists who had gathered to greet him.

“For 10 years he was in the same place, in the same ward, welcoming new inmates and bidding farewell to others ... hoping he would get released one day and be with us,” his ex-wife, Nourhan Hefzy, wrote on Facebook after his release. “Today he deserves that we all take a break to fill our hearts with joy.”

Douma led protests during Egypt’s 2011 revolution but has since spent nearly a decade behind bars. He was arrested along with two other pro-democracy activists in December 2013 for violating a restrictive protest law passed by the military-backed government that took power in a coup that summer. He was sentenced to three years in prison, before being convicted and sentenced to 15 years on separate charges in 2015, in a trial that the rights group Amnesty International called “grossly unfair and politically motivated.”

Douma was tortured and denied medical care during his detention, according to rights groups. Moved in and out of solitary confinement, he spent more than four years in isolation in total — treatment that contributed to knee and back pain, severe depression and panic attacks, Amnesty said.

Douma was previously imprisoned for his activism under the governments of former presidents Hosni Mubarak — who was deposed during the revolution — and Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated president elected after the uprising.

Thirty-four other, less-prominent prisoners also received pardons Saturday, according to an official decree and a separate list published on social media by Tarek El-Awady, a member of the presidential pardon committee.

Egyptian human rights defenders and former political prisoners hailed the decision to free Douma.

“Douma has not been released from prison for one day since 2013,” Mona Seif, the sister of one of Egypt’s most prominent political prisoners, Alaa Abdel Fattah, tweeted Saturday. “If there is anyone who deserves freedom it is him.”

Mostafa Al-A’sar, an Egyptian human rights defender and journalist who was imprisoned for several years, shared an old photo of Douma and him, smiling, “before prisons and detention centers.”

“May God compensate you, Douma, for the years of your life that they stole ... 10 years of arrest, unjust imprisonment and solitary confinement,” he tweeted. “Freedom for all detainees.”

The latest round of pardons comes after the release of two other famous political prisoners last month. Patrick George Zaki, a human rights researcher who had been sentenced just the day before in connection with an article he wrote on the treatment of the Christian minority in Egypt, was pardoned along with the human rights lawyer Mohamed El-Baqer ahead of a national holiday in July.

Their cases, along with Douma’s, came to symbolize the narrowing of civic space in Egypt, where Sisi has carried out a far-reaching crackdown on dissent over the past decade. Officially, the government maintains that Egypt has no political prisoners. But human rights groups and researchers estimate that tens of thousands of people — including journalists, activists and academics — have been arrested on political grounds.

In 2021, the Biden administration imposed new human-rights conditions on security aid to Egypt, ultimately deciding in early 2022 to withhold $130 million of the $1.3 billion in U.S. security assistance that Egypt receives annually.

With Egypt facing a deepening economic crisis and desperate for foreign funding, Sisi has taken steps in recent years to address international criticism of Egypt’s human rights record. The government unveiled the country’s first human rights strategy in October 2021, to mixed reviews. Sisi announced plans last year for a national dialogue billed as a forum for debate over political, economic and social reforms. And in April 2022, he reactivated the committee charged with administering presidential pardons of detainees.

Since then, more than 1,400 people have been released from pretrial detention, according to state media.

The deadly Rabaa Square crackdown changed Egypt forever

Still, the Egyptian government continues to imprison critics — and some analysts and political opponents have called the national dialogue little more than theater.

The U.S. State Department faces a Sept. 30 deadline to decide whether to hold back any portion of the roughly $300 million of foreign military funding this year that is subject to human-rights conditions.

“Just days before the US is set to determine if Egypt has made sufficient human rights progress to warrant conditioned military aid, these releases should be seen as a fig leaf designed to detract from the vast scope of the human rights violations,” said Andrea Prasow, executive director of the Freedom Initiative, which advocates for political prisoners in the Middle East and North Africa.

“It’s a relief that [Douma] will be free,” Prasow said in a statement. “But he is just one of more than 60,000 political prisoners in Egypt.”

Source: washingtonpost.com

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Houthis shell villages in Yemen’s Dhale, Lahj, Marib, Taiz provinces

SAEED AL-BATATI

August 20, 2023

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: The Houthis have escalated their bombardment of villages in Yemen’s Marib, Lahj, Dhale and Taiz provinces over the past 48 hours while the Yemeni government has ordered the army to remain on high alert to repel Houthi attacks.

Local media reports and residents said that the Houthis discharged artillery shells at homes in the Malaa region of the province’s central region on Saturday evening.

Images shared on social media show flames pouring from the targeted homes, with no confirmed reports of casualties.

Other Houthis shelled houses and farms in Al-Dhafer districts of the southern province of Lahj on Saturday, prompting residents to flee their homes.

In the northern portion of the province of Dhale, a Houthi sniper shot and wounded an eight-year-old child, while residential areas and villages were shelled.

Residents said that Najema Mubarak Ali was grazing livestock next to her home in the Al-Markhaza region of Dhale when she was shot in both legs by a Houthi sniper.

She was transported to hospital in the southern city of Aden after bullets pierced both legs and severed nerves and arteries.

The most recent Houthi attacks in the three provinces occurred days after dozens of artillery shells struck villages in the Mawiyah District in Taiz, destroying homes and farms and killing a number of animals.

The escalation of Houthi military operations and bombardment of residential areas, primarily in the province of Lahj, has prompted Yemen’s Prime Minister Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed to meet in Aden with the Ministry of Defense leadership, the commander of the 4th Military Region, and the governor of Lahj on Saturday to discuss how to counter the Houthi attacks while also keeping the army on alert.

At the same time, the international Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor reported that three million residents of Taiz are suffering from a lack of basic amenities such as food and medication as a result of the Houthi siege of the city, and that they are in danger of being killed or injured by Houthi shelling of residential areas.

The organization said the UN-brokered cease-fire that reduced hostilities across the country did not halt the Houthi siege of Taiz and the suffering of the people there.

 “The slowing of the conflict in Yemen should not detract from the plight of millions of civilians who are dying slowly as a result of the siege imposed on the city of Taiz for years,” the organization said.

It added that the siege of Taiz “is a form of collective punishment against civilians, and may amount to a war crime under the relevant international laws.”

Taiz, Yemen’s third largest city, has been under siege by the Houthis since 2015 when they failed to conquer the city’s downtown due to strong resistance from army forces and allied resistance fighters.

The Houthis have rejected all international mediators’ proposals and peace initiatives to open roads in Taiz.

Meanwhile, a group of Omani delegates who arrived in Sanaa last week to persuade the Houthis to embrace international peace efforts to end the war left on Sunday after meeting Houthi leaders.

The Houthi media reported that the Omani delegation discussed with their leaders the possibility of opening Sanaa airport to new destinations, paying public employees in militia-controlled areas, and extending the cease-fire for an extended period.

Since October, the Houthis have asked that the Yemeni government pay public employees in their territories and split oil earnings in order for the truce to be renewed.

The Yemeni government stated that it would only pay government salaries if the Houthis remitted state income from Hodeidah to the central bank.

Source: arabnews.com

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Tel Aviv to return to Stone Age by threatening Beirut

TEHRAN, Aug. 21 (MNA) – A Lebanese Parliament member emphasized that the Zionist regime will return to the Stone Age if continues to threaten this country.

Ihab Hamadeh, a member of Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc emphasized that the Resistance has drawn a new equation in which threatening Lebanon to return this country to the Stone Age is equivalent to returning the Zionist regime to the Stone Age.

"We announce publicly that the enemies' conspiracy was unsuccessful," he stated, adding that Resistance is present everywhere and has changed the equation.

Hamadeh stressed that the change of the equations not only has happened in Lebanon but also in the region leading Resistance to become a major actor at the world level.

Protecting Lebanon's soil becomes possible with the help of the triple equation of the army, the Resistance, and the nation which enabled Lebanon to get the maritime rights of this country, he added.

Gadi Shamni, a retired general in the Israel regime Defense Forces, Referring to the recent "Chavurah" group resistance operation which led to the death of 2 Zionist settlers also predicted that the range of Resistance operations and conflict between Palestinians and Zionists will increase.

He commented on Seyed Hassan Nasrallah, Secretary General of Hezbollah saying that Nasrallah is completely aware of the occurrence of all events.

Hezbollah forces are always ready and they know the Zionist regime's weakness and the fear of Netanyahu's cabinet, he added.

Source: mehrnews.com

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Israeli woman killed, man seriously wounded in West Bank shooting

REUTERS

August 21, 2023

JERUSALEM: A woman was killed in a suspected Palestinian shooting attack near the occupied West Bank city of Hebron on Monday, the Israeli military said.

Israel’s ambulance service said a man who was also seriously wounded in the incident was transferred to hospital.

The military said in a statement it had set up roadblocks and was searching for the suspects, who it said fired from a passing vehicle.

A spokesperson of the Islamist Hamas group that governs blockaded Gaza, Hazem Qassem, praised the attack and said it was a response to Israel’s ongoing assaults on Palestinians.

Source: arabnews.com

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Global aid official appeals for funds to help Sudanese trapped in war between generals

AP

August 20, 2023

Sudan was plunged into chaos in April when simmering tensions between the military, led by Abdel Fattah Burhan, and the RSF, commanded by Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, exploded into open fighting in the capital, Khartoum, and elsewhere

CAIRO: A global aid official urged the international community Sunday to provide more funds to help Sudanese citizens trapped by a monthslong military conflict between rival generals in the African nation.

Jagan Chapagain, the secretary-general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said his organizations have received only 7 percent of the $45 million they appealed for to help those inside Sudan. The war pits the military against the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.

“The needs are real,” he told The Associated Press in an interview in Cairo. “Sudanese people need urgent support, urgent solidarity and urgent interest.”

Sudan was plunged into chaos in April when simmering tensions between the military, led by Abdel Fattah Burhan, and the RSF, commanded by Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, exploded into open fighting in the capital, Khartoum, and elsewhere.

