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Islamic World News ( 1 Feb 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Israel Racing To Wrest Full Control Over Jerusalem Al-Quds: Al-Aqsa Preacher

New Age Islam News Bureau

01 February 2021




• Jared Kushner, Avi Berkowitz Nominated For Nobel Peace Prize For Israel Deals

• Islamophobic Attacks In France Increase By 53% In 2020

• Karnataka Govt May Not Table ‘Love Jihad’ Bill In Budget Session Scheduled To Be Held In March

• 'Imran Khan's Silence On Uyghur Issue Undercuts His Projection As Muslims' Defender'

• Tatarstan Islamic Body Calls for Halal Approval of Russian COVID-19 Vaccines

• UN Lists Candidates To Run Libya’s Transitional Government

• Bangladesh Expects Myanmar To Keep Rohingya Repatriation Commitments



• Israel Racing To Wrest Full Control Over Jerusalem Al-Quds: Al-Aqsa Preacher

• Iran Welcomes ‘Inclusive Government’ In Afghanistan

• Arab Coalition intercepts, destroys Houthi drone targeting Saudi Arabia

• Israel to give some 5,000 coronavirus vaccine doses to Palestinians

• Houthi military projectile lands close to hospital in Saudi Arabia’s Jazan

• Iran’s administration renews allegiance to Imam Khomeini’s ideals

• Iran kicks off 10-day celebrations marking victory of Islamic Revolution


North America

• Jared Kushner, Avi Berkowitz Nominated For Nobel Peace Prize For Israel Deals

• US, NATO Allies Slam Taliban For Destroying Vital Infrastructure In Afghanistan

• UAE Plays ‘Troubling’ Role In Humanitarian Crises, Regional Instability: US Think Tank

• US military lands Daesh terrorists behind PMU positions in Jurf al-Sakhar: Expert

• Biden has huge opportunity with Iran but will he take it?

• Biden's pick who said US 'owns' Syrian oil territory draws flak

• Biden renews deportation protections for Syrians in US



• Islamophobic Attacks In France Increase By 53% In 2020

• Islamic Jihad delegation visits Russia for talks

• Macron Speaks To Lebanon’s Aoun, Affirms France’s Support In Government Formation



• Karnataka Govt May Not Table ‘Love Jihad’ Bill In Budget Session Scheduled To Be Held In March

• Fatima is now called Swapna: Raised as Hindu For 15 Years, Girl Discovers Family Muslim

• India-Made Covishield Part Of Pakistan Jab Drive Under Vaccine Alliance



• 'Imran Khan's Silence On Uyghur Issue Undercuts His Projection As Muslims' Defender'

• After Failing To Force PM’s Resignation: PDM Faces Challenging Circumstances, Differing Strategies

• Pakistan Appeals Against Acquittal In Daniel Pearl Murder Case

• Islamophobia: A fungible prop for Muslim religious soft power

• First batch of 0.5m vaccine doses arrives in Islamabad from China

• Nawaz, Zardari will be behind bars soon: Khattak


Southeast Asia

• Tatarstan Islamic Body Calls for Halal Approval of Russian COVID-19 Vaccines

• Hadi throws a spanner in the works of Biden-Muhyiddin ties

• Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad Was Not Agreeable To The Idea Of Malaysia Expelling Fugitive • Muslim Preacher Dr Zakir Naik: Tommy Thomas

• Preacher Ebit Lew continues humanitarian mission in Sabah with mass Bajau Laut ‘conversion’

• Protect Indonesian society, largest Muslim group told



• UN Lists Candidates To Run Libya’s Transitional Government

• UAE says will cooperate with UN, US on Libya conflict

• Fugitive leader of Ethiopia’s Tigray issues new call for arms: Audio

• Car bomb explosion hits Somali hotel, militants claim responsibility

• Army operation kills 5 al-Shabaab militants in Somalia


South Asia

• Bangladesh Expects Myanmar To Keep Rohingya Repatriation Commitments

• NATO to keep troops in Afghanistan beyond May deadline agreed with Taliban: Sources

• Senior Afghan peace ministry official survives ‘IED explosion’

• Taliban dubs EU, Foreign community claims ‘baseless’

• Japan approves millions of dollars in aid to Afghanistan

• Afghan negotiating team warns Taliban it must resume talks


Arab World

• Beirut Port Blast Survivors Still Endure Psychological Toll

• Iraq’s Popular Forces Repel Daesh Attack On Jurf Al-Sakhar

• Egypt’s Current Account Deficit Widens To $2.8 Billion In July-Sept

• One killed, several injured in northeast Syria pro-government protest

• At least five people killed in car bomb attack in Syria’s Afrin

• Saudis, allies dropped over 3,000 cluster bombs on Yemen since 2015: Official

• Iraq arrests top Daesh informant in Saladin province

• 11 killed in car bomb explosions in Syria’s Aleppo province

• US-led military convoy targeted in Iraq’s Babil province

• US-backed SDF militants shoot dead civilian, injure others in northeastern Syria

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Israel Racing To Wrest Full Control Over Jerusalem Al-Quds: Al-Aqsa Preacher




31 January 2021

Former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem al-Quds, Sheikh Ekrima Sa'id Sabri, has warned that the Israeli occupying regime is escalating efforts to wrest full control over the occupied holy city and the al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

The cleric, who is currently heading the Higher Islamic Council in occupied Jerusalem al-Quds, lambasted the Israeli regime for its provocative digging and construction works at the al-Aqsa Mosque’s Western Wall in the Old City.

“The occupying regime has always sought to find antiquities related to their ancient history and these excavations started in the 18th century through British archeologist groups that were pretending to search for antiquities, but their real intents were to prove any Jewish connection to Jerusalem,” he said in a press release on Sunday

Sabri described the ongoing Israeli excavations in al-Buraq Square as “new but part of old efforts attempting to find signs of Hebrew history in the holy city.”

“The Tel Aviv regime is focusing its excavations nowadays in al-Buraq Square — which is originally al-Maghariba quarter and its land is Islamic mortmain property — with the aim of obliterating Islamic remains,” he said.

Sabri called on Israel to immediately halt all digging activities on the site.

“The regime has not found a single stone related to the ancient Hebrew history despite the huge excavations and the millions which it has spent to falsify history,” the senior cleric added.

“Things have not stopped at this point. The occupying regime has kept destroying, hiding or obliterating any Islamic antiquities it finds in an attempt to avenge the failure of its efforts to obtain any evidence proving its entitlement to the holy city.”

In a statement last year, spokesman for Jordan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dhaifullah al-Fayez stressed that the Western Wall is an integral part of the al-Aqsa Mosque, which along with the Dome of the Rock Mosque, makes the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount.

Fayez, whose country is the custodian of the holy sites at the compound, added that al-Quds Awqaf and Aqsa Affairs Department has exclusive jurisdiction, under international law, over all affairs related to the al-Aqsa Mosque.

He stressed that all maintenance and restoration works at the al-Aqsa Mosque, including its walls, are within the exclusive powers of the al-Quds Awqaf.

Israel occupied the Old City of Jerusalem al-Quds during the Six-Day War of 1967. After the end of hostilities, the regime allowed the Awqaf to retain authority over the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, or the Haram al-Sharif.

In a statement earlier this month, Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned "in the strongest terms" the Israeli excavations and called them "an extension of the Israeli plans to Judaize the blessed al-Aqsa Mosque and its surroundings."

The Palestinian resistance movement of Hamas has also recently censured the Israeli regime over attempts to change the geographic and demographic character of occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.

Hamas attributed increasing settlement activities in al-Quds to normalization agreements between some Arab countries and Israel, emphasizing that such accords had emboldened the regime to annex more Palestinian lands.

Sabri has already denounced desperate attempts by a number of Arab states to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel, warning that such measures would encourage the Tel Aviv regime to further press ahead with its criminal acts of aggression against the Palestinian nation.

The “deal of the century” that former US President Donald Trump brokered envisions Jerusalem al-Quds as “Israel’s undivided capital” and allows the Tel Aviv regime to annex settlements in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley.

Trump also ordered relocation of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem al-Quds.

Israel lays claim to the entire Jerusalem al-Quds, but the international community views the city’s eastern sector as occupied territory and Palestinians consider it the capital of their future state.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 478, adopted on August 20, 1980, prohibits countries from establishing diplomatic missions in Jerusalem al-Quds.,--


Jared Kushner, Avi Berkowitz Nominated For Nobel Peace Prize For Israel Deals


FILE PHOTO: White House adviser Jared Kushner, flanked by aide Avi Berkowitz (L) REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque


01 February 2021

Former White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and his deputy, Avi Berkowitz, were nominated on Sunday for the Nobel Peace Prize for their role in negotiating four normalization deals between Israel and Arab nations known as the “Abraham Accords.”

The deals were announced in a four-month span between mid-August and mid-December and were the most significant diplomatic breakthroughs in the Middle East in 25 years as the region girds for a prolonged confrontation with Iran.

Nominating the pair of former deputies to then-President Donald Trump was American attorney Alan Dershowitz, who was eligible to do so in his capacity as a professor emeritus of Harvard Law School.

Dershowitz had defended Trump in his first impeachment trial last year and said in a Jan. 20 comment in the Wall Street Journal that the Senate should dismiss the article of impeachment against Trump over the Jan. 6 storming of the US Capitol as he is no longer president.

Kushner, who is Trump’s son-in-law, and Berkowitz, who was the Middle East envoy, were key figures in negotiating deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco.

In a statement, Kushner said he was honored to be nominated for the prize, which will be awarded in October.

President Joe Biden’s administration is expected to review all national security deals struck during the Trump administration, including arms packages for the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Some lawmakers have complained about the Morocco deal because, to win the nation’s agreement, the US recognized its sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara.

Trump left office on Jan. 20 under a cloud of controversy, potentially affecting whether the two aides would be awarded the Nobel.


Islamophobic Attacks In France Increase By 53% In 2020


A police officer stands guard as people enter the Grand Mosque of Paris, in Paris, France, May 27, 2017. (AFP Photo)


JAN 29, 2021

The number of Islamophobic incidents in France, home to Western Europe's largest Muslim community, rose sharply last year amid controversy over the government's stance toward the religious minority, the head of a monitoring group said Friday.

According to the head of the National Observatory of Islamophobia, Abdallah Zekri, there were 235 attacks on Muslims in France in 2020, up from 154 the previous year, a 53% jump. Most of the attacks took place in the Ile-de-France (greater Paris), Rhones-Alpes and Paca regions of the country, Zekri said in a statement, according to remarks carried by Anadolu Agency (AA). Attacks on mosques jumped 35% in the same year, Zekri added.

Stating that 70 threatening letters were sent to the headquarters of the French Council of Muslim Worship (CFCM) or its administrators last year, Zekri raised the alarm over the spread of lies about Islam and Muslims as well as emails that incite hatred against Muslims.

The scourge of far-right extremism, which has targeted Muslims in particular, has increased in Europe, and recent reports show that France suffers most from this atmosphere of hatred. Muslims in France are worried about the negative views some members of the French public have about Islam, Zekri said, adding that there are no links between Islam and terrorism, and Muslims in France should be able to practice their religion freely like members of other faiths.

The French government has been criticized for its actions and rhetoric regarding Islam and Muslims, including President Emmanuel Macron's October claim that Islam is "in crisis,” raids on mosques and Islamic foundations, and a proposed "anti-separatism” law that would slap wide-ranging restrictions on the Muslim community.

The bill, which is set for a vote in the French Parliament, would interfere with mosques and their administrators as well as control the finances of associations and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) belonging to Muslims. Some critics suggested that the bill is politically motivated ahead of France’s 2022 elections. Experts say that the new law is a political maneuver by Macron, who aims to win the favors of followers on the far-right.

The topic is delicate because of the large Muslim population in France, estimated at 5 million. The proposed law, with the title “Supporting Republican Principles,” directly mentions neither Islam nor Islamism in an effort to avoid stigmatizing Muslims. Introducing the bill on the fight against separatism, Prime Minister Jean Castex stressed that it “is not a text against religions or against the Muslim religion in particular.” He asserted that it is “a bill of freedom, a bill of protection, a bill of emancipation from Islamist fundamentalism” or other ideologies pursuing the same goals.

The country's government announced the anti-Muslim bill after the gruesome killing of a French teacher in October last year by an 18-year-old suspect of Chechen origin. The French authorities have adopted an approach of collective punishment and inflicted anti-Muslim rhetoric, prompting widespread condemnation. The teenager attacked Samuel Pati in broad daylight, killing him outside a school in Conflans-Saint-Honorine, a suburb about 15 miles (24 kilometers) from central Paris. A few days after the assassination, the government launched a crackdown on Muslim organizations, while vigilante groups attacked mosques.

Macron has become a figure of hate in some Muslim countries with many boycotting French products after the French president defended Charlie Hebdo’s provocative caricatures attacking the Prophet Muhammad. He has also been forced to the defensive by critical headlines in influential English-language media outlets such as the Financial Times and The New York Times.

Muslims in France – the former colonies of which include predominantly Muslim countries in North and West Africa as well as the Middle East – are about 6% of the population.


Karnataka Govt May Not Table ‘Love Jihad’ Bill In Budget Session Scheduled To Be Held In March

Feb 1, 2021

BENGALURU: The much-talked-about bill against ‘love jihad’ will not be introduced in the current legislature session, with the BJP government deciding to go slow on it. Party sources said it may not be tabled even during the budget session, scheduled to be held in March.

Karnataka was set to be the fourth state after Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana to enact the anti-love jihad law that envisages stringent punishment to those involved in forceful religious conversions and using marriage as a means. Supporters of the proposed law include state BJP president Nalin Kumar Kateel, party’s national general secretary CT Ravi and others who were vocal about the need to curb ‘love jihad’ in Karnataka.

However, the government hasn’t even started drafting the legislation and it did not figure among the 11 draft bills enlisted for the weeklong session which began on January 28. “At present, we’re not looking at the option of tabling the bill in the legislature. Several factors, including legal issues, are to be considered before that,” said law and parliamentary affairs minister Basavaraj Bommai.

The ‘love jihad’ ordinances promulgated by the UP and MP governments have been entangled in legal quagmire with the provisions being challenged in their respective high courts. A petition against the UP ordinance is pending before the Supreme Court. The Karnataka government wants to wait for the outcome of the case, Bommai said.


'Imran Khan's silence on Uyghur issue undercuts his projection as Muslims' defender'

January 31, 2021

Washington [US], January 31: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's work in extending himself as the savior of Muslims around the planet has been undermined by his stunning quietness on the monstrosities on the Uyghur Minorities by the nation's all-climate partner China, said Michael Kugelman, the Deputy Director of the Asia Program and Senior Associate for South Asia at the Wilson Center.

In an assessment piece in Foreign Policy, Kugelman refered to the purpose for Khan's quiet on the issue, saying Islamabad relies intensely upon Beijing for monetary and political help. Pakistan just can't bear to offend Beijing by getting down on it.

When gotten some information about the Uyghurs issue, Khan's reactions range from he thinks minimal about the issues to saying he is secretly examining the issue with Beijing.

As indicated by Kugelman, one of Khan's top guide, Moeed Yusuf, ventured to such an extreme as to say that the public authority is "100% fulfilled" that the circumstance was a "nonissue," adding: "We have zero concerns, totally zero concerns."

Additionally, a portion of Khan's sponsor guarantee he stays quiet as the issue is carefully inward to China. In any case, Kugelman said this hasn't prevented him from saying something regarding the situation of Muslims in Myanmar or, most as of late, France.

"Yet, Khan's work in advocating the world's Muslims is undermined by his stunning quiet on the mistreatment of the Uyghur people group in China," he composed.

"The genuine explanation behind Khan's quiet is straightforward: China is ostensibly Pakistan's nearest partner, and Islamabad relies vigorously upon Beijing for monetary and political help. Pakistan essentially can't stand to estrange Beijing by getting down on it," he added.

China has been reproached universally for taking action against Uyghur Muslims by sending them to mass confinement camps, meddling in their strict exercises and sending individuals from the local area to go through some type of coercive re-instruction or inculcation.

Beijing, then again, has passionately rejected that it is occupied with denials of basic liberties against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang while reports from writers, NGOs and previous prisoners have surfaced, featuring the Chinese Communist Party's severe crackdown on the ethnic local area, as per a report.

As of late, a commission of the United States Congress, in another report, said that China has potentially completed "decimation" against Uyghurs and other minority Muslims in its western area of Xinjiang.

The report, delivered by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), expressed that the Chinese government and Communist Party have found a way to expand their abusive strategies through restriction, terrorizing, and the detainment of individuals in China for practicing their basic freedoms.

The Muslim world restricts its analysis of China to try not to imperil basic exchange and speculation openings, Kugelman said.

"At times, it has even loaned its help: In 2019, individuals from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a worldwide body involving almost 50 Muslim-greater part states, delivered one articulation adulating Beijing's treatment of Muslims and another concurring with China's case that confining Uyghurs is a compelling counterterrorism strategy. From that point forward, the association has been openly quiet on the issue," he composed.

"Worldwide Islamophobia is a revolting reality, and Khan's assurance to battle it is commendable. Be that as it may, inasmuch as he stays quiet about the Uyghurs, the promises he makes to advocate the reasons for the world's Muslims will ring empty," he further composed. (ANI)


Tatarstan Islamic Body Calls for Halal Approval of Russian COVID-19 Vaccines

February 01, 2021

Irek Ziganshin, Chairman of the Halal Standard Committee of the Muslim Spiritual Directorate of Tatarstan, said some 25 million Muslims live in Russia, including many in Tatarstan, and they want to make sure that the vaccines comply with Halal standards.

He said Muslims in other countries also follow the same principle, as in Malaysia and Indonesia in which a number of COVID-19 vaccines received Halal certificates recently, RT Arabic reported.

Ziganshin noted that if a vaccine contains elements like gelatin coming from porcine materials, it will be Haram (not allowed for Muslims to use).

Halal is a term designating any object or an action which is permissible to use or engage in, according to Islamic law.

Coronavirus vaccines used in many Muslim countries should undergo approval process by the Halal organizations.

People in Russia are currently being inoculated against COVID-19 with the country’s Sputnik V vaccine.

Produced by Russian Health Ministry’s Gamaleya Center, Sputnik V has so far been approved for use in 14 countries.


UN lists candidates to run Libya’s transitional government

31 January 2021

Participants at Libya’s UN-sponsored peace talks have approved a list of candidates seeking to lead a transitional government that will prepare the North African state for a national election at the end of 2021, the United Nations said.

The transitional government will oversee preparations for the vote that aims to end a decade of chaos and conflict that has left Libya split down the middle and hammered its vital oil exports on which the country’s economy depends.

The 75 participants at talks in Switzerland, ranging from regional and tribal figures to representatives of political factions, will vote next week to pick a three-person presidential council and a prime minister.

They will pick from 24 candidates for the three presidential council posts, while 21 people are vying for the post of prime minister, according to the UN list released on Saturday.

While UN-backed talks have progressed, many Libyans fear competition for posts could yet trigger fresh fighting, unraveling a ceasefire that has largely held since October.

Participants at the UN talks agreed a formula for voting on the candidates for the transitional government this month.

The list of approved candidates includes Aguila Saleh, head of the eastern-based parliament, while they also include the GNA’s Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha, defense Minister Saleh Namroush and Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteeg.


Bangladesh expects Myanmar to keep Rohingya repatriation commitments

February 1, 2021

DHAKA: Bangladesh called for “peace and stability” in Myanmar after a military coup on Monday, and said it hoped its neighbour makes genuine efforts to move forward the stalled process of voluntary repatriation of Rohingya Muslim refugees.

Mainly-Muslim Bangladesh has sheltered 1 million Rohingya who had fled violence in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where most of them are denied citizenship.

A UN-backed repatriation process has failed to take off despite multiple attempts from Bangladesh, which has now started sending some refugees to an isolated island in the Bay of Bengal.

“We have been persistent in developing mutually beneficial relations with Myanmar and have been working with Myanmar for the voluntary, safe and sustained repatriation of the Rohingya sheltered in Bangladesh,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Reuters in a statement.

“We expect these processes to continue in right earnest.”

Myanmar’s military seized power on Monday in a coup against the democratically elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who was detained along with other leaders of her National League for Democracy party in early morning raids.

“We hope that the democratic process and constitutional arrangements will be upheld in Myanmar,” Bangladesh said.

Suu Kyi’s international reputation was damaged after she failed to stop the forced expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya from western Rakhine State in 2017.

Nevertheless, Rohingya in Bangladesh expressed fears for their people still in Myanmar following the military’s ouster of Suu Kyi.

“She was no good for us but there was still hope that through the democratic process we could achieve our rights. Now it seems Myanmar has no democratic future in the near term,” a 31-year-old Rohingya told Reuters by telephone from a refugee camp, asking not to be named for fear of reprisal.

“We are very concerned… Terrified about what’s going to happen to the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar,” he said.

Dil Mohammed, a Rohingya leader in one of the camps, told Reuters: “We urge the global community to come forward and restore democracy at any cost”.





Iran Welcomes ‘Inclusive Government’ In Afghanistan

31 Jan 2021

Javad Zarif, Iranian Foreign Minister on Sunday met with the Taliban delegation and called for an inclusive government.

The delegation led by Mullah Baradar was welcomed and the idea of an “all-inclusive government with the participation of all ethnic and political groups in Afghanistan” was praised.

According to Zarif, “Political decisions could not be made in a vacuum, and the formation of an all-inclusive government must take place in a participatory process and by taking into account the fundamental structures, institutions, and laws, such as the Constitution,”.

He told the Taliban delegation that Iran is ready to facilitate the Afghan peace process.

“The noble people of Afghanistan have been wronged. The war and occupation of Afghanistan have dealt heavy blows to the Afghan people”, Iran’s Foreign Minister added.

Mullah Baradar in return “denounced destructive role of ISIK in Afghanistan” and expressed “satisfaction with the process of intra-Afghan talks” and described the inclusive government important.

Meanwhile, the Afghan Republic’s religious delegation of peace talks team met with leaders of the International Union of Muslim Scholars in Qatar.

Both sides have discussed the peace negotiations and its procedures.

Republic’s team in a thread of tweets said IUMS described the Afghan war lacks religious legitimacy, and it is important to seek a political solution for the prolonged war to be ended.

IUMS called for an immediate ceasefire and called it a religious obligation.

The union demanded from all warring parties to agree to the ceasefire and peace as soon as possible.

According to IUMS war in Afghanistan is based on “political differences” and the role of neighboring countries in the peace process is fundamental.

This comes as Afghan parliament on Sunday formed a 21 member committee on peace process, for directly being involved in the ongoing peace efforts.

Mir Rahman Rahmani, Parliament Speaker said, that both sides of peace negotiating teams are trying to achieve power and this committee will encourage both parties to reach and gain real peace.

“Going forward, the Wolesi Jirga should be directly involved in the peace process,” Rahmani added, “The Wolesi Jirga should find out which side is delaying the talks, and evaluate the claims both sides are making of the other. The parliament delegation should be made aware of the reality and make a comprehensive plan based on it”.

The Afghan parliament speakers indicated he has found access to an interim government draft setup.

Rahmani said he has found access to the draft of an interim setup and he welcomes it but added that the plan needs to be comprehensive.

According to Rahmani the draft is said to have been prepared by the United States and the Taliban for establishing an “interim government”, the parliament speaker welcomes the plan but as it mentions staying with the current system and national assembly but had many problems to be discussed.

Earlier, The EU Delegation and international diplomatic missions in Afghanistan in a joint statement condemned the targeted killings and kidnappings in the country on Sunday.

The EU Delegation and the diplomatic missions of Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States said that the continuation of assassinations, kidnappings, and destruction of vital infrastructure – all which directly harm the Afghan people. 

“The international community has invested heavily in energy, food security, water resources, and road infrastructure for the benefit of the Afghan people,” adding that, “We condemn the on-going destruction of vital infrastructure, including digging up roads, destroying cell towers, and blowing up energy stations by the Taliban”. 

“These actions serve no purpose besides hurting the Afghan people who – largely due to decades of conflict -suffer from food insecurity and significant economic and development challenges, further exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic,” the statement added.

“We are standing side by side with those who are committed to bringing about an end to the conflict through an inclusive political settlement that ensures this country remains sovereign, united and democratic, at peace with itself and its neighbors, and preserving the human rights, development and economic achievements made over the past 19 years,” the statement read.

“We continue to be steadfast in our resolve to assist the people of Afghanistan in achieving peace, justice, and development. We expect the Taliban to demonstrate its support for the people of Afghanistan by ending the violence, stopping the destruction of vital infrastructure, and committing to a sustainable peace, for the benefit of all Afghans,” the statement concluded.


Arab Coalition intercepts, destroys Houthi drone targeting Saudi Arabia

Ismaeel Naar

30 January 2021

The Arab Coalition confirmed it has intercepted and destroyed a drone in Yemeni airspace launched by the Houthi militia targeting Saudi Arabia.

The coalition affirmed that the Houthi militia continues to deliberately attempt and target civilians and civilian infrastructure in the Kingdom.

Coalition spokesperson Col. Turki al-Maliki said forces are taking the necessary measures to neutralize and destroy the Houthi capabilities in accordance with international law.

Last Saturday, Saudi air defenses intercepted a missile launched by the Houthi militia toward the capital Riyadh.

The coalition also announced on January 15 that it had intercepted and destroyed 3 booby-trapped drones launched towards the Kingdom by the Houthi militia.

The Houthis have intensified the use of explosive and reconnaissance drones, which the United Nations previously said were assembled from external components and shipped to Yemen, and are nearly identical in design, dimensions, and capabilities to Iranian-made drones.


Israel to give some 5,000 coronavirus vaccine doses to Palestinians

31 January 2021

Israel has agreed to transfer 5,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine to the Palestinians to immunize front-line medical workers, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz's office announced Sunday.

It was the first time that Israel has confirmed the transfer of vaccines to the Palestinians, who lag far behind Israel's aggressive vaccination campaign and have not yet received any vaccines.

The World Health Organization has raised concerns about the disparity between Israel and Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, and international human rights groups and U.N. experts have said Israel is responsible for the well being of Palestinians in these areas. Israel says that under interim peace agreements reached in the 1990s it is not responsible for the Palestinians and in any case has not received requests for help.

Gantz's office said early Sunday the transfer had been approved. It had no further details on when that would happen. There was no immediate comment from Palestinian officials.

Israel is one of the world's leaders in vaccinating its population after striking procurement deals with international drug giants Pfizer and Moderna. The Health Ministry says nearly one-third of Israel's 9.3 million people have received the first dose of the vaccine, while about 1.7 million people have received both doses.

The campaign includes Israel's Arab citizens and Palestinians living in annexed east Jerusalem. But Palestinians living in the West Bank under the autonomy government of the Palestinian Authority and those living under Hamas rule in Gaza are not included.

The Palestinian Authority has been trying to acquire doses through a WHO program known as COVAX. But the program, which aims to procure vaccines for needed countries, has been slow to get off the ground.

The dispute reflects global inequality in access to vaccines, as wealthy countries vacuum up the lion’s share of doses, leaving poorer countries even farther behind in combating the public health and economic effects of the pandemic. It has also emerged as another flashpoint in the decades-old Mideast conflict, even as the virus has wreaked havoc on both sides.


