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Islamic World News ( 5 March 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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In Honour of Sikhs Who Rescued Muslims during Riots in North-East Delhi, Muslim Groom Sports Turban at His Wedding in Gidderbaha

New Age Islam News Bureau

5 March 2020

• 15k from Bangladesh Among 19k Who Got Citizenship from 2014 To ’19

• Citizenship Law: Experts Warn U.S. Commission On International Freedom Of Risks To Muslims in India

• Pakistani Catholic Church: We Fast For Muslims and Peace in India

• India Must Learn About Religious Tolerance From Indonesia, Indonesian VP Ma’ruf Amin Says

• Saudi Freezes Umrah ‘To Protect Heart of Muslim World’

• Rohingya Activist Urges US to Ramp up Pressure on Myanmar

• Iran’s First Vice President Tests Positive For Coronavirus: Iranwire

• Libya: US to Put Sanctions on Those Who Threaten Peace



• In Honour of Sikhs Who Rescued Muslims during Riots in North-East Delhi, Muslim Groom Sports Turban at His Wedding in Gidderbaha

• 15k from Bangladesh Among 19k Who Got Citizenship from 2014 To ’19

• Indian Woman Claims Bangladeshi Uber Driver Lashed Out at Her over Delhi Riots

• CIA behind massacre of Indian Muslims: Iranian MP

• 'Seva', the Sikh langar, from Bhai Kanhaiya to Delhi Violence, 2020

• How Muslim and Hindu Neighbours Protected Each Other Through the Long Night at Chand Bagh

• Two Lingayat mutts in Karnataka ring in peace by appointing Muslim and Kuruba heads

• International Persian Conference at MANUU begins

• Coronavirus scare: Take steps to rescue students in Iran, J&K HC tells Centre

• J&K Police apprehends alleged ISI operative

• J&K: SPO, civilian killed in militant attack in Sopore

• Factory burnt, BJP man says ignored by party because ‘I have Muslim name’

• Jammu and Kashmir social media curbs lifted after seven months

• Delhi violence rocks House as Oppn repeats debate demand

• India to set up lab in Iran to test citizens for coronavirus before evacuation


North America

• Citizenship Law: Experts Warn U.S. Commission On International Freedom Of Risks To Muslims in India

• Pentagon downplays new Taliban attacks

• Pentagon linguist faces charges for passing on classified intel to Hezbollah

• US reaffirms its commitment to Afghan prisoner exchange

• US senator urges NATO to back Turkey in Syria

• US deports Iraqi Christians while calling Iraq unsafe



• Pakistani Catholic Church: We Fast For Muslims and Peace in India

• Pakistan Supports Zarif’s Stance on Violence against Indian Muslims

• Jamia Hafsa Students Claim Responsibility For Defacing Feminist Mural In Islamabad

• Senate adopts Zainab Alert Bill 2020; Jamat-e-Islami opposes, PML-N recommends amendments

• Pakistan ranked least internet inclusive country in South Asia: report

• OIC supports Kashmir settlement under UN resolutions: envoy

• Sindh’s ‘immature’ politicians should stop killing journalists, Firdous says


Southeast Asia

• India Must Learn About Religious Tolerance From Indonesia, Indonesian VP Ma’ruf Amin Says

• Malaysia Takes a Turn to the Right, And Many Of Its People Are Worried

• Kit Siang: Will Muhyiddin follow in Hussein Onn’s footsteps?

• Malaysia's Malay party grassroots eye key Cabinet posts in PM Muhyiddin's government

• Maid in Singapore supported Islamic State and Indonesian affiliate, jailed for financing terrorism

• Why President Jokowi Should Wish All Jews a Happy Passover


Arab World

• Saudi Freezes Umrah ‘To Protect Heart of Muslim World’

• Religious sites in UAE take precautionary measures against coronavirus

• 150 Turkey-Affiliated Terrorists Killed by Syrian Army in Idlib

• Lebanon’s sectarian system leaves country ill-equipped to deal with coronavirus

• Iraq reports three new coronavirus cases, confirms second death

• Egyptian officer-turned-extremist Hesham Ashmawy executed: Military

• Two Turkish soldiers killed, six wounded in Syria’s Idlib: Defense ministry

• UAE new coronavirus case confirmed as Indian student in Dubai, school closed

• Syrian air defenses intercept Israeli missiles: Reports

• Over 80 children of Azerbaijani Daesh militants return home from Iraq

• Turkey failed to honor Idlib deal, allowed outposts to merge with terrorist fortifications: Russia


South Asia

• Rohingya Activist Urges US to Ramp up Pressure on Myanmar

• 30 ISIS militants surrender to Afghan forces in Kunar

• Khalilzad meets Mullah Baradar amid differences on release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners

• NATO reaffirms support to Afghan forces, calls on Taliban to honor their commitments

• Taliban attacks kill 20 Afghan personnel, US strikes for first time since deal

• U.S. airstrike kills 7 ISIS militants in Kunar province of Afghanistan



• Iran’s First Vice President Tests Positive For Coronavirus: Iranwire

• Senior Iranian MP Blasts Washington for Provoking New Delhi into Crimes against Muslims

• Swiss expert tapped to lead UN agency that aids Palestinian refugees

• Coronavirus: Israel orders self-quarantine for arrivals from European countries

• Coronavirus has affected almost all Iranian provinces: Rouhani

• Envoy: US, Israel Attempting to Distort Iran-IAEA Constructive Ties

• Fists fly in Turkish parliament after opposition MP criticises Erdogan

• Israel demolishes homes of alleged Palestinian attackers

• Palestinians resigned to status quo in Gaza after latest Israeli election

• 14 Houthi rebels killed in Yemen clashes



• Libya: US to Put Sanctions on Those Who Threaten Peace

• Nigerians Oppose Commission for ‘Repentant’ Boko Haram Members

• 14 killed in militant attack on Nigeria military base

• Libyan gov't decries handing embassy in Syria to Haftar

• Al-Shabaab tells Christians to leave northeastern Kenya

• Six killed in attack on Nigeria military base



• EU Rejects Turkey’s ‘Blackmail,’ Borders to Stay Closed to Migrants: France FM

• Confusion and controversy bedevils UK’s planned Mali deployment

• EU accuses Turkey of using migrants to pressure Europe

• EU to allocate additional €170 million in aid for Syria

• Turkey calls on EU to abide by Human Rights Declaration

• Nearly 136,000 migrants leave Turkey for Europe

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau




In Honour of Sikhs Who Rescued Muslims during Riots in North-East Delhi, Muslim Groom Sports Turban at His Wedding in Gidderbaha

Mar 05, 2020

In honour of Sikhs who rescued Muslims during riots in north-east Delhi, a Muslim boy tied a turban for his wedding in Gidderbaha recently. Not just the groom, Abdul Hakeem, a resident of Fatehgarh Sahib’s Panjoli village, some of his friends, too, tied the turban for the March 1 wedding.

Abdul’s father-in-law Saleem Khan told The Tribune: “My son-in-law has given a message of communal harmony. A true Muslim is identified not only by his cap, but also by his honesty. In the same vein, a true Sikh’s identity is not only his turban, but also his Gursikhi.”

He said his son-in-law won the hearts of everyone present at the wedding. “People are still congratulating me, as it was one-of-a-kind gesture. Abdul had told us in advance that he would sport a turban in the honour of Sikhs who rescued Muslims in Delhi, and give the message of communal harmony. We were happy with his decision.”

A Gidderbaha resident said, “The bond among people from all communities should remain intact. We must confront them by setting an example of communal harmony, as Abdul has done.”



15k from Bangladesh among 19k who got citizenship from 2014 to ’19

Mar 5, 2020

NEW DELHI: Over 15,000 Bangladeshis were among the nearly 19,000 foreign immigrants from neighbouring countries who were granted Indian citizenship between 2014 and 2019, the home ministry told Rajya Sabha on Monday.

Of the 18,999 foreigners given Indian citizenship by registration or naturalisation in the past six years, 15,036 were from Bangladesh (14,864 became Indian citizens on account of inclusion of 53 enclaves in Indian territory in 2015), 2,935 from Pakistan, 914 from Afghanistan, 113 from Sri Lanka and one from Myanmar, junior home minister Nityanand Rai said.

In 2019, the number of Pakistanis acquiring Indian citizenship was the highest in the past six years. As many as 809 Pakistani immigrants became Indian nationals last year, up from 450 in 2018, 476 in 2017, 670 in 2016, 263 in 2015 and 267 in 2014. The maximum number of Afghan immigrants were granted citizenship in 2014-2015, though the number fell to double digits after 2017. In 2018 and 2019, just 30 and 40 Afghanistan nationals were given Indian citizenship.



Citizenship Law: Experts Warn U.S. Commission On International Freedom Of Risks To Muslims in India

MARCH 05, 2020

The hearing held inside Congress was called by the U.S. Commission on International Freedom.

Experts warned a U.S. government panel on Wednesday that Muslims in India face risks of expulsion or other persecution under a citizenship law that has triggered major protests.

The hearing held inside Congress was called by the U.S. Commission on International Freedom.

Ashutosh Varshney, a prominent scholar of sectarian violence in India, told the panel that the law championed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalists amounted to a move to narrow the democracy's historically inclusive and secular definition of citizenship.

“The threat is serious, and the implications quite horrendous,” said Mr. Varshney, a professor at Brown University.

“Something deeply injurious to the Muslim minority can happen once their citizenship rights are taken away,” he said.

Mr. Varshney warned that the law could ultimately lead to expulsion or detention — but, even if not, contributes to marginalisation.

“It creates an enabling atmosphere for violence once you say that a particular community is not fully Indian or its Indianness in grave doubt,” he said.

The Citizenship Amendment Act was passed in December. It fast-tracks citizenship for persecuted non-Muslim minorities from neighbouring countries.

Responding to criticism at the time from the U.S. commission, which advises but does not set policy, India's foreign ministry said the law does not strip anyone's citizenship and “should be welcomed, not criticised, by those who are genuinely committed to religious freedom.”

Fears are particularly acute in Assam, where a citizens' register finalised last year left 1.9 million people, many of them Muslims, facing possible statelessness.

Aman Wadud, a human rights lawyer from Assam who travelled to Washington for the hearing, said that many Indians lacked birth certificates or other documentation to prove citizenship and were only seeking “a dignified life.”

The hearing did not exclusively focus on India, with commissioners and witnesses voicing grave concern over Myanmar's refusal to grant citizenship to the Rohingya, the mostly Muslim minority that has faced widespread violence.

Gayle Manchin, the vice chair of the commission, also voiced concern over Bahrain's stripping of citizenship from activists of the Shiite majority as well as a new digital ID system in Kenya that she said risks excluding minorities.

More than 40 people were killed last week in New Delhi in sectarian violence sparked by the citizenship law.

India on Tuesday lodged another protest after the UN human rights chief, Michele Bachelet, sought to join a lawsuit in India that challenges the citizenship law's constitutionality.



Pakistani Catholic Church: we fast for Muslims and peace in India

by Shafique Khokhar


Karachi (AsiaNews) - The Archdiocese of Karachi and the National Justice and Peace Commission of the Pakistani Bishops' Conference ask all Christian faithful to fast on Friday, March 6, for Muslims and peace in India.

Recent religious clashes in Delhi have shocked many and several Muslims in the Indian capital have been targeted by Hindu extremist groups: the current toll is around 40 dead and 300 injured. The Indian Islamic community is at loggerheads with the government of Narendra Modi, which has recently introduced a citizenship law that discriminates against the faithful of Islam.

Card. Joseph Coutts, archbishop of Karachi, expresses serious concern about what is happening in India, and asks the Indian authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of all their citizens, regardless of the faith or caste they belong to.

Saleh Diego, vicar general and member of the national commission for interreligious dialogue of the archdiocese of Karachi, is on the same wavelength. He appreciates the position of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who in a recent Twitter post promised to defend all minorities living in Pakistan: "Anyone who targets non-Muslims, and their places of prayer in our country, will be treated severely . Minorities have the same rights as all other citizens."

Card. Coutts and Fr. Diego remembers the gestures of brotherhood and mercy of all those people of the heart - Catholics, Sikhs and even Hindus - who ran to the aid of the victims in Delhi. In particular, their thoughts turn to Premkant Baghel, a Hindu who is now in serious condition for saving six Muslim neighbors from the flames.

Muslims in Pakistan have welcomed the Catholic world's stance against Modi's extremist policies. Acknowledgments came from a local fishermen's organization, but especially from Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamic conservative party. One of its leaders, Yunus Khan, stresses that everyone in Pakistan, whether Muslim or Catholic, is united "for peace and harmony in the world".

The hope is that the unity of purpose for what happened in India will translate into a more concrete commitment by the government of Islamabad and the Muslim majority in Pakistan in favor of peaceful coexistence with other confessions.



India Must Learn About Religious Tolerance From Indonesia, Indonesian VP Ma’ruf Amin Says

March 5, 2020

Vice President Ma’ruf Amin has expressed his hope for India to follow in Indonesia’s footsteps in maintaining tolerance amid rising sectarian conflict in the South Asian country.

As a fellow multicultural nation, he said Indonesia could be an example in maintaining religious moderation.

“We want India to act like us, Indonesia, in building tolerance and moderation within [our] religious life,” Ma’ruf said on Wednesday as quoted by

The Vice President, who is also a key figure of the Indonesian Ulema Council and Indonesia’s biggest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), pointed out the importance of applying such principles and urged all religions to apply that as well.

“We will be able to maintain harmony and peace [thanks to those principles],” said Ma’ruf.

Sporadic violence hit parts of the Indian capital of New Delhi as gangs roamed streets littered with the debris of days of sectarian riots that left more than 30 people dead, reports said.

AFP reported last week that thousands of riot police and paramilitaries patrolled the affected northeast fringes of the Indian capital of 20 million people, preventing any major eruptions.

The unrest is the latest bout of violence over Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's controversial citizenship law, which says that Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan are not eligible for citizenship, triggering months of demonstrations that turned deadly in December.

Ma’ruf cited Indonesia’s initiative to hold an interfaith dialogue among the world’s religious figures to exchange ideas on how to build peace and religious harmony. The dialogue, he added, would help maintain harmonious social relations, not only in Indonesia but also in the world.

“I think that is our concept. We want other countries to be like Indonesia,” said the prominent cleric.

Read also: Religious harmony index up but intolerance remains

Ma’ruf put himself was in the spotlight in 2017 amid a blasphemy case involving then-Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, a prominent Chinese-Indonesian politician. He led the ulema council, which announced that Basuki had committed blasphemy during a speech in  in Thousand Islands regency.

Two years later, Ma’ruf – who was President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s running mate – was seen in a video saying that he regretted taking part in efforts to imprison Ahok for blasphemy, saying he was forced to do so, although he initially did not want to imprison anyone. The video went viral and sparked various public responses.

However, it was not the first time he ignited public debate over his decisions as MUI chairman.

The MUI suggested disbanding Islamic minority group Ahmadiyah in 2011 to end controversy surrounding the group. At that time, Ma’ruf said Ahmadiyah was a deviant group, citing a statement from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

The government and civil society groups have raised their voices over the deadly conflict in India.

The Foreign Ministry said on Friday that it had called the Indian ambassador in Jakarta to discuss the riots that had claimed dozens of lives, expressing Jakarta’s confidence in New Delhi to restore peace in the country.

Islamic groups, including Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, condemned the violence in New Delhi, calling on the government to take diplomatic action to contain the situation. GP Anshor, NU’s youth wing, went as far as to urge the government to call out the Indian government for the violence. (asp)



Saudi freezes umrah ‘to protect heart of Muslim world’

March 5, 2020

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia expanded a rare freeze on pilgrimages to the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina by foreigners to also include Saudi citizens and residents due to concerns about the new coronavirus, state news agency SPA reported.

Riyadh reported its first case of the flu-like disease on Monday and a second incidence on Wednesday, both from nationals who had not disclosed recent visits to Iran, which has reported the most deaths outside China where the virus originated.

“Based on the recommendations of the committee appointed to monitor coronavirus … it has been decided to suspend umrah for citizens and residents in the kingdom,” SPA said, citing an official source in the Saudi interior ministry.

Umrah refers to pilgrimage rites carried out in the holy cities throughout the year, and is separate from the annual week-long haj, which typically draws 2 million Muslims from around the world. Haj starts this year in late July.

The latest decision will be reviewed regularly and reversed when the situation changes, SPA added.

Dr Sami Angawi, a Saudi expert on Mecca and Medina as well as the haj, said the latest restrictions were the most severe in living memory but not unprecedented in 1,400 years of Islamic history.

He called the move “a wise and courageous decision … to protect the heart of the Muslim world.”

Saudi nationals and residents can still visit Mecca and Medina and pray there, provided they do not go for the purpose of umrah, deputy haj minister Abdulfattah Mashat told Al Arabiya TV on Wednesday.

“Mecca is still open to visitors from across the kingdom. The decision suspends only umrah activities,” he said.

Saudi Arabia last week halted umrah visas for foreigners and banned Gulf citizens from visiting the two cities because of the virus.

It also barred tourists from at least 25 countries where the virus has been found, and on Tuesday it limited arrivals of travellers from Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

Pilgrimage is big business for Saudi Arabia and is the backbone of plans to develop tourism under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s economic reform agenda, which aims to end the oil dependence of the world’s top crude exporter.

Visits by pilgrims accelerate during the holy fasting month of Ramadan, beginning this year in late April.



Rohingya Activist Urges US to Ramp Up Pressure on Myanmar

By Mohammad Hussain

March 01, 2020

The United States should increase pressure on Myanmar to end persecution of ethnic minorities and restore the citizenship rights of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims driven from that country by government-sanctioned violence, said a Rohingya political activist visiting Washington last week.

Tun Khin, president of the London-based Myanmar Rohingya Association UK, lauded the U.S. government as “a champion for the refugees’ humanitarian aid”

]] and its sanctions against several Myanmar military leaders for alleged rights abuses. But he also encouraged Washington to back the tiny African country of Gambia in its genocide case against Myanmar in the International Court of Justice (ICJ).“

We need more powerful countries to join with Gambia to move forward this case,” Tun Khin said in an interview Thursday with VOA.

A day earlier, the South Asian island nation of Maldives announced it would join the Gambia in its ICJ case. The suit, filed at The Hague in November, accuses Myanmar of violating the 1948 Genocide Convention in its treatment of Rohingyas. Both Maldives and Gambia are predominantly Muslim; Myanmar has a Buddhist majority.

Celebrity attention

The Maldives’ case will be represented by human rights lawyer Amal Clooney. She previously had represented the Maldives’ former president, Mohamed Nasheed, getting a U.N. determination that he had been unfairly tried and imprisoned on politically motivated terrorism charges in 2015. The Maldivian Supreme Court suspended his 13-year jail sentence in 2018. 

Clooney is married to Hollywood actor George Clooney. Her backing of the Rohingyas’ cause “is big,” Tun Khin said, noting her celebrity “will give more attention to the case.” That, he said, will benefit Rohingyas and “other minorities in Burma. We all want justice.”

