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Islamic World News ( 11 Feb 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Muslim Woman Aged Over 17 Yrs Is Competent To Marry Person of Her Choice: Punjab and Haryana HC

New Age Islam News Bureau

11 February 2021


On attaining puberty, Muslim girl can marry anyone by law: Punjab and Haryana HC


• Muslim Groups in France under Pressure to Sign the ‘Charter of Principles’ Of Islam Pushed By President Macron

• Call for Correcting Errors Concerning Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami In Secondary Level Textbook to Present The True History Of The Liberation War

• Indonesia Probes Wedding Planner For Touting Child Brides

• No Change In Policy On Jammu and Kashmir, Says U.S.

• IRGC Displays 3 Ballistic Missiles in Nationwide Rallies

• Saudi Arabia Says Houthi Drone Used In Abha Airport Attack A Replica Of Iranian UAV



• Muslim Woman Aged Over 17 Yrs Is Competent To Marry Person of Her Choice: Punjab and Haryana HC

• Gujarat High Court Unites ‘Love Jihad’ Couple Separated By Cops

• Sangh Mobilising Minority Wing for Funds from Muslims for the Proposed Ram Temple in Ayodhya

• Concerted Effort by Some in India To Regard Muslims As "Others": Former Vice President Hamid Ansari

• Muslim Youth Stabbed For Talking To Hindu Girl in Coimbatore, Police Deny Communal Motive

• Burdwan blast case: NIA court sentences top Bangladeshi terrorist to 29 years in jail



• Muslim Groups in France under Pressure to Sign the ‘Charter of Principles’ Of Islam Pushed By President Macron

• Turkish Muslim groups in France oppose anti-Islam bill

• How the Netherlands Is Curbing the Civil Liberties of Its Muslim Population

• UK Muslims submit UN complaint over forced cremations in Sri Lanka

• Russia Urges Iran To Show ‘Restraint’ After Uranium Production

• Isis Fighters’ Brother Bought Sword and Rapped About Lee Rigby ‘While Planning Terror Attack’


South Asia

• Call for Correcting Errors Concerning Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami In Secondary Level Textbook to Present The True History Of The Liberation War

• Islamic State Poised for Possible Resurgence in Afghanistan, US Officials Warn

• Court: Dipon’s Killers Aimed At Destroying Bangladesh's Secular, Democratic Character

• Afghanistan: Over 50 Taliban terrorists killed in operations by Afghan forces

• Senior Tehrik-i-Taliban leader ‘Haji Dubai’ killed in Afghanistan

• Mine factory wrecked, 31 Taliban killed: Defence Officials

• Danish calls on Biden administration to review US-Taliban deal

• Can Biden’s Multilateral Approach Work in Myanmar?


Southeast Asia

• Indonesia Probes Wedding Planner For Touting Child Brides

• Ex-air steward seeks court approval to prosecute 2 for insult to religion

• Rise of religion in schools and the price to pay

• Radicalised Malaysian cleaner held and deported

• Preacher’s Death Casts Spotlight on Treatment of Detainees, Free Speech in Indonesia


North America

• No Change In Policy On Jammu and Kashmir, Says U.S.

• UN warned that Daesh terror threat will grow if nations do not act

• US to continue pressure on Iran-backed Houthis for attacks in the region: Report

• Biden Government Supports Repatriating ‘Jihadists’: US Diplomat

• US sells over a million barrels of illicit Iranian fuel, another seized cargo on way

• US condemns Houthi drone attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abha airport

• Biden presses China’s Xi on human rights issues in Hong Kong, Xinjiang



• IRGC Displays 3 Ballistic Missiles in Nationwide Rallies

• Iran Judiciary chief: US relocating Daesh in region under guise of fighting terror

• Iranian FM Warns Biden's Administration of Losing Window of Opportunity

• Israel razes home of Palestinian accused of killing settler in occupied West Bank

• Iran has followed through on plan to produce uranium metal: IAEA

• Nervous Israelis fear Biden snub as US president yet to call PM Netanyahu

• Turkey-Greece standoff: President Erdogan says two-state solution only option

• Hamas leader hails Ayatollah Khamenei’s ‘honourable’ position on Palestinian cause


Arab World

• Saudi Arabia Says Houthi Drone Used In Abha Airport Attack A Replica Of Iranian UAV

• Iran-backed Houthis claim attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abha airport

• Arab Coalition: Houthi attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abha airport, plane catches fire

• Airlines warned to avoid Saudi airports amid relentless strikes on Yemen

• Egypt builds 36km barrier around Sharm el-Sheikh in bid to protect tourists

• Clashes in northern Iraq kill three Turkish soldiers

• Hariri looks to France’s Macron for help in forming new govt, repairing Arab ties

• Arab Parliament, GCC condemn Houthi attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abha airport

• Arab Coalition intercepts Houthi drone targeting Saudi Arabia's Khamis Mushait

• Ahead of Bahrain’s uprising anniversary, protest movement calls for overthrow of tyrannical Al Khalifah regime

• Iraq’s Sadr calls for withdrawal of US forces, warns against normalizing ties with Israel

• Iraq hangs five men convicted of terrorism, sources say

• US envoy: Killing of Lebanese activist Luqman Slim ‘barbaric act’



• UN, EU Partnership to Combat Terrorism In Sudan

• Nigerian Army Keeps Mum As Boko Haram Terrorists Kill '20 Soldiers’ In Borno

• At Least 10 Dead in New Congo Attack

• Mozambique sees militia violence dwindle as military gains steam

• Growing desperation over Al-Shabaab threat in Kenya's north

• Senegal Uncovers Jihadist Cell in East of Country

• ‘Tens of thousands’ could starve to death in Ethiopia’s Tigray: Red Cross



• Nawaz, Fazl Agree To Participate In Senate Elections 2021 With Comprehensive Strategy

• 'Fazlur Rehman was the one who most benefited from the secret ballot'

• Islamabad turns into ‘war zone’ as govt employees clash with police

• 'Could've cooperated on Covid-19': FM says Kashmir issue impeding regional development

• High court serves contempt notices on education officials

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Muslim Woman Aged Over 17 Yrs Is Competent To Marry Person Of Her Choice: Punjab and Haryana HC


On attaining puberty, Muslim girl can marry anyone by law: Punjab and Haryana HC


By Jagpreet Singh Sandhu

February 11, 2021

While disposing of a plea for protection of a Muslim couple, wherein the man is aged 36 and woman is 17, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that the woman, being over 17 years of age, is competent to enter into a contract of marriage with a person of her choice.

The petitioner couple, stated in their plea that they fell in love about two years ago and decided to marry. Both petitioners solemnised their marriage on January 21, 2021, as per Muslim rites and ceremonies.

Advocate Jyotika Panesar, and Karan Singh Rana, counsels for the petitioner contended that this is the first marriage of both petitioners. While relying upon decisions by the HC in ‘Kammu versus State of Haryana and others’ in 2010, ‘Yunus Khan versus State of Haryana and Others’ in 2014, and ‘Mohd. Samim versus State of Haryana and Others’ in 2019, the counsels contended that in Muslim law, puberty and majority are one and the same and there is a presumption that a person attains majority at the age of 15 years. It was further contented that a Muslim boy or Muslim girl who has attained puberty is at liberty to marry any one he or she likes and the guardian has no right to interfere.

It was thus further contended that the life and liberty of the petitioners is in grave danger at the hands of respondent, family members of the petitioner, and for which they have also moved a representation to the SSP, Mohali, but no action has been taken.

The bench of Justice Alka Sarin, after hearing the arguments, held, “This court has taken note of the judgments cited on behalf of the petitioners and also the fact that the girl in the instant case i.e. petitioner no. 2 is aged more than 17 years. In the case of Yunus Khan (supra), it has been noted that the marriage of a Muslim girl is governed by the personal law of the Muslims.”

“The law, as laid down in various judgments cited above, is clear that the marriage of a Muslim girl is governed by the Muslim Personal Law. As per Article 195 from the book ‘Principles of Mohammedan Law by Sir Dinshah Fardunji Mulla’, the petitioner no. 2 being over 17 years of age, was competent to enter into a contract of marriage with a person of her choice. Petitioner no. 1 is stated to be more than 36 years of age. Thus, both the petitioners are of marriageable age as envisaged by Muslim Personal Law,” said Justice Sarin.

Thus the bench stated that merely because the petitioners have got married against the wishes of their family members, they cannot possibly be deprived of the fundamental rights as envisaged in the Constitution. While disposing of the petition, the bench directed to the SSP Mohali to decide the representation of the petitioners and take necessary action as per law.


Muslim Groups In France Under Pressure To Sign The ‘Charter Of Principles’ Of Islam Pushed By President Macron


We are determined not to sign unless certain changes are made, Turkish-Muslims tell Anadolu Agency


Yusuf Ozcan 



Turkish-Muslim groups in France are under pressure for refusing to sign the "charter of principles" of Islam pushed by President Emmanuel Macron, several representatives said Wednesday.

Chairman of the Confederation Islamique Milli Gorus France (CIMG), Fatih Sarikir, told Anadolu Agency that the group is determined not to sign the bill unless certain changes are made.

Sarikir said that his group expected the government to include the heads of all mosques and associations in the process.

He said despite their suggestions and criticisms about the bill, its name was changed to the “charter of principles for Islam of France.”

“It is declared as ‘Islam of France’ so the content is arranged accordingly. Now the target is not only the imams but also the Muslims,” he said. “We will maintain our constructive behavior. We don’t have any problem with the laws of France. Our only concern is that Muslims can practice their religion.”

Sarikir added that the group faces “psychological pressure” for not signing the bill.

The head of the Coordination Committee of Turkish Muslims in France (CCMTF), Ibrahim Alci, also said the group is under pressure from all sides.

Alci acknowledged that the establishment of a national imam council that will appoint imams in France according to religious knowledge, teaching skills and human qualities is an important step, but he said several articles in the bill are controversial and against the interests of Muslims.

"Six hundred to 700 mosques and associations are behind us. There are nearly 2,500 mosques in France," he said.

Alci criticized the bill’s description as “Islam of France,” and stressed that Islam is a “universal religion.”

He said he had met with France’s Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin where he conveyed his views.

Alci said he was sorry for the negative coverage of Muslims in the media just for not signing the bill. “They see us as Islamists and terrorists," he said.

No Muslim will sign the charter if it’s against Muslims, said Alci. “Eighty percent of Muslims are against this bill.”


Call for Correcting Errors Concerning Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami In Secondary Level Textbook to Present The True History Of The Liberation War

February 10, 2021

Twenty-one eminent citizens of the country today called upon authorities to rectify some errors in a chapter on Bangladeshi political parties in a secondary level textbook on civics in grades IX and X.  

In a joint statement, they said the errors need to be corrected in order to present the true history of the country's Liberation War.

"We have noticed some serious discrepancy in the facts presented in the grade IX and X textbook for Society and Civics," the statement read.

"In the chapter on the 'Political Parties of Bangladesh', Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami has been mentioned as one of the political parties, but its crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War have not been mentioned," it said.

"History says Jamaat-e-Islami committed war crimes in 1971 during the Liberation War through armed stance against liberation, and played a leading role in the genocide and mass rape that saw 30 lakh people dead and over four lakh women violated.

"The International Crimes Tribunal identified Jamaat for its war crimes while the apex court of the country cancelled its registration as a political party on this ground. Therefore, Jamaat-e-Islam cannot be considered a mentionable political party of the country under any circumstance," the statement also said.

"These contradictory information in the textbook will not only confuse the students but also prevent them from knowing the true history," the citizens said.

"The book did not mention Jamaat's role in the genocide and killing of the country's intellectuals, and also its crimes against humanity during the Liberation War. Also, in the Constitution of the country adopted by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman-led government of independent Bangladesh, religion-based political parties were banned, hence Jamaat-e-Islami had no place in this country's soil. The party later re-emerged through the assassination of Bangabandhu. All these facts need to be presented in the textbook," they also said.

"We are frustrated and angry about how leading academicians of the country could come up with compilation and editing of the academic texts with factual errors and lack of details. We demand accountability of those involved in this, and call upon authorities concerned to take necessary steps to rectify the errors in the textbook, and establish an academic curriculum that revolves around the context of the country's Liberation War history," the statement added.

The signatories of the statement are: Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury, Hasan Azizul Haque, Anupam Sen, Shamsuzzaman Khan, Ramendu Majumder, Sarwar Ali, Ferdousi Majumdar, Abdus Selim, Mamunur Rashid, Mofidul Hoque, Shafi Ahmed, Nasir Uddin Yousuff, Muntassir Mamoon, Shahriar Kabir, Sara Zaker, Lucky Enam, Golam Kuddus, Shimul Yousuff, Muhammad Samad, Hasan Arif, and Nirmalendu Goon.


Indonesia probes wedding planner for touting child brides

February 10, 2021

JAKARTA: Indonesian authorities are investigating an Islamic wedding planning service for promoting the marriage of girls as young as 12 years old, despite laws that forbid child marriage.

The Indonesian child protection commission said it had reported the website,, to police for allegedly breaching at least two laws, while the women’s empowerment and child protection ministry said it was preparing to do the same.

The website “violated and ignored the government in protecting and preventing children from becoming victims of violence and exploitation”, Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Minister Bintang Puspayoga said in a statement on Wednesday.

On its website, which has since been taken down, the agency featured a photograph of a young Islamic bride, in a white hijab and wedding attire.

Next to the photograph read the captions: “All women wish to be devout and obedient to Allah and their husband” and “to be pleasing to god and your husband, you must be married at 12-21 years of age, and not older”.

In September 2019, Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, revised the country’s marriage law to raise the minimum age women can marry to 19 from 16.

The wedding planner, which also promoted polygamous marriage, which is legal in Indonesia, did not immediately respond to an email and messages sent by Reuters via its Facebook page seeking comment.

The account was later taken down.

Before it was taken down, the message “It is better to marry than to starve to death” was posted on the Facebook account.

An online search showed the wedding planner’s website had been anonymously registered in Panama.

A police spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment, while Indonesia’s ombudsman told media the site was “damaging to the country’s youth”.

Despite the legal age revision, Olin Monteiro of the Jakarta Feminist Association said women in Indonesia were often regarded primarily as child bearers and that the wedding planning service was indicative of weak education and law enforcement.

One in four girls in Indonesia is married before they turn 18, according to a 2016 report by Indonesia’s Statistics Agency and Unicef.


No change in policy on Jammu and Kashmir, says U.S.

FEBRUARY 11, 2021

The State Dept. welcoms the resumption of 4G mobile internet in J&K

The United States on Wednesday said that there is no change in its policy on Jammu and Kashmir.

"I want to be very clear there has been no change in U.S. policy in the region," State Department Spokesperson Ned Price told reporters in view of a tweet from the South and Central Asia Bureau of the State Department which welcomed the resumption of 4G mobile internet in Jammu and Kashmir.

"We welcome the resumption of 4G mobile internet in India's Jammu & Kashmir. This marks an important step for local residents and we look forward to continued political & economic progress to restore normalcy in J&K,” tweeted the South and Central Asia Bureau of the State Department.

High-speed mobile internet was restored on February 5 in the entire union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, exactly one and a half years after it was snapped in August 2019 when the Centre had abrogated the special status of the erstwhile State.

According to a 2019 Congressional Research Service report of August 2019, a longstanding goal of U.S. policy in South Asia has been to prevent India-Pakistan conflict from escalating to inter-state war. This meant the United States has sought to avoid actions that overtly favoured either party. Over the past decade, however, Washington has grown closer to India while relations with Pakistan continue to be viewed as clouded by mistrust, CRS report said.

On a question related to Twitter shutting down some accounts in India, Mr. Price said, "Well, I think what I would say generally is that around the world — and this goes back to what I was saying before — we are committed to supporting democratic values, including freedom of expression. I think when it comes to Twitter's policies, we'd have to refer you to Twitter itself."

Responding to a similar question, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at her daily news conference: "of course, we always have concerns about crackdowns on freedom of speech, freedom of expression happening around the world and when it doesn't allow people to communicate and peacefully protest."


IRGC Displays 3 Ballistic Missiles in Nationwide Rallies


During the annual rallies held on the 42nd anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, three ballistic missiles of Zolfaqar Basir, Dezfoul and Qiyam, developed by the IRGC Aerospace Force, were displayed at Azadi Square in Tehran.

Zolfaqar Basir is the latest product of Zolfaqar class missiles that have a range of 700 km and are equipped with an optical detector capable of targeting enemy vessels at sea.

Dezfoul is another model of Zolfaqar class missiles with a range of 1,000 km and is one of the IRGC Aerospace Force's tactical ballistic missiles.

Qiyam ballistic missile, with a range of 800 km in two types of Qiyam-1 and Qiyam-2, is equipped with guided warheads. The missile equipped with the pin-pointing technology was used to target the US Ein al-Assad base in Iraq in a reprisal attack for the assassination of former IRGC Qods Force Commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani in January 2020.

The annual nationwide rallies marking the 42nd anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution were staged by processions of cars, motorcycles and bicycles in the capital city of Tehran and other cities across the country on Wednesday morning.

It's the first year Iranians stage drive-in rallies as the country is battling coronavirus outbreak.

Millions of Iranians from all walks of life were out in their cars or on motorcycles and bicycles in the streets and squares all over the country to express their support for the cause, aspirations and ideals of the Islamic Revolution.

In Tehran, thousands of cars, motorcycles and bicycles converged at Azadi Square, the capital's main square and the site of major national rallies over the past four decades.

In addition to the annual theme of renewing support for the revolution and Islamic establishment, this year rallies were important since Iranians intended to show that former US President Donald Trump who vowed he would bring the Iranian nation to its knees is gone now and the Iranian people are standing strong.

This year ralliers shouted protest at the US and its allies for their cruel sanctions imposed against the country, voicing pleasure for Trump's failure in the maximum pressure policy against Iran.

The demonstrators carried placards reading "Death to America", "Death to Israel", "Death to Britain", and a number of other slogans in support of the Supreme Leader, and the Islamic establishment.

Yet, more striking than anything else were banners and posters of General Soleimani. The ralliers vowed to take a "harsh revenge" for his martyrdom.


Saudi Arabia says Houthi drone used in Abha airport attack a replica of Iranian UAV

Tuqa Khalid

10 February ,2021

Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday the drone used in the Abha airport attack claimed by Yemen's Houthis was a replica of the Iranian Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), "Ababil T".

The Arab Coalition said on Wednesday a drone targeted Abha international airport, and a plane which was on the ground at the time cought on fire. Yemen's Houthi militia claimed the attack.

"Remnants of the wreckage show that the explosive drone is of the Qasef type, which is a replica of the Iranian UAV, Ababil T," the Saudi embassy in the US said.

Iran has long exported its drone technology to its regional Shia ally, the Houthis. Tehran denies having any role in the Yemeni conflict.

The "Qasef" drone is a combative Houthi drone which the UK-based Conflict Armament Research (CAR) organization has documented contained components manufactured exclusively by Iran.

"[Qasef-1] is not of indigenous design and construction, but rather manufactured in Iran and supplied in batches to Houthi forces in Yemen,” CAR said in a report last year.

Nic Jenzen-Jones, a military arms specialist and director of Armament Research Services, which has tracked Iranian equipment ending up in Yemen, had previously told Reuters: "Recent transfers of arms and munitions have also included Iranian Ababil series UAVs (drones), fitted with high explosive warheads and used by Houthis to engage high-value targets, such as radar and Patriot missile batteries."

The Arab Coalition has reported in recent weeks increased aerial attacks launched by Houthis in Yemen towards civilian areas in the Kingdom, using remote-operated, explosive-laden drones.

Cross-border attacks by Iran-aligned Houthi forces have escalated since late May, when a truce prompted by the coronavirus pandemic expired. In late June, missiles reached the Saudi capital Riyadh.