Houthi military projectile lands close to hospital in Saudi Arabia’s Jazan

Ismaeel Naar

30 January 2021

A military projectile launched by the Iranian-backed Houthi militia fell near the al-Harath General Hospital in Saudi Arabia’s Jazan, according to civil defense team in the southern city.

The media spokesman for the Civil Defense Directorate in the Jazan region said they had received a report about the projectile landing close to the hospital.

“The Civil Defense received a report about the fall of a military projectile launched by the Iranian-backed terrorist Houthi militia from inside the Yemeni territories toward the al-Harath Governorate in the Jazan region,” Colonel Muhammad bin Yahya al-Ghamdi said.

“The competent authorities found a Katyusha-type military projectile which fell in a garden adjacent to the al-Harath General Hospital. Its shrapnel was scattered in several different locations and it did not result in any injuries or damages - thank God - and the procedures adopted in such cases were directly implemented,” he added.

An hour earlier, the Arab Coalition confirmed it has intercepted and destroyed a drone in Yemeni airspace launched by the Houthi militia targeting Saudi Arabia.

The coalition affirmed that the Houthi militia continues to deliberately attempt and target civilians and civilian infrastructure in the Kingdom.


Iran’s administration renews allegiance to Imam Khomeini’s ideals

01 February 2021

The Iranian administration has renewed allegiance to the ideals of the late founder of the Islamic Republic, Imam Khomeini, in the run-up to the 42nd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.

President Hassan Rouhani and other members of his cabinet visited Imam Khomeini’s mausoleum in southern Tehran on Monday, paying tribute to the late leader and his legacy.

The president delivered an address during the visit, recalling how the late Imam led the Islamic Revolution to victory.

This, he added, made the Islamic Revolution distinct from those that depended on military or paramilitary strength.

The president recalled how Imam Khomeini’s return to the country to a massive welcome marked the most momentous development that preceded the victory of the Islamic Revolution, calling the occasion the day when Imam Khomeini projected the revolution’s social assets to the world.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei attended the mausoleum on Sunday, paying tribute to the late Imam by reciting the Qur’an and praying for his lofty soul.

Imam Khomeini flew back to Iran after spending almost 15 years in an exile that had been imposed on him by the former Western-backed Pahlavi regime.

But the exile in Turkey, Iraq and France did not dampen the revolutionary zeal that he had kindled in the hearts of Iranians.

That zeal generated a swell of public agitation which became too strong to be put down, forcing former shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to flee and draw the curtain on 2,500-old monarchy in Iran.


Iran kicks off 10-day celebrations marking victory of Islamic Revolution

31 January 2021

Yusef Jalali

Iran has kicked off the annual celebrations marking the anniversary of the victory of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The nationwide celebrations start on the anniversary of the homecoming of the late founder of the Islamic Republic, Imam Khomeini, after several years of exile, and ends on the anniversary of the victory of the revolution.

As of every year, the ceremonies began with a visit by Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei to Imam Khomeini’s mausoleum. The mausoleum, south of the capital Tehran, also hosts senior Iranian officials, as well as ordinary people, particularly on the first day of the celebrations.

Led by Imam Khomeini, the Islamic Revolution was driven by anti-imperialist sentiments since former Iranian monarch Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was heavily dependent on Western powers, not least the United States.

People sought to establish a new political system that was based on their will and Islamic values – and that was the Islamic Republic.

This year, authorities in charge of the 10-day ceremonies say no mass gatherings will be allowed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The occasion is marked without mass celebrations but organizers say the message is the same.

Instead of public celebrations, the Mehrabad Airport hosted a motorcycle parade by Iran’s armed forces through the route Imam Khomeini took from the airport in 1979 as millions of people flocked to the streets to welcome him.

To Iranians, the 10-day ‘dawn’ period is reminiscent of their struggle for independence. This has echoed through the decades and has been heard by generations.



North America


US, NATO allies slam Taliban for destroying vital infrastructure in Afghanistan

JAN 31, 2021

The United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies on Sunday demanded the Taliban to end its activities such as assassinations, kidnappings, and destruction of vital infrastructure in Afghanistan.

"We expect the Taliban to demonstrate its support for the people of Afghanistan by ending the violence, stopping the destruction of vital infrastructure, and committing to a sustainable peace, for the benefit of all Afghans," a joint statement published by the US embassy in Kabul said.

While urging the Taliban to stop its violence, the statement said, "The international community has invested heavily in energy, food security, water resources, and road infrastructure for the benefit of the Afghan people.

The allies further condemned the "on-going destruction of vital infrastructure, including digging up roads, destroying cell towers, and blowing up energy stations by the Taliban. These actions serve no purpose besides hurting the Afghan people who - largely due to decades of conflict -suffer from food insecurity and significant economic and development challenges, further exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic."

The intra-Afghan peace talks between the Afghanistan government and the Taliban had resumed earlier this month but no progress till now has been made.

Instead, the Taliban's Doha-based leader embarked on a trip to Iran on Sunday for talks with Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on the implementation of the Doha deal with the US, according to a report by Sputnik.


UAE plays ‘troubling’ role in humanitarian crises, regional instability: US think tank

31 January 2021

An American think tank says the United Arab Emirates has contributed to humanitarian crises and instability in the Middle East region, urging the administration of Joe Biden to halt Washington’s support for the Arab nation.

The UAE “spends lavishly throughout the corridors of power in Washington, DC to portray itself as a pillar of stability and progress. But the actions of the United Arab Emirates these past four years reveal a different, more troubling reality,” said an article published on Responsible Statecraft, a publication of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.

The essay noted that the harmful conduct of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed - commonly known as MBZ- was enabled by the former administration of Donald Trump, adding that the UAE's foreign policy "undermines US strategic interests in the Middle East."

It stressed that the new administration should not only revise Trump’s “egregious missteps,” but also “put an end to US arms sales to and diplomatic support for the UAE, which have helped create humanitarian crises and regional instability.”

The article referred to the UAE's role in the chaos that has gripped Libya, saying Abu Dhabi “persistently violated a UN arms embargo by funding and arming the renegade warlord Khalifa Haftar in his campaign against the internationally recognized Libyan government in Tripoli.”

It also noted that the UAE has established its own military base in the north African country, and sent drone aircraft to conduct unlawful airstrikes that claimed the lives of tens of civilians.

The article also described the UAE’s role in Yemen as “even more grim.”

The UAE is a key member of the Saudi-led aggression and siege against Yemen.

Riyadh and a number of its regional allies launched the devastating war on Yemen in March 2015 in order to bring former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crush the Houthi Ansarullah movement.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the war has claimed more than 100,000 lives over the past years.

“There, despite its declared troop withdrawal, the UAE remains a party to the intractable war causing one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, leaving millions of Yemenis on the brink of starvation,” the think tank said.

It noted that the UAE conducted “deliberate and indiscriminate attacks on civilians, as well as hospitals, schools, universities, and residential areas, reducing them to rubble,” and “operated secret detention centers with credibly documented reports of torture and murder of detainees.”

The article also pointed out that the UAE “supported mercenaries accused of funneling US-made arms and materiel to al-Qaeda-linked militias in Yemen.”

It also referred to the UAE's support for Southern separatists in a war against Hadi himself, while claiming to want to restore him to power.

“Biden should move to end arms sales to the UAE, the principal fuel for its disastrous interventions, and end diplomatic support for the reckless policies of an unaccountable leader,” the article said.


US military lands Daesh terrorists behind PMU positions in Jurf al-Sakhar: Expert

31 January 2021

The US military airlifts groups of Daesh Takfiri terrorists to areas behind the positions of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) in Jurf al-Sakhar region in the central province of Babil, says an Iraqi security expert.

Sabah al-Akili told Iraq’s al-Maloumeh news website on Sunday that the move is aimed at infiltrating and targeting the PMU positions and sabotaging power transmission lines.

“The strategic military goal of the US forces is to cause division in Jurf al-Sakhar in order to create a threat to nearby provinces and to invent a pretext for American forces to stay in Iraq,” he said.

Al-Akili argued that the move also provides a justification for the Iraqi government to ask the US troops to remain in the Arab country.

“Foreign and [Iraqi] political parties, backed by the US, are doing their utmost to drive the Hashd al-Sha'abi (PMU) forces out of Jurf al-Sakhar, which connects the provinces of Babil, al-Anbar and Baghdad via the holy [city of] Karbala,” he added.

The remarks came a day after the PMU announced its forces had thwarted an attack launched by the remnants of Daesh on Jurf al-Sakhar.

The PMU’s communication office said in a statement that the attack was repelled by the Al-Jazirah Operation Headquarters Command.

Jurf al-Sakhar was liberated from Daesh terrorists in 2014 in Operation Ashura, which was led by Iran’s top anti-terror commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed by the US military in January 2020, in an assassination lauded by Daesh. Over 200 Takfiri terrorists were killed during Operation Ashura.

Iraq declared victory over Daesh in December 2017, after over three years of death and destruction by the terrorist group against the Iraqi people. However, remnants of Daesh still carry out terrorist attacks across the country from time to time.

Earlier this month, a twin bombing by the Takfiri terrorist group in a busy square in Baghdad killed more than 30 people.

Iraq’s Kata’ib Hezbollah, which is part of the PMU, blamed the “American-Saudi-Israeli alliance” for the bombing, and warned that Iraqi resistance forces will target the main source of Takfiri violence.

“The perpetrators of the massacres in Iraq are the US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel,” Abdul-Ali al-Asgari, Katai’b’s security chief, wrote in a tweet on January 24.

“Revenge should be exacted by retaliating against the source and fountainhead of fire, not its branches,” he added.


Biden has huge opportunity with Iran but will he take it?

31 January 2021

American author and political commentator John Steppling believes President Joe Biden has a huge opportunity to improve US ties with Iran by removing illegal sanctions and rejoining the nuclear deal.

But the analyst warned that Biden is a “liberal interventionist” who was “instrumental in the invasion of Iraq, Syria, Libya, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Bolivia.”

Steppling, who is based in Norway, made the remarks in an interview with Press TV on Sunday when he was asked by Press TV whether the Biden administration would  avail the opportunity to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal and remove illegal sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Iran’s UN ambassador has that the ball is America’s court regarding the nuclear agreement that it abandoned in 2018, adding that Tehran is waiting for the new US administration to take the first step to lift the unlawful sanctions and then rejoin the 2015 multilateral accord.

In an interview with NBC News on Monday, Majid Takht-Ravanchi said Tehran was not prepared to offer goodwill gestures or confidence-building measures until Washington removed its sanctions and returned to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

‘It’s up to the US to decide what course of action to take. We’re not in a hurry,’ he said.

In 2015, Iran and six world states — namely the US, Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China — signed the JCPOA which was ratified in the form of UN Security Council Resolution 2231.

However, the US under former president Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out of the JCPOA in May 2018 and reinstated the anti-Iran sanctions that had been lifted by the deal.

The Trump administration also launched what it called a maximum pressure campaign against Iran, targeting the Iranian nation with the ‘toughest ever’ restrictive measures.

“If you ask the question, is there an opportunity for anything and you're speaking about US foreign policy, the answer is well of course there is. I mean there's always an opportunity but it never materializes because the US government doesn't think about these things the way you and I think about,” Steppling said.

“US foreign policy since the end of World War II has been driven by the same concerns for every single decade and that is the protection of Western capital and markets, the possibility of new markets, and it was driven by anti-communism. And if you look at the record in Africa, for example, the US fought against African independence movements. The Soviet Union, Cuba fought for African independence movements. The US was complicit with the UK in the assassination of Lumumba who was probably the single most important African leader of the 20th century whose life was cut very short,” he said, referring to Patrice Lumumba who was an anticolonial Congolese politician and independence leader who served as the first Prime Minister of the independent Democratic Republic of the Congo (then Republic of the Congo) from June until September 1960.

Lumumba resisted Belgian colonialism and corporate interests. He was assassinated in a US-backed coup on January 17, 1961.

“So, is there an opportunity to change direction on Iran? Yeah, but I can't see that happening. I mean the X Factor in this, the variable in this right now of course, is that we're seeing a massive contraction of capital. And this is part of ‘the great reset’ is all about. The Klaus Schwab World Economic Forum idea and this is being driven by a certain faction of the ruling class - people of extreme wealth. And it's tied into depopulation schemes and all sorts of stuff, because of the idea of being that since the financial crisis in 2008 the profits are not consistent and they're not reliable, and the profits are much smaller than they were in the past, except for a few people like Jeff Bezos or whoever,” he noted.

“So, they're looking to usher in a more controlled form of capital -- call it whatever you want, people have come up with different names for it, feudalism being one -- but it's not likely to succeed the way they imagine for a variety of reasons we don't have to get into here but it will impact how the US views its interventions. Now Biden is a liberal interventionist. He was instrumental in the invasion of Iraq. He was instrumental with Syria, Libya, Ukraine, Venezuela, Bolivia. I mean Biden's track record is terrible,” he stated.

“And I can't imagine why he would change given that his appointments so far are all liberal interventionists just like him. They all think alike. And so I can't imagine anything is really going to change. I mean there are always cosmetic differences. Biden will probably return to the perception management style that Obama employed especially in his second term,” he noted.

“And that will be less bellicose and extreme than Trump was. But, it's frankly not substantially going to be different, and Iran loons with Russia as an economic enemy. China, I think, is hard to calculate exactly where China is in this because I think they probably have a lot of backdoor collusion with the US, and we see Xi speaking at the opening of Davos. So that's hard to know and I'm not an economist and I don't pretend to be but it seems to me that what we're going to see is a more controlled form of US imperialism with a sort of more narrowly targeted goals,” he said.

“But Iran is useful to the US as an international ‘villain.’ That also suits the needs of Israel. It suits Saudi Arabian needs as well. Iran becomes the justification for any aggression they commit.  And Israel and the KSA are both, essentially, US proxies in the region,” he added.