The conflict has turned Khartoum and other urban areas into battlefields. Many residents live without water and electricity, and the country’s health care system has nearly collapsed. The sprawling region of Darfur saw some of the worst bouts of violence in the conflict, and the fighting there has morphed into ethnic clashes with RSF and allied Arab militia targeting ethnic African communities.

Clashes also intensified earlier this month in the provinces of South Kordofan and West Kordofan. A rebel group attacked Kadugli, the provincial capital of South Kordofan and clashed with the military, killing and displacing civilians, according to the UN mission in Sudan.

In Al-Fula, the provincial capital of West Kordofan, fighting erupted for days between the military and the RSF before local officials helped stop the clashes, the UN mission, known as UNITAMS, said Sunday. But government offices, banks and the offices of the UN and other aid agencies were looted, it said

More than 3.4 million people were forced to flee their homes to safer areas inside Sudan, according to the United Nations’ migration agency. Over a million crossed into neighboringcountries, including Egypt, Chad, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Central African Republic, the agency added.

Chapagain called for the international community to show the same solidarity with Sudanese people they showed last year when they rushed to help those who fled Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I see the humanitarian side of the Ukraine is a good example. That’s how the world community can come together. We need a similar solidarity for Sudan now,” he said.

Along with the $45 million needed to help those inside Sudan, Chapagain said another $35 million is needed to provide assistance to those who fled the fighting to Sudan’s neighboring countries.

His comments came following a trip to the Egyptian border with Sudan, where he met with customs officials and Sudanese refugees who fled the fighting in Khartoum. Egypt received more than 272,000 Sudanese as of Aug. 1, according to official figures.

Although the operations at the Egyptian side of the border were organized, he said, there were long lines for people on the Sudanese side waiting to be allowed into Egypt. He said between 400 and 600 people are crossing daily into Egypt compared to thousands in the first weeks of the war.

The Egyptian government had allowed women and children to cross without visas in the first weeks of the war, but in June it began requiring visas for all Sudanese citizens despite objections from activists and rights groups.

Chapagain said the Egyptian government is under economic pressure as they are hosting more than 9 million migrants, including Sudanese, Syrians and others, as well as the country’s growing population of over 105 million.

“They want to be generous. They want to be welcoming,” he said. “But at the same time, they do have concern in the sense that ... they are still a developing country.”

Source: arabnews.com

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Illegal logging turns Syria’s forests into ‘barren land’

 20 August 2023

AFP

JAABAR, Syria: On a riverbank in war-ravaged Syria’s north, felling has reduced what was once a lush forest to dispersed trees and decimated trunks poking out from dry, crumbly soil.

Twelve years of conflict that led to a spike in illegal logging, along with the effects of climate change and other factors, have eroded Syria’s greenery.

The dwindling forest on the shores of the Euphrates River “is shrinking every year,” said Ahmed Al-Sheikh, 40, a supermarket owner in the village of Jaabar, in the Kurdish-held part of Syria’s Raqqa province.

Before, “the forest would attract tourists, birds, purify the air and protect the area from dust storms,” he said.

But fuel shortages and rampant poverty during the war have pushed many Syrians to chop the trees to sell or use for heating, dealing a blow to the nature surrounding Jaabar.

Its ancient citadel had made the village a popular pre-war tourist attraction, with a reforestation project launched in the mid-1990s offering rare respite from the searing heat.

“Some people cut down the trees to sell them and earn money, others to keep warm during the winter,” Sheikh said.

“If this goes on, desertification will follow.”

Residents said they hear loggers riding motorbikes into the forest at night to cut down trees.

Even in broad daylight, young men sneak into the woods to chop trees, evading the handful of forest guards patrolling the vast, green spaces.

Syria’s war has killed more than 500,000 people and displaced millions.

It has also devastated the environment, triggering an “alarming” loss of forest cover across the country, Dutch peace-building group PAX warned in a report earlier this year.

The country has witnessed a “26 percent decrease in tree cover since 2000,” according to data from Global Forest Watch.

Ten kilometers (six miles) from Jaabar, the same fate has befallen the trees of Tuwayhina.

“In my childhood, we used to come here with friends to sit under the shade of eucalyptus and pine trees,” said Mohammed Ali, surrounded by tree trunks scattered across the sun-scorched earth.

“But now it is a barren land,” said the 30-year-old nurse. “Now, there is no shade left, only the heat of the sun everywhere.”

“The dust storms never stop, the lake is drying up and there are no trees left,” Ali said, referring to Lake Assad, Syria’s largest fresh-water dam reservoir.

Water levels have dropped and pollution has worsened in the Euphrates and the reservoir it feeds, with the river’s flow further impacted by upstream dams in Turkiye.

Source: arabnews.com

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Iran to send first Latin American trade attaché to Sao Paulo

TEHRAN, Aug. 21 (MNA) – Iran is sending a trade attaché to the Brazilian economic hub of Sao Paolo as the country seeks to expand its trade ties with Latin American countries.

Caretaker head of Iran’s Trade Promotion Organization (TPO) Mehdi Zeighami said on Sunday that Iran hopes it can lower its trade deficit with Brazil by sending a commerce attaché to the country.

“Our absence from the Brazilian market has helped rivals to expand their activities in this market,” said Zeighami while speaking at the third edition of a major conference in Tehran on trade opportunities between Iran and Brazil.

He said the TPO seeks to remove trade hurdles caused by the geographical distance between Iran and Latin America by offering support to exporters.

Iran is a major importer of animal feed from Brazil while its exports to the South American country mostly consist of petrochemicals, including fertilizers.

An Iranian trade center has already been set up in Brazil to help diversify Iranian exports to the country.

Zeighami said Iran has various plans to boost trade with Brazil, including the launch of a direct shipping line and dispatching delegations to participate in economic and trade exhibitions in Brazil.

Iran has increasingly relied on non-oil export revenues since it came under American sanctions in 2018. The policy also aims to help diversify the Iranian economy away from crude oil revenues and to create more jobs in the country.

Customs office figures show non-oil exports from Iran reached over $53 billion in the calendar year to late March 2023 despite all restrictions imposed by the US on the country’s access to global trade and banking services.

MNA/PressTV

Source: mehrnews.com

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Africa

 

Young Zimbabwean voters dream of 'change'

 August 20, 2023

Just days before a national election to pick a president and lawmakers, one word is on the lips of most young Zimbabweans: "change".

Yet, questions about who can deliver change and whether it might happen draw elusive or conflicting answers on the bustling and trafficked streets of Harare, the capital.

"There needs to be a change in almost everything, we need change," said Tsitsi Chifura, a 22-year-old human resources student, echoing the concerns of many others at the lack of work opportunities.

"We have nothing to do, we are just sitting (around)," she said as she walked on the streets of the central business district.

About two-thirds of Zimbabweans are under 25, according to the United Nations.

Many will be voting for the first time on August 23, in an election where unemployment, estimated by economists at about 70 percent in the formal sector, is one of the top concerns.

Talk of change often implies support for the opposition, led by Nelson Chamisa, a 45-year-old lawyer and pastor. But almost no one says that out loud.

"I am scared," said Valentine Kamupini a 25-year-old chef, adding he was still hoping for "a good result", speaking a few blocks from a giant portrait of President Emmerson Mnangagwa which towers over the city.

The ruling ZANU-PF party, in power since independence in 1980 has a low tolerance for dissent and has been accused by rights groups of resorting to violence, repression and intimidation to secure a favourable vote.

Yet, analysts say the party's long dominance might play against it at the ballot box.

'Young blood' vs 'geriatrics'

"Most young people are sick and tired...of being ruled by a geriatric lot," said Zimbabwean political analyst Brian Kagoro.

Mnangagwa, who is seeking a second term, is 80 and came to power after a 2017 military-led coup that deposed the late Robert Mugabe, then 93.

"We need young blood that is energetic, fresh minds. The current one is old-fashioned," said Tawanda Gwanzura, 28, also a chef, adding there would be "no change" if the government were to win.

Others believe Mnangagwa, who also promised change for Zimbabwe when he was first elected in 2018, is still the best candidate to deliver on that promise after the polls.

"We are looking for jobs. So I think with president Mnangagwa we will have jobs," said Faustina Nyamhandu, 22, unemployed.

The president, who has been on a ribbon-cutting spree in recent weeks, "is making in-roads" she added.

Both ZANU-PF and Chamisa's Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) have refreshed their ranks, filing youthful candidates for legislative and municipal elections, to woo young voters.

But some feel that doesn't really matter, as amid widespread fears of rigging, their vote won't count either.

"We all know the outcome," said Mafadzwa Taruvinga, 24, explaining why she will not vote. "I think there will be no change at all".

Source: africanews.com

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https://www.africanews.com/2023/08/20/young-zimbabwean-voters-dream-of-change/

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Mauritanian migrants explore new routes to the United States

August 21, 2023

Aissata Sall was scrolling through WhatsApp in May when she first learned about the new route from Mauritania to the United States.

The opportunity to leave her West African nation of Mauritania for a new life in the U.S., made possible by a little-known point of entry in Nicaragua.

Social media accounts dedicated to promoting the thoroughfare described the journey in breezy, inspirational terms.

The route brought Sall and others to a squat brick house in suburban Cincinnati. It has carried thousands of other Mauritanians to the United States in recent months, a sudden and unexpected influx that has highlighted the growing power of social media to dramatically alter the flow of migration across the globe.

Many who left Mauritania say they are fleeing economic insecurity and state violence directed toward the country’s Black population by the Arab-led government.

But some who left say they were misled about the dangers of the trip and the future that awaited them in the United States.

Sall, a 23-year-old nurse in Mauritania who borrowed money from family and friends to pay for the tickets, said she was robbed on a bus in Mexico by men dressed as police officers. After crossing the border, she was hospitalized with dehydration.

“The route I took to get here is no good, my phone was stolen, my money was stolen,” Sall said.

The surge appears to be enabled, in large part, by the rapid spread of information online about a relatively new change in Nicaragua’s immigration policy, which allows for nationals from much of Africa and Asia to obtain a low-cost visa without proof of onward travel or a return ticket.

Travel agencies and social media-savvy guides have caught on, offering packages of connecting flights that criss-cross the globe, transporting African migrants through airports in Turkey, Colombia and El Salvador, before they can finally emerge in Managua, Nicaragua. From there, they are whisked north by buses with the help of smugglers.

The pathway was first discovered earlier this year, according to one self-described guide, who promotes flight packages to Mauritanians on TikTok and collects a portion of the fare from the travel agencies. He said the journey can cost up to $8,000, with families often selling off livestock to afford it. The man spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of jeopardizing his job.

While the trip is costly, it avoids the harrowing jungle trek through South America’s Darien Gap. To many Mauritanians, the route is now seen as preferable to the deadly sea crossing into Europe.

The abrupt change in preference is evident in data maintained by the government of Honduras, which lies directly north of Nicaragua: Over the last three months, more than 4,000 Mauritanians were recorded passing through the country. During the year prior to that period, the number was fewer than 500.

Many Mauritanians enter the United States in Yuma, Arizona, after being dropped off on a Mexican highway by smugglers for a roughly two-hour walk through a knee-deep river and flat desert shrub and rocks. They surrender to Border Patrol agents waiting under stadium lights where a wall built during Donald Trump’s presidency abruptly ends.

After a period of detention and screening that could last hours or days, they may enter the country to await a court date. Many soon find their way to Cincinnati, where a small but vibrant community of Mauritanians, many of whom came to the country as refugees decades ago, is helping new arrivals get situated.

Among the helpers is Oumar Ball, a nursing home administrator, currently hosting 19 Mauritanians in his tidy one-story house. Each Friday, they pack into Ball’s minivan and drive to a nearby mosque. Afterward, they share a traditional meal of lamb and couscous, served on the floor with cans of Coca-Cola.

Ball, 54, said he started getting calls in early spring about large groups of newly-arrived Mauritanians. Some days, he makes multiple trips to the airport in Cincinnati to pick up people coming from the border, bringing them to his home or to a block of apartments rented out by the community.

Volunteers help them fill out immigration paperwork and find health care. They also correct the belief, held by many new arrivals, that the U.S. has reached a special diplomatic agreement with Mauritania that allows them to work in the country – a misconception that has spread widely on TikTok.

Ball, who left Mauritania in 1996, said conditions had deteriorated in his former country, which has long struggled with poverty and is now facing economic impacts of the pandemic and droughts made worse by climate change.

The country was one of the last to officially criminalize slavery, and Black residents continue to suffer repression, according to human rights advocates. Recent protests against the government, sparked by the killing of a man in police custody, led to the shutdown of the mobile internet, heightening tensions among younger generations.

Those factors have prompted a new wave of Mauritanians to seek refuge in the US. In addition to Cincinnati, they’ve also arrived in New York City, Philadelphia, Denver and Dallas. But the relatively small number of Mauritanians already living in the country – the foreign-born population is estimated at 8,000, with nearly half living in Ohio – mean that many asylum-seekers are on their own.

Source: africanews.com

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https://www.africanews.com/2023/08/21/mauritanian-migrants-explore-new-routes-to-the-united-states/

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ECOWAS envoys in Niger to find peaceful solution to crisis

August 20, 2023

ECOWAS envoys arrived in Niger on Saturday afternoon (Aug. 19) in a last-ditch diplomatic effort to reach a peaceful solution to the leadership crisis.

Niger's prime minister welcomed the delegation which was headed by a Nigerian former military head of state. Abdulsalami Abubakar

This approach will be crowned with success, and I will report on the discussions to the current President of ECOWAS,' he said.

Nigeria's president Bola Tinubu is serving as the ECOWAS president.

Abdulsalami Abubakar met separately with General Abdourahmane Tiani, the junta leader.

During the talks, Tchiani pushed for the lifting of economic and travel sanctions imposed by ECOWAS after the coup, saying Niger's population was suffering because of them, but he was unwilling to give much in return, said the official. The junta said they were under pressure, at times striking a conciliatory tone and apologizing for past disrespect towards the bloc, while also defiantly standing by its decision to overthrow Bazoum and unequivocal about him not returning to power, the official added.

Tiani also repeatedly expressed concerns that its former colonial ruler France — which has some 1,500 troops in the country and had been providing training and conducting joint operations with Niger’s military — was actively planning an attack, according to an official who agreed to speak to the Associated Press spoke on condition of anonymity.

Sahel experts say it’s not surprising that little seem to have come from Saturday's (Aug. 19) meeting as each party is trying to show they’re open to discussions, yet the chances of an agreement are slim because their positions are starkly different.

ECOWAS envoy Abubakar also met toppled President Mohamed Bazoum during the visit.

Speculations about Bazoum's health had been rife. Since the July 26 coup, Bazoum has been under house arrest with his family.

ECOWAS on August 10 ordered the deployment of a "standby force" to restore constitutional rule in Niger.

Saturday's (Aug. 19) meetings joined mediation efforts by Leonardo Santos Simao, the U.N. special representative for West Africa and the Sahel, who arrived on Friday (Aug. 18).

Source: africanews.com

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https://www.africanews.com/2023/08/20/ecowas-envoys-in-niger-to-find-peaceful-solution-to-crisis/

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Thousands of pro-coup supporters throng Niger’s capital; slam France, ECOWAS

 20 August 2023

Thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets in the Nigerien capital to voice their support for the country's military leaders, who seized power from pro-Western officials in a coup last month.

The rallies swept Niamey on Sunday, with participants chanting slogans against the country's former colonial power France and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

ECOWAS, which is West Africa's main regional bloc, has threatened Niger's coup leaders with military intervention to reinstate the country's former authorities.

Niger's new leaders, who toppled President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26, allege that France, a close ally of Bazoum, is behind ECOWAS' anti-coup stance.

The demonstrators waved placards reading, "Stop the military intervention" and "No to sanctions," in reference to financial and trade bans imposed on Niger by ECOWAS less than a week after the coup.

Despite mounting pressure, coup leader General Abdourahamane Tiani said in a Saturday address to the nation that the military leaders do not plan to "confiscate" power.

He added that the junta would launch a national dialogue on a transition back to civilian rule, which "should last no longer than three years."

Niger

Neither coup leaders nor "the Nigerien people want war and remain open to dialogue," he added.

His remarks came after on Saturday, an ECOWAS delegation arrived in Niger's capital in what the bloc called was a final diplomatic push before deciding on whether to take military action.

The West African diplomatic mission arrived in Niger a day after issuing an ultimatum to the military leaders to reinstate the pro-Western president.

The delegation was met at the airport by the junta-appointed prime minister and was also allowed to meet with Bazoum, in a sign of openness to negotiations on the part of the coup leaders.

Tiani, however, warned that "if an aggression were to be undertaken against us, it would not be the walk in the park that some believe."

On Saturday, thousands of the junta's supporters gathered at a stadium in Niamey, where the crowding caused the postponement of an unofficial census of civilian volunteers for nonmilitary roles if ECOWAS actually resorted to force.

Thousands of mostly young men gathered outside the stadium hours before the scheduled start time of the event. The gathering has been seen by observers as a sign of the strong support in some quarters of Niger's society for the junta.

Source: presstv.ir

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Europe

 

The UK Charity Commission Probing Islamic Centre Linked to Iran Which Has Hosted Hardline Islamic Clerics

20 Aug, 2023

The UK Charity Commission has begun investigating an Iran-linked British foundation, which has hosted hardline Islamic clerics and paramilitary figures.

According to The Sunday Times, the watchdog, which regulates registered charities in UK, opened a compliance case into the Al-Tawheed Charitable Trust (TUCF), located in a repurposed Methodist church in Hammersmith, west London, which promotes Islamic Republic’s regime propaganda among Shia Muslim youth in the UK. The TUCF owns and operates the Kanoon Towhid and a student association.

The center claims to “relieve poverty and sickness of persons who profess the Islamic religion in the UK” but it mainly glorifies Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and first Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic who ruled until his death in 1989, and hosts events featuring figures affiliated with the regime.

On January 5, 2020, it hosted a packed event celebrating Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force, an extraterritorial arm of the Revolutionary Guard, which oversees clandestine operations and supports terrorist groups such as Hezbollah. He had been killed in a US airstrike 48 hours earlier. The trust’s literature described him as a “great martyr”.

Several other events were held in the center with representatives of the regime delivering lectures, such as Seyyed Hashem Mousavi, a charity trustee described as the UK representative of Ali Khamenei.

The Jewish Chronicle reported that the center hosted an event last month in which an imam praised “martyrs” of the “axis of resistance” -- an Islamic Republic term meaning Tehran-backed regional militias who are “the greatest threat to the Zionists”.The Chronicle also linked the center to virtual and in-person talks by members of the IRGC.

Source: iranintl.com

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https://www.iranintl.com/en/202308207936

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Biden rival labels F-16s for Ukraine ‘a disaster for humanity’

20 Aug, 2023

Supplying US-made fighter jets to Kiev would only benefit the defense industry, RFK Jr. says

The looming delivery of US-made F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine will not prevent the “collapse” of the country’s military and will only benefit the military-industrial complex, Democrat presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy Junior has claimed.

The Ukrainian conflict should be resolved through negotiations, RFK Jr. argued in a thread on social media platform X (formerly Twitter), stating that supplying F-16s to Kiev was a “great decision for the defense industry, but a disaster for Ukraine and humanity.”

“F-16s won’t stop the collapse of the Ukrainian military (which some experts say is imminent). These planes require a lot of training and maintenance. This isn’t the movies,” Kennedy stressed.

The presidential hopeful has long-opposed the enduring Western aid to Ukraine, spearheaded by Washington, arguing that the US should admit its “failure” in the country and focus on domestic issues instead. Kennedy’s criticism of the fighter-jet delivery comes after Washington enabled its European allies to re-export older planes to Ukraine, and hours before the move was officially announced by Denmark and the Netherlands.

EU states to give F-16 fighter jets to UkraineREAD MORE: EU states to give F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine

The upcoming delivery was heralded by Dutch PM Mark Rutte on Sunday as he hosted Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky at a military airbase in Eindhoven.

“Today we can announce that the Netherlands and Denmark commit to the transfer of F-16 aircraft to Ukraine and the Ukrainian Air Force, including cooperation with the United States and other partners once the conditions for such a transfer have been met,” Rutte said at a press conference.

Simultaneously, the Danish Ministry of Defence released a statement confirming its pledge to provide Kiev with F-16s from its inventory, once certain “conditions” are met. The conditions “include, but are not limited to, successfully selected, tested and trained Ukrainian F-16 personnel as well as necessary authorizations, infrastructure and logistics,” it said.

Kiev has long-demanded modern aircraft, as well as other, increasingly sophisticated weaponry, from its Western backers, arguing the planes would help it turn the tide of the conflict with Russia, which has been going on since February 2022. Moscow has repeatedly urged the collective West to stop the military deliveries, arguing they would only prolong the hostilities rather than change their ultimate outcome.

Source: rt.com

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https://www.rt.com/news/581543-kennedy-ukraine-f16-delivery/

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Ukraine issues new warning to Israel

20 Aug, 2023

Kiev has threatened to suspend visa-waiver deals with the country over alleged mistreatment of Ukrainians in Israel

The Ukrainian envoy to Israel has doubled down on Kiev’s threats to Israel, warning Ukraine may end up suspending visa-free travel agreements with the country.

On Sunday, Ambassador Evgeny Kornichuk elaborated on vague threats voiced by Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, who’d cited a report on the alleged mistreatment of Ukrainian nationals abroad. While the president did not explicitly name Israel in his address, the ambassador made it clear the remarks were actually aimed at the country.

Kornichuk said in a statement: “The Ukrainian government will not tolerate the humiliation of its citizens upon entering Israel. We will suspend our bilateral visa-waiver deals, according to Article 7 of the intergovernmental agreement.”

The potential suspension of the visa-free travel deal will particularly affect Breslover Hasidim pilgrims flocking to the Ukrainian town of Uman to celebrate Jewish New Year and visit the tomb of the movement’s founder, Reb Nachman of Bratslav.

Israel ends free medical care for UkrainiansREAD MORE: Israel ends free medical care for Ukrainians

“It is unthinkable that we would have to go out of our way to host tens of thousands of Israelis in Uman, with a high security risk and a huge logistical effort, while the Israeli government abuses our citizens who come to Israel within the framework of a treaty between the two countries,” the envoy stated, urging Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to address the issue personally if “Israel wants its citizens to be able to come to Ukraine as tourists.”

Under the standing agreements between the two nations, Ukrainian tourists may stay in Israel for up to three months under a simplified visa process. Moreover, the time-limit cap was suspended for non-Jewish Ukrainian refugees amid the ongoing conflict between Moscow and Kiev. Last week, Kornichuk claimed that 10% of Ukrainian visitors end up deported from Israel without any explanation.

Ukraine considering measures against ‘pro-Russia’ Israel – mediaREAD MORE: Ukraine considering measures against ‘pro-Russia’ Israel – media

Israeli authorities have denied somehow mistreating Ukrainians, with Interior and Health Minister Moshe Arbel responding to the ambassador’s accusations in a statement and insisting that the country welcomes “tourists” from Ukraine and elsewhere.

“In instances where there is a suspicion they are using their tourist visa unlawfully to work or settle down, the Population, Immigration and Border Authority operates according to its legal authority,” the minister explained.

In recent weeks, ties between Israel and Ukraine have been visibly dented, with Kiev publicly expressing its outrage over the country’s decision to cease providing free healthcare for thousands of refugees staying in the country. The Ukrainian authorities have been reportedly disgruntled with Israel’s alleged “pro-Russian” stance and lack of “real help,” considering various retaliatory measures.

Source: rt.com

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https://www.rt.com/news/581559-ukraine-israel-visa-warning/

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EU states to give F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine

20 Aug, 2023

The delivery of the aircraft to Kiev was announced during President Vladimir Zelensky’s European tour

The Netherlands and Denmark said on Sunday that they would give Ukraine long-demanded F-16 fighter jets. The move was announced during a meeting between Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, as the leaders toured an airbase in Eindhoven.

“Today we can announce that the Netherlands and Denmark commit to the transfer of F-16 aircraft to Ukraine and the Ukrainian Air Force, including cooperation with the United States and other partners once the conditions for such a transfer have been met,” Rutte stated during a joint press conference with Zelensky.

The prime minister noted that while his country has 42 F-16s, it is too early to say how many will be donated to Kiev. At least 12 of the aircraft had been up for sale, with the Netherlands and Argentina negotiating a potential deal for the planes for several years.

Zelensky hailed the decision as a “historic” breakthrough, and implied that Amsterdam would hand over its entire F-16 inventory to Ukraine.

“Mark Rutte and I agreed on the number of F-16s that will be provided to Ukraine – after training our pilots and engineers. 42 planes. And this is just the beginning,” Zelensky wrote on Telegram.

NATO nations cleared by US to send F-16s to Ukraine – ministersREAD MORE: NATO nations cleared by US to send F-16s to Ukraine – ministers

Simultaneously, the Danish Defense Ministry released a statement, confirming the country will provide Kiev with F-16s. The ministry did not disclose the exact number of planes to be sent, confirming the aircraft will be supplied under certain “conditions,” which “include, but are not limited to, successfully selected, tested and trained Ukrainian F-16 personnel as well as necessary authorizations, infrastructure and logistics.”

“Denmark’s support for Ukraine is unwavering, and with the donation of F16 aircraft, Denmark is now leading the way,” Defense Minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen stated.

Both the Netherlands and Denmark are in the process of phasing out older US-made F-16 fighter jets and replacing them with modern F-35s. Denmark has around 40 aircraft of the older type in its inventory.

Kiev has long demanded combat aircraft from its Western backers, arguing that F-16s – and, potentially, planes of other types – would help turn the tide in the conflict with Russia. Moscow has repeatedly urged the West to stop “pumping” Ukraine with sophisticated weaponry, arguing that it will only prolong the hostilities without changing the outcome.

Source: rt.com

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https://www.rt.com/news/581540-netherlands-denmark-ukraine-fighters/

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UK F35s will take off from a road covered with aluminum mats

By Boyko Nikolov

Aug 21, 2023

As part of its strategy to conduct distributed operations, the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force [RAF] has articulated plans to showcase the feasibility of operating Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4s and Lockheed Martin F-35Bs from roads. This information was divulged by a high-ranking commander in a conversation with Aviation Week on the 13th of June.

Anticipations are mounting as demonstrations are projected to unfold in the imminent year, encompassing both Finland and the United Kingdom. This assertion was articulated by Air Marshal Harvey Smyth, the distinguished commander of the Royal Air Force’s air and space department, whilst he was ensconced in the peripheral proceedings of the esteemed Global Air and Space Chiefs Conference, located in the city of London.

Within the ensuing months, the anticipated Typhoon demonstrations are set to unfurl on Finland’s highways, as reported by Smyth. Diverging from the practices of the UK and its NATO allies, Finland has established a routine of operating a fleet of Boeing F/A-18 Hornets from its extensive network of national highways. This unique approach provides an opportunity for the UK to efficiently utilize its existing infrastructure.

Development of operational strategies for the F-35B’s road deployment is currently ongoing, as stated by Smyth. It is anticipated that these operations will predominantly occur within the boundaries of the United Kingdom. The Royal Air Force [RAF] is in the process of formulating plans to establish aluminum AM-2 mats along a designated road stretch that could potentially reach up to 1,500 feet in length.

The primary purpose of this strategic infrastructure is to facilitate short takeoffs and vertical landings by the F-35B, while concurrently ensuring the integrity of the underlying road structure is not compromised, Smyth further clarified. The two demonstrations under discussion form a segment of a broader initiative aimed at augmenting the realism and relevance of RAF training in the context of contemporary warfare.

It is commonplace for Nordic nations like Finland and Sweden to regularly rehearse the dispersion of their forces from primary operational bases. This practice is grounded in the assumption that, in the event of a Russian assault, the majority of static infrastructure would be incapacitated within a few hours of the onset of hostilities.

In the context of historical military strategy, it is noteworthy that NATO members employed distributed operating models during the Cold War era. However, the financial burden associated with this approach, encompassing the necessity for surplus parts and skilled maintenance personnel, induced numerous air forces to shift their focus. Consequently, they aimed to enhance the efficiency of their primary operating bases instead.

Bulgaria to Seek Proposals on New F-16s, Eurofighter Typhoons

With the escalating complexity of frontline aircraft like Typhoons and F-35Bs, it has been observed that the expenditures associated with distributed operations have experienced a parallel surge.

The purpose of these demonstrations, as articulated by Smyth, is to meticulously examine any potential vulnerabilities in the Royal Air Force’s [RAF’s] capacity to function effectively away from its primary bases for brief durations.

Smyth, addressing the assembly, articulated his strategy with a sense of gravity: “My philosophy centers around the idea that if one does not venture into the unknown, it remains impossible to discern where the pitfalls lie,” he proclaimed. “This is precisely the process that is currently underway.”

About RAF F-35

The RAF F-35B fighter is a highly advanced stealth aircraft that is capable of vertical takeoff and landing. It is designed to operate in a wide range of combat scenarios, including air-to-air combat, ground attack, and reconnaissance missions.

The F-35B is equipped with advanced avionics and sensor systems, including a sophisticated radar system that can detect and track multiple targets at once. It also has a powerful engine that allows it to reach supersonic speeds and fly at high altitudes.

RAF F-35B characteristics

One of the key technical characteristics of the RAF F-35B fighter is its stealth capabilities. The aircraft is designed to be virtually invisible to radar, making it extremely difficult for enemy forces to detect and track. This allows the F-35B to operate in hostile environments with a high degree of safety and effectiveness.

In addition, the aircraft is equipped with advanced weapons systems, including air-to-air missiles, precision-guided bombs, and a 25mm cannon. These weapons can be used to engage a wide range of targets, from enemy aircraft to ground-based defenses.

The RAF F-35B fighter has a number of combat possibilities that make it a highly versatile and effective weapon system. For example, its stealth capabilities allow it to operate in contested airspace without being detected, giving it a significant advantage over other aircraft.

In Russia: Copied Soviet Yak-141's unit damaged the F-35 in Texas

It can also be used to conduct precision strikes against enemy targets, using its advanced weapons systems to take out key infrastructure and military assets. In addition, the F-35B can be used for reconnaissance missions, gathering intelligence on enemy forces and providing valuable information to ground-based commanders. Overall, the RAF F-35B fighter is a highly advanced and capable aircraft that is well-suited to a wide range of combat scenarios.

Source: bulgarianmilitary.com

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https://bulgarianmilitary.com/2023/08/21/uk-f35s-will-take-off-from-a-road-covered-with-aluminum-mats/

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Ukrainian troops liberated 3 square kilometres near Bakhmut over past week

 21 AUGUST 2023

ALONA MAZURENKO

Hanna Maliar, Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister, has reported that the Ukrainian military liberated three square kilometres near Bakhmut last week.

Source: Maliar during the national joint 24/7 newscast; Military Media Center

Quote: "On the northern flank near Bakhmut, the enemy is trying to drive out our troops because our troops have taken the key dominant heights there. The enemy is trapped there because they cannot leave Bakhmut and cannot move fully there, so the enemy is trying to storm from the northern flank to drive out the Ukrainian army. The enemy is failing to do so, but the fighting is fierce.

Ukrainian defenders are advancing on the southern flank of the city of Bakhmut, and liberated another three square kilometres there last week. Together, we can say that 43 square kilometres has been liberated around Bakhmut."

Details: She says the defenders are advancing on the southern flank of the city of Bakhmut.

Maliar said the situation in the south has not changed significantly over the past week. Ukrainian defenders continue offensive actions on the Melitopol and Berdiansk fronts.

On the Kupiansk and Lyman fronts, Russian forces are bringing additional forces, and regrouping is taking place.

Quote: "The situation on the Kupiansk front is tough. You know that the enemy is attacking Kupiansk as well. The fighting continues. Our defenders are showing very strong resistance to the enemy."

On the Kupiansk front, Ukrainian defenders repelled Russian attacks south of Pershotravneve, Synkivka and east of Petropavlivka in Kharkiv Oblast. Russian forces are not advancing there.

On the Lyman front, the main battles continue around Serebrianka Forest in Luhansk Oblast, "The enemy is trying to drive us out of the Kreminna – Bilohorivka positions previously occupied by our troops. The enemy is having no success, but the fighting there is also very fierce."

Source: pravda.com.ua

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https://www.pravda.com.ua/eng/news/2023/08/21/7416393/

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Arab World

 

 

How Saudi Arabia’s SAMI is driving the localization of the Kingdom’s defense industry

AWAN RADWAN

August 20, 2023

Saudi Arabia Military Industries tasked with indigenization of half of Kingdom’s defense spending by 2030

SAMI aims to reduce Saudi Arabia’s reliance on foreign imports by building domestically and hiring locally

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s defense industry is relatively new, dating back to the early 1970s. However, the country has made significant progress in recent years and is now considered a major player in the global market.

In the early years, the Kingdom’s defense sector was focused primarily on the assembly and repair of foreign-made weapons and equipment. More recently, the country has pursued self-reliance in military manufacturing.

This shift has been motivated by a number of factors, including the country’s vast oil wealth, its strategic location in the Middle East, and its desire to reduce its reliance on foreign imports.

One of the key drivers behind this burgeoning industry is the aerospace and defense company Saudi Arabian Military Industries, or SAMI — a wholly owned subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund established in May 2017.

SAMI’s goal is to localize 50 percent of the Kingdom’s defense spending by 2030. To achieve this, SAMI has established 12 joint ventures with the world’s biggest and best original equipment manufacturers.

These joint ventures have enabled SAMI to acquire the technology and expertise it needs to develop its own defense products.

“Through partnering with industry pioneers and experts, we’re making great strides towards achieving this goal,” SAMI told Arab News.

“Starting with creating opportunities for local talents and building products that are changing the game in the industry, SAMI is determined to support and empower those talents while fostering global partnerships simultaneously.

“In the five years since its establishment, SAMI has launched several innovative products such as Hazem, Mulhim, and Roaya. Those products have helped solidify Saudi Arabia’s impact and position in the defense industry globally.

“Consequently, we remain focused on developing and enhancing products by creating opportunities and building sustainable partnerships locally and internationally.”

Through its investment and partnership with Navantia, a Spanish state-owned shipbuilding company, SAMI successfully completed Al-Sarawat, a project involving five new Avante 2200 corvettes for the Royal Saudi Naval Forces with capabilities to handle air, surface, or subsurface targets.

HMS Al-Jubail and HMS Al-Diriyah are now equipped with Hazem, an integrated combat system that combines on-board weapons and sensors into one single system. It is the first combat management system to be developed by the Kingdom.

Mulhim, another battle management system developed by SAMI, is a battle management system for dismounted soldiers, stationary command centers, and mobile command centers, designed to enhance the combat capability of land formations.

Roaya, meanwhile, is a lightweight armored turret that can be armed with a 7.62 or 12.7 mm caliber machine gun or a 40 mm caliber grenade launcher.

Through partnerships with global leaders in the defense sector, SAMI has developed a range of armored vehicles, tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, fighter jets and drones, and has employed new technologies, such as artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicle technology.

Its success has not gone without notice. SAMI ranked among Defense News’ top 100 defense firms for the second year in a row, rising 19 places since last year to 79th. The company has set its sights on ranking among the top 25.

However, SAMI is not the only company contributing to the Saudi defense industry’s expansion. Others include Advanced Electronics Co., Arabian Military Industries, and Military Industries Corp.

Much of the sector’s success is down to plentiful state investment. In 2022, Saudi Arabia ranked fifth in the world for military spending, after the US, China, Russia, and India, dedicating $75 billion to defense — accounting for 3.3 percent of global military spending.

The US led the ranking with $877 billion, or 3.5 percent of its gross domestic product. However, Saudi Arabia’s spending represents a higher share of its GDP, at 7.4 percent.

Investment in Saudi Arabia’s defense industry has multiple benefits for the country. Firstly, it helps to reduce the Kingdom’s reliance on foreign imports. This is important for national security, as it reduces the country’s vulnerability to supply chain disruptions.

Secondly, the growth of the defense sector creates high-skill jobs and opportunities for Saudi citizens. Finally, it helps to develop the country’s technological and manufacturing capabilities, leading to economic diversification and the growth of other sectors.

The boost in defense spending was first unveiled in 2016 when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sat with veteran TV journalist Turki Al-Dakhil for his first-ever television interview, which covered a wide range of topics regarding the Kingdom’s future.

“Is it reasonable that in 2014, Saudi Arabia was the largest fourth country in the world, and the largest third country in 2015 in terms of military spending; while we don’t have industry inside Saudi Arabia?” the crown prince asked during the interview.

“We have a strong demand that we should meet inside Saudi Arabia, which is the demand on the military industries.”

It was during this same interview that the crown prince alluded to establishing a holding company for military industries, “which is 100 percent for the government.” Thus, the idea of SAMI was born.

SAMI’s rapid growth since then has led to a significant increase in employment, with the company now boasting more than 3,000 employees, 84 percent of whom are Saudis, with plans to add a further 1,500 staff in the next quarter. The firm had just 63 staff in 2018.

With a view to develop local talent and expertise in the defense industry, SAMI has established a number of training and development programs to help Saudis acquire the skills and knowledge they require.

Aerospace, drone regulation and the space industry are other growing sectors in the defense market that have experienced increased investment. The government has signed contracts with several players in these fields, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Safran Helicopter Engines, ST Engineering, Airbus, and L3 Harris.

Its most recent signing was with Turkish company Baykar Tech to localize the manufacture of the Bayraktar Akinci drone and its component systems.

“We believe building local and global partnerships is a key factor in achieving SAMI’s goals, and being part of the Baykar Tech agreement is a huge step forward in doing so,” SAMI told Arab News.

“Those partnerships help us provide local talents with the best opportunities to grow and learn.”

Indeed, to drive ahead the localization of defense jobs, SAMI has taken the lead with the Kingdom’s new Academy of Defense Industries, which will significantly contribute to SAMI’s goal of becoming the largest supporter of national human resource.

“Furthermore, having SAMI’s CEO, Eng. Walid A. Abukhaled, as the chairman of the new Academy of Defense Industries is how we can ensure those opportunities are given to the right people, as the sole purpose of this academy is to find, prepare, and introduce young talents to the defense industry sector,” SAMI added.

Source: arabnews.com

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Saudi Arabia launches $200m fund for early investment in high-tech companies

August 20, 2023

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Sunday launched a SR750 million ($200 million) fund for early investment in local and international high-tech companies, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The initiative is part of a strategy announced for the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. It aims to transform research into economically productive innovations by focusing on the national priorities for research, development, and innovation.

The key areas include health and wellness, sustainable environment and essential needs, energy and industrial leadership, and economies of the future.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said: “Since the foundation of KAUST, it has distinguished itself with its research, innovations, and faculty, to become one of the leading research universities in the world.

“The new strategy builds on KAUST’s scientific and academic achievements and represents a new era for the university to become a beacon of knowledge and a source of inspiration and innovation in line with Vision 2030 aspirations for the betterment of the Kingdom and the world.”

The report said the strategy seeks to strengthen KAUST’s partnerships with the public and private sectors, which will contribute to achieving the objectives of Vision 2030.

The new strategy focuses on increasing the likelihood of turning research into economically beneficial innovations. This ambition will be achieved through three major initiatives: the launch of the National Transformation Institute for Applied Research to accelerate technology development and commercialization to support the Kingdom’s economic diversification aspirations; the restructuring of research centers to align with national priorities for research, development, and innovation; and the creation of a $200m fund (SR750 million) to deliver unmet investment in local and international firms specializing in high-tech, which will enhance economic diversification and contribute to the creation of high quality technical jobs.

It also aims to provide opportunities for researchers, faculty members, and students to use their research to create a sustainable global impact by strengthening international and local partnerships. Among the most important initiatives resulting from these partnerships is the KAUST Reefscape Restoration Initiative, in partnership with NEOM, which will focus on cultivating and restoring hundreds of thousands of coral reefs on an area of 100 hectares, on Shushah Island in the Red Sea.

The university will continue collaboration with some of the largest companies in the Kingdom and the world, such as Aramco, SABIC, ACWA Power, IBM, Dow, and Boeing.

One of the most prominent initiatives of the strategy is to strengthen international partnerships and develop cooperation frameworks with leading academic institutions and technology pioneers in the world. This includes forging strategic cooperation agreements with leading academic and commercial institutes in the Chinese city of Shenzhen to collaborate on applied research across cutting-edge fields like aerospace, robotics, and microelectronics.

Through these initiatives and partnerships, KAUST will contribute to developing the higher education ecosystem, nurturing the future scientific research pioneers in the Kingdom, promoting research and global innovation, and stimulating the growth of advanced technology startups. This will enhance the competitiveness of the Kingdom’s economy and its global position as a leader in innovation.

Source: arabnews.com

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https://www.arabnews.com/node/2358236/business-economy

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Saudi Heritage Commission organizes activities at Buraidah Date Festival

August 20, 2023

The Buraidah Date Festival will spotlight one of the region’s most significant resources — the palm tree, a symbol of Saudi cultural identity and a major component of its economy

RIYADH: The Saudi Heritage Commission has put together a number of activities at the Buraidah Date Festival, which is organized by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture’s Qassim branch.

The festival’s pavilions showcase various aspects of the country’s heritage, from mud-house construction and old farming songs to market life in the past and the traditional Saudi coffee majlis. There is also a pavilion dedicated to the Year of Arabic Poetry.

The commission is also displaying an array of old handicrafts, including traditional embroidery and clothing, wood sculptures and handmade palm and Tamarix products, such as the kuphar and zabeel. Visitors can explore a model of the traditional Najdi majlis, where they are served fresh coffee made with traditional tools.

The commission’s activities include a daily theatrical show that showcases the Najdi market and conversations between merchants and buyers. There is also a section dedicated to children, where they can have fun, learn how to sell and buy dates and listen to historical stories from Najdi heritage.

The activities aim to shed light on the lives of past Saudi generations who lived before the oil revolution.

Over 50 family growers are participating in the festival alongside a host of craftswomen and female entrepreneurs. The event aims to support local farmers and artisans and recognize their contribution to promoting the Kingdom’s products and preserving its culture.

The Buraidah Date Festival will spotlight one of the region’s most significant resources — the palm tree, a symbol of Saudi cultural identity and a major component of its economy.

More than 40 artists are taking part in the festival, and visitors can watch them create murals and paintings portraying the economic and social significance of palm trees and their fruits.

Local date traders will also showcase their produce, and around 150 murals depicting various aspects of the palm tree — including its fronds, trunk, and fruit — will be on display in an exhibition that highlights the manufacturing industries linked to the palm tree.

The festival, which will run until Aug. 25, has created more than 4,000 seasonal job opportunities and attracted a large number of traders and consumers, leading to a significant increase in commerce.

Source: arabnews.com

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KSrelief’s Masam project dismantles 867 mines in Yemen

August 21, 2023

ADEN: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) mine clearing project in Yemen, also known as Masam, in one week cleared a total of 867 mines planted by the Houthi militia.

The disposed ordnance includes 113 anti-tanks, 738 unexploded ordnance, 14 explosive devices and two anti-personnel mines. KSrelief has dismantled 411,568 various mines since project Masam’s inception.

Saudi Arabia, represented by KSrelief, aims to eliminate the threat posed by indiscriminately planted mines in Yemen which results into deaths and injuries of innocent civilians.

Source: arabnews.com

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Saudi education minister meets Canadian, Iraqi ambassadors

August 21, 2023

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Education Yousef Al-Benyan has separately met Canadian and Iraqi ambassadors to the Kingdom.

Al-Benyan and Jean-Philippe Linteau discussed scientific cooperation between the Kingdom and Canada in the fields of public and university education, scientific research and innovation, as well as future cooperation opportunities.

The meeting also discussed the educational opportunities available to Saudi students after adding Canada as one of the new scholarship destinations under the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Scholarship Program.

The minister and Iraq’s envoy Safia Al-Suhail reviewed ways to develop bilateral relations in the educational and scientific fields under the Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council, as well as enhancing cooperation mechanisms and exchanging expertise between the two sides.

The officials also discussed supporting efforts related to partnerships between universities in the two countries, and benefiting from scholarships offered by the Kingdom to Iraqi students to study in Saudi universities.

Source: arabnews.com

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https://www.arabnews.com/node/2358561/saudi-arabia

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Saudi-Jordanian Joint Committee holds meeting in Riyadh

August 20, 2023

RIYADH: The Saudi-Jordanian Joint Committee held its 18th session on Sunday in Riyadh in the presence of government officials from both sides, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Saif bin Saad Al-Faqar, assistant undersecretary for sector development at Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Transport and Logistics Services, said that the meeting was held under the directives of the Kingdom’s leadership and was in line with the bilateral economic agreement signed between the two countries in 1962.

The official emphasized the countries’ ambitions to expand cooperation in various fields and implement recommendations made at past committee sessions.

Dana Al-Zoubi, secretary-general of the Jordanian Ministry of Industry, Trade and Supply, affirmed the countries’ strong relationship in various fields, adding that the session built on the efforts of meetings last year in Amman aimed at improving trade and economic exchange.

The session resulted in the drawing up of agreements and memorandums of understanding, as well as discussions on the best ways to increase cooperation between the countries.

Source: arabnews.com

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https://www.arabnews.com/node/2358371/saudi-arabia

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Crown Prince launches new strategy of KAUST, focusing on economically productive innovations

August 20, 2023

RIYADH — Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman, who is also chairman of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) Board of Trustees, launched on Sunday the new strategy of the university.

The Crown Prince said that the new strategy represents a new era for the university to become a beacon of knowledge and a source of inspiration and innovation in line with Vision 2030 aspirations for the betterment of the Kingdom and the world. “Since the foundation of KAUST, it has distinguished itself with its research, innovations, and faculty, to become one of the leading research universities in the world,” he said.

The strategy aims to transform research into economically productive innovations by focusing on the national priorities for research, development, and innovation. These include health and wellness, sustainable environment and essential needs, energy and industrial leadership, and economies of the future. Additionally, the strategy aims to strengthen KAUST’s partnerships with both the public and private sectors, which will contribute to achieving the objectives of the Saudi Vision 2030.

The new strategy focuses on increasing the likelihood of turning research into economically beneficial innovations. This ambition will be achieved through three major initiatives: firstly, the launch of the National Transformation Institute for Applied Research (NTI) to accelerate technology development and commercialization to support the Kingdom's economic diversification aspirations; secondly, the restructuring of research centers to align with national priorities for research, development, and innovation; and thirdly, the creation of a $200 million fund (SR750 million) to deliver unmet investment in local and international firms specializing in high-tech, which will enhance economic diversification and contribute to the creation of high quality technical jobs.

The strategy also aims to provide quality opportunities for researchers, faculty staff, and students, supporting them to apply science and research to create a sustainable global impact by strengthening international and local partnerships.

Among the most important initiatives resulting from these partnerships is the KAUST Reefscape Restoration Initiative, in partnership with NEOM, which will focus on cultivating and restoring hundreds of thousands of coral reefs on an area of 100 hectares, on Shushah Island in the Red Sea. Additionally, KAUST will continue collaboration with some of the largest companies in the Kingdom and the world, such as Aramco, SABIC, ACWA Power, IBM, Dow, and Boeing.

One of the most prominent initiatives of the strategy is to strengthen international partnerships and develop cooperation frameworks with leading academic institutions and technology pioneers in the world. This includes forging strategic cooperation agreements with leading academic and commercial institutes in the Chinese city of Shenzhen to collaborate on applied research across cutting-edge fields like aerospace, robotics, and microelectronics.

Through these initiatives and partnerships, KAUST will contribute to developing the higher education ecosystem, nurturing the future scientific research pioneers in the Kingdom, promoting research and global innovation, and stimulating the growth of advanced technology startups. This will enhance the competitiveness of the Kingdom’s economy and its global position as a leader in innovation.

KAUST’s strategy is built upon its legacy and global academic status, as the university boasts a remarkable history adorned with numerous world-leading achievements since its foundation. It ranked first in the world in terms of “citations per faculty,” according to the QS World University Rankings 2021. The university’s research production is also included in the most important 25 percent of the highest-ranked scientific journals worldwide, surpassing its peer prestigious universities.

Through its talent outputs, KAUST has contributed to the world by providing highly skilled professionals who now hold leadership positions and work as CEOs and researchers in various major international institutions, such as NASA, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and NEOM, among others.

Source: saudigazette.com.sa

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https://saudigazette.com.sa/article/635081/SAUDI-ARABIA/Crown-Prince-launches-new-strategy-of-KAUST-focusing-on-economically-productive-innovations

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Southeast Asia

 

Two assemblymen want Kelantan MB to apologise for alleging they have rejected ‘Islamic struggle’

20 Aug 2023

KOTA BARU, Aug 20 — Two state assemblymen in Kelantan have given Menteri Besar Datuk Mohd Nassuruddin Daud seven days to make a public apology for alleging that they have rejected the Islamic struggle.

Kota Lama assemblyman Dr Hafidzah Mustakim from Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Galas assemblyman Mohd Syahbuddin Hashim from Barisan Nasional (BN) said they would sue the Menteri Besar if he fails to apologise.

Mohd Syahbuddin said Mohd Nassuruddin’s statement was akin to a culture of accusing another Muslim of being an apostate and could split the people and society.

“We are offended by the Menteri Besar’s statement, which I consider as extreme, and this represents (feelings of) 10,742 Galas people who voted for BN and 9,691 Kota Lama people who voted for PH,” he said at a joint press conference with Dr Hafidzah here today.

Mohd Nassuruddin, in a video which has gone viral, allegedly said that PAS’ victory in the August 12 Kelantan state elections was a win for the Islamic struggle and that the two seats won by PH-BN had gone to parties ‘opposing the Islamic struggle.’

Dr Hafidzah said Mohd Nassuruddin should not have made that statement as he had said earlier that he wanted to cooperate with the federal government.

“This is against the spirit of federalism, in total disregard of the fact that people can choose in our democracy. While we are discharging our responsibility as checks and balances in the state assembly, the top leadership looks askance at us,” she said.

Both of them said they had directed their lawyers to send a notice of demand for apology to Mohd Nassuruddin.

PAS was returned as the state government after capturing 43 of the 45 seats up for grabs in the polls.

Meanwhile, Mohd Nassuruddin said there was no necessity for him to issue an apology as demanded by the two assemblymen.

“One only apologises for making a wrong statement. In my speech, I mentioned Islamic struggle; I did not say they opposed Islam.

“You can go through my speech again carefully. Islamic struggle and opposing Islam are two different things. Do not twist the matter by saying I accused them of opposing Islam. Listen carefully,” he told reporters after presenting advance contributions to storm victims at Masjid Mukim Kota here today. — Bernama

Source: malaymail.com

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https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2023/08/20/two-assemblymen-want-kelantan-mb-to-apologise-for-alleging-they-have-rejected-islamic-struggle/86200

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Deputy IGP: 15 police personnel suspended from duty after arrest at entertainment centre in Seremban

20 Aug 2023

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 20 — A senior officer and 14 policemen who were arrested in a raid at an entertainment outlet in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan yesterday have been suspended from duty.

Deputy Inspector-General of Police Datuk Seri Ayob Khan MydinPitchay said police are also preparing investigation papers to be handed over to the Attorney General’s Chambers for further action.

“At police stage, we will not compromise. They have already been suspended from their job, it is a normal process and after being charged and convicted, they will be suspended from their job until they exhaust all their appeals.

“...so the process will take a long time, what is assured is that actions have been taken, we will not compromise regardless of whether those arrested at entertainment centres are police or personnel from other departments, stern actions will be taken,” he said when met by reporters here today.

Apart from 15 police personnel, a deputy public prosecutor and a court registrar were also picked up in the raid.

Ayob Khan also confirmed that 16 of them were tested positive for drugs involving 14 policemen and the two civil servants and all the individuals concerned were released on police bail.

According to him, so far this year, 741 disciplinary actions had been taken with 60 police officers and personnel sacked thus showing the commitment of the Royal Malaysia Police Department of Integrity and Standards Compliance (JIPS) in dealing with disciplinary issue. — Bernama

Source: malaymail.com

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Seven new faces among 10 Kedah exco members sworn in on Aug 21

21 Aug 2023

ALOR SETAR: Ten state assemblymen in Kedah were sworn in on Monday (Aug 21) as state executive councillors (Exco), with seven being new faces.

They took their oaths of office before the Sultan of Kedah, Al-Aminul Karim Sultan Sallehuddin Sultan Badlishah, in a ceremony which began at 10am at Balai Mengadap Besar, Istana Anak Bukit here.

The ceremony started with the oath-taking and signing of pledge by the Exco members, followed by the presentation of letters of appointment by Sultan Sallehuddin.

Merbau Pulas assemblyman Datuk Siti Ashah Ghazali, the Rural, Poverty Eradication and Human Development Committee chairman, was the first to take her oath, followed by Sungai Limau assemblyman Mohd Azam Abd Samat (Education, Religion, Communications and Information Committee).

They were followed by Jitra assemblyman Dr Haim Hilman Abdullah (Industry and Investment, Higher Education, and Science, Technology and Innovation Committee), Bukit Kayu Hitam assemblyman Datuk HalimatonShaadiah Saad (Welfare, Women, Family, and Community and Unity Committee) and Kuala Nerang assemblyman Mohamad Yusoff Zakaria (Works, Natural Resources, Water Supply and Resources, and Environment Committee).

The others who took their oath included Kuala Ketil assemblyman Mansor Zakaria (Housing, Local Government and Health Committee), Suka Menanti assemblyman Dzowahir Ab Ghani (Agriculture, Plantation and Transport Committee) and Kubang Rotan assemblyman Datuk Mohd Salleh Saidin (Tourism, Culture and Entrepreneurship Committee).

Alor Mengkudu assemblyman Muhammad Radhi Mat Din (Consumer and Cost of Living, Youth and Sports Committee) and Kulim assemblyman Wong Chia Zhen (Human Resources, Chinese, Indian and Siamese Communities and Non-Governmental Organisations Committee) also took their oath.

Except for Siti Ashah, Halimaton and Mohamad Yusoff, the rest are new faces.

Jeneri assemblyman Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor, who was sworn in for a second term as Mentri Besar on Aug 14, was present at the ceremony.

He also holds the State Planning, Land Affairs and Finance portfolios, among others.

Also present was State Secretary Datuk Seri NorizanKhazali.

Perikatan Nasional formed the state government after capturing 33 of the 36 seats up for grabs in the Aug 12 state polls.

The other three seats, Kota Darul Aman, Sidam and Bakar Arang, were won by Pakatan Harapan. – Bernama

Source: thestar.com.my

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Datuk K for the defence: Siti's husband to testify on Zahid's behalf in YAB trial

21 Aug 2023

PETALING JAYA: Datuk Seri Khalid Mohamad Jiwa, the husband of songstress Datuk Seri Siti Nurhaliza, arrived at the Kuala Lumpur High Court at 8.46am Monday (Aug 21).

He is expected to testify as a defence witness on behalf of Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is facing corruption, criminal breach of trust (CBT) and money laundering charges, Malay language daily Sinar Harian reported.

Khalid, better known as "Datuk K", was seen entering the court complex in a black jacket, accompanied by an unknown individual.

Ahmad Zahid, 70, is facing 47 charges, namely 12 CBT, eight corruption and 27 money laundering charges over funds belonging to charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi.

Source: thestar.com.my

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https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2023/08/21/datuk-k-for-the-defence-siti039s-husband-to-testify-on-zahid039s-behalf-in-yab-trial

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Guan Eng ordered to pay RM250,000 in damages to Azeez for defamation

21 Aug 2023

PUTRAJAYA – The Court of Appeal today ordered former Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng to pay RM250,000 in general damages to former Baling MP Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim for defamation in connection with the Penang undersea tunnel project.

A three-member panel comprising justices Datuk Azizah Nawawi, Datuk Seri Mariana Yahya and Datuk Azimah Omar, in allowing Azeez’s appeal, also ordered Lim as the respondent to pay RM70,000 in costs to Azeez.

Justice Azimah, when reading out the decision, said the lower court had erred in dismissing Azeez’s suit against Lim and allowing Lim’s defence of justification, fair comment and qualified privilege over his statement relating to Azeez.

Azeez was appealing against the Penang High Court’s decision on December 11, 2020 in dismissing his defamation suit against Lim.

In March 2018, Azeez sued Lim, claiming that he had issued defamatory statements during a press conference at the Penang Chief Minister’s Office on February 28, 2018, and during a Chinese New Year open house hosted by the Penang Development Corporation on the same day, linking Azeez to a payment of RM3 million as consultation fees from the developer of the undersea tunnel project. – Bernama, August 21, 2023

Source: thevibes.com

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Amirudin finally sworn in as S’gor MB after days of uncertainty

21 Aug 2023

KLANG – Selangor Pakatan Harapan chairman Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari was sworn in today as the state’s menteribesar for his second term, ending days of speculation on who will helm the state for the next five years.

Amirudin, who retained the Sg Tua constituency in the recently concluded state polls, was sworn in at about 11.25am at Istana Alam Shah in Klang.

He took the oath of office, loyalty, and secrecy before Selangor ruler Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah. Also present at the ceremony were Tengku Permaisuri Selangor Tengku PermaisuriNorashikin, and Raja Muda Tengku Amir Shah.

Selangor is the last state to swear in its menteribesar, ending days of speculation on who will be the next menteribesar and the tussle over the exco line-up.

The excos are scheduled to be sworn in later in the afternoon and the line-up is expected to include an Umno assemblyman.

Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasonal formed the state government after securing a simple majority of 34 out of 56 seats in Selangor.

DAP secured 15 seats, PKR 12, and Amanah 5, while BN won two seats.

Amirudin won the Sg Tua seat for the fourth consecutive time, with a majority of 5,185 votes. He is also the Gombak MP and a vice-president in PKR.

It was learned that Amirudin was one of three names submitted to the Selangor palace for the menteribesar position. The other two reportedly were Fahmi Ngah, the Seri Setia assemblyman believed to be closely aligned with Prime Minister and PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim; and Tanjung Sepat assemblyman Borhan Aman Shah. Borhan was also Amirudin’s former political aide. – The Vibes, August 21, 2023

Source: thevibes.com

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https://www.thevibes.com/articles/news/98017/amirudin-sworn-in-as-sgor-mb-for-second-term

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North America

 

Artificial Intelligence Generated Art Can’t Be Copyrighted – US Judge

20 Aug, 2023

AI entrepreneur Stephen Thaler sued the US Copyright Office after it denied an application from his Creativity Machine

Artwork created by artificial intelligence is not eligible for copyright protection, a US federal judge confirmed on Friday, rejecting a lawsuit by AI entrepreneur Stephen Thaler against the US Copyright Office.

"Human authorship is a bedrock requirement" for protection under the law, "at the core of copyright ability, even as that human creativity is channelled through new tools or into new media," US District Judge Beryl Howell wrote in her ruling rejecting Thaler’s judicial review petition.

While copyright law was "designed to adapt with the times," it had "never stretched so far" to "protect works generated by new forms of technology operating absent any guiding human hand," she continued.

Thaler, who runs the neural network company Imagination Engines, sued in response to the Copyright Office’s rejection of his 2018 application to protect artwork "created" by his AI system, the Creativity Machine. "A Recent Entrance to Paradise" was described in the submission as "autonomously created by a computer algorithm running on a machine."

While he had listed himself as the owner of the copyright on the application as if it had been produced as a work for hire, the office denied his application, arguing "the nexus between the human mind and creative expression" was critical to the idea of copyright protection.

Thaler had pushed back, arguing the AI should be eligible as an author "where it otherwise meets authorship criteria," with the system’s owner being the true owner of the copyright. The office’s refusal was "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and not in accordance with the law," constituting a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, he claimed.

The Copyright Office has previously stated AI-generated works are not copyrightable, but in March clarified this policy to note that content created with the assistance of AI could be protected if a human had "selected or arranged" it in a "sufficiently creative way that the resulting work constitutes an original work of authorship."

AI’s role in artwork is at the center of a months-long Hollywood writers’ strike. Over 160,000 film, radio and television workers have walked off their jobs, forcing major productions to pause as union leaders negotiate with producers to guarantee AI cannot be used to undercut their pay or replace them entirely.

In January, a group of artists sued the makers of AI art generators Midjourney, Stable Diffusion, and DreamUp, describing art-generating AI as "a parasite that, if allowed to proliferate, will cause irreparable harm to artists." Their class-action suit alleged that the tools violated millions of artists’ rights by slurping up their content for "training" purposes without consent or compensation, then turning a fat profit on the results.

Source: rt.com

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https://www.rt.com/news/581563-ai-copyright-ruling-creativity-machine/

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Hundreds of flights canceled as storm Hilary hurtles towards US Southwest

 21 August 2023

Tropical storm Hilary lashed the Baja California peninsula with heavy rains on Sunday as it hurtled towards the US Southwest, with forecasters warning of life-threatening and "catastrophic" flooding.

One person died in Mexico amid reports of flash flooding in the peninsula, where some roads were swept away and images on social media showed raging torrents gushing down city streets that have been turned into rivers.

In the United States, heavy rains and fierce winds have already begun to cause chaos on southern California roads as people fled the storm and some officials ordered evacuations.

Many flights at San Diego and Los Angeles airports and sporting events in the area have been canceled, while officials warned residents to remain indoors and keep emergency supplies handy.

About 250 flights scheduled for Sunday at the San Diego International Airport have been canceled and another 382 on Monday, according to the FlightAware website.

Storm Hilary, which made landfall earlier in the day in the northern part of the Baja California peninsula, has been weakening over the last 48 hours. But it is still set to be the wettest storm ever to hit the US Southwest, according to Zack Taylor, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service (NWS).

Hilary is set to dump vast amounts of water on many parts of the US Southwest that are more accustomed to dry conditions.

Hilary was carrying top sustained winds of 60 mph (96 kph) and its center was forecast to barrel over the northern portion of the peninsula and then move across Southern California on Sunday afternoon, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in its latest advisory.

Storm surges - when the ocean is pushed inland – could produce coastal flooding in parts of Baja California and the storm was carrying heavy rain that could cause catastrophic flooding in some areas, the NHC added.

Rainfall of 3 to 6 inches (7.6 to 15 cm), with isolated amounts of 10 inches, was expected across the northern Baja California peninsula as well as portions of Southern California and Southern Nevada, the Miami-based agency said in its latest advisory.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass urged residents across the second-most populous US city to stay home as the storm passes.

"Avoid unnecessary travel. If you don't need to be on the road, please do not get in your car," she said at a press conference on Sunday.

Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Kristin Crowley said the city has staffed additional fire engines and several swift-water teams in case flood rescues are needed. Urban search and rescue teams have also been deployed throughout the city along with helicopter teams to assist in rescues from the air.

Local officials in Arizona issued evacuation orders for parts of the Lake Mead National Park due to flooding risks, with the Mohave County Sheriff's Office posting on Facebook to urge residents to "evacuate to higher elevations."

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria also declared a local emergency on Sunday as heavy rains buffeted his city.

It has been seven decades since the last tropical storm made landfall in California. In September 1939, the Long Beach tropical storm killed almost 100 people.

In Mexico, nearly 1,900 people have been evacuated to shelters in the Baja California peninsula, according to the country's army.

Source: presstv.ir

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https://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2023/08/21/709316/Storm-Hilary-US-Southwest-Baja-California-

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US doesn’t have enough ballistic missiles for Ukraine – FT

20 Aug, 2023

The newspaper is also claiming that Washington is wary that such deliveries could lead to an uncontrolled escalation with Moscow

The US is not in a position to supply Ukraine with tactical ballistic missiles in quantities that could help turn the tide in its counteroffensive, the Financial Times has reported. The British newspaper also cited several experts who question whether this type of weaponry could help Kiev achieve a major breakthrough at all.

In its article on Sunday, the FT, citing unnamed American officials, claimed that the US simply does not produce enough tactical ballistic missiles, those which Ukraine has been asking for, to “make a significant difference on the battlefield.”

In addition, according to the FT report, another consideration preventing the shipment of such projectiles is that such action could lead to a further escalation of the conflict with Russia.

Samuel Charap, a senior political scientist at Rand Corporation, told the media outlet that Ukraine’s insistence on laying its hands on long-range missiles is misplaced. The expert stressed that rockets like these are “no magic wands” and are unlikely to solve the hurdles of minefields and entrenched Russian defenses that Kiev’s forces are currently facing.

US demands Ukraine be ‘less risk-averse’ – FTREAD MORE: US demands Ukraine be ‘less risk-averse’ – FT

The FT quoted some US officials as warning that the extent of US military aid could shrink as the 2024 presidential election looms. A possible reelection of Republican Donald Trump adds another layer of uncertainty, given his repeated pledges to end the conflict as soon as he assumes office, the article noted.

Meanwhile, in Germany – another country which Kiev has asked for long-range missiles – a survey released by ARD-DeutschlandTrend on Friday showed that 52% of respondents are firmly opposed to such deliveries, with 36% in favor.

So far, top German officials, including Chancellor Olaf Scholz, have appeared reluctant to hand over Taurus missiles to Ukraine. The rocket boasts a range of approximately 500 kilometers (310 miles).

Back in May, the UK became the first nation to provide Kiev with this type of weaponry, sending its Storm Shadow cruise missiles, with a range of over 250 kilometers.

Last month, France followed suit, supplying Ukraine with its own localized version of the Storm Shadow, named SCALP.

Moscow has repeatedly warned Western countries against sending weapons to Ukraine, arguing that by doing so, they are only prolonging the conflict and are also becoming engaged in a “proxy war” against Russia.

Source: rt.com

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US demands Ukraine be ‘less risk-averse’ – FT

20 Aug, 2023

Officials in Washington want Kiev to concentrate its forces exclusively on the Southern front, the newspaper claims

US officials are growing increasingly disappointed with the way Ukraine is conducting its counteroffensive and are skeptical about whether Kiev will be able to achieve any significant gains this year, the Financial Times has reported.

The British daily claimed that the US has been urging Ukraine to double down on its push in the Zaporozhye region instead of spreading its forces too thin along a lengthy frontline.

In its article on Sunday, the FT is alleging that rifts between the allies are beginning to grow, with a question mark now hanging over US President Joe Biden’s ability to secure congressional approval for more defense assistance for Ukraine.

According to the report, Washington and Kiev had originally expected the counteroffensive to start in the spring and breach Russian defenses during the summer. The Ukrainian military was supposed to employ NATO’s combined arms-maneuver tactics which its troops had been taught by its Western backers, the newspaper explained. However, amid initial setbacks, Kiev’s forces reverted to older tactics – much to the displeasure of officials in Washington.

Ukraine has three options – BildREAD MORE: Ukraine has three options – Bild

Despite small gains made by Ukrainian forces recently, ever more officials in the US capital are privately preparing for a “war of attrition that will last well into next year,” the FT alleged.

A major bone of contention between the two countries is reportedly the way Kiev has deployed its military.

“US officials have encouraged Ukraine to be less risk-averse and fully commit its forces to the main axis of the counteroffensive in the south,” the paper wrote.

The Americans see this as the only viable option that could potentially bring Kiev a major breakthrough, by severing Moscow’s land bridge to Crimea, the media outlet claimed.

Kiev, however, is keeping nearly half of its forces in the East in a bid to recapture the strategic city of Artyomovsk (known in Ukraine as Bakhmut) that was seized by the PMC Wagner Group in May, following months of grueling battles.

With more and more prominent Republicans calling for cutbacks to US aid for Ukraine and for peace negotiations with Russia, a poll conducted by CNN earlier this month indicates that 55% of Americans now oppose further funding for Ukraine from Congress, with 45% in favor.

Also on Sunday, the Washington Post claimed that the Ukrainian counteroffensive is showing “signs of stalling,” adding that Kiev’s window of opportunity is diminishing before adverse weather conditions set in.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the ongoing push has already cost Ukraine 43,000 soldiers and nearly 5,000 pieces of military hardware.

Source: rt.com

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https://www.rt.com/news/581538-ft-ukraine-us-counteroffensive-disagreements/

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