Gujarat High Court Unites ‘Love Jihad’ Couple Separated By Cops

February 11, 2021

Despite the Gujarat Government dropping the idea of bringing in a law to prevent what the saffron brigade calls ‘love jihad’, the police in the state are behaving in a manner that such a legislation exists.

Such an incident has come to light as an adult woman was recently detained in a local police station throughout the night following complaints from her family regarding her wish to marry a man from another community.

Following two BJP-ruled states of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh introducing laws to prevent ‘love jihad’, the Gujarat Government too had last month announced their plans for such a law.

But, following the Supreme Court admitting petitions challenging the ‘love jihad’ laws of the two states, the Gujarat Government has quickly dropped its plan for such a law.

Being a trainee woman constable, she took a transfer to the Junagadh training centre just to be away from parental pressure but there too she was kept incommunicado even as the last date of registering her marriage under the Special Marriage Act was approaching fast.

The Gujarat High Court intervened following a Habeas Corpus petition moved by her fiancé whom she was scheduled to marry latest by 9 February, when the month-long notice period was to expire.

A division bench of the High Court comprising Justice Sonia Gokani and Justice Sangeeta K Vishen heard the woman’s plea on Monday through video conference with Junagadh police training centre.

As only a day was left for the marriage notice to expire, the High Court ordered that the woman be brought to Ahmedabad in a Government vehicle with police escort so that her marriage to the Muslim man could be registered on the last date.

The High Court has also sought to know from the police department as to why the woman was detained through the night and why she was prevented from making phone calls from the Junagadh training centre.

In a similar ruling last month, a High Court bench led by Justice Sonia Gokani had ordered the release of an inter-faith couple who were illegally arrested and held captive at separate places.


Sangh Mobilising Minority Wing for Funds from Muslims for the Proposed Ram Temple in Ayodhya

Feb 11, 2021

LUCKNOW: The Sangh Parivar has decided to widen its net for raising funds for the proposed Ram temple in Ayodhya with Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) all set to roll out its minority affiliate — Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM) — to mobilise funds from the Muslim community.

Come Friday, MRM chief Indresh Kumar would kick off the campaign from Lucknow by meeting people from the Muslim community at a host of functions with the overarching theme of ‘Ram Mandir Nidhi Samarpan Abhiyan’. Sources said, RSS seeks to rope in MRM cadre in other parts of the country too. RSS sources said, Kumar would stay in the state capital for two days during which he would meet people from various sections of society, essentially Muslims, while seeking financial support for the temple.

This comes amidst the nationwide drive by Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) to raise funds for the temple. The campaign which was launched on January 15 is scheduled to be carried out till February 26, which happens to be Magh Poornima.

“This is the land of Ram. We need to work towards ending discord among various social and religious groups,” said MRM national co-convener, Murari Das, while speaking to TOI on Wednesday. “Construction of a grand Ram temple would also end social evils and put the country on a growth trajectory with help of people from all sections of society,” he said.

Kumar is scheduled to meet people from various sections of society at Vishwa Samvad Kendra (RSS office) on Friday noon. He would address a gathering of MRM members and supporters at Hindi Media Centre, Gomtinagar.

On Saturday, Kumar is scheduled to meet children of a ‘Yateem Khana’ (orphanage) near Nakkhas. RSS sources said, Indresh Kumar would ask children for a symbolical donation from their pocket money for the temple. Later, he would meet members of Muslim community at a guest house in Balaganj. Sufis from the ‘malang’ sect would also meet him at Chinhat.


Concerted Effort by Some in India To Regard Muslims As "Others": Former Vice President Hamid Ansari

February 11, 2021

New Delhi: Former vice president Hamid Ansari on Wednesday said that there is a concerted effort by some in the country to regard Muslims as "others" and stressed that India's plural society has been the reality for centuries.

Participating in a discussion on his book "By Many a Happy Accident: Recollections of a Life", he said his Muslim-ness did not matter and his professional competence did.

"There is a concerted effort from certain quarters to regard Muslims as others. Am I a citizen or not? If I am a citizen, I have the right to be a beneficiary of all things that flow out of citizenship," he said, but did not elaborate.

"A plural society was an existential reality in India for centuries," he also noted.

Former Union minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, who was also part of the discussion, said he and Ansari are both pained as the developments of the last several years are "threatening those who are Muslims".

"They feel threatened and therefore they are withdrawing," he noted.

"Muslim identity is being deliberately targeted in India and the current dispensation is targeting them viciously," Mr Chidambaram alleged.

Mr Ansari said the debate on Muslim identity is "somewhat superfluous" as each one has multiple identities.

"I carry several identities all at the same time. Why should one identity be picked out simply to be ridiculed. A citizen is a citizen," he said.

Mr Ansari said his experience as a professional diplomat for four decades did not talk about his Muslim-ness. "When I was in the UN at a difficult time my Muslim-ness did not matter. My professional competence mattered," he said.


Muslim youth stabbed for talking to Hindu girl in Coimbatore, police deny communal motive

10th February 2021

COIMBATORE: A Muslim youth was stabbed on Tuesday night by two cadre of the Hindu Munnani in Ramanathapuram while talking to a Hindu girl. The attackers are absconding.

According to police, M Akil Ahamed (27) son of a SDPI functionary in Kottaimedu, was talking to a girl, believed to be his friend, near a temple around 9 pm when Karthik and Sanjay, members of Hindu Munnani, questioned their presence.

Even as Ahamed and the duo were arguing, the latter brandished sharp weapons and attacked him. Ahamed suffered injuries in his chest and thigh.

Ahamed called his friends over phone and they took him to Coimbatore Medical College Hospital. Sources said he was treated in the outpatient ward.

Subsequently, Ahamed lodged a complaint with Ramanathapuram Police. In the complaint, he stated that his assailants questioned whether he was indulging in "love Jihad" before attacking him.

After preliminary inquiry, police registered a case under sections 307 (hurt) and 294 (B) (for reciting obscene words in public) of IPC. G Stalin, Deputy Commissioner of Police (law & order) said, "There is no communal motive in the incident. Upon seeing the the youth speaking with a girl from their locality, the duo questioned him and it turned into a fight. Further investigation is on. We are on lookout of the accused."

An investigating officer said the girl did not say anything about the use of the word 'love jihad' as was alleged by Ahamed.


Burdwan blast case: NIA court sentences top Bangladeshi terrorist to 29 years in jail

11th February 2021

KOLKATA: A special NIA court here on Wednesday sentenced the India head of Bangladesh-based terrorist organisation Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen (JMB) to 29 years in jail and imposed a fine of Rs 35,000 for his involvement in the 2014 Burdwan blast case.

Kausar, a resident of Bangladesh's Maymansingh division, was convicted by the court under sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the Arms Act and the Foreigners Act.

He is also a charge-sheeted accused in another NIA case relating to Bihar's Bodh Gaya Blast which took place in January 2018.

On October 2, 2014, a powerful bomb blast took place at the first floor of a rented house in the busy Khagragarh locality of West Bengal's Burdwan district.

An Improvised Explosive Device (IED) had accidentally gone off at the time of its fabrication by the members of the JMB.

Two terrorists had succumbed to injuries.

The case was initially registered by the West Bengal Police and it was subsequently taken over by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on October 10, 2014.

The NIA investigation revealed a conspiracy by the JMB to radicalise, recruit and provide training in arms and explosives to its members in India for committing terrorist acts and waging war against the democratically-established governments of India and Bangladesh.

A large number of IEDs, explosives, hand grenades, training videos were recovered.

A total of 33 accused were charge sheeted by the NIA for the commission of various offences in the case.

Out of the 33 accused, 31 have been arrested.

Earlier, 30 accused were convicted and sentenced to various terms by the NIA special court, Kolkata.

The trial against the remaining two absconding charge-sheeted accused continues.





Turkish Muslim groups in France oppose anti-Islam bill

FEB 10, 2021

Turkish Muslim groups in France are determined not to sign, and thereby support, France's new anti-Muslim bill on the "charter of principles" of Islam until amendments are made.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), the chairperson of the Coordination Committee of Turkish Muslims in France (CCMTF), Ibrahim Alcı, said that they have been going through a tough period and pressure is coming from everywhere.

Although acknowledging that the plan for the establishment of a national imam council – which will control the appointment of imams based on their knowledge of religion, educational talents and personal qualities – is an important step, Alcı said that some anti-Muslim articles of the bill prevent them from signing it.

He said that other Muslim foundations in France also support them, adding: "Six hundred to 700 mosques and foundations back us. There are nearly 2,500 mosques in France."

As Alcı said, they delivered the results of their consultations with imams and Muslim foundations in France to the Interior Ministry and the French Council of Muslim Worship (CFCM). Alcı also condemned the bill's description of "French Islam," saying: "The Islamic religion, which is based on the Quran and sunnah, cannot be limited to any society and ideological discourse. Islam is a universal religion."

Alcı said he recently held a meeting with French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin and expressed these views to him in private.

He noted that because they did not sign the bill, they faced a strong negative reaction from the media. "They see us as Islamist and terrorists," Alcı said.

However, as long as the bill maintains its anti-Muslim content, many Muslim foundations will not sign it, he said, adding that they will support it if it undergoes some amendments.

In January, a special commission in the French National Assembly approved the "charter of republican values" of Islam that was introduced last year by President Emmanuel Macron as part of the fight against "separatism." The bill was announced on Oct. 2 by Macron, who claimed that the law was needed in order to fight so-called Islamic "separatism," prompting criticism and rejection from the Muslim community.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry has slammed Macron’s “Islamic separatism” remarks for having a distorted approach and attempting to control migrant communities in Europe through the establishment of fabricated concepts.

The draft law is being criticized because it targets the Muslim community and imposes restrictions on almost every aspect of their lives. It provides for intervening in mosques and the associations responsible for the administration of mosques, as well as controlling the finances of associations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) belonging to Muslims.

Last month, three organizations of the CFCM unilaterally denounced the charter. The three groups said the charter was approved without obtaining the full consensus of other integral components of the CFCM, including the regional and departmental councils and imams who will be affected by the decision. It cited that the Great Mosque of Saint-Denis de la Reunion, which is one of the founding components of the CFCM, has refused to sign this charter.

"We believe that certain passages and formulations of the submitted text are likely to weaken the bonds of trust between the Muslims of France and the nation. In addition, certain statements undermine the honor of Muslims, with an accusatory and marginalizing character," the CCMTF, the Millî Görüş Islamic Confederation (CMIG) and the Faith and Practice movement said in a joint statement.

They demanded amendments to the text of the 10-point charter which Macron helmed as a "foundational text for relations between the State, Islam and France."

'Process should be inclusive'

CMIG Chairperson Fatih Sarıkır also told the AA that the bill was prepared by the CFCM very quickly and presented to Macron.

"Since the beginning, we many times said that the chairs of mosque associations and imams must be included in the process and a regulation that can be adopted by everyone at the end of consultations must be prepared," he said.

Sarıkır said that the bill announced a French Islam and prepared the content accordingly. "The target population is not only imams but also all Muslims. It includes statements about how Muslims should be in France," he said.

"We will maintain a constructive attitude. We do not have any problems with French law. Our concern is about fighting for Muslims to live their beliefs," he added.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said last week that Western countries insist on not taking measures against growing anti-Islam sentiment. Erdoğan also called on Turkish institutions to take action on issues related to Muslims and Turks in these countries.

Some European countries, particularly France, have embraced a hostile stance against Muslims in recent years.

France last year engaged in a bitter feud with Muslim countries, including Turkey, over the statements and policies made by top French officials following the republication of offensive caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims across the world denounced satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo's decision to republish cartoons, citing disrespect toward Muslims and the Prophet Muhammad.

Macron said he would not prevent the publication of the cartoons under the pretext of freedom of speech. French Muslims, however, accused him of trying to repress their religion and legitimizing Islamophobia. Several Muslim-majority countries have condemned Macron's attitude toward Muslims and Islam. Multiple protests and boycotts against French products have taken place around the world following Macron's remarks, with critics claiming that the French president's government is exploiting the spate of violence to intensify his controversial anti-Muslim stance.

Turkey had strongly condemned Charlie Hebdo's decision to republish the cartoons, saying that the action “contains disrespect toward (Muslims) and the Prophet Muhammad.” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy said in September that “it is not possible to justify this insult and disrespect toward Muslims by freedom of press, art or expression.” He also criticized Macron’s stance on the matter.

Austria tried to impose a similar bill; however, the government revised the controversial "anti-terror" law, using the phrase "religiously motivated extremism" instead of "political Islam," after negative reactions from the public.


How the Netherlands is curbing the civil liberties of its Muslim population

Malia Bouattia

9 February 2021

Across Europe, political parties are demonstrating, once again, that election victories are most easily obtained on the backs of Muslim populations.

At the end of last year, all eyes were on France in the wake of President Emmanuel Macron’s so-called anti-separatist laws, which sought to further limit freedoms for Muslims in the country. His attempts to compete with the far-right National Rally, led by Marine Le Pen, and appeal to right-wing voters by whipping up racism has sparked outrage across Muslim-majority countries.

This was not the case when the Netherlands recently followed in France’s footsteps. Mosques will face further monitoring over “foreign influence”, and their finances will be under even heavier scrutiny, after a decision made by the Dutch parliament last week. The motion, put forward by MP Bente Becker from the leading VVD party, was overwhelmingly voted through. Only one party, Denk, voted against the proposal.

Similar to the plans laid out by Macron, Muslim organisations and institutions in the Netherlands could now be shut down or have funding curbed if they are accused of “undesirable behaviour”. This follows the establishment of a parliamentary interrogation committee on “unwanted influence from unfree countries”, which last year issued a report describing how external (non-EU) forces were controlling Dutch mosques through often-unaccountable money streams.

Now Dutch authorities will have more power to block these “foreign influences” and reprimand institutions through penalties.

Muslims are once again being depicted as barbaric people who require discipline in order to espouse so-called Dutch values. The state muscles its way into their religious life, even when they have committed no wrong. The mosque as a shadowy institution of undue political influence, at the beck and call of dangerous foreign powers, is a classic racist trope. Such tropes are used time and again to justify the repression and destruction of civil liberties.

This particular recipe, which governments across Europe are adopting, reduces problems - rooted in a variety of economic, political and societal factors - to Islam, and thus concludes that the religion must be “controlled” and monitored, with theological content shaped by the state to espouse the beliefs of the land. Those beliefs, however, always remain unclear.

The Party for Freedom - one of the Netherlands’ largest far-right parties - can speak, for example, about deporting and de-Islamifying Muslims, while also claiming to defend “Dutch cosiness”. The demands of Muslim institutions usually include avoiding any critique of the state and its foreign policy, imposing a depoliticised religious agenda, and sometimes even collaborating with state forces by accepting heavy surveillance and information-gathering among the faithful as a means of “protection”.

Resisting racist practices

These developments, as political parties in the Netherlands rally for power in the lead-up to national elections in March, were perhaps unsurprising to those who have long been calling out and resisting the racist practices of the Dutch state. Muslims and migrants are not only an easy target, but a necessary one, given the recent political upheaval over the government’s poor handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The likes of the ruling VVD see growing competition on their right from nationalist figures such as Geert Wilders, the leader of the Party for Freedom. In response, they have long normalised Wilders’ views and policy proposals, including the burqa ban introduced in 2019.

It seems to matter little, in this context, that the Dutch government was recently embroiled in a large-scale scandal concerning child benefits, which involved the institutionally sanctioned targeting of people of colour and migrants. The Netherlands’ tax authority falsely accused more than 20,000 families of fraud; of those, more than half were targeted on the basis of their dual nationality and ethnicity.

Names that appeared “foreign”, for example, were used as a key indicator and led to people being wrongfully asked to pay back thousands of euros. This left families bankrupt, with some even forced to sell their homes, and led to suicide attempts and divorces. An estimated one-third of the victims were Turkish-born, while many others were of Moroccan or Caribbean heritage. The news caused an uproar across the country, and the Dutch government was forced to resign.

Yet, this large-scale exercise in institutional racism and xenophobia, which rocked the Netherlands so considerably last month, clearly did not generate enough outrage to shame MPs into refraining from voting through even more discriminatory policies. In fact, in the Dutch media, the issue of institutional racism and organised targeting of people of colour was barely mentioned in the coverage of the scandal.

Getting organised

And God forbid that Muslims may respond or get organised. When, a few months ago, 100,000 Dutch Muslims used their constitutional rights to force parliament to debate the possibility of forbidding insulting the prophet, by signing a petition launched by a local imam, they were denounced as dangerous, Islamists, and anti-Dutch. Wilders declared that those who signed the petition did not belong in the Netherlands.

Similarly, when the Dutch Green party announced that it would stand a young climate activist in the upcoming elections, Kauthar Bouchallikht, who happens to be a woman of colour who wears a headscarf, she was immediately targeted and smeared as a dangerous Islamist by the far-right. Their accusations were uncritically relayed by the mainstream media.

It turns out that the democratic institutions of the kingdom are only meant for some. Others - namely, Moroccans and Turks - are just here to do the jobs no one else wants, for little pay, and are expected to keep their mouths shut.

Political leaders and their parties across the political spectrum, from the “far left” to the far right, have demonstrated that they are more than willing to throw people of colour, migrants and Muslims under the bus in order to maintain power. This has not only facilitated the growth of far-right electoral politics, but also hostility towards these communities from far-right street groups such as Pegida, who have been mobilising and taking advantage of a climate of hate being whipped up.

Far-right riots

Yet, if the recent weeks of riots in opposition to the Covid-19 restrictions and curfews enforced by the Dutch government have shown anything, it is that the current political moment is far from straightforward.

Far-right protesters were out in the hundreds across cities such as Rotterdam and Amsterdam, breaking curfew, smashing shops and restaurants, and opposing lockdown rules. While some were the same people calling for the deportation, criminalisation and even death of Muslims, racialised communities and migrants, they were also triggered by any hint that their own freedoms could be limited. So much, it seems, for Dutch cosiness.

The so-called "war on terror" agenda depends on Islamophobia to narrow civil liberties, target political dissent and introduce mass surveillance through policing and technology. In a country such as the Netherlands, so renowned for its defence of such rights, one might expect that the defence of Muslims’ rights should be obvious. Yet, it is clear that those in power are happy only to pay lip service to, rather than to apply, such “Dutch values”.

It is left to communities themselves to organise and fight back against the growth of racism, in both the streets and parliament.

The left, the unions and social movements must join that struggle if they do not want their own organisations to be next in line, as the ongoing expansion of so-called anti-radicalisation policies in the UK demonstrates. They should do so for their own sake, as much as for that of the Muslims being scapegoated.


UK Muslims submit UN complaint over forced cremations in Sri Lanka

FEB 10, 2021

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) submitted a complaint to the United Nations on Tuesday over the forced cremations of Muslims in Sri Lanka who died of COVID-19.

The MCB in partnership with U.K.-based law firm Bindmans submitted the complaint to the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on behalf of their families.

"No other state has carried out such unjust and discriminatory measures. We very much hope that the Sri Lankan government will change its policy in line with the World Health Organization's (WHO) advice,” Zara Mohammed, secretary-general of the MCB, said in a statement, describing the government's policy as "unprecedented.”

Tayab Ali, a partner at Bindmans who represents the MCB and the applicants, said the forced cremations are a violation of religious freedom as well as international law.

"We hope that the United Nations Human Rights Committee will take immediate action on receipt of this complaint by granting interim measures to halt these cremations,” Ali said.

In March last year, Sri Lanka's Ministry of Health declared that burying coronavirus victims could spread the virus. It said the bodies of the deceased, irrespective of their religion, would therefore be cremated.

But WHO stressed that cremation is a "matter of cultural choice.”

"It is a common myth that persons who have died of a communicable disease should be cremated, but this is not true,” it added.

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and minority groups in Sri Lanka have filed petitions before the Supreme Court pleading to stop the cremation of Muslim bodies. But the court dismissed all such petitions.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Sri Lanka has reported 71,211 coronavirus cases, 370 deaths and 65,053 recoveries, according to data compiled by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.


Russia urges Iran to show ‘restraint’ after uranium production

11 February ,2021

Russia on Thursday urged Iran to show restraint after it started producing uranium metal in a new breach of limits laid out in Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

“We understand the logic of their actions and the reasons prompting Iran. Despite this it is necessary to show restraint and a responsible approach,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told state news agency RIA Novosti.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Wednesday that it had verified the production of 3.6 grams of uranium metal at a plant in Iran.

The landmark deal – reached in 2015 by the United States, China, Russia, Germany, France and Britain – contained a 15-year ban on “producing or acquiring plutonium or uranium metals or their alloys”.

Iran said last month it was researching uranium metal production, a sensitive issue because uranium metal can be used as a component in nuclear weapons.

Ryabkov said Iran’s move demonstrated Tehran’s “determination not to put up with the current situation,” after it warned that time was running out for US President Joe Biden’s administration to save the agreement.

In 2018, US president Donald Trump dramatically withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and reimposed crippling economic sanctions on Tehran.

Trump’s successor Biden is seeking to revive the agreement, but the two sides appear to be in a standoff over who acts first.


Isis fighters’ brother bought sword and rapped about Lee Rigby ‘while planning terror attack’

Lizzie Dearden

February 10, 2021

An alleged Isis supporter whose two brothers died fighting for the terrorist group in Syria planned a terror attack in the UK, a court has heard.

Sahayb Abu, 27, bought a sword, knife, balaclava and gloves while allegedly making preparations for an act of terrorism.

The Old Bailey heard that he sent two of his surviving brothers videos of himself rapping about “sending bombs” and “eliminating foes”.

Jurors were told that days before he was arrested, Abu rapped about the 2013 terror attack where Fusilier Lee Rigby was murdered and talked about seeing “many Lee Rigby’s heads rolling on the ground”.

He allegedly discussed wanting to conduct homophobic attacks in the UK in an extremist chat group, as well as targeting a Shia Muslim cleric.

On the day of his arrest on 9 July, Abu allegedly praised the 9/11 terror attacks and wrote: “We need a 9/11 2.0”

Prosecutor John McGuinness QC said Abu had also conducted numerous online searches for terror attacks in the UK, France and Germany.

“The kuffar [disbelievers] have felt their share of pain, I just wish it was multiplied a million fold,” he allegedly wrote in a text message to his brothers on 3 July.

Two days before, he had ordered an 18in blade from an online shop that described it as a “deadly close-combat design … used by warriors”, and paid extra to have it sharpened before delivery.

Later that day, he sent a rap to his brothers talking about “militant born, militant wear” and adding that he was “just waiting on the body armour … the body armour stop a bullet”.

Mr McGuinness said the defendant had purchased body armour online on 28 June, but that the armour and the sword were not delivered “because of intervention by the authorities”.

He told the jury that Abu’s only income appeared to have been £400 a month in benefits, and that the purchases left only £1.13 in his account.

Several of the rap videos played to the court had been sent to his brother, 31-year-old Muhamed Abu, who has been charged with failing to tell authorities about the alleged plans.

The court heard that Sahayb Abu was part of an extremist chat group on the encrypted Telegram app, where participants posted messages that “actively displayed support for Isis” and shared footage of beheadings, explosions and atrocities.

Mr McGuinness said he joined under a pseudonym after applying to become a member and being vetted by participants.

In an audio message sent as part of the application, Abu allegedly said that one of his brothers, his sister and her husband had been jailed for disseminating terrorist publications.

In a written post, he allegedly said: “Time for talk over 100 per cent. Talking is over. The kuffar [disbelievers] aren’t talking, that’s for sure.”

The court heard that in other posts, Abu outlined support for extremist preachers including Anwar al-Awlaki, Anjem Choudary, Abu Hamza and Abdullah el-Faisal.

Following a mass stabbing in Glasgow on 26 June, Abu allegedly lamented that “there’s only knives in UK, it’s not going to do much damage”.

The court heard that he started discussing the availability of guns in Britain with another participant in the group, who was an undercover police officer known as Rachid.

Jurors were shown records of private messages between the pair, where the police officer was posing as a gun smuggler and Abu asked if they could “meet up for a coffee”.

Abu met the undercover for the first time on 30 June, the court heard, and told him that two of his brothers had travelled to Syria in 2015 and died as “martyrs” fighting for Isis.

Mr McGuinness said the pair later discussed smuggling guns into the UK “in code” in private messages, and again at a second meeting on 7 July.

In police interviews following his arrest, Abu said he did not believe references to “toys” and “sweets” were code for firearms.

When asked why he had ordered the sword, Abu said it “looked cool” and could be used as a prop in a film about himself, and then claimed he had it sharpened to cut things including paper and rugs.

He told police he joined the extremist chat group “to flirt with girls, try woo them”, and was trying to look “macho” by voicing apparent support for 9/11.

Abud denied supporting Isis and called himself “a guy of world peace.”

Abu, of South Norwood in London, denies preparing an act of terrorism. His brother, Muhamed, of Dagenham, denies failing to disclose information about acts of terrorism. The trial continues.



South Asia


Islamic State Poised for Possible Resurgence in Afghanistan, US Officials Warn

By Jeff Seldin

February 09, 2021

WASHINGTON - The Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan – seemingly pushed to the brink last year following unrelenting pressure from the U.S. and Afghan militaries, and by multiple Taliban offenses – appears to have recovered and may soon look to strike further afield, according to U.S. military and intelligence officials.

The turnaround for IS-Khorasan, as the group’s Afghan affiliate is known, contrasts with its waning fortunes just over a year ago, when U.S. officials estimated it had lost “up to half its force” while suffering a string of defeats in Nangarhar and Kunar provinces.

Stripped of its key territories, U.S. intelligence estimates at the time suggested IS-Khorasan was down to as few as 1,000 fighters. So too, there were growing questions about its offensive capabilities.

But more recent intelligence suggests the bleeding has, at least stopped.

“New leadership allowed it to stabilize and increase localized and lone wolf attacks throughout the second half of the year [2020],” U.S. Central Command Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, who oversees U.S. forces in Afghanistan, told a virtual forum Monday.

And while there are doubts about whether IS-Khorasan will again be able to hold territory as it once did, the group is showing few signs of slowing down in 2021.

“The group maintains a steady operational tempo and probably retains the ability to conduct attacks in Kabul and other urban centers,” a U.S. official told VOA on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the latest intelligence assessment.

And though most of the attacks have been focused on areas in which IS-Khorasan has historically had a presence, the group’s leadership has not given up on some of its grander ambitions.

“We are concerned about the group’s demonstrated interest in conducting external operations,” the official said, noting IS-Khorasan is still “of the largest and most lethal branches of ISIS’s global network and maintain a direct relationship with ISIS leaders in Iraq and Syria.”

The U.S. and other intelligence agencies have also seen signs of the terror group’s ability to persist in parts of Afghanistan it once called home.

“Despite its significant loss of territory, ISIL-K has not been entirely eradicated from the districts of Manogay, in Kunar, and Achin, in Nangarhar,” according to a new United Nations report, referring to the group by one of its many acronyms.

“Sleeper cells are active in other parts of the country, particularly in Kabul,” the U.N. report added, noting that is where new IS-Khorasan leader Shahab al-Muhajir, also known as Sanaullah, is based.

Estimates from global intelligence services now put the number of IS-Khorasan fighters at between 1,000 and 2,500. While not the 5,000 fighters it once boasted, it has been enough for the group to carry out a series of high-profile attacks, including the 20-hour-long assault on a prison in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad this past August, which killed at least 29 people as well as November’s attack on Kabul University, which killed at least 19.

In all, the recent U.N. report concluded IS-Khorasan has been responsible for the deaths of some 600 civilians and about 2,500 Afghan security forces over the past 12 months.

Some analysts caution there could be more to come, warning it would be a mistake to write-off IS-Khorasan despite the real and significant setbacks over the past year or so.

“This is indeed part of the ebb and flow of the jihad,” said Bill Roggio, a senior fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, warning that as long as IS-Khorasan is able to generate publicity with deadly attacks, it has a chance to rebuild.

“ISKP appeals to the most radical elements of the jihadists, and its penchant for extreme violence without concern for civilian casualties attracts a significant number of followers,” Roggio said, using another acronym for the IS affiliate.

“They are able to replenish some losses from disaffected Afghan and Pakistani Taliban members, as well of from the pool of radicals in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said.

Some intelligence services of U.N. member states also suspect IS-Khorasan is getting help from an unusual source -- the Haqqani Network, which maintains ties with both the Taliban and IS rival al-Qaida.

One intelligence service told the U.N. that the new IS-Khorasan leader, al-Muhajir, was once a mid-level Haqqani commander and has maintained close ties with his former associates.

Those ties have paid off, the service said, with the Haqqanis providing IS-Khorasankey expertise and access to networks as it sought to recover from losses in its former Afghan strongholds.


Court: Dipon’s killers aimed at destroying Bangladesh's secular, democratic character

February 10th, 2021

In its observation, the court says Dipon was killed in premeditated way for publishing Avijit Roy's book

The killers of Foisal Arefin Dipon, publisher of Jagriti Prokashony, had the objective of destroying the secular and democratic character of the state, according to the court that has sent eight militants to the gallows for the 2015 murder.

Altogether eight members of the banned militant outfit Ansar al-Islam were handed down the death penalty by Judge Md Majibur Rahman of the Anti-Terrorism Special Tribunal in Dhaka on Wednesday.

In the observation, which was part of the 53-page verdict, the judge noted that Dipon was killed in a premeditated manner for publishing books of writer-blogger Avijit Roy.

Avijit Roy was also brutally murdered in similar fashion eight months before Dipon was killed in 2015.

The sole purpose of Ansar al-Islam members was to silence bloggers, writers and publishers and in effect silence the voices of the people, observed the judge.

He added that the accused committed the crime to disrupt public security by creating panic and to impede free speech.

The militants wanted to endanger public safety and force the government to refrain from engaging in democratic politics and development work in the country, the judge said in his observation.

He added that other Ansar al-Islam members would be motivated to commit such crimes if the accused in this case were spared. Since the accused were involved in Dipon’s murder in an organized way as members of the the militant group, they must be given the same punishment.

They do not deserve any sympathy, said the judge.

Only the death penalty will ensure justice and it would be an exemplary punishment, he observed, adding it would also bring peace of mind for Dipon’s family and would frighten and discourage others from committing such heinous crimes in the future.

The verdict

Judge Majibur Rahman started reading out the 53-page verdict at 12:02pm. Dipon's wife Dr Razia Rahman and two other relatives were present in court at the time.

The convicts are sacked army major Syed Ziaul Haque Zia; Akram Hossain alias Hasib; Abdus Sabur alias Abdus Samad alias Sujon; Khairul Islam alias Jamil alias Jisan; Sheikh Abdullah alias Jubayer alias Jayed; Abu Siddique Sohel alias Sajid alias Sihab; Mozammel Hossain alias Saimon; and Moinul Hasan Shamim alias Sifat alias Shamim alias Samir.

Of them, Zia and Akram are still on the run, while the other six are behind bars.

The six were brought to the court earlier in the morning from Dhaka Central Jail in Keraniganj. They were taken to the courtroom at 11:30am.

Apart from the capital punishment, each of the eight convicts were also slapped with a Tk50,000 fine.

Case details

Dipon was hacked to death in the Jagriti Prokashony office at Aziz Super Market in the capital on October 31, 2015.

His wife Razia Rahman filed the murder case at Shahbagh police station two  days later against unidentified assailants.

Police pressed charges against the eight militants on November 15, 2018.

On October 13, 2019, the court indicted the eight in the case. Twenty-two out of 26 prosecution witnesses testified in court during the trial.


Afghanistan: Over 50 Taliban terrorists killed in operations by Afghan forces

Feb 11, 2021

KABUL: Over 50 Taliban terrorists were killed and several others suffered injuries in operations conducted by Afghanistan forces, the country's defence ministry said on Thursday.

The operations were conducted in the provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Sarpul and Faryab.

Taking to Twitter, the Afghan Defence Ministry announced that the country's forces conducted a raid in Sozma-Qala district of Sarpul province last night, killing eight Taliban terrorists and wounding 11 others on Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, 10 Talibans were killed and eight others were wounded after Afghanistan Air Force (AAF) "targeted their stronghold in Qaisar district of Faryab province" on Wednesday night.

"27 Taliban terrorists including 2 of their commanders were killed in Nawa, Nahre-Saraj and Garmseer districts of Helmand province as a result of ANDSF (Afghan National Defense and Security Forces) oppositions. Additionally, some of their vehicles and weapons were destroyed by ANA (Afghan National Army)," the ministry tweeted.

In Kandahar province on Wednesday last night, six Taliban terrorists were killed and six others were wounded during the ANDSF operations in Arghandab district.

"6 Taliban terrorists were killed and 6 wounded during #ANDSF operations in Arghandab district of Kandahar province last night. Additionally, 2 strongholds and a large number of their weapons and ammunition were destroyed," the ministry tweeted.

Recently, Afghanistan has witnessed a sharp rise in violence.

The country's forces have launched raids on Taliban hideouts and killed several terrorists in recent weeks.

Data from the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission shows that in 2020, over 2,000 people were killed in incidents, for which no one claimed responsibility, according to TOLO News.

Moreover, the US-Taliban deal, signed in Doha last year in February that calls for the full withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan by the end of May, has resulted in an increase in violence.


Senior Tehrik-i-Taliban leader ‘Haji Dubai’ killed in Afghanistan

11 Feb 2021

Tehrik-i-Taliban leader, Amir Nawaz, who was suspected of killing the renowned aid worker and Japanese national “Tetsu Nakamura” in Afghanistan was killed in Nangarhar province, Afghan and Pakistani officials told media.

Nawaz is also known as “Haji Dubai” and was on the wanted list of terrorist figures in Pakistan for his role in series of murders and kidnappings in Karachi, Punjab, Balochistan, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Reports also indicate he was the mastermind behind the Bannu prison break in April 2012, in which 260 Taliban fighters fled from detention as a result of the attack.

Pakistani media also reported that the TTP leader was killed in an “armed” battle in Afghanistan a couple of days ago.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for the killing of Nakamura.


Mine factory wrecked, 31 Taliban killed: Defence Officials

11 Feb 2021

The Ministry of Defense (MoD) says a Taliban mine factory in the Arghandab district of Kandahar province has been destroyed.

Ministry of Defense in a released statement on Thursday said, that a Taliban mine and bomb manufacturing factory was discovered and wrecked.

The operation that took place in the region resulted in complete destruction of a Taliban mine factory.

During the attacks, eight mine makers including their leader were killed and a massive mine factory belonging to the Taliban was destroyed, MoD stated.

Meanwhile, IED, mine, or bomb explosions have raged across Afghanistan, and on Wednesday’s string of  IED attacks, many people including the police chief of PD5 in Kabul were killed.

This comes as 31 Taliban fighters were killed in an airstrike in Chahar Bolak district in Balkh Province.

209 Shaheen Corps stated, that these Taliban fighters were killed during the operations conducted by the Afghan national defense and security forces.


Danish calls on Biden administration to review US-Taliban deal

10 Feb 2021

Second Vice president Mohammad Sarwar Danish Urged that the US-Taliban peace agreement was signed in a hasty way, and it does have a solid guarantee to ensure stability in the country or the peace process will have a conclusion.

In a meeting with the representative of ICRC, Danish warned that the peace process will face extreme challenges if the US-Taliban deal is not reconsidered.

The agreement left without any review will make Afghanistan face extreme issues, according to Danish’s office.

This comes as Rahmatullah Nabil, former head of NDS, criticized recent meetings of Ashraf Ghani with political figures, he said that Ghani is politically isolated and tries to gain the support of Major political parties.

According to Nabil, President Ghani started to seek views of political parties as the peace dialogues took another turn when the topic “interim government ’ started

Head of HCNR on the other hand has reportedly said that nothing is built behind the scenes to be imposed on the people.

Mohammad Mohaqiq, senior adviser on political and security affairs of the president told Tolonews that “An Interim government means transformation towards the dissolution of the Constitution or a possible collapse (collapse of the political system) and chaos,”.


Can Biden’s Multilateral Approach Work in Myanmar?

By Patsy Widakuswara

February 10, 2021

WASHINGTON - With new sanctions slapped on Myanmar, the Feb. 1 military takeover in the country has emerged as an early test of President Joe Biden’s multilateral diplomatic strategy, as his administration pledges to defend democracy and seeks to counter China’s rising influence in a region that has shown significant democratic erosion in recent years.

Biden announced on Wednesday targeted sanctions on the Burmese military junta following consultation with allies and partners.

“A strong and unified message emerging from the United States has been essential, in our view, to encouraging other countries to join us in pressing for an immediate return to democracy,” Biden said.

Reaching out to allies is a necessary step since there is little leverage that Washington can employ after increasing sanctions on the country following human rights abuses against the Rohingya minority group.

It remains to be seen, however, whether Biden’s multilateral diplomacy approach will be effective in a region where authoritarian rule is increasingly the norm rather than the exception.

Democratic backsliding

The Burmese coup followed democratic backsliding in the region, including in Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and the Philippines. Addressing them in the context of strategic competition with China is a challenge for the Biden administration, said Robert Daly, director of the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

“How will we compromise and play the long game and keep channels open even with regimes that we object to? How can we do that and back off of an absolute declaration of principles in order to compete with China, while still claiming that the grounds of our competition with China is in some way ideological?” Daly said.

Beijing is Naypyitaw’s biggest trading partner, and the two countries have strong defense ties. The Burmese military has also deepened ties with Russia, another U.S. adversary.

Split within ASEAN

On Feb. 4, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan spoke with ambassadors from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, urging them to provide support for the “immediate restoration” of democracy in Myanmar.

Indonesia and Malaysia, Muslim-majority countries that have raised alarms following atrocities against the Rohingya, have called for a special meeting within ASEAN, while Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines have taken the position the coup is an internal affair.

“The problem with multilateralism is that it works great when everybody agrees,” said Dean Cheng, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation. “What happens when your multilateral allies say, ‘We don't want to do what you want to do?’”

ASEAN remains the main regional body for the Biden administration to lean on, though, as it tries to return democracy and human rights as pillars of U.S. foreign policy.

It’s a major trade and investment partner, with Singapore being the largest foreign investor in Myanmar and Indonesia and Thailand as key trading partners. In the past, ASEAN has shown some flexibility over its principle of non-interference as it deals with Naypyitaw, including when its leaders agreed to skip the country’s turn to host the ASEAN Summit in 2007 over concerns about its authoritarian government.

The ASEAN sentiment is that it prefers the U.S. to engage with Myanmar and continue the country’s rapprochement with the West that was disrupted by sanctions over the Rohingya crisis, said Tai Wei Lim, a research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s East Asian Institute.

Beginning in December 2017, the U.S. imposed sanctions on the perpetrators of Rohingya atrocities, including Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and his deputy, General Soe Win.

Western allies are noting the fact that the military junta in Myanmar is wary of being viewed as a puppet of any foreign power, including Beijing and New Delhi. It has signaled intent to maintain existing diplomatic and economic relations with partners.

“There will be no change in the foreign policy, government policy and economic policy of the country during the periods we are temporarily taking the state responsibility,” said Min Aung Hlaing in a speech Monday, his first national address following the coup.

Restoring regional relations

Research fellow Lim added that for the multilateral approach to succeed, the U.S. also will need to restore relations with traditional allies in the region, including India, South Korea and Japan.

India was Myanmar’s leading arms supplier in 2019, selling $100 million in equipment, according to the SIPRI Arms Transfers Database. South Korea is next with $90 million, and then China with $47 million. Japan and India are the country’s main trading partners after China.

Biden discussed the Myanmar coup Monday with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Ultimately, this kind of regional consensus-building and marginal nudging toward a more democratic path may be the most viable option for the administration.

“Our best play is to work with allies to achieve what we can while keeping as much support and as many channels of communication to the people of Myanmar as possible,” said Daly of the Wilson Center.

Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party won a resounding victory in November. Post-coup, the Burmese people, including government workers, have marched together in a growing civil disobedience campaign.

Staying power

While Washington has very little direct leverage in affecting change in Myanmar, it can still cooperate with regional partners to incentivize compromise, said Gregory Poling, senior fellow for Southeast Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“But if we think that we're going to slap sanctions and Min Aung Hlaing is going to say, ‘I'm sorry,’ we are mistaken,” he said.

Poling added that “a degree of modesty” is required from Washington, particularly after the deadly siege Jan. 6 of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump, who believed his false claims the election was stolen. The Burmese military’s pretext for the coup is alleged electoral fraud in their November 2020 election.

“I don't think it was ever all that effective when U.S. officials went into Southeast Asian states preaching, but now they’ll just be laughed at,” Poling said.

Responding to VOA’s question during a press briefing on Feb. 4, National Security Adviser Sullivan acknowledged the criticism.

“Pulling our country together, revitalizing our own democratic foundation, building more unity, as President Biden has talked about — that will be an important part of us operating effectively in the world,” he said.

The more important question for regional allies, however, may not be about America's moral authority but about its staying power.

“Are they willing to risk partnering with us in ways that China dislikes, if every four years America is willing to switch tracks entirely and have a president who tries to undo all of the accomplishments and commitments of his or her predecessor?” Daly, of the Kissinger Institute, said.

“This is skepticism about the United States, and whether it can be consistent given its internal divisions,” Daly said. “And those are very reasonable concerns.”



Southeast Asia


Ex-air steward seeks court approval to prosecute 2 for insult to religion

February 11, 2021

SHAH ALAM: A former air steward has filed a complaint with a magistrate here to commence private prosecution against two Muslim converts for allegedly insulting non-Islamic faiths and their religious practices.

S Shashi Kumar will appear before Mohamad Redza Azhar Rezali for an inquiry on March 12 at 2.30pm.

He initiated the action against Firdaus Wong Wai Hung, who is the president and founder of the Multiracial Reverted Muslims (MRM), and Zamri Vinoth Kalimuthu, both said to be associated with controversial preacher Zakir Naik.

Lawyer T Gunaseelan, who is representing Shashi, said his client made the complaint under Section 133 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

“Redza will serve a notice to the deputy public prosecutor informing him that a complaint has been received,” he said.

Firdaus is said to have insulted non-Islamic religions, particularly the Hindu faith, through his Facebook and YouTube postings.

In a statutory declaration (SD), Shashi said he had made a police report against Firdaus in January 2018 after having seen the contents on both the social media platforms.

“The contents have given rise to hatred and insults toward non-Muslims in Malaysia, and are likely to cause breach of peace,” he said, adding that many others had also made similar reports.

Shashi said he sent a memorandum to then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the home, communications and multimedia, and national unity ministers, in addition to the Islamic Affairs Department and the Attorney-General’s Chambers in October 2018.

In a separate SD, Shashi said he had also lodged a police report against Zamri, a freelance preacher, in June last year for allegedly insulting the rituals and practices of Hinduism on his Facebook account which had gone viral.

“His posting is likely to cause hatred and upset the religious harmony among the people of different faiths,” he said.

Shashi said he had inquired with police on the status of his reports against the two but there was no response.

Gunaseelan, who is assisted by S Ravichandran, said should the magistrate find basis for the reports lodged, charges could be brought under the Sedition Act, the Penal Code and the Communications and Multimedia Act.

“In the past, magistrates have allowed individuals to conduct prosecution for certain offences,” noted Gunaseelan.

The lawyer said his client would leave it to the prosecution to act on the police reports if the DPP was willing to take it up. Otherwise, Shashi will ask the magistrate to give him the authority to prosecute the duo.


Rise of religion in schools and the price to pay

Imran Ariff and Sean Augustin

February 11, 2021

PETALING JAYA: Dr Mahathir Mohamad claims there is an overemphasis on Islam in schools at the expense of the kind of education needed in an increasingly demanding world.

“It’s almost as if every student is going to be an ulama,” he said.

He told FMT he believed the focus should instead be on technology and the sciences.

Mahathir, who was education minister under two prime ministers – Abdul Razak Hussein and Hussein Onn – said the overarching emphasis on religion had overshadowed what religious education was intended to achieve, which was to instil the teachings and values of “basic Islam”.

“They are increasing the number of hours, the number of periods, to teach Islam beyond what is needed by an ordinary Muslim,” he said. “As a result, children don’t learn other knowledge, especially science and maths, which are very important now to make a living.”

He called for a balance between instilling students with Islamic values and developing an academic base that will allow them to thrive in the working world.

He said the push for more Islam in the curriculum was not a government policy but the agenda of “certain ministers and civil servants” to promote the religion.

“They have their own interpretation of what is needed in schools to increase the knowledge of the religion,” he said.

He attributed this shift of priorities to policymakers who, he alleged, pandered to a section of their Malay base in order to maintain political support. The cost of this, he said, was that children were deprived of the education needed to thrive in an ever-changing job market.

“In Malaysia, the Malays, for example, are of course very religious. They want to study religion, but religion doesn’t qualify them for work as engineers or lawyers.”

He also said liberal arts education, historically popular among Malays, did not meet current and future demands of employers.

“Now, the stress is on technology. If you don’t study technology, you will not have any employment (opportunities). If you study history, languages and things like that, you will not get employed.”

Mahathir added that the education system now had a role in building character because more parents were working and were not full-time caregivers, thus placing more responsibility on schools and teachers to mentor students.

“If students believe in hard work, obviously they will be able to succeed,” he said. “But if they believe in just getting free money from the government, they will not succeed.

“In the past, parents would teach their children good values. They would tell the children you don’t steal, you don’t do wrong things, this is a sin, this is a crime and all that.

“But now the parents are all working. They don’t spend enough time teaching their children. So we have to teach the children from the kindergarten level.”


Radicalised Malaysian cleaner held and deported

Hariz Baharudin

FEB 10, 2021

A 33-year-old radicalised Malaysian working as a cleaner here has been arrested and deported to Malaysia for planning to travel to Syria with his Singaporean wife to take up armed violence for terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The Internal Security Department (ISD) yesterday said the man's 34-year-old wife, a religious teacher who was radicalised by him and wanted to go with him, has been placed on a restriction order (RO) for two years. Her teaching accreditation has been suspended.

The man, Mohd Firdaus Kamal Intdzam, was arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in July last year. The ISD said there was no indication he had made any specific plans to cause violence here.

Investigations revealed that Firdaus started being radicalised in 2016, when he went online to deepen his religious knowledge and was exposed to pro-ISIS content. "Through sustained exposure to pro-ISIS materials, Firdaus was convinced by early 2018 that ISIS was fighting for Islam, and that its use of violence to create an Islamic caliphate was justified," said ISD.

It added that Firdaus had regarded a self-declared leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as the true Islamic ruler.

Even after ISIS' so-called caliphate fell in the late 2010s, he remained a fervent supporter by actively posting materials promoting ISIS and armed jihad on his social media accounts. He even created an ISIS flag in March last year, which he hung at home to show his loyalty to the group. He believed armed jihad, or struggle in the name of Islam, was compulsory for all able-bodied Muslim men.

In addition to travelling to Syria to take up arms, Firdaus was also willing to carry out attacks against countries which he deemed to be oppressing Muslims, or which he saw as being hypocritical for aligning themselves with the West, said the ISD. "He aspired to die as a martyr in the battlefield so as to receive divine rewards."

The department worked closely with its Malaysian counterpart, the Malaysian Special Branch, on investigations into Firdaus. After investigations were completed, Firdaus had his work pass cancelled and he was handed over to the Malaysian Special Branch in August last year.

The head of the counter-terrorism division at the Special Branch, Deputy Commissioner Normah Ishak, told The Straits Times that Firdaus was charged at the Johor Baru Sessions Court last August for possessing items related to terrorist acts. The case has been mentioned four times since September, and last Wednesday, it was again adjourned to March 1. Prosecutors are expected to request that the case be transferred to the Kuala Lumpur High Court.

Responding to queries on how it found out about Firdaus and his wife Ruqayyah Ramli, the ISD said it had received information on his radical social media posts in the middle of last year. It declined to give further details, citing operational reasons. "While it is ISD's practice to announce any new ISA terrorism cases expeditiously, one key determinant of the timing of any such announcements is that it should not jeopardise any ongoing investigations," it added.

Firdaus started to influence his wife Ruqayyah with his pro-ISIS views after their marriage in December 2018, ISD said.


Through sustained exposure to pro-ISIS materials, Firdaus was convinced by early 2018 that ISIS was fighting for Islam, and that its use of violence to create an Islamic caliphate was justified.

The housewife and part-time freelance religious teacher, who was accredited by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) in September 2017, has had her accreditation suspended. As part of her RO, she is not allowed to conduct religious classes.

ISD said that while Ruqayyah initially had doubts, she started to believe her husband's words and also saw ISIS' use of violence against perceived oppressors of Islam as justified. She was willing to accompany him to Syria and take her two children, it added.

ISD told The Straits Times that the children were not influenced by their parents' radical beliefs, and that an aftercare officer has been assigned to provide support for Ruqayyah and her family.


If there are signs of radicalisation, we should refer these individuals to Muis, the Religious Rehabilitation Group or the police. Early intervention will help steer them away from the radicalised path.

Ruqayyah was not found to have attempted to spread her pro-ISIS views to others. She is currently undergoing religious counselling to steer her away from her radical path, said ISD.

Under the RO, she cannot change her residence, employment or travel out of Singapore without official approval. She is also barred from issuing public statements or joining organisations without approval.

In a statement yesterday, Muis said it was "alarming" that Ruqayyah was a part-time freelance religious teacher, and that her case is a "grim reminder" of the dangerous influence of extremism still present today, especially from online sources.

The council urged people here to report any individual espousing violent or extremist ideologies to the relevant authorities quickly for timely intervention.

In a Facebook post, Minister of State for Home Affairs Faishal Ibrahim said: "If there are signs of radicalisation, we should refer these individuals to Muis, the Religious Rehabilitation Group or the police. Early intervention will help steer them away from the radicalised path."


Preacher’s Death Casts Spotlight on Treatment of Detainees, Free Speech in Indonesia


The death in police custody of a 28-year-old Islamic preacher, who was jailed for several weeks for an “insulting” tweet about an advisor to the president, has raised questions about the treatment of detainees and the state of free speech in Indonesia.

Soni Eranata, also known as Maaher At-Thuwailibi, died in his detention cell on Monday night after refusing to be hospitalized for an illness, police said.

Last week, a man accused of stealing a mobile phone died in detention in Balikpapan, a city on Borneo Island, after allegedly being tortured by police. Police have named six officers suspects in the case.

At least nine detainees in Indonesia have died in the past three months because of mistreatment, illness, suicide and fighting among inmates, said KontraS, a human rights group.

“This is the result of overzealous action by police and a lack of transparency and accountability,” KontraS coordinator Fatia Maulidiyanto told BenarNews.

“We urge the national police chief to order police departments across the country to conduct thorough reviews to prevent mistreatment and excessive action.”

Soni was arrested on Dec. 3 after a citizen complained to police about one of the preacher’s postings on Twitter.

In that tweet, the citizen perceived that Soni was mocking the head gear worn by Luthfi bin Yahya, an Islamic cleric and member of the presidential advisory council.

“Wearing the hijab like the Banser cleric makes you more beautiful,” Soni tweeted with a photo of Luthfi.

Banser is the paramilitary wing of the Nahdlatul Ulama – Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization – to which Luthfi belongs.

Soni eventually apologized for the post, but police pursued the case and charged him with violating the Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law.

According to national police spokesman Inspector Gen. Argo Yuwono, Soni became ill after he was arrested in December, and had been treated for a week at a police hospital in Jakarta before being discharged and returned to the police detention center.

“It is not true that he was ill-treated. He died from an illness,” Argo told reporters on Tuesday.

“There’s a statement from the doctor who treated him that the suspect was sick. There are lab results too.”  

After being discharged, Soni on Feb. 4 again said he was sick and police offered to send him back to the hospital, but he refused, Argo said.

Argo declined to provide details on Soni’s illness, saying it was a sensitive matter. No autopsy was conducted and the body has since been buried, police said.

Soni’s lawyer, Djuju Purwantara, said the family had asked that the preacher be taken to an Islamic hospital in Bogor, south of Jakarta, but the request was rejected on the grounds that the police hospital was well equipped to treat him.

“The family wanted Ustaz [teacher] Maaher to be treated at Ummi Hospital, because his medical records were there,” Djuju told BenarNews.

Djuju said his client often complained about stomach aches but the police hospital did not inform him about Soni’s illness.

The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) said it was seeking more information about Soni’s death.

“We want to know what really happened,” Komnas HAM chairman Ahmad Taufan Damanik told reporters on Wednesday.

“His family said that there was no violence and he was sick. We want to know why he was sick and why he was not treated immediately,” he said.

Taufan said he had urged the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, Mohammad Mahfud MD, to improve monitoring in detention centers.

“We need to improve the conditions in detention centers. There should be zero tolerance for violence and torture,” he said.

‘Ultimum remedium ignored’

Soni was no stranger to controversy and provocative social media posts.

In 2017, he accused President Joko Widodo’s government of being hostile to Islam after it disbanded Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), the local branch of an international group seeking to establish an Islamic caliphate.

Last year, Soni called actress and model Nikita Mirzani a “whore” and threatened to send hundreds of people to her house after she called hardline cleric Muhammad Rizieq Shihab a “snake oil salesman.”

Meanwhile, Rizieq, who founded a now banned vigilante group called Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), has been in detention since December and is awaiting trial for allegedly flouting coronavirus restrictions.

Days before he turned himself in, police said they shot dead six FPI members who were traveling in a convoy with Rizieq, in self-defense. On Dec. 30, the government banned FPI, accusing it of violating the law and disrupting peace and security.

The arrests of Soni and Rizieq and the killing by police of six FPI supporters in December have prompted accusations that the government is becoming increasingly hostile towards Muslims who do not toe the government line.

In 2017, the government outlawed Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), for promoting a state based on Sharia law instead of the nation’s Pancasila ideology.

Asfinawati, the head of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation, said freedom of speech and assembly had been under attack in recent years, with critics on social media increasingly subjected to prosecution under the electronic information law.

“On the other hand, pro-government influencers seem to be above the law,” Asfinawati told BenarNews.

She urged Jokowi to rein in the police.

“The police force is under the president. If the police deviate from their duties and charge people for exercising free speech, the president should warn them,” Asfinawati said.

Damar Juniarto, executive director of the Association for Freedom of Expression in Southeast Asia (SAFEnet), said the electronic information law had been abused to stifle free speech.

“A study by civil society groups shows that the conviction rate of the ITE Law is 96.8 percent, with an imprisonment rate of 88 percent. This means that people who are charged under the ITE Law are likely to be jailed,” Damar told BenarNews.

Articles of the ITE Law also often ignore the principle of ultimum remedium punishment, he said. “Ultimum remedium” means prosecution as a last resort.

“This is the contradiction. People file police reports even before a warning, mediation or any attempt to seek clarification,” Damar said.



North America


UN warned that Daesh terror threat will grow if nations do not act

February 11, 2021

NEW YORK: The threat posed by Daesh to international peace and security is growing as it attempts to regroup and renew its activities, the UN Security Council was told on Wednesday.

Vladimir Voronkov, head of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT), said the terror group is using technology to connect with and radicalize young people. Its activities gained momentum in the second half of last year, during which many people were stuck at home during pandemic lockdowns, he added.

His warning came as he briefed the Security Council on the latest UN efforts to counter the dangers from Daesh and other terrorist groups. This is in accordance with Resolution 2368, which calls on the council to adapt to evolving terrorist threats, and member states to strengthen measures to block the funding of terrorism, limit the travel of terrorists, and prevent them from obtaining weapons.

Voronkov said that although Daesh has lost its self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria, is still carrying out attacks in both countries and maintains the ability to operate across unprotected borders. It could regain the capacity to orchestrate attacks worldwide this year, he added.

Terrorists have adapted the opportunities provided by cyberspace and new technologies and are exploiting them, he said. With young people, in particular, in many countries spending more time at home and online because of COVID-19 restrictions, Voronkov warned that the risk they will be exposed to Daesh propaganda and incitement has grown as the terror group attempts to rebuild and advance its agenda.

“This could lead to a sudden rash of attacks in some countries when COVID-19-related movement restrictions ease,” he added.

About 10,000 Daesh fighters, mostly in Iraq, are actively engaged in a protracted insurgency that poses “a major, long-term and global threat,” Voronkov said.

“They are organized in small cells hiding in desert and rural areas and moving across the border between (Iraq and Syria), waging attacks.”

He also described the dire security and humanitarian situation in Al-Hol and Roj detention camps in northeastern Syria. About 90,000 people from 57 countries — mostly women and children with family connections to Daesh militants — have been held in the camps since Daesh was driven from territories it once controlled in Iraq and Syria.

Voronkov reiterated a call by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for all member states to abide by the moral responsibility and legal obligation to repatriate their citizens living in the camps.

US ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis told the council the global threat from Daesh will continue to grow as long as authorities in many countries refuse to repatriate their citizens from the camps. Experts have warned that they are a perfect breeding ground for extremism and radicalization.

“Beyond being the best option from a security standpoint, repatriation is also simply the right thing to do,” he said. “It is estimated that 90 percent of children in the camps are under 12, and 50 percent under five.

“They have limited access to food, medical care, clean water and other basic services. Education is almost nonexistent. They cannot possibly live up to their potential under these conditions.”

Vassily Nebenzya, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, said: “Unfortunately a whole slew of states of origin of these people prefer to close their eyes on this issue. The Russian Federation cooperates closely with Syria and Iraq so as to determine the location of and return their minors back to the country.”

He urged other countries to do the same and to engage with “the legitimate authorities in Syria.”

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the UN’s pivotal anti-terrorism Resolution 1373, which was adopted after the 9/11 attacks on the US. Voronkov urged member states to honor the occasion by recommitting to “multilateral action against terrorism.” The resolution calls for all countries to criminalize the financing of terrorism, prevent the recruitment of terrorists, stop them from traveling, and to ensure they are not provided with safe havens.

It also established a Counter-Terrorism Committee to monitor the global implementation of the resolution. The committee’s Executive Directorate (CTED) was established in 2004 to assess how successful the UN’s 193 member nations have been in achieving this, and recommend ways to address shortcomings, facilitate technical assistance, and analyze counter-terrorism trends.

CTED is led by Michele Coninsx, who told the Security Council that the COVID-19 pandemic represents “the most urgent challenge” because it has exacerbated and fueled threats that had been dormant.

Levels of terrorist violence tend to ebb and flow and are likely to continue to do so, Coninsx said, adding that “there has been a consistent and welcome downward trend over the past five years.”

She added: “As the terrorist threat has evolved, so too has the response of the United Nations.”

Syria and Iraq remain Daesh’s primary focus, so CTED is planning a visit to Iraq and neighboring countries to assess the situation, Coninsx said.

“This will allow us to identify challenges that still need to be addressed to effectively counter the evolving threat in the region,” she added.


US to continue pressure on Iran-backed Houthis for attacks in the region: Report

11 February ,2021

Tamara Abueish

The United States will continue to put pressure on the Iran-backed Houthi militia in an effort to end the group’s “heinous” attacks in the region, a State Department spokesperson told the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.

The Biden administration is determined to reach a deal that puts an end to the war in Yemen, the spokesperson added.

US President Joe Biden strongly supports the efforts of UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths to the conflict in the country and the suffering of the Yemeni people, according to the spokesperson.

This comes a day after the White House condemned the Houthi attack on an airport in Saudi Arabia’s Abha.

The US also blasted the Iran-backed militia for prolonging the war in Yemen.

“We condemn the Houthi attack today at the Abha International Airport, a Saudi Arabian civilian airport. The attack coincides with Special Envoy Lenderking’s first trip to the region,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at the White House.

“The Houthis, meanwhile, continually demonstrate a desire to prolong the war by attacking Saudi Arabia, including attacks on citizens,” Psaki said.


Biden government supports repatriating ‘jihadists’: US diplomat

10 February ,2021

President Joe Biden's administration believes countries should repatriate ‘jihadists’ and their families to counter the threat from ISIS, an American diplomat told the United Nations on Wednesday.

“The global threat from ISIS will grow if the international community does not repatriate their citizens,” said Jeffrey DeLaurentis, the acting US ambassador for special political affairs.

Former president Donald Trump's government also supported the repatriation of fighters who went to fight abroad, mainly in Syria and Iraq.

Several European countries - including France - refuse to repatriate adults, believing they should be tried in countries where they are accused of committing crimes.

They only accept the return of their children on a case-by-case basis.

“Beyond being the best option from a security standpoint, repatriation is also simply the right thing to do,” said DeLaurentis during a Security Council video conference dedicated to the threat of terrorism.

“It is estimated that 90 percent of children in the camps are under 12 and 50 percent under five.”

“We watch with concern as women and children languish in camps in dire conditions, with little access to education, increasing the potential for the radicalization,” he added.

DeLaurentis warned that ISIS “remains a serious threat.”

The group exploits instability in Iraq and Syria, demonstrates intentions to “execute attacks abroad and continues to inspire terrorist attacks from sub-saharan Africa to the Asia-Pacific theater,” he told diplomats.

He said there were tens of thousands of suspected foreign terrorist fighters in conflict zones.

Beyond those areas “there is a surge in the threat posed by ISIS affiliates around the world, especially on the African continent,” DeLaurentis said.

“It is alarming but not unexpected to see these affiliates across Africa, working together. This poses a danger to us all,” he explained.


US sells over a million barrels of illicit Iranian fuel, another seized cargo on way

10 February ,2021

The United States has sold more than a million barrels of Iranian fuel seized under its sanctions program last year, a Department of Justice official said, as another ship with intercepted Iranian crude oil sails to a U.S. port.

The seizures are part of Washington's tough economic sanctions on Tehran imposed over its nuclear program and the U.S. designation of a number of Iranian groups as terrorists, continuing decades of rancor between the two nations. Iran rejects U.S. accusations of wrongdoing.

In a new approach last year, the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump used civil forfeiture procedures to seize some 1.2 million barrels of gasoline it said were being sent from Iran to Venezuela aboard four tankers.

The shipments, the largest seizure by Washington of Iranian fuel to date, were transferred to other vessels and sent to the United States, where the fuel was meant to be sold and the proceeds distributed to a fund for U.S. victims of state-sponsored terrorism.

Department of Justice spokesman Marc Raimondi told Reuters this week that the sale of the cargoes had been completed, adding that the government was "still working out the final expenses."

"The petroleum has been seized, and an interlocutory sale has preserved the cash value of the petroleum, which is now held by the U.S. Marshals Service" he said. The value of the gasoline was not known, but was likely worth tens of millions of dollars based on benchmark European gasoline prices.

Raimondi said the department still needs the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to enter an order of forfeiture "and then the funds will be transferred to the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund."

The fund was established by the U.S. government in 2015 to award compensation to individuals who suffered harm as a result of an act of international terrorism by a state sponsor of terrorism.

Last week, the United States filed a lawsuit to seize another cargo, this one of crude oil it says came from Iran -rather than Iraq, as stated on the bill of lading - contravening U.S. terrorism regulations.

That cargo, loaded onto the Liberian-flagged Achilleas tanker, last reported its position in Caribbean waters. The U.S. Gulf port of Galveston was its destination with a scheduled arrival on Feb. 15, Refinitiv ship tracking data showed on Wednesday.

Houston and Galveston pilots groups said they have not been informed of the Achilleas arrival or which agent will handle unloading the cargo.

Iran has not commented on the tanker as yet.

Relations between Washington and Tehran worsened under Trump. His administration pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, imposed more sanctions on Tehran and killed the head of the elite Quds Force in an air strike.

U.S. President Joe Biden supports returning to diplomacy with Iran if it comes into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. But this week he said the United States will not lift its economic sanctions on Iran in order to get Tehran back to the negotiating table to discuss how to revive the deal.


US condemns Houthi drone attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abha airport

Joseph Haboush & Nadia Bilbassy

10 February ,2021

The White House Wednesday condemned the Houthi attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abha airport, and blasted the Iran-backed militia for prolonging the war in Yemen.

“We condemn the Houthi attack today at the Abha International Airport, a Saudi Arabian civilian airport. The attack coincides with Special Envoy Lenderking’s first trip to the region,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at the White House.

Psaki was responding to a question from Al Arabiya, saying: “The Houthis, meanwhile, continually demonstrate a desire to prolong the war by attacking Saudi Arabia, including attacks on citizens.”

The Arab Coalition said on Wednesday a drone targeted Abha international airport, and a plane which was on the ground at the time cought on fire. The Houthis later claimed the attack.

The White House official said the US would continue its “diplomatic outreach and engage with various stakeholders ... to bring a negotiated settlement to end the war.”

Psaki directed questions to the State Departments over President Joe Biden’s intentions to revoke the Trump administration’s designation of the Houthis as a terrorist organization.

“I know there have been some reports, but I don’t believe my colleagues at the State Department have confirmed specifics or reasoning,” she said.

Asked if removing the Houthis from the list would resolve the Yemen crisis, Psaki told reporters: “Again, I point you to the State Department. They have not even spoken to these reports.”

Later Wednesday, the State Department condemned the Houthi attack and said it was committed to improving support for “our partners Saudi Arabia to defend itself against threats to its territory.”

“There is no military solution to the war in Yemen,” State Department Spokesman Ned Price said. “We again urge the Houthis to immediately stop these aggressive acts halt their offensive and mark and demonstrate a true commitment to constructively engage in peace negotiations with that.”

However, a State Department spokesperson confirmed the move as late as Tuesday to Al Arabiya English.

“We can confirm, as you have heard from Members of Congress, that we notified the Hill of the Secretary’s intent to revoke the Foreign Terrorist Organization and Specially Designated Global Terrorist designations of [the Houthis],” the State Department official said.

The intention to do so has “nothing to do with our view of the Houthis and their reprehensible conduct,” the official said, adding that these acts included attacks against civilians and the kidnapping of American citizens.

The planned action is due to the humanitarian consequences of this last-minute designation from the Trump administration.


Biden presses China’s Xi on human rights issues in Hong Kong, Xinjiang

11 February ,2021

Joe Biden pressed Chinese leader Xi Jinping over human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang late Wednesday in their first call since the new US president took office on January 20, according to the White House.

Setting the stage for what could be a contentious relationship between the two superpowers, Biden offered Xi his “greetings and well wishes” for the Chinese people on the occasion of the Lunar New Year celebrations, the White House said in a statement.

But, establishing his own foundations for Washington-Beijing ties after four tumultuous years under predecessor Donald Trump, Biden immediately challenged his counterpart over China’s projection of power in the Indo-Pacific region, the crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong and the oppressive treatment of millions of Muslim Uighurs in the Xinjiang region.

In the call Biden told Xi that his priorities were to protect the American people’s security, prosperity, health and way of life, and to preserve “a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the White House said in a statement on the call.

Specifically, Biden “underscored his fundamental concerns about Beijing’s coercive and unfair economic practices, crackdown in Hong Kong, human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and increasingly assertive actions in the region, including toward Taiwan,” it said.

The two leaders also spoke about the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change and weapons proliferation.

“Biden committed to pursuing practical, results-oriented engagements when it advances the interests of the American people and those of our allies,” the White House said.





Iran Judiciary chief: US relocating Daesh in region under guise of fighting terror

11 February 2021

Iranian Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raeisi says the United States is relocating Daesh terrorists from their former bastions in Syria and Iraq under the guise of fighting terror, while Tehran, Baghdad and Damascus, along with other neighbors, are working to cleanse the region of the Takfiri outfit’s remnants.

“The US claimed that it seeks to fight Daesh and formed a coalition for the [declared goal], but we have [only] witnessed the strengthening of Daesh in terms of weapons, logistics, intelligence, and other aspects,” Raeisi said in a meeting with Iraqi President Barham Salih in Baghdad on Wednesday.

“While Iraq, Syria, Iran and regional countries are working together to eliminate the remnants of Daesh, the Americans do nothing but relocate the Daesh terrorists in the region,” the Iranian official added.

Raeisi praised the joint Iran-Iraq battle against the Takfiri outfit as a “real symbol of solidarity and cooperation between the two nations.”

Elsewhere, the official stressed the importance of speeding up investigations into the case of the assassination of senior Iranian and Iraqi anti-terror commanders, Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, in Baghdad early last year, and said they were “heroes of the fight against terrorism” who were martyred after the US violated Iraq’s sovereignty.

The commanders had amassed regionwide popular appeal due to their effective contribution to the defeat of Daesh.

After withdrawing from Iraq in 2011, the US military returned to the Arab country under the pretext of fighting terrorism three years later, when Daesh emerged in Iraq. Besides its unilateral military activities, it also formed a so-called anti-Daesh coalition with a number of its allies in 2014.

However, not only did the US-led coalition do so little on the ground to fight Daesh, but it even faced accusations of trying to prop up the terror group.

Backed by Iran, the Iraqi national army and allied Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) eventually managed to liberate the Arab country from Daesh in 2017, but the US forces continue to stay in Iraq, despite calls by the parliament in Baghdad and the Iraqi public for them to leave.

The atrocities that were ensued by thousands-strong funeral processions and protest rallies in Iraq have heightened the anti-American sentiment among the Arab nation against continued military intervention there by the US and its allies.

Elsewhere in his meeting with the Iraqi president, Raeisi said Tehran and Baghdad have been bolstering their relations in various political, economic and cultural fields against the will of enemies given the strong bonds between the two nations, which are rooted in their rich civilizations and beliefs.

“Enemies have always made attempts to sow discord between Iran and Iraq, but the two countries’ cooperation has thwarted such attempts,” he added.

He also called for the facilitation of pilgrimage trips for Iraqi and Iranian nationals and said dropping visa requirements would play a role in this regard.

Raeisi’s visit important message to Iraq, region: Salih

For his part, Salih said the Iranian judiciary chief’s visit to Baghdad conveyed an important message to Iraq and the entire region in different aspects.

The Iraqi president added that the two countries are promoting close cooperation and have succeeded in making great achievements in this regard.

He called for joint efforts to strengthen Iraq’s national sovereignty, saying a weak Iraq would turn into a scene of differences and chaos.

Salih said regional countries have a responsibility to work toward easing tensions, adding there was a need to coordinate efforts for promoting regional peace and stability based on constructive dialogue.


Iranian FM Warns Biden's Administration of Losing Window of Opportunity


The new government in Washington has a chance to test a new approach, but the existing window is rapidly closing, Zarif said on Wednesday on the sidelines of a ceremony to commemorate the 42nd anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

He said as required by the parliament, the Iranian government will soon will be required to take new compensatory action in response to the US and Europe's regretful defiance of their undertakings under the nuclear deal, including expansion of Iran's nuclear program and reduction of cooperation with the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

"This can only be avoided if the US decides to learn from Trump's maximum failure instead of leaning towards it," Zarif said.

He also referred to the victory of Islamic revolution 42 years ago, saying that in contrast with similar revolutions in world history, the Iranian revolution gained victory by neither relying on a foreign power nor seeking the assistance of some armed groups.

The minister noted that the century-long combat of the Iranian nation to gain the right for self-determination and have an accountable government finally culminated in a victory achieved by merely depending on the people's power in spite of all foreign sabotage acts and plots.

"We have a long" way and will not rest in moving towards the materialization of "our cause", Zarif underscored.

In relevant remarks on Tuesday, Rouhani reiterated his country’s position that Iran will reverse reduction of nuclear deal undertakings only if the US implements all its commitments based on the agreement, and said nothing but shame has remained from Trump.

“Nothing has been left of Saddam and nothing has been left of Trump except shame. We have not seen any action from the new US administration to date. The new US administration has not taken any steps for the Iranian nation in the fight against COVID-19,” Rouhani said, addressing foreign ambassadors to Tehran on the occasion of the 42nd anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

“We have produced all the necessary medicine and health items ourselves, and we even export some items. So far, three institutes, Barekat, Pasteur and Razi, have received the clinical trial license of the coronavirus vaccine, and in the future, our people will use the domestically-produced vaccine,” he added.

President Rouhani referred to the UN nuclear watchdog’s reports that Iran has fulfilled its nuclear deal undertakings, and said, "We waited for a year after the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal and fulfilled all our undertakings. We started reduction of our undertakings after a year of implementing commitments and the European countries’ non-compliance to their undertakings.”

He noted that Iran will reverse its reduction of nuclear deal undertakings immediately after the other sides implement their commitments, and said, “We are ready to act upon all our nuclear deal undertakings the day the US fully returns to its undertakings based on the nuclear deal. Iran has proved that it remains loyal to its signature if it signs something and undertakes a commitment.”

Elsewhere, Rouhani underlined the need for establishment of peace and stability in the region, and said while Iran helped the regional states, including Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Afghanistan, in the fight against terrorism and other fields, the Americans and big European countries helped the Saudi-led coalition in aggression against Yemen and they helped the terrorist groups in the region.

“We will continue fight against terror and terrorism,” he added.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran declares loudly that it wants friendship with countries that want friendship with Iran. The Islamic Republic of Iran loudly declares that the region's problems should be resolved by the regional countries,” President Rouhani said. 

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei said on Sunday that his country will not take steps to return to its nuclear deal undertakings unless it will be able to verify the US practical measures in removing the sanctions against Tehran.

"Iran has fulfilled all its obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal, not the US and the three European countries ... If they want Iran to return to its commitments, the US must lift all sanctions first," Ayatollah Khamenei said, addressing the Iranian Army Air Force commanders and staff on the anniversary of the historical pledging allegiance of Air Force commanders with late Imam Khomeini on February 8, 1979.

He underlined that the side with the right to set conditions to return to the JCPOA undertakings is Iran since it abided by all its commitments, not the US or the 3 European countries which breached theirs, adding, “If they want Iran to return, the US should lift all sanctions. We'll verify and if it's done properly, we’ll return to our undertakings."

“This is the definite policy of the Islamic Republic and it is also agreed upon by the officials of the country and we will not return from this policy,” Ayatollah Khamenei said, stressing that no one in Iran listens to what the US and European officials say about preconditions for lifting sanctions.

He also underlined the US miscalculation in understanding the Iranian nation during the 1979 Revolution, and said, "Therefore, they failed. During the 2009 sedition, the Democrat president backed the sedition. Trump failed in his Maximum pressure policy too. They're still miscalculating."

"One of the first-rate fools in the Trump administration had said they would celebrate New Year 2019 in Tehran. He was thrown into history’s trash bin. His boss was also kicked into history’s trash can, while the Islamic Republic is standing strong," Ayatollah Khamenei said.

"One should know the US properly. Their recent incidents were a fiasco. Trump’s fall wasn't just the fall of an unfit president. It was the decline of the US power and social order. Speaking of US’s decline from within and the start of a post-US era are the words of some US experts, not ours," he added.

"The US is truly declining, and this has distressed and stunned some of their allies in the region. The Zionist officials’ nonsense (words) stems from their fear of the US domestic situation and they've realized this well. The world is watching US power decline internally and internationally," the Iranian Leader stressed.

"Some regimes' biggest mistake is that they want the US to bring them national security. They spend billions of dollars, are humiliated and in the end the US doesn't give them security when needed. Examples are what happened to US allies in Egypt, Tunisia, and Pahlavi in Iran," he said.

Iranian officials have several times underlined the need for Washington to lift all sanctions against the country before Tehran’s steps to reverse its modified nuclear deal undertakings.

Iranian Parliament Speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf last Sunday blasted US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s recent remarks, saying that Tehran is waiting for the Biden government’s practical measures to lift sanctions rather than speaking of preconditions.

“Mr. Biden's administration should clarify how it wants to fulfill its promise of removing sanctions in practice rather than setting preconditions for implementing its undertakings,” Qalibaf said, addressing an open session of the parliament in Tehran.

He described Blinken’s recent comments as “disappointing”, and said, “If the US believes in the nuclear deal, it should display its commitment to it in practice instead of setting preconditions.”

Qalibaf’s remarks came after Blinken in his recent remarks said, "With regard to Iran, President Biden has been very clear in saying that if Iran comes back to compliance with obligations under the JCPOA, the United States would do the same thing."

"And then we would use that as a platform to build with our allies and partners what we call a longer and stronger agreement and to deal with others issues that are deeply problematic in the relationship with Iran," he added.

Qalibaf said that the Iranian people are so much smart not to enter a game which wants Iran to adopt practical measures vis a vis mere promises.

Also, last week, Rouhani voiced pleasure with the end of Trump’s tenure, saying that the new administration in the White House should take the opportunity to implement all Washington’s nuclear deal undertakings.

“Today, thanks God, Trump's black page will be closed forever, and we say thanks God when any oppressor is overthrown,” Rouhani said, addressing a cabinet meeting in Tehran.

He added that during his 4-year tenure, Trump left no legacy but making the US society bipolar, adding that Washington DC has become a military garrison for the swearing-in ceremony of the new president and all these Armed Forces have come to establish security in this city, and this is one of the fruits of Trump's naive or authoritarian actions.

“We have never seen a president in the US who explicitly admits assassination of a major military commander (General Soleimani) in another guest country (Iraq) to make the official announcement that he had ordered the assassination. I mean, we really saw a stupid terrorist in history, and state terrorism was recorded in the forehead of the White House, and he did it,” Rouhani said.

He called on the new US administration to return to the international laws, undertakings and the UNSC resolutions, specially Resolution 2231, and said, “Of course, if they return to the law, our answer will be positive, and if they show their sincerity in action based on the law, the resolution that they voted for and the undertakings that they have signed, we will naturally fulfill all our undertakings too.”

Rouhani referred to Trump’s economic terrorism against Iran which even blocked the country’s purchase of medicine and vaccine, and said, “Thanks God, they have failed. Today, we see that despite all these pressures, our non-oil exports path is normalizing, and our oil exports are much better than the previous months, and our oil products export are moving in the right direction and this means complete failure of this policy.”

He said that Trump was not a politician but was a businessman and a tower builder, adding that the new US administration includes people who are familiar with political affairs.

“If they give a signature on their undertakings under the Resolution 2231, they will see a signature in Iran, and if they issue a decree, they will see a decree for it in Iran too, nothing more; if they fulfill their undertakings effectively, they will witness effective implementation of all undertakings by this side too. Today the ball is in the US and Washington’s court,” President Rouhani stressed.

He noted that Trump’s political life has ended and the nuclear deal is still alive, adding, “He made every attempt to destroy the nuclear deal but he failed, and the extremists in Israel and Saudi Arabia all sought this but failed, and the nuclear deal is alive and well today better than yesterday.”

Rouhani stressed that the maximum pressure policy has failed completely.

Also, last month, Iranian Envoy and Permanent Representative to the UN Majid Takht Ravanchi underlined that if Biden decides to return to the nuclear deal, Washington should comply with all its undertakings in exact accordance with the internationally-endorsed agreement.

“We make decision and take reciprocal action considering Biden's moves vis a vis the nuclear deal. We have repeatedly demanded the US to return to the nuclear deal and this return should be complete and without preconditions, that is to say, no issue related or unrelated to the nuclear deal should be put forward for discussion,” Takht Ravanchi said.

“It should only be clear that the US international undertakings cannot be half-fulfilled. If they claim to return to the nuclear deal, this return should be accompanied by the full implementation of their undertakings with no hesitation or controversy,” he added.

Takht Ravanchi stressed Iran’s clear position towards the nuclear deal, and said, “We live up to our undertakings.”

He referred to the parliament’s bill to take strategic measures to counter the US sanctions against Iran, and said, “There is a timetable in the parliament’s bill and we are moving in the same direction, so we (at the foreign ministry) are not entitled to specify the period for how long we will wait. In the first place, we make decisions based on national interests, and secondly, we should act on the basis of and within the framework of the parliamentary bill.”

His remarks came after Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi announced that the country is at present producing nearly half a kilo of uranium enriched to the 20% purity level, meantime, saying that Tehran’s steps to reduce nuclear deal undertakings after the West’s disloyalties can all be backtracked.

“Based on the latest news I have, they (the Iranian scientists at nuclear installations) are producing 20 grams (of 20% enriched uranium) every hour; meaning that practically, we are producing half a kilo every day,” Salehi said in an interview with the Persian-language website released last month.

“We produce and store this 20% (enriched uranium) and if they return to the nuclear deal, we will return to our undertakings too,” he added.

Asked about the recent bill approved by the parliament to adopt strategic measures to remove sanctions against Iran, Salehi said that the AEOI is required to implement it.

“It is a reality and both the government and the AEOI have declared that they do not have any technical problems with implementation of the parliament’s bill and we launched 20% enrichment within 24 hours,” he said.

Salehi also underlined the need for Washington to remove all sanctions against Iran, specially those which prevent the country’s oil sales and banking transactions.

Iranian legislators had in January praised the AEOI for restarting enrichment of uranium at 20-percent purity level, and called for the full implementation of the recent parliamentarian law to counter the illegal US sanctions against the country.

In a statement, 190 legislators expressed their support for the AEOI’s resumption of 20% uranium enrichment and urged the body to fully and precisely implement the law ratified as a counteractive move to the sanctions illegally imposed on the country, especially those by the United States.

The lawmakers said the parliament approved the ‘Strategic Counteractive Plan for Lifting Sanctions and Safeguarding Rights of Iranian People’ to highlight Iran’s legitimate right to use peaceful nuclear technology and the importance of lifting all cruel sanctions against the country.

The Iranian parliamentarians in a meeting on December 1, 2020 ratified the generalities of a bill to adopt strategic measures to remove sanctions against the country and defend the nation’s interests.

The lawmakers, in November, had given the green light to the single-urgency of the strategic motion, but the plan turned into a double-urgency on Sunday after the assassination of the Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh's car was targeted by an explosion and machinegun fire in Damavand's Absard 40 kilometers to the East of Tehran on Friday November 27, 2020.

Under the bill, the AEOI is required to start in two months after the approval of the present bill to produce at least 120 kg of 20%-enriched uranium annually at Fordow nuclear site and store it inside the country, increase the enrichment capacity and production of enriched uranium to at least 500 kg per month, start the installation of centrifuges, gas injection, enrichment, and storage of materials up to proper purity levels within 3 months, via at least 1000 IR-2m centrifuges in the underground part of Shahid Ahmadi Roshan facility in Natanz, transfer any enrichment, research, and development operations of IR-6 centrifuges to the nuclear site of Shahid Ali Mohammadi in Fordow, and start enrichment operation via at least 164 centrifuges and expand it to 1000 by the end of 20 March 2021 (end of the Iranian calendar year) and return the 40 megawatts Arak heavy water reactor to its pre-JCPOA condition by reviving the heart (calandria) of the reactor within 4 months from the date of the adoption of this law.

Also, the government is required to suspend the nuclear deal-based regulatory access beyond the Additional Protocol within 2 months after the adoption of the law based on the articles 36 and 37 of the nuclear deal.

Also, after 3 months from the adoption of this law, if Iran's banking relations in Europe and the amount of oil purchases by them from Iran is not back to normal and to satisfactory conditions, the government is required to stop the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol.

Meantime, if after 3 months from the adoption of the law, the nuclear deal parties return to fulfill their undertakings, the government is required to submit a proposal to the parliament for Iran's reciprocal action to return to the nuclear deal undertakings, the bill said.

Iran signed the JCPOA with six world states — namely the US, Germany, France, Britain, Russia, and China — in 2015.

Trump, a stern critic of the historic deal, unilaterally pulled Washington out of the JCPOA in May 2018, and unleashed the “toughest ever” sanctions against the Islamic Republic in defiance of global criticism in an attempt to strangle the Iranian oil trade, but to no avail since its "so-called maximum pressure policy" has failed to push Tehran to the negotiating table.

In response to the US’ unilateral move, Tehran has so far rowed back on its nuclear commitments four times in compliance with Articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA, but stressed that its retaliatory measures will be reversible as soon as Europe finds practical ways to shield the mutual trade from the US sanctions.

Tehran has particularly been disappointed with failure of the three European signatories to the JCPOA -- Britain, France and Germany -- to protect its business interests under the deal after the US' withdrawal.

On January 5, 2020, Iran took a final step in reducing its commitments, and said it would no longer observe any operational limitations on its nuclear industry, whether concerning the capacity and level of uranium enrichment, the volume of stockpiled uranium or research and development.

Meantime, Biden has recently said in a CNN article that he wants a renegotiation of the contents of the deal before he agrees to rejoin the agreement.

“I will offer Tehran a credible path back to diplomacy. If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations. With our allies, we will work to strengthen and extend the nuclear deal's provisions, while also addressing other issues of concern,” he wrote, mentioning that he wants changes to the contents of the nuclear deal and guarantees from Tehran that it would be open for compromise to strike multiple deals over its missile and regional powers as well as a number of other issues that have been the bones of contention between the two sides in the last four decades.

In response, Zarif had stressed that the US has violated the nuclear deal and is in no position to ask for any conditions for its return to the JCPOA, adding that it's Tehran that has its own terms to allow the US back into the internationally endorsed agreement.

The foreign minister has reiterated time and again that Tehran would not change even a single word of the agreement, and cautioned the US that it needs to pay reparations for the damage it has inflicted on Iran through its retreat from the nuclear agreement and give enough insurances that it would not go for initiating the trigger mechanism again before it could get back to the deal.

In relevant remarks earlier this month, Spokesman for the AEOI Behrouz Kamalvandi said his country enjoys the capability to produce 120 kg of uranium with 20% purity in 8 months, that's 4 months faster than the one-year period required by a recent parliament approval.'s-Adminisrain-f-Lsing-Windw-f-Opprniy


Israel razes home of Palestinian accused of killing settler in occupied West Bank

10 February ,2021

The Israeli army on Wednesday destroyed the home of a Palestinian accused of the December killing of a French-Israeli citizen in the north of the occupied West Bank.

Using explosives, the army demolished the dwelling of 40-year-old Mohammed Cabha in the village of Tura al-Gharbiya, near Jenin, an AFP correspondent said.

The army confirmed in a statement that it had carried out the demolition, identifying the building as the home of Esther Horgen’s killer.

The 52-year-old mother of six was found dead in December in a forest near the Tal Menashe settlement in the north of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Relatives said she had gone out jogging and never returned.

Israel’s internal security agency Shin Bet said in early January that Cabha had confessed to the murder over “nationalist motives.”

Cabha, who had previously served prison terms for “terrorist activity,” had decided to “carry out a terrorist attack” around six weeks before the murder, following the death of an ailing Palestinian prisoner he knew in Israeli custody, the agency said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed at the time that Israel would “settle accounts” with the killer.

France, the country of Horgan’s birth, had condemned her killing as a “heinous crime.”

Israel routinely demolishes the homes of Palestinians accused of carrying out attacks.

It argues such measures act as a deterrent, but critics say it amounts to collective punishment.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day war.

There are currently about 475,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank living in communities considered illegal by most of the international community, alongside some 2.8 million Palestinians.


Iran has followed through on plan to produce uranium metal: IAEA

10 February ,2021

Iran has followed through on its plan to make uranium metal, the U.N. nuclear watchdog confirmed on Wednesday after Tehran alarmed Western nations with its intent to produce the material with which the core of nuclear weapons can be made.

"Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi today informed IAEA Member States about recent developments regarding Iran's R&D activities on uranium metal production as part of its stated aim to produce fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor," the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement.

"The Agency on 8 February verified 3.6 gram of uranium metal at Iran's Fuel Plate Fabrication Plant (FPFP) in Esfahan," it added.


Nervous Israelis fear Biden snub as US president yet to call PM Netanyahu

10 February ,2021

It’s been three weeks, and he still hasn’t called.

Israelis are expressing growing concern that President Joe Biden has yet to call Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following his inauguration. Some fear that it could forecast a chillier relationship between the two close allies after President Donald Trump’s warm embrace.

The US is Israel’s closest ally, providing about $3.8 billion in annual military aid and shielding it from censure in international forums over its policies toward the Palestinians.

Netanyahu, who faces a tough battle for reelection in March, has long boasted of his close relations with American presidents and other world leaders. He’s also hoping to dissuade Biden from rejoining the Iranian nuclear deal, to which Israel is strongly opposed.

Netanyahu dismissed any talk of a rift earlier this week, noting that he spoke with Biden during the transition and saying he expects to hear from the president once he works his way over to the Middle East after speaking to North American and European leaders.

“Our alliance is strong, even if we do not agree on everything,” Netanyahu said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken struck a similar note when asked about the lack of a call earlier this week in an interview with CNN’s “Situation Room,” saying he had spoken to his own Israeli counterparts since being sworn in.

“I’m sure that they’ll have occasion to speak in the near future,” he said of Biden and Netanyahu.

The longer it drags on, the more Israelis risk looking desperate.

Danny Danon, the former Israeli ambassador to the UN, on Wednesday tweeted a list of 10 countries that he said had received calls from Biden.

“Might it now be time to call the leader of #Israel, the closest ally of the #US?” he tweeted, along with a phone number for the prime minister.

Netanyahu had a rocky relationship with President Barack Obama, who repeatedly clashed with the Israeli leader over the conflict with the Palestinians and the Iran nuclear deal. Many Israelis fear that Biden, who served as Obama’s vice president, will revive his approach to the region, both by returning to the Iran deal and by pressing Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians.

Trump, in sharp contrast, broke with decades of US policy to extend support for Israel, recognizing contested Jerusalem as its capital, dropping objections to West Bank settlements and promoting a peace plan that overwhelmingly favored Israel. He also withdrew the US from the nuclear deal and ramped up sanctions on Iran, which Israel sees as its greatest threat.

Yossi Melman, a columnist for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, said the “thundering silence” is of great significance to Netanyahu, who uses such conversations “for creating the impression that he has no equal in cultivating the two countries’ special relationship.”

“Biden and his aides aim to tell Netanyahu: ‘You’re nothing special, you’re not an only child. The personal connection and chemistry you had with Donald Trump not only fail to advance your standing in Washington, they’re an obstacle.’” Melman wrote.

Many argue, however, that the underlying relationship between the two countries is much stronger than any personal chemistry.

“Does this have some symbolic significance? Yes. Is it a thinly disguised message of discontent? Perhaps. Does it have any substantive importance? Absolutely not,” Alon Pinkas, the former Israeli consul general in New York, wrote in Haaretz last week, when it had only been 14 days.

“In the end, a call is just a call, and it will inevitably take place in a matter of days. What will define the relationship and the possible points of friction is policy substance and the style of dialog, not when Biden first called Netanyahu.”


Turkey-Greece standoff: President Erdogan says two-state solution only option

10 February 2021

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ruled out discussing a federal system to reunify Cyprus, stressing that the only way to resolve decades of dispute over the ethnically-split island is to establish two states.

In a Wednesday address to legislators from his ruling party, Erdogan said a federation favored by Athens would not be on the agenda of the upcoming UN-brokered talks.

“There is no longer any solution but a two-state solution. Whether you accept it or not, there is no federation anymore,” the president told lawmakers.

“Only under these conditions can we sit at the table over Cyprus. Otherwise everyone should go their own way.”

Erdogan also stated that recent statements by Greece and the Cypriot government showed they were disregarding the breakaway Turkish Cypriot authorities – recognized only by Ankara.

“There is no point in discussing old solution formulas... which disregarded the Turkish people on the island and condemned the negotiations to failure for 50 years. That business is finished now,” Erdogan said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is expected to call a meeting that will bring together rival Greek and Turkish Cypriots as well as Cyprus’ ‘guarantors’ to mull resuming reunification talks.

The leaders of Greece and Cyprus have said they would only accept a peace deal based on UN resolutions, rejecting the “two-state” formula supported by Turkey and Turkish Cypriots.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Erdogan accused Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of being confrontational and disrupting newly-resumed Greek-Turkish talks aimed at reducing tensions between the two neighbors.

Cyprus and Turkey have been in a dispute for years regarding the ownership of fossil fuels and natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean. Ankara says Turkish Cypriots are entitled to a share of the resources in the region.

Last month, officials from Greece and Turkey held their first meeting in five years in Istanbul to resolve their differences.

Cyprus was divided in 1974 after a Turkish invasion triggered by a brief, Greek-inspired coup.

Several peacemaking efforts have failed and the discovery of offshore resources in the eastern Mediterranean has complicated the negotiations over the past years.


Hamas leader hails Ayatollah Khamenei’s ‘honourable’ position on Palestinian cause

11 February 2021

A senior leader of the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas has hailed the “honorable and unchanging” position of Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei on supporting the Palestinian cause against Israeli occupation.

Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas Political Bureau, sent a congratulatory message to Ayatollah Khamenei on Wednesday on the occasion of the 42nd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, which ousted the US-backed Pahlavi monarchy and led to the establishment of the Islamic Republic.

In his message, Haniyeh said Hamas along with the Palestinian people share the joy of Iranians on this auspicious occasion.

He expressed the Palestinian nation’s deep appreciation to Ayatollah Khamenei for his “honorable and unchanging” position on standing by the Palestinians and backing their just cause and courageous resistance in defending their legitimate rights.

He added that Hamas was looking forward to Iran and the Leader’s continued support for the Palestinian people and their just cause so that they will continue to put up resistance and defend their legitimate rights.

In a letter to Haniyeh in July 2020, Ayatollah Khamenei assured Palestinian resistance fighters that as always, Iran would have their back and would not forsake its duty of confronting the occupying Israeli regime’s evil nature.

“The Islamic Republic, as before, does not stint on any effort to support the oppressed Palestinian people, redress their rights, and also fight off the bogus and usurping Zionist regime’s evil,” the Leader said.



Arab World


Iran-backed Houthis claim attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abha airport

Joanne Serrieh

10 February ,2021

The Iran-backed Houthis claimed on Wednesday the attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abha airport and said it was a military target, AFP reported.

“The UAV air force targeted the airfields of warplanes at Abha International Airport - which is used for military purposes to target the Yemeni people - with four drones,” Yahya Sarie,” Houthi military spokesman said in a tweet. “The strike was accurate, thanks to God.”

The Arab Coalition earlier said a terrorist attack targeting the airport caused a civilian plane to catch fire, according to an Al Arabiya correspondent.

“Attempting to target Abha airport and threatening civilian travelers is a war crime,” the Arab Coalition said in a statement.

“We are taking all necessary measures to protect civilians from the threats of the Houthis,” the statement added.

Yemen’s Houthi movement regularly launches drones and missiles into Saudi Arabia, many of which Riyadh says it intercepts. Some have previously hit Abha International Airport which is about 120 kilometer (75 miles) from the border with Yemen.

Earlier in the day, the Coalition said it intercepted and destroyed two armed drones launched by the Iranian-aligned group towards the southern region of the Kingdom.


Arab Coalition: Houthi attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abha airport, plane catches fire

10 February ,2021

Reem Krimly

The Arab Coalition on Wednesday said a terrorist attack by the Iran-backed Houthi militia targeting Abha International Airport in Saudi Arabia caused a civilian airplane to catch fire, according to an Al Arabiya correspondent.

The coalition added that the fire was under control.

“Attempting to target Abha airport and threatening civilian travelers is a war crime,” the Arab Coalition said in a statement.

“We are taking all necessary measures to protect civilians from the threats of the Houthis,” the statement added.

The Arab Coalition said earlier on Wednesday it had intercepted and destroyed two armed drones launched by the Iran-backed Houthis towards Saudi Arabia, Saudi state television reported.

Iran’s support for militias across the region pose a threat to the security and stability of Arab countries, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said on Monday, during an emergency Arab League meeting in Cairo.

The Iran-backed Houthi militia has intensified its attacks on Saudi Arabia in the past two days, launching explosive-laden drones towards the Kingdom.


Airlines warned to avoid Saudi airports amid relentless strikes on Yemen

11 February 2021

A member of Yemen's Ansaruallh movement says Saudi Arabia uses its airports across the kingdom to launch deadly aerial attacks on Yemen, making them "legitimate targets" of the war-torn country's retaliation strikes.

“We advise airlines not to use Saudi airports because they are used for military purposes in the aggression and blockade on Yemen,” Supreme Political Council member Mohammed al-Bukhaiti tweeted on Wednesday.

He said Yemen seeks to stop the war, but the war cannot end when the other side continues the aggression.

“Just as we are advocates of peace, we are men of war,” the Yemeni official said.

اليمن مع وقف الحرب وتحقيق السلام ولكن وقف الحرب لا يكون من طرف واحد، وكما اننا دعاة سلام فنحن رجال حرب، وامن ومصالح السعودية من امن ومصالح اليمن.

ننصح شركات الطيران بعدم استخدام المطارات السعودية لأنها تستخدم لاغراض عسكرية في العدوان والحصار على اليمن.

محمد البخيتي(Mohammed Al-Bukaiti) (@M_N_Albukhaiti) February 10, 2021

The comments came after Yemen’s army and popular committees carried out drone strikes on airfields at the Abha International Airport located in southwestern Saudi Arabia, which they said was used for military purposes to target the Yemeni people.

The Saudi-led coalition confirmed the attack, which Sana’a said was carried out in response to the relentless aggression against the impoverished country.

Nearly six years have passed since Saudi Arabia and its allies launched the war on Yemen with the aim of reinstalling the former Riyadh-backed regime of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. The military campaign against Yemen has killed 233,000 people, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Throughout the war, Western countries, especially the US and the UK, supported the coalition primarily through arms sales and technical assistance. While new US President Joe Biden announced last week that he was ending US support for the Saudi-led war, including some arms sales, the UK still insists that it will not end its support for the devastating military campaign.

Biden’s announcement was met with misgivings on the part of the Ansarullah movement, which runs the Sana’a government.

Mohammed Abdul-Salam, the movement’s spokesman, said on Twitter on Wednesday that the crimes of what he referred to as the American coalition against the Yemeni people are “unprecedented globally”.

Our legitimate defense will continue with all we can, relying on God Almighty, until the aggression and siege stop completely,” Abdul-Salam added.

جرائم تحالف العدوان الأمريكي ضد الشعب اليمني غير مسبوقة عالميا، وهي جرائم من البشاعة والإرهاب ما يجعل من السعودية والإمارات دولتين ملاحقتين حقوقيا ومنبوذتين إنسانيا وحتى سياسيا.

سيستمر دفاعنا المشروع بكل ما نستطيع متوكلين على الله جل شأنه حتى يتوقف العدوان والحصار تماما .

محمد عبدالسلام (@abdusalamsalah) February 10, 2021

Last week, Bukhaiti said that the US administration needs to understand that actions speak louder than words. He emphasized that the war in Yemen “ends once all airstrikes stop and foreign forces leave the country.”

Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, another member of Yemen’s Supreme Political Council, said Yemenis will not be fooled by mere US statements.

We consider any move that does not end the siege and aggression against Yemen as just a formality and do not pay any attention to it,” he tweeted last Friday. “We are not those who are deceived by statements no matter how they are expressed.”


Egypt builds 36km barrier around Sharm el-Sheikh in bid to protect tourists

11 February ,2021

Sharm el-Sheikh

Egypt says a recently constructed 36 km concrete and wire barrier encircling Sharm el-Sheikh will help protect tourism at the Red Sea resort on the southern tip of the Sinai peninsula.

Authorities in southern Sinai hope to revitalize tourism which has been dented by upheaval after Egypt’s 2011 uprising, the crash of a Russian passenger jet in Sinai in 2015 and the coronavirus pandemic. In 2005, bombings in Sharm el-Sheikh killed dozens in one of Egypt’s deadliest militant attacks.

The security barrier is made of concrete slabs with stretches of wire fencing separating the resort from the desert around it. Some of the slabs are marked with black peace symbols.

Those entering the city by road have to pass through one of four gates equipped with cameras and scanners.

Sharm el-Sheikh is about 360 km (224 miles) south of Sinai’s northern, Mediterranean coast, where an insurgency by Islamist militants has been concentrated.

“The distance between them is huge, plus there is great security with Egypt’s Second Army securing the North Sinai, and the Third Army securing South Sinai,” South Sinai Governor Khaled Fouda told journalists on a tour of the area at the weekend.

“They will be searched, security cameras will identify them, vehicles will go through a scan, so that when they arrive in the city, it’ll be after a full search operation.”

A museum housing ancient Egyptian artifacts opened in Sharm el-Sheikh last year amid efforts to diversify tourism activities at the beach resort. A university named after Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has also opened recently in the city.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Sharm el-Sheikh often hosted international summits attended by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.


Clashes in northern Iraq kill three Turkish soldiers

11 February ,2021

Three Turkish soldiers were killed in a new Turkish military offensive against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq, Turkey’s Defense Ministry said Thursday.

Two of soldiers were killed Wednesday in a clash that erupted in northern Iraq’s Gara region on the first day of the latest Turkish operation, the ministry said. Another soldier died of his wounds on Thursday.

The military said Turkish jets retaliated by striking targets of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in Gara.

There was no immediate comment from the militant group on the clashes.

Turkey has carried out numerous cross-border ground and aerial offensives against the PKK, which maintains bases in northern Iraq.

The group began an insurgency against Turkey in the mainly Kurdish southeast in 1984 and the conflict has killed tens of thousands of people. The PKK is considered to be a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union.


Hariri looks to France’s Macron for help in forming new govt, repairing Arab ties

Joseph Haboush

10 February ,2021

Lebanon's Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri met with French President Emmanuel Macron late Wednesday, looking for support to form a new government in Beirut.

Hariri's office said the two met over dinner for two hours at the Presidential Palace in Paris.

Discussions touched on Hariri’s efforts “to repair Lebanon’s Arab ties and garnering support to face the crises” Lebanon is facing.

According to the statement, Macron is preparing international support for Lebanon “as soon as a new government” is formed capable of implementing needed reforms to halt the economic collapse.

The reconstruction of the Port of Beirut was also discussed, as were Lebanon’s internal obstacles facing the formation of a new government.

Lebanon has been without a fully functioning government since last August after Hassan Diab stepped down as prime minister following the Aug. 4 Beirut blast.

Macron visited Lebanon twice in the aftermath of the Beirut blast, but his calls for the ruling elite to form a government made up of experts fell upon deaf ears.

He has suggested he will visit Beirut again, but sources say this will not happen before a new government is formed.


Arab Parliament, GCC condemn Houthi attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abha airport

Reem Krimly

11 February ,2021

The Arab Parliament condemned on Thursday the “cowardly terrorist attack by the Iran-backed Houthi militia” on Abha International Airport in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

The Arab Coalition on Wednesday said a terrorist attack by the Iran-backed Houthi militia targeting Abha International Airport in Saudi Arabia caused a civilian airplane to catch fire.

Yemen’s Houthi militia claimed the attack.

The President of the Arab Parliament, Adel al-Asoomi, said in a statement that the attack shows the terrorist nature of the Houthi militia, and called the attack a war crime, SPA said.

Al-Asoomi called for urgent and immediate action by the international community to hold the Houthi militia and the Iranian regime that supports and finances it accountable for violating international law.

For his part, the Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Dr. Nayef Falah al-Hajraf, condemned the terrorist attack carried out by the Houthi militia targeting Abha International Airport, according to Emirates News Agency (WAM).

Al-Hajraf said that the attack launched by the Iranian-backed Houthi militia is a cowardly terrorist attack and a war crime that endangers the lives of civilians.

Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday the drone used in the Abha airport attack claimed by Yemen’s Houthis was a replica of the Iranian Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), “Ababil T”.


Arab Coalition intercepts Houthi drone targeting Saudi Arabia's Khamis Mushait

11 February ,2021

The Arab Coalition announced late Wednesday night that its forces had intercepted and destroyed an explosives-laden drone launched by the Iran-backed Houthi militia towards Saudi Arabia's Khamis Mushait.

The Arab Coalition added in a statement that the Houthi militia is violating international humanitarian law by attempts to target civilians and civilian areas.

“The Coalition is taking operational measures to deal with sources of threats in accordance with international humanitarian law,” the statement concluded.

Earlier on the same day, the Arab Coalition said a terrorist attack by the Iran-backed Houthi militia targeting Abha International Airport in Saudi Arabia caused a civilian airplane to catch fire, according to an Al Arabiya correspondent.

The coalition added that the fire was under control.

“Attempting to target Abha airport and threatening civilian travelers is a war crime,” the Arab Coalition said in a statement.


Ahead of Bahrain’s uprising anniversary, protest movement calls for overthrow of tyrannical Al Khalifah regime

11 February 2021

A Bahraini opposition protest movement has called for the formation of a coalition consisting of all political groups as well as the people of the Arab country to overthrow the country’s political system.

In a Wednesday statement ahead of the Bahraini uprising anniversary, the February 14 Youth Coalition called for unity to bring about “fundamental changes” in the country’s political system, describing such reforms as the most important and legitimate demand of the Bahraini people.

The February 14 Youth Coalition is an opposition protest movement named after the date of the beginning of a popular uprising against Bahrain’s ruling Al Khalifah regime, which began in 2011.

Since the beginning of the popular uprising, Bahraini people have held demonstrations on an almost daily basis in the Arab country, demanding that the ruling Al Khalifah family relinquish power.

However, the regime has brutally suppressed dissent, and has arrested, injured and killed thousands of people on the tiny island, which is located in the Persian Gulf. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have also helped the Manama regime in its ruthless crackdown.

In the statement, as cited by the IRNA news agency, the February 14 Youth Coalition said the Al Khalifah regime has been unable to carry out reforms, and instead, has resorted to violence, oppression and torture against the Bahraini people in order to break their freedom-seeking spirit.

“Our people will never accept their legitimacy,” the opposition movement said, calling for the establishment of a popular political system, holding a referendum, drafting a new comprehensive constitution, establishing a national parliament, forming an independent judiciary and safeguarding civil liberties as the most basic rights of the Bahraini people.

The February 14 Youth Coalition emphasized that “justice, equality and the right to freedom of expression” must be respected.

“In the early days of the February 14 Revolution, our revolutionary people shouted in unison their just and legitimate demands as well as their right to self-determination, and they still insist on those demands and are committed to them,” it said.

“Today, our nation is increasingly demanding the overthrow of tyranny and dictatorship as well as the end of the rule of the occupying and warmongering Al Khalifah regime, which has taken over the destiny and wealth of the nation with a small familial group,” the movement said in conclusion.


Iraq’s Sadr calls for withdrawal of US forces, warns against normalizing ties with Israel

10 February 2021

Iraq’s Shia cleric Muqtada Sadr has called for an immediate withdrawal of US forces, warning against normalizing ties with Israel.

He says he would prevent a normalization deal with Israel even at the cost of his blood.

During a rare press conference in the holy city of Najaf on Wednesday, Sadr also stated that with the “inauguration of a new president in the United States, the occupier must withdraw immediately by diplomatic and parliamentary means” in order to spare Iraq from being turned into an arena for international and regional conflicts.

Anti-American sentiments have been running high in Iraq since US terrorists assassinated Iran’s Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, and the deputy head of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Units, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, in Baghdad on January 3, 2020.

Two days after the cowardly act of terror, Iraqi lawmakers unanimously passed a bill mandating the withdrawal of all foreign troops.

Amid the growing resentment, convoys of the US-led coalition, purportedly fighting the Daesh Takfiri terrorists, in Iraq has been a frequent target of blasts.

On Wednesday, a new blast hit a convoy of the coalition.

Iraq’s al-Sumaria News quoted a security source as saying that an explosive device targeted the convoy transporting supplies south of Baghdad.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Sadr warned against normalizing ties with Israel.

“Normalization with Israel is at the doorstep, and the parliament must prevent it. We will not allow normalization, even if that cost us [our] blood,” he said, without providing further details.

Until last year, Israel had full diplomatic ties with only two Arab countries. But Tel Aviv reached US-brokered normalization deals with four Arab states, namely the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, in 2020.

On Iraq’s snap election, Sadr said he backs the UN supervision of the vote, but on condition that no other country interferes.

“I don’t want fraud. That’s why I’m asking for UN intervention and supervision.”

The early election, which was initially scheduled for June, has been postponed to October 10. The vote was a key demand of anti-government protests which began in October 2019.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who took office in May 2020, has promised to address the grievances, which include discontent with alleged corruption.


Iraq hangs five men convicted of terrorism, sources say

FEBRUARY 9, 2021

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq on Tuesday hanged five people convicted of terrorism charges, local security officials said.

All those executed at a prison in the southern Iraqi city of Nassiriya were Iraqi nationals, said one source who attended.

A second security source who is part of a team in charge of handing over bodies to their relatives confirmed the details.

The sources gave no details of the crimes that the men had been convicted of.

Another Iraqi man, convicted of murder, was also hanged on Tuesday, the sources said.

Iraq has put hundreds of suspected jihadists on trial and carried out several mass executions since defeating Islamic State fighters in U.S.-backed military campaign in 2014-2017.

On Nov. 16, Iraq hanged 21 convicted terrorists and murderers, including people involved in two suicide attacks that killed dozens of people in a northern town.

Human rights groups have accused authorities in Baghdad and other Iraqi regions of inconsistencies in the judicial process and flawed trials leading to unfair convictions. Iraq says its trials are fair.


US envoy: Killing of Lebanese activist Luqman Slim ‘barbaric act’

February 11, 2021

BEIRUT: The US ambassador to Lebanon paid a rare visit to a quarter of Beirut that is a Hezbollah stronghold on Thursday to attend the memorial service for political researcher and activist Luqman Slim.

He was shot dead and found in his car last Thursday in south Lebanon – the first killing of a high-profile activist in years.

“This was a barbaric act, unforgivable and unacceptable,” Dorothy Shea said in a speech at the service, which was held at the Salim family home in Beirut’s Dahiya quarter.

Slim ran a research center, made documentaries with his wife and led efforts to build an archive on Lebanon’s 1975-1990 sectarian civil war.

He spoke out against what he described as the intimidation tactics of the Iranian-backed, armed Shiite Hezbollah group and its attempts to monopolize Lebanese politics.

Hezbollah has condemned the murder, but Slim’s sister has suggested he was murdered because of those views.

On Thursday, his mother, Salma Merchak, quietly cried as she listened to Muslim and Christian prayers for her son at the service, which was also attended by the ambassadors of Germany, Canada, Britain and Switzerland.

In a speech afterwards, she asked Lebanon’s young people to foreswear arms and embrace dialogue in his memory.

“I ask you, the young, if you really want a nation to continue with the principles that he fought for and was convinced of,” Merchak said.

“Use only your logic and reason. Weapons don’t benefit the country. They didn’t benefit me – I lost my son.”





UN, EU Partnership to Combat Terrorism In Sudan

9 February, 2021

A partnership between the United Nations, the European Union and Sudan was launched Monday to combat terrorism through a Capacity-Building Workshop that focuses on countering the financing of terrorism.

The two-day workshop, organized by the National Organization for Combating Terrorism in coordination with UNDP and the EU was held at the premises of the Higher Academy for Strategic and Security Studies in Sudan’s Soba.

“This program helps Sudan to detect and arrest terrorists, and helps the Commission to curb terrorism, and also to establish capacity-building activities in coordination with the African Union and the IGAD,” Vladimir Voronkov, Under-Secretary-General of the UN Counter-Terrorism Office, told participants in a video message.

He said this initiative affirms Sudan’s commitment to work together with the EU and the UN in the combat of terrorism.

Voronkov explained that Sudan has started the transition phase, and the project of the National Counter-Terrorism Capacity Building comes at the request of the Sudanese authorities to support it in fighting terrorism and money laundering.

Deputy Head of the European Union mission to Sudan, Daniel Weiss said that the combat of terrorism financing remains a top priority for the European Union, as was announced by EU leaders last November.

“Therefore the European Union is pleased to support this workshop within the framework of the Sudan Counter-Terrorism Partnership between the United Nations and the European Union,” Weiss said.

Ambassador Sayed Al-Tayeb, representative of the Sudanese Foreign Ministry said the noble goals of this program aim to achieve the efforts adopted by the Sudan government for raising awareness, building knowledge and motivation to combat terrorism, as well as developing strategies and programs to translate these hopes into reality


Nigerian Army Keeps Mum As Boko Haram Terrorists Kill '20 Soldiers’ In Borno

FEB 09, 2021

About 48 hours after Boko Haram/Islamic States West Province (ISWAP) terrorists repelled an attack by the military, killing at least 20 soldiers in Malari, Borno State, the Nigerian army has yet to officially speak on the incident.

SaharaReporters gathered that the soldiers were on patrol to clear some Boko Haram elements in the area following credible intelligence when they were ambushed by the insurgents.

A senior military officer said the gunmen subsequently engaged the troops with an overwhelming firepower, killing about 20 soldiers.

The terrorists also destroyed about three operational vehicles of the Nigerian army.

The attack comes few days after six soldiers were killed in an ambush along Goniri-Gorigi Road while returning from a clearance operation.

Authorities of the Nigeria army have however been silent on both incidents.

“They have contacted their families as usual, they will be buried in a cemetery here in Maiduguri during the week,” a source told SaharaReporters.

Boko Haram and its offshoot, Islamic State West Africa Province, have killed thousands and displaced millions in North-Eastern Nigeria.

Nigerian army has repeatedly claimed that the insurgency has been largely defeated and frequently underplays any losses.

In the past months, soldiers have been targeted by the insurgents, waiting in ambush for them.

The Boko Haram insurgency has caused over 30,000 deaths and displaced millions of individuals, mainly in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.

The terror group wants an Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria.


At Least 10 Dead in New Congo Attack

February 09, 2021

At least 10 people have died in an overnight attack on a village in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. 

The attackers, who invaded a village near the border with Uganda, are believed to be part of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan Islamist group.

Local authorities confirmed the army has been deployed to the region. Last week, the group committed a similar massacre that killed at least 12 people in the nearby village of Mabule.

Active in the region since the 1990s, the ADF has increased its attacks against civilians since 2019, when the Congolese army began an operation against it. In 2020 alone, the group killed over 840 people, according to United Nations data.

The Islamic State militant group has claimed responsibility for multiple attacks in the region, although ties between IS and ADF have never been confirmed.


Mozambique sees militia violence dwindle as military gains steam

February 09, 2021

Islamist attacks in Mozambique's remote north have become less frequent and violent in recent weeks, a trend that analysts attribute in part to scaled-up counter-insurgency tactics.

Shadowy jihadists affiliated to the so-called Islamic State group have wreaked havoc in the gas-rich but impoverished Cabo Delgado province since 2017.

Their attacks rocketed last year, triggering a humanitarian crisis akin to the end of Mozambique's 1977-1992 civil war.

More than half of the roughly 800 assaults documented by US conflict tracker ACLED since 2017 took place last year alone, defying government efforts to boost its military presence in the area.

At least 2,500 people have been killed and more than half a million displaced in over three years, many of them impoverished villagers, according to ACLED and government figures.

But recent figures tentatively suggest intensified ground and air strikes are starting to bear fruit.

ACLED only registered around 10 militant strikes in January, down from about 30 in December.

"We are seeing a success of the government forces' offensive strategy," Calton Cadeado, a security researcher at the Joaquim Chissano University in Maputo told AFP.

The insurgents are also thought to be running low on supplies, according to analysts and military sources.

- Gas projects 'on track' -

The Cabo Delgado incursions have played out around a multi-billion-dollar liquid natural gas (LNG) exploration project off the Afungi peninsula, raising concern among project developers.

Jihadists remain in control of Mocimboa da Praia, a port used as a supply point for gas exploration before it was seized in August.

French oil giant Total evacuated workers in December after clashes broke out at the doorstep of its LNG facility.

Total CEO Patrick Pouyanne on Tuesday insisted the gas project was still "on track" to start production as planned in 2024.

"The security situation is problematic because jihadist groups got to within less than 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) from the site," Pouyanne said at a press briefing.

He added that Mozambican authorities had since agreed to provide a 25-km protection radius.

Government troops last month launched a series of air strikes on Palma district, the gas project's land hub, which they said killed several militants.

Soldiers on foot also killed an unknown number of suspected jihadists found hiding in a mosque, according to ACLED.

Civilian casualties were not mentioned, however, despite reports of insurgents using residents are human shields.

Rights groups have accused the military of manhandling civilians and indiscriminately killing anyone suspected of collaborating with the Islamist group, locally known as Al-Shabab.

But Cadeado noted the relationship between soldiers and locals had lately "improved a lot," helping military intelligence.

- Supply lines choked? -

Surfing on the back of the recent advances, President Filipe Nyusi this month offered amnesty to insurgents wishing to surrender their arms.

He assured the authorities would "do everything to receive you safely, and guarantee your reintegration" into society.

African history expert Eric Morier-Genoud said amnesty offers can be effective but stand more chance of success when "insurgents are weakened or divided".

He warned that it was still too early to celebrate the observed drop in violence.

"It is possible that the insurgents will lose ground," said Morier-Genoud. "But it is also possible that they will try to extend their range into another province."

Some analysts suspect the militants may be re-strategizing and shifting away from rural attacks and towards the high-profile gas project.

"The worst scenario would be for them to scale back wider attacks but strike the heart of the LNG complex," said Cadeado.

If so, that plan faced a logistical challenge -- better-patrolled roads and sea routes had helped to crimp the insurgents' supply lines.

In addition, stores of weapons and ammunition seized from army bases have run down because of the militants' accelerated offensive last year, Cadeado suggested.

Another problem was that the violence had crippled agriculture, which in turn created a supply headache for the rebels.

"Where do you get food if there are no people producing it in the area at this point?" Cadeado asked. "There is no war without supplies, without logistics."

Military sources added that several groups had been to retreat from villages and into the surrounding bush, where foraging for food is tough.


Growing desperation over Al-Shabaab threat in Kenya's north

February 10, 2021

Schools are shut due to an exodus of teachers, travel has become risky because of armed attacks and roadside bombs, and cellphone towers are regularly destroyed.

In the vast, arid northern corner of Kenya, bordering Somalia and Ethiopia, frustration is boiling over due to the growing strength of the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab jihadist group in the region.

Some 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) and a world apart from the bustling capital Nairobi or Kenya's famed beaches and wildlife parks, the county of Mandera is increasingly coming under the control of Al-Shabaab, the area's governor warned recently.

In a rare public cry for help, governor Ali Roba published a long letter in January over the "undeterred movements of terror cells within the county", saying the government was "failing miserably" at stopping them.

He cited a recent Al-Shabaab attack on an ambulance carrying a pregnant woman, and the beheading of a local chief in December whose "head was thrown into a bush."

"A police post was attacked ... Mobile phone transmission stations are regularly attacked and masts felled leaving residents cut-off from communication," the governor wrote in a letter published in The Standard newspaper.

"Highways in Mandera are now controlled by Al-Shabaab that harasses travellers and target civil servants on the roads."

Situated on the Somali border, the often drought-stricken Mandera is a region where most of the population live off pastoralism, and is already one of the least developed counties in Kenya.

The governor has also said that 126 schools have yet to reopen in his county due to insecurity, after several attacks on "non-local" teachers in the largely Muslim area in recent years.

In a statement replying to the governor, northeastern regional commissioner Nicodemus Musyoki Ndalana said it was regrettable that Roba had chosen to address "delicate and complex national security concerns" so publicly, and defended the government's security investments.

"There is no denying that the county still experiences daunting scenarios each day due to its proximity to the Al-Shabaab corridor, but it is no longer the enemy's stomping ground."

- Feels like Somalia -

Kenya shares a long eastern border with Somalia, and has been repeatedly targeted by Al-Shabaab since it sent troops to fight the Islamist group in 2011.

High-profile attacks on the Westgate shopping centre, a university, a hotel and business complex have left hundreds of locals and foreigners dead.

But many attacks over the years have also targeted police and civilians in the remote areas along that border, where Al-Shabaab has gained a foothold.

It was in Mandera in 2019 that two Cuban doctors were kidnapped by suspected Al-Shabaab militants. They have yet to be released.

"Sometimes it feels like we are actually in Somalia because of the criminals from the other country walking freely around and stopping vehicles to demand to know who is inside," said Mandera businessman Maalim Abdi, 48.

"We want to feel like the rest of the country. It should not be a curse to live at the border."

International Crisis Group researcher for the Horn of Africa, Meron Elias, told AFP that Roba's letter was "an overstatement" since government security measures would make it difficult for Al-Shabaab to control significant territory in his region.

"That said, the Al-Shabaab problem in northeastern Kenya is serious... The insecurity, marginalisation, lack of services and general terror caused by the group in the region is making life for citizens very hard."

She said Al-Shabaab has stepped up local recruitment, but it was hard to say if Somali or Kenyan citizens were carrying out the attacks.

"The group wants to further isolate northeastern Kenya from the rest of the country and prevent the government from delivering services and exercising control over the large, sparsely populated region."

According to Elias, the only place Al-Shabaab holds territory in Kenya is the Boni Forest in Lamu further south -- a border region also plagued by attacks.

Last month Al-Shabaab released a video of an attack in January 2020 on a military base used by US forces in the Lamu region, in which three Americans were killed and several aircraft and military vehicles destroyed.

- Border clashes -

Further adding to the woes of Mandera residents, a complex internal Somali political crisis that has drawn in Kenya has also led to episodes of fierce fighting on the frontier, which injured 12 last month and saw a missile hit a house in Mandera.

Nairobi and Mogadishu have had a falling out over Kenya's support of the leader of the semi-autonomous Jubaland region on the border -- who the central Somali government tried and failed to get rid of in an election last year.

Somalia in December severed diplomatic ties with Kenya for "interference" in its politics, and both countries have accused each other of incursions into their territory.

The businessman Ibrahim Gedi said "hardly two days goes without an incident (at the border), we have not known peace for some time now."

Fatuma Abdi, 45, a mother of six, said her family lives in constant fear in Mandera.

"We are so used to gunfire and loud blasts but we want them to stop. Businesses are not operating normally, most schools are closed. We want our life back."


Senegal Uncovers Jihadist Cell in East of Country

FEBRUARY 9, 2021

Senegalese authorities have foiled a jihadist cell linked to al-Qaeda-affiliated militants in Mali, a leading newspaper in the West African state reported on Monday.

Gendarmes arrested four men in late January in the eastern town of Kidira, which lies on the border with Senegal’s war-torn neighbor Mali, according to the Liberation newspaper.

A shopkeeper who has been under surveillance for two years was among the men who were arrested, it added.

The shopkeeper’s telephone number reportedly appeared on a Whatsapp group linked to the Katiba Macina jihadist group.

Although he denies affiliation with the group, he is suspected of acting as a recruiter inside Senegal.

Katiba Macina is one of the key armed groups in al-Qaeda-aligned Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) — which is one of the largest jihadist alliances operating in Mali.

Mali has been struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency that first emerged in 2012, killing thousands of soldiers and civilians and displacing hundreds of thousands more.

The conflict has since spread to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger, inflaming ethnic tensions along the way.

Senegal has so far been spared jihadist attacks.

However, the United Nations Security Council warned in a report this month that GSIM figures “have established themselves in Senegal.”

The head of France’s external intelligence agency, Bernard Emie, also said this month that GSIM is seeking to expand in Ivory Coast and Benin.

The four men arrested in Kidira were due to attend a hearing with a public prosecutor in Senegal’s capital Dakar on Monday, according to Liberation newspaper, on suspicion of criminal association and supporting acts of terrorism.

Neither the Senegalese gendarmes, public prosecutor nor the justice ministry immediately responded to questions from AFP about the case.


‘Tens of thousands’ could starve to death in Ethiopia’s Tigray: Red Cross

11 February 2021

The Ethiopian Red Cross Society says 80 percent of Ethiopia’s northern, conflict-torn Tigray region has been completely cut off from humanitarian aid, warning that tens of thousands could starve to death as a result of the alarming situation there.

Abera Tola, the president of the Ethiopian Red Cross Society, made the remarks in a press conference on Wednesday, as fighting between Ethiopian troops and armed rebels continued in the restive region.

“Eighty percent of the Tigray is unreachable at this particular time,” Abera said, adding that some cases of starvation had already been reported and the figures could climb fast.

“The number today could be one, two, or three, but you know, after a month it means thousands. After two months it will be tens of thousands,” he said.

Abera said access had remained largely restricted to main roads north and south of the regional capital, Mekelle, excluding most rural areas.

Once humanitarian workers are able to reach Tigray’s rural areas, “there, we will see a more devastating crisis,” he said, adding that, “We have to get prepared for the worst.”

The official said the displaced civilians who had managed to reach camps in Tigray were “emaciated.”

“You see their skin is really on their bones. You don’t see any food in their body,” he said. “Sometimes it is also really difficult to help them without some kind of high nutritional value foods.”

The Ethiopian Red Cross now estimates that around 3.8 million of Tigray’s roughly six million people need humanitarian assistance, up from an earlier estimate of 2.4 million, Abera said.

Meanwhile, Francesco Rocca, the president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, who visited Tigray this week, described the plight of the people displaced by the conflict as “unbearable.”

“The situation there is one of the most difficult I’ve ever seen. The people there are missing almost everything,” Rocca said.

“People in Tigray need everything: food and food items, water and sanitation, medical supplies, and mobile clinics. And humanitarian organizations need access to Tigray to reach the most vulnerable,” he said.

He said accessible hospitals in Tigray were “barely working” and had no medicines, no food for patients, and no psycho-social support. He criticized the “unacceptable” looting that has reportedly ravaged most of the health facilities in the region.

Amnesty International earlier urged Ethiopia’s government to honor a promise to grant humanitarian access to Tigray.

Ethiopian federal troops entered Tigray as part of a retaliatory response to alleged attacks on government forces on November 4 last year and overthrew the dissident regional ruling party of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which had set itself in opposition to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed since he came to power in April 2018.

Though the government announced victory on November 28, the region’s ousted leader has vowed to continue fighting.

Since fighting began, thousands of people have lost their lives and hundreds of thousands of others have been forced from their homes. The region is home to more than five million people.

According to the United Nations (UN), an estimated 100,000 people are displaced in Tigray and some 60,000 people have taken refuge in Sudan.





Nawaz, Fazl Agree To Participate In Senate Elections 2021 With Comprehensive Strategy

Syed Umarullah Hussaini

FEB, 2021

Pakistan Muslim League (N) Supremo Nawaz Sharif on Thursday telephoned Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) Chief; to discuss the future strategies to oust the government of Imran Khan.

During the phone call, the two leaders discussed the political situation in the country and the opposition’s movement against the government.

There was also consultation on carrying out a successful long march against the PTI government. Nawaz Sharif assured all possible cooperation of PML-N to make the long march successful.

The two leaders also discussed the leaked video scandal about the horse trading of PTI lawmakers in Senate Elections 2018.

Both leaders agreed to participate in the upcoming Senate elections via comprehensive strategy.

PTI is being abandoned by their own people because of the government’s anti-labor policies.

It should be noted that the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) had earlier announced long march towards Islamabad on March 26.

The PDM chief said that the movement rejects the open ballot method of Senate polls and the constitutional amendment to bring it about.

“The Opposition believes in the overall package of election reforms,” he said.

Fazlur Rehman remarked that, “It seems as if PTI does not believe in its members and the PTI leadership wishes to make such unsavory people senators that their own members are not willing to vote for them.”

Moreover he said that that PDM had decided that electricity, gas and petroleum costs have skyrocketed and made the lives of people difficult.


'Fazlur Rehman was the one who most benefited from the secret ballot'

10 Feb, 2021

KALLAR SYEDAN: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said vote-purchase in Senate elections since last 30 years was a big question mark over the credibility of politicians who supported a corrupt system and ‘traded conscience in the name of democracy’.

“A big question lies ahead, whether to go for Senate polls with the old corrupt system or to act transparent instead,” the Prime Minister told media persons in response to queries on the recent video showing politicians buying and selling votes before the 2018 Senate elections, during his visit to Kallar Syedan.

The Prime Minister said the corrupt practices were revealed to him after he and his party members received offers from multiple sides for vote selling before previous Senate elections. He recalled that he was approached by different people for money and offered funds for Shaukat Khanum hospital as another mode of bribe.

Imran Khan said, “What kind of democracy is this where votes are sold; this is nothing, but a blot on democracy.” He recalled that he ousted 20 from his party who took money for votes in the last Senate elections, adding some of them also invoked the jurisdiction of the court against the action.

The Prime Minister dismissed the allegations of the Opposition for being in knowledge about the video way earlier, saying had he known about it, he would have presented it before court.

The Prime Minister said Pakistan Democratic Movement had made an alliance to protect their corruption and ill-gotten money.

“The market of corruption in politics is on rise, but no other party is willing to change it,” he said, regretting that in the past, people became senators by buying votes from members of national and provincial assembly votes. He said currently, the rate for a single Senate vote in Balochistan ranged between Rs 500 to 700 million, which was unfortunate.

“Those involved in such extravagance will later recover by minting money from the public exchequer,” he said.

To a question on Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam chief Fazlur Rehman who advised Imran Khan to learn politics from him, he said the JUI-F chief himself was the one who most benefited from the secret ballot.

Imran Khan said he had been advocating for an open ballot for the last five year. He mentioned that Pakistan Muslim League-N and Pakistan Peoples Party had earlier signed a Charter of Democracy and agreed for an open ballot, however changed their minds to support their corruption.

He was of the view that the ruling party could take more benefit from the secret ballot because of being in the government. However, he said, ” we want to change the system for the benefit of the country and to end corruption.”

The Prime Minister said with corruption at leadership level, the honesty at lower tiers could not be expected.

On inflation, he said devaluation of Pakistan currency against dollar resulted in price hike. He said during PPP government, the rupee got weaken about 25 per cent while during PTI government rupees value declined by 24.5 per cent against dollars.

He expressed the hope that with continuity of trend in growth of exports, the situation would be improved.

About cricket, he said though he remained unable to watch the ongoing matches of Pakistan vs South Africa due to busy schedule, however expressed commitment that efforts would be made to remove flaws in existing structure to make more talent shine. NNI


Islamabad turns into ‘war zone’ as govt employees clash with police

February 11, 2021


The federal capital turned into a war zone on Wednesday as the government employees, protesting for a pay rise, clashed with police while attempting to enter the restricted Red Zone – an area where the government and military buildings are located.

Protests were held at different points of the city, including Constitution Avenue, outside Secretariat Block and Cabinet Block. The demonstrators also broke the main entrance door of the Cabinet Block.

Earlier, the government had approved a 24% increase in salaries for grades 1 to 16, in principle. However federal employees are demanding a 40% rise in salaries, and demanding an increase in the salaries of provincial employees as well.

The Islamabad police blocked the Srinagar Highway — one of the main arteries of the city — with containers in order to limit the movement of the protestors. However, the move caused a massive traffic jam as many were trying to get back to home from work.

A heavy contingent of police tear-gassed hundreds of government employees as they attempted to approach the Parliament House to stage a sit-in. Dozens of protestors, along with their leaders, were also arrested.

The protesters could also be seen pelting the police officials with stones in return.

Following the ruckus, a group of protesting employees apparently belonging to the Cabinet Division intercepted the Minister for Information Senator Shibli Faraz's vehicle as it was entering the office of the information ministry, and demanded the immediate release of all the arrested leaders.

The employees, who had been asking for a raise in their salaries for the past several months, had announced that they would launch a forceful protest along with the provincial government employees on Wednesday after bringing the government affairs to a halt.

On Tuesday night, police conducted raids at the houses of central officer-bearers of government employees’ organisations and took them into custody.

Earlier, employees of the Federal Directorate of Education had reportedly blocked the main Srinagar Highway, resulting in gridlock on both the tracks of the highway as well as affecting the traffic in the rest of the city.

The strike brought government affairs in ministries, departments, and divisions to a standstill.

Employees belonging to many government ministries including the Secretariat, Cabinet Division and Kohsar Complex had all refused to go to the office, resulting in the closure of government offices.

Maryam condemns police violence

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz, while referring to the incumbent ruler, said that the one who staged a 126-day sit-in in Islamabad could not stand the legitimate protest of government employees.

“Fake rulers should inflict as much harm as they can themselves withstand,” Maryam said, adding that resorting to violence and firing tear gas shells on protesting employees were the “cruel” tactics employed by the incumbent government.

“The sacrifices being rendered by the employees actually signal an end to the oppressive, anti-public, vote-thief and commission-fed government,” she remarked.

Maryam noted that thrashing employees who were only putting forth their rightful demand, including that of a pay raise, is a sign of “tyrant” leaders.

“The whole nation has now seen the fascist and dictatorial face of the claimant of Western democracy,” the PML-N leader lamented.

She said the government was suppressing the people who have been under the debt of inflation for the past three years. “It is the first government that, despite causing inflation to rise fourfold, did not raise salaries of government employees by even a single rupee,” she maintained.

Maryam vowed to raise her voice for the employees and highlight the ill-treatment meted out to them at parliament and all other forums. She demanded the government to immediately release all the arrested employees.


'Could've cooperated on Covid-19': FM says Kashmir issue impeding regional development

February 11, 2021

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Thursday that Pakistan could have cooperated within the region on tackling the Covid-19 pandemic but there was a "bottleneck" on regional trade and development because of the Kashmir issue.

The foreign minister was addressing a photography and culture exhibition in Islamabad, attended by foreign diplomats and dignitaries, to express solidarity with the people of Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK).

"We could have cooperated in the region to [better] combat Covid-19 but we didn't [...] collectively [and] regionally we could've done a better job," said Qureshi.

He said because of the Kashmir dispute there was no regional trade and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) was not functioning while "we've seen regional trade grow everywhere [such as the] European Union (EU) and Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations]".

"What's the bottleneck? We have to understand that and we need the international community to understand what the present regime in India has done is unsustainable," the foreign minister said.

He questioned where were the investments promised by India in the occupied region, adding that the flourishing tourism in IoK had been "destroyed" because of "devastating" measures taken on August 5, 2019 — referring to India's revocation of Article 370.

"We want to live in peace with India and we want good neighbourly relations with India but south Asia has suffered because of this [Kashmir] dispute," Qureshi said, adding that limited resources were not being "optimally used" on development projects because of "tension on both sides".

"The time has come to reflect, how do we move on. What is going on is unsustainable."

Qureshi said choosing not to talk about the Kashmir issue and ignoring it would not "change reality" and the issue should be resolved through "dialogue and peaceful means".

"Who will create that enabling environment that is required to reengage [...] so please write to your capitals [and] inform them about what the real situation is [in IoK]," he told the audience, which included foreign dignitaries and diplomats.

Qureshi also urged the audience to visit and assess both Azad Kashmir and the Indian occupied territory and to pressure the Indian government into allowing a diplomatic core to make an "independent assessment" on IoK after meeting people there.

The foreign minister said he expected the administration of US President Joe Biden to "stop ignoring the ground realities over there" based on his consistent stance on human rights.

He also said he expected the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the EU to play their roles on the issue and thanked members of the European and British parliaments for "contributing and highlighting the misery and brutality that is taking place".

The United States State Department clarified on Wednesday that there had been no change in America’s Kashmir policy and Washington still considered both Jammu and Kashmir as a territory disputed between India and Pakistan. The clarification on the Kashmir issue showed that the Biden administration was not insensitive to Pakistan’s concerns.

"We look forward to continuing political & economic progress to restore normalcy in J&K,” the State Department had commented.


High court serves contempt notices on education officials

February 11, 2021

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court has issued contempt notices to the director of the elementary and secondary (E&S) education department and Kohat district education officer (female) for conducting tests to fill the Certified Teacher-Information Technology vacancies despite a stay order issued against it.

A bench consisting of Chief Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan and Justice Syed Arshad Ali issued the order for the purpose over a petition of candidate Aneela Afridi, who insisted that the court had stopped the E&S education director and DEO from holding BTS test for filling three vacant posts but they conducted the test in Kohat on Jan 23.

It ordered the fixing of the petition for hearing on Mar 9 along with the main petition filed by Ms Aneela against the appointment of three candidates ‘without the required qualification’.

The bench ordered the director and DEO (female) to respond to the petition during the next hearing.

Malik Ihtishamul Haq, lawyer for the petitioner, said his client had challenged appointments against the CT-IT posts in Kohat.

Candidate insists tests conducted to fill teacher posts despite stay order

He said the petitioner had also challenged a notification of the E&SE department issued on Apr 24, 2017, which provided that an appointed candidate shall acquire a required qualification within three years of his or her appointment.

The lawyer said the petitioner had requested the court to declare unconstitutional and discriminatory the impugned notification to the extent of acquiring qualification within three years.

He contended that on Jan 28, a high court bench had issued a stay order in favour of his client and directed the respondents not to re-advertise vacancies.

Mr Ihtesham said the respondents not only re-advertised the posts but also convened the NTS test on Jan 23 prompting him to file an application on behalf of his client for staying the same.

He said on Jan 21, a high court bench ordered the director and DEO to maintain status quo on the issue but in violation of that order, the latter went ahead with the NTS test on Jan 23.

The lawyer requested the bench to initiate contempt proceedings against the two respondents and punish them accordingly.

He said the Kohat DEO (female) had advertised some posts of CT-IT (BPS-12) in Kohat on May 19, 2019, and as his client had requisite qualifications, she had applied for them.

Mr Ihtesham claimed that after the process of screening and short-listing test, a first tentative merit list was displayed in which the petitioner was shown at Serial No 2.

He claimed that the DEO had appointed four candidates and three of them didn’t possess the required qualifications and therefore, they were illegally considered for the posts and theyr appointments were illegal.

The lawyer argued that all those candidates, who had acquired certificate and diploma of certified teacher, associate degree in education and diploma in information technology, would become redundant and of no use due to the impugned notification.



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