“So, there's an opportunity but it's not going to be taken. I don't think, I can't imagine any way that Biden suddenly changes his very hawkish policies, I mean the hawkish policies he's employed for 30 years,” he concluded.


Biden's pick who said US 'owns' Syrian oil territory draws flak

30 January 2021

Syrians and others are outraged by President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Pentagon’s Middle East desk who once said Washington "owned” Syria’s oil and gas resources in the war-torn country’s occupied northeast. 

In an interview with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) back in October 2019, Dana Stroul had said that the US military was using the territory as "leverage” in the conflict.

“The United States still had compelling forms of leverage on the table to shape an outcome that was more conducive and protective of US interests,” Stroul said then.

“The first one was the one-third of Syrian territory that was owned via the US military with its local partner, the Syrian Democratic Forces. Now this was a light footprint on the US military, only about a thousand troops over the course of the Syria Study Group’s report; and then the tens of thousands of forces, both Kurdish and Arab, under the Syria Democratic Forces. And that one-third of Syria is the resource-rich – it’s the economic powerhouse of Syria. So where the hydrocarbons are, which obviously is very much in the public debate here in Washington these days, as well as the agricultural powerhouse.”

“We argued that it wasn’t just about this one-third of Syrian territory that the US military and our military presence owned, both to fight ISIS (Daesh) and also as leverage for affecting the overall political process for the broader Syria conflict,” she added.

Stroul’s comments were met with harsh responses from social media users and activists, who highlighted the plundering of Syria’s natural assets by the US administrations over the years.

Sarah Abdallah, an independent Lebanese geopolitical commentator, said in a tweet that Washington is “proudly boasting about how the US military ‘owns’ the resource-rich part of Syria, the economic powerhouse of Syria, where the oil and wheat are.”

“Remember this the next time the US claims it wants to bring freedom & democracy to other countries,” she underlined.

Joe Biden’s pick to head the Pentagon’s Middle East Desk boasting about how the US military owns the oil-rich territory of #Syria, and will use it as leverage in its ongoing war.

Remember this the next time the US claims it wants to bring freedom & democracy to other countries.

— Sarah Abdallah (@sahouraxo) January 29, 2021

Proudly boasting about how the US military “owns” the resource-rich part of Syria, the economic powerhouse of Syria, where the oil and wheat are.

Also says the sanctions will continue and the US will prevent any reconstruction aid from entering Syria.

— Sarah Abdallah (@sahouraxo) January 29, 2021

Lina Arabi, a Syrian rights activist, posted on her Twitter page photos of Syrians rummaging through garbage as Americans occupy an oil field in the background.

"Take the oil" is not just a Trump thing, she wrote.

Look at those photos while you hear Biden's pick to head Pentagon's Middle East Desk, Dana Stroul, say the oil-rich territory is "owned" by the US military.

"Take the oil" is not just a Trump thing.

— Lina Arabi (@LinaArabii) January 29, 2021

These photos of Syrians rummaging through garbage as Americans occupy an oil field in the background..

— Lina Arabi (@LinaArabii) January 29, 2021

Syrian people have repeatedly demonstrated against the looting and smuggling of oil by the US-backed and Kurdish-led militants in the country’s north and east.

The looting of Syrian oil by the US was first confirmed during a Senate hearing exchange between South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and then-US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last July.

During his testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 30, Pompeo confirmed for the first time that an American oil company would begin work in northeastern Syria, which is controlled by SDF militants.

The SDF, a US-backed alliance of Kurdish militants operating against Damascus, currently controls areas in northern and eastern Syria.

The Syrian government has condemned any agreement inked to plunder the country’s natural resources, including Syrian oil and gas, with the sponsorship of the administration of former US President Donald Trump.

The former US president acknowledged several times that American military forces were in Syria for the Arab country’s oil.


Biden renews deportation protections for Syrians in US

Michael Hernandez  



US President Joe Biden extended Friday deportation protections for thousands of Syrians currently in the US.

The 6,700 eligible Syrian nationals are currently recipients of what is known as Temporary Protected Status, a program that allows migrants to live and work in the US as long as their country is not safe to live in. Their eligibility in the program has been extended through September 2022, the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement.

The protections can be extended to nationals whose home countries have been affected by natural disasters, armed conflict or other extraordinary but temporary conditions.

Syria has been ravaged by a conflict that began in 2011.

The extension stands in stark contrast to former US President Donald Trump's immigration policies, which sought to curtail both legal and illegal migration to the US.





Islamic Jihad delegation visits Russia for talks

Nour Abu Eisha  


A delegation from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group arrived in Moscow on Monday for talks with Russian officials.

In a statement, the group said the visit of the delegation, led by Secretary-General Zeyad al-Nakhala, comes upon an invitation from the Russian Foreign Ministry.

The talks will focus on bilateral relations and mobilizing international support to the Palestinian rights, the statement read.

It remains unclear for how long the delegation will stay in Moscow.

Russia has invited several Palestinian groups in the past year in an effort to actively contribute to achieving inter-Palestinian reconciliation.


Macron speaks to Lebanon’s Aoun, affirms France’s support in government formation

Rawad Taha

30 January 2021

French President Emmanuel Macron reaffirmed his country’s assistance to Lebanon in terms of government formation during a phone call with Lebanon’s President Michael Aoun on Saturday.

The French president assured that his country was standing by Lebanon’s side in the current circumstances it is going through.

Macron has been trying to resolve the unprecedented socio-economic and political crisis Lebanon has been facing over the past year through proposing a resolution plan based on the formation of a new government.

Macron visited Lebanon twice after the August 4 Beirut port explosion as he tried to push the political class to adopt the “the French initiative for Lebanon,” politicians have failed to agree on a cabinet since Hasan Diab’s government resigned after the explosion.

Macron’s phone call took place a day after he told Al Arabiya and other reporters in Paris that the French proposal, a roadmap plan for Lebanon to crawl out of its unprecedented economic crisis, was “still on the table” because there were “no other solutions available.”

Macron added on Friday that he would pay a third visit to Lebanon and he revealed that preparations are underway for a new round of talks on the Lebanese file.





Fatima is now called Swapna: Raised as Hindu For 15 Years, Girl Discovers Family Muslim

Feb 1, 2021

HYDERABAD: Every day for 15 years Sakina mourned the loss of her daughter Fatima who went missing in Mecca Masjid when she was just two-and-half-years old during a visit to city.

The Muslim family of five from Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh have finally traced her, but Fatima is now called Swapna having been raised as a Hindu in a child welfare home and doesn’t recognise her folks.

“It’s a heart-wrenching situation. We will take our sister to our village and keep her with us to introduce her to our friends and relatives. Later, we will send her back to the children’s home in Hyderabad so that she can continue to focus on her studies,’’ Abid Hussain, her brother, told TOI in a choked voice.

The wait to get fully re-united will be a little longer as the child welfare committee has recommended a DNA test confirmation before she is handed over to her family.

It was a chance visit to a child welfare home by two Hyderabad cops as part of anti-child trafficking and rescue project called “Operation Smile” that led them to the girl who is in class XI now.

A probe revealed that a mason called Khwaja Moinuddin from Kurnool had lodged a missing diary at a Hussainialam police station in 2005. “I got a confirmation from my batch mate in Kurnool about the family’s genuineness and her mother also correctly told us about the identification marks, including a mole on Swapna’s leg,” Cyberabad SI (anti-human trafficking) N Sridhar said.

The elated family members who rushed to Hyderabad a few days ago were surprised to find that Fatima was now a staunch Sai Baba devotee. “She has grown up in a completely different culture, with no remembrance of who her family was. This reunion is the second unusual twist in her life. To her misfortune, exactly a year ago, her father had also passed away,” said a senior police official.

Recollecting their story leading to the fateful day, the family said they were on a pilgrimage and had first gone to Ajmer Sharif and then came to pray at the iconic Mecca Masjid where the girl went missing while following her father to get water after lunch. The family camped in Hyderabad for several months in search of Fatima.

“During our stay in Hyderabad, I had to work in a hotel so that we could get something to eat. Finally, after we lost hope we returned to Kurnool as it was a helpless situation. My mother and father cried for days,” said Hussain.

“When we went back my father had to face allegations that he had sold off his daughter. He took so much pain,” Hussain added.


India-made Covishield part of Pakistan jab drive under vaccine alliance

Feb 1, 2021

NEW DELHI: India’s vaccine diplomacy took further wing with 1 lakh anti-Covid shots being sent to Oman, a close partner in the Gulf, after having supplied the jabs to immediate neighbours. Later this week, India is scheduled to send over 5 lakh doses to Afghanistan.

India will also send 2 lakh doses to Nicaragua, 1 lakh to Barbados, 70,000 to Dominica and 1.5 lakh to Mongolia, though dates are yet to be finalised.

Egypt, Algeria, UAE and Kuwait have all purchased vaccines and are on the commercial export list. Apart from the gifts, Mongolia (10 lakh) Nicaragua (3 lakh), Saudi Arabia (30 lakh), Myanmar and Bangladesh are among those who have contracted to purchase vaccines from India. The purchases are made commercially but need export clearance from the Indian government.

Meanwhile, around seven million made-in-India doses of AstraZeneca’s Covishield vaccine will be part of Pakistan’s free Covid-19 vaccination drive starting next week under theglobal Covax alliance, PM Imran Khan’s special assistant on health Dr Faisal Sultan said on Sunday.

As a special Pakistani plane departed for China to fetch the first batch of Sinopharm’s Covid-19 vaccine, Dr Sultan announced that around seven million out of the 17 million committed doses of Covishield would reach the country by March.

“Though AstraZeneca is being prepared in India, it will come through Covax, an international alliance which has announced free vaccines for 20% of Pakistan’s population. DRAP (Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan) has already registered both Sinopharm and AstraZeneca,” Dr Sultan said.

The UN Covax initiative will see India selling about 100 lakh doses of vaccines. In addition, the UN will be buying about 4 lakh doses for its own workers all over the world.

India’s vaccination drive is attracting attention, with Indian ambassador to the Philippines Shambu Kumaran tweeting on Sunday that the Asean nation was examining India's rollout of inoculations, pointing to reports in the local media there.





After failing to force PM’s resignation: PDM faces challenging circumstances, differing strategies

Tariq Butt

February 1, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The ultimatum given by the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) to Prime Minister Imran Khan to step down by December 31 has passed amid taunts and jeers and by government leaders. The opposition alliance, however, has failed to come up with any plausible justification for its failure to achieve its target.

Since day one, sceptics had said that the PDM’s ambitious deadline was set without any deep reflection or even a consensus within the PDM. The alliance was meant to ratchet up enough pressure on the prime minister to bow out by the end of the year or face the intensification of the opposition’s protest campaign. It now appears that this was a hasty decision and certain PDM parties were in a hurry to accomplish their intended objective without the required groundwork. It is instructive to look at the phases of the movement that were to unfold and the preparations done for their realization if Imran Khan did not resign by the stipulated cut-off date.

Forty-seven days ago on Dec 15, the PDM stated after a summit meeting at Raiwind that if the premier did not quit by the deadline, the alliance would announce the schedule for launching a long march on the federal capital on Feb 1. No such deliberations are now planned on the day to firm up the date for the long march. The PDM is scheduled to meet on Feb 4. If at all the grouping resorts to this kind of protest, it may be held in March. Then there are differences in the alliance over the conversion of the long march into a sit-in. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is strongly opposed to this move.

The PDM’s second threat as part of its efforts to pile up pressure on Imran Khan was to resign from the assemblies. There is hardly any talk of this option now especially after the PPP publicly expressed its aversion to it. Asif Zardari is known to be opposed to any move that brings down the system, whereas the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Jamiat-Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) hold an opposing view, pushing for a hard line.

After the PDM was formed at an All Parties’ Conference hosted by the PPP in September, it had made a good start and rattled the government with a series of high profile events including public meetings. However, after the Lahore rally, the pressure of the PDM on the government began to wane. Simultaneously, the explosive rhetoric pushed by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has also been missing. During the first few PDM public meetings, Nawaz Sharif had advanced his narrative in an uncompromising tone.

It has been quite a while now since the PDM organized any powerful and meaningful activity. The harsh weather is being cited as one reason. However, the result of this lull is that the government feels more confident and assured now. However, despite this lull, to say that the PDM can simply be wished away and dismissed as a non-entity is an erroneous view. It remains a potent force that can unnerve the government by a single display of street power.

The alliance has suffered a setback because of differences in its own ranks over the options of agitation to intensify its drive. The government’s success in changing the mind of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to hold by-elections for seven federal and provincial seats created a difficult situation which gave rise to the differences within the PDM. The PPP was insistent upon contesting the by-polls while the PML-N and JUI-F had the opposite view. Ultimately, the PML-N and JUI-F had to go along with the PPP’s stand. However, it seemed paradoxical for the PDM to vie for the by-elections on the one hand and talk about resigning from the assemblies on the other. The PPP’s recommendation to move a no-confidence motion against Imran Khan, which it has repeatedly stressed, has not found favour with the other two major PDM components.

The reason why the PML-N and JUI-F have not created a scene with the PPP on proposals they do not agree with is to keep the grouping intact despite heavy odds. Not only do the two parties but the PPP too realizes that if the alliance breaks down, everyone would suffer and their weight and relevance would whittle down significantly. The talk of a no-trust motion, vacillation over the resignation of lawmakers, indecision on the date of the long march, the absence of a programme of any major public activity in the near future and the passing of the deadline for Imran Khan’s resignation without success have created a difficult situation for the PDM. For the time being, its biggest challenge is to maintain a consensus and take along all its component parties to remain a force to be reckoned with.


Pakistan appeals against acquittal in Daniel Pearl murder case

Feb 1, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Authorities in Pakistan have petitioned the Supreme Court to review its decision to free British-born Pakistani Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and his three accomplices convicted of kidnapping and beheading American journalist Daniel Pearl, the Pearl family lawyer confirmed on Sunday.

The petition was filed by the provincial government of Sindh on Friday, a day after the court acquitted Sheikh and others, who were convicted for the Wall Street Journal reporter’s murder in 2002. “The petition was filed to seek a review and request the court to recall the order of acquittal,” said Fayyaz Shah, the prosecutor general for the Sindh government.

Following the top court’s decision on Thursday, the Biden administration had expressed an outrage, with White House press secretary Jen Psaki underscoring the new US administration’s commitment to secure justice for Pearl’s family.

“This decision to exonerate and release Sheikh and the other suspects is an affront to terrorism victims everywhere, including in Pakistan,” she said, calling on the “Pakistani government to expeditiously review its legal options including allowing the United States to prosecute Sheikh for the brutal murder of an American citizen and journalist”.

Washington said last month that it “stands ready to take custody of Omar Sheikh to stand trial insisting the US “cannot allow him to evade justice for his role in Daniel Pearl’s abduction and murder.”

Legal experts in Pakistan, however, maintain that the country’s laws do not allow another country to undertake such an intervention.


Islamophobia: A fungible prop for Muslim religious soft power

January 31, 2021

By Dr. James M. Dorsey

Think the Muslim world is united in opposing Islamophobia? Think twice.

Rising anti-Muslim sentiment in countries like China, Myanmar, and India as well as the West against the backdrop of increased support for anti-migration and extreme nationalist groups, and far-right populist parties is proving to be a boost for contenders for religious soft power in and leadership of the Muslim world.

For Turkey, Iran and Pakistan, supporters of different expressions of political Islam, Islamophobia provides the backdrop for attempts to position themselves as defenders of Muslim causes such as Palestinian rights in Jerusalem, the third holiest city in Islam, the plight of the Rohingya in Myanmar, and conflict in predominantly Muslim Kashmir.

Absent from the contenders’ list is China’s brutal crackdown on Turkic Muslims in its troubled north-western province of Xinjiang. China, which aggressively has sought repatriation of Turkic Muslims, recently ratified an extradition treaty that Turkey, home to the largest Xinjiang exile community, insists will not put Uighurs at risk.

By the same token, Islamophobia has proven a useful tool to influence efforts by men like French President Emmanuel Macron and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz to crack down on political Islam and shape the faith in the mould of Turkey & Co’s Middle Eastern rivals for religious soft power, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The Gulf monarchies advocate a vague notion of ‘moderate’ Islam that preaches absolute obedience to the ruler and is quietist and non-political. The two Gulf states have gone as far as legitimizing China’s crackdown and persuading the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to endorse Chinese policy as an effective way of countering political extremism and violence.

Economics and trade are powerful drivers for the Muslim world’s refusal to hold China accountable. But so are the brownie points that major Muslim-majority contenders for religious soft power garner in Beijing. Muslim criticism of the crackdown potentially could make the difference in pressuring China to change its policy.

Saudi and Emirati rejection of and campaigning against political Islam bolsters the rationale of not only China’s crackdown but also Russian efforts to control Moscow’s potentially restive Muslim minority. China may not like the propagation of political Islam by the Gulf states’ religious soft power rivals but values their silence.

Chinese Turkic Muslims is not the only issue over which contenders, including Asian states like Indonesia, irrespective of what notion of Islam they promote, stumble in their quest for religious soft power.

So is another litmus test of claims of a majority of the contenders to embrace religious tolerance and inter-faith dialogue that raises the question of whether contenders should clean up their own house first to give credibility to their often-opportunistic embrace of ‘moderate’ Islam.

Among the rivals, the UAE, populated in majority by non-nationals, is one of only two contenders to start acknowledging changing attitudes and demographic realities.

Authorities in November lifted the ban on consumption of alcohol and cohabitation among unmarried couples. This week, the UAE opened the door to the naturalization of foreign nationals.

The other contender, Nahdlatul Ulama, the world’s largest Muslim movement, has begun tackling legal and theological reform of Islam with the encouragement of the government. The movement offered in October a platform for then US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to lash out at China’s treatment of Turkic Muslims.

By contrast, Pakistan, in an act of overreach modelled on US insistence on extra-territorial abidance by some of its laws, recently laid down a gauntlet in the struggle to define religious freedom by seeking to block and shut down a US-based website associated with Ahmadis on charges of blasphemy.

Ahmadis are a minority sect viewed as heretics by many Muslims that have been targeted in Indonesia and elsewhere but nowhere more so than in Pakistan where they have been constitutionally classified as non-Muslims. Blasphemy is potentially punishable in Pakistan with a death sentence.

The Pakistani effort was launched at a moment that anti-Ahmadi and anti-Shiite sentiment in Pakistan, home to the world’s largest Shia Muslim minority, is on the rise. Recent mass demonstrations denounced Shiites as “blasphemers” and “infidels” and called for their beheading as the number of blasphemy cases being filed against Shiites in the courts mushrooms.

Pakistan’s rivals in the competition for religious soft power have largely remained silent about the worrying trend, raising questions about the integrity of their commitment to religious freedom and tolerance as well as their rejection of Islamophobia.

Newly appointed Indonesian religious affairs minister, Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, a senior Nahdlatul Ulama official, is proving to be the exception that confirms the rule. Mr. Qoumas pledged in one of his first statements as a minister during a visit to a Protestant church to protect the rights of Shiites and Ahmadis.

Said Indonesia scholar Alexander R Arifianto: “Qoumas’ new initiatives as Religious Affairs Minister are a welcome move to counter the influence of radical Islamists and address long-standing injustices against religious minorities. He now has to prove these are not empty slogans, but an earnest attempt at promoting equal citizenship for all Indonesians irrespective of their religious beliefs.”


First batch of 0.5m vaccine doses arrives in Islamabad from China

February 1, 2021

The first batch of Covid-19 vaccines arrived in Pakistan from China on Monday via a special Pakistan Air Force (PAF) aircraft.

The batch contains 500,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine that has been gifted by China. Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health (SAPM) Dr Faisal Sultan announced the development in a tweet and expressed his gratitude to the Chinese government and "everyone who made this happen".

"NCOC and provinces played an instrumental role in tackling Covid. I salute our frontline healthcare workers for their efforts and they'll be first to get vaccinated," he tweeted.

According to real-time pictures shared with media, the PAF plane had landed in Beijing on Sunday at 7pm (4pm PST) and Sinopharm’s vaccine was loaded on it.

The plane landed at the Noor Khan Airbase in Islamabad on Monday morning. According to a statement by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), a vaccine handing over ceremony will be held at the airbase at 2pm and will be attended by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Nong Rong.

China has donated 500,000 jabs, with which the frontline healthcare workers will be vaccinated. Over 400,000 health professionals have applied for vaccination.

The registration process of citizens over 65 years would start in the next 10 to 15 days, Planning Minister and NCOC chair Asad Umar had told Dawn.

“As the doses will be stored in Islamabad, there is a possibility that vaccination will start a day earlier in the federal capital compared to the rest of the country,” Umar added.

An official of the Ministry of National Health Services, requesting not to be named, said arrangements were in place to maintain the cold chain management of the vaccine, right from storing it in a warehouse to its administration to healthcare workers.

“There is a warehouse of the Expanded Programme of Immunisation (EPI) which will be used to store the vaccine. Besides, we have developed the National Immunisation Management System (NIMS) through which we will monitor from Islamabad the doses utilised in each province and district and how many more were required. We will ensure that the new stocks are available before the existing ones run out,” he said.

“Not only have we secured 500,000 free doses from our all-weather friend China but another 1.1m jabs, which had been pre-booked from Beijing, will also arrive,” the official said, adding that Covax had also given us a written assurance that it would provide 17m doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in the first six months of the ongoing year.

“Out of these 17m, around 7m will be received before the end of March. We are confident that the healthcare workers, citizens over 65 years of age, people in the age bracket of 50 and 65 years and those with chronic diseases will be vaccinated by the end of June,” he added.

Vaccination drive

Last week, Umar had announced that the vaccination drive — which is already underway in several countries — will begin in Pakistan this week, starting with frontline health workers.

Pakistan’s vaccine strategy has been finalised and, after announcement of registration of different segments included in the priority list, citizens will have to send their computerised national identity card (CNIC) number to 1166 through SMS or through NIMS website for registration. After verification, a designated vaccine centre on the basis of the present address mentioned in the CNIC as well as a pin code will be sent to citizens through SMS.

People will have the option to change their vaccine centre by visiting NIMS website or by calling on the helpline 1166 within five days of the receipt of the first SMS. A vaccination centre and appointment date will then be shared.

On the date of the appointment, people will have to reach the centre with their original CNIC and also share their pin code. After administration of the vaccine, the recipient will remain in the centre for 30 minutes for post inculcation monitoring.

So far, Pakistan has approved three coronavirus vaccines — the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, the vaccine developed by Chinese state-owned firm China National Pharmaceutical Group (SinoPharm) and Russian-developed Sputnik V.

Officials say the authorisations will be reviewed quarterly with regard to safety, efficacy and quality.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan has said Pakistan could get “in the range of tens of millions” of vaccine doses under an agreement with China's Cansino Biologics Inc.


Nawaz, Zardari will be behind bars soon: Khattak

Suhail Kakakhel

February 1, 2021

NOWSHERA: Defence Minister Pervez Khan Khattak on Sunday said that opposition leaders Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari would soon be behind bars because of their corruption.

Similarly, he said, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rahman would also be behind bars as he had failed to justify his assets accumulated beyond his known sources of income.

“If justice is done, all these people will soon be in jail,” said Mr Khattak, while talking to journalists after speaking at a public meeting at Irrigation Guest House, Pabbi.

He said that now only an honest leadership would take root in the country.

The minister said that the PTI government was not facing any threat from anyone and it would complete its constitutional term till 2023, and would again come into power on the basis of its “performance”.

Referring to his Saturday’s speech some portions of which went viral on social media, the minister asserted that some people had distorted his speech and presented it “out of context”.

“If my entire speech was shown to the people, then the truth would come out,” Mr Khattak said.

“I am very sorry. Some people have distorted my speech. If I bring the whole part of this speech before the people then the truth will come out. My point was that Allah Almighty has given me ability of thinking,” the minister said.

He said he could not think of going against Prime Minister Imran Khan and he was ready to give sacrifices for the party.

About Senate election, he said Prime Minister Imran Khan wanted to ensure free and fair election through the open ballot to keep the masses informed who voted for whom in the election. He, however, claimed that whether the election was held through the open or secret ballot, the PTI would surely win the election.

The minister claimed that all opposition parties had earlier been demanding holding of Senate elections through the open ballot, but now they were opposing it which was beyond comprehension.

Referring to PDM’s rallies and public meetings to dislodge the government, the minister said the opposition had badly failed on all fronts, adding that neither lawmakers of opposition parties resigned from assemblies nor they brought people out on streets.

Earlier, the minister went to Pir Sabak, Bara Banada, Kheshgi Payan to offer condolences with different families.

Speaking at a public gathering at Manki Sharif on Saturday, Mr Khattak had said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had obliged him so many times and opposition parties also respected him and he also took care of them.

A video clip of his speech had gone viral on social media on Saturday in which he had said that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government would not survive a single day if he wanted creating problems for it.

“I can take to heights of success anyone I want to and make him zero whenever I want to do that and this is all the result of my hard work,” he had asserted in the speech.

He had further said that if he wanted to do mischief, the government of Imran Khan would not survive even for a single day.

The minister had further said it was his hard work and effort that today he was competing with the entire country, adding that Mr Imran Khan was very kind to him and he was indebted to him.

Mr Khattak further claimed that he could not be deceived in politics as he knew all politicians and their families personally.

He said he not only handled government officials, but also dealt with opposition leaders and everyone respected him.



Southeast Asia


Hadi throws a spanner in the works of Biden-Muhyiddin ties

K. Parkaran

January 31, 2021

The swearing in of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the US has inadvertently exposed a major difference in the diplomatic stand of parties in Malaysia’s ruling coalition.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin congratulated Biden, but Muhyiddin’s key ally in the ruling Perikatan Nasional, PAS, took a completely opposite stand, dismissing Malaysia’s largest trading partner as oppressors of Islamic nations.

In his congratulatory message, Muhyiddin told Biden that Malaysia was looking forward to strengthening its partnership with the US under his leadership.

“Malaysia hopes to continue and expand its existing partnership with the US on various issues and global fronts, including fighting the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said, adding that he looked forward to meeting him personally.

It may sound diplomatic and one that most countries usually do but the reality is that Malaysia needs the US more if one cares to look at our trade figures. The superpower comes in after China and Singapore as our main overall trading partners.

In terms of our supplies, again they are the third highest on the list. US goods imports from Malaysia totalled RM168 billion in 2019, up 3.1% from 2018. In addition, the US foreign direct investment in Malaysia was RM43 billion in the same year.

Obviously PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang must have forgotten that we have a RM200 billion annual trade with the US when he lambasted the new US leadership as one that will continue with its “same chess game using countries as its pawns.”

But most importantly, Hadi made the populist statement ignoring the fact that he was the government’s special envoy to the Middle East, appointed by Muhyiddin. He did not mince his words, throwing caution to the wind.

“The change of the US leadership from Donald Trump to Joe Biden is unlikely to change its foreign policy towards Muslim nations. Biden himself was a supporter of Israel’s previous policy and intervened in the affairs of Islamic states,” said Hadi.

“It includes invading Afghanistan, ‘extinguishing’ Kurdish tribes along the borders of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. In addition it was a proponent of proxy wars in Syria, Libya and Yemen, dividing Iraq, and besieging Iran and threatening all countries that did not want it,” he said in a strongly worded Facebook post.

Hadi said although Biden may choose a softer diplomatic approach, the US would continue doing things as it wished.

“That is also the US political reality…the chess board and chess pieces remain the same, only now they are different players.”

We all know that PAS plays quite an influential role in the PN government, with all of its 18 MPs made ministers, deputy ministers or chairmen in GLCs. They control three states too. Going by their own targets and ambitions, they are aiming for a much stronger hold on the policies of the nation.

So one can’t help wondering if Hadi’s statement, whether true or otherwise, will be taken seriously given his Islamic credentials and scholarly standing in the Muslim world. This is especially so when many Malaysians take his exhortations and statements as gospel truth.

Coming at a time when the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development reported that Malaysia saw a sharp 68% decline in FDI last year while FDI in Southeast Asia only decreased by 31% with the Philippines’ rising by 29%, he may just be sending the wrong signal.

Hadi and some of his PAS leaders ought to remember that we are a secular nation and this will not change in a century, or more. Some of their recent statements received global attention which is not flattering for Malaysia.


Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad Was Not Agreeable To The Idea Of Malaysia Expelling Fugitive Muslim Preacher Dr Zakir Naik: Tommy Thomas

31 Jan 2021


KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 31 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was not agreeable to the idea of Malaysia expelling fugitive Muslim preacher Dr Zakir Naik, as the then prime minister said no third country wanted to accept the Indian national, former attorney general Tan Sri Tommy Thomas has reportedly said in his latest book.

Dr Zakir, a preacher said to have controversial views, was previously given permanent resident status by Malaysia. He is, however, wanted in his home country India to face criminal charges, including for alleged money-laundering and links to the alleged funding and alleged inciting of terrorist activities.

News portal The Vibes noted Thomas as saying however that the home minister and deputy prime minister in the previous Barisan Nasional government, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, had allowed Dr Zakir to be a permanent resident in Malaysia against the advice of the police’s Special Branch.

During his time as the attorney general from June 2018 to February 2020, Thomas said India’s high commissioner had told him that India would be happy even if Malaysia chose to only expel Dr Zakir instead of extraditing him.

“Instead, India just wanted Malaysia to expel him from our shores. Where Zakir travelled thereafter was not Malaysia’s concern, and India would be happy that a thorn in bilateral ties had disappeared,” Thomas was quoted saying in his memoir released to the public yesterday.

In his memoir titled My Story: Justice in the Wilderness, Thomas said he had then communicated on this with the Inspector-General of Police and was told that the police did not object to this, The Vibes reported.

Thomas said he had then raised the recommendation of expelling Dr Zakir with Dr Mahathir who was then the prime minister.

“Over time, I brought up the subject of Zakir a couple of times with the prime minister. On each occasion, the response was the same. No third country wished to accept Zakir.

“My observation that that would mean Malaysia was hostage to Zakir and would have to provide him with a home did not move Tun,” Thomas was quoted saying in the book by The Vibes.

Thomas reportedly further discussed Dr Zakir’s matter with IGP Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador, and was informed that there was no Muslim country — such as Bangladesh, Iran, Pakistan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia — that wished to accept Dr Zakir.

Published by Strategic Information and Research Development Centre (SIRD), the 573-page book by Thomas is available for purchase from Gerakbudaya.

Dr Zakir has been evading Indian authorities since 2016, when files were opened against him for allegedly making hate speeches and laundering money after five militants launched an attack at a bakery in Dhaka, Bangladesh that ended with 29 dead.

One of the attackers was reported to have claimed that he had been inspired by the preacher’s speeches.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs in June 2019 said the Indian government had made a formal request to Malaysia for Dr Zakir’s extradition and would continue to pursue the matter with Malaysia, while a court in India had also in June 2019 ordered Dr Zakir to show up there.

Locally, Dr Zakir has been accused of denigrating other faiths and being a threat to Malaysia’s multi-ethnic and multicultural harmony.

In July 2019, Dr Mahathir said that multiracial and multireligious Malaysia cannot have Dr Zakir as the country does not want anyone who gives extreme views about race and religion, but noted it was difficult to send him anywhere else as “many countries” do not want the preacher.

In August 2019 during Dr Mahathir’s administration, the authorities in Malaysia banned Dr Zakir from delivering public talks in all states in the interest of national security and to preserve racial harmony.

Prior to the ban, Dr Mahathir had in August 2019 said that Dr Zakir had overstepped the line when he told ethnic Chinese Malaysians to “go back” and questioned the loyalty of Malaysian-Indians in two separate instances, also saying that the latter had transgressed his privilege as a foreigner with permanent resident status by issuing political statements.

Dr Zakir was spotted in December 2019 attending the four-day Kuala Lumpur Summit 2019 which was chaired by Dr Mahathir, but did not speak to the media then.

The Muslim missionary foundation Yayasan Dakwah Islamiah Malaysia (Yadim), which had in September 2019 received a visit from Dr Zakir, had in September 2020 invited him to speak to young Muslim missionaries in one of its events. Yadim had previously also posted a video clip from news outlet TV Al-Hijrah on Dr Zakir sharing tips in the event to the participants on how to use social media to spread Islam.

Dr Zakir had on his official Facebook page also posted posters featuring photographs of him, where he said he was addressing the 10 finalists of the same September 2020 event dubbed “Young Da’ee Yadim 2020”.


Preacher Ebit Lew continues humanitarian mission in Sabah with mass Bajau Laut ‘conversion’

01 Feb 2021


KOTA KINABALU, Feb 1 — After distributing aid to disadvantaged students and churches, and setting up the internet in a rural village, preacher Ebit Lew also brought Islam to a village of Bajau Laut sea gypies in Lahad Datu.

The popular philanthropist, who is on day four of a 10-day humanitarian mission to Sabah, posted on Twitter that he converted some 157 villagers from Pulau Tatagan, Semporna to Islam.

“157 people recited the syahadah today. Praise be to God, I cried with joy. The whole village embraced Islam today. Everyone did it with an open heart, willingly without any force,” he tweeted.

Ebit said the village was among his planned stops because he heard their food supply had been cut off.

He tweeted that he felt sad about how impoverished the community is, and after hearing that parents only name their newborns after one year due to the high incidence of infant mortality.

“I asked them through an interpreter if anyone had explained religion to them. They said, ‘No, we do not know. Please tell us.’ I got emotional and asked them if they know God? What is God?

“They immediately believed. I taught them the syahadah. This is both the saddest and happiest day of my life. I will continue to bring food to this community. I am arranging for a school to be built, and an ustaz to teach them,” he said.

The Bajau Laut community of Semporna are typically Muslim but owing to their nomadic way of life aboard boats, they lack proper facilities for worship, and sometimes, have differing practice and views on religion.

Ebit’s visit to Sabah began on January 28 when he travelled to the east coast of Lahad Datu and visited a charity home for those with intellectual and physical disabilities.

The following day, he visited the St Dominic Catholic Church in Lahad Datu where he donated 100 food baskets, 10 wheelchairs and face masks to the poor.

He also set up a WiFi hotspot for Kampung Bangingod in Felda Sahabat in Tungku, and distributed food and electronic tablets to students from SK Bangingod.

During his visit, Ebit plans to cover the districts of Tawau, Lahad Datu, Kunak and Semporna, together with an 18-strong team.


Protect Indonesian society, largest Muslim group told

Katharina Reny Lestari

February 01, 2021

Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo of Jakarta has called on Indonesia’s largest moderate Islamic organization to be a “guardian of the state” by promoting a stronger and fairer society.

His comment came in a message during a discussion livestreamed on YouTube two days before Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) celebrated its 95th anniversary on Jan. 31.

“I believe that one of several ways to protect the nation is to strengthen society. And I believe that the big family that is NU can lead the way in achieving this,” he said.

Established in 1926, the organization has more than 90 million members.

“NU can and should produce figures who can uphold the three main pillars of a civilized society — the common good, fairness and responsibility,” Cardinal Suharyo said.

Cardinal Suharyo, who is chairman of the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference (KWI), pointed to the “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” signed in Abu Dhabi on Feb. 4, 2019, by Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar.

“The document highlights many challenges which must be faced together … by all human beings. Issues related to humanity must be faced together in spite of religious differences. If we can do this, a true civil society can be achieved,” he said.

All Indonesian citizens, he said, “hopes the NU family can play a significant role in protecting the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia” amid friction between religious groups.

“This is the challenge facing NU now,” he said, referring to hardline groups within Indonesia looking to undermine its secular ideology.

NU chairman Said Aqil Siradj said his organization must fight for justice for all Indonesian people in his address to mark its anniversary.

“Let us stand up for justice because many people still face oppression, many people still live in poverty, and many people still cannot enjoy their rights. Let us stand by the small people who still need our help,” he said.

In a statement seen by UCA News, Reverend Gomar Gultom, general chairman of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia — the largest organization of Christian churches in Indonesia — thanked NU for its contributions in opposing extremism.

“Our nation is indebted to NU for its significant role in promoting the tolerance and fraternity that have helped shape Indonesia, which upholds the values of Pancasila,” he said.

Pancasila, or five principles, refers to the national ideology that stipulates belief in one God, a just and civilized society, a united Indonesia, democracy guided by consensus, and social justice for all citizens.

“NU is deeply rooted in these principles and has been proven effective in countering those that seek to destroy diversity,” the Protestant pastor said.





UAE says will cooperate with UN, US on Libya conflict

30 January 2021

The United Arab Emirates has issued a statement Friday stating its readiness to work “closely” with the new US administration for a peaceful solution to the Libya conflict.

“There is an urgent need for renewed diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict in Libya,” Lana Nusseibeh, the UAE ambassador to the UN, said in a letter.

“The UAE stands ready to work closely with all Security Council members, including the new US administration, to achieve a peaceful settlement for the Libyan people,” she said.

She said the country welcomed the Security Council’s “call for all foreign forces to withdraw from Libya. Foreign intervention in the conflict must end now.”

The day before, during a virtual meeting of the Security Council on Libya, the United States called on “all external parties, to include Russia, Turkey and the UAE, to respect Libyan sovereignty and immediately cease all military intervention in Libya.”

Together with Egypt and Russia, the UAE is one of the main supporters of Khalifa Haftar, the Libyan general the east of Libya who is fighting the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli.

“The UAE firmly believes that diplomatic and political solutions are the sole path to end the Libyan conflict, Nusseibeh said.

“The first priority is to preserve and reinforce the ceasefire agreement” agreed to in October, she said.

“This will enable and encourage a political process and a Libyan-led transition that fulfills the aspirations of the Libyan people for stability, peace, and prosperity,” she added.


Fugitive leader of Ethiopia’s Tigray issues new call for arms: Audio

01 February 2021

The fugitive leader of Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region has reportedly issued a fresh call to his supporters to pick up arms against the federal government, according to an audio message posted online.

“I call upon you, wherever you are ... to organize and fight and to strive to make all who have reached fighting age take up the fight, and through this to shorten the lifespan of the enemy,” Debretsion Gebremichael said in the recording via a media outlet affiliated with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

It was not immediately possible to verify the authenticity of the 20-minute audio message which was posted on Facebook, but it would be the first public statement by Debretsion in nearly two months.

He has been on the run since shortly after fighting broke out in early November between Ethiopian and allied forces and armed militants of the Tigray region.

“They (federal forces) have temporary military dominance,” said the recording, alleging abuses such as rape, torture and looting, reports of which have also been highlighted by the United Nations.

The Tigray leader also called on the international community to investigate what he alleged to be “genocide” in the restive northern region.

He urged Tigray residents to “continue the struggle” and vowed to do the same against those who are “working with all their might to destroy our existence and identity.”

Early in November, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered military operations targeting leaders of the TPLF, the regional governing party. The move, according to Abiy, was in response to TPLF-orchestrated attacks on federal army camps.

The military operations ended less than a month after it had started. Debretsion and other Tigray leaders fled into hiding in an unknown location.

The TPLF had dominated Ethiopian politics for decades. However, after its clout declined after Abiy came to power in 2018.

Since Abiy's arrival, the government has introduced a number of reforms and measures to increase transparency. In its clampdown on corruption, many senior Tigrayan officials were fired and detained by the federal government.

The conflict continues largely in shadow. Some communications links remain down and almost all journalists are blocked. Thousands of people have died.


Car bomb explosion hits Somali hotel, militants claim responsibility

31 January 2021

A car bomb explosion has hit a hotel in the center of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, causing an unknown number of casualties.

The Somalia-based al-Shabab terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attack which took place at Afrik hotel, near Mogadishu’s strategic K-4 junction on Sunday afternoon.

Police said a vehicle loaded with explosives crashed into the entrance gate of the hotel, which was followed by a shootout between a number of armed gunmen and security forces.

Heavy gunfire could be heard, police said, adding that many people were rescued from the hotel.

“There must be casualties because the militants first started the attack with a suicide car bomb against the wall,” police spokesman Sadik Ali said. “The operation still goes on, casualties will be known later.”

“We know, they have changed nothing from their usual tactic, ramming explosives into a building and following up, assaulting with rifles,” he said. 

Security forces immediately cordoned off the site of the attack.

There was no immediate word from Somali officials or the African Union (AU) peacekeeping mission, which supports the government against the al-Shabab terrorist group.

In a separate incident on Sunday, at least eight children were killed and 11 others were injured when a mortar shell exploded in a town near Mogadishu.

Osman Nur, chairman of Shalambood, a town 90 km (56 miles) from Mogadishu, said the children were aged between 4 to 12.

The al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab militants have been waging an insurgency for more than a decade in Somalia.

Despite being ousted from large parts of south and central Somalia, al-Shabab continues deadly attacks across the country, which has been ravaged by decades of war and poverty.

The militant group aims to oust the government in Mogadishu and drive out African Union peacekeeping troops. It has been carrying out militancy since 2006.

Al-Shabaab militants have fought successive Somali governments as well as neighboring governments in Uganda and Kenya, the latter of which sent troops to Somalia in 2011 to fight the group as part of the African Union forces.

Somalia has faced instability and violence since 1991, when the military government was overthrown.


Army operation kills 5 al-Shabaab militants in Somalia

Mohammed Dhaysane  



At least five al-Shabaab militants were killed and several others were wounded when the Somali army conducted an operation in the southwestern region of Bay, an army official said on Saturday.

The operation, launched by the Somali National Army backed by regional paramilitary forces, took place outside the strategic town of Diinsoor, some 369 kilometers (229 miles) southwest of the capital Mogadishu.

Ibrahim Adan, Somali army operational commander in the area, told media that they attacked an al-Shabaab base on the outskirts of Diinsoor while the Somali-based al-Qaeda affiliated group were planning attacks against the government forces, killing at least five militants, including two senior officials, and wounding several others.

Eyewitness in Diinsoor told Anadolu Agency over the phone that they heard fierce gunfight between the Somali army and al-Shabaab militants.

Meanwhile, the Security Ministry of Southwest State said that US airstrikes killed several senior al-Shabaab commanders in the southwestern Bakool region.

According to a statement issued by the ministry, the airstrikes took place in the vicinity of Ma'moodow, 410 km (254 mi) from Mogadishu.



South Asia


NATO to keep troops in Afghanistan beyond May deadline agreed with Taliban: Sources

01 February 2021

The US-led military alliance of NATO plans to keep troops in Afghanistan beyond the May deadline -- a move that is expected to escalate tensions with the Taliban demanding a full implementation of the Doha agreement with the United States.

Citing four senior NATO officials, Reuters reported Sunday that the military alliance plans “no full withdrawal” from Afghanistan “by April-end.”

Under the deal signed last year between the Taliban and the administration of former US President Donald Trump in the Qatari capital, Doha, all foreign troops are expected to leave Afghan soil by May in exchange for the Taliban’s halting of their attacks on international forces.

Trump reduced the number of US troops in Afghanistan from approximately 13,500 to 2,500 before leaving office in mid-January.

But the NATO says that “with the new US administration, there will be tweaks in the policy, the sense of hasty withdrawal which was prevalent will be addressed and we could see a much more calculated exit strategy,” according to the sources.

One of the officials also alleged that “conditions have not been met” by the Taliban.

The officials said plans on what will happen after April were now being considered and likely to be a top issue at a NATO meeting later this month.

The report follows the latest accusation by the Pentagon on Friday that the Taliban have not met their commitments.

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said that “it's very hard to see a specific way forward for the negotiated settlement. I don't think it is helpful to be drawn now into specific hypothetical discussions about troop numbers on a specific calendar basis.”

Later in the day, the Taliban reacted to his remarks, warning that the longer US forces remain in Afghanistan, the more troops will be killed.

On Sunday, Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem also urged the US to live up to the Doha agreement.

"The stay of foreign troops beyond the pre-determined time is contrary to the bilateral agreements," he added.

Naeem said that the Taliban demand "a full implementation" of the peace deal." If the deal is implemented, he said "all problems would be solve."

The US along with its NATO allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001 under the guise of fighting terrorism and dismantling al-Qaeda.

The invasion — which has turned into the longest war in US history — removed the Taliban from power, but the militant group has never stopped its attacks, citing the foreign military presence as one of the main reasons behind its continued militancy.

Over 2,400 American soldiers and tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed in the war.


Senior Afghan peace ministry official survives ‘IED explosion’

01 Feb 2021

Khushnood Nabizada, Chief of Staff at State Ministry for Peace and the founder of Khaama Press News Agency, was targeted in an IED blast in PD10 Hangara Square of Kabul city on Monday morning.

Nabizada told Khaama Press that the blast happened as he was on his way to work, and he was not seriously wounded in the incident.

He had two of his children, a daughter and a son in the car with him, fortunately, they did not inflict any injuries.

According to Nabizada, his driver was mildly wounded.

He added that there was no information on whether the blast was by a magnetic IED or a roadside IED caused it.

Kabul police also said that the blast took place on a cruiser in which one individual was injured.

This comes in a time as violence against civil society activists and journalists has escalated and raged across the country, especially in Kabul and a member from a media outlet or an activist is targeted on a daily basis.

No group including the Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack.


Taliban dubs EU, Foreign community claims ‘baseless’

01 Feb 2021

Taliban in a released statement on Monday said, that the claims of Taliban killing civilians, targeted assassinations, and destruction of public infrastructures by the foreign community is baseless.

ATN news reported, that the Taliban stated “Representatives of a number of European and other countries have baselessly asserted through a statement that the Islamic Emirate is continuing a senseless war, is killing civilians, is destroying public infrastructure and is involved in assassinations”.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan rejects all such allegations,” adding that “all charges which they have leveled are unsubstantiated,” the statement read.

Taliban stressed they absolutely have “no hand in civilian killings and neither is it involved in the destruction of public infrastructure, rather it considers safeguarding and securing public infrastructure its own responsibility.”

This comes as EU Delegation and international diplomatic missions in Afghanistan in a joint statement condemned the targeted killings and kidnappings in the country on Sunday.

The EU Delegation and the diplomatic missions of Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States said that the continuation of assassinations, kidnappings, and destruction of vital infrastructure – all which directly harm the Afghan people. 

“The international community has invested heavily in energy, food security, water resources, and road infrastructure for the benefit of the Afghan people,” adding that, “We condemn the on-going destruction of vital infrastructure, including digging up roads, destroying cell towers, and blowing up energy stations by the Taliban”. 

“These actions serve no purpose besides hurting the Afghan people who – largely due to decades of conflict -suffer from food insecurity and significant economic and development challenges, further exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic,” the statement added.

“We are standing side by side with those who are committed to bringing about an end to the conflict through an inclusive political settlement that ensures this country remains sovereign, united and democratic, at peace with itself and its neighbors, and preserving the human rights, development and economic achievements made over the past 19 years,” the statement read.

“We continue to be steadfast in our resolve to assist the people of Afghanistan in achieving peace, justice, and development. We expect the Taliban to demonstrate its support for the people of Afghanistan by ending the violence, stopping the destruction of vital infrastructure, and committing to a sustainable peace, for the benefit of all Afghans,” the statement concluded.


Japan approves millions of dollars in aid to Afghanistan

01 Feb 2021

Japan has pledged to support Afghanistan to provide over $122 million to support humanitarian and development programs for the year 2021.

On Monday, the Japanese embassy issued a statement in Kabul saying this support is a vigorous step “in realizing Japan’s pledge delivered at the Geneva Conference in November 2020, where Foreign Minister Mr. Motegi Toshimitsu affirmed Japan’s long-lasting friendship with and support for the people of Afghanistan, and pledged financial assistance up to 180 million USD per year between 2021 and 2024, a figure comparable to the past four years”.

Japanese embassy stated this aid forms a part of Japan’s assistance to Afghanistan and will be disbursed in 2021.

“It will enable implementation of 17 humanitarian and development assistance projects orchestrated by various organizations throughout the country, aiming for the betterment of livelihoods through multiple approaches,” statement read.

OKADA Takashi said, “enhanced security sector plays an essential role in the Afghan-led nation building as we gaze at peace on the horizon. Our continuous contribution to the Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (LOTFA) exemplifies Japan’s commitment for a peaceful Afghanistan, as LOTFA is a significant multi donor program that plays a vital role in strengthening the country’s security sector,” said Japan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan.

“In light of the global pandemic, we also believe that assistance for vulnerable segment of the population who are most severely affected is essential. We truly hope that this new support will contribute to bringing about as many joyous smiles of Afghan people as possible,” he added.

Japan assisted Afghanistan in various development aspects including security, agriculture, capacity building, health, education, rural development, infrastructure, culture and tradition and provided the country with humanitarian supports.

This disbursement of $122.2 million will make a total of $6.9 billion Japanese assistance to Afghanistan so far.


Afghan negotiating team warns Taliban it must resume talks

JANUARY 31, 2021

Government negotiator Rasul Talib said in a news conference the team is waiting for the return of the Taliban leadership to Doha, where a second round of peace talks began this month but have made little progress.

A member of the Afghan government’s peace negotiating team on Sunday warned the Taliban that if they don’t resume peace talks in Qatar soon, the government could recall the team before a deal is reached.

Government negotiator Rasul Talib said in a news conference the team is waiting for the return of the Taliban leadership to Doha, where a second round of peace talks began this month but have made little progress.

He asked the Taliban to “stop spreading baseless remarks” and return to the negotiating table, adding “The Taliban does not have the guts for peace, they are spreading nonsense around.” There was no immediate response from the Taliban.

Mr. Talib’s comments came as the Taliban leadership has recently been in Iran and Russia for discussions on the negotiations, and as President Joe Biden’s new administration has said it plans to review the peace agreement signed last February between the U.S. and the Taliban.

The Pentagon said last week that the Taliban’s refusal to meet commitments to reduce violence in Afghanistan is raising questions about whether all U.S. troops will be able to leave by May as required under the peace deal.

Following discussions in Moscow on Friday, the head of the Taliban delegation, Sher Mohammed Abbas Stanikzai, said the group expects the U.S. to fulfil its pledge to withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan by May.

The U.S. Pentagon announced in mid-January that the U.S. military has met its goal of reducing the number of troops in Afghanistan to about 2,500.

Stanikzai has also demanded the resignation of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, calling his administration an obstacle to peace, and a spike in violence has decreased optimism among Afghans the peace process will work.

Meanwhile, the Afghan peace negotiating team praised President Biden’s administration for its decision to review the U.S.-Taliban peace deal, saying the deal favours the Taliban.

Mr. Talib asked the new U.S. administration to withdraw its forces in a way that will prevent a security vacuum in the country and prevent the possibility of more militant attacks in Afghanistan and against the U.S. and other countries.

The Taliban on Sunday mistakenly fired two mortars in northern Faryab province killing two civilians and wounding 14 others, said the provincial police spokesman, Karim Yuresh. He said Afghan security checkpoints were targeted but the shells missed the checkpoints and hit the civilians.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied the group fired mortars toward civilians and accused Afghan forces of firing the mortars and causing the casualties.



Arab World


Beirut port blast survivors still endure psychological toll

01 February 2021

Joana Dagher lay unconscious and hemorrhaging under a pile of rubble in her apartment after the massive Beirut port blast in August, on the brink of death.

She survived because of the courage of her husband who got her out, the kindness of a stranger who transported her in his damaged car and the help of her sisters during the chaos at the overwhelmed hospital.

But Dagher doesn’t remember any of that: The 33-year-old mother of two lost her memory for two full months from the trauma she suffered in the explosion, including a cerebral contusion and brain lesions.

“I lost my life on August 4,” Dagher said. “I lost my house, I lost my memory, I lost two friends,” she added, referring to neighbors killed in the explosion. “I lost my mental health, and so I lost everything.”

The Beirut explosion, which killed more than 200 people and injured more than 6,000, caused wounds on an even wider scale on the mental health of those who lived through it.

Dagher is gradually regaining her memory. But another kind of pain lingers.

“The past 6 months have been a purgatory,” Jihane said. “When you see someone you love suffer so much, everyone suffers with them, you are helpless.”

The blast was caused by a fire that ignited nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a port warehouse. One of the biggest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded, the force tore through the city, sending people flying across rooms and slicing them with flying glass.

Even in a country that has seen many wars and bombings, never had so many people — tens of thousands — directly experienced the same traumatizing event at the same time.

“There are very high levels of anxiety and worry across the population,” said Mia Atwi, psychologist and president of Embrace, an organization working on mental health awareness and support. “There is a low mood bordering on clinical depression for the majority of the population.”

Demand for therapists has ballooned, making it hard to find treatment, especially since many qualified experts are leaving the country.

Embrace expanded its clinic after the explosion and still it has a 60-person-long waiting list. It has provided support for 750 people since the blast. Most are experiencing post-explosion symptoms, depression and anxiety, Atwi said. On Embrace’s helpline, 67 percent of the phone calls since August are from people in emotional distress, and 28 percent had suicidal thoughts.

The blast left mental wounds even in those it didn’t wound physically.

Najla Fadel, 33, was miraculously unscratched when the blast shattered the glass windows of her house, badly injuring her child’s babysitter. In the last months of her pregnancy with her second child, Fadel transported the bleeding woman to the hospital by herself.

She has since struggled with nightmares. She often wakes up, heart pounding, thinking the explosion has happened again.

“I jump at any sound and start looking for shelter,” she says.

The worst, she said, are thunderstorms and the sound of the Israeli warplanes that regularly violate and fly low through Lebanon’s airspace.

“A few nights ago, when planes were roaming above Beirut, I slept in the corridor,” she said. “This way I am halfway from my kids’ room, I can grab them faster and run just in case.”

Fadel saw a therapist for a while. Many others don’t get help.

“There are a lot of people neglecting their mental health or don’t know what to do,” said Souraya Frem, president and co-founder of Cenacle De Lumiere, an organization that after the explosion began offering free mental health support in Beirut.

“People are struggling with poverty, how to make ends meet and so they don’t see mental health as a priority,” Frem said.

From Perth, Australia, where she moved after the blast, Sarah Copland said she has been seeing two therapists to cope with her loss.

In the explosion, a shard of glass tore through the tiny chest of her 2-year-old son, Isaac, ending his short life. That day, she said, her life came to a standstill.

“My last image of my little boy is something a mother should never see,” she said. “That comes into my mind when I least expect it — we are going to do something, and it comes. It is very distressing.”

At the time, Copland was employed by the UN in Beirut. Thousands of miles from Lebanon, the memory haunts her.

“The sight or sound of broken glass gives me anxiety,” she said. “Lying in bed at night I hear the wind against the windows and that really freaks me out. I freeze up because it reminds of the whishing sound as the explosion came through our windows.”


Iraq’s popular forces repel Daesh attack on Jurf al-Sakhar

30 January 2021

Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), better known as Hashd al-Sha’abi, have thwarted an attack launched by the remnants of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group on Jurf al-Sakhar region in the central Babil province.

In a short statement on Saturday night, the communication office of Hashd al-Sha’abi announced that the attack was repelled by the Al-Jazirah Operation Headquarters Command.

Terrorists had earlier attacked a number of high-voltage AC transmission towers in this region.

Jurf al-Sakhar, which is part of the southwestern protective belt of Baghdad, is a strategic region for access and entrance into the holy city of Karbala.

The city was liberated from Daesh terrorists in 2014 in Operation Ashura, which was commanded by Iranian anti-terror commander Lt. General Qassem Soleimani.

In that operation, 40 senior Daesh forces and over 200 Takfiri terrorists were killed, and their plots for 136 bombings were disclosed.

Iraq declared victory over Daesh in December 2017 after a three-year counter-terrorism military campaign.

The terror outfit’s remnants, though, keep staging sporadic attacks across Iraq, attempting to regroup and unleash a new era of violence.

Daesh has intensified its terrorist attacks in Iraq since January 2020, when the United States assassinated General Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of the PMU, along with their companions in a drone strike authorized by former US president Donald Trump near Baghdad International Airport.

In its latest attack, Daesh claimed responsibility for a rare twin explosion that tore through a busy area of central Baghdad on January 21, killing at least 32 people and wounding 110 others.

Later on January 23, at least 11 fighters from Hashd al-Sha’abi were killed in an ambush by Daesh terrorists north of the Iraqi capital.

The terrorists used light weapons and the cover of darkness to target the PMU fighters east of Tikrit, the capital of Iraq’s Saladin province.


Egypt’s current account deficit widens to $2.8 billion in July-Sept

31 January 2021

Egypt’s current account deficit widened to $2.8 billion in the July-September quarter from $1.4 billion in the same quarter of 2019 as the coronavirus pandemic caused tourism revenues to collapse and foreign investment in oil and gas fell.

This “is an expected temporary increase in the (current account) deficit due to travel restrictions brought about by the pandemic,” the central bank said in a statement.

Revenues from tourism plunged to $801 million in July-September from $4.2 billion a year earlier, the central bank said, even after Egypt gradually reopened to international flights in June after stopping most of them in mid-March.

Overall revenues from tourism plunged almost 70 percent in 2020, the tourism ministry said earlier this month.

Net foreign direct investment (FDI) fell 31 percent year-on-year to $1.6 billion, after net investment in the oil and gas sector shrank to a minus $75.3 million from a positive $744.2 million a year earlier.

Meanwhile, remittances from Egyptians working abroad rose 19.6 percent to $8.0 billion during the quarter.

The overall balance of payments registered a deficit of $69.2 million compared with a surplus of $227 million in the same period a year earlier, the central bank said on Sunday.


One killed, several injured in northeast Syria pro-government protest

31 January 2021

Kurdish security forces opened fire on pro-government protesters in northeast Syria on Sunday, killing one person and wounding several others, a monitor and state media said, as tensions rise between the sides.

Kurdish forces control a large part of the northeast of the war-torn country, but regime forces are also present there including in the main regional cities of Hasakeh and Qamishli.

Damascus and the Kurds have mostly coexisted during nearly a decade of conflict, but tensions have risen in recent weeks with both sides accusing the other of restricting goods movements to areas under their control.

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State news agency SANA published images of dozens of men in civilian clothing protesting in Hasakeh on Sunday against an alleged “siege” by Kurdish forces of a government-held part of the city.

Kurdish security forces shot at the crowd, “killing one civilian and wounding four others,” SANA said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on sources inside Syria for its information, put the toll of wounded at three.

“The Asayesh Kurdish police force opened fire, killing one person and wounding three people among the protesters,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said, adding the person killed was a regime policeman.

An Asayesh spokesman declined to respond to an AFP request for comment.

The Observatory says regime forces are limiting access to Kurdish-majority areas under its control in the northern Aleppo province, and imposing hefty fees for supplies going into those areas.

SANA has accused the Kurds of preventing fuel and flour deliveries into Hasakeh, and of surrounding a neighborhood in Qamishli.

Syria’s Kurdish minority built up their own semi-autonomous authorities in the northeast of the country during the civil war, although some state institutions remain.

The Kurds have been a key partner in the US-backed military campaign against ISIS terrorist group.

But when Turkey launched a cross-border operation against them in late 2019, the Kurds were forced to seek help from Damascus and the latter’s ally Russia to stem the attack, leading to regime and Russian forces deploying in the area.

Moscow has been trying to mediate between Damascus and the Kurds in recent weeks, the Observatory says.

Syria’s war has killed more than 387,000 people and displaced millions from their homes since starting in 2011 with a deadly crackdown on anti-government protests. Fighting quickly mushroomed into a multi-fronted conflict pulling in extremists and foreign powers.


At least five people killed in car bomb attack in Syria’s Afrin

30 January 2021

At least five people were killed and scores wounded when a car bomb detonated in the northern Syrian town of Afrin on Saturday, the Turkish defense ministry and local civil defense said.

The ministry said in a statement the bomb attack took place in an industrial site at the center of the town and wounded 22 people, blaming the attack on the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia.

There was no immediate comment from the YPG.

Turkey regards the YPG as a terrorist group tied to the PKK inside its own borders, and has staged incursions into Syria in support of Syrian opposition factions to push it from the Turkish frontier.

Ankara now retains a large military presence in the area deploying thousands of troops in the last opposition enclave.

The local civil defense said the death toll due to the bomb stood at six, including children.


Saudis, allies dropped over 3,000 cluster bombs on Yemen since 2015: Official

01 February 2021

The director-general of the Yemen Executive Mine Action Center (YEMAC) has said the Saudi-led coalition has dropped 3,179 cluster bombs on Yemen since the beginning of its aggression against the defenseless Yemeni people in 2015.

Ali Sofra said the civilian casualties of the bombardments, mostly women and children, have exceeded 1,000, and most of them were in agricultural and grazing areas, Iraq’s al-Maloumeh news website reported on Sunday.

Saudi Arabia, accompanied by its allies including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has been leading a war against Yemen since March 2015 with the aim of bringing the former pro-Riyadh government back to power.

The war has also been accompanied by an all-out siege of the impoverished country. It has killed tens of thousands of Yemenis and turned Yemen into the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Back in June 2020, Yemen’s Ministry of Human Rights warned that cluster munitions pose a serious danger to the lives of civilians, especially women and children, if they come in close contact with them.

The ministry added that the Saudi-led coalition has used thousands of cluster bombs on residential areas, leaving many civilians dead or injured.

“According to accurate statistics obtained by the center, there are eight types of cluster bombs that have been used in Yemen, which were made by the United States, Britain, and Brazil,” Sofra said.

The cluster bomb attacks concentrated in nine provinces, namely Sa'ada, Hajjah, the capital Sana'a, Hudaydah, Jawf, Amran, Mahweet, Dhamar and Ta'izz, according to YEMAC’s director.

Acting Minister of Human Rights Ali Al-Dailami also said in remarks on Sunday that the UN impedes cooperation to complete the file of removing the internationally banned cluster bombs.

Al-Dailami said cluster bombs that are used in the war on Yemeni people are part of the internationally prohibited weapons, Yemen Press Agency (YPA) reported.

He also indicated that the Saudi-led coalition countries intentionally bought illegal weapons of unknown sources to escape legal liabilities.

In a tweet early on Monday, Sofra criticized international and human rights organizations for avoiding talking about the fact that there are airstrikes and cluster bombs used against Yemen.

“Any victims of cluster bombs in Yemen are not mentioned in their annual, human rights and humanitarian reports,” he lamented.

The new US administration announced on Wednesday that it has suspended weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which were authorized by former President Donald Trump.

It came a week after President Joe Biden, who has promised to reassess Washington's relationship with Riyadh, was inaugurated.

The announcement was welcomed by Amnesty International, which called on European countries to follow suit and end weapons exports to the two countries involved in the bloody war on Yemen.

“President [Joe] Biden’s decision to freeze arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE represents a welcome relief in an otherwise shameful chapter of history. Almost six years of conflict in Yemen, fueled by irresponsible arms transfers, have left 14 million Yemenis in dire need of humanitarian assistance,” Philippe Nassif, advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International USA, said on Thursday.

On Friday, Italy announced that it had permanently stopped exports of arms to Saudi Arabia and the UAE amid worries over their continued war crimes in Yemen, citing Rome’s commitment to ending the bloodshed in Yemen and protecting human rights

“This is an act that we considered necessary, a clear message of peace coming from our country. For us, the respect of human rights is an unbreakable commitment,” Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said in a statement.


Iraq arrests top Daesh informant in Saladin province

31 January 2021

The Military Intelligence Directorate of the Iraqi Ministry of Defense says a top Daesh informant has been arrested in a suburb of Shirqat town in Saladin province.

According to the Iraqi directorate, the Daesh informant was detained when the Iraqi forces were chasing other remnants of the terrorist group.

The informant was responsible for monitoring the Iraqi security forces’ movements, according to the directorate.

Another Daesh element arrested in Nineveh

The police department of Iraq’s Nineveh province says Iraqi security forces detained the terrorist in an area west of Mosul.

The Takfiri element used to work with Daesh when the city of Mosul was fully controlled by Daesh terrorists.

The rapid reaction force of the police department of Nineveh has also arrested another terrorist in Mosul al-Jadeed region.

End of PMU mission in Anbar

Fighters from Iraq's Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), better known as Hashd al-Sha'abi, have finished their security operation in Anbar province, the PMU announced Sunday in a statement.

It also said the PMU forces managed to secure four regions in the province, and accomplished all the objectives of their mission by destroying several Daesh hideouts and seizing their arms.

Iraq declared victory over Daesh in December 2017 after a three-year counter-terrorism military campaign.

The terror outfit’s remnants, though, keep staging sporadic attacks across Iraq, attempting to regroup and unleash a new era of violence.


11 killed in car bomb explosions in Syria’s Aleppo province

31 January 2021

At least eleven people were killed when two separate car explosions rocked Syria’s northern Aleppo province, a London-based monitoring group reports.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the first attack, which was carried out near a cultural center in the town of Azaz, killed six civilians, including a young girl.

The second incident involved another car bomb targeting a checkpoint of pro-Turkish Free Syrian Army (FSA) militants near the town of al-Bab, killing six militants and wounding four, FSA sources said.

Turkey has been involved militarily in the conflict in Syria since early 2011. It has provided the FSA with military assistance throughout the conflict.

In 2018 and 2019, Turkey launched cross-border military operations in northern Syria with the declared aim of eliminating Syrian Kurdish militants of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara regards as a terrorist organization tied to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Northern Syria has been hit by sporadic bombing attacks, which Turkey usually blames on “terrorists” linked to the PKK.

On Saturday, eight civilians, including four children, lost their lives in another car bomb explosion in the city of Afrin, which Turkish forces and their proxies seized in an operation in January 2018.

According to reports, the Sinaa neighborhood bombing in the city of Afrin on Saturday was so massive that it inflicted huge damage to nearby buildings.

Damascus has repeatedly said the United States, Israel and their allies have been aiding Takfiri terrorist groups across the country to hamper the government’s efforts to restore peace and order.


US-led military convoy targeted in Iraq’s Babil province

31 January 2021

A US-led military coalition's logistics support convoy has been targeted in the central Iraqi province of Babil.

Qasim Al-Jabbarin group claimed responsibility for the attack that targeted the logistics convoy by an improvised explosive device on Sunday.

No casualties or damage were reported in the incident.

The attack came four days after a US military supply convoy was targeted near the Iraqi city of Samarra in the northern province of Salahuddin.

Over the past months, attacks on US convoys in the Arab country have become a regular occurrence and their intensity has been growing.

On December 31, a roadside bomb exploded in the southern province of Basra, targeting a US military coalition's logistics support convoy.

Also on December 10, two separate attacks struck convoys of trucks carrying US logistical equipment. The first occurred on a highway near Samawah. The second attack took place in the Latifiya region on the outskirts of Baghdad. 

The attacks come amid rising anti-US sentiment, which has intensified since last year's assassination by the US of senior Iranian and Iraqi anti-terror commanders in Baghdad.

General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and his Iraqi trenchmate Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of the Popular Mobilization Units, were targeted along with their companions on January 3 last year in a terror drone strike authorized by former US president Donald Trump near Baghdad International Airport.

Two days after the attack, Iraqi lawmakers approved a bill that requires the government to end the presence of all foreign military forces in the country.

Currently, there are approximately 3,000 American troops in Iraq.


US-backed SDF militants shoot dead civilian, injure others in northeastern Syria

31 January 2021

US-backed SDF militants have shot dead a protester and injured several others in Syria’s northeastern province of Hasakah amid boiling public outrage over deteriorating security conditions in areas held by the proxies.

Syria’s official news agency SANA, citing local sources, said the attack came after a group of people staged a demonstration in the provincial capital city of Hasakh on Sunday to voice their resentment over the arbitrary practices of SDF militants.

The US-backed militants then intervened and opened fire at the protesters, leaving a number of them injured. A demonstrator later succumbed to his serious gunshot wounds, the report said.

Elsewhere in al-Suwar town of the neighboring Dayr al-Zawr province, a similar rally was staged to condemn the abduction of several young local citizens by SDF militants.

Security conditions have been deteriorating in the SDF-controlled areas in Hasakah, Dayr al-Zawr and Raqqah provinces.

Local Syrians complain that the SDF’s constant raids have generated a state of frustration and instability, severely affecting their businesses and livelihood.

Residents also accuse the US-sponsored militants of stealing crude oil and refusing to spend money on service sectors.

Local councils affiliated with the SDF further stand accused of financial corruption.



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