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Muslims offer namaz in gurudwara on Eid-ul-Adha in Uttarakhand's Joshimath

New Age Islam News Bureau

2 Sept 2017

Eid Muslims praying on Eid. (Photo | PTI)


 JuD Chief Makki Vows to Intensify 'Jihad' Against India

 Kurd Poll Won’t Solve Region’s Woes: Iraqi Shia Leader

 US Mosques Open Doors to Hurricane Harvey Victims


 India Expresses Concern over Deaths of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar Ahead Of PM Modi's Visit


 Zardari Says Party Not Satisfied By Verdict in BB Murder Case

Arab World

 ISIL Suffers Heavy Casualties In Clashes With Syrian Army In Deir Ezzur

North America

 Jim Mattis on Pakistan: Responsible Countries Take Terrorists Down


 Turkish President Labels Killing of Rohingya Muslims 'Genocide'

 Turkish FM: Why Are Muslim Nations Silent On Rohingya?

South Asia

 UNAMA Says 28 Civilians Killed, 16 Wounded In Logar and Herat Airstrikes

Southeast Asia

 Over 400 Die as Myanmar Army Steps up Crackdown on Rohingya Militants


 Britain First Anti-Mosque Video Filmed In Maidstone Shared 31,000 Times

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

For Details and More Headlines from All Regions, Please click, ‘More’



 JuD Chief Makki Vows to Intensify 'Jihad' Against India

 Kurd Poll Won’t Solve Region’s Woes: Iraqi Shia Leader

 US Mosques Open Doors to Hurricane Harvey Victims



 Muslims offer namaz in gurudwara on Eid-ul-Adha in Uttarakhand's Joshimath

 LeT terrorist involved in murder of Lt Umar Fayyaz killed in Kulgam

 UAE topples Saudi as top draw for Indian job seekers in Gulf

 In Myanmar, PM Modi to discuss Rakhine strife

 India Expresses Concern Over Deaths Of Rohingya Muslims In Myanmar Ahead Of PM Modi's



 JuD chief Makki vows to intensify 'Jihad' against India

 Zardari says party not satisfied by verdict in BB murder case

 Top MQM-P leader survives assassination attempt in Karachi

 'Pakistan will play its due role in bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan'

 Benazir's murder could have been prevented with appropriate security measures: ATC

 When the Muslim poet who went on to write Pakistan’s national anthem wrote a nazm to Lord Krishna

 Pakistani FM to visit Iran, regional states to discuss US new policy


Arab World

 US-backed Syrian force seizes Raqa Old City

 Suicide attack on power plant kills 7 in Iraq

 Muslims around world celebrate Eid as hajj enters final days

 Baghdad Dispatches More Forces to Central Iraq to Launch Huweija Liberation Operation

 Iraqi Gov't Forces Ready to Launch Fresh Anti-ISIL Operation to Liberate Huweija

 Syrian Army Scores Significant Victories against Terrorists by Utilizing Russian Missiles

 Syrian Army Continues Anti-ISIL Operation in Eastern Homs, Western Deir Ezzur

 Russian Air Force Bombs Heavily Terrorists' Military Hardware in Eastern Syria

 Syrian Army Drives ISIL out of Several Regions in Central Part of Country

 Army Repels Al-Nusra Front Attacks on Gov't Positions in Aleppo

 ISIL Dispatches More Military Hardware, Munitions to Deir Ezzur to Slow Down Syrian Army Advances

 ISIL Suffers Heavy Casualties in Clashes with Syrian Army in Deir Ezzur

 Syrian Army Captures 3,000sq/km of Land in Homs-Raqqa-Deir Ezzur Triangle

 Kurd poll won’t solve region’s woes: Iraqi Shia leader

 Hajj pilgrims perform devil-stoning ritual near Mecca


South Asia

 Taliban insurgents suffer casualties in Kandahar and Paktika operations: MoD

 UNAMA says 28 civilians killed, 16 wounded in Logar and Herat airstrikes

 Plane appears on main Kabul road causing panic among city residents


Southeast Asia

 Over 400 die as Myanmar army steps up crackdown on Rohingya militants

 Tajikistan bans women from wearing veils

 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh mark Eid after fleeing violence



 Turkish President Labels Killing of Rohingya Muslims 'Genocide'

 Erdogan blasts ‘scandalous’ US indictment of bodyguards

 DM Underlines Bolstering Power of Iran's Ballistic, Cruise Missiles

 Hebron Governor: Expanding Israeli Settlers’ Municipal Powers Most Dangerous since 1967

 Top Commander: Potential Aggressors Deterred by Iran's Reaction outside Borders

 Iran expresses sympathy for flood victims in India, Nepal, Pakistan

 Turkish FM: Why are Muslim nations silent on Rohingya?



 Iran Lauds S. Africa's Support for Palestinian People



 Islamist hate preacher who called for Britain to be DESTROYED to visit UK

 Britain First anti-mosque video filmed in Maidstone shared 31,000 times

 British retailers failing to cash in on the Muslim pound


North America

 US mosques open doors to Hurricane Harvey victims

 Jim Mattis on Pakistan: Responsible countries take terrorists down

 Pentagon approves new contract for Afghan Air Force worth $69.3 million





Muslims offer namaz in gurudwara on Eid-ul-Adha in Uttarakhand's Joshimath

By PTI  |   Published: 02nd September 2017

GOPESHWAR: In a show of communal amity, a Gurudwara in Joshimath today offered its space to Muslims to offer namaz on the occasion of Eid-ul-Adha.

"It was raining heavily and to spare our Muslim brethren the inconvenience of offering namaz in the open we offered to them the precincts of our Gurudwara in Joshimath for the purpose," Hemkund Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee chief Sardar Seva Singh said.

Between 9 am to 10 am, around one thousand Muslim brethren offered namaz at the gurudwara to mark the festival.

The Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee also plied them with snacks, he said.

The local administration also lent a helping hand in making the arrangements.

The HGPC chief said they have offered their space for offering namaz to the Muslim brethren under similar circumstances in the past as well.

Joshimath is located on way to Badrinath and the famous Sikh shrine of Hemkund Sahib.



LeT terrorist involved in murder of Lt Umar Fayyaz killed in Kulgam

TNN | Updated: Sep 2, 2017

SRINAGAR: Hardcore Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist Ishfaq Padder was killed in an encounter near Tantripuraa village of Kulgam district on Saturday morning.

Ishfaq Padder was involved in the murder of Lt Umar Fayaz.

On specific input, a joint team of 62 Rashtriya Rifles and SOG had laid an ambush to trap the dreaded LeT terrorist. Security forces are looking for Padder's accomplices.

The bullet-riddled body of 22-year-old Umar Fayaz+ was found in Harmen area of Shopian in South Kashmir on May 10, hours after he was abducted by terrorists from Batpura village where he had gone to attend his cousin's wedding.



UAE topples Saudi as top draw for Indian job seekers in Gulf

Lubna Kably | TNN | Sep 2, 2017

MUMBAI: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has emerged as the leading destination for Indians migrating to the Gulf in search of work, as per emigration clearance data for the first six months of 2017. The UAE has toppled, by a wide margin, Saudi Arabia which used to traditionally lead the pack.

Of the total emigration clearance of nearly 1.84 lakh, as many as 74,778 Indians (or 40.6%) obtained emigration clearances for the UAE during January-June this calendar year, while only 32,995 (or 18% ) migrated to Saudi Arabia.

Oman came a close third with 30,413 migrants, which is 16.5% of the total Gulf migration. In 2016, Kuwait was the third most popular destination.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is an alliance of six countries: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.

The other surprise in store is that Bihar edged Uttar Pradesh to occupy the top slot as the leading source state during the first half of 2017. Bihar contributed 35,807 (or 19.5%) of the total migrants to the Gulf. UP sent 33,043 migrants (or 18%).

Contrast this with 2015, when of the total 7.58 lakh Indian migrants to the Gulf, 31% hailed from UP and only 14% from Bihar.

Drop in migration from UP to Saudi

The main reason for this shift in ranking is a drastic fall in migration from UP to Saudi Arabia during the first half of 2017.

Of the total migrant figure of 3.06 lakh to Saudi Arabia in 2015, 1.28 lakh migrants (or 42%) hailed from UP. The pan-India figure of migrants to Saudi Arabia dipped to 1.65 lakh in 2016 of which 36% were from UP.

Between January to June, only 1,179 workers from UP obtained emigration clearance for Saudi Arabia. This works out to a mere 3.57% of the total migration to this country.

On the whole, emigration clearance statistics reflect a steady decline in migration to the Gulf, as per the statistics of the ministry of external affairs (MoEA). The pan-India emigration clearance during 2016, of 5.07 lakh, was a decline of 33% as compared to the previous calendar year.

While comparative six monthly figures of 2016 are not available, with only 1.84 emigration clearances during the first half of 2017, it shows that the falling trend will continue.

Contrary to popular notions, Kerala doesn't occupy the top slot of source states for Gulf bound migration. S Irudaya Rajan, professor at the Centre for Development Studies (CDS), who spearheads the annual Kerala Migration Survey, says: "Historically, Kerala was the leading source state for migrants going to the Gulf countries. One out of every five migrants who left India in 2008 was a Keralite. After the global crisis that followed, this is down to one out of twenty in 2016."

Kerala occupied eight slot in 2015, with 42,731 migrants (or 5.6%) of the pan- India total.

Its eighth position continued in 2016 with 24,962 Keralities migrating to Gulf and its ratio to all-India migration was 4.9%. Kerala's ranking was up to seventh in the first half of 2017, with 8,995 emigration clearances or nearly 5% of the pan-India emigration clearances (See graphic).

Rajan explains: "The wage differential for unskilled labourers between Kerala and Gulf has narrowed, plus savings for Gulf workers are hit by the high cost of living.

Keralites are slowly vacating from Gulf and are replaced by people from UP, Bihar, and neighbouring countries such as Nepal and Sri Lanka. Unlike the rest of India, Kerala is experiencing an ageing population-—this too impacts migration."

Astudy done by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 2016 illustrates that India has fixed the referral wage for carpenters and masons at Saudi Riyal 1,700 per month, which is 40% and 10% higher than that set by Nepal and Philippines "The higher referral wages may periodically reduce employers' preference for Indian workers. But if this tendency continues for long, it may adversely impact migration outflows from India, which in turn will restrict livelihood options and dampen remittance inflows," the report said.



In Myanmar, PM Modi to discuss Rakhine strife

TNN | Sep 2, 2017

NEW DELHI: As PM Narendra Modi heads to Myanmar next week for his first bilateral visit, India is trying to set itself apart from China and itself apart from Ch its mercantile foreign policy.

In an interview to local media group Mizzima on the eve of Modi's visit, Indian ambassador to Myanmar Vikram Misri said, "We don't want to do what some to do what some other countries are doing, we want to create public assets for Myanmar to use, not the commercial infrastructure to primarily promote our business. The assets we are creating are public, belonging to the people and government of Myanmar. They don't belong to commercial interests from India."

During Modi's visit, India and Myanmar will have intensive discussions on the Rohingya problem and the ongoing violence in Rakhine province. India has come out in support of the Myanmar government on the issue, giving it cover from a lot of international condemnation.

Sripriya Ranganathan, iya Ranganathan, joint secretary in charge of Myanmar, said the situation in Rakhine had a "number of aspects, developmental, humanitarian and security". All of these, she said, were highlighted by the recent Kofi Annan recent Kofi Annan report. "We have been trying to encourage the Myanmar government to stimulate some socio-economic development of the area since many problems will reduce if not disappear if development happens. We are also enabling the government to support communal harmony in the states," Ranganathan said. India believes once the Kaladan project is completed, it will have a positive impact on the area and its people.



India Expresses Concern Over Deaths Of Rohingya Muslims In Myanmar Ahead Of PM Modi's Visit


NEW DELHI, Sept 2 (Bernama) -- India has expressed its concern over the situation in Rakhine state of Myanmar, where many Rohingya Muslims have been reportedly killed in violence, China's Xinhua news agency reported.

"India will be discussing with the government of Myanmar on how it can help in addressing the problem (in Rohingya Muslims-dominated Rakhine state)," Indian External Affairs Ministry's joint secretary Sripriya Ranganathan told the media in the national capital Friday evening.

"A recent attack in the state has claimed lives of many people after which India reached out to the government of Myanmar to see what can be done in this regard," she added.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Myanmar next week after attending the BRICS summit in China.

"We have had many outstanding interactions with the Myanmar government since the new government came into office in April 2016. We regard this visit as an important visit but one in a series of ongoing interaction which we hope will continue in the future," the joint secretary said.

Modi will be in Myanmar for a two-day visit at the invitation of Myanmar President U Htin Kyaw.

During his stay in Myanmar, the Indian prime minister will hold talks with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on matters of mutual interest and will call on President U Htin Kyaw. He will also visit the cities of Yangon and Bagan.




JuD chief Makki vows to intensify 'Jihad' against India

Updated: Sep 02, 2017

Lahore [Pakistan], Sept.2 (ANI): In an alarming development right before the eyes of the Pakistan Government, the head of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Abdul Rehman Makki, has pledged to intensify "Jihad" against India in Jammu and Kashmir.

Makki made these remarks in a speech at the "Shohda-e-Kashmir" conference held at Al-Daawa Model School in Lahore. The event was held to observe the "martyrdom" of militant Abu Waleed Mohammad, who was killed in Bandipora on March 3, 2017 by Indian security forces.

While re-pledging the JuD's commitment to cross-border terrorism, Makki praised the spirit of martyrdom of Abu Waleed Mohammad, and simultaneously recalled the sacrifices made by tens of thousands of JuD cadres who had waged a "Jihad" in Kashmir.

Condemning Western moves to label JuD cadres as extremists, Jihadis, fundamentalists and terrorists, and declaring the organization as dangerous for the peace of the region, Makki said that the JuD's basic aim was for the consolidation of Pakistan and to free Kashmiris from the yoke of Hindu forces.

He squarely blamed the Government of India for convincing the international community to declare Hafiz Saeed a terrorist and have him placed under house arrest, and added that the Pakistan leadership needs to be taught to work for the supremacy of Islam, liberation of Kashmir, and to stop being friends with New Delhi. Hindus, he said, need to be kept under control. On former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Makki said, "Allah punished people for stopping others from following the path of Jihad."

Makki used the occasion to confirm the formation of the Milli Muslim League (MML) by the JuD. The father of Abu Waleed Mohammad also addressed the gathering, clearly indicating that Al-Daawa schools are being used as breeding grounds for jihad. (ANI)



Zardari says party not satisfied by verdict in BB murder case

September 02, 2017

The former president of Pakistan and co-chairman of the PPP, Asif Ali Zardari, told journalists that the party was "not satisfied" with the verdict of the Rawalpindi Ant-Terrorism Court (ATC) in the Benazir Bhutto assassination case.

"The judges seem to have been frightened while giving the judgement in the case," he told local journalists in Nawabshah in a brief statement after Eid prayers.

The slain PPP chairperson's spouse said the party's lawyers, after consultations, will challenge the verdict in higher courts and ask judges to revisit the verdict.

Earlier, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had said that the "decision is disappointing and unacceptable" and that the party would explore legal options. Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari, the youngest of Benazir's children, said that "we still await justice".

In another tweet, she said that there would be no justice until "Pervez Musharraf answers for his crimes".

Sharing her sister's sentiments, Bakhtawar Bhutto-Zardari had also expressed displeasure with the verdict, saying "police men arrested but actual terrorists acquitted #Shame".

The ATC had announced its verdict on Thursday, acquitting five Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) suspects and announcing 17-year imprisonment for two police officials.

The ATC also declared retired Gen Pervez Musharraf an absconder in the case.

Benazir had been killed in a gun-and-bomb attack outside Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh on Dec 27, 2007 while Musharraf was president.



Top MQM-P leader survives assassination attempt in Karachi

PTI | Sep 2, 2017

KARACHI: MQM senior leader Khawaja Izharul Hasan today escaped an assassination attempt in Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi in which two persons, including a child, were killed and many others injured, media reports said.

Hasan, who is the leader of the Opposition in the Sindh Assembly, was going home after offering Eid-ul-Azhar prayers when attackers on motorcycles, wearing police uniforms, ambushed his vehicle in the Buffer Zone area of the southern metropolis, Dawn reported.

While Hassan remained unharmed in the incident, an attacker was killed during the retaliatory fire by one of the guards of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) lawmaker, it said.

MQM-P leader Faisal Sabzwari tweeted that attackers were in police uniform and during the gun attack, three guards of Hasan got injured while one was killed. A child was also killed in the cross-fire.

One of the assailants was shot dead in retaliatory firing, police said, while another was injured but managed to flee.

Police also said they had recovered a 9mm pistol and a motorcycle used by the killed attacker from the scene of the incident, the report said.

Meanwhile interior minister Sindh Anwar Syal stated that complete security was given to Hasan and he has personally spoken to him.

MQM is the fourth largest political party in Pakistan. It represents the Urdu speaking population.



'Pakistan will play its due role in bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan'

September 02, 2017

"Pakistan's position on Afghanistan is very clear: we want to see peace and stability in the country," said Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif on Saturday in response to Afghan president's message on normalisation of bilateral relations through talks.

Speaking at the Presi­dential Palace in Kabul after Eid prayers on Friday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had sent a message to Pakistan, saying Afghanistan was “ready for comprehensive political talks. Peace with Pakistan is in our national agenda”.

Asif, while speaking to the media about President Ghani's message, said that Pakistan will contribute and play its due role in all the initiatives taken to that end [bring peace to Afghanistan]. "We already have bilateral, trilateral, quadrilateral and multilateral mechanisms for dialogue and interaction with Afghanistan in place — those mechanisms should be utilised to their full potential."

He added that both sides, during their recent interactions, recognized the need for cooperation on all fronts — political, military, and intelligence.

Relations between Islamabad and Kabul have mostly remained strained, except for a brief bonhomie at the start of President Ghani’s tenure in 2014. The two countries have a long-running border dispute, with Afghanistan refusing to accept the Durand Line as the international border.

Their armies skirmished because of border disputes and Afghanistan’s resistance to Pakistan’s attempts to fence the porous border for checking unauthorised crossings. Both sides have also squabbled over terrorist sanctuaries accusing each other of harbouring terrorists.

However, the two countries have lately, under the shadows of uncertainty caused by the United States, taken steps towards a possible rapprochement through talks. President Ghani’s statement on Friday confirms that normalisation efforts were making steady progress.

Pakistan has consistently supported a political settlement of the Afghan conflict.



Benazir's murder could have been prevented with appropriate security measures: ATC

September 01, 2017

A Rawalpindi anti-terrorism court (ATC) which announced the verdict in the Benazir Bhutto murder case on Thursday stated that the assassination of the former premier "could have been prevented if the Rawalpindi District Police had taken adequate security measures."

The ATC in its 46-page long order suggested Bhutto's murder was the result of an inadequate response to security threats.

It concluded that "Bhutto was killed in an attack as a result of firing, followed by a bomb blast caused by an unknown suicide bomber on her way back from addressing a political gathering at Liaquat Bagh."

According to the court order, explosives were detonated near Bhutto's car, as she left the rally, by a 15-year-old boy. "No one believes that this boy acted alone," the order added.

"A range of government officials failed profoundly in their efforts first to protect Ms Bhutto and second to investigate with vigour all those responsible for her murder, not only in the execution of the attack, but also in its conception, planning and financing," it said.

However, the exact cause of her death remains unknown as a post-mortem examination was not conducted during the course of the investigation, the court noted.

It also noted that the investigation following the murder was marred by inconsistencies, and that the prosecution had been unable to establish a link between the murder conspiracy and the five Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan suspects accused.

The court concluded that the Elite police unite that was supposed to provide 'box' security for Bhutto's vehicle was "not available and was removed by the accused Saud Aziz, the then city police officer (CPO) [Rawalpindi]... There was no emergency plan in case of any undue incident."

"The prosecution is found to have miserably failed to prove its case against accused Rafaqat Hussain, Husnain Gul, Rasheed Ahmed and Sher Zaman beyond any shadow of doubt, hence, they are acquitted by giving benefit of doubt," the order said.

CPO Saud Aziz and Khurram Shahzad, a former Superintendent of Police (SP) at Rawal Town, were each awarded 17 years in prison by the court.

The court added that a separate case would be pursued against former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf.

Threats to Bhutto's life

The court order observed that although Bhutto was known to face threats from a number of sources, the investigation into these threats focused on small fry rather than those heading the threat groups.

It also said that investigators dismissed the possibility of involvement by members of the 'establishment' that Bhutto had identified as threats.

"Ms Bhutto faced serious threats in Pakistan from a number of sources... Notwithstanding these threats, the investigation into her assassination focused on pursuing lower level operatives allegedly linked to Baitullah Mehsud.

The Commission finds it disturbing that little was done to investigate Baitullah Mehsud himself, Al Qaeda and any individuals or organisations that might have worked on, supported or otherwise been involved directly or indirectly in the planning or execution of the assassination.

Investigators also dismissed the possibility of involvement by elements of the Establishment, including the three persons identified by Ms Bhutto as threats to her in her October 16, 2007, letter to General Musharraf."

Security failures

"The federal government under General Musharraf, although fully aware of, and tracking, the serious threats to Ms Bhutto’s security, did little more than pass on those threats to her and provincial authorities and were not proactive in neutralising them or ensuring that the security provided was commensurate to the threats.

The federal government failed in its primary responsibility to provide effective protection to Ms Bhutto on her return to Pakistan.

The federal government lacked a comprehensive security plan for Ms Bhutto, relying instead on provincial authorities, but then failed to issue to them the necessary instructions.

Particularly inexcusable was the government’s failure to direct provincial authorities to provide Ms Bhutto the same stringent and specific security measures it ordered on October 22, 2007, for two other former prime ministers who belonged to the main political party supporting General Musharraf.

This discriminatory treatment is profoundly troubling given the devastating attempt on her life only three days earlier and the specific threats against her which were being tracked by the Inter-Services Intelligence.

Responsibility for Ms Bhutto’s security on the day of her assassination rested with the federal government, the government of Punjab and the Rawalpindi District Police. None of these entities took necessary measures to respond to the extraordinary, fresh and urgent security risks that they knew she faced."

Problems with investigation

A press conference in which Bhutto's cause of death was announced prior to any formal investigation "hindered" the investigation, the court observed.

"The government press conference conducted by Brigadier Cheema on December 28, 2007, the day after the assassination, was ordered by General Musharraf.

The government’s assertion that Ms Bhutto’s death was caused when she hit her head on the lever of her vehicle’s escape hatch, and that Baitullah Mehsud and Al Qaeda were responsible for the suicide bomber were made well before any proper investigation had been initiated.

This action preempted, prejudiced and hindered the subsequent investigation.

An unequivocal determination as to the cause and means of Ms Bhutto’s death would have required an autopsy."

However, no autopsy of Bhutto was ever conducted.

"Decision to use fire hose on the crime scene within 1 hour and 40 minutes of the occurrence was unjustified and had resulted in destroying the crime scene, this destruction made it extremely difficult to collect more evidence for DNA tests.

The act of both the police officers constituted as criminal negligence which had caused irreparable damage to the crime scene.

The non-conducting of a post-mortem examination on the body of Benazir Bhutto also damaged the investigation due to which clear cause of death of Benazir Bhutto was not established.

The Commission is persuaded that the Rawalpindi police chief, CPO Saud Aziz, did not act independently of higher authorities, either in the decision to hose down the crime scene or to impede the post-mortem examination.

The deliberate prevention by CPO Saud Aziz of a post-mortem examination of Ms Bhutto hindered a definitive determination of the cause of her death.

It was patently unrealistic for the CPO to expect that Mr Zardari would allow an autopsy on his arrival in Pakistan at Chaklala Airbase nearly seven hours after his wife’s death and after her remains had been placed in a coffin and brought to the airport.

The autopsy should have been carried out at Rawalpindi General Hospital long before Mr Zardari arrived.

The Commission has uncovered no new evidence to suggest a gunshot injury to Ms Bhutto.

Instead, a senior PPP official who publicly purported soon after the assassination to have seen indications of a bullet injury admitted to the Commission that she did not have direct knowledge of such an injury."

Role of intelligence agencies

"The investigation was severely hampered by intelligence agencies and other government officials, which impeded an unfettered search for the truth.

Despite their explanation to the Commission that they do not have a mandate to conduct criminal investigations, intelligence agencies including the Inter- Services Intelligence agency (ISI) were present during key points in the police investigation, including the gathering of evidence at the crime scene and the forensic examination of Ms Bhutto’s vehicle, playing a role that the police were reluctant to reveal to the Commission.

More significantly, the ISI conducted parallel investigations, gathering evidence and detaining suspects.

Evidence gathered from such parallel investigations was selectively shared with the police.

What little direction police investigators had was provided to them by the intelligence agencies.

However, the bulk of the information was not shared with police investigators.

In fact, investigators on both the Karachi (Karsaz bombing) and Rawalpindi (Bhutto's assassination) cases were unaware of information the ISI possessed about terrorist cells targeting Ms Bhutto and were unaware that the ISI had detained four persons in late October 2007 for the Karachi attack.

More broadly, no aspect of the Commission’s inquiry was untouched by credible assertions of politicised and clandestine action by the intelligence services – the ISI, Military Intelligence, and the Intelligence Bureau.

On virtually every issue the Commission addressed, intelligence agencies played a pervasive role, including a central involvement in the political negotiations regarding Ms Bhutto’s return to Pakistan and the conduct of the elections.

The Commission believes that the failures of the police and other officials to react effectively to Ms Bhutto’s assassination were, in most cases, deliberate.

In other cases, the failures were driven by uncertainty in the minds of many officials as to the extent of the involvement of intelligence agencies.

These officials, in part fearing involvement by the intelligence agencies, were unsure of how vigorously they ought to pursue actions that they knew, as professionals, they should have taken."

Correction: An earlier version of this story attributed statements saying Rehman Malik and Asif Zardari appeared to be beneficiaries of the attack to an ATC. The statement was made by a lawyer. The error is regretted.



When the Muslim poet who went on to write Pakistan’s national anthem wrote a nazm to Lord Krishna

‘Krishn Kanhaiya’ written by Hafeez Jalandhari in pre-Partition India is a testimony to the syncreticism in South Asia.

This year, Pakistan’s 70th Independence anniversary and Janmashtami (the Hindu festival celebrating Krishna’s birth) fell on the same day – August 14. With that coincidence in mind, I want to share a very unique Urdu poem: Krishn Kanhaiya.

This nazm is by Hafeez Jalandhari, the Urdu poet most well-known for composing the lyrics to Pakistan’s national anthem, the Qaumi Taranah. Born in the Punjabi city of Jalandhar (now in India), he moved to Lahore following India and Pakistan’s independence and Partition in 1947.

As its title suggests, Krishn Kanhaiya is a poem about the Hindu god Krishna. Today, the mere idea of a Muslim poet writing about a Hindu deity raises all sorts of emotions among different groups in South Asia: surprise, joy, curiosity, suspicion, anger.

However, there is much more depth to Krishn Kanhaiya than meets the eye. This is no ordinary devotional poem. Jalandhari, ever a politically minded thinker and writer, draws upon the mythology and persona of Krishna to produce a poem that is simultaneously devotional and political.

It is, in fact, a call to liberate India from British colonial rule. Moreover, this poem, especially when examined in comparison with Jalandhari’s more famous work, the Qaumi Taranah, can tell us a great deal about the cultural politics of South Asia in the 20th century and today.

Setting the scene

Let’s begin with a close reading of Krishn Kanhaiya.

In the very first line of the poem, Jalandhari addresses his readers as onlookers (dekhne wālo). Although this may seem trivial, I believe there is a deeper significance to this choice of words. Urdu poetry is usually meant to be heard, not read silently. One popular type of poetry, the ghazal, is sung, while nazms (of which Krishn Kanhaiya is one) are usually recited. Yet, Jalandhari chooses dekhne wālo, “those who look,” to characterise the consumer of this poem.

Could Jalandhari’s choice of words be referring to the importance Hinduism gives to seeing god? I don’t think it would be inaccurate to describe Hinduism as a religion which, among the fives senses, gives primacy to sight as a way of connecting to the divine.

The central act of devotion when one goes to a Hindu temple is darshan: gazing upon the decorated image of the deity. And, of course, the incredibly intricate and symbolic iconography of Hindu gods and goddesses suggests the importance of saguna brahman, God With a Form.

By addressing the readers of the poem as “onlookers” instead of “listeners” or “readers,” Jalandhari might be encouraging them to engage in an act of darshan in their mind. As they read or hear the poem, he encourages them to also visualise Krishna in their minds.

But, where is Krishna in the poem? We haven’t gotten there yet. The opening lines are quite abstract. After asking whether Krishna is “reality or representation” (ma’anī hai ki sūrat), Jalandhari refers to the Hindu god as as a “form of light” (paikar-e-tanvīr), and asks “Is he fire or light?” (yeh nār hai yā nūr).

Again, these descriptions are full of meaning. In an article on Firstpost, Sharjeel Imam and Saquib Salim suggest that Jalandhari is alluding to Krishna as a being of light, reiterating “the age-old belief of a section of Islamic scholars, that Krishna was a righteous prophet sent to the people of the subcontinent.”

Jalandhari finally gives a description of Krishna that most Hindus would be familiar with: “this flute player/this cowherd of Gokul” (yeh bāñsurī wālā / gokul kā gwālā).

At the same time, Krishna is praised using typical Urdu expressions and words relating to god: “By god, what glory!” (kyā shān hai wallāh) and “he is the majesty of god” (ik shān-e-hudā hai). Jalandhari differs from traditional Hindu viewpoints in that he does not equate Krishna with god; yet, for him, Krishna is an embodiment of God’s glory and majesty.

Entering the idol

Echoing the earlier point about darshan and the importance of sight in Hinduism, Jalandhari displays a very intimate understanding of Hindu idol worship in the tenth stanza of the poem. He writes that “Inside the temple / the sculptor of beauty himself / entered and became the idol”.

This last line, that Krishna “entered and became the idol” (but ban gayā ā kar) is extremely important. Hindus worship idols as symbols of a deity’s presence in the sanctum sanctorum of a temple. The deity is not simply the physical statue; rather, devotees believe that god is present within that statue, and that presence is what makes an idol worthy of worship.

In Hindu temples, before a new image or statue is worshiped as a deity, a ritual called prana-pratishta is usually performed, to invoke that deity’s presence in that statue. Traditionally, the deity’s eyes were not fully carved until this ritual was performed. Before prana-pratishta, the statue is merely a statue. Afterwards, the god or goddess is seen as residing within that statue. Jalandhari’s line about Krishna “entering” the idol is thus a clear insight into Hindu temple worship.

On the banks of the Yamuna

Finally, we now get a glimpse of the leela (divine play) narratives that Krishna is so commonly associated with. Jalandhari describes Krishna’s youthful, romantic dancing and playing with the gopis (cowherd girls) on the banks of the Yamuna river as “rare happenings” (turfa nazzāre). In setting this scene, natural and sensual beauty are intertwined, as seen in phrases like “intoxicated winds” (sarmast hawāyeiñ) and “waves of love” (ulfat kī tarañgeiñ).

In his description of Krishna’s leela with the gopis, Jalandhari describes the sound of Krishna’s flute as “neither intoxication nor wine / it’s something beyond” (nasha hai na mai hai / kuchh aur hī shai hai). Through these charming vignettes, we, the onlookers, are also transported to Braj, dancing blissfully to the music of Krishna’s flute.

Humiliation in the Kaurava court

So far in the poem, Jalandhari has described Krishna’s glory, and then paints an idyllic scene of Krishna dancing with his gopis. Then, abruptly, the poem transitions into a much darker mood. Jalandhari takes us from the banks of the Yamuna to one of the most famous scenes from the Mahabharata epic.

The reader now finds themselves in the court of the Kaurava princes, the villains of the Mahabharata. This is the famous incident known as vastra-haran or cheer-haran (both roughly meaning “disrobing”). After the five Pandava brothers lose in a rigged dice game to their cousins (the Kauravas), they are forced to forfeit their kingdom, possessions, and eventually their wife Draupadi as their “property.”

Duryodhana, the eldest Kaurava, orders Draupadi to be brought into court and disrobed, to humiliate her. When Draupadi is dragged into the court, she prays to Krishna for help. Miraculously, Duryodhana and his brothers are unable to disrobe her. In some re-tellings, her sari is never-ending, and in others, when the Kauravas pull off one sari another one appears in its place.

Draupadi praying to Krishna is not part of the critical edition of the Sanskrit Mahabharata, and was almost definitely added later as Krishna became a more popular deity across India. Nevertheless, it has become one of the most popular and iconic incidents from the Mahabharata. It is with this scene that Jalandhari begins to make his political views more explicit.

In the poem, the anguished Draupadi wails to Krishna, “These beloved princes [her husbands] / have all become cowards!” (yeh rāj dulāre / buzdil hue sāre). However, I wasn’t sure how to translate rāj dulāre; it could also have a much more pejorative sense, more like “royal babies.”

From this reading, we could guess that Jalandhari is accusing India’s numerous monarchs and rulers of princely states – all of whom eventually acquiesced to British rule – of cowardice. We could even read rāj dulāre as “babies of the [British] Raj!” This is Imam and Salim’s interpretation; they argue that Jalandhari is branding all Indians who worked under the British colonial administration as cowards, not just the royal families.

However, what is most telling is when Draupadi calls out to Krishna as “the light of India” (bhārat ke ujāle). In the poem, Krishna has morphed from being an abstract form of divinity, to a charming flute player in Vrindavan, and now he shines as a symbol of hope; the light of all of India. Jalandhari makes Krishna’s political symbolism much more salient from this point on.

Preparations for war

Jalandhari then takes us from the Kaurava court to the preparations for the great Mahabharata war. He writes that, worryingly, “Duryodhan seems victorious” (ġhālib hai duryodhan). Ostensibly, Duryodhana, the eldest Kaurava, is a symbol of foreign (British) rule over the subcontinent, which held sway for centuries. Ironically, while the Kaurava army was much larger than that of the righteous Pandavas, British citizens were vastly outnumbered by Indians all through colonial rule.

But, with Krishna’s arrival on the battlefield (on the side of the Pandavas, of course), everything changes. Once Krishna preaches the Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna, anxiety (tashvīsh) and sorrow (ġham) changes to war-like enthusiasm: “the divine decree has been pronounced / the sword has been swung!” (lo ban gayī taqdīr / lo chal gayī shamshīr)

The Krishna that Jalandhari describes now is different from the Krishna who dances with gopis. This Krishna is a symbol of strength and power: on his “face shines a bright gaze” (sūrat nazar-afroz), but his “virtues burn enemies” (sīrat hai adū-soz), and “If he gets angry / he strikes down lightning” (ġhusse meiