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Military Veterans Have Written To President to Seek Action on A Non-Existent ‘Muslim Regiment’ Lie

New Age Islam News Bureau

15 October 2020


Representational Photo: Veterans write to Prez, seek action against fake news on social media about non-existent 'Muslim Regiment'


• After Ad Row, Tanishq Store Made To Put Out Apology

• 'Black Day': China, Pakistan's Election to UN Rights Body Draws Ire

• Thousands Flee Taliban Onslaught in Southern Afghanistan

• Saudi Arabia G20 Interfaith Forum Unites Muslim, Jewish, Christian Leaders

• US Elections: Group of 33 Former Ambassadors To Middle East Endorse Biden Over Trump

• ‘New Era’ Begins In US-Saudi Relationship, Pompeo Tells Saudi Arabian FM

• Palestinian Islamic Jihad Threatens Conflict over Palestinian Prisoner

• Chinese and Iranian Cooperation Thwart US ‘Maximum Pressure’ Campaigns



• Military Veterans Have Written To President to Seek Action on A Non-Existent ‘Muslim Regiment’ Lie

• After Ad Row, Tanishq Store Made To Put Out Apology

• India, Pakistan in war of words over Kashmir, terror at Commonwealth meet

• Hold Pakistan accountable for the ongoing turmoil in Kashmir: Member of European Parliament

• PM Modi pays tribute to former president Kalam

• APJ Abdul Kalam will always remain an inspiration to every Indian: Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu

• Two terrorists slain in Shopian encounter

• Farooq calls Gupkar Declaration meeting on October 15, Mehbooba to attend



• 'Black Day': China, Pakistan's Election to UN Rights Body Draws Ire

• Govt convenes NA, Senate sessions amid rising political heat

• Fazl confident to oust govt till year’s end


South Asia

• Thousands Flee Taliban Onslaught in Southern Afghanistan

• Top Member of ‘Taliban’s Quetta Shura’ Killed in NDSF Ambush

• Rohingya in Bangladesh protest killings in Myanmar

• Peace Delegations Hold General Meeting in Doha

• Military helicopters collide in Afghanistan's Helmand during operation against Taliban


Arab world

• Saudi Arabia G20 Interfaith Forum Unites Muslim, Jewish, Christian Leaders

• Hezbollah Member: US Not Able to Bar Resistance Membership in Lebanese Cabinet

• Lebanese Forces party threatens to sue pro-Hezbollah newspaper

• Militants delivered chlorine barrels to White Helmets for false flag gas attack in Syria’s Idlib: Russia

• Lebanon, Israel hold 1st round of indirect demarcation talks

• Bahrain says will prosecute social media activists condemning Israel normalization


North America

• US Elections: Group of 33 Former Ambassadors To Middle East Endorse Biden Over Trump

• ‘New Era’ Begins In US-Saudi Relationship, Pompeo Tells Saudi Arabian FM

• Pakistan is not isolated, says UN envoy

• Saudi Arabia’s FM heads to Washington for first US-Saudi Strategic Dialogue talks

• US slams Turkey for ‘calculated provocation’ after survey vessel sent near Greece

• US Navy SEAL who killed bin Laden reacts to Trump suggestion it was a hoax

• US' cruel sanctions on Iran amount to collective punishment of millions of innocent lives: New York Times



• Palestinian Islamic Jihad Threatens Conflict over Palestinian Prisoner

• CBI Governor Hopes for Transfer of Multibillion-Dollar Iranian Assets from Iraq

• Deputy Judiciary Chief: Iranian Nation Not to Forgive Europeans’ Collaboration with US Sanctions

• Ansarullah releases two US prisoners in exchange for 200 Yemenis held in Oman

• Turkey trains 120 fighters in Libya, again denies sending troops to battle Armenia

• After normalization, expanding settlements: Israel approves more units


Southeast Asia

• Chinese and Iranian Cooperation Thwart US ‘Maximum Pressure’ Campaigns

• PAS Assemblyman Calls for Action against Illegally Built Non-Muslim Places Of Worship in Penang

• CMCO: Morning markets in Selangor allowed to operate, says MB

• Umno threatens to pull out of Malaysia's ruling alliance PN unless it gets new terms



• Sudan: Attorney General Calls for Removing Sudan From Terrorism List

• Suspected jihadists kill 25 in central Mali attacks

• Somali Islamist Insurgents Pile up Cash, Says U.N. Report

• UN humanitarian chief: Sahel is very close to tipping point

• Boko Haram Terrorists Kill 14 Farmers in Borno

• Somalia army kills 11 militants in operation in southern region



• Turkish Arms Sales to Azerbaijan Surged Before Nagorno-Karabakh Fighting

• Turkey vows to give Greece ‘answer it deserves on the ground’ in energy dispute

• Russia’s defense minister calls on Armenia, Azerbaijan to respect ceasefire

• Fighting between Azerbaijan, Armenian forces spreading coronavirus: WHO

• Germany warns Turkey against ‘provocation’ in Mediterranean

• Turkish Defector Says He Was Ordered to Kill Politician in Austria

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



 Military Veterans Have Written To President to Seek Action on A Non-Existent ‘Muslim Regiment’ Lie

Oct 15, 2020


Representational Photo: Veterans write to Prez, seek action against fake news on social media about non-existent 'Muslim Regiment'


NEW DELHI: A large number of military veterans have written to President Ram Nath Kovind requesting stern action against those spreading “fake news” on social media about a non-existent “Muslim Regiment” of the Indian Army refusing to fight in the 1965 war against Pakistan.

India has never had any Muslim regiment and such “blatant falsehoods”, which began in May 2013, are still being insidiously spread on the social media at a time when the country is confronted with military tensions with both Pakistan and China, said the veterans.

Signed by 120 veterans, including former Navy chief Admiral L Ramdas and 24 two and three-star Generals from the armed forces, the letter refers to a blog written in TOI.

‘Brig Usman was seniormost officer killed in action in 1948’

The veterans’ letter refers to a blog written in TOI by Lt-General S A Hasnain (retd) that said the disinformation campaign was possibly part of “psy ops” unleashed by Pakistan’s Inter Services Public Relations wing. “We wish to point out that Muslims fighting as part of multiclass regiments in the Indian Army have proved their absolute commitment to the cause of our nation,” said the letter.

It cited the examples of top gallantry medals being awarded to Havildar Abdul Hamid (Param Vir Chakra), Major (later Lt General) Mohammad Zaki and Major Abdul Rafey Khan (Vir Chakras) in the 1965 war, among others.

Even earlier, during the partition in 1947, Brigadier Mohammad Usman chose to remain in the Indian Army when his Baluch Regiment went to Pakistan despite being approached by Jinnah. “Brig Usman fought the Pakistani invasion in Kashmir and was the seniormost officer killed in action in July 1948. He was posthumously awarded Mahavir Chakra for his gallantry,” it added.

Underlining the need to protect the apolitical and secular ethos of the Indian armed forces, the letter said there should be “firm and immediate action” in the matter, with a warning also being issued to social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. “Issue immediate instructions also to all state governments that the generation of false and seditious messages in social media should be acted upon with alacrity so as to not jeopardie national security.”

“Social media posts like the ‘Muslim Regiment’ put in the public domain are an insidious attack on the morale of our armed forces. It generates doubt in the public mind that if Muslim soldiers cannot be trusted, then other Muslims too are no different. It exacerbates mistrust and hate between communities,” it added.


After Ad Row, Tanishq Store Made To Put Out Apology

Oct 15, 2020


The advertisement in question, for Tanishq’s new collection called Ekatvam (which means oneness), showed a Muslim family organising a baby shower for their Hindu daughter-in-law.


A Tanishq jewellery store in Gandhidham town in Gujarat’s Kutch district put up a note apologising for a recent advertisement featuring a Muslim woman with a Hindu daughter-in-law, police said on Wednesday.

The police statement came after TV reports said a group of people angry with the advertisement barged into the store and threatened the manager. The store owner and the police, however, denied the reports.

“The store owner told us that he was not threatened. As demanded by some people, he had put up that apology in Gujarati as Tanishq had issued the same in English at the national level. There is no element of threat or attack involved,” said Mayur Patil, superintendent of police, Kutch-East.

The advertisement in question, for Tanishq’s new collection called Ekatvam (which means oneness), showed a Muslim family organising a baby shower for their Hindu daughter-in-law. The Tanishq jewellery brand is a division of the Titan company, promoted by the Tata Group in collaboration with the Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation.

Some people had asked the store owner to put up the apology in Gujarati so that more people could understand it, police said. The note condemned the advertisement, which has been withdrawn from all platforms after it received a backlash with #BoycottTanishq trending on social media.

“We apologise to the Hindu community of Kutch on the shameful advertisement of Tanishq,” the handwritten note said.

The note was put up on the store’s door on October 12, and has since been removed, police said. The SP said the showroom had received some threatening calls on October 12 regarding the advertisement after which security was stepped up around the showroom. “But there was no attack,” he said.

Later, a person who purportedly asked the showroom manager to apologise, Ramesh Maitra, said he went to the showroom and his intention was not to hurt anyone’s business.

“Yes, I went there to apprise the showroom people about the feelings of the Hindu samaj (society) of the area and asked them to write an apology for the advertisement. I did not intend to hurt the business of anyone,” he said in a video issued on Wednesday.

Photos of the apology note have since been widely shared on social media.

Advertising bodies came out in support of the advertisement featuring the interfaith family.

“Such baseless and irrelevant attack on creative expression is extremely concerning,” The Advertising Club said on Twitter. “The Advertising Club on behalf of the Indian Media and Advertising industry strongly condemns the threatening and targeting of Tanishq and its employees in regards to their latest advertisement on the new jewellery line.”

The Indian chapter of the International Advertising Association said the events that led to the withdrawal of the advertisement were “very unfortunate”, and demanded action from the government against “intimidating behaviour”.

“While we respect the opinion of every individual on subjective matters, these should not descend to illegal threats and anti-social behavior. We appeal to the concerned governments to take a serious view of such intimidating behaviour and take exemplary action where required to ensure that businesses are provided a safe environment to communicate their brand advertising messages,” the association tweeted.


'Black Day': China, Pakistan's Election To UN Rights Body Draws Ire

Oct 14, 2020


File: Pakistan PM Imran Khan (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping


NEW DELHI/WASHINGTON: The re-election of countries like China and Pakistan to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) amid opposition from rights groups drew condemnation from various quarters on Wednesday.

China won a seat at the UNHRC by a small margin on Tuesday while Pakistan secured the highest number of votes among the five candidates from the Asia-Pacific region.

Rebuking the rights body over the election of nations like China, Russia and Cuba, the US said its stand to withdraw from the council two years ago has been vindicated.

"The election of China, Russia, and Cuba to the UN Human Rights Council validates the US' decision to withdraw from the council in 2018 and use other venues to protect and promote universal human rights. At UNGA this year, we did just that," US secretary of state Mike Pompeo tweeted.

The election of China, Russia, and Cuba to the UN Human Rights Council validates the U.S. decision to withdraw from…

— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) 1602619538000

Pompeo said that America's commitment to human rights is far more than just words.

"We have identified and punished human rights abusers in Xinjiang, Myanmar, Iran and elsewhere, and call for all nations to take this moment to recommit to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)," he said.

U.S. commitment to human rights is far more than just words. We have identified and punished human rights abusers i…

— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) 1602619538000

Several rights groups and activists, too, strongly opposed the election of both China and Pakistan due to their abysmal human rights records.

Hillel Neuer, a Geneva-based international lawyer on human rights and executive director of United Nations Watch, condemned the election of the four countries and called it a "black day" for human rights.

"Today is a black day for human rights - UN's newest world judges on human rights include: Pakistan - persecutes Christians, Hindus, Ahmadis. China - herded one million Uyghurs into camps. Russia - poisons dissidents. Cuba - police state. The inmates are running the asylum."

U.N. Human Rights Council members today include: Saudi Arabia🇵🇰 Pakistan🇸🇴 Somalia 🇳🇬 Nigeria🇶🇦 Qatar🇪🇬 Egy…

— Hillel Neuer (@HillelNeuer) 1571855152000

Today is a black day for human rights—U.N.'s newest world judges on human rights include: Pakistan - persecutes…

— Hillel Neuer (@HillelNeuer) 1602627065000

India's top foreign policy expert Brahma Chellany tweeted, "China, despite incarcerating more than a million Muslims, unleashing harsh repression in Tibet and killing detainees to harvest their organs for transplant, wins a UN Human Rights Council seat. It secures 30 votes less than its proxy, Pakistan. The Council is becoming irrelevant."

China, despite incarcerating more than a million Muslims, unleashing harsh repression in Tibet and killing detainee…

— Brahma Chellaney (@Chellaney) 1602654469000

Questioning the rights body, social media influencers Surendra Poonia said, "How come your organization is not able to see atrocities on minorities in Pakistan and torture camps in China where Uighur Muslims are tortured? It is like a brutal killer getting awarded for non-violence."


Amjad Ayub Mirza, an activist from Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), said that election of the "world's worst human rights abusers" to the UN body will damage its credibility.

"World's worst human rights abusers set to be elected to the board of the UN Human Rights Council. Countries include Pakistan, China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia. This will seriously damage the credibility of the organization," Amjad Ayub Mirza tweeted on Wednesday.

Last week, a coalition of human rights groups from Europe, the United States and Canada had called on UN member states to oppose the election China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Pakistan and Uzbekistan, saying their human rights records make them “unqualified.”

According to the list of Human Rights Priority Countries published in 'The 2019 Foreign and Commonwealth Office Report' titled 'Human Rights and Democracy' by the British Government's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), there were serious human rights concerns and violations in Pakistan in 2019, including restrictions on civic space and freedom of expression, intolerance and direct and open discrimination towards minorities communities.

Besides Pakistan, several reports have also been raised concerns over prevalent human rights violations in China.

"China continued to place restrictions on the expression of religious belief, ethnic minorities, the media and wider freedom of expression, as well as detaining and harassing human rights defenders, and restricting the space for civil society to operate. The authorities' use of arbitrary detention continued, as did a lack of judicial transparency and due process, particularly in cases deemed 'politically sensitive'. In Xinjiang, credible estimates indicate that over 1 million Uighurs and other ethnic minorities have been extrajudicially detained in internment camps across the region," the report said.


Thousands flee Taliban onslaught in southern Afghanistan

Oct 14, 2020

LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan: Tens of thousands of people in southern Afghanistan have fled their homes following days of heavy fighting between the Taliban and security forces, officials said Wednesday, as violence continues to soar despite ongoing peace talks.

Taliban militants launched a series of attacks on the city of Lashkar Gah in restive Helmand province on Sunday night, prompting the US to call in air strikes to defend Afghan forces.

The fighting triggered an exodus by local residents who crammed onto motorcycles, taxis and buses.

"More than 5,100 families or 30,000 people... have fled the fighting so far," Sayed Mohammad Ramin, director of the refugees department in Helmand, told AFP.

"Some families are still living in the open in the streets in Lashkar Gah, we don't have tents to give them."

Local resident Hekmatullah said he was forced to flee after a mortar hit his neighbour's house, killing two women.

"The fighting was so intense that I did not have time to take any extra clothes. I only took my family," said Attaullah Afghan, a farmer who fled with his family of 12.

Fighting was ongoing in at least four districts on Wednesday, Afghan officials said, adding that security forces have repelled repeated Taliban assaults in the area.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said thousands had fled and called on Taliban fighters and security forces "to take all feasible measures to protect civilians, inc. safe paths for those wishing to leave" the area.

A collision between two helicopters early on Wednesday in Helmand's Nawa district also killed at least nine people, according to Omar Zhwak, a spokesperson for the provincial governor.

The defence ministry said they were investigating the incident.

Helmand -- a Taliban stronghold -- is where international forces fought some of the bloodiest campaigns of Afghanistan's 19-year war.

Under a deal the Taliban signed with Washington in February, the insurgents are not supposed to hit urban areas and are meant to keep violence down.

The US committed to pulling all foreign troops from the country by next May in return for Taliban security pledges and an agreement to begin peace talks with the Afghan government in Qatar.

Talks began last month between the Taliban and Afghan government in Doha but appear to be stalled as the two sides have struggled to establish a basic framework for negotiations.


Saudi Arabia G20 Interfaith Forum Unites Muslim, Jewish, Christian Leaders

13 October 2020

Saudi Arabia is presiding over a virtual global interfaith forum that began on Tuesday, with participation from Muslim clerics, Jewish rabbis, Christian priests and others religious figures.

The Kingdom is hosting the online event as part of its presidency this year of the Group of 20 leading rich and developing nations.

Faisal bin Muaammar, who heads the Saudi-funded International Dialogue Center organizing the five-day forum, told The Associated Press the purpose of the event is to enhance relationships among different faiths.

“We are talking about a relationship between religions, between Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and Hindus. The dialogue has no political agenda at all, or a political direction in terms of political conversations or negotiations,” he said.

Still, he said interfaith forums like this can help build bridges between people and countries.

“If it is used for the right reasons, the input of religious leaders or religious parties is excellent for any peace process in the world,” he said.

The event had been envisioned to be held in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the forum is being held virtually like other high-profile G-20 events hosted by Saudi Arabia.

Speakers at Tuesday’s opening session included the Saudi religious affairs minister, the secretary general of the Saudi-based Muslim World League, the grand mufti of Egypt, archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and ecumenical patriarch, the president of the Conference of European Rabbis, and UN representatives.


US elections: Group of 33 former ambassadors to Middle East endorse Biden over Trump

Joseph Haboush

13 October 2020

A group of 33 former US ambassadors recently penned an endorsement of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, according to the letter seen by Al Arabiya English.

The list also includes several Middle East experts and analysts based in the US. Claiming that the United States has “lost the trust and friendship of many countries, alienated close allies, emboldened adversaries,” the signatories said they felt confident Biden would reverse this.

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In the letter, the main issues touched on involved Lebanon, Palestine and Israel.

Biden, according to the letter, would reinstate aid halted under President Donald Trump to the Palestinian people.

“It is for these reasons among many others that we believe that Joe Biden has the integrity, knowledge, and understanding to initiate and support policies that protect America’s interest and security,” the letter read.

A majority of the 33 ambassadors were appointed by former Presidents Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, who are Democrats. Daniel Benaim, the former Middle East Advisor to VP Biden, was also one of the supporters.

Robert Ford and Ryan Crocker were among the most notable diplomats, considered closer to the Republican Party, to sign and endorse Biden.

Read more: After US elections, there will be little change in Middle East policy: Experts

Several were appointed by former President George W. Bush or served under the Republican president’s term.

Trump has taken an aggressive approach toward Iran, withdrawing from the Iran deal engineered by Obama and his team.

Washington says the maximum-pressure campaign has drained the Iranian regime of resources previously used to fund militias and proxies worldwide.

Biden and the Democrats have openly stated their willingness to re-enter the Iran deal. However, the recent snapback mechanism that was used by the Trump administration will make it difficult to undo economic sanctions imposed on Tehran.

Democrats also believe the Trump administration has been biased in favor of Israel when dealing with the Arab-Israeli conflict.

However, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain recently signed normalization deals with Tel Aviv and more Arab countries are expected to follow suit in the near future.

Under the deal dubbed the “Abraham Accords,” Israel halted its annexation of parts of the West Bank and Gaza.


‘New era’ begins in US-Saudi relationship, Pompeo tells Saudi Arabian FM

Joseph Haboush and Tamara Abueish

14 October 2020

The US-Saudi Strategic Dialogue that kicked off Wednesday in Washington marks a new era in ties between the United States and Saudi Arabia, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

“This Strategic Dialogue between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that Prince Faisal and I launched today marks a new era in our relationship,” the US diplomat said during a joint news conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan.

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Both diplomats were speaking after the first meeting between US and Saudi officials at the inaugural dialogue.

“Our conversations this morning reflected a mutual willingness to grow not only our security and economic ties, but our whole partnership,” Pompeo said.

He revealed that the US was in talks to acquire 26 acres in Riyadh for a new US embassy.

Discussions also touched on regional security, including Iran’s malign behaviour, which Pompeo said was threatening the Kingdom’s security and was disrupting global commerce.

“Today we reaffirmed our mutual commitment to countering Iranian malign activity, and the threat it poses to regional security and prosperity,” Pompeo said. He added that the US supported “a robust program of arm sales to Saudi Arabia, a line of effort that helps the Kingdom protect its citizens and sustains American jobs.”

For his part, Prince Faisal condemned Iran’s “continuing destabilizing behaviour,” citing its financial and material support to terrorist groups, including the Houthis in Yemen.

He cited the more than 300 Iranian-made ballistic missiles and drones fired by the Houthis towards the Kingdom. “Their development of their nuclear program, ballistic missiles, and their malign activities represent a grave danger to the region and the world,” Prince Faisal said.

The Saudi FM reiterated the Kingdom’s support for a “comprehensive political solution in Yemen.”

Prince Faisal warned of an environment catastrophe that “will irreparably damage Yemen’s coastline and marine life in the region.” He was referring to the FSO Safer, an aging oil tanker, on the Red Sea which the Houthis have repeatedly refused full access to.

Meanwhile, Pompeo urged Saudi Arabia to consider normalizing relations with Israel, while thanking the Kingdom for “assistance they’ve had in the success of the Abraham Accords so far.”

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed peace deals with Israel last month in a US-brokered deal at the White House.

For his part, Prince Faisal said the Strategic Dialogues comes at “a very important time.”

“Our strong partnership is vital in confronting the forces of extremism and terrorism that threaten our security and prosperity,” he said.


Palestinian Islamic Jihad threatens conflict over Palestinian prisoner


October 13, 2020

In a video published by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) on Oct. 10, the Iran-backed militant faction threatened Israel with conflict if Maher al-Akhras, a PIJ operative in administrative detention, were to die in the custody of Israeli authorities.

The threat from PIJ and other militant factions in the Gaza Strip, came after the deterioration of Maher al-Akhras’ health due to a hunger strike he began more than 75 days ago in protest of his administrative detention.

Administrative detention is a policy employed by the Israeli government that allows it to detain an individual suspected of being involved in terrorist activity without being formally charged of a crime or standing trial.

According to an Al-Jazeera article, al-Akhras was detained in July in the West Bank by the Shin Bet based on evidence that he posed a “danger to public safety” due to his membership in Saraya al-Quds, the military wing of PIJ.

In the publication featuring some of PIJ’s arsenal and various images of destroyed Israeli homes, Ziad Nakhala, the Secretary-General of PIJ, called al-Akhras a “mujahid” — an acknowledgement of al-Akhras’ membership in Saraya al-Quds.

Furthermore, Nakahala warned Israel that it bears responsibility for the well-being of al-Akhras.

“We hold the enemy responsible for the life of each of the prisoners especially for the mujahid brother Maher al-Akhras,” Nakhala stated.

Additionally, in an interview with militants from Saraya al-Quds, another warning of consequences was made if al-Akhras were to be “martyred”.

“The Zionist enemy bears full responsibility for any Palestinian prisoner and they must expect any reaction that will come from the Palestinian resistance in the event that the capitve Maher al-Akhras is martyred. We are always ready and awaiting the orders of the leadership in the event of a decision to declare war,” the militant stated.

The act of PIJ members launching hunger strikes has precedence. Notably, a PIJ leader in the West Bank, Khader Adnan Ghaith, undertook a 56-day hunger strike in 2015 to protest his administrative detention. He was eventually released by Israeli authorities without being charged.

The threat of conflict from PIJ over the well-being of a prisoner has rarely resulted in conflict. It is not in the interest of Israel to allow the hunger striker to die due to legal ramifications and the threat of sparking a conflict.

Unless al-Akhras is formally charged with a crime in the coming days or weeks, it is doubtful he will remain in administrative detention much longer given the history of successful hunger strikes like the case of Khader Adnan Ghaith.

Joe Truzman is a contributor to FDD's Long War Journal.


Chinese and Iranian cooperation thwart US ‘maximum pressure’ campaigns

13 October 2020

By Dennis Etler

The meeting of Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in the Chinese province of Yunnan bodes well for the future of Sino-Iranian relations.

Since the end of WW2 both China and Iran have been targets of Western colonialism and imperialism. The US hegemonists have sought to destabilize both nations by encircling them with military bases, promoting political subversion and engaging in economic warfare. It is only natural that Iran and China see themselves as comrades-in-arms in their struggle to protect their sovereignty and independence.

Under the Trump Administration, both have suffered from maximum pressure campaigns meant to force them to concede to Washington’s demands. Trump’s tactics have scuttled international agreements and contravene international norms. US actions have been condemned by peace and freedom-loving people and nations all over the world.

Both Iran and China share a common experience of resistance to foreign domination that has not only strengthened their resolve but fortified their friendship. It is in their common interest to develop their ties in a comprehensive and constructive manner. The meeting in Yunnan is a major step in that direction.

The forthcoming November elections in the US will have a significant impact on both Sino-American and Iranian-American relations. A Trump win may signal a continuation of the current policies toward both. Neither Iran nor China can put any trust in what Trump or his representatives say as they have constantly gone back on their word. The only sound policy is to prepare for the worse when dealing with them.

If the Democrats retake the White House there is a greater prospect of a return to the policies of the previous Obama administration. American tactics may change but the strategic goal of containing Iranian and Chinese influence, both regionally and globally, will remain the same.

Being ancient and proud civilizations that have made sterling contributions to human progress throughout the centuries, it is no wonder that the two nations share a common bond of friendship and support each other's efforts for national rejuvenation and a multipolar world.

The two countries are united by mutual respect and shared admiration for each other's fine cultural traditions and a common desire for peace, development, and security. It is on this firm foundation that Sino-Iranian ties will continue to grow in strength and flourish over the coming decades.

*Dennis Etler is an American political analyst who has a decades-long interest in international affairs. He’s a former professor of Anthropology at Cabrillo College in Aptos, California.





India, Pakistan in war of words over Kashmir, terror at Commonwealth meet

Oct 14, 2020

India on Wednesday criticised Pakistan for raising issues such as Kashmir at the virtual Commonwealth foreign ministers’ meeting, saying it is a “globally acknowledged promoter of state-sponsored terrorism” that masquerades as a victim of the menace.

The remarks were part of a statement delivered by Vikas Swarup, secretary (West) in the external affairs ministry, who participated in the meeting on behalf of external affairs minister S Jaishankar.

Both countries didn’t name each other in their respective statements though it was clear who they were referring to. Pakistan raised the issue of India’s alleged sponsorship of terror activities aimed against Islamabad, and described Jammu and Kashmir as a “disputed territory”.

Swarup said it was unfortunate that the Commonwealth meeting was “misused by one of our South Asian member states to pursue its own bigoted, ill-conceived, narrow and unilateral agenda on a multilateral platform”.

He added, “When we heard them rant about a South Asian state, we were left wondering why it was describing itself? And not surprisingly it came from a globally acknowledged promoter of state-sponsored terrorism masquerading as an alleged victim of the same.”

In his speech, Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said, “While the world remains preoccupied with pandemic, a state in South Asia is targeting its religious minority groups in order to foment division and hatred… It has transgressed rights and freedoms of millions and fanned hyper nationalism to engineer illegal demographic change in a disputed territory and sowed racial tensions.”

Swarup accused Pakistan of bringing “genocide to South Asia 39 years back, when it killed its own people”, and said: “This is also the same country that has the dubious distinction of becoming synonymous with the phrase ‘epicentre of terrorism’ and hosting the largest number of terrorists proscribed by the United Nations.”

Swarup said the “only dispute left” in Kashmir, which Pakistan described as a “disputed territory”, is “its own illegal occupation of certain parts, which sooner or later, it would have to vacate”.

“For such a country to hypocritically preach about religious minority groups elsewhere, while trampling upon the rights of its own indigenous minorities, was indeed most regrettable, and a blatant misuse of this august platform,” he added.

Swarup also spoke of India’s role in helping other countries counter the Covid-19 pandemic, saying: “As we move towards development of a Covid-19 vaccine, India (which accounts for 60% of global vaccine production) has already committed its vaccine production and delivery capacity to help the world in fighting this crisis.”

In keeping with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s commitment at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in 2018, India has opened a “Commonwealth Sub Window” of $50 Million to provide grants to member states for projects related to SDG implementation and climate change.

In its first year of existence, this fund has approved 11 projects in nine Commonwealth countries, including the development of a climate early warning system in seven Pacific Island countries.

India has also more than doubled its support to the Commonwealth Small States Offices Program in New York, from $100,000 to $250,000, and Geneva, from $80,000 to $150,000, to support the engagement of small island developing states with global bodies such as the UN and WTO, Swarup said.


Hold Pakistan accountable for the ongoing turmoil in Kashmir: Member of European Parliament

Oct 14, 2020

BRUSSELS: Talking about the role of Islamabad in "illegally" occupying a part of Kashmir and dethroning its erstwhile ruler Maharaja Hari Singh, Member of European Parliament Fulvio Martusciello has urged the international community to hold Pakistan accountable for the ongoing turmoil in the valley.

In an opinion piece for EU-Chronicle on Wednesday, Martusciello called out Pakistan's attempt to distort history by observing October 26 as a "Black Day" to commemorate the war fought in Kashmir in 1947-48.

Calling out Islamabad's deceptive ways, he said that on one hand, Pakistan remembers its losses with great pain on its Black Day, on the other, it doesn't remember the "thousands of lives taken during their ethnic cleansing persecution during that invasion of Kashmir, wherein one town alone, Baramula, 14,000 Kashmiri Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs were slaughtered."

Pakistan is a country, which laments only its failures, he added.

He also wrote, "Under directions of the political leadership, Pakistan's military invaded and illegally occupied Kashmir and dethroned ruler Hari Singh in order to annex Kashmir. The move was part of its grand design to enhance its power, territory, and influence in the region - Pakistan's political leadership and Pakistan's military failed."

He urged the international community to recognise that the Jammu and Kashmir issue has been concocted by Pakistan for its own gains. "Islamabad must be held accountable for the ongoing turmoil inflicted in Kashmir," he said.

He even questioned the citizens of Pakistan who "do not deplore the rape of Kashmiri women and girls, nor the horrors and atrocities inflicted by the Pakistani military and its tribesman on innocent Kashmiri citizens". "And Pakistanis do not regret the illegal activities of their government or military..., nor the nihilism they imposed in (Pakistan-occupied) Kashmir," Martusciello went on to write.

He further wrote, "The people of Jammu and Kashmir have been mired in campaigns of disinformation and deception by Pakistan for decades, and now the youth need to know the truth to be empowered to follow their own destinies..."

Martusciello also talked about a former Pakistani Army General who made some revelation in a book regarding the strategy implemented by its military under the direction of the political leadership.

According to the European parliamentarian, (Rtd) Major General Akbar Khan had described the desperation and machinations of the Pakistani political establishment to obtain the Kashmir region.

"Akbar Khan confirms how intimidation and threats of the Pakistan regime forced the ruler of Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh, to be left with no option but to ask for protection and support from the Indian government - this request then led to the accession of Kashmir to become a part of India under the internationally recognised agreement, The Instrument of Accession, which was accepted under the provisions of the Indian Independence Act, 1947," he said.

"I stand by the people of Kashmir and laud their resolve to oppose relentless Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in the region," he finally said.


PM Modi pays tribute to former president Kalam

Oct 15, 2020

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday paid tributes to A P J Abdul Kalam, saying India can never forget his indelible contribution towards national development, be it as a scientist or the country's president.

Kalam served as the 11th president of India between 2002-07 and earned the respect and admiration of people and political parties across the spectrum for his simple living and non-partisan conduct.

He is also credited with opening the doors of the Rashtrapati Bhavan to the masses and came to be affectionately called the 'People's President'.

Tributes to Dr. Kalam on his Jayanti. India can never forget his indelible contribution towards national developmen…

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 1602732002000

He continued with his quest to guide and inspire the new generation with his speaking tours across the country after his term was over.

On his 89th birth anniversary, Modi tweeted, "Tributes to Dr. Kalam on his Jayanti. India can never forget his indelible contribution towards national development, be it as a scientist and as the President of India. His life journey gives strength to millions."

The prime minister also tagged a short clip of his laudatory references to Kalam in past.

Kalam, who died in 2015, also earned the sobriquet 'Missile Man of India' for his role in the development of India's missile programmes.


APJ Abdul Kalam will always remain an inspiration to every Indian: Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu

Oct 15, 2020

NEW DELHI: Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu on Thursday remembered former president APJ Abdul Kalam on his birth anniversary, recalling his words that dreams transform into thoughts and thoughts result in action.

Kalam was born in 1931 in Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu.

Describing Kalam as 'People's President', Naidu said he was an epitome of simplicity and knowledge.

"He made invaluable contribution in strengthening India's defence and space capabilities. He will always remain an inspiration to every Indian," the Vice President secretariat tweeted quoting Naidu.

He made invaluable contribution in strengthening India’s defence & space capabilities. He will always remain an ins…

— Vice President of India (@VPSecretariat) 1602732811000

The Vice President quoted Kalam's words, "Dream, dream, dream. Dreams transform into thoughts and thoughts result in action."

Dream, Dream, Dream. Dreams transform into thoughts and thoughts result in action. - Dr APJ Abdul KalamI pay my h…

— Vice President of India (@VPSecretariat) 1602732673000


Two terrorists slain in Shopian encounter

Oct 14, 2020

SRINAGAR: Two terrorists were killed in an anti-terror operation in Chakura area in south Kashmir’s Shopian district on Wednesday. Their identities and affiliation were yet to be ascertained.

Acting on intelligence inputs about the presence of terrorists in Chakura, a joint team of J&K Police, Army’s 34RR and CRPF’s 178 Bn launched a cordon-and-search operation there. “Once the cordon was laid, the holed-up ultras were cornered from all sides and asked to surrender. The terrorists, however, opened indiscriminate fire at the search party instead, triggering an encounter in which the duo was slain,” said a police spokesperson.

“Their bodies were retrieved from the site of the gun battle afterwards. Incriminating material along with arms and ammunition were also seized from the spot and taken into case records for further investigation into their complicity in other terror crimes,” the spokesperson said.

The last rites of the ultras would be performed after completion of medico-legal formalities including DNA collection. “In case any family claims to be the kin of the slain terrorists, they can come forward for identification at PCR Kashmir Srinagar and participate in the last rites at Handwara,” the spokesperson added


Farooq calls Gupkar Declaration meeting on October 15, Mehbooba to attend

Oct 14, 2020

SRINAGAR: National Conference president Farooq Abdullah and his son, party vice-president Omar Abdullah, called on PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti at her residence on Wednesday and invited her to a meeting of the signatories to the Gupkar Declaration at Dr Abdullah’s residence on Thursday.

Mufti “has kindly accepted Farooq Sb’s invitation” for Thursday afternoon, Omar Abdullah, himself an ex-CM, tweeted.

Mehbooba Mufti had been released late Tuesday might after over 14 months in detention under the J&K Public Safety Act, 1978. The Gupkar Declaration, issued after an all-party meeting on August 4, 2019, a day before the Centre revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and split the state into two Union Territories, resolves to defend J&K’s special status. It was passed by the NC, PDP, Peoples Conference and some smaller parties. The signatories met again on August 22 this year and vowed to fight for the restoration of J&K’s special status as it existed pre-August 5, 2019, saying the measures taken were “spitefully shortsighted” and “grossly unconstitutional”.

Mufti, responding on Twitter to Omar’s message, said, “It was nice of you (Omar) & Farooq sahib to come home. It gave me courage listening to him. I’m sure together we all can change things for the better.”

BJP, meanwhile, said the three ex-CMs were out to “stoke trouble in the Valley”. BJP J&K chief Ravinder Raina claimed the Gupkar Declaration was “anti-national” and “Pakistan-sponsored”. He said the Abdullahs and Mehbooba Mufti have, during a fresh meeting, decided to carry forward the mission of the Gupkar Declaration, which BJP will never allow. “Politicians like the Abdullahs and Mehbooba Mufti are trying to cover up their crimes. Under the garb of the Gupkar Declaration, they are planning to stoke trouble in the valley. BJP wants to make it clear here that whosoever tries to create disorder won’t be left unpunished,” Ravinder Raina warned. Apni Party, too, opposes the declaration.

Mufti’s daughter, Iltija Mufti, said on Wednesday that the government’s decision to free her mother had been unexpected. “I think after I went to the court with a fresh petition the government might have felt a sense of shame and embarrassment and released her,” Iltija said. She had filed a fresh plea in the Supreme Court earlier this month seeking the release of her mother, but the government in its reply had cited the “geopolitical position of Jammu and Kashmir”, “its geographical proximity with Pakistan” and “Mehbooba’s glorifying militant statements” for the continuation of her detention.





Govt convenes NA, Senate sessions amid rising political heat

15 Oct 2020

ISLAMABAD: Amid rising political temperatures in the country and in an apparent move to nullify the opposition’s act of requisitioning the National Assembly session, the government on Wednesday summoned regular sessions of both houses of parliament on Friday (tomorrow).

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) slammed the government’s decision to summon the sessions on a short notice and on the day when the opposition leaders will be attending their first public meeting from the platform of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) in Gujranwala as part of their anti-government campaign.

“The president of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has summoned the session of the National Assembly on Friday, the 16th October, 2020, at 4.30pm in the Parliament House, Islamabad,” says a notification issued by the National Assembly Secretariat.

The Senate Secretariat also issued a similar notification announcing that the president has summoned the session of the upper house of parliament at 10.30am on Friday. The president has summoned the sessions in exercise of powers conferred by Article 54(1) of the Constitution.

The opposition parties had submitted a requisition notice on Oct 5 to discuss a six-point agenda, including the last month’s arrest of Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) president and opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

Sittings called on the day of opposition alliance’s first public meeting in Gujranwala

Besides discussing the arrest of Mr Sharif, the opposition also wanted to discuss the issues of “rising inflation in the country, increasing cases of violence against women, including rape, massive increase in prices of life-saving medicines, simultaneous extortionate rise in electricity prices and increase in circular debt beyond Rs2,300 billion and continuing collapse in Pakistan’s foreign relations endangering national security”.

The requisition notice carried signatures of 125 opposition members.

Speaker Asad Qaiser was bound to summon the NA session by Oct 19, as Article 54(3) of the Constitution states: “On a requisition signed by not less than one-fourth of the total membership of the National Assembly, the Speaker shall summon the National Assembly to meet, at such time and place as he thinks fit, within fourteen days of the receipt of the requisition; and when the Speaker has summoned the Assembly only he may prorogue it.”

Since the government has convened its regular session, the requisition notice submitted by the opposition will now technically have no effect. However, sources in the opposition said they would press the government to take up the agenda which they had submitted with their requisition notice.

According to the tentative parliamentary calendar, the regular session of the National Assembly was due to begin on Oct 5 and it was to continue till Oct 16.

PPP leader and former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf at a news conference slammed the government for summoning the parliament sessions on the day when the opposition parties would be holding their first public meeting. “Is parliament run through deceit?” asked Mr Ashraf, who is also vice president of the PDM.

Lashing out at the government’s economic policies and price hike in the country, Mr Ashraf said the PDM would continue to raise the voice of the masses inside and outside parliament. He said they would not leave parliament and would continue to play the role of a real opposition.

Meanwhile, the PPP also condemned the government’s “crackdown” on the opposition leaders and workers ahead of their Friday’s public meeting in Gujranwala.

PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in a statement condemned the Punjab police “siege” of village Bhagat of party leader Asif Bashir Bhagat in tehsil Phalia of Mandi Bahauddin and warned the regime to desist from such tactics.

The PPP chairman said the PTI regime had gone astray following the announcement of PDM’s movement, adding that such victimisation against the opposition workers won’t stop the regime’s fast-track reverse-counting.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari said registration of cases against the PPP and other PDM workers, arrests and holding entire villages hostages should be stopped forthwith as “the implosion of the castle of sand built through stealing the people’s mandate and selectors’ masonry was now a matter of days”.


Fazl confident to oust govt till year’s end

15 Oct 2020

CHARSADDA: Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman has said that Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) will oust the government by the end of December with the support of people.

Addressing a press conference in Charsadda on Wednesday, he said that opposition parties had kicked off joint movement against the government. “This puppet government will not be allowed to continue by the end of December,” he added.

On this occasion, former provincial minister and leader of Awami National Party Barrister Arshad Abullah announced to join JUI-F.

Terming Prime Minister Imran Khan an agent of international establishment, Mr Rehman said that political parties had joined hands against the ‘selected government’ that was brought to power through bogus elections in 2018.

He alleged that rulers were following the agenda of the international establishment and Pakistan was isolated due to their policies. “Pakistan will be no more a colony of international establishment,” he added.

The JUI-F chief warned the government against taking the situation to point of no return.

He said that PDM would run its movement within the framework of the Constitution. He said that PDM would hold rally in Gujranwala on October 16. He added that rallies were planned in Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar.

Mr Rehman said that selectors should admit their mistake and tender apology for installing incompetent government through manipulated elections. He said that selectors should stop support the government to prove their impartiality.

Expressing concern over the skyrocketing price hike in the country, the JUI-F chief said that middle class had lost purchasing power and people were committing suicide.



South Asia


Top Member of ‘Taliban’s Quetta Shura’ Killed in NDSF Ambush

By Mohammad Haroon Alim

15 Oct 2020

A senior member of the Taliban’s Quetta council, Mullah Abdul Karim, has been killed in an ambush by Afghan security forces in the Jani Khel district of southeastern Paktika province, security officials said.

A spokesman for the Paktika police chief, Shah Mohammad Areen, told the media that Mullah Abdul Karim, a key member of the Taliban’s Quetta council, was ambushed by security forces as he tried to cross the Jumjuma area of Jani Khel in Paktika province.

He added that besides Mullah Abdul Karim’s death, two of his accomplices were also wounded in the ambush, further reporting over the seizure of their carried weapons and ammunition.

The Taliban have not yet commented on the incident.


Rohingya in Bangladesh protest killings in Myanmar

Md. Kamruzzaman  


DHAKA, Bangladesh

Hundreds of Rohingya refugees in southeast Bangladesh held a protest on Wednesday against the killing and torturing of their community members in Myanmar, a Rohingya member told Anadolu Agency.

Holding banners and placards, the refugees at a camp gathered and formed a human chain, demanding an immediate end to the killings and torturing in Myanmar’s Rakhine state .

“Due to restrictions, we did not gather in huge numbers. Some 300 members of us peacefully took part in today’s demonstration just to highlight that we are still being killed in Myanmar,” Ansar Ali, a Rohingya at the camp, told Anadolu Agency.

He said one of his cousins was shot dead by the Myanmar military on Tuesday. “Almost every day the Tatmadaw [Myanmar Army] kill Rohingya in Arakan [Rakhine],” he added,

According to him, hundreds of Rohingya have fled their homes due to the ongoing violence in the Rakhine state.

“Save Rohingya from mass killings. Stop genocide against Rohingya,” a placard in the demonstration read.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International has recently found fresh evidence of “indiscriminate attacks on civilians in western Myanmar,” while Human Rights Watch has warned against “long-term marginalization” of the Rohingya.

Persecuted people

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, pushing the number of persecuted people in Bangladesh above 1.2 million.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, entitled Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience.

As many as 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes burned down, while 113,000 others vandalized, it added.


Peace Delegations Hold General Meeting in Doha

By Mohammad Haroon Alim

15 Oct 2020

For the first time, the Afghan government and the Taliban held a general meeting on Wednesday evening, calling on the contact groups to resolve their differences as soon as possible.

Nader Nadery, a member of the Afghan government’s delegation; Mohammad Naeem, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office, said in a tweet the meeting was also attended by leaders of both delegations and urged contact groups to resolve their differences as soon as possible to start discussing the agenda after agreeing on procedures.

The delegations discussed over contested points, while the groups were instructed to find a solution for breaking the deadlock.

According to reports, one of the suggestions is adding a U.S security council resolution to the talks and US-Taliban deal to be part of the framework.

However the Taliban has reiterated that without considering the US-Taliban deal as the main agreement, intra-Afghan talks will not have any significance.

Both sides have reportedly agreed on 18 out of 20 articles, the deadlock is yet not resolved over the Taliban request:

Negotiations should be under the framework of a US-Taliban deal.

If a dispute emerges, the solution should be sought under Hanafi jurisprudence. 

This meeting has also ended without any outcome.


Military helicopters collide in Afghanistan's Helmand during operation against Taliban

14 October 2020

At least nine people lost their lives after two Afghan military helicopters collided in midair in Afghanistan’s southern province of Helmand.

The incident occurred in the Nawa district of Helmand early on Wednesday, the Afghan Defense Ministry said, according to Afghanistan’s Tolo News.

The helicopters had dropped off Afghan commandos during an operation against the Taliban militant group and were carrying wounded Afghan security personnel when they collided “due to technical issues.”

The operation was reportedly still ongoing.

Heavy clashes have been taking place between Afghan security forces and the Taliban in Helmand over the past four days. Thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes for safety.

Sayed Mohammad Amin, the head of Afghanistan’s refugee and repatriation department, said around 5,100 families had been displaced by the fighting, adding that there was an urgent need for food and shelter.

Helmand is one of the most embattled provinces in southern Afghanistan. More than 80 percent of its territory is controlled by the Taliban.

The militants launched a major offensive in the province on Sunday. They have seized military bases and have been closing in on the provincial capital, Lashkargah.

Afghan forces launch counter-assault in Helmand

Afghan security forces launched a counteroffensive in Helmand on Tuesday.

The Helmand governor’s media office said Afghan Special Forces, aided by strikes from the country’s air force, had managed to take back five checkpoints from the Taliban, killing 23 militants.

Heavy clashes erupted between Afghan security forces and the Taliban on the outskirts of Lashkargah on Monday, prompting the local residents of the Nad-e-Ali District to seek refuge elsewhere.

The fighting also resulted in the destruction of a power substation, causing power cuts in Helmand and Kandahar.

A number of telecommunication networks were also shut down.

Jets and helicopters continued to circle Lashkargah through the night on Monday and on Tuesday, attacking Taliban positions.

The United States military also launched airstrikes against Taliban positions in Helmand over the weekend in support of the Afghan security forces. The fighting came despite a “peace” deal between the two sides.

There have also been reports of intensified fighting in a dozen other provinces of Afghanistan.

‘The Americans are not honest with us’

Afghan Senate members have expressed concern about the situation in Helmand, calling for a reduction in violence there and across the country.

“We will put pressure on the central government to further support the Afghan forces in all provinces, especially Helmand,” the Chairman of the Afghan Senate Fazal Hadi Muslimyar said.

Some senators have also asked for the immediate withdrawal of American forces.

“There is a need for an immediate ceasefire in the country and the withdrawal of international forces, especially Americans,” Senator Anarkali Huaryar said.

“The Americans are not honest with us. On the one hand, they have a security pact with us, and on the other hand, they are trying in a way to impose the current situation on us,” Senator Gulalai Noor Safi said.

The fighting comes as the Afghan government and the Taliban are engaged in talks in the Qatari capital, Doha, in an effort to end nearly two decades of war in the country. The first round of the talks began last month, following the deal between the United States and the Taliban, which was reached also in Doha earlier this year.

Under the deal, Washington promised to pull out all its troops by mid-2021 in return for the Taliban stopping their attacks on US-led foreign forces in Afghanistan.

Official data shows that Taliban bombings and other assaults have increased 70 percent in Afghanistan since the militant group signed the deal with Washington.



Arab world


Hezbollah Member: US Not Able to Bar Resistance Membership in Lebanese Cabinet

Oct 14, 2020

“The resistance stream will not be excluded from the Lebanese cabinet in line with the US goals,” Mahmoud Qamati, the former minister of parliamentary affairs and a senior member of Hezbollah’s political council, was quoted by the Arabic-language al-Ahd news website as saying.

He added that members of the parliament, including Hezbollah members, have been elected by the Lebanese people in a legal and legitimate election based on the constitution.

“The parliament is the representative of people,” Qamati said.

The Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants issued a statement last month had described Hezbollah resistance movement as an “inseparable part” of Lebanon.

“Lebanon stresses its right to resistance to liberate its land and defend its sovereignty,” the ministry said, underlining that Hezbollah resistance movement is “an inseparable part” of Lebanon.


Lebanese Forces party threatens to sue pro-Hezbollah newspaper

Jacob Boswall

14 October 2020

A Christian political party in Lebanon has threatened to sue a major newspaper, long affiliated with Hezbollah, claiming it misconstrued the words of its leader.

The Lebanese Forces, led by Samir Geagea, strongly rejected Al-Akhbar newspaper’s claims that it was preparing for a military confrontation inside Lebanon.

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In an article published Tuesday, Al-Akhbar alleged that Geagea boasted of having 15,000 fighters armed and ready to fight against Hezbollah. The conversation allegedly took place during a dinner with Druze leader Walid Joumblatt.

“I have 15,000 fighters, and we are able to confront [Hezbollah], which is suffering from great weakness due to the situation in Lebanon and the region,” said Geagea, according to the article.

A similar article appeared on the online news platform 180post, attributing the following war-mongering quotation to the Lebanese Forces leader.

“The Lebanese Forces are now stronger than they were under [former leader] Bachir Gemayel … As for Hezbollah, it has become weaker than the Palestine Liberation Organization, led by Yasser Arafat, on the eve of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in June 1982.”

The Lebanese Forces were quick to deny the allegations.

In a statement, the party described the Geagea’s alleged comments as “a malicious attempt to demonize and corrupt the Lebanese Forces by spreading malicious rumors and fabricating false news about armaments, fighting, confrontations and wars.”

According to the statement, the articles had deliberately misconstrued Geagea’s words and that the party leader was merely boasting of his political power and not military strength.

The statement added that the articles attempted to damage relations between the Lebanese Forces and Joumblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party.

The Lebanese Forces will take legal action against both Al-Akhbar and 180post, the statement concluded.


Militants delivered chlorine barrels to White Helmets for false flag gas attack in Syria’s Idlib: Russia

14 October 2020

The Russian Defense Ministry has warned that Takfiri terrorists and the so-called White Helmets group are preparing to carry out a chemical attack in the de-escalation zone of embattled Idlib Province in northwestern Syria and incriminate Syrian army soldiers.

Deputy head of the ministry’s Center for the Reconciliation of Opposing Sides in Syria Rear Admiral Alexander Grinkevich said in a press briefing in Moscow on Tuesday that his center had evidence that Takfiri terrorists were planning to stage a new provocation using chlorine in Sfuhon village, south of the provincial capital city of Idlib.

“The Russian Reconciliation Center has received information that militants of illegal armed groups are preparing a provocation in the southern part of Idlib de-escalation zone to implicate Syrian government forces in using chemical warfare against civilians,” Grinkevich said.

The official said that members of the White Helmets, which calls itself a civil defense group, had arrived in the area and received several barrels of chlorine from the Takfiri militants operating in Idlib.

Back on September 12, the Russian Defense Ministry stated that militants affiliated with the so-called Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) terror group were working to launch a false flag chemical attack in Idlib to incriminate government troops and invent a pretext for possible acts of aggression on the Arab country.

Grinkevich said at the time that the Takfiris were planning to film a fabricated poisoning of civilians in the Jabal al-Zawiya area, located southwest of Idlib city, and subsequently publish the video on social media networks or hand it over to Western and Arab media outlets to create the false notion that Syrian army forces had targeted the region with chemical weapons.

Western governments and their allies have been quick in pointing the finger at Damascus whenever an apparent chemical attack has taken place.

Syria surrendered its stockpile of chemical weapons in 2014 to a joint mission led by the United States and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which oversaw the destruction of the weaponry. It has also consistently denied using chemical weapons.

On April 14, 2018, the US, Britain and France carried out a string of airstrikes against Syria over a suspected chemical weapons attack on the city of Douma, located about 10 kilometers northeast of the capital Damascus.

Washington and its allies blamed Damascus for the Douma attack, an allegation roundly rejected by the Syrian government.


Lebanon, Israel hold 1st round of indirect demarcation talks

14 October 2020

Delegations from Beirut and Tel Aviv have taken part in an opening round of indirect negotiations on the demarcation of Lebanon’s southern maritime border with the occupying entity, and agreed to meet again in two weeks.

They sat down for negotiations at the headquarters of the UN peacekeeping force in the southern Lebanese city of Naqoura on Wednesday.

Hosted by the UN and mediated by the US, the meeting broke up after barely an hour, and the two sides agreed to hold the next round of discussions on October 28.

The four-member Lebanese team is headed by Deputy Chief of Staff of the Lebanese Army for Operations Brigadier General Pilot Bassam Yassin, while the six-member Israeli delegation is led by the director general of the regime’s energy ministry.

According to a statement by the Lebanese army, Beirut’s delegation expressed hope during the session that the dispute with Israel would be settled within a “reasonable time.”

The talks mark a “first step in the thousand-mile march towards the demarcation” of Lebanon’s maritime frontier, he said. “Based on the higher interests of our country, we are looking to achieve a pace of negotiations that would allow us to conclude this dossier within reasonable time.”

Hezbollah, Amal criticize Lebanon’s team

Earlier on Wednesday, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Amal movements expressed their opposition to the makeup of their country’s delegation.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri had previously announced a framework agreement for negotiations with Israel on demarcating the maritime and land borders, saying the demarcation will help Lebanon economically.

Hezbollah and Amal released a joint statement, calling for an immediate reform of the delegation based on Berri’s framework pertaining to the border demarcation to the April 1996 ceasefire understanding with Israel and UN Security Council Resolution 1701.

They said the inclusion of civilian figures in the Lebanese team contradicts the framework agreement, which only allows military officers to attend the periodic meetings on border demarcation.

Hezbollah and Amal “announce their explicit rejection of what happened and consider that it deviates from the framework agreement, harms Lebanon’s stance and supreme interests, transgresses all the nation’s strengths, deals a major blow to its role, resistance and Arab position, and represents a surrender to the Israeli logic which aims at reaching any form of normalization.”

Lebanon is locked in a conflict with Israel over an area in the Mediterranean Sea spanning about 860 square kilometers, known as Zone No. 9, which is rich in oil and gas.

Unlike land borders between, the maritime frontiers have not seen any military clashes.

Lebanon fought off two Israeli wars in 2000 and 2006. On both occasions, battleground contribution by its Hezbollah resistance movement proved an indispensable asset, forcing the Israeli military into a retreat.

Lebanon and the occupying regime are technically at war since the latter has kept the Arab country’s Shebaa Farms under occupation since 1967.

Beirut eyes the issue of delineation of its southern border zone with great sensitivity both due to concerns of Israel’s expansionist attitude and given its plans to engage in oil and gas exploration in its share of the Mediterranean.

Lebanese officials have, time and again, asserted that the limited border talks do not signify “normalization” or “reconciliation” with the occupying regime.

The assertion is aimed at distancing Beirut from a trend of normalization between some regional countries and Tel Aviv, which the United States has been setting the stage for.


Bahrain says will prosecute social media activists condemning Israel normalization

13 October 2020

Bahraini authorities have threatened those who criticize the US-brokered normalization deal with Israel on social media platforms, saying such activists will face prosecution.

The Bahraini Interior Ministry’s so-called General Directorate of Anti-Corruption and Economic and Electronic Crimes said in a statement on Monday that it was monitoring those social media accounts that are working to “defame” Bahrain concerning the peace agreement with Israel.

The ministry alleged that these accounts “spread sedition” and pose a threat to national peace and stability and are run by “fugitives” out of the Persian Gulf state.

It threatened “legal steps” against those who promote their messages.

On September 11, US President Donald Trump announced that Bahrain was following the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in normalizing ties with Israel.

Four days later, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed agreements with Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Bahrain's Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani during an official ceremony hosted by Trump at the White House.

Palestinians, who seek an independent state in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital, have condemned the deals as a betrayal of their cause against Israeli occupation.

The agreements have triggered a wave of anger among the public in Bahrain, where anti-Israel sentiment runs deep. Bahrainis have held several protests in recent weeks in condemnation of the agreement.

Bahrain’s main opposition group, the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, has denounced the deal as an “ultimate betrayal of Islam and Arabs and a departure from the Islamic, Arab and national consensus.”

It also said that the Israel-Bahrain agreement is void of any legitimacy whatsoever.

Meanwhile, a number of Israeli media outlets have reported that the Tel Aviv regime has been operating an interests section in the Bahraini capital city of Manama for more than a decade.

The outlets said Israel had been running the mission in order to “strengthen economic and political measures in the region,” and that the Israeli foreign ministry was planning to establish an embassy in Bahrain.



North America


‘New Era’ Begins In US-Saudi Relationship, Pompeo Tells Saudi Arabian FM

Joseph Haboush and Tamara Abueish

14 October 2020

The US-Saudi Strategic Dialogue that kicked off Wednesday in Washington marks a new era in ties between the United States and Saudi Arabia, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

“This Strategic Dialogue between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that Prince Faisal and I launched today marks a new era in our relationship,” the US diplomat said during a joint news conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan.

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Both diplomats were speaking after the first meeting between US and Saudi officials at the inaugural dialogue.

“Our conversations this morning reflected a mutual willingness to grow not only our security and economic ties, but our whole partnership,” Pompeo said.

He revealed that the US was in talks to acquire 26 acres in Riyadh for a new US embassy.

Discussions also touched on regional security, including Iran’s malign behaviour, which Pompeo said was threatening the Kingdom’s security and was disrupting global commerce.

“Today we reaffirmed our mutual commitment to countering Iranian malign activity, and the threat it poses to regional security and prosperity,” Pompeo said. He added that the US supported “a robust program of arm sales to Saudi Arabia, a line of effort that helps the Kingdom protect its citizens and sustains American jobs.”

For his part, Prince Faisal condemned Iran’s “continuing destabilizing behaviour,” citing its financial and material support to terrorist groups, including the Houthis in Yemen.

He cited the more than 300 Iranian-made ballistic missiles and drones fired by the Houthis towards the Kingdom. “Their development of their nuclear program, ballistic missiles, and their malign activities represent a grave danger to the region and the world,” Prince Faisal said.

The Saudi FM reiterated the Kingdom’s support for a “comprehensive political solution in Yemen.”

Prince Faisal warned of an environment catastrophe that “will irreparably damage Yemen’s coastline and marine life in the region.” He was referring to the FSO Safer, an aging oil tanker, on the Red Sea which the Houthis have repeatedly refused full access to.

Meanwhile, Pompeo urged Saudi Arabia to consider normalizing relations with Israel, while thanking the Kingdom for “assistance they’ve had in the success of the Abraham Accords so far.”

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed peace deals with Israel last month in a US-brokered deal at the White House.

For his part, Prince Faisal said the Strategic Dialogues comes at “a very important time.”

“Our strong partnership is vital in confronting the forces of extremism and terrorism that threaten our security and prosperity,” he said.


Pakistan is not isolated, says UN envoy

Anwar Iqbal

15 Oct 2020

UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan’s re-election to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) with an overwhelming majority refutes the claim that the country has been isolated in the international community, Islamabad’s top UN diplomat said on Wednesday.

Pakistan was re-elected to the UNHRC on Tuesday, securing 169 votes in the 193-member UN General Assembly, higher than any other contestant.

“How can you say that when you get the highest number of votes in the council election,” asked Ambassador Munir Akram while commenting on the claim that Pakistan stood isolated.

“Countries in every region of the world supported us,” said the Pakistani envoy, adding that those who still talked about isolation “must be misguided”.

Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN said that re-election was always more difficult, and the results reaffirmed the “widespread standing and respect” Pakistan enjoyed in the international community. “We got the highest vote, which is a further proof of our international standing,” he said.

Asked what the benefit was of being a member of this council, Mr Akram said that since last year, Pakistan has been able to obtain two major reports on the situation in the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir and several updates as well. And 18 special rapporteurs also have issued a joint statement, criticising various aspects of India’s human rights violations in Kashmir, and against Indian Muslims, he added.

Such reports, he said, brought pressure on India by exposing the worsening human rights situation in the country.

“The council is a central forum for exposing human rights violations and to persuade India to stop those violations,” he added.

Asked if this was the only option available to Pakistan, Ambassador Akram said: “We take the issue to the UN Security Council as well, when major developments take place.” Since last year, Pakistan has raised the issues three times inside the UNSC.

“This builds the pressure on India and shows the reality, which was not revealed before,” he said. “Now, we have launched this campaign, revealing the authoritarian nature of the Indian regime. And this is having an impact on public opinions, including inside the United States.”

Taking a strong position on human rights has also boosted Pakistan’s image because “we are taking positions on issues that have international support”.

The Pakistani diplomat disagreed with the suggestion that the OIC was no longer supporting Pakistan on Kashmir. “The OIC has spoken, regularly, on this issue. And have done so at all levels,” he said.

Asked to explain Pakistan’s future strategy, Ambassador Akram said: “We will continue our campaign of exposing India and highlighting Pakistan’s positive role. We are playing a leadership role on this issue.”


Saudi Arabia’s FM heads to Washington for first US-Saudi Strategic Dialogue talks

Joseph Haboush

13 October 2020

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan will head to Washington this week to begin the first US-Saudi Strategic Dialogue.

The Saudi Arabian foreign minister is set to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday to discuss ways to increase and strengthen bilateral ties between Washington and Riyadh.

The opening talks will also touch on development projects and economic ties.

Prince Faisal and Pompeo will deliver televised remarks after their meeting on Wednesday.

“The dialogue will focus on our shared commitments to the furthering of regional security and prosperity, economic development, and the people-to-people exchanges that have underpinned our bilateral relationship since the seminal meeting between President Roosevelt and King Abdulaziz aboard the USS Quincy 75 years ago,” a statement from Pompeo’s office said.


US slams Turkey for ‘calculated provocation’ after survey vessel sent near Greece

Joseph Haboush

13 October 2020

Washington slammed Ankara on Tuesday for its decision to dispatch once again a Turkish survey vessel into disputed waters with Greece.

“The United States deplores Turkey’s October 11 announcement of renewed Turkish survey activity in areas over which Greece asserts jurisdiction in the Eastern Mediterranean,” State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said.

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After withdrawing the vessel from contested waters to “allow diplomacy” before an EU summit in recent days, at which sanctions against Turkey were discussed, the ship was sent back near a Greek island on Monday.

At the EU summit, it was stated that sanctions could be imposed if Turkey continued operations in the region as soon as December.

Greece said the recent decision to send the Turkish vessel close to Kastellorizo, a Greek island near the Turkish coast, was a “major escalation” and a “direct threat to peace in the region.”

Ortagus said that Turkey’s announcement “unilaterally raises tensions in the region and deliberately complicates the resumption of crucial exploratory talks between our NATO Allies Greece and Turkey.”

She added: “Coercion, threats, intimidation, and military activity will not resolve tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean. We urge Turkey to end this calculated provocation and immediately begin exploratory talks with Greece.”

In the US diatribe, Ortagus said that “unilateral actions” would not build trust and not produce enduring solutions.


US Navy SEAL who killed bin Laden reacts to Trump suggestion it was a hoax

15 October 2020

The US Navy SEAL who says he killed Osama bin Laden has reacted to US President Donald Trump’s suggestion that the operation was a sham.

“Very brave men said goodby to their kids to go kill Osama bin Laden. We were given the order by President Obama. It was not a body double,” Robert O'Neill, who took part in the 2011 raid ordered by former President Barack Obama wrote on Twitter.

Trump had earlier retweeted a QAnon account, which promoted the idea that bin Laden is still alive.

“I just found out that I killed Osama bin Johnson. Drinks are on me, I guess..." said O'Neilll, who is a Trump supporter himself. “I know who I killed, homie. Every time,” he wrote.

The al-Qaeda leader was killed after his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, came under attack by the SEAL Team Six years after the September 11 attacks.

The September 11 attacks, also known as the 9/11 attacks, were a series of strikes in the US which killed nearly 3,000 people and caused about $10 billion in property and infrastructure damage.

US officials assert that the attacks were carried out by al-Qaeda terrorists but many experts have raised questions about the official account, saying it was a false-flag operation and that Bin Laden was just a bogeyman for the US military-industrial complex.

Trump brought up the operation to kill bin Laden in September to attack his 2020 presidential opponent, Joe Biden.

“No one has been more wrong, more often than Biden,” Trump tweeted in September. “He voted FOR the Iraq War, he supported the defense sequester that gutted our military, he opposed the mission to take out Osama bin Laden . . .”


US' cruel sanctions on Iran amount to collective punishment of millions of innocent lives: New York Times

14 October 2020

A leading American newspaper has denounced as "cruel" the ongoing efforts by the administration of US President Donald Trump to pile up sanctions on Iran amid the deadly coronavirus pandemic, saying the imposition of embargoes amounts to collective punishment for tens of millions of innocent Iranians.

An op-ed article by the New York Times published on Tuesday said US efforts to cut Iran off from the rest of the world in the midst of the pandemic were "cruel," as the country is the hardest-hit in the Middle East.

To hermetically seal the Iranian economy off from the rest of the world, the paper said, the hawkish US administration has slapped draconian embargoes on Iran, the latest of which targeted 18 Iranian banks that appear to have been the last financial institutions with international ties left untouched by Treasury Department sanctions.

In its latest move, the US, which usually sanctions Iranian banks under the claim that they help terrorism or the country's peaceful nuclear program, has not even spared the country's Bank Maskan, which specializes in mortgages, and Bank Keshavarzi Iran, which lends to farmers, the paper said.

"This sweepingly broad application of sanctions amounts to collective punishment for tens of millions of innocent Iranians," the newspaper said.

"The new sanctions against these 18 banks are particularly cruel during a pandemic," it added.

Although Trump administration officials insist the sanctions, which will take effect in December, don’t apply to food and medicine and they claim they have provided waivers to companies that want to sell needed supplies to Iran, the article said, the process of getting waivers approved is too "cumbersome and time-consuming" to meet health needs during a pandemic, not to mention the obstacles facing the country in its banking transactions due to the sanctions, which make it difficult for Iran to touch the export revenue it earns.

The paper also criticized the US administration for obstructing a $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to help Iran combat the coronavirus pandemic.

It said that the embargoes have also enraged America's closest allies as the "unilateral and extraterritorial nature of the sanctions" have threatened their companies, thus prompting the countries to refuse to have Washington's back at the UN Security Council in its bid to extend an arms embargo on Iran, which is to expire in days. 

"The United States has been virtually alone on the United Nations Security Council in trying to ratchet up pressure on Iran," the article said, adding, "The more the United States throws its weight around, the more appetite there will be around the world for establishing alternative financial mechanisms that will ultimately deprive Washington of its global clout."

The paper also recommended that American officials stop piling sanctions on Iran during the pandemic, noting the US ' so-called maximum pressure campaign "has not achieved the ultimate goal of forcing the Iranian government to capitulate to Washington."

As Barbara Slavin, director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council, says the American “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran is “sadism masquerading as foreign policy," it said.

Since pulling out of a historic multilateral deal with Iran and other major powers in 2018, the US has been piling up pressure on Iran through reinstating of the sanctions that had been lifted under the agreement and adding new sanctions.

Washington has been prodding even its allies into following suit in cutting their trade with Iran, and even threatening them with secondary sanctions.

Despite its concerted efforts, the Trump administration failed to renew an arms ban against Iran through a resolution at the UN Security Council in mid-August as the draft was supported only by the Dominican Republic, leaving it far short of the minimum nine “yes” votes required for adoption.

The following month, the US suffered another resounding defeat as it failed to trigger the so-called snapback provision in the nuclear deal aimed at re-imposing all UN sanctions against Iran, as UN Security Council member states questioned the US’ claim that it was still a participant state to the nuclear accord, citing its unilateral withdrawal in May 2018.





CBI Governor Hopes for Transfer of Multibillion-Dollar Iranian Assets from Iraq

Oct 14, 2020

“Pressures have increased at the end of the tenure of the current US president, but we will instead bolster our resistance and I am very hopeful that we can resolve the issues,” Hemmati told reporters after a cabinet meeting in Tehran.

He added that one of the important measures by the CBI was the negotiations with those states where Iran has frozen or unreleased assets.

“I had a trip to Iraq a few days ago and fortunately, it was a successful trip and we hope to use our resources in Iraq which is more than $5bln,” Hemmati said.

Hemmati traveled to Baghdad on Monday to meet with Iraqi officials and Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi.

After returning, he said that Iran and Iraq are cooperating on joint mechanisms to release Tehran’s funds in Baghdad.

Hemmati said that Iran has remarkable financial resources in the Iraqi banks due to exporting electricity and gas to the neighboring country.

He made it clear that during his ongoing visit to Iraq, the country’s officials have assured him to unfreeze Iran’s funds.

The US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control on Thursday imposed sanctions on 18 Iranian banks and financial institutes in a move to bring the Iranian people to their knees.

The Trump administration decided to impose new sanctions on Iran's financial sector in defiance of European allies who warned that the move could have devastating humanitarian consequences on the country.


Deputy Judiciary Chief: Iranian Nation Not to Forgive Europeans’ Collaboration with US Sanctions

Oct 14, 2020

“The countries which have imposed the harshest sanctions against all Iranian people and have posed a serious threat to their right of living and health that are among the basic rights of any human being cannot claim to be advocates of human rights,” Baqeri said in a meeting with Austrian Ambassador to Tehran Stefan Scholz on Wednesday.

“It is surprising how the countries, which enjoy imposition of sanctions against the Iranian nation and increase the pressures of sanctions every day and do not even show mercy to the innocent sick children, speak of human rights vis a vis the Iranian nation,” he added.

Baqeri underlined that the Iranian nation has lived through many hard days and it will come out victorious of these days too “but it will neither forgive nor forget the inhuman measures of certain European countries”.

The US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control on Thursday imposed sanctions on 18 Iranian banks and financial institutes in a move to bring the Iranian people to their knees.

The Trump administration decided to impose new sanctions on Iran's financial sector in defiance of European allies who warned that the move could have devastating humanitarian consequences on the country.

In relevant remarks, Iranian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the Vienna-Based International Organization Kazzem Qaribabadi condemned the latest round of the US sanctions against Iran’s banking system, and said the US economic terrorism against the Iranian nation has no limit.

"The criminal moves of the US regime in threatening the lives of ordinary people through economic terrorism seem unending," Qaribabadi wrote in an Instagram post on Friday.

“On the one hand, they [the Americans] claim that the import of medicine and food is not subject to sanctions, but on the other hand, they completely block the channels for the payment of the import of these items," he went on to say.

“By now, this pervert American game should be revealed to everyone," Qaribabadi added.

The Iranian diplomat urged the European governments to take real steps against US unilateralism and warmongering instead of merely expressing regret.


Ansarullah releases two US prisoners in exchange for 200 Yemenis held in Oman

15 October 2020

Yemen’s popular Houthi Ansarullah movement has released two American prisoners as part of a deal that also secured the return of more than 200 Yemenis stuck in Oman as a result of the Saudi-led blockade of the war-torn country.

The Wednesday swap apparently involved Saudi Arabia and Oman, which frequently plays the role of broker in the region.

Kash Patel, a deputy assistant to US President Donald Trump, who worked on the agreement, identified the freed US nationals as Sandra Loli, a “humanitarian worker” who was held in Yemen for three years, and Mikael Gidada, a “businessman” detained for a year, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

The remains of a third American captive, Bilal Fateen, was also being sent back to the United States.

Little had been known about the Americans held in Yemen until the announcement of their release.

Houthi leaders have previously announced detentions of foreign humanitarian workers found to be spying and diverting some of the badly needed aid sent into impoverished Yemen.

Ansarullah also reported receiving some 240 Yemenis from Oman.

Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam tweeted that the Yemenis returned to the capital, Sana’a, included people who had either been stranded in Oman or were casualties of the Saudi-led war who had traveled there during UN-brokered peace talks held in Sweden in 2018.

The Yemeni official said Riyadh had blocked the Yemenis from returning home after they arrived in Oman two years ago.

“Today, we were pleased to receive some wounded brothers who were stuck outside the country as a result of the brutal and continuous siege on our country. The coalition obstructed their exit and entry, one of its war crimes against Yemenis,” Houthi tweeted.

He said the United Nations also failed to bring the wounded Yemenis back from Oman in line with the agreement reached in Sweden.

The exchange came a day before a planned UN-brokered exchange of more than 1,000 prisoners between the Houthis and Yemen’s former Riyadh-allied government.

The UN had said in September that the two sides agreed to exchange 1,081 conflict-related prisoners, including Saudi and Sudanese troops fighting on the side of the Saudi-led coalition of aggressors.

Saudi Arabia 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.

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 five years.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have purchased billions of dollars’ worth of weapons from the United States, France and the United Kingdom in their war on Yemen.

Riyadh and its allies have been widely criticized for the high civilian death toll resulted from their bombing campaign in Yemen.

The UN says over 24 million Yemenis are in dire need of humanitarian aid, including 10 million suffering from extreme levels of hunger.


Turkey trains 120 fighters in Libya, again denies sending troops to battle Armenia

Emily Judd

14 October 2020

Turkey has started training 120 Libyan fighters to help its ally in Libya while continuing to deny reports it is sending Syrian troops to battle Armenia.

Under Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ankara has been accused of pursuing an aggressive foreign policy in several neighboring countries, including by using its position in Syria to channel Syrian fighters to both Libya and the Caucuses.

This week Ankara appeared to publicize its involvement in Libya, while continuing to deny any military role against Armenia.

Turkey’s Ministry of National Defense posted photos on Monday and Wednesday of Turkish armed forces training 120 Libyan fighters of the Government of National Accord (GNA), which is competing for power against the rival Libyan National Army (LNA).

The training is part of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on military collaboration signed by Ankara and the GNA last year, which was paired with another MoU that controversially awarded Turkey vast swathes of the gas-rich eastern Mediterranean Sea for gas exploration.

Turkey has since actively intervened in the war in Libya, helping the GNA survive the siege of Tripoli and take territory, including by allegedly sending Syrian militants to fight alongside the GNA.

The training of Libyan cadets shows the “extent of military cooperation between Ankara and Tripoli,” at a time when internal rifts have weakened the position of GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, according to expert Umberto Profazio.

“Widespread protests in Tripoli and the disputes about the agreement that allowed for oil production to resume highlighted an internal rift in the GNA…and raising doubts about Ankara's real hold on western Libyan authorities,” Profazio, an analyst at the NATO Foundation, told Al Arabiya English.

Profazio added that the training of Libyan navy personnel by Turkish instructors also began this week.

Turkey denies sending troops to fight Armenia

While Ankara publicizes its military involvement in Libya, it continues to deny its alleged military involvement in the ongoing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

On Wednesday Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected accusations that pro-Turkey Syrians were fighting alongside Azerbaijani troops in Nagorno-Karabakh, the ethnic Armenian province that is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan.

Turkey has publicly expressed support for Azerbaijan in the recent flare-up of a decades-long conflict with Armenia over the area. But Ankara is going beyond moral support, according to world leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron, who said there is clear evidence Syrian extremist fighters are being sent through Turkey to fight against Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Britain-based war monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported last week that at least 64 pro-Turkey Syrian fighters have been killed in the clashes.

Turkey’s denial of the use of foreign mercenaries is part of “hybrid warfare,” according to Profazio, in which world powers use proxies to covertly fight in different theaters.

“Turkey has reportedly enrolled and deployed Syrian fighters coming from the same armed groups both in Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh, with reports referring to the Sultan Murad [Brigades] as one of the main sources of foreign fighters in both theaters,” Profazio said.

Ankara’s dual approach - in publicizing its military involvement in Libya and downplaying it in Nagorno-Karabakh - stems from the MoU signed with the GNA, according to Profazio.

In addition, Turkey has to “be careful” about openly admitting military support against Armenia due to global reactions, according to expert Henri Barkey.

“They cannot be seen as openly fighting Armenians…. here in the US especially and in Europe, because it conjures the Armenian Genocide,” Barkey, a fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, told Al Arabiya English.

The systemic genocide of Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Turks during World War I is denied by Turkish authorities to this day.

Turkey has a well-established tradition of training militaries in Asian and African countries, but the government under Erdogan has “overhauled this policy since the Syrian civil war by equipping and training mercenaries,” according to former Turkish parliament member Aykan Erdemir.

“Ankara has seen military-to-military relations as an important means to gain political access and expand diplomatic influence,” Erdemir, now senior director at the Turkey Program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Al Arabiya English.


After normalization, expanding settlements: Israel approves more units

14 October 2020

For the first time since the conclusion of normalization deals with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, Israel has approved the construction of over 1,300 new settler units across the occupied West Bank.

The Israeli ‘West Bank Civil Administration’ planning committee on Wednesday approved the building of 1,313 units in several settlements.

And the Peace Now NGO, which is an anti-settlement group that monitors settlement activity in the West Bank, said in a statement that more units were expected to be approved on Thursday.

“Netanyahu is moving ahead at full steam toward solidifying the de facto annexation of the West Bank,” the statement read.

The UAE announced normalization of its relations with Israel on August 13.

Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan signed the agreement at the White House on September 15 with the attendance of President Donald Trump of the United States, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani.

Emirati officials claim the normalization deal was needed to stave off further annexation of Palestinian land and save the so-called two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli authorities, however, say annexation plans are not off the table.

Palestinians seek an independent state in the West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital. They view the normalization as betrayal of the Palestinian cause.



Southeast Asia


PAS assemblyman calls for action against illegally built non-Muslim places of worship in Penang

15 Oct 2020


GEORGE TOWN, Oct 15 — A PAS assemblyman has called on the local authorities to take action against non-Muslim places of worship (RIBI) that were built without permits.

Yusni Mat Piah (PAS - Penaga) referred to a written reply by state exco Chong Eng (DAP - Padang Lallang) that stated there were 69 RIBI that were built without permits.

“These are RIBI haram and I feel that the authorities should look into this issue seriously,” he said when debating the Supply Bill at the legislative assembly today.

Gooi Zi Sen (DAP - Pengkalan Kota) then asked that the word haram not be used to refer to RIBI.

State assembly Speaker Datuk Law Choo Kiang agreed and told Yusni to retract the term haram and suggested that he use the term “built without permits”.

Yusni explained that he did not mean to insult any religion and stressed that all places of worship, regardless of religion, should be respected.

“I was only referring to the written reply which also used the term haram so I was only reading out from the reply,” he said.

He went on to say that there were 69 RIBI that were built without permits in the state and this issue affected all districts.

He said he was only raising this issue because there were complaints about these RIBI and that the authorities should take these complaints seriously.

“I am not asking for enforcement action to be taken against these places immediately or tomorrow, what I am saying is for the authorities to look into it seriously,” he said.

He said he would be among the first ones to defend the RIBI without permits if the authorities were to demolish these without proper notification.

“Even in Islam, there have been cases of surau or mosques that were built without permits and similarly, action should also be taken,” he said.

He said among the action that can be taken to resolve the issue was to assist the RIBI to obtain the necessary approvals or to ensure they adhere to the local bylaws.


CMCO: Morning markets in Selangor allowed to operate, says MB

14 Oct 2020

SHAH ALAM, Oct 14 — All morning markets in Selangor are allowed to operate throughout the 14-day conditional movement control order (CMCO) period effective today, said Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari.

He said the morning markets, however, were subject to complying with the same standard operating procedure (SOP) observed by night markets.

He also said that non-Muslim marriage registrations would be allowed throughout the CMCO, but limited to just six people at any one time.

“The use of playgrounds and exercise equipment in public parks is not allowed,” he said in a statement today.

Amirudin also said the previous SOP specifically for the mukim (sub-district) of Klang had been cancelled after the state government decided to adopt the SOP outlined by the National Security Council (MKN) for the whole of Selangor.

The decision was made after studying the views of all parties at the state CMCO implementation coordination meeting today, which was also attended by Selangor State Health Department and Selangor MKN.

On Monday, Senior Minister (Security) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced the implementation of the conditional movement control order (CMCO) in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya effective from today to October 27, following a spike in Covid-19 cases. Sabah was also placed under CMCO but effective a day earlier (October 13).

According to the SOP issued by MKN, others allowed to operate are daily markets, wholesale markets, farmers’ markets, agricultural markets and night markets, but with strict compliance of the permitted operating hours. — Bernama


Umno threatens to pull out of Malaysia's ruling alliance PN unless it gets new terms

OCT 14, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia’s largest ruling party Umno threatened on Tuesday (Oct 13) to pull out of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s government, just hours after Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim claimed a parliamentary majority.

Should Umno, which ruled Malaysia since independence up to its shock defeat in 2018, carry out its threat, it would collapse the Muhyiddin administration which was only sworn in in March.

Umno information chief Ahmad Maslan said late on Tuesday that the party’s top leadership was mulling a withdrawal from the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government following a meeting chaired by president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, speculated to be among those supporting Datuk Seri Anwar’s bid to topple Tan Sri Muhyiddin.

“Umno is considering withdrawing support for PN and will present new conditions... to continue the political cooperation via a written agreement to be executed as soon as possible,” said Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan.

He added that Umno will push for Muafakat Nasional (MN), a pro-Malay Muslim pact it spearheads along with Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), to be registered as a formal political alliance.

Umno and Mr Muhyiddin’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia have been at loggerheads for months over primacy in the ruling pact.

Tensions boiled most recently after Bersatu gained the chief ministership of Sabah following the Sep 26 state polls, with senior figures in Umno questioning the wisdom of their cooperation with Bersatu.

PN in its registered form is led by Bersatu president Mr Muhyiddin, but Umno has resisted joining the official coalition amid heated negotiations over seats ahead of the general election expected within months.

The president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), Mr Anwar, has insisted that he has support of over 120 MPs in the 222-strong Parliament after an audience with the King early on Tuesday.

It is understood that potential defectors from the Muhyiddin administration - which had just 113 MPs - were largely from Umno including those loyal to its president Zahid.

Should Umno - which has 39 MPs - turn its back on Mr Muhyiddin, he would cease to control Parliament. But it remains to be seen if enough lawmakers from the once dominant party would endorse Mr Anwar as premier.

It is unlikely that snap polls ahead of the parliamentary term’s expiry in 2023 would be called, given the resurgent wave of coronavirus infections that saw 660 new cases on Tuesday.

Mr Anwar, who leads the main opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan said that Malaysia’s King Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin is set to meet political leaders to ascertain who controls Parliament.





Sudan: Attorney General Calls for Removing Sudan From Terrorism List

13 OCTOBER 2020

Khartoum — Attorney General Hon. Taj Al-Sir Ali Al-Hibir has called on the international community to support removing Sudan from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism, referring to the radical change that occurred in Sudan's foreign policy and its efforts in combating terrorism and supporting peace, which culminated in the signing of the peace agreement between the government and the armed struggle movements earlier this month.

Hon. Al-Hibir, addressing through video conference technology the Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, indicated that Sudan is considered a country of transit for human trafficking, stressing that through the legislative system and the work of the justice and security agencies, great efforts have been made by the country to combat human trafficking, weapons and drugs trafficking and terrorism and money laundering.

He pointed out that Sudan, in cooperation with neighboring and friendly countries, was able to arrest a large number of criminal groups and networks and bring them to courts who were sentenced to prison terms.

The Attorney General explained that combating transnational crime requires great efforts from the security and police agencies, the public prosecution and the judiciary, and that these efforts are costing the country huge sums of money because of huge financial capabilities of these gangs, calling on the international community to stand by the country and support it to raise the efficiency of the security, police, judicial and prosecution agencies; and providing the necessary logistic and technical aids to assist them in enforcing the law and what is necessary to prevent the occurrence of crime and dismantle organized criminal networks.

In the same context, the Attorney General said that at the national level; Sudan has taken legislative and administrative measures to enforce the provisions of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, including issuance of many laws in the areas of combating human trafficking.

Concerning regional and international cooperation, the Attorney General explained that Sudan has ratified the Arab Convention on Combating Terrorism, the Arab Agreement to Combat Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing; the Arab Convention for Combating Transnational Organized Crime, the United Nations Convention against Terrorism; the United Nations Convention against Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism; United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime; the United Nations Convention for the Prevention of Terrorist Explosions and the United Nations Convention on the Prevention of Taking of Hostages.


Suspected jihadists kill 25 in central Mali attacks

OCTOBER 13, 2020

By Tiemoko Diallo

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Suspected Islamist militants killed 25 people including 13 soldiers in multiple attacks in central Mali, burning down an army base and ambushing troops sent as reinforcements, the army and local authorities said on Tuesday.

The attacks were the deadliest since the Aug. 18 military coup that overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, and came just days after scores of jailed militants were freed by the interim government in a prisoner swap.

Nine soldiers were killed in the first attack that took place overnight against a base in Sokoura near the border with Burkina Faso, an army statement said.

At around 8:30 a.m. (0830 GMT) on Tuesday, another three soldiers were killed in an ambush at a bridge near the base as their unit headed to the scene of the first attack, it said.

Nine militants were killed in clashes with the reinforcement unit and two of their vehicles destroyed by the air force.

In a third assault about 40 minutes later near the town of Bandiagara, gunmen ambushed a commercial truck, killing 12 traders and one soldier, according to Moulaye Guindo, the mayor of nearby Bankass, to which the traders were en route.

A witness said he saw nine bodies at the military base and helped transport 20 wounded to local medical centres.

“They (jihadists) took all the vehicles and burned those they could not take away. The camp is burned,” said the witness, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal.

A transitional government has been appointed since the military coup. But regional and international powers fear the violence could further destabilise the West African nation and undermine a French-directed military campaign against insurgents linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State in the wider Sahel region.


Somali Islamist insurgents pile up cash, says U.N. report

OCTOBER 14, 2020

NEW YORK/NAIROBI (Reuters) - Somalia’s Islamist insurgents are moving millions of dollars through the formal bank system and appear to be investing in businesses and real estate, according to a United Nations report offering a rare glimpse into their finances.

Al Shabaab has for years been battling Somalia’s internationally-backed government to impose strict Islamic law in the anarchic Horn of Africa nation.

“Al Shabaab remains in a strong financial position and is generating a significant budgetary surplus, some of which is invested in property purchases and businesses in Mogadishu,” said the report by the U.N. sanctions panel on Somalia.

The report by the group, which monitors compliance with an arms embargo on Somalia, is due to be published this week.

The al Qaeda-linked Somali militants carry out frequent bombings and attacks at home and have also killed hundreds of civilians in Kenya and Uganda. Earlier this year, al Shabaab killed three Americans at a U.S. military base in Kenya.

The U.N. report included details on two bank accounts held at Salaam Somali Bank, founded in 2009 as part of the Hormuud group of companies, raising questions about Somalia’s capacity to enforce a 2016 law aimed at curbing terrorist financing.

The bank did not respond to requests for comment.

Somalia’s Financial Reporting Center, which oversees compliance laws against money laundering and terror financing, said it is investigating the allegations against Salaam.

Nearly $1.7 million moved through one of the accounts during a 10-week period until mid-July this year, the report said, noting the account appeared set up to receive Islamic tax called zakat.


With around 5,000 fighters, al Shabaab controls towns and countryside in southern Somalia, but its spies and assassins operate nationwide. Its estimated expenditure last year was around $21 million, with about a quarter of that going to the Amniyat intelligence arm.

Al Shabaab also runs its own courts. One businessman told investigators that the courts had summoned him this year and ordered him to pay more than $100,000 in zakat based on a review of his business, which they had assessed before he arrived.

The businessman, who was not named, provided a banking deposit slip and a receipt from al Shabaab to investigators as proof of payment. “Al Shabaab maintains a registry of citizens, which includes financial assessments on individuals and businesses,” the report said.

Another account, which appeared to handle fees levied on businessmen usng Mogadishu port, had $1.1 million moved through it from mid-Febuary until the end of June this year, the report said. It included a cash deposit of $25,000 by someone calling himself “A B C” on documentation.

In total, the two accounts made more than 128 transactions exceeding the $10,000 threshold that should trigger automatic reporting to the Financial Reporting Centre.

When asked if the accounts had been shut down, Amina Ali, head of the centre, told Reuters: “All the necessary steps have been taken.”

The report also examined a single al Shabaab road checkpoint - one of dozens - that former al Shabaab tax officials told investigators made between $1.8 million-$2.4 million per year.

In the government-controlled southern port of Kismayo, businesses are forced to pay the insurgency between $300-$600 monthly depending on their size, which could earn them nearly $6 million a year from Kismayo alone, the report said.

Businessmen are afraid to refuse al Shabaab for fear of being killed, said Hussein Sheikh Ali, a former Somali national security advisor and founder of the Mogadishu-based Hiraal Institute thinktank. Their own report on al Shabaab finances is due out this month.

U.S.-supported Somali special forces sometimes attack al Shabaab checkpoints to cut their revenues, he said.

“Shabaab is super efficient in terms of collecting money throughout industries and the country,” he said.

“We know they have surplus money... and we believe they may send some money to al Qaeda.”


UN humanitarian chief: Sahel is very close to tipping point

By Edith M. Lederer

Oct. 14, 2020

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. humanitarian chief warned Tuesday that daunting problems in Africa’s Sahel region are getting worse and the region “is very close to a tipping point — and so by extension are its African neighbors, Europe, and the world.”

Mark Lowcock said in a virtual speech to students at the Paris Institute for Political Science that he deals with the world’s worst humanitarian tragedies, and “nowhere scares me more than the Sahel.”

He said six central Sahel countries -- Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Niger, and northeast Nigeria -- are at “a true epicenter of conflict and insecurity, weak governance, chronic underdevelopment and poverty, demographic pressures, and climate change.”

Lowcock said there are conflicts between farmers and herders mainly over scarce resources, conflicts instigated by terrorist and extremist groups seeking to undermine governments, and violence from organized crime groups running trafficking networks who “stage kidnappings, loot assets and steal natural resources for profit.”

Before 2012, only one militant Islamist group, Al Qaeda in the Maghreb, operated in Mali, he said, but extremist groups took lessons from the strength and territorial gains of the Islamic State extremist movement in Iraq and Syria after 2014 and “by 2018, more than 10 groups were active in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, in addition to groups like Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin.”

“There were more violent episodes in 2018 alone than in the whole of the 2009-15 period,” Lowcock said.

In addition, “since the 1970s, the Sahel has warmed twice as fast as the rest of the world,” which has seriously affected livelihoods, he said. And “fertility rates in the Sahel are the highest in the world, with annual population growth of 3 per cent on average.”

As the U.N.’s undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, Lowcock said, “I have come to realize more and more that humanitarian aid can only be a Band-Aid on a much deeper wound. And right now, the wound is growing faster than the Band-Aid.”

On Oct. 20, Germany, Denmark, the European Union and the U.N. are sponsoring a high-level virtual conference on the Sahel not only for the pledging of funds but for making “concrete policy commitments,” he said.

“This is very timely because, as of today, most public policy efforts, at both national and international levels, are treating symptoms rather than their causes,” Lowcock said.


Boko Haram Terrorists Kill 14 Farmers In Borno

OCT 13, 2020

Boko Haram terrorists have killed 14 farmers in Borno State, members of a local vigilante group said on Tuesday.

Sources told AFP that insurgents on Monday seized 15 farmers working on their irrigation fields in Ngwom Village, 14 kilometres (nine miles) North of Maiduguri, and cut their throats.

“They slaughtered the farmers, killing 14 while one survived with a deep slash. They left him for dead,” Babakura Kilo, a local of the vigilante group, said.

The insurgents captured the farmers as they tended to their crops during the early afternoon, giving them no room to escape, said another member, Ibrahim Liman, who gave the same death toll.

The survivor was taken to a hospital in a “life-threatening condition,” Liman said.

Boko Haram and rival group, Islamic State West Africa Province, have increasingly targeted loggers, herders and fishermen in their violent campaign, accusing them of spying and passing information to the military and the local militia fighting them.

At least 36,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which has displaced around two million from their homes since 2009.

The violence has spread into neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting a regional military coalition to fight the militants.


Somalia army kills 11 militants in operation in southern region

October 14, 2020

MOGADISHU-At least 11 al-Shabab extremists were killed on Tuesday by the Somali National Army (SNA) in a security operation in the southern region of Lower Shabelle, a military officer said on Tuesday.

The operation started when the army received intelligence that the militants set up secret prisons in the outskirts of Barire town and the forces advanced targeting those areas, said Ahmed Hassan Ziyad, commander of SNA’s 143rd Unit.

“The offensive was successful, there was stiff resistance from the militants, but we overpowered them, killing 11 of them including a senior leader named Abu Abdullahi Mustaf,” Ziyad said.

He added that the army also freed locals who were confined by the militants in the secret prisons.In recent months, the government forces have intensified operations against al-Shabab militants in the southern regions where the militants hold swathes of rural areas, conducting ambushes and planting landmines.





Turkish arms sales to Azerbaijan surged before Nagorno-Karabakh fighting

14 October 2020

Turkey’s military exports to its ally Azerbaijan have risen six-fold this year, with sales of drones and other military equipment rising to $77 million last month alone before fighting broke out over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, according to exports data.

The figures compiled by the Turkish Exporters’ Assembly, which groups more than 95,000 exporting companies in 61 sectors, show Azerbaijan bought $123 million in defense and aviation equipment from Turkey in the first nine months of 2020.

Most of the purchases of drones, rocket launchers, ammunition and other weapons arrived were after July, when border clashes between Armenian and Azeri forces prompted Turkey and Azerbaijan to conduct joint military exercises.

Sales jumped from $278,880 in the month of July to $36 million in the month of August, and $77.1 million in just September, the data showed. Military sales to Azerbaijan in the first nine months of 2019 totaled $20.7 million.

Fighting between Azeri and ethnic Armenian forces broke out on Sept. 27 over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountain enclave which is recognized internationally as part of Azerbaijan but is governed and populated by ethnic Armenians.

“Azerbaijan clearly turned to Turkey for help ... and wasted no time realizing that the threat would grow,” said Istanbul-based defense analyst Turan Oguz.

“Ankara is very determined in providing Baku with its needs,” he said. “The strong defense cooperation between Azerbaijan and Turkey is getting stronger by the day.”

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has backed Azerbaijan and said Armenians must withdraw from Nagorno-Karabakh.

Ankara, which wants a role in ceasefire talks, says it is not directly involved in the fighting. But Azeri officials have touted their use of Turkish armed drones, which have spearheaded Ankara’s military operations in Syria, Iraq and Libya.

The surge in arms sales reflects Turkey’s growing cross-border influence in the region, and is one measure of how quickly Azerbaijan embraced Ankara before the flare-up of the decades-old conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Asked about the data, a Turkish defense ministry representative referred to statements by Minister Hulusi Akar, who said late last month Turkey will support Azerbaijan “with all our means.”


Turkey vows to give Greece ‘answer it deserves on the ground’ in energy dispute

14 October 2020

Turkey’s president on Wednesday vowed to give Greece the “answer it deserves on the ground” over their energy dispute in the contested waters in the eastern Mediterranean.

“We will continue to give Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration -- who fail to keep their promises at the EU and NATO platforms -- the answer they deserve on the ground,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech to parliament.

The US and Germany, both allies of Turkey, have labeled the gas exploration mission a “provocation” and urged Ankara to recall the ship.

But Turkey has defied international calls and sent its research vessel Oruc Reis back to the region.

Erdogan said the drillship Yavuz would also return to the eastern Mediterranean after maintenance at the port.

He warned that plans that disregard the interests of Turkey and the breakaway northern Cyprus would not succeed.


Russia’s defense minister calls on Armenia, Azerbaijan to respect ceasefire

14 October 2020

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu urged Armenia and Azerbaijan to observe a ceasefire in the Nagorno-Karabakh region in a telephone call with his counterparts from those countries, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.

Since coming into force on Saturday, a Russian-brokered truce has frayed, with both sides accusing each other of grave violations and attacks on civilians.

Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to a ceasefire in Nagorno-Karbakh starting at noon on Saturday.

The top diplomats from the two countries said in a statement that the truce is intended to exchange prisoners and recover the dead, adding that specific details will be agreed on later.


Germany warns Turkey against ‘provocation’ in Mediterranean

13 October 2020

Germany has urged Turkey to refrain from “provocation” in the Eastern Mediterranean, following Ankara’s decision to send a seismic research ship back to  disputed waters with Greece.

“Ankara must end the interplay between détente and provocation if the government is interested in talks, as it has repeatedly affirmed,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in Berlin on Tuesday ahead of his flight to Greece and Cyprus, which is also involved in a similar dispute with Turkey.

He called on Turkey to remain open to talks and not to resume gas exploration in the region.

“If there should indeed be renewed Turkish gas exploration in the more controversial sea areas in the eastern Mediterranean, this would be a serious setback for efforts to de-escalate,” Maas said.

The dispute between Turkey and Greece — both of them NATO members — over oil and gas exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean rose after the Turkish navy announced late on Sunday that a seismic research vessel named Oruc Reis would be redeployed to contested waters to prospect for oil and gas.

Turkey had withdrawn the ship earlier both for maintenance and as a gesture toward reconciliation. The vessel set sail again on Monday even though the Turkish and Greek foreign ministers had agreed in a meeting last week to resolve the dispute through negotiations.

Greece vowed on Monday to push for European Union (EU) sanctions against Ankara.

The Oruc Reis was first dispatched to survey an area between Cyprus and Greece’s Crete Island in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea in August. No rapprochement was effected during its short withdrawal, despite mediation by Germany.

The EU has sided with members Greece and Cyprus and threatened to impose sanctions on Turkey, which has been hoping to accede to the bloc for years.


Turkish Defector Says He Was Ordered to Kill Politician in Austria

By Katrin Bennhold and Carlotta Gall

Oct. 13, 2020

One afternoon last month, a man claiming to be a Turkish intelligence operative walked into a police station in Vienna. His confession was explosive: The man said he had been ordered to shoot a Kurdish-Austrian politician, which he did not want to do, and asked for police protection.

He also said that he had been forced to give false testimony used to convict an employee at the American Consulate in Istanbul.

If true, the claims by the man, who identified himself as Feyyaz Ozturk, provide new insight into how far President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey is prepared to go to pursue his foes.

Mr. Ozturk’s confession, detailed in a police report which was obtained by The New York Times, could blow a hole in the conviction of Metin Topuz, who worked for the U.S. State Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration in Istanbul. In June, Mr. Topuz was sentenced by a Turkish court to more than eight years in prison on charges of aiding an armed terrorist group.

The Topuz case is one of several against American citizens and U.S. government employees that American officials have said are groundless and that they see as an attempt by Mr. Erdogan to exert leverage in his increasingly antagonistic relations with the United States.

Mr. Erdogan’s growing authoritarianism over the past decade has been accompanied by an aggressive campaign against perceived enemies at home and abroad, which began as he fell out with the European Union and intensified after a failed coup in 2016 that the president has blamed on the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

In Turkey, the crackdown has resulted in the imprisonment of tens of thousands of Mr. Erdogan’s political enemies, often on evidence that critics say is flimsy or fabricated. Abroad, it has involved the forced renditions of 100 or more Gulen supporters and has even stretched, according to French investigators, to the assassination of three Kurdish militants in Paris in 2013, although Turkish intelligence denies any involvement in those killings.

Others living abroad have had notices served through Interpol for their arrest and complain of harassment and surveillance by Turkish agents.

The Austrian government has long been concerned about the influence of Turkey’s secret service in Austria and this latest case has raised the alarm.

“We are taking this very seriously,” Karl Nehammer, the Austrian interior minister, told The New York Times on Tuesday. He said he would not comment on the details of the case because the investigation was continuing. The prosecutor’s office declined to comment, saying in an emailed statement that the case was so sensitive that it was “classified.”

A senior government official who is familiar with the case and who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the issue while the investigation remained open, said that if the plot to attack a Kurdish-Austrian politician were confirmed, it would signal a new level of Turkish meddling in Austria.

Just last month, a special police commission concluded that Turkey’s secret service had recruited agitators to help provoke violent clashes during a Kurdish street protest in the Vienna district of Favoriten in June and collect information on demonstrators.

At the time, Mr. Nehammer said, “Turkish espionage and Turkish meddling in democratic rights has no place in Austria.” There are about 270,000 people with Turkish roots in Austria, the Interior Ministry said, and about a third of them are Kurds.

Susanne Raab, the Austrian minister for integration, was even more blunt. “Austria has become a target of Turkish espionage,” she said. “Erdogan’s long arm reaches all the way to Vienna-Favoriten.”

When Mr. Ozturk turned himself in on Sept. 15, he told the police that he was retired from a long career at the Turkish intelligence agency, known as the M.I.T., but had recently been tasked to carry out an attack on Aygul Berivan Aslan, a former Green Party lawmaker of Kurdish descent and a vocal Erdogan critic.

He has since been detained by Austrian prosecutors, who are now investigating him on suspicion of working for a foreign military intelligence service.

Asked for comment, a senior official in the Communications Directorate of the Turkish presidency said in an emailed statement that the claims were nonsense.

“Mr. Ozturk was never affiliated with, nor did he ever act on behalf of, the Turkish intelligence,” the statement said.

But the Turkish attempts to undermine Mr. Ozturk’s credibility in turn seem to raise questions about his reliability as a witness in the prosecution against Mr. Topuz.

Over a four-hour interview with the Austrian police, the account by Mr. Ozturk, 53, was vague at times, especially when it came to his alleged job as a hit man. But it became very concrete when an officer asked him about Mr. Topuz’s case.

According to the police transcript, Mr. Ozturk said that he had worked for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration until 2004 and that he had last met Mr. Topuz in 2005. Mr. Topuz, too, had worked for the D.E.A. as a translator, he added, something American officials have confirmed.

A press officer for the D.E.A. in the United States said in an email that the agency had no record of Mr. Ozturk’s employment there but was checking with the office in Turkey.

Mr. Ozturk said that in early September 2017, he had been asked to sign a witness statement against Mr. Topuz or risk going to prison himself.

“They slotted me in as a witness and put an empty piece of paper in front of me, which I signed,” Mr. Ozturk said. “Otherwise I would go to prison with Metin Topuz.”

“In Turkey, they always do it that way,” he added.

The police officers then turned back to Mr. Ozturk’s account of the alleged plot to attack a politician in Austria. Mr. Ozturk said he had been given orders to shoot Ms. Aslan and was first contacted for the job by a Turkish prosecutor in Istanbul in 2018.

Originally, he was supposed to carry out the attack in March, but the lockdown got in the way of his travel to Vienna, he told the police. Mr. Ozturk, who has an Italian passport, said he got stuck in Rimini, Italy, where he ended up breaking a leg in an accident. In the end, he told his handlers that he could not go ahead with the attack.

Then in August, he said, he was contacted on WhatsApp by a man who told him to travel to Belgrade, Serbia, and meet a contact in a Turkish coffee shop.

“It doesn’t matter if she dies or is only injured,” his contact told him there, Mr. Ozturk recounted to the Austrian police. The main point was “that the politician gets the message,” he reported that the contact had said, telling him to travel to Vienna and await further instructions.

Asked in the police interview why he had turned himself in, Mr. Ozturk said it was perhaps to save himself.

“The Austrian police could catch me afterward,” he continued. “I don’t like this kind of thing. I am no contract killer.”

“If this had happened, they would have distanced themselves from me and said I am a criminal,” he said of the Turkish authorities. He also said that the Turkish authorities had frozen his and his family’s bank accounts.

In a later police interview, Mr. Ozturk also named other targets he had been given in addition to Ms. Aslan, the Austrian-Kurdish politician. Peter Pilz, the publisher of the online magazine ZackZack, which was the first to publish Mr. Ozturk’s account, said that the police had told him he was one of those targets and had offered him protection.

Mr. Pilz, also a former Green Party lawmaker, served on the intelligence oversight committee and is a longstanding and vocal critic of Mr. Erdogan and his treatment of the Kurdish population. He knows Ms. Aslan well. She has been threatened many times over the years, he said.

“He got the order to shoot a politician in Austria, the question is: Who gave the order?” Mr. Pilz said.

“In the case against Mr. Topuz, things are legally absolutely clear,” he added. “The key witness in the case has retracted his statement. The case needs to be reopened.”

The U.S. embassy in Ankara, the Turkish capital, and Mr. Topuz’s lawyers declined to comment on Mr. Ozturk’s claims or the effect that they may have on the case, which has gone to appeal.

But Mr. Ozturk’s statement in the indictment was central to Mr. Topuz’s conviction, alleging that Mr. Topuz had worked closely with members of the Gulen organization in the Turkish police and prosecutor’s office.

Yet Mr. Ozturk never appeared in court in person and was never cross-examined. The judge prolonged the trial several times to wait for Mr. Ozturk to return from abroad.

In June, the judge ruled that the trial would proceed without his appearance. But contrary to normal legal procedure, he did not order Mr. Ozturk’s testimony to be ignored.




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