Recent months have brought other legal action on the Rohingyas’ behalf. In November, the International Criminal Court said it would investigate Myanmar’s military for alleged crimes against humanity. At the same time, the Burmese Rohingya Organization UK – the group Tun Khin leads – filed a “universal jurisdiction” case against Myanmar in Argentina. As he explained in an Al-Jazeera opinion piece, the case “is based on the principle that some crimes are so horrific that they concern humanity as a whole, and can be tried anywhere regardless of where they were committed.”

Asked about the timetable for the Argentine case, Tun Khin said prosecutors were “analyzing the case. I believe that in a few weeks’ time, we will hear some good news.”

Emotional moment

In January, Tun Khin was in the courtroom when the ICJ – the United Nation’s top court – imposed emergency “provisional measures” on Myanmar, also known as Burma. “It almost brought me to tears,” he said of the ruling.

The court ordered the government to prevent any acts of genocide against the estimated 600,000 ethnic Rohingya Muslims remaining in the country.  Another 1.1 million live in neighboring Bangladesh, where more than 723,000 had fled after a bloody military crackdown in August 2017. Myanmar’s government has said it was acting to quell terrorist threats after Rohingya insurgents attacked military outposts in Rakhine state. 

United Nations investigators have accused the military of burning villages and raping and killing civilians with “genocidal intent.” While defending the military at an ICJ hearing in mid-December, Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi acknowledged some individuals might have used excessive force but said they would face military tribunals at home.   

Tun Khin urged the United States to describe Myanmar’s actions as “genocide” – a determination that the ICJ is considering in the case that may take years to decide. Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department has denounced the “Burmese military’s horrific atrocities” and, in a 2018 report, called the violence “extreme, large-scale, widespread, and seemingly geared toward both terrorizing the population and driving out the Rohingya residents.”

Washington focus

Last Tuesday, Tun Khin joined in a Capitol Hill panel discussion on “Justice and Human Rights in Burma: The Way Forward.” The event – sponsored by American Jewish World Service, Amnesty International and Refugees International – opened with remarks by Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Todd Young of Indiana. Both support the Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act, a bill to promote democracy and human rights.

The Rohingya people, Cardin said, “have been subject to genocidal activities. And we have to speak out against that and act out against that – take steps to make sure this never can happen [again].”

Those steps, Tun Khin said, should include:

Seeking stronger sanctions on Myanmar. In December, the U.S. government tightened restrictions on four Burmese military leaders accused of rights violations, freezing any U.S. assets. Last July, they had been banned from entering the country. The Rohingya activist called for ending U.S. corporate ties to any Myanmar businesses – such as in the oil sector – that benefit the Burmese military.

Encouraging Bangladesh to lift restrictions on education and internet access in Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar. In January, Bangladesh announced it would expand schooling for youngsters – perhaps as early as April. They currently receive basic lessons in English, Burmese, life skills, math and drawing and only through early primary years.

In September, Bangladesh’s government shut down 3G and 4G mobile phone services and internet access in the camps, leaving only limited phone service. The telecommunications minister said the move would enhance “state security” and “public safety.” Human Rights Watch objected, saying the communications block puts refugees “at serious risk” regarding “security, health and other necessary services.”     

Tun Khin, who left Myanmar in the 1990s after he was blocked from university access, said he appreciated U.S. humanitarian aid for his people. The U.S. government is the top aid contributor to the crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh, providing more than $669 million since August 2017.



Iran’s first Vice President tests positive for coronavirus: Iranwire

4 March 2020

The IranWire news site reported on Wednesday that Iran’s first vice president Eshaq Jahangiri has tested positive for coronavirus and is undergoing treatment.

IranWire cited an “informed source”. There was no immediate confirmation from Iranian officials.

Several Iranian officials have been infected with the coronavirus and one senior official died from a coronavirus infection on Monday.



Libya: US to put sanctions on those who threaten peace

Mustafa Haboush  


The U.S. Embassy in Tripoli on Wednesday said it will put sanctions on individuals who threaten peace in Libya.

In a Facebook post, the embassy pledged to work with Libya's UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), saying they held a meeting Monday with Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha and National Security Advisor Taj al-Din al-Rezagi.

At the meeting, Charge d’Affaires Joshua Harris stressed "the U.S. embassy will work with Minister Bashagha to ensure implementation of U.S. Executive Order 13726, which allows for sanctions against individuals that threaten the peace, security and stability of Libya".

A day after the meeting, Bashagha said the GNA will shift from a defensive to an offensive stance against the militia of Khalifa Haftar.

Since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: Haftar in eastern Libya, supported mainly by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and the GNA in Tripoli, which enjoys UN and international recognition.

The GNA has been under attack by Haftar’s forces since last April, with more than 1,000 lives lost in the violence.





Indian woman claims Bangladeshi Uber driver lashed out at her over Delhi riots

Mar 4, 2020

LONDON: An Indian woman has recounted a terrifying experience in which she claims a Bangladeshi Uber driver in London lashed out at her over the Delhi riots whilst she was a passenger in his car.

Uber has confirmed it is investigating the incident after Indian national Kamini, 41, lodged a complaint about the “abuse” she received on Tuesday morning which left her traumatised.

Kamini, originally from Mumbai but in the UK for 10 years, called the Uber in London at 8am to travel with her cousin’s sister to an embassy appointment.

“He arrived late, then drove off and asked casually where I’m from and I said ‘I am from India’… Then I asked him, ‘Where you from?’ and he said: ‘Bangladesh…’ He then went on a rant, got angry with me, abused me,” Kamini alleged.

“He kept getting angrier and despite me requesting him to stop all conversation with me, he kept accusing, shouting and yelling. Then at one point he got so angry he parked his car in the road and asked me and my cousin’s sister to get out and travel by train,” she claimed.

“I refused to get out. I told him ‘You have to take us to the destination, otherwise I will call the police. I said, ‘You are being racist and harassing us’. After five minutes he calmed down and carried on. I reported it to Uber afterwards. They responded in the evening and asked me for more details. When he was non-stop yelling at us, I was so scared. I said please don’t talk about religion like this,” she claimed.

An Uber spokeswoman said: “We are aware of the report and we are currently investigating this incident.”

It is against Uber’s community guidelines to discriminate against anyone based on their race, ethnicity or national origin. “Our community guidelines outline the behaviour expected from driver, couriers and passengers who use the Uber app. Any violation of any of these guidelines can result in permanently losing access to the app,” she added.

Indian diaspora group British Indians Voice tweeted her Facebook post about the incident. The official Uber UK Twitter account responded: “That's not OK. Could you please ask the account holder to DM us the email and mobile linked to their account? We’ll be able to look into this then.”



CIA behind massacre of Indian Muslims: Iranian MP

March 4, 2020

“One of the major policies of the global arrogance, headed by the U.S., is developing anti-Islam plots. The arrogant global powers imagine that they will be capable of ruling the world nations and turn the glob into a unipolar world via developing Islamophobia,” Abulfazl Hassan Beigi said on Wednesday.

He added, “Unfortunately, India is among the places where the policies of the U.S. and CIA are effective.”

The lawmaker expressed hoped that the Indian government would find out that the Muslims are pro-peace based on the holy Quran’s tips.

“The CIA (the Central Intelligence Agency) is behind such organized measures,” he opined.

Writing on his official Twitter account on Monday night, Zarif condemned the recent wave of “organized violence” against Indian Muslims, calling on the New Delhi government to “ensure the wellbeing of all Indians”.

“Iran condemns the wave of organized violence against Indian Muslims. For centuries, Iran has been a friend of India. We urge Indian authorities to ensure the wellbeing of ALL Indians and not let senseless thuggery prevail,” Zarif said.

The foreign minister added, “The path forward lies in peaceful dialogue and rule of law.”

In an interview with the pro-reform Etemad newspaper published on Tuesday, Mir-Mahmoud Mousavi, Iran’s former ambassador to New Delhi, has expressed disgust over violence against Indian Muslims, saying, “We should not close our eyes to the realities of the Islamic world.”

Abolfazl Zohrevand, Tehran’s former ambassador to Italy and Afghanistan, has also said, “Unfortunately, we are not seeing any stance toward the Indian issue by the Islamic world, and if that continues, we will see more violation of Muslims’ rights in India,” he.

Protests swept India since the Indian Parliament passed the CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) on December 11, entitling religious minority migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan to Indian citizenship if they entered the country before the end of December 2014, but excluding Muslims.

The act has come under criticism for discriminating against undocumented Muslim migrants.

More than 40 Muslims were killed by Hindu extremists last week in New Delhi. Extremists put houses, shops, mosques, schools, and vehicles on fire.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been publicly silent on the violence.

His powerful home minister, Amit Shah, has accused opposition parties of inciting the riots by spreading misinformation about the citizenship law, which fast-tracks naturalization for religious minorities from several neighboring countries but not Muslims, according to the Associated Press.

On Monday, India’s top court agreed to hear cases filed by riot victims accusing leaders of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party of hate speech. Some of the victims accuse Kapil Mishra, a local leader of Modi’s party who lost his Delhi state assembly seat in recent elections, of stoking the violence.

With around 201 million Muslims (2018 estimate), India's Muslim population is about the world's second-largest and the world's largest Muslim-minority population.

Iran’s Ambassador to India, Ali Chegeni, has expressed hope that all Indian citizens would enjoy “peace and friendship” through wise decisions by the Indian government and officials.

Full report at:



'Seva', the Sikh langar, from Bhai Kanhaiya to Delhi Violence, 2020

29 Feb 2020

As I coordinate with someone in Delhi who wanted to make a donation of rice to a Sikh Langar intended to serve riot hit people in North-East Delhi, I get asked for the 100th time- “How do Sikhs do it? How, despite all the persecution they have been through, they are always looking to help others in times of crisis? How do Gurudwaras never run out of food for Langar?” As the pogrom against Muslims unfolds in the nation’s capital, for some Sikhs, the memories of 1984 are all too fresh. We, as a people, have seen endless violence in the name of religion. We know what it looks like, we know what it does to people- the generational trauma lives in our very bones.

I grew up with stories about the Sikh Gurus and their followers. The best story that illustrates why Sikhs are always ready to extend a helping hand is that of Bhai Kanhaiyya ji. He was a disciple of the ninth Sikh Guru- Guru Teg Bahadur Ji, and continued living with the Sikh community after his death. During the ongoing skirmishes between the Mughal army and the Sikhs in 1704, the Mughal armies surrounded Anandpur, where the tenth Guru- Guru Gobind Singh Ji- was living, and cut off all food and water supply to the city to starve out the Sikh soldiers.

Every day, the armies would battle and hundreds of wounded soldiers would be seen lying in the battlefield begging for water. Bhai Kanhaiyya would go around the battlefield with a mashak (goat skin bag to carry water) and quench the thirst of wounded soldiers irrespective of which side they were fighting for. The enemy soldiers and generals also started recognizing him and his bag, and thus he became like the Red Cross- providing help to anyone who needed it, gaining right of way from both sides as the battle raged on.

While Bhai Kanhaiyya was providing water as Sewa(service) which is one of the core principles of Sikhism, fellow Sikhs did have their doubts. Some even complained to the Guru pointing out that with Bhai Kanhaiyya’s help, the fallen enemy soldiers would recover more quickly and start fighting again. They were also worried about sharing their water supply with the very people who had cut off the passage of food and water to their city. Guru Gobind Singh ji summoned Bhai Kanhaiyya and explained that he had received a complaint about his actions on the battlefield.

The Guru asked him, “These brave Sikhs are saying that you go and feed water to the enemy and they recover to fight them again – Is this true?”

Bhai Kanhaiyya Ji replied, "Yes, my Guru, what they say is true. But Maharaj, I saw no Mughal or Sikh on the battlefield. I only saw human beings. Guru Ji, they all have the same God’s Spirit. Guru Ji, have you not taught us to treat all God's people as the same? Our Sikh heroes destroy enemies by killing them, but I destroy enmity by giving them water."

With a smile, Guru Gobind Singh ji blessed him and said,"Bhai Kanhaiyya Ji, you are right. You have understood the true message of Gurbani". He gave a medical salve to Bhai Kanhaiyya to provide further help to the wounded, and told the Sikhs to follow Bhai Kanhaiyya’s example of selfless service.

Guru Gobind Singh Ji cited the words of the fifth Guru- Guru Arjan Dev Ji, who wrote-

“I have totally forgotten my jealousy of others,

since I found the SaadhSangat (the holy congregation).

No one is my enemy, and no one is a stranger. I get along with everyone.

Whatever God does, I accept that as good. This is the sublime wisdom I have obtained from the Holy.

The One God is pervading in all. Gazing upon Him, beholding Him, Nanak blossoms forth in happiness.”

(Guru Granth Sahib Page 1299 line 55528)

I still don’t know what to say when people ask me about the state sanctioned pogrom in Delhi. I have always lived in fear of markers that identify religion. A Sikh’s turban, when identified in the right context can mean that you know you can reach out to this person for help. This is partly why Sikhs had originally started wearing turbans and dressing in a particular way, so that in times of battle, people knew who they could trust, so that people could identify the friendly community. For a long time, I questioned the identifying markers of Sikhs and wondered why they are important in contemporary life. I would exclaim, “But we are not at war anymore!”, yet, years later, we are. We are at war. The Sikh’s turbans were identified as targets and cost them their lives in 1984. Today, the Prime Minister tells us to recognize terrorists by the clothes they wear. Somewhere, a man is shaving his beard, and a woman is contemplating whether to wear her hijab, a child was burnt inside a house and an 85-year-old woman who survived the Partition, was killed by the mob in 2020.

Full report at:



How Muslim and Hindu Neighbours Protected Each Other Through the Long Night at Chand Bagh

Naomi Barton


The road was broken and covered in the debris of rocks and broken bricks, the skeletons of burnt cars. The darkness was broken by a motorbike shop on fire around the corner. A few policemen stood at the head of the street, and politely told us that we should leave, because the situation had deteriorated.

The road was deserted as we walked in, until we saw four men standing on a corner. One wore a skull cap and had a white beard. We went up to them and asked for directions to a place where we had got a distress call from a Muslim woman, and the man said:

“Come with me. I promise you that no harm will come to you with me.”

As he took us down the lane, more people joined us, and it grew into a group. Men were sitting outside their homes, and he greeted them in passing. A drunk was unconscious under a handcart on the side of a lane.

“We’ve made sure to keep the peace, here,” said the man, whose name was Afzal. “This block is calm.”

He took us to his home, and brought out wooden stools for us to sit, and called for his Hindu neighbours. We sat in the street, surrounded by men, both Hindus and Muslims, as the fires blazed less than two streets away in the heart of the violence on the main street.

“When we found out this was happening, we gathered the people of the neighbourhood and decided that nobody was going to fight, and that we should band together to ensure that” said Afzal, who has lived on this street for 40 years.

“We went out to our Hindu neighbours and told them you are safe here, and if they needed to go anywhere, we would go with them.”

“There has not been any arson here,” he said.

“Wherever there has been arson, be it from the Muslim community or the Hindu community, we will wait for an investigation to prove who did it, but in our block, we are making sure nothing happens. We have lived here through ‘92, through ‘84, and nothing reached us then, and will not reach us now. Nobody wants a riot. Nobody wants fighting, a sensible man does not want fighting.”

Brijmohan Sharma, a middle-aged Hindu man, agreed with Afzal.

“We were here in ‘92 as well, and we’ve all lived together and we never fight, we visit each other and go to each others weddings. We have no problems with any of our neighbours. For the past two days, it is not just Muslims whose lives have been affected, both sides have been troubled by this violence.

“We don’t think this is right. We want the Delhi Police to find out who did this, and we definitely want Kapil Mishra to be arrested, and whatever the government can do to punish him, should be done.”

Afzal added, “It has been three days since this violence has been going on, and the people responsible have not reacted in time.”

Another Hindu neighbour, Rajgopal Mishra, of Galli number 2, Chand Bagh, said, in his 40 years there, “We have had such a brotherhood with our Muslim neighbours, it is like they are our own brothers.” He holds up his two little fingers, entwined together, to show how close they are.

“What I have seen today, I have never seen in my life. In the rest of Chand Bagh, the situation has deteriorated, but in our colony, the situation is great. We suffer small inconveniences, all of us do, but all of our [Muslim] brothers here have stood by our side.”

He pauses, and continues fiercely. “I have hope that even going forward, they will walk with me shoulder to shoulder. In bringing this community back, if it means that we need to give our blood, all these children, and me, will give our blood.”

Every man there claps.

Afzal’s 85-year-old father, Mohammad Yakub, remembers the Partition.

“When Hindus and Muslims were fighting, hamare walid (my father) Mohammad Bilal said, tell your friends, the ones who are going to Pakistan, to say salaam to God for me. We will not go to Pakistan on any grounds, this is our country, and this is our birthland. In our bodies the earth of this land is, and in this land our blood has wept.

“Hum is desh ke  wafadaar hai, aur humne is des ko chhodna na us waqt hamne pasand kiya, aur na aaj pasand karenge, aur na aane wale waqt hum yahaan se jaane ko pasand karenge.”

The men around him clap again.

He says, “In that age, there was a slogan that people used to say, whose echoes we are hearing even today, and my ears are ready to hear that slogan at every election. It was ‘Hindu Muslim bhai bhai/Aur ye teesri qaum, kahana se ai’?”

‘Hindus and Muslims are brothers, where did this third community come from?’

He continued, “I will wait for the day where an election comes and I will get to hear, ‘Hindu Muslim bhai bhai/Aur duniya ke saare quam hume juda na kar pai’.”

‘Hindus and Muslims are brothers, and the whole world could not separate us.’

The exquisite hospitality of the people of Chand Bagh involved pressing soft drinks into our hands, ignoring all protests. A young girl stood in a doorway, peeping out, and smiled shyly at us as we walked out.

Full report at:



Two Lingayat mutts in Karnataka ring in peace by appointing Muslim and Kuruba heads

MARCH 01, 2020

Amidst the hate speeches and communal strife that we’re witnessing lately, two Lingayat mutts in Karnataka quietly set an example of religious tolerance, by appointing a Muslim and a Kuruba (Backward Class) as their head last week. A bonus to this development: of the two mutts, one is headed by a woman seer from the Backward Class; though nearly 20 Lingayat mutts in the state are led by women, they are from the same community.

While Diwan Sharief Rahimsab Mulla, a 33-year-old former autorickshaw driver and flour mill owner influenced by the 12th century social reformer Basavanna, took the Linga Deeksha (initiation) to head the Murugarajendra Koraneshwara Shanthidhama mutt in Asuti village of Gadag district, 47-year-old Neelamma Taayi, a teacher now known as Vijaya Mahantamma Taayi, became the Uttaradhikari (successor) of Basava Kendra Mahanta mutt in Mareguddi-Budhni PM village of Jamkhandi taluk, Bagalkot district.

Commenting on Lingayat mutts in north Karnataka throwing open the successor posts to Basavanna’s disciples from other faiths, SM Jamdar, former bureaucrat and authority on Lingayat religion, told TNM this was because Kalyan (north) Karnataka and Maharashtra are the strongholds of traditional Lingayatism, unlike down south in the state, where the Lingayat community is not in the mainstream.

“Nearly 40% to 50% of the population in Vijayapura, Dharwad, Gadag, Raichur and other districts comprises Lingayats and they have a strong influence on the non-Lingayats. Besides, the similarities in the practices of Lingayat and Islam faiths, such as belief in one God, no idol worship, burying the dead, giving Zakat (charity) and Dasoha, is the reason for the two communities to merge beautifully,” he added.

According to SM Jamdar, Rahimsab Mulla is the fourth Muslim in 300 years to head a Lingayat mutt, with the first being a person named Fakir in Shirahatti taluk of Gadag district. He adopted a mutt which came to be known as the Fakireshwara Lingayat mutt. The second instance was a century ago when the personal physician of the Nizam of Hyderabad founded the Chennabasaveshwara Siddiqui Anjuman trust. The third was 25 years ago, when a professor became a Lingayat and headed the Marulashankaradeva mutt in Kalaburagi district.

Swami Murugharajendra Koraneshwara Shivayogi of Khajuri mutt in Kalaburagi district, who gave the Deeksha to Rahimsab Mulla, said the latter’s parents were disciples of Basavanna and had donated land to the mutt. “Rahimsab Mulla is the first person with a family to head the mutt as Basavanna himself was a family man who laid stress on work being worship. The Gadag mutt will be a branch of the Koraneshwara Sansthana mutt in Khajuri as we believe in one lamp lighting another,” SM Jamdar added.

Neelamma Taayi, who hails from Dharwad district, was a teacher in the mutt’s primary school for a decade. According to Basavaraj Giraganvi, general secretary of the mutt’s educational trust, the woman seer can continue her responsibilities as long as she wants. The mutt, started in 1987 as a branch of the Ilkal mutt, is a virakta (renouncement) one, which permits seers to live within society by renouncing all emotional attachments.

Full report at:



International Persian Conference at MANUU begins

MARCH 04, 2020

Hyderabad: Contribution of Women in Promotion of Persian Language matches her men counterpart. In fact, medieval India has also seen a foray of women laureates who left indelible footprints on the canvas of Persian language and literature. Eminent Persian Scholar, Prof. Azarmi Dukht Safavi, Advisor, Persian Research Institute, Aligarh Muslim University, expressed these views Wednesday at Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU).

While delivering the keynote address in the inaugural of International Conference “The Contribution of Women in Promotion of Persian Language, Literature, Science, Art, Culture and Civilization” being organized by the Department of Persian, MANUU in collaboration with National Council for Promotion Urdu Language, New Delhi.

Prof. Ayub Khan, Vice-Chancellor Incharge presided over. Prof. Safavi complaint that women do not get due recognition for their contribution to the field of literature. Referring to the women laureates of Medieval India, she named Rabia, Razia Sultana, Maham Begum, Gulbadan Begum, Jana Begum, Noor Jahan from Deccan Mahlaqa Bai Chanda, etc. Prof. Safavi described Gulbadan Begum, who wrote Humayun Nama, as the first lady historiographer of India.

Mr. Raheemuddin Ansari, Chairman, Telangana Urdu Academy in his address as a guest of honour acknowledged that the contribution of women in every sphere of life is in-deniable. Prof. Ayub Khan, in his presidential remarks, appreciated the topic of the conference which helps in understanding the women’s contribution. In any given case, women often play her role better than men, he quipped.

Prof. Azizuddin Hamdani, former Director, Rampur Raza Library, made it clear that despite the basic teaching of Islam about equal access to knowledge, there was no Madarsa for Women between 13th& 18th century in India. Education and empowerment of women came into focus only after the arrival of British, he claimed.

Prof. Ali Raza Qazwa, Deputy Cultural Counsellor, Iran Culture House, Islamic Republic of Iran, New Delhi,  & Prof. Ahmad Jan Qaranbakov from Tashkent also spoke.

Earlier, Prof. Aziz Bano, Director Conference delivered the welcome address. Prof. Shahid Naukhez Azmi, Head, Department invited the guests to the dais.  Assistant Professors – Dr. Junaid Ahmad proposed the vote of thanks and Dr. Asmath Jahan conducted the proceedings. Eminent scholars from different parts of India & abroad are attending the two-day conference.

Persian Teacher’s Conference from today

Full report at:




Coronavirus scare: Take steps to rescue students in Iran, J&K HC tells Centre

March 5, 2020

The High Court of Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh on Wednesday directed the Central government to take steps for evacuation of Indian students stranded in Iran in view of the coronavirus outbreak in that country.

As Iran was identified as the second global epicentre of the outbreak, steps for evacuation of Indian nationals, including children from the UTs of Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh, are required to be taken by the Union government, observed a division bench comprising Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Rajesh Bindal.

Treating a representation sent to the court by the father of an Indian medicine student in Tehran University of Medical Sciences as a PIL, the bench directed the Union government to “identify the protocol to be followed, examine the mode to forthwith implement the same and take steps for evacuation of Indian students stranded in Iran”.

However, pending evacuation, it is absolutely essential to ensure all preventive measures as well as basic needs of the Indian students in Iran, the court further observed, directing the Centre to ensure availability of masks, medicines and essential commodities to all Indians, especially students, through the Indian embassy in Iran.

It also directed the UT administrations of J&K and Ladakh to ensure creation of proper facilities for isolation and quarantine in the government and private sector, testing laboratories as well as availability of healthcare and medication for prevention of any coronavirus outbreak as well as effective treatment of any positive cases.

The court further directed the government to take immediate steps for acquisition of sufficient N-95 or any other recommended masks for the public as well as separation kits for all medical personnel and staff.

Full report at:



J&K Police apprehends alleged ISI operative

March 5, 2020

The Jammu and Kashmir Police on Wednesday apprehended an alleged operative of Pakistan’s ISI from UT’s border Samba district. Identifying him as Pankaj Sharma of Tagore, police said he was detained by a team of Special Operation Group on the basis of inputs. The entire operation was carried out under the supervision of SSP SOG and SSP Jammu.

The individual was in touch across the border since last few years and during this period, he had sent photos and videos of vital areas and installations mostly of Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts to Pakistani handlers via social media platforms in lieu of monetary gains,” it added.

During questioning, he has confessed his involvement in passing the crucial information of vital installations including sensitive bridges on National Highway and in border areas to his Pakistani handlers, police said. The preliminary probe also indicated some monetary transactions in the two bank accounts of the alleged accused.

Full report at:



J&K: SPO, civilian killed in militant attack in Sopore

by Adil Akhzer

March 5, 2020

A Special Police Officer (SPO) of Jammu and Kashmir Police and a civilian were killed in a suspected militant attack in North Kashmir’s Sopore district on Wednesday evening. Separately, in Central Kashmir’s Budgam district an encounter between militants and security forces was also underway.

Officials confirmed that two people died in the attack. While the civilian, a shopkeeper was identified as Omar Subhan, the Special Police officer was identified as Wajahat Hussain, a resident of Watergam. Another civilian, Showkat Ahmad also sustained minor injuries in the attack, said officials.

A health official in Sub district hospital told The Indian Express that two people were brought dead to the hospital. “The third one is receiving treatment and is stable,” said the official.

Soon after the attack, the area was cordoned and a manhunt was launched to nab the militants.

In Budgam, the security forces launched a cordon and search operation in Dooniwara area, following information about the presence of militants there, a police official told PTI.  He said during the searches, the militants hiding in a house opened fire that was retaliated by the security forces.

“The exchange of fire was going on till last reports came in,” the official said, adding that there were no casualties reported so far.

Full report at:



Factory burnt, BJP man says ignored by party because ‘I have Muslim name’

March 5, 2020

“I haven’t left the BJP yet but I will in a few days if the party does not reach out to me… Main sadak par aa gaya hoon, phir kaise apne pairon pe khada hoon?” said Mohammad Atiq, who heads the BJP minority cell of Brahmpuri mandal. A resident of Usmanpur, Atiq’s undergarments factory in Karawal Nagar was set on fire on the night of February 25.

“My neighbour called to tell me about the fire. I have not yet visited the factory out of fear. My younger brother’s factory nearby was also set on fire. I hoped the BJP leaders would at least call, extend help, console me,” said Atiq (45).

A father of five, Atiq said he has been a BJP ground worker for 16-17 years. “I am from Bihar too, like our Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari. He knows me… But I have a Muslim name, humein toh paraya hi kar diya,” he said.

Atiq said he set up the business around 14 years ago and that the factory was set up in a rented space. “As violence spread, I told my employees to pack up and leave a day ago only. I was home when I got the call about the fire… I feel so helpless,” he said.

Full report at:



Jammu and Kashmir social media curbs lifted after seven months

Ashiq Hussain

Mar 05, 2020

The Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) administration on Wednesday lifted the ban on social media enforced since the nullification on August 5 of the special status of the erstwhile state under Article 370 of the Constitution.

Soon after the ban was lifted, Iltija Mufti, the daughter of former J&K chief minister and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti, took to Twitter and put out the following post: “My mother last tweeted on August 5 post abrogation of Article 370. Today as I tweet for the first time from Kashmir post decriminalisation of social media, I’ m swept by saudade & painful nostalgia. Will we ever heal? When will this nightmare end?”.

Iltija has been handling her mother’s Twitter handle since she was detained on August 5. Last month, Mufti was shifted to detention under the Public Safety Acty (PSA), which allows her to be held without trial for up to two years. She had been held in preventive custody earlier.

Iltija also questioned the “futility of the ban”. She tweeted: “Seems like J&K administration finally realised the futility of ban on SM [social media] since Kashmiris circumvented it through VPNs [virtual private networks]. Simply became a cat & mouse chase where Kashmiris outwitted state apparatus i.e.Big Brother.”

Omar Abdullah, another former J&K chief minister and a National Conference leader, who too has been detained under the PSA, chose to maintain silence on Twitter --- despite being known to be a regular on the microblogging service --- even after the ban was lifted on Wednesday.

His Twitter timeline still shows his last post on August 5 before he was put under house arrest: “I’m especially concerned about the people living in the Pir Panchal & Chenab Valley regions. These areas have been very susceptible to attempts at communal violence. I hope the Govt has taken adequate precautions to ensure no communal trouble breaks out,” reads his last post.

The administration of J&K, now a Union Territory, will allow unrestricted internet access with 2G speed, said Shaleen Kabra, principal secretary, home department. The new order is applicable only till March 17.

The order said mobile users with post-paid SIM will have access to internet services, but those with pre-paid SIMs will be able to access internet only after undergoing verification norms that are applicable for post-paid SIM subscribers. Internet connectivity will be available on fixed landline connections as well, it added.

The order made no mention of allowing access to so-called whitelisted websites as had been the earlier norm. The J&K government started reviewing the restrictions on the internet following the Supreme Court’s January 10 directive to review the ban on internet services in the newly formed Union Territory (UT) every week.

“There are no restrictions except those specified above. The whitelisting process for websites is over,” said a senior home department official on condition of anonymity.

On February 24, the J&K home department had announced 1,674 “whitelisted websites and domain extensions, which can be accessed in the UT”.

On January 24, the J&K administration had announced restoration of low-speed mobile internet and fixed landline connectivity in all districts in the UT with access to a white list of 301 websites and restrictions on all other portals, including social media.

Full report at:



Delhi violence rocks House as Oppn repeats debate demand

Mar 05, 2020

The stalemate in Parliament continued on Wednesday as the opposition stuck to its demand for a discussion on the violence during the communal riots in Delhi last week while the government insisted that the debate on the issue could be held in both the Houses after Holi (March 10).

The government made the first direct attempt to break the logjam after its senior minister and Leader of the House in the Rajya Sabha, Thawar Chand Gehlot, met Leader of the Opposition and Congress veteran, Ghulam Nabi Azad, in the morning to iron out the differences.

In the meeting, Gehlot sought the Opposition’s cooperation to resume business and conveyed to Azad that the government was not averse to a a discussion on the situation in Delhi where communal violence claimed 47 lives.

Soon after the meeting, Azad said the Congress will not budge from its position of not allowing any business until a discussion on the Delhi violence takes place.

“They [the government] said the discussion will be held after Holi [on March 10]. To that our answer is then suspend the business and resume it with the discussion after Holi,” Azad said.

However, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader maintained on condition of anonymity that “efforts are underway” to end the impasse.

On Wednesday, the Rajya Sabha was adjourned for the day after the Congress said it will not let Parliament function till a debate on the Delhi riots is allowed. As soon as the Rajya Sabha convened and Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu announced that he had disallowed notices to suspend the business of the House to discuss the Delhi violence, the Opposition members protested with some Trinamool Congress members rushing to the Well.

Naidu said he will discuss the matter with Gehlot and Azad to finalise under which rule the debate should take place. “We will take it up on March 11th after Holi is over,” he said.

However, the Rajya Sabha was adjourned for the day without transacting any business as the Opposition refused to relent.

But the Lok Sabha did transact some business. The House passed a bill providing opportunity to taxpayers to settle disputes by paying just due taxes with complete waiver of interest and penalty by March 31. The Direct Tax Vivaad Se Vishwas Bill, 2020, was taken up in the House and approved without any discussion.

Also, a bill that seeks to confer the status of Institution of National Importance to five Indian Institutes of Information Technology was introduced. But the Congress asserted that it will not let Parliament function till a debate on the Delhi riots is allowed in both the Houses.

Full report at:



India to set up lab in Iran to test citizens for coronavirus before evacuation

Rhythma Kaul

Mar 05, 2020

India is preparing to set up a make-shift laboratory in Iran to test 1,200 of its citizens stuck in the country before evacuating them, officials said on Wednesday. Those stranded in Iran are mostly students and pilgrims.

Four scientists from the Indian Council of Medical Research have reached Tehran, the Iranian capital, with equipment and testing kits to facilitate mandatory testing before the people board a plane to India.

“We are in touch with the Iran government, and are looking at the feasibility of setting up a lab there and arranging other logistics to be able to bring these people back. The local government there is already under pressure because of the increase in cases there, so it’s largely upon us to bring our people back. We have put a strategy in place to see how it can be managed smoothly,” said Union health minister Harsh Vardhan.

“Cases in Iran are increasing rapidly so we have to be extra careful with the process,” said the minister.

“It should take about 4-5 days before we get to know whether we will be able to test these people. Iran is dealing with a high case load itself so they are testing their own people on priority. We have the capacity to test, and we are ensuring that is done, but it will finally depend on local conditions,” said a senior health ministry official, who did not wish to be named.

India has so far evacuated 881 people in batches from the outbreak city of Wuhan in China and Japan.

In the first batch, a total of 645 people were evacuated from Wuhan on February 1 and 2, and were housed at two quarantine facilities at the Indian Army-run camp in Haryana’s Manesar and Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP)-run Chhawla camp in the outskirts of Delhi.

The ITBP facility had housed 406 people, mostly families and women and seven Maldivian nationals; and the remaining people were quarantined at the Manesar facility for 15 days.

Another batch of Indians and other foreign nationals were evacuated from Wuhan and Diamond Princess cruise ship off the coast of Japan on February 26.

Three Chinese women, who are married to Indians and their three children, are among 36 foreign nationals evacuated with 76 Indians from the outbreak city of Wuhan, China, and placed under 14 day quarantine in the ITBP’s Chhawla facility.

Full report at:



North America


Pentagon downplays new Taliban attacks

March 05, 2020

The Pentagon on Wednesday played down the gravity of new Taliban attacks in Afghanistan that cast doubts on a four-day old peace deal between the insurgent group and the United States.

Since the signing in Doha on Saturday, the militants have ramped up violence against Afghan forces, ending a partial truce and casting a pall over peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban, due to begin on March 10.

“There were a variety of attacks over the last 24 to 48 hours. And they were all beaten back," said General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the US military.

“What is important, though, for the agreement: we're on day four, this was small, low level attacks, out on checkpoints, etcetera,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Afghanistan’s interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi on Wednesday detailed 30 attacks by the Taliban in 15 provinces over the previous 24 hours that left four civilians and 11 Afghan soldiers, dead, as well as 17 insurgents.

But Milley said “the Taliban have signed up to a whole series of conditions,” and he noted what has not occurred despite the latest violence.

“Of significance: there are no attacks on 34 provincial capitals, there are no attacks in Kabul. There’s no high profile attacks, there's no suicide bombers, there's no vehicle-borne suicide, no attack against the US forces, no attack against the coalition,” Milley said.

“There's a whole laundry list of these things that aren't happening,” he added.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper told the same hearing that the Taliban were honouring their pledge under the accord to stop attacking US and coalition forces, but they had not followed through on an obligation to reduce the overall level of violence.

Esper said some of that was the challenge the group has in controlling its rank and file.

“Keeping that group of people on board is a challenge. They have got their range of hard-liners and soft-liners. And so they're wrestling with that, too, I think,” Esper said.

An American military spokesman said the US launched an airstrike against Taliban fighters in southern Helmand province on Wednesday to defend Afghan forces.

Under the peace deal, US and other foreign forces will quit Afghanistan within 14 months, subject to Taliban security guarantees and a pledge by the insurgents to hold talks with Kabul.

US forces invaded more than 18 years ago, after the 9/11 attacks on the United States, to overthrow the Taliban government that had sheltered Al Qaeda.



Pentagon linguist faces charges for passing on classified intel to Hezbollah

5 March 2020

A US military translator who was based in Iraq was charged on Wednesday in Washington federal court with passing the names of US informants to people linked to Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

An indictment said Mariam Taha Thompson, 61, formerly of Rochester, Minnesota, was a contract linguist with a “top secret” security clearance who began working with US Special Forces in Erbil, Iraq in mid-December.

It said that one day after US airstrikes December 29 on installations of an Iraqi Shiite militia allied with Iran, Thompson began accessing US military computer files with the identities of US sources and information they had provided.

After Thompson was arrested on February 27, she admitted to investigators that she passed the information on the informants, together with a warning for a Hezbollah-linked target of US military intelligence, to a Lebanese national whom she had “a romantic interest in,” according to the charges.

The Lebanese national is related to a Lebanese government official and “has apparent connections to Hezbollah,” the Justice Department said in a statement.

“Thompson accessed dozens of files concerning human intelligence sources, including true names, personal identification data, background information, and photographs of the human assets, as well as operational cables detailing information the assets provided to the US government,” the Justice Department said.

Thompson was charged with transmitting national defense information to representatives of a foreign government - Hezbollah of Lebanon - the maximum penalty for which is life imprisonment.

“While in a war zone, the defendant allegedly gave sensitive national defense information, including the names of individuals helping the United States, to a Lebanese national located overseas,” John Demers, the Justice Department’s assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement.

“If true, this conduct is a disgrace, especially for someone serving as a contractor with the United States military. This betrayal of country and colleagues will be punished.”

The Justice Department said that during its investigation, it discovered audit logs showing a “notable shift” in Thompson’s network activity on the Defense Department’s classified systems.

The discovery came on December 30, 2019, a day after the United States launched air strikes against Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and the same day that protesters there stormed the US Embassy in response.

Files on human intelligence sources

The information Thompson was looking up involved dozens of files on human intelligence sources she had no need to access, including their names, photographs and other personally-identifiable information, the department said .

In February, FBI agents searched her living quarters on the base and discovered a handwritten note written in Arabic under her mattress, according to a sworn statement from an FBI agent contained in a court filing.

The note had the names of US intelligence informants. The note said these sources were collecting information for the United States, and suggested that their phones be monitored and their target should be warned, according to the sworn statement.

In subsequent interviews with the FBI, Thompson she waived her Miranda rights and told the agents she had passed along the information from the note to a Lebanese foreign national, according to the statement.

Court documents identify the person only as a co-conspirator whom Thompson had a romantic interest in. She told the FBI she did not know if he was with Hezbollah, which was first designated as a terrorist group by the United States in 1997, according to the court filing.

To share the intelligence, Thompson claimed she had memorized the classified information, wrote it down and conveyed it to the co-conspirator through a secure messaging application on her phone, according to the filing. She apparently later amended her statement, saying she was 70 percent sure she had not transmitted the note.

Full report at:



US reaffirms its commitment to Afghan prisoner exchange

Islamuddin Sajid 


The U.S. on Thursday reiterated its commitment to facilitating a prisoner exchange under a peace agreement signed last month with the Taliban to end the long-running conflict in Afghanistan.

U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said on Twitter that his country is committed to facilitating the prisoner exchange, which was agreed to in both the U.S.-Taliban agreement and U.S.-Afghanistan joint declaration.

"We will support each side to release significant numbers," said Khalilzad.

His remarks came after a statement issued by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that his government had not made any commitment to the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners.

In response, Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen said intra-Afghan dialogue would take place only after the release of prisoners.

"I met Mullah Berader and his team last night for a candid discussion about next steps, followed by a constructive phone call with President @realDonaldTrump. We all agreed the purpose of the US-Taliban agreement is to pave the path to a comprehensive peace in #Afghanistan," said Khalilzad.

"We must act on all fronts to clear the road of obstacles that slow our progress toward intra-Afghan negotiations. I once again call on all Afghans to rise to the occasion, put country first and not to lose this historic opportunity."

On Wednesday, U.S. forces in Afghanistan announced the resumption of military operations in the war-torn country after an 11-day pause.

Sonny Leggett, a spokesman for the U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said on Twitter that U.S. jets conducted an airstrike Wednesday against Taliban fighters in Nahr-e Saraj district in Helmand province.

Taliban fighters “were actively attacking an #ANDSF [Afghanistan forces] checkpoint. This was a defensive strike to disrupt the attack. This was our 1st strike against the Taliban in 11 days," Leggett said.

In response, however, the Taliban said according to the plan, they will implement all parts of the agreement one after another to prevent the war from intensifying.

"The other side must also remove the barriers to the implementation of all parts of the Agreement. This is in order to pave the way for a countrywide peace and for Afghans to enjoy their fundamental rights," Shaheen said in a Twitter post.

The landmark deal between the U.S. and the Taliban, signed on Feb. 29 in Doha, Qatar, lays out a timetable for full troop withdrawal from Afghanistan within 14 months.

Full report at:



US senator urges NATO to back Turkey in Syria

Servet Gunerigok  



U.S. Senator Marco Rubio urged NATO on Wednesday to back Turkey with air defense support in northwestern Syria’s Idlib province.

The Florida Republican said on Twitter that the situation in the war-torn country is getting more dangerous.

“NATO should provide Turkey with Air Defense & Intelligence support & financial aid to NGOs dealing with refugees inside Syria,” Rubio tweeted.

He also called on Moscow to withdraw its troops surrounding Turkish military observation posts in Idlib.

His remarks came days after Turkey launched Operation Spring Shield to repel forces of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Idlib.

The Syrian regime backed by Russia embarked on a new offensive in the conflict-hit province in December, displacing more than 900,000 Syrians.

Full report at:



US deports Iraqi Christians while calling Iraq unsafe

Beyza Binnur Donmez and Vakkas Dogantekin 


The U.S. has been deporting hundreds of Iraqi Christians over the years, despite the official position Trump administration holds, which claims the group faces terror and extortion in the Middle Eastern country, according to a report released Wednesday.

"To deport Iraqi Christians, [U.S. President Donald] Trump’s immigration officials rely on testimony saying they won’t be at particular risk. But to justify funding and attention, officials elsewhere in the administration say the Christians face grave danger," ProPublica, an American nonprofit investigative journalism organization said.

The report echoed remarks by Hallam Ferguson, a top USAID development agency official for the Middle East who told the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom last September, in northern Iraq, where many Christians live, militias aligned with Iran "terrorize those families brave enough to have returned, extort local businesses and openly pledge allegiance to Iran."

In some towns, the numbers of Christians who have returned after the defeat of the DAESH/ISIS terror group "have reached only one to two percent because of persecution by these militias," he said. "While the Iraqi government has pledged to rein in these militias, they continue to operate with impunity in many areas, with the authorities seemingly unable or unwilling to confront them."

Unreliable expert reports

The report then took a turn to a sworn declaration by Middle East experts at the request of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for use in its efforts to deport Iraqis.

One of those so-called experts is Michael Rubin of American Enterprise Institute, a controversial figure who is known for his support to military coups and dictatorial regimes in the region at the expense of democracies.

Rubin's articles in various platforms portray Iraq as an unsafe country, where Iranian militias allegedly control vast territories, but his sworn declaration prepared for DHS contradicts his articles, basically saying that Iraq is safe for deportation.

"Many Iraqis complain about militia looting, but the greater problem may be not what happens in disputed territories but rather on a macro-level," Rubin wrote in one of his articles recently, in stark contrast to his sworn declaration.

The so-called expert reports on Iraq are later used by DHS in court to justify deportation of Iraqi Christians.

"To stay in the U.S., many of the Iraqis have to prove that if they are deported, they are most likely to be tortured by, or with the tacit permission of, the Iraqi government -- a higher standard than what is used in typical asylum cases," it said, adding that this gave DHS a duty to emphasize Iraq's progress and portray the country’s government as competent and willing to protect all its people.

The report noted the State Department, USAID, DHS and the White House did not respond to requests for comment on the issue, as well as the Iraqi Embassy in Washington.

Full report at:





Pakistan supports Zarif’s stance on violence against Indian Muslims

March 4, 2020

“Fully share the concerns expressed by my brother Javad Zarif on safety and well-being of Indian Muslims facing naked violence from RSS mobs. India is in throes of grave communal violence. Their sinister and systematic killing of Muslims is inhuman and dangerous for whole region,” Qureshi tweeted on Tuesday.

In a tweet on Monday, Zarif condemned violence against Indian Muslims.

“For centuries, Iran has been a friend of India. We urge Indian authorities to ensure the wellbeing of ALL Indians and not let senseless thuggery prevail,” Zarif said.

“Path forward lies in peaceful dialogue and rule of law,” he added.

Iran’s Ambassador to India Ali Chegeni was summoned on Tuesday to the Indian Foreign Ministry over Zarif’s tweet.

According to Press TV, the Indian sources said “a strong protest was lodged over the comments made by Javad Zarif on a matter internal to India.”

The Indian Foreign Ministry issued a demarche to the Iranian ambassador, claiming that the remarks by Zarif were “totally uncalled for and unacceptable,” according to a person familiar with the development.

During his meeting with Indian Foreign Ministry director general for political affairs, Chegeni noted that India is famous among Iranians as the land of peaceful co-existence.

He expressed hope that all Indian citizens would enjoy “peace and friendship” through wise decisions by the Indian government and officials.

According to Press TV, anti-Muslim violence began in India amid widespread protests over a citizenship law that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government introduced in December, offering a path to Indian citizenship for six religious groups from neighboring countries, specifically excluding Muslims.

Critics insist the law is discriminatory, coming in the wake of other severe government measures against the country’s Muslim population such as withdrawal of autonomy for Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir province that has intensified discord across India about the future of its 200 million Muslims.

Over 40 people were declared killed by Hindu mobs this week, with hundreds more reported injured amid news accounts of largely useless police intervention to end the violence and meager international criticism of New Delhi’s failure to protect its minority Muslim population.

According to the UK-based Independent newspaper, Hindu nationalist mobs roamed the streets of New Delhi on February 23, “burning and looting mosques together with Muslim homes, shops and businesses.”

“They killed or burned alive Muslims who could not escape and the victims were largely unprotected by the police,” the daily added in a Friday article, underlining that dozens of Muslims “were killed and many others beaten half to death” – including a two-year-old baby that was “stripped by a gang to see if he was circumcised, as Muslims usually are but Hindus are not.”



Jamia Hafsa students claim responsibility for defacing feminist mural in Islamabad

Kalbe Ali

March 05, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Students from Jamia Hafsa have claimed responsibility for defacing a mural, painted ahead of the Aurat Azadi March, in G-7 on Tuesday.

The march has also been threatened in two separate applications filed with the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration while the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl and Umme Hasaan, the wife of Lal Masjid cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz, have announced plans to counter it.

In a video circulated on social media, Ms Hasaan said they would “launch a counter protest” the same day titled the “haya march” because its participants will be veiled.

Mohammad Tariq, secretary to JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman, expressed confidence that the capital administration would stop the Aurat Azadi March, which is scheduled for March 8.

“If it happens then we too will not sit idle and bring our people on the streets to show them the true colour of Islam and Pakistani culture,” he said. Jamaat-i-Islami has also announced that they will hold their own ‘aurat march’ at 10am at the same venue as the Aurat Azadi March.

A statement signed by “students of Jamia Hafsa” was issued on Wednesday claiming responsibility for defacing the mural, even though a senior Lal Masjid cleric had earlier confirmed that members of the proscribed organisation Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat defaced the mural with the blessing of Mr Aziz.

The students’ statement said it was their duty in accordance with the principles of Sharia to stop acts that they claimed were a conspiracy to promote obscenity in the country.

In the statement, they also threatened to stop participants of the march and said citizens of the capital should force supporters of the march out of their localities.

Two applications were filed with the ICT administration against the Aurat Azadi March, one by the administrator of a seminary overlooking the venue and the second by the spokesperson of the Shuhada Foundation Pakistan.

Allama Tanvir Alvi, the administrator of Jamia Muhammadia near the National Press Club, has filed an application while the second was filed by Hafiz Ehtesham Ahmed, who claimed the event could lead to a clash between supporters of the Aurat Azadi March and those who are opposed to it.

All three groups have denied that they will use force to stop the march.

“We support the genuine demands of the women and want the issues to be resolved, but those who incite obscenity and introduce European culture here are disliked by a majority of Pakistanis,” Mr Alvi said.

He added: “The fears are that supporters of cultural and Islamic values might come forward to stop the Aurat March.”

ICT administration officials did not respond to requests for comment on plans to prevent any clashes at the march.

Talking to Dawn, AWP Punjab President Ammar Rashid said: “It is part of a very orchestrated campaign to derail Aurat March, which is ongoing for a few weeks now. All the religious groups have jumped into this.”

He said they also have the right to arrange events to commemorate the day but the issue is they are threatening and stopping us, terming the march un-Islamic. “This is one of our basic requirements while living in the most gender-inequality society,” he added.

Police have given us clearance however, we still have not received a formal NOC from the capital administration to hold the march. We are hopeful that we will get it today (Thursday), he said.

Full report at:



Senate adopts Zainab Alert Bill 2020; Jamat-e-Islami opposes, PML-N recommends amendments

Mar 05 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Wednesday approved by a majority the Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Act, 2020 with Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) lawmakers voting against it and Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) senators recommending amendments to the bill.

The legislation has been named after Zainab, a seven-year-old who was kidnapped from her home in Kasur, raped and killed in 2018. The draft law will have its outreach across Pakistan, previously, it was confined to Islamabad.

JI’s senators Siraj-ul-Haq and Mushtaq Ahmed voted against the bill, stating that the bill does not contain a provision for a death sentence.

“A section on Qisas [eye for an eye] should be added,” Ahmed said, adding that sections 201 and 302 will make the bill more effective.

Haq echoed Ahmed’s sentiments and said in the past few months, over 3,000 children had been raped. “The bill needs Sections 201 and 302. Without Qisas, we will not vote in favour of the bill and will stage a walkout."

Backing the JI senators, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam's (JUI-F) Molvi Faiz Muhammad said, “The Islamic law already has Qisas as punishment for rape and murder."

State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan suggested JI to propose the amendments and assured them of government's support in this regard.

Khan further said Prime Minister Imran Khan had given directions for the Act to be adopted by the Senate during meetings of the Federal Cabinet, stating that that the accused involved in the rape of children, should be awarded death sentence.

What you need to know about the Zainab Alert Bill

The state minister added that the National Assembly had already adopted the resolution for public hanging of the convict, however, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had opposed it. “It is a matter related to our children’s life and honour, an amendment should be introduced,” he remarked.

Senate Chairman Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani told the JI legislators if they wanted changes in the bill, they should have submitted them in the Senate Secretariat. Sanjrani added that that the bill should be adopted at the moment with amendments being made to it afterwards.

Agreeing with the chairman, Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood requested the senators should vote on the bill, noting that the bill had already been debated in the National Assembly and then in the Senate. He, however, acknowledged that some of the points raised by the opposition had merit, but the entire nation was looking forward to the bill being passed.

Mehmood added that the bill should be passed and amendments should be made to it later. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf lawmaker Faisal Javed and Federal Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Muhammad Azam Swati echoed Mehmood’s sentiments and said the amendments would keep coming, however, it was crucial to adopt the bill right now.

PML-N lawmakers object to immediate approval

Though the majority of the PML-N lawmakers agreed that that the Zainab Alert Bill was good legislation, there was no need to immediately approve it.

PML-N Senator Muhammad Javed Abbasi said that a report regarding the bill was presented in the House only a day earlier and some clauses needed to be reviewed and explained. “Clauses suggesting punishment of life imprisonment mandated for a criminal who abducted a child for the purpose of sexual assault and murder was not enough and should be increased,” he said.

Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights Chairman and PPP Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar proposed the police should lodge a first information report (FIR) on the child’s abduction within two hours of the happening.

"Special courts should hear the case and announce decisions within three months," the PPP lawmaker added.

Features of the Zainab Alert

As per the bill, a helpline will be set up to report missing children while the government will establish the Zainab Alert, the Response and Recovery Agency (ZARRA) to issue an alert for a missing child.

The agency will coordinate with all relevant federal and provincial authorities and law enforcement agencies, and maintain an online database of all children reported missing or abducted with their current status.

The police will inform ZARRA about an incident of a child missing or abducted within two hours of receiving such a report and if the agency directly receives information of a child missing or having been abducted, it will inform the relevant police station immediately.

According to the bill, upon receiving information that a child is missing, the officer in charge of the police station will reduce the same into writing in the same manner as prescribed for a cognisable offence under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), and will be mandated to start an investigation of the case and recover the missing child.

The provisions of CrPC will apply to the proceedings carried out under the Zainab Alert Bill, except in case of juvenile suspects who will be dealt with under the Juvenile Justice System Act, 2018.

Full report at:



Pakistan ranked least internet inclusive country in South Asia: report

Ramsha Jahangir

March 05, 2020

KARACHI: Pakistan has been ranked 76th out of 100 countries on the inclusive internet index 2020 released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), falling into the last quartile of the global index overall.

The ‘Inclusive Internet Index’ benchmarks countries on the internet’s availability, affordability, relevance and the readiness of people to use it. The annual report is commissioned by Facebook.

In its fourth year, the index covered 100 countries, representing 91pc of the world’s population and 96pc of global GDP.

On a scale of one (best) to 100 (worst), Pakistan stood at the 76th place out of the total countries surveyed.

According to the EIU, in 2020 Pakistan falls into the last quartile of the global internet index countries overall, and it ranks 24th out of 26 Asian countries.

“Notable among its weaknesses is by far the largest gender gaps in the index, in both mobile and internet access. Low levels of digital literacy and relatively poor network quality are major impediments to internet inclusion,” the EIU said.

Among the four dimensions considered for the ranking — availability, affordability, relevance and readiness — Pakistan showed poor performance in all areas, the worst being in the availability category.

In terms of availability — a category that examines the quality and breadth of available infrastructure required for access and levels of internet usage — Pakistan ranked 86th out of 100.

The country fared relatively better on affordability (57th) that is described as the cost of access relative to income and the level of competition in the internet marketplace.

In terms of readiness — measured on the basis of access to internet, including skills, cultural acceptance, and supporting policy — the country ranked 64th. Finally, Pakistan stood 71st on relevance, which is the existence and extent of local language content and relevant content.

Looking at South Asia, Pakistan ranked the lowest, Bangladesh at 70th, Sri Lanka at 56 and India on the 46th spot.

The first country ranked in this year’s index is Sweden, followed by New Zealand and the United States. Australia and Denmark both ranked fourth, followed by South Korea, Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Spain.

Among the global worst are Burandi at 100th, Liberia, Madag­ascar, Malawi and Burkina Faso.

3.5bn people remain unconnected

This year’s index is accompanied by the ‘2020 Value of the Internet Survey’, to understand how the internet is used and perceived.

The poll gathered views from 4,953 respondents in 99 countries across Asia-Pacific, the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa.

According to Facebook, more than half of the world’s population — 4.1 billion is connected to the internet. On the other hand, more than 3.5bn people are still deprived of the ‘opportunities’ brought by the internet.

The social media giant noted that the rate of growth of internet access in low-income countries had slowed significantly.

On average, only 9.9pc of households in low-income countries had access to the internet, compared with 88.5pc in rich countries.

Mobile data game-changer

The report found that mobile data had been a game-changer for lower income groups, but access was still too expensive.

On average across the indexed countries, the cost of a fixed-line broadband connection amounts to 18.6pc of monthly gross national income per-capita — a far cry from the 2pc target for entry-level broadband services set by the United Nations Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development.

It also noted that 4G coverage had grown in 54 countries and now covered 31.2pc of low-income and 64.7pc of lower-middle income countries.

High gender gap

Facebook said while progress had been made, women still had less access to the internet than men. Across indexed countries, men were 13pc more likely than women to have access to the internet (down 3pc from last year), and the gender gap was a remarkable 34.5pc in low-income countries.

Full report at:




OIC supports Kashmir settlement under UN resolutions: envoy

Tariq Naqash

March 05, 2020

MUZAFFARABAD: The Orga­nisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) supports peacefully negotiated settlement of the longstanding issue of Kashmir in accordance with the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions, said Yousef M. Al Dobeay, OIC secretary general’s special envoy on Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday.

He made this statement at a brief media talk as well as during his meeting with AJK President Sardar Masood Khan at the AJK President’s House here.

Dobeay arrived in Muzaffarabad at the head of a high level delegation “Along with the Palestine issue, Kashmir issue also tops the OIC agenda… Both issues are important for Muslim Ummah,” he said.

“The issue of Kashmir is the oldest issue in the Security Council and is on top of our agenda points for the past four decades,” he added.

He said the formation of OIC Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir in 1994 was manifestation of the importance the forum attached to this issue.

He said the OIC had passed several resolutions on Kashmir issue, calling for implementation of the UNSC resolutions envisaging the settlement of this dispute in accordance with the will of Kashmiris.

After India’s Aug 5 move, the OIC had stepped up its efforts in this regard, he said.

“In our ministerial meetings we have always condemned human rights violations by India. We have also supported UN high commissioner for human rights reports of 2018 and 2019 on human rights,” he said. He said peaceful settlement of Kashmir issue through dialogue was essential for peace in the whole South Asian region.

“Our efforts to this effect will continue… We also pray for an early solution of this issue.”

Earlier, welcoming the delegation, the AJK president appreciated the proactive and constructive role of the OIC in highlighting Kashmir dispute.

The OIC was the only multi-lateral organisation that had designated a special envoy on Jammu and Kashmir, Mr Khan said and added that the forum had also issued, over the years, concrete and strong-worded statements on the repression unleashed by India in the occupied territory.

He particularly thanked the OIC for its bold communiqué in the backdrop of India’s August 5 move during the OIC Contact Group meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session.

In response, Mr Dobeay said: “The issue of Kashmir is very close to our hearts and all 57-member OIC countries are on the same page regarding its resolution.”

He maintained that the resolution of the dispute was possible only through peaceful means.

“The OIC appreciates the restraint shown by Pakistan in these trying times and believes that political and peaceful dialogue is the only solution for resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir issue,” Mr Dobeay said.

Earlier, the OIC delegation visited the Line of Control (LoC) in Chakothi sector. The delegation was briefed on the situation along the LoC against the backdrop of ceasefire violations by Indian army, targeting innocent civilian population in the area.

Full report at:



Sindh’s ‘immature’ politicians should stop killing journalists, Firdous says

March 5, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan on Wednesday said Sindh’s “immature politicians” should stop the killing of journalists who unveil truths instead of accusing the ruling party of subjugation of the press.

The remarks came after Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari accused the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of implementing a sustained and systematic campaign to repress the press and rob media personnel of their rights.

“This immature politician should take steps with regard to the murder of journalists in Sindh,” Dr Awan said, throwing jibe at the PPP boss while addressing the media.

“Bilawal sahab, this government has no such agenda! We plan to introduce legislation for the protection of journalists against the [so-called] ‘freedoms’ you have provided them in Sindh,” she added.

“Bilawal should provide justice to the family of a journalist who was killed in Sindh [last month]. The systematic killing of journalists who speak the truth should be stopped,” the special assistant remarked.

She was referring to the murder of Aziz Memon, who had earlier accused Bhutto’s party and Naushehro Feroze police of threatening him for his unflattering reporting of Bhutto’s widely-publicised ‘train march’ in 2019.

Awan also slammed the PPP over the state of public institutions in Sindh, saying the PPP had run them into the ground and “left them in such a condition that the incumbent government cannot revive them”.

“We are regulating institutions such as [the Pakistan] Steel Mills, which were left in shambles [by the PPP],” Dr Awan said, referring to the steel and heavy metal products entity, which Prime Minister Imran Khan had decided to hand over to China late last year for revival via a government-to-government deal.

“This a government that is sympathetic to the people; this prime minister is not in power to run his personal businesses,” she added.

Full report at:



Southeast Asia


Malaysia takes a turn to the right, and many of its people are worried

March 5, 2020

Muhyiddin Yassin has been sworn in as the new prime minister of Malaysia. Many people were surprised because 94-year-old Mahathir Mohammad, the oldest prime minister in the world, was widely expected to be reappointed for a third time.

Muhyiddin outfoxed the wily Mahathir, because Mahathir made two fatal errors. First, he had resigned, thus creating a vacancy. Second, he made a miscalculation about the king’s discretion. The Malaysian king appoints a person he thinks can command the majority in parliament – it has nothing to do with election results or how many MPs support you. In Australia, it’s called the “captain’s pick”.

The king picked Muhyiddin over Mahathir, and that’s that. The only way now to remove the new government is via a vote of no-confidence in parliament, which will take months.

The new ruling coalition

Muhyiddin’s new ruling coalition consists of three parties: United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), Parti Islam Malaysia (PAS) and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM or United Indigenous Party).

UMNO and PAS were the defeated parties in the historic 2018 general elections that produced Malaysia’s first regime change since independence. UMNO had been the ruling party for nearly six decades before losing to PPBM and Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope). Mahathir had established PPBM specifically to beat UMNO, and almost the entire PPBM leadership was ex-UMNO.

Read more: Mahathir Mohamad crops up again in bid to lead Malaysia – with Anwar on the same side

So now we have an interesting combination. UMNO and PPBM are essentially the same parties with similar ideologies, Malay nationalism, combined with PAS, which wants to turn Malaysia into an Islamic state.

But what about the non-Malay and non-Muslim Malaysians who make up 38% of the population? Don’t they count?

The short answer is no. While the new administration will appoint a few non-Malays to the administration, make no mistake, this is an all-Malay government and its focus is on the Malay and Muslim community.

UMNO is still sore at the Malaysian Chinese and Indian population for voting en bloc against UMNO in 2018, which led it to lose government. Now it’s payback time. Expect more Malay-centric policies that will punish the Chinese and Indians.

Why are people worried?

Many are worried about the direction Malaysia may be heading in the short term.

First, there is concern that corruption trials relating to the infamous 1MDB scandal involving ex-prime minister Najib Razak may now go nowhere. Najib’s wife is also charged with corruption in a different case, along with several other ministers in the last UMNO-led government.

In fact, the UMNO president, Zahid Hamidi, who is facing 47 charges of money-laundering (the legal term for corrupt money), is trying to get a cabinet post in the new Muhyiddin administration. The attorney-general has resigned and his replacement will probably not go after high-profile UMNO individuals now that UMNO is back in government.

High-level corruption was one of the main reasons UMNO was defeated in 2018 and UMNO has not reformed. Now it’s back in government, most people expect “business as usual”. There is credible fear that Muhyiddin cannot stand up to UMNO as UMNO is now the largest party among the three core parties. UMNO and PAS also have a political pact, which means PPBM will definitely not be able to stop the senior coalition partner if it insists on certain public policy.

Second, people are extremely worried about PAS. Since its founding in 1951, PAS has advocated the idea of turning Malaysia into an Islamic state. It has introduced huhud (Shariah) law at the state level in Kelantan and Terengganu, but cannot enforce the law because it conflicts with Malaysia’s federal constitution.

Now that PAS is one of the troika in power, will PAS push the new administration to amend the constitution? There is already talk that PAS will get the government to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act, or RUU355. This will indirectly allow for hudud to be implemented.

Third, and perhaps most worrying, the new government has broken the political convention that it always has a significant number of non-Malay voices to represent the diverse population. This government was built purely on the concept of ketuanan Melayu Islam (Malay Islamic supremacy). Non-Malays to be appointed to the new administration will know exactly where they stand – as window dressing.

Where to now for Malaysia?

Despite its racial and religious tensions, Malaysia has always been seen by the international community as a modern, moderate Islamic country with strong Westminster institutions. It was always understood that the political elite would choose the middle path at the end of the day, no matter how heated the politics became.

This may no longer be the case.

If there is a lesson to be learnt here, it is that regime change does not guarantee progress. In May 2018, there was joy that Malaysia had finally joined the club of newly democratising countries via the ballot box. Almost two years down the road we are seeing a complete reversal via an elite game.

If there is one thing about Southeast Asia, it is that the votes of the ordinary people do not matter when it comes to power games. Power here is a zero-sum game and, in this case, the non-Malays and non-Muslims in Malaysia are the losers.



Kit Siang: Will Muhyiddin follow in Hussein Onn’s footsteps?

04 Mar 2020


KUALA LUMPUR, March 4 — Gelang Patah MP Lim Kit Siang has asked if Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin will follow the example set by Malaysia’s third prime minister Tun Hussein Onn and convene an emergency Parliament meeting to secure a vote of confidence.

The DAP veteran added that postponing the scheduled meeting from March 9 to May 18 could be seen as a sign that the Pagoh lawmaker does not have the majority support of MPs to be a legitimate prime minister.

“Is Muhyiddin prepared to emulate the example of the third prime minister, Tun Hussein Onn, who had convened an emergency meeting of Parliament on January 26, 1976 — 11 days after his appointment as the third prime minister of Malaysia on the death of Tun Razak — to demonstrate that he had the confidence of the majority of the members of Parliament?

“It was only after a vote of confidence in him as prime minister of Malaysia was passed by Dewan Rakyat on January 26, 1976 that Parliament went on with its ordinary business with the annual opening of Parliament fixed on March 30, 1976, which had as its first working business the oath-taking ceremony of the then-new MP for Pekan, Najib Razak!” said Lim in a press statement today.

Lim also pointed out that this would be the first time in six decades that Parliament is meeting during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

He asked why Parliament cannot convene to end its meeting before the start of the fasting month which is expected to begin on April 25.

The Pakatan Harapan federal government collapsed after Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad resigned as prime minister and Bersatu decided to leave the coalition last week.

Full report at:



Malaysia's Malay party grassroots eye key Cabinet posts in PM Muhyiddin's government

MAR 4, 2020

Trinna Leong

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's fledgling coalition Perikatan Nasional (PN) government is barely two weeks old but its two major blocs, Umno and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), are facing challenges tempering expectations among party members over Cabinet posts.

Both parties have openly voiced that Cabinet appointments would be left to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's discretion, but at the grassroots, an omission of party leaders from the Cabinet lineup is seen as unacceptable.



Maid in Singapore supported Islamic State and Indonesian affiliate, jailed for financing terrorism

By Lydia Lam

05 Mar 2020

SINGAPORE: An Indonesian woman working as a maid in Singapore supported the terrorist group Islamic State and its Indonesian-based affiliate, Jemaah Anshaut Daulah (JAD), uploading videos of bombings and killings to social media and donating money to the cause.

Anindia Afiyantari, 32, was jailed for two years on Thursday (Mar 5) for three counts of financing terrorism, for a total of S$130 she had contributed to the terror groups. Another two charges were taken into consideration.

She is the third Indonesian maid to be sentenced in this case: Retno Hernayani was jailed last month for one-and-a-half years and Turmini was jailed for three years and nine months.

The court heard that Anindia was working as a domestic worker in Singapore at the time of the offences, earning about S$600 a month.

She was friends with co-accused Retno, 37, and two other 33-year-old Indonesian maids named Yulistika and Nurhasanah. Yulistika and Nurhasanah left Singapore before investigations began and have not returned to the country.

Anindia first learnt about JAD in 2009 or 2010, when she watched a news programme about a radical cleric who was arrested for his involvement in a military training camp in Aceh, Indonesia.

She continued to follow JAD news through her friends in Indonesia, but found friends in Singapore with similar ideologies when she befriended Yulistika, who introduced her to Nurhasanah and Retno.

The four maids identified with the ideologies of Islamic State and JAD, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Khoo.

Anindia was introduced to related Telegram group chats and channels, and started browsing information about Islamic State and its violence and killings.

She began uploading the information she gleaned onto her Facebook accounts, intending to spread Islamic State ideologies.

She uploaded videos depicting the bombing and killing of people by Islamic State, and created fresh accounts whenever her accounts were blocked by Facebook. Her multiple accounts were eventually all banned.

As she read more online and met up with her friends, Anindia's interest in the terrorism groups grew, as she felt her thoughts and beliefs aligned with theirs.

For example, she identified with JAD's use of physical violence against the Indonesian government in order to establish the Islamic law in Indonesia. She also supported suicide bombings because they could kill more "enemies of Islam", court documents said.

By mid-2018, Anindia was fully supportive of the two terror groups. JAD, an Indonesian extremist network responsible for recent terrorist attacks and foiled plots in Indonesia, has been banned by the Indonesian government.

However, JAD financed its activities through "religious charities" which conduct donation drives publicised on social media.

Anindia donated to two of these charities, remitting S$50 directly to one charity and S$80 through her friends Retna and Yulistika.


The prosecution pushed for two years' jail, noting that Anindia was part of the first group of maids working in Singapore to be charged and convicted of terrorism financing.

They said that terrorism threats are a top security concern in Singapore, and that a strong message must be sent to deter like-minded individuals who want to support terrorism through financial means.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Hsiao Tien said Anindia carried out the offences in a deliberate fashion and had a history of radicalisation, with an escalation in her conduct over five months.

Defence lawyer Nasser Ismail asked instead for 20 months' jail, saying that his client had cooperated with authorities from the day she was detained.

He added that the primary motivating factor that made Anindia donate the cash was the pictures and articles she saw about the family members - wives and children - of those in Islamic State and JAD.

District Judge Ong Luan Tze said: "I'm afraid that in Singapore we cannot tolerate any form of assistance to terrorism and I agree that ... deterrence must apply with uncompromising force in your case."

Full report at:



Why President Jokowi Should Wish All Jews a Happy Passover


MARCH 04, 2020

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's recent Christmas greeting and uplifting message of tolerance was moving and timely. Now, the year 2020 is an opportunity for harmony, illumination and inspiration, with dozens of religious holidays celebrated in Indonesia.

One special holiday of note is Passover – the celebration of the Exodus of the Jewish people from 400 years of slavery – which runs from sundown on Wednesday, April 8, and ends at nightfall on Thursday, April 16.

Although Passover is not one of the Jewish High Holy Days, it is an unexpectedly complex and fascinating holiday.

Jews are an ethnoreligious group indigenous to the Middle East, with a total global population of approximately 15 million – less than half the population of Greater Jakarta.

In fact, approximately 200 Jewish Indonesians, mostly descendants of Middle Eastern and Dutch Jews, actively practice Judaism across the archipelago – primarily in Jakarta, Bekasi, Manado and Papua.

Indonesians, especially all students and workers overseas, should ask their Jewish friends and colleagues more about the Passover holiday. They may also be surprised by how heartwarming it is. Back when I was a university student, my Jewish roommate (and still a close friend) Elazar invited me to a "Seder" dinner to celebrate and retell the story of Passover.

The original Passover story, which describes Moses' courageous resolve to tell the cruel Egyptian Pharaoh "Let my people go!", then rescue the enslaved Jews to the new land of Israel, is heroic and inspiring.

Indonesians from all faiths and worldviews will probably find much to appreciate in the Exodus story's celebration of universal values: social justice, vitality, persistence, valor and freedom from oppression.

The annual Muslim 500 global ranking, as well as Foreign Policy, Time and Forbes magazines, have all rightly honored President Jokowi as either one of the world's most powerful people, or as one of the world's most influential people.

Indeed, as president of the world's largest Muslim-majority nation and eighth-largest economy, Jokowi's voice resonates through the prestigious G20, the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other powerful international blocs.

But of course, with great power (or great influence) comes great responsibility.

In April, in addition to President Jokowi's annual Ramadan greeting, he should also wish all Jews worldwide a "Happy Passover." To Indonesians who ask, "For what reason?", the answer is that operating in multireligious settings is a key requirement for global leadership.

In fact, leaders from the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Egypt, Bahrain and other Muslim-majority nations have all publicly greeted and wished their indigenous Jewish communities on their religious holidays.

Moses is also a well-respected leader in Islam, Christianity and Judaism alike. Therefore, like Moses, leadership requires President Jokowi's courageous resolve.

If Indonesians want more of the world to honor them as respected global leaders, then they need to actually build the most difficult, most necessary bridge of all for international peace: Jewish-Muslim ties.

To those who wonder if extremists in Indonesia and overseas might express anger at Jokowi's Passover greetings, I ask: really, what can the fundamentalists do to us?

Any anti-Jewish rhetoric from them will only publicly reveal their own utter bigotry and conspiracy-theorizing.

As the late Indonesian President B.J. Habibie said, "Without love, intelligence is dangerous, and without love, intelligence is not enough."

Secondly, with both Islamophobia and anti-Semitism on the rise, Jews worldwide need Muslim allies, just like Muslims worldwide need Jewish allies. Indonesia is an optimal place to start.

As a leader of one of the world's largest and most diverse nations, President Jokowi should emphatically encourage all faiths to stand up for each other – especially in moments of oppression.

The mantra "There but for the grace of God go I," springs to mind. So does the Nazi-era poem "First they came...," which describes the wishy-washy cowardice of German society during Hitler's genocide of six million Jewish civilians – 1.1 million murdered in the Auschwitz concentration camp alone.

(As of February 2020, less than 2000 Holocaust survivors are alive today.)

All of us want to be treated as if we were valuable and worthy. This is because the human desire for dignity – the acknowledgment of our sufferings in life and of our fundamental value – is a universal thirst. 

Lastly, Judaism is also arguably consistent with the four central pillars of the Indonesian state: the Pancasila, the 1945 Indonesian Constitution guaranteeing religious freedom for all, the concept of a unitary state, as well as the national philosophy, "Bhinneka Tunggal Ika" (Unity in Diversity).

A recommitment to these pillars can help Jokowi overcome objections that building bridges with Jews is somehow anti-Palestinian or a betrayal of OIC members. It is neither.

Given the abovementioned 200-strong Indonesian Jewish community, officially recognizing Judaism and all of Indonesia's documented 1,200+ religions, not just the original six, would help Indonesia more fully live up to its declared ideals as a global leader and bridge-builder.

I also encourage Indonesians to consider visiting and following the social media accounts of inspiring interfaith groups like Palestine Loves Israel, Muslim-Jewish Brotherhood, The UN Alliance of Civilizations and The Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, which excel at bringing Muslims and Jews together, as equals, around superordinate values.

Full report at:



Arab World


Religious sites in UAE take precautionary measures against coronavirus

4 March 2020

Mosques and other religious sites in the UAE are taking precautionary measures aimed at limiting gatherings to prevent the further spread of coronavirus, which is increasingly disrupting life across the Arabian Gulf.

With the threat of the virus growing, the government, public institutions, and religious communities in the country have taken several measures to cushion the social and economic impact of the virus.

After the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia announced that its courtyard and floors are being washed and sanitized four times daily, mosques in UAE have intensified efforts to protect worshippers from the spread of the virus.

In order to avoid large gatherings and ensure proper hygiene during the prayer gatherings, some of the churches in the UAE have decided to organize three sermons instead of one weekly sermon.

The Orthodox church in Dubai has temporarily stopped the kiss of peace, a ceremonial greeting or embrace, said Father Ninan Philip Panackamattam, vicar of St. Thomas Orthodox Cathedral in Oud Metha. The Catholic Church has decided to take the Holy Communion by hand, instead of placing it on the recipient’s tongue.

Guru Nanak Darbar, a Sikh temple in Dubai, said it would install temperature scanners at its entrances and in its parking lot to better monitor the situation.

UAE efforts to prevent coronavirus

In an effort to limit the spread of the virus, the government has evacuated all UAE citizens from Iran. The country banned travel to Iran and Thailand on February 24 and warned against travel to China on January 24. The Federal Authority for Land and Maritime Transport (FTA) suspended on February 27 ferry services with Iran until further notice, and required all commercial vessels coming into the country to present a statement of health condition for their crews 72 hours ahead of arrival.

The UAE health ministry reported on Tuesday a total of 27 coronavirus cases in the country, five of which had been “cured.”

As a precautionary measure, the education ministry first closed nurseries and suspended all school extracurricular activities and field trips until further notice. Then, on Tuesday, the ministry announced that schools would be shut for four weeks from Sunday.

Several highly publicized cultural and sports events have recently been canceled or postponed, including the Dubai International Boat Show and Art Dubai.

Retail and tourism sectors in the country have borne the brunt of the outbreak.

According to an industry insider who spoke to Al Arabiya English, disruption to shipments from China has hit several retail industries such as apparel, smartphones, and electronics. Some retail sector sources estimate that there has been a drop of 40 to 50 percent, compared to the corresponding period last year. There has also been a drastic reduction in luxury retail alongside a rapid fall in the number of Chinese tourists to the UAE.

In the tourism sector, tour cancellations have been heavy following the news of the coronavirus spread, while several tour operators had to cancel their holiday packages to China, South Korea and Japan.

These disruptions appear to be hitting the economy, with the UAE central bank set to reassess its forecast for growth in 2020 to take into account the impact of coronavirus, according to Magda Kandil, the head of the research and statistics department at the central bank.



150 Turkey-Affiliated Terrorists Killed by Syrian Army in Idlib

Mar 04, 2020

The Arabic-language service of Sputnik news agency quoted a source in the Syrian army Division 25 as saying that the two terrorist groups launched extensive attacks on Army-controlled Saraqib on Wednesday.

He added that clashes between the two sides lasted until afternoon, but the terrorists failed to capture any position or advance in the battlefield.

The source said that the Syrian army forces killed nearly 150 terrorists after repulsing their offensive, forcing the militants to withdraw towards their positions in the Northern and Southwestern parts of Saraqib.

In a relevant development on Wednesday, the Russian Reconciliation Centre for Syria stated that a group of up to 15 terrorists had attempted to carry out a chemical attack in Syria’s Idlib province.

“On 2 March, a group of up to 15 terrorists attempted to detonate explosive ammunition together with containers full of a poisonous chemical agent. The terrorists aimed to impede the advance of Syrian government forces in the western part of Saraqib city and then accuse the Syrian government of using chemical weapons”, the statement read.

The terrorists accidentally unsealed one of the containers, which resulted in a leak. Terrorists received “significant chemical poisoning” and failed to carry out the attack, the centre said.



Lebanon’s sectarian system leaves country ill-equipped to deal with coronavirus

5 March 2020

As coronavirus continues to spread around the globe, a starkly pessimistic statement from Lebanon’s Prime Minister on Monday underscored the fact that the country’s sectarian political foundations leave it ill-equipped to deal with another potentially crippling crisis.

“The state is no longer able to protect its citizens,” Prime Minister Hassan Diab said in a televised statement. “We are facing massive challenges as the mechanisms of the state are tied with sectarian restrictions.”

The spread of the potentially deadly virus is far from the only item on Diab’s list of concerns. The final decision on whether to honor a $1.2 billion Eurobond repayment that matures on March 9 will be made Friday or Saturday, Diab added.

The devastating financial crisis was one of the primary drivers of months of anti-government demonstrations that began last October. But on top of concerns about economic mismanagement and between chants directed at particularly unpopular political figures, protestors also chanted, “No, no to sectarianism.”

Coronavirus in Lebanon

As of Tuesday evening there were 13 confirmed cases of coronavirus across Lebanon, according to the Lebanese Red Cross (LRC). Nevertheless, according to Rodney Eid, head of external communications for the organization, more emergency medical technicians are being trained every day, with 144 staff now trained in coronavirus response across the country.

The organization is equipped to tackle an outbreak, according to Eid. “We’ve done this before with Ebola and other viruses,” he said.

While the LRC, who provide much of Lebanon’s emergency healthcare response, appear ready to take on the challenge posed by the coronavirus crisis, officials in government appear less optimistic.

Hospitals face equipment shortages exacerbated by the financial crisis, and Health Minister Hamad Hasan told local media on Thursday that private hospitals may need to be called upon to receive infected cases.

“For me to say that we are ready for a big outbreak would be an exaggeration,” he said.

The crisis is further eroding the last vestiges of the public’s confidence in the government, Bassel Salloukh, associate professor of political science at the Lebanese American University, told Al Arabiya English.

“The problem we are suffering from now [is that] a lot of people don’t actually believe the so-called state has the ability to control the situation,” he said.

Sectarian roots impact policy today

Lebanon’s current sectarian system was formulated in 1989, toward the end of the country’s brutal 15-year civil war. The agreement saw power shared among the leaders of the country’s largest sects and distributed among clientelist networks, often at the expense of the state and good governance.

“The Lebanese state is this very weird creature whereby sectarian parties that have their power outside the state claim control over big chunks of [it],” Salloukh said.

The predominance of such parties “creates a mongrel state to non-state relationship that confuses everything and makes it very difficult for you to have one policy administered from the top down,” he explained.

For some, the power of non-state actors over the government was evidenced by the failure to enact controls on flights from Iran. Lebanon’s government, which is backed by Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its allies, only last Friday said it would ban entry to non-resident foreigners from the four countries worst affected by the disease, including Iran. While Hezbollah holds a political wing, it also runs significant activities outside the state’s authority, including a powerful militia.

Meanwhile, the erosion of the state’s authority and its inability to implement a unilateral policy was on show in recent attempts to shut down the spread of the coronavirus.

A directive from Education Minister Tarek Majzoub last Friday requested that all educational institutions close until March 8 to tackle the disease’s spread was initially met with short shrift from the prestigious American University of Beirut.

Full report at:



Iraq reports three new coronavirus cases, confirms second death

4 March 2020

Iraq’s health ministry confirmed on Wednesday a second death of a 65-year-old man in Baghdad infected with coronavirus, reported the National Iraqi News Agency (NINA) citing health officials.

Earlier on Wednesday, the health authorities said it detected three new coronavirus cases in the country, two in Diyala and one in Najaf, bringing the total number of infected people to 35.

“The cases were followed up and discovered by the Ministry’s staff,” the health ministry said in a statement carried by the National Iraqi News Agency (NINA).

Iraq reports first coronavirus death

Earlier on Wednesday, Iraq reported its first coronavirus death, an elderly man in the Kurdish province of Sulaimaniya, the local health department said.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi border ports authority announced a series of decisions related to the entry of Iraqis living abroad and to trade exchange with both Iran and Kuwait to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

It also added that trade exchange between Iraq and the two neighboring countries will begin from March 8 till March 15.

The authority said that Iraqis residing in Iran have until March 15 to return to Iraq through Baghdad and Basra airport terminals.

Coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, continued to spread across the Middle East and North Africa with over 1,600 infected across the region.

Full report at:



Egyptian officer-turned-extremist Hesham Ashmawy executed: Military

4 March 2020

Egyptian officer-turned-extremist Hesham Ashmawy was executed on Wednesday morning, the country’s military spokesperson says.

The militant leader is a former army officer and was captured in Libya late in 2018 by the Libyan National Army. A military court separately sentenced Ashmawy to death in November for his participation in scores of attacks on government targets.

For years, Egypt’s security forces considered Ashmawy the country’s most-wanted militant for his intelligence value.

Egyptian authorities linked Ashmawy, who is in his 40s, to several major attacks, including devastating assaults on security forces near Egypt’s porous desert border with Libya.

Before he fled to Libya, Ashmawy helped found Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, an extremist organization based in northern Sinai. His military expertise — he left the Egyptian army in 2011 — transformed the tiny group into a well-organized guerrilla band that later inflicted painful blows on security forces in Sinai.

Read more: Egypt’s ‘most wanted terrorist’ Ashmawy exposes ISIS, al-Qaeda hideouts in Libya

Full report at:



Two Turkish soldiers killed, six wounded in Syria’s Idlib: Defense ministry

4 March 2020

Two more Turkish soldiers have been killed and six wounded in an attack by Syrian government forces in Syria’s Idlib, the Turkish Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.

Immediately after the Syrian forces opened fire, Turkish forces retaliated and continued to strike targets, the ministry statement said. The incident brought the death toll of Turkish forces since Ankara started its military operation in Idlib last month to 59, including one on Tuesday.



UAE new coronavirus case confirmed as Indian student in Dubai, school closed

4 March 2020

Health officials in Dubai in the UAE confirmed on Wednesday a new coronavirus case in a 16-year-old girl who attend an Indian school in the emirate.

Dubai Health Authority (DHA) said in a statement that it has adopted stringent pro-active precautionary measures to ensure the health, safety and well-being of all students of the school and their families, adding that “in coordination with the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA),  [the regulator for educational activities in the emirate], have issued instructions for classes in the school to be suspended,” DHA tweeted.

The health authority added that it is working closely with the UAE’s Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) and “other authorities and stakeholders to take counter measures against the coronavirus in accordance with World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations and standards.”

Find out more about the impact of UAE schools closing here

The statement added that the girl contracted the infection from her father who had traveled overseas.

“The parent developed symptoms five days after returning to Dubai. Both the student and family members have been quarantined in hospital and are stable and recovering well. All other family members have also been quarantined.”

“Within the framework of comprehensive preventive measures against the spread of coronavirus, Dubai Health Authority (DHA) is conducting tests and monitoring the students, staff and workers of the school that may have interacted with the coronavirus patient,” read the statement.

On Tuesday night, six new cases of the coronavirus were detected in the UAE, state news agency WAM reported citing the country’s health authorities.

Schools closed in the UAE

On Tuesday, the UAE Education Ministry announced that schools and higher education institutions would close for four weeks, starting on Sunday.

The announcement brings forward the spring vacation. The ministry also launched a program for sanitizing educational institutions.

The news is set to cause major disruption to families in the country, following an earlier announcement that nurseries would also be closed.

UAE evacuates Arab nationals from China, to get medical care

The UAE has coordinated the evacuation of 215 Arab nationals from Wuhan City in China, the epicenter of the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak.

Full report at:



Syrian air defenses intercept Israeli missiles: Reports

05 March 2020

Syrian air defenses have intercepted several Israeli missiles over Quneitra province in the country's southwest and the central province of Homs, reports say.

"At 00:30 on Thursday our air defense monitored Israeli warplanes coming from northern occupied Palestine towards Sidon, and several missiles were fired from Lebanese airspace towards the central area," Syria's official news agency SANA quoted a military source as saying.

The source added that the missiles were intercepted successfully, and failed to hit any of their targets.

In another report, Xinhua news agency reported that the Syrian air defense intercepted Israeli missiles in Homs province in the early hours of Thursday.

According to the report, the missiles were fired from Israeli warplanes over the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and from Lebanese airspace.

The Tel Aviv regime mostly keeps quiet about the attacks on Syrian territories which many view as knee-jerk reaction to Syrian government’s increasing success in confronting terrorism in country.

Israel has been a main supporter of terrorist groups that have opposed the government of President Bashar al-Assad since militancy erupted in Syria in March 2011.

Syrian government forces have taken back many areas once controlled by the terrorist groups. The government and allied forces are currently busy fighting last bastions of militants in the northwestern province of Idlib and areas in the neighboring Aleppo province.

Full report at:



Over 80 children of Azerbaijani Daesh militants return home from Iraq

04 March 2020

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry says a group of more than eighty Azerbaijani children, whose mothers are being held in the Arab country for membership in the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group, have been repatriated from Baghdad to the South Caucasus country.

The ministry’s spokesman, Ahmad al-Sahhaf, said in a press release that the repatriation of the 82 children took place on Wednesday.

Sahhaf noted that the return took the number of foreign Daesh children repatriated to their respective countries to 828.

Back on October 12, 2019, Uzbekistan’s Foreign Ministry said more than 60 Daesh children had arrived in the Central Asian country from Iraq.

The ministry announced in a statement that 64 children were brought home by plane thanks to a joint effort involving the authorities of both countries and the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF).

It added that the children – fourteen of them under the age of three – had suffered “moral, psychological and physical problems” after their parents chose “a wrong path” by joining militant groups in Iraq.

Back on May 29 last year, Kurdish authorities in northeastern Syria handed over 148 Uzbek women and children linked to Daesh to diplomats from the Central Asian country for repatriation.

Uzbekistan has provided some 1,500 soldiers to Daesh in Iraq and Syria, according to the Soufan Group, a New York intelligence consultancy.

Daesh has claimed that Uzbeks were responsible for some of its most high-profile bombings in Iraq.

Former Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi declared the end of military operations against Daesh in the country on December 9, 2017.

On July 10 that year, he had formally declared victory over Daesh in Mosul, which served as the terrorists’ main urban stronghold in Iraq.

In the run-up to Mosul's liberation, Iraqi army soldiers and volunteer Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters had made sweeping gains against Daesh.

Full report at:



Turkey failed to honor Idlib deal, allowed outposts to merge with terrorist fortifications: Russia

04 March 2020

Moscow says Ankara has failed to live up to its commitments under a deal to enforce a demilitarized zone in Idlib, complaining that the Turkish military has allowed its observation posts to merge with terrorist fortifications in the northwestern Syrian province.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov blasted Turkey for amassing troops in Idlib and the Western countries for turning a blind eye to the unlawful military build-up.

“No one in the West notices the actions of the Turkish side, which, in violation of international law, has deployed a strike force the size of a mechanized division to Syria’s Idlib,” he said.

Terrorist fortifications have merged with Turkish outposts in Idlib, said the official, adding that “attacks and mass artillery fire on neighboring civilian settlements and the Russian airbase at Khmeimim turned from sporadic to daily.”

“Amid the total cynicism and the West’s fake concerns over the humanitarian situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone, only the Russian center for reconciliation of the opposing sides and the legitimate Syrian government deliver to the liberated areas all the needed assistance for local residents daily,” he said.

“All of Russia's official requests to the UN and Western countries — who delivered humanitarian aid across the Turkish border and all of it went not to refugees, but to terrorists — remained unanswered. All we heard were the lamentations about the need to ‘preserve the Sochi agreements at all costs,’” he added.

Kremlin hopes Putin, Erdogan can reach ‘common understanding’

Meanwhile, the Kremlin expressed hope on Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, would agree on a set of joint measures regarding Idlib during their meeting on Thursday.

“We plan to discuss the Idlib crisis... We expect to reach a common understanding on the crisis, the cause of the crisis, the harmful effects of the crisis and arrive at a set of necessary joint measures,” he told reporters.

Erdogan expects Idlib truce after Moscow meeting

Meanwhile, Erdogan said that he expects his talks with Putin to result in the rapid achievement of a ceasefire in Idlib.

He further called on European states to comply with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in dealing with the Syria refugee issue.

“If European countries want to solve the migration crisis, they should support Turkey’s political and humanitarian solutions in Syria,” the Turkish president said.

 He also claimed that since the beginning of the Idlib operation, Turkey has “neutralized” 3,138 Syrian troops and destroyed “151 tanks, 100 artillery units, three warplanes, eight helicopters, eight air defense systems, 10 ammunition dumps, 60 armored vehicles and 47 howitzers.”

In September 2018, Turkey and Russia signed an agreement in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, under which Ankara was required to establish observation posts in the militant-controlled Idlib and separate extremist terrorist from other armed anti-Damascus militant groups willing to engage in peace talks with the Syrian government.

Turkey was also obliged to take effective measures to ensure a lasting ceasefire in the region.

Currently, however, terrorists rule supreme in Idlib in quite close proximity to the Turkish troops. They also continue to target Syrian troops and allied Russian personnel.

Syria launched a counter-terrorism offensive in Idlib and neighboring areas last December, but the campaign coincided with a massive deployment of troops and military equipment by Turkey, which is evidently upset by changing conditions on the ground.

Last week, the Turkish government allowed the refugees to enter Europe, after accusing the Europeans of not doing enough to help with the refugee problem as well as its failing to have Moscow stop Damascus’ advances in Idlib.

It came on the back of an airstrike by Syrian forces in Idlib that killed at least 36 Turkish soldiers, whom Russia said were “in the battle formations of terrorist groups.”

Top EU diplomat visits Turkey, urges Idlib de-escalation

On Tuesday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell  met with Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu in Ankara to discuss the situation along the EU-Turkey border.

Josep Borrell Fontelles


🇪🇺🇹🇷Met with Minister of Interior @SuleymanSoyluEN to discuss situation on EU - Turkey border. Pressure and unilateral action are not an answer. We need to work hand in hand to address common challenges, for the benefit of both Turkey and the EU.

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1:21 AM - Mar 4, 2020

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“Pressure and unilateral action are not an answer. We need to work hand in hand to address common challenges, for the benefit of both Turkey and the EU,” Borrell tweeted.

He also sat down for talks with Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and underlined the need for Idlib de-escalation.

Josep Borrell Fontelles


Meeting with Minister of Defence @tcsavunma. Humanitarian situation in #Idlib is of extreme gravity. Need to promote deescalation and have an in-depth discussion with Turkey on security and defence challenges.

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Idlib is the only large territory in the hands of terrorists after the Syrian military managed to undo militant gains across the Arab country and bring back almost all of Syrian soil under government control.

Two more Turkish forces killed

In a development on the Idlib battleground, two more Turkish soldiers were killed and six injured on Wednesday as government forces pushed ahead with the liberation operation.

The Turkish Defense Ministry said in a statement that its forces had immediately retaliated and continued to strike targets.

Full report at:



South Asia


30 ISIS militants surrender to Afghan forces in Kunar

05 Mar 2020

The 201st Silab Corps of the Afghan Military in a statement said around 30 ISIS Khurasan militants surrendered to Afghan forces in Suki and Narang districts of Kunar.

The statement further added that the ISIS militants also handed over various weapons to the Afghan forces including 23 rifles, hand grenades and military kits.

The ISIS sympathizers have not commented regarding the surrender of the group’s militants so far.

Kunar is among the volatile provinces in East of Afghanistan where ISIS militants and insurgents belonging to other groups including Taliban and Al Qaeda network have considerable presence in some of its restive districts.

The anti-government armed militants often attempt to carry out attacks against the government and security forces in this province.



Khalilzad meets Mullah Baradar amid differences on release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners

05 Mar 2020

The U.S. envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad has said Washington is committed in facilitating prisoner exchange between the Afghan government and Taliban group.

He made the remarks following a meeting with Taliban’s deputy political Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

“I met Mullah Berader and his team last night for a candid discussion about next steps, followed by a constructive phone call with President @realDonaldTrump. We all agreed the purpose of the US-Taliban agreement is to pave the path to a comprehensive peace in #Afghanistan,” Trump said in a Twitter post.

Khalilzad further added “Increasing violence is a threat to the peace agreement and must be reduced immediately. In addition to discussing the need to decrease violence, we also talked about the exchange of prisoners.”

He said “US is committed to facilitating prisoner exchange, agreed in both US-Taliban Agreement & US-Afghanistan Joint Declaration. We will support each side to release significant numbers.”

This comes as President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani had earlier said only the Afghan government can decide regarding the release of Taliban prisoners.

Full report at:



NATO reaffirms support to Afghan forces, calls on Taliban to honor their commitments

05 Mar 2020

Press point by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the North Atlantic Council meeting at Turkey’s request for Article 4 consultations on the situation in Syria

The Secretary General of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Jens Stoltenberg, reaffirmed the alliance’s support to Afghan forces as he called on Taliban to honor their commitment in a bid to pave the way for intra-Afghan talks.

Speaking to reporters alongside Prime Minister of Croatia, Stoltenberg said he discussed the historic opportunity for peace in Afghanistan.

Stoltenberg further added “And as you mentioned, I was in Kabul with President Ghani and US Defense Secretary Esper to welcome the signature of the framework agreement.”

“This is an opportunity to open negotiations among Afghans and achieve sustainable peace,” he said, adding that “In order to take that opportunity the Taliban must honour their commitments.”

He also added “We need to see a reduction in violence and avoid undermining the agreement.”

Stoltenberg said “NATO remains committed to Afghanistan’s security and stability. And we will continue to support the Afghan security forces with funding and with training.”

Full report at:



Taliban attacks kill 20 Afghan personnel, US strikes for first time since deal

4 March 2020

The Taliban killed at least 20 Afghan soldiers and police officers in a string of overnight attacks, government officials told AFP Wednesday, hours after US President Donald Trump said he had a “very good” chat with the insurgents’ political chief.

The United States conducted an airstrike on Wednesday against Taliban fighters in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, a US forces spokesman said, the first strike since a troop withdrawal agreement was signed between the two sides on Saturday.

The Taliban fighters were “were actively attacking an (Afghan National Security Forces) checkpoint. This was a defensive strike to disrupt the attack,” said Colonel Sonny Leggett, a spokesman for the US Forces in Afghanistan in a tweet.

He said Washington was committed to peace but called on the Taliban to stop “needless attacks” and uphold their commitments, alluding to the deal signed on Saturday in Doha.

The militants have ramped up violence against Afghan security forces in recent days, ending a partial truce put in place during the run-up to a landmark US-Taliban withdrawal deal signed in Doha on Saturday.

“Taliban fighters attacked at least three army outposts in Imam Sahib district of Kunduz last night, killing at least 10 soldiers and four police,” said Safiullah Amiri, a member of the provincial council.

Full report at:



U.S. airstrike kills 7 ISIS militants in Kunar province of Afghanistan

05 Mar 2020

A U.S. airstrike killed seven militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Khurasan (ISIS-K) in eastern Kunar province of Afghanistan.

According to a statement released by 201st Silab Corps, the U.S. forces conducted the airstrike in Noor Gul district early on Tuesday.

The statement further added that the airstrike targeted the militants at around 9:00 am local time in Mazar Dara area of the district.

The ISIS militants have not commented regarding the airstrike so far.

The 201st Silab Corps had earlier said a group of at least 30 ISIS militants have surrendered to Afghan forces in Kunar province.

The 30 ISIS militants handed over themselves and their weapons in Suki and Nangarhar districts of Kunar, the 201st Silab Corps added.

Full report at:





Senior Iranian MP Blasts Washington for Provoking New Delhi into Crimes against Muslims

Mar 04, 2020

"Unfortunately, India is one of the countries that is under the influence of the US and the CIA and we have witnessed in many regions in India that the Indian police and army have acted against Muslims,” Abolfazl Hassan Beigi told FNA on Wednesday.

He also warned of Washington’s Islamophobia policies, noting that a large number of Indian people have converted to Islam in recent years.

Hassan Beigi expressed the hope that the Indian government would adopt independent policies towards Muslims as they seek peace and tranquillity based on Quranic guidelines.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday condemned a recent outburst of violence against Indian Muslims, urging New Delhi to protect all of its citizens regardless of their faith and ethnicity.

“Iran condemns the wave of organized violence against Indian Muslims,” Zarif said in a tweet, while highlighting amicable relations between Tehran and New Delhi

“For centuries, Iran has been a friend of India,” he said, adding, “We urge Indian authorities to ensure the wellbeing of ALL Indians & not let senseless thuggery prevail.”

“Path forward lies in peaceful dialogue and rule of law,” Zarif concluded.

Earlier, on Monday, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi voiced his country’s serious concern about the rising atrocities against Muslims in India, adding that Tehran is consistently following up the case.

“We are following the news coming from India with concern,” Mousavi said in his weekly presser.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran is following up on the issue through many channels and we have heard that some Muslim countries have had some movements.”

“We know India as a country where all ethnicities and religions live peacefully side by side,” he said, adding, “We hope that violence against Muslims in India would come to an end.”

“Considering the wisdom of Indian authorities that we are aware of, the country will become a peaceful place for all ethnicities,” he said.

The worst anti-Muslim violence by Hindu nationalists began on the eve of a state visit by US President Donald Trump, infamous for his anti-Muslim rhetoric and policies.

A police statement on Saturday, however, came without elaborating on whether the detainees were perpetrators of deadly violence on mosques and ordinary Muslim residence or Muslims defending their homes against indiscriminate attacks by Hindu nationalists with little intervention by police officers and other government security forces.

Over 40 people were declared killed by Hindu mobs last week, with hundreds more reported injured amid news accounts of largely useless police intervention to end the violence and meager international criticism of New Delhi’s failure to protect its minority Muslim population.

The violence began amid widespread protests across India over a citizenship law that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government introduced in December offering a path to Indian citizenship for six religious groups from neighboring countries, specifically excluding Muslims.

Critics insist the law is discriminatory, coming in the wake of other severe government measures against the country’s Muslim population such as withdrawal of autonomy for Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir province that has intensified discord across India about the future of its 200 million Muslims.



Swiss expert tapped to lead UN agency that aids Palestinian refugees

5 March 2020

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has recommended a Swiss expert in humanitarian affairs to lead the UN agency responsible for aiding Palestinian refugees, a UN source said on Wednesday.

Guterres’ pick for the sensitive UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) post, Philippe Lazzarini, has served as the UN coordinator in Lebanon for the past five years.

He has deep experience in humanitarian relief work in conflict zones, including Somalia, Iraq, Angola and the Palestinian territories.

Lazzarini also held positions with the International Committee of the Red Cross in Africa, the Balkans and the Middle East.

If approved by the agency’s advisory board, Lazzarini would follow Pierre Krahenbuhl, another Swiss national, who resigned as UNRWA director in November 2019 amid accusations of mismanagement.

Founded in 1949, UNRWA runs schools and provides vital aid to millions of Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian territories.

The United States ended its annual $300 million contribution to UNRWA in 2018.

Full report at:



Coronavirus: Israel orders self-quarantine for arrivals from European countries

4 March 2020

Israel has ordered that some travelers entering the country from European countries must self-quarantine, Israeli outlet Haaretz reported Wednesday.

At a press conference Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that those who visited Germany, France, Spain, Austria, or Switzerland over the past two weeks must quarantine themselves at home.

Israelis returning from China, Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, and Singapore are required to self-quarantine, it was previously announced.

At a press conference Wednesday, Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman announced that Israelis attending international conferences will require isolation and events with more than 5,000 people will not be allowed in the country for the time being.

The health ministry is asking that people refrain from unnecessary travel abroad.

Also on Wednesday, an Israeli girl tested positive for the virus after attending a soccer game in Tel Aviv, and dozens of attending fans were sent into quarantine.

Full report at:



Coronavirus has affected almost all Iranian provinces: Rouhani

4 March 2020

An outbreak of novel coronavirus has affected almost all of Iran’s provinces, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday, according to the official presidency website.

“This disease is a widespread disease,” he said. “It has reached almost all our provinces and in one sense it’s a global disease.”

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had said on Tuesday that the coronavirus outbreak in Iran is “not that big of a deal,” , urging citizens to pray against the virus.

“This calamity is not that big of a deal, and that there have been bigger ones in the past,” Khamenei was quoted as saying by the semi-official Mehr news agency.

Twenty-three Iranian MPs have so far tested positive for coronavirus, Deputy Speaker of Parliament Abdolreza Mesri said on Tuesday, while state media reported the death of a senior judiciary official due to the virus.

As of Tuesday, 77 in the country have died from the virus and there are 2,336 confirmed cases.

Full report at:



Envoy: US, Israel Attempting to Distort Iran-IAEA Constructive Ties

Mar 04, 2020

“Unfortunately, the US and Israel are again attempting to distort the active and constructive relations and cooperation between the IAEA and Iran by pressuring the Agency to act beyond its statute responsibilities,” Qaribabadi said in reaction to the IAEA’s recent report on safeguard issues in Iran.

He said that Iran is endeavoring to prevent the start of an abnormal and dangerous innovation at the IAEA which entails giving credit to the fake reports of the spying services, and added any demand extended to Iran based on such reports runs counter to the documents underlying the establishment of the IAEA and the verification system and would not force Tehran to undertake to heed to such demands.

“If countries do not adopt principled measures against such plots, their national sovereignty will be distorted,” Qaribabadi said.

Full report at:



Fists fly in Turkish parliament after opposition MP criticises Erdogan

04 March 2020

A fistfight erupted in the Turkish parliament on Wednesday during a speech by an opposition lawmaker who earlier accused President Tayyip Erdogan of disrespecting Turkish soldiers who died in Syria.

Dozens of parliamentarians joined the brawl, some climbing desks or throwing punches, while others tried to stop the fighting, according to video footage of the incident.

Engin Ozkoc, a lawmaker from the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), had accused the president at a news conference and later in tweets of disrespecting soldiers who were killed last week in Syria's Idlib region.

Ozkoc also accused Erdogan of irresponsibility for sending troops into a conflict without air cover.

The speaker of parliament, Mustafa Sentop, condemned the statement by the opposition lawmaker.

Full report at:



Israel demolishes homes of alleged Palestinian attackers

March 05, 2020

JERUSALEM: The Israeli military on Thursday said its forces demolished the homes of two Palestinians accused of being behind a deadly blast in the West Bank last year.

Israel says Walid Hanatsheh and Yazan Mughamis were part of a cell that carried out the attack in August, which killed 17-year-old Israeli Rina Shnerb and injured her father and brother as they hiked down to a spring in the occupied West Bank.

Hanatsheh and Mughamis, along with other alleged members of the cell, are currently facing trial in an Israeli court.

Bulldozers tore down one home in the West Bank city of Bir Zeit. At the second home in the city of Ramallah, soldiers used jackhammers to destroy the interior walls of the apartment.

During the operation early Thursday, the military said dozens of Palestinians burned tires and threw stones and Molotov cocktails at the Israeli forces. It said its forces responded with “riot dispersal means,” which usually means tear gas and stun grenades.

Full report at:



Palestinians resigned to status quo in Gaza after latest Israeli election

March 05, 2020

GAZA CITY: Palestinians were on Wednesday resigned to more of the same in the Gaza Strip following the results of Israel’s third parliamentary election within the space of a year.

With further deadlock leaving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu struggling to form a government and the prospect of a possible fourth ballot in the pipeline, Palestinian factions in Gaza expected to see little if any change to the status quo.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said: “We are not counting on any variables within Israeli society, as they are all the product of an occupation Zionist project aimed at stabilizing the pillars of the Zionist entity at the expense of the Palestinian right.”

Islamic Jihad official Daoud Shehab said: “The election results will not change anything from reality, as there is ongoing occupation and aggression, and it is natural and self-evident that we face this occupation and its aggression.”

Spokesman for the Fatah movement, Hussein Hamayel, said: “These results are clear evidence that whoever rules Israel and directs public opinion is the behavior of settlers based on repression, killing and attacks on the Palestinian people.”

For two years the Gaza Strip witnessed protests demanding Israel lift its 14-year blockade. Hamas, with Egyptian mediation, agreed to de-escalate tensions along the borders a year ago, in exchange for the provision of facilities at crossings, an increased fishing zone, and an allowance for some materials that Israel considered of dual use.

The deal was divided into two phases, the first before the Israeli elections and the second after the formation of a government. Both sides could not proceed to the second phase as the government has yet to be formed in Israel.

Ibrahim Zaid, 29, did not see much difference between Israeli candidates and thinks that the right-wing domination of the Israeli government will have a negative impact on Gaza.

“All the successive Israeli governments are trying to keep the Gaza Strip away from the scene, trying to facilitate the entry of aid, but not trying to make a real change. I do not think that there will be a complete lifting of the blockade,” he told Arab News.

Columnist, Fathi Sabbah, told Arab News: “The Israeli government, whether Netanyahu or an exchange between Netanyahu and (opposition leader Benny) Gantz, will not offer anything to the Gaza Strip except for some simple facilities that will not affect the Gaza Strip significantly or make any fundamental change.

“The reality in the Gaza Strip will remain as it is, neither complete calm nor extensive war, as long as Netanyahu or Gantz are unable to form a government, and the Palestinian factions don’t have many options but will accept additional Israeli facilities.”

Nawal Siksik, 24, said: “I live in the Gaza Strip and have not participated in any elections. The Israelis voted in three elections within one year.

“We need elections (in Palestine) in order for someone to represent us democratically, and to restore unity between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In this way we can confront any Israeli government, whether from the right or otherwise.”

Full report at:



14 Houthi rebels killed in Yemen clashes

Safiye Karabacak and Gülsen Topcu 


ADEN, Yemen

At least 14 Houthi rebels were killed and 28 more injured in clashes with Yemeni government forces, sources said Thursday.

The clashes occurred in the coastal province of Al-Hudaydah, according to the sources, who requested anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to the media.

They said the Houthis were trying to infiltrate government bases in the Ad-Durayhimi, At-Tuhayta, and Al-Fazeh districts of the western province and met resistance from government forces.

Houthi rebels control the city center and the port in al-Hudaydah, while the government forces hold the southern and eastern entrances of the city.

Yemen has been beset by violence and chaos since 2014, when the Iran-backed Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including the capital Sanaa.

The crisis escalated in 2015 when a Saudi-led military coalition launched a devastating air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi territorial gains.

Full report at:





Nigerians oppose commission for ‘repentant’ Boko Haram members

March 3, 2020

A majority of Nigerians who participated in an online poll by PREMIUM TIMES have kicked against a proposed bill to create an agency for the rehabilitation of repentant Boko Haram members.

This is not surprising as the bill, since its introduction, has triggered outrage and debate from citizens across the country.

This is even as many have accused the lawmaker proposing it of supporting insurgents in the country and even sponsoring the attacks.

Many fear that releasing the ‘repentant’ Boko Haram militants into civilian population could be counterproductive as hardened fighters would return to the terror group to commit more atrocities.


Over 22,148 voters participated in the poll which was conducted on the PREMIUM TIMES’ website and on its official Twitter and Facebook pages.

The poll lasted for about five days and was conducted in a way that made it impossible for a respondent to vote more than once from the same computer or mobile device.

Participants were asked a single question: “Does Nigeria need an agency to rehabilitate Boko Haram members?” with options of “yes”and “no”.

On the Facebook poll, over 14,076 (92 per cent) respondents voted against the bill while 1,224 participants (18 per cent) supported it.

Similarly, on Twitter, 5,481 participants (91.9 per cent) voted against the idea, while 483 participants (8.1 per cent) supported it.

And on the website, 740 respondents (83.7 per cent) voted “no” and 144 respondents (16.3 per cent) voted “no”.


The bill seeks to create an agency “for rehabilitating, de-radicalising, educating and reintegrating the defectors, repentant and detained members of the insurgent group Boko Haram to make them useful members of the society”.

It is sponsored by former Yobe governor, Ibrahim Gaidam.

This legislation comes amidst incessant attacks in the North-east by bandits and suspected Biko Haram members with the most recent being the killing of over 50 people in Kaduna villages.

Despite the backlash, Mr Gaidam (Yobe East, APC) has attempted to justify his position why a commission is the best bet to address the unending insurgency.

Among other reasons, he said “the agency when established will help rehabilitate and reintegrate the defectors, repentant and forcefully conscripted members of the Boko Haram to make them useful members of the society and provide an avenue for reconciliation and promote national security.”

The agency, he said, would provide an avenue for reconciliation and promote national security and an-open-door and encouragement for other members of the group who are still engaged in the insurgency to abandon the group especially in the face of military pressure.”

Already, a few lawmakers have condemned the bill describing it as as needless, waste of resources and misplaced priority. This is even as they questioned the nationality of the insurgents.

While many have condemned the proposed legislation and accused the sponsor of conniving with insurgents, a few others, however, say the bill is not unconnected to promises made earlier by the federal government.

The Chief of Defence Staff, Abayomi Olonisakin, had in 2017 pledged to ensure the ‘’total de-radicalisation and rehabilitation of all ex-Boko Haram members before re-integrating them into the society in line with international best practices’’.

President Muhammadu Buhari also said the Nigerian government ‘’is ready to accept the unconditional laying down of arms by any member of the Boko Haram group who shows strong commitment in that regard”.

His words were followed by the handing over 244 Boko Haram suspects, by the Nigerian army whom it said have given up membership of the terrorist group, to the Borno State government.

This is even as the army said another 154 ex-Boko Haram fighters had been ‘’rehabilitated under the De-radicalisation, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (DRR) programme and are now set to be reintegrated into the society’’.

Condemnations, reactions

Among the groups to have condemned the bill, is the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) which has urged the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, to drop the bill noting that the legislation would enable ‘repentant terrorists’ to receive foreign education.

This will include accessing funds from the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETfund) and subventions from the government.

The group in a statement said the bill “erodes justice and makes a mockery of the suffering of victims, and the unspeakable human tragedy, humanitarian crisis and appalling atrocities committed by the Boko Haram terrorist group”.

“By calling Boko Haram members ‘ex-agitators’, the Bill mocks the victims of appalling atrocities committed by the terrorist group, and is a blatant affront to victims’ dignity. ‘Repentant Boko Haram terrorists’ are not ‘ex-agitators’; they are terrorists under Nigerian and international laws.

“Boko Haram members should not be allowed to enjoy foreign education while over 13 million Nigerian children of school age are roaming our streets,” it said.

Other Nigerians have taken to social media to kick against the bill. Below are some reactions:

Premium Times


• 20 Feb 2020

BREAKING: Senate introduces bill to create agency for repentant Boko Haram members

Senator introduces bill to create agency for repentant Boko Haram members

The Senate on Thursday began moves to establish an agency that would see to the rehabilitation, deradicalisation and integration of repentant insurgents...

Yummy Yomi


Same way they turned repentant hardened criminals to sars and they started killing innocent people.

Please please abeg abeg


23:48 - 20 Feb 2020

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Premium Times


• 20 Feb 2020

BREAKING: Senate introduces bill to create agency for repentant Boko Haram members

Senator introduces bill to create agency for repentant Boko Haram members

The Senate on Thursday began moves to establish an agency that would see to the rehabilitation, deradicalisation and integration of repentant insurgents...

Ahmed Musa


No insults please

President Umaru Yar adu'a gave amnesty to REPENTANT Niger Delta militants.

President Goodluck Jonathan gave most of them scholarship to study within and outside Nigeria. Today, most of them are - Lawyers, Doctors, Engineers to mention but a few.


00:14 - 21 Feb 2020

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Premium Times


• 20 Feb 2020

BREAKING: Senate introduces bill to create agency for repentant Boko Haram members

Senator introduces bill to create agency for repentant Boko Haram members

The Senate on Thursday began moves to establish an agency that would see to the rehabilitation, deradicalisation and integration of repentant insurgents...



How do you even think of such bill if you don’t play a role in the insurgency in the first place. Madness


16:52 - 20 Feb 2020

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Premium Times


• 20 Feb 2020

BREAKING: Senate introduces bill to create agency for repentant Boko Haram members

Senator introduces bill to create agency for repentant Boko Haram members

The Senate on Thursday began moves to establish an agency that would see to the rehabilitation, deradicalisation and integration of repentant insurgents...

His Knowledgeable


I don't just read headlines, but delve into content of stories. If Borno elders like ex-Gov. @KashimSM, Civilian JTF, and not excluding widows of slained soldiers have kicked against @MBuhari's release of these hardline BH terrorists, why this bill in @DrAhmadLawan's @NGRSenate?

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter


17:49 - 20 Feb 2020

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Premium Times


• 20 Feb 2020

BREAKING: Senate introduces bill to create agency for repentant Boko Haram members

Senator introduces bill to create agency for repentant Boko Haram members

The Senate on Thursday began moves to establish an agency that would see to the rehabilitation, deradicalisation and integration of repentant insurgents...

FUNKYfied (Papi Chulo) Aboki


Things are getting clearer by the day, the agenda is becoming more apparent, the Northerners are telling us the Buhari's war against Terrorism is a facade. The Yorubas are probes to be the dumbest on the planet.


00:09 - 21 Feb 2020 • Pecan Grove, TX

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Premium Times


• 20 Feb 2020

BREAKING: Senate introduces bill to create agency for repentant Boko Haram members

Senator introduces bill to create agency for repentant Boko Haram members

The Senate on Thursday began moves to establish an agency that would see to the rehabilitation, deradicalisation and integration of repentant insurgents...



Permit me to say Nigeria is almost finished with this. You put armed robbers behind bars for years, even when they are remorseful ,they don’t get this kind of preferential treatment. Now terrorist gets this kind of treatment. Who rehabilitates these people if I may ask? S.M.H


16:54 - 20 Feb 2020

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Premium Times


• 20 Feb 2020

BREAKING: Senate introduces bill to create agency for repentant Boko Haram members

Senator introduces bill to create agency for repentant Boko Haram members

The Senate on Thursday began moves to establish an agency that would see to the rehabilitation, deradicalisation and integration of repentant insurgents...



Whatever Evil these government is planning will backfire on them and their entire generation... let's be honest and drop party affiliation here,these is out rightly wrong on all fronts...


16:56 - 20 Feb 2020

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Premium Times


• 20 Feb 2020

BREAKING: Senate introduces bill to create agency for repentant Boko Haram members

Senator introduces bill to create agency for repentant Boko Haram members

The Senate on Thursday began moves to establish an agency that would see to the rehabilitation, deradicalisation and integration of repentant insurgents...



In a sane country, the senator sponsoring this Bill would have been placed on close watch as number one Boko Haram suspect!


11:20 - 21 Feb 2020

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Premium Times


 • 20 Feb 2020

BREAKING: Senate introduces bill to create agency for repentant Boko Haram members

Senator introduces bill to create agency for repentant Boko Haram members

The Senate on Thursday began moves to establish an agency that would see to the rehabilitation, deradicalisation and integration of repentant insurgents...

EGO(Egwu Godwin O)


I think @NGRSenate should introduce a bill to re-brand yahoo yahoo boys, if Boko Haram can get this kind of treatment in Nigeria then we shouldn't send anyone to jail no matter their crime. BH have raped, stolen, killed, burnt and destroyed our women yet we smile at them.


18:08 - 20 Feb 2020

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Premium Times


 • 20 Feb 2020

BREAKING: Senate introduces bill to create agency for repentant Boko Haram members

Senator introduces bill to create agency for repentant Boko Haram members

The Senate on Thursday began moves to establish an agency that would see to the rehabilitation, deradicalisation and integration of repentant insurgents...

Nnamdi Abana


This is indeed unfortunate! Why should the Nigerian Senate be rewarding terrorists? This is one of the reasons why the international community will never consider lending a helping hand to Nigeria. What the Senate is doing is tantamount to self-immolation.


20:54 - 20 Feb 2020

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14 killed in militant attack on Nigeria military base

04 March 2020

Suspected Boko Haram militants killed at least 14 security personnel and civilians in an attack on a military base in northeast Nigeria's Borno state on Wednesday.

Militants in trucks fitted with machine guns launched a dawn raid on the army base in the town of Damboa, sparking intense fighting.

Sources said six soldiers, four police officers and two members of a government-backed militia were killed along with two civilians.

"We lost six soldiers in the attack while six others were injured," a military officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The officer claimed 13 militants were killed by a fighter jet as they fled the area.

The leader of an anti-militant militia said the civilians who died were among more than 50 local residents hit by shrapnel after rocket-propelled grenades fired by the militants hit nearby homes.

Nigeria's decade-long militancy has killed 36,000 people and displaced two million others inside the country, and spilled into neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

The United Nations has complained of a surge in violence in the conflict zone in recent weeks.

Anger has been growing among local residents about the army's failure to stem the attacks despite repeated claims from officials that the militancy has been defeated.

The fighting in northeast Nigeria have split into rival groups with one loyal to longtime Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau and another affiliated to the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.

Damboa lies on the fringe of Shekau's stronghold in the Sambisa forest from where his group has launched repeated attacks on villages and military posts.

Full report at:



Libyan gov't decries handing embassy in Syria to Haftar




The UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) on Wednesday denounced Syria's decision to hand over the Libyan Embassy in Damascus to the "government" of east Libya-based renegade commander Khalifa Haftar.

In a statement, the GNA's Foreign Ministry said the handover "violates UN Security Council resolution prohibiting dealing with any parallel bodies to the GNA, which is the only legitimate government in the country".

The Tripoli-seated ministry stressed that the move was "a violation of the sovereignty of the Libyan state".

On Tuesday, the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad reopened the Libyan Embassy in Damascus after an 8-year hiatus and handed it over to Haftar's "government".

The move was taken after the two sides signed a memorandum of understanding to reopen embassies, according to the official SANA news agency.

The Syrian regime has become the first to recognize Haftar's government, which does not have international recognition.

Full report at:



Al-Shabaab tells Christians to leave northeastern Kenya

MARCH 4, 2020

The East Africa-based Islamic fundamentalist group al-Shabaab is trying to push out local Christians in northeastern Kenya so that the terrorist organisation can give their jobs to Muslims, the US-based watchdog International Christian Concern (ICC) reports.

The al-Qaeda affiliated group released a 20-minute audio recording in which al-Shabaab’s spokesperson, Sheikh Ali Dhere, called on Somali Kenyans to expel all non-Muslims if they did not leave on their own.

“Muslim teachers, doctors, engineers, and young graduates from the northeastern province are unemployed. Isn’t it better to give them a chance? There is no need for the presence of non-believers,” Dhere said in reference to the region’s Christian population.

Three counties in northern Kenya are mostly populated by people who fled from neighbouring Somalia. Al-Shabaab has long wanted to overthrow the Somali government and has launched multiple attacks against Kenya.

Kenya is a mainly Christian country, reports about a growing al-Shabab presence in the country’s northeast and coastal regions have become more frequent in recent years. According to the ICC, al-Shabaab regularly stops buses to separate passengers based on their religious identity and proceeds to execute the Christians.

In late February, two Christians were killed after al-Shabaab terrorists attacked a bus carrying passengers to the capital of Nairobi from a market town near the Ethiopian and Somalian borders.

Al-Shabaab launched one of the deadliest attacks in April 2015, when it stormed the campus of the University of Garissa, killing more than 148 students. According to local police, the terrorists separated Muslims from non-Muslims and proceeded to execute all non-Muslim students.

According to the Open Doors USA global watch list, Kenya is ranked 44th out of 50 countries where it is most dangerous for Christians.

Full report at:



Six killed in attack on Nigeria military base

March 5, 2020

Armed assailants killed four police officers and two civilian militiamen in an attack on a military base in northeast Nigeria's Borno state on Wednesday.

Suspected Boko Haram fighters in trucks fitted with machine guns launched the dawn raid on the army base in the town of Damboa, sparking intense fighting.

"We lost four mobile policemen and two civilian militia fighting alongside soldiers during the fight with the terrorists," said a military officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Anti-armed group leader Ibrahim Liman confirmed the death toll, after supporting soldiers during the attack.

Local resident Modu Malari said the assailants attacked with assault weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, but were forced out from the town by troops after a fierce two-hour battle.

More than 50 residents were wounded by shrapnel from grenades fired by the rebels, he said.

Damboa lies on the fringe of Boko Haram's Sambisa Forest stronghold, from where the group has launched repeated attacks on villages and military posts.

In November last year, at least 10 Nigerian soldiers were killed and nine injured in a Boko Haram ambush in Muchima village, outside Damboa.

Boko Haram's campaign began in 2009 and has displaced more than 2.2 million people across Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon since, with no signs of slowing down despite counterattacks by a joint multinational force across borders.

Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP), a Boko Haram faction, has also gone on a spree of violence, attacking military formations in those countries.

Full report at:





EU rejects Turkey’s ‘blackmail,’ borders to stay closed to migrants: France FM

4 March 2020

The European Union will not give in to “blackmail” by Turkey and its borders will remain closed to migrants despite Ankara’s threat to let them pass, France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Wednesday.

“The borders of Greece and the Schengen Area are closed, and we will ensure they stay closed” despite attempts by thousands of migrants who have massed on Turkey’s frontier since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said they would be allowed to cross into the EU, Le Drian told senators.

In a related development, The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell promised on Wednesday an additional 170 million euros in aid for vulnerable groups in Syria in a visit to Turkey, which has demanded greater assistance over the conflict.



Confusion and controversy bedevils UK’s planned Mali deployment

04 March 2020

There is growing controversy about Britain’s planned deployment of 250 troops to Mali later this year, which has been widely described as the most dangerous since the UK’s military intervention in Afghanistan.

The Times’ defence editor, Lucy Fisher, tweeted that the government’s plan to deploy additional forces to the Sahel region has caused “grave concerns” among “senior British personnel”.

Lucy Fisher


NEW: Gvt plan to deploy 250 soldiers to Mali to help combat the world’s fastest-growing Islamist insurgency has caused grave concerns among senior British personnel.

There’s alarm among defence & Whitehall insiders over rationale & risk to troops. 1/n …

Forces chiefs warn against peacekeeping role in Mali

The government’s plan to deploy 250 soldiers to Mali to help combat the world’s fastest-growing Islamist insurgency has caused grave concerns among senior British personnel.British troops are already


2:58 AM - Mar 4, 2020

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According to Fisher, one major source of confusion centres on the logic behind the UK's decision to attach forces to the United Nations "peacekeeping" mission in Mali when there are already British forces seconded to the separate French-led "combat" mission in the West African country.

Fisher quotes one of her Whitehall sources as describing Mali as “hugely complex and messy” and claiming that there hasn’t been “sufficient parliamentary scrutiny” of the planned British deployment.

Meanwhile, Tory MP, and a member of the influential foreign affairs committee of the House of Commons, Bob Seely, told the Telegraph (March 02) that Britain’s “looming intervention” in the Sahel has “slipped under the radar”.

In addition to inadequate scrutiny, Seely warns against “generational missions” which owing to insufficiently defined combat objectives run the risk of never ending.

As controversy and confusion mounts, the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) is refusing to engage honestly with the critics and detractors of the planned Mali mission.

In an arrogant and self-righteous tweet, the MoD claimed there had been “misleading” reporting on the Mali deployment.

Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧


(1/5) There has been some misleading reporting on the UK’s deployment to Mali, some things to remember:


6:04 PM - Mar 3, 2020

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The Tweet has further enraged the planned mission’s critics. The Times’ Fisher described it as a “poor, cowardly attempt at spin”.



EU accuses Turkey of using migrants to pressure Europe

04 March 2020

European Union member states say the bloc "strongly rejects" what it sees as Turkey's use of migrants for political ends, after Turkey opened its borders with Syria and allowed thousands of migrants to pour into the continent via Greece.

In a statement agreed by ministers meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, the 27 capitals said the "situation at the EU's external borders is not acceptable."

Earlier, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government had denied that it was using the threat of a wave of migrants to "blackmail" the EU.

But the EU statement said the meeting "strongly rejects Turkey's use of migratory pressure for political purposes".

EU members insist Turkey must stick to a previous deal in which it agreed to prevent refugees and migrants from crossing to Greece.

"Illegal crossings will not be tolerated," the statement said. "In this regard, the EU and its member states will take all necessary measures, in accordance with EU and international law.

"Migrants should not be encouraged to endanger their lives by attempting illegal crossings by land or sea."

The ministers urged Turkey to "relay this message and counter the dissemination of false information."

Earlier in the day, France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Europe will "not be blackmailed" by the Turkish government over the migrants issue.

The developments came two days after Erdogan said Ankara had no plans to stop the flow of migrants into the EU, warning that “millions of refugees” will soon be moving toward Turkey’s borders with the bloc.

The Turkish president also called on Europe to help take responsibility for the migrant crisis triggered by violence in the region.

Last week, Turkey relaxed curbs on the migrants’ movement through its borders and said Ankara would no longer prevent hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers in its territory from reaching Europe despite an agreement struck with the EU in 2016, under which Ankara was committed to stop the refugee flow into Europe in exchange for financial assistance from Europe.

Ankara complains that funds promised by the EU to help it deal with the 3.7 million Syrian refugees already in the country have been slow to arrive. Turkey’s government had warned in the past that it would open the floodgates if it did not receive more funding.

The massing of migrants has caused fears of a repeat of the 2015 European migrant crisis, in which more than one million people crossed into Europe, most of them fleeing conflict zones in the Middle East and North Africa.

Full report at:'will-not-be-blackmailed'-by-Turkey,-says-French-foreign-minister



EU to allocate additional €170 million in aid for Syria

Zuhal Demirci and Nazli Yuzbasioglu 


The European Union will allocate an additional 170 million euros ($189 million) in aid for the most vulnerable groups in war-torn Syria, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Wednesday.

“We have announced €170 million additionally in humanitarian aid to continue assisting the most vulnerable people in Syria,” Borrell told a press conference before departing from Ankara Esenboga Airport following a two-day visit to Turkey.

He noted that 60 million euros ($66.8 million) of the aid would be used to address the humanitarian crisis in northwestern Syria.

Earlier in day, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay received Borrell and an accompanying delegation to discuss recent developments in Syria, including the humanitarian crisis in Idlib province and the situation of refugees waiting on the Turkish-Greek border.

Borrell said he had many meetings with Turkish authorities during his visit, noting his meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was also a fruitful one.

“In our meetings, I had the opportunity to express our understanding of the difficult situation Turkey is currently facing but also stress that current developments on European borders are not leading to any solution,” Borrell said, adding the situation is not benefitting anyone and may get worse.

“The ones who will pay the price are the people -- the Syrian refugees and the migrants,” he said.

Humanitarian consequences grave

Borrell said during the meetings, he noted that an end to the conflict in Syria would benefit both Turkey and the EU.

“We need to work hand in hand to address the common challenges,” he said, urging cooperation to find a way to end the crisis.

“The situation is dramatic. The humanitarian consequences of military escalation are extremely grave,” Borrell stressed.

He said they discussed reducing tensions and not encouraging further movement of refugees towards EU borders while noting that contacts at the highest level will continue and he will also discuss cooperation with Turkey during his meetings with EU foreign ministers in Zagreb, Croatia.

He noted that during their talks, Erdogan told him that Turkey does not encourage refugees to head to the borders, “but we cannot prevent people from doing so.”

“But we have to try to avoid by all means [a situation where] people believe the doors are open,” he said, adding they should not be misled because taking risky journeys to other countries may bring many other problems along with it.

Thousands of refugees flocked to Turkey's Pazarkule border crossing to Greece after Turkish officials announced last week that they would no longer try to stop refugees from reaching Europe.

It followed an attack last week by Syrian regime forces on Turkish troops in Idlib in which at least 34 soldiers were martyred.

On Sunday, Turkey announced a new offensive, Operation Spring Shield, in northwestern Syria to protect civilians from regime attacks.

Turkey already hosts some 3.7 million refugees from Syria alone, more than any other country in the world.

2016 Turkey-EU deal

Touching on a 2016 deal between Turkey and the EU which was aimed at stopping irregular migration through the Aegean Sea and improving the conditions of more than 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, Borrell said “the 2016 package was not only a matter of providing financial help to take care of the migrants on Turkish soil.”

He said it also included other issues such as visa liberalization and modernization of the customs union and noted that most of them are yet to be fulfilled.

He said under the deal, the EU pledged 6 billion euros ($6.7 billion) in funding to support projects for Syrian refugees in Turkey.

Turkish politicians have recently criticized EU member states for not fully implementing the deal and for backing away from their political commitments.

Borrell said 4.7 billion euros have been contracted while 3.2 billion euros have been disbursed, adding the remainder will be paid this year.

He noted that the current situation requires their support and cooperation as the situation in northwestern Idlib, Syria was not foreseen in 2016.

Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests.

Full report at:



Turkey calls on EU to abide by Human Rights Declaration

Emin Avundukluoglu 


Turkish president called on Greece and other EU countries to comply with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the Syrian refugee issue.

"We call on, notably, Greece and all EU countries to respectfully treat the refugees, which came to their territories, in line with Universal Declaration of Human Rights," Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at his party's parliamentary group meeting in the capital Ankara.

Erdogan slammed Greece by showing a photo displaying the help extended to the Greek people who fled Nazi attacks and took refuge in Syria during the World War II.

"One of the Greek boys or girls in this photo is maybe the grandparent of [Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos] Mitsotakis," Erdogan said.

"A Greek, who tries every way possible to not accept refugees in its country [...] should not forget that one day he could need that compassion," he added.

Last week, Turkish officials announced that they would no longer try to stop irregular migrants reaching Europe.

Since then, thousands of irregular migrants flocked to Edirne to make their way into Europe.

Ankara has repeatedly complained that Europe has failed to keep its promises under the 2016 migration deal with Turkey to help migrants and stem further migrant waves.

Turkey, which already hosts some 3.7 million Syrian migrants, more than any country in the world, says it cannot absorb another refugee wave.

The decision was made after 34 Turkish soldiers were martyred by the regime forces in Idlib, northwestern Syrian late February.

The Turkish soldiers are working to protect local civilians under a 2018 deal with Russia, which prohibits acts of aggression in the region.

Erdogan said that Turkey would not leave its territory to the mercy of terror groups or the blood-stained hands of the Syrian regime, nor would it abandon the oppressed Syrians alone.

"With our latest operation [Spring Shield], I believe we have demonstrated once again that we are a country that knows how to fight but one that does not want to fight," he said, referring to the fresh Syria operation announced on Sunday.

Responding to reporters’ questions, Erdogan said his expectation from Thursday's visit to Moscow was to ensure an immediate cease-fire in Idlib.

Full report at:



Nearly 136,000 migrants leave Turkey for Europe

Havva Kara Aydın


Tens of thousands of migrants recently have left Turkey via its Greek border after Turkey announced it would not stop them from reaching Europe.

“The number of migrants who left Turkey to cross into Greece has reached 135,844 as of 9 p.m. local time (0600GMT),” Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on Twitter on Wednesday.

The migrants are using Turkey’s Pazarkule border gate in the northwestern Edirne province or trying to reach Greece via unsafe sea travels on rubber boats.

Last week, Turkish officials announced that they would no longer try to stop irregular migrants from reaching Europe.

Since then, thousands of irregular migrants have flocked to Edirne to make their way into Europe.

The decision was made after 34 Turkish soldiers were martyred by the regime forces in Idlib, northwestern Syrian late February.

The Turkish soldiers were in Idlib under a deal between Turkey and Russia in late 2018, to protect civilians from attacks by the Assad regime and its allies.

Idlib, just across Turkey’s southern border, falls within a de-escalation zone laid out in the 2018 deal. But the Syrian regime and its allies have consistently broken the terms of the agreement, launching frequent attacks inside the territory, where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

Turkey, which already hosts some 3.7 million Syrian migrants, more than any country in the world, says it cannot absorb another refugee wave.

Full report at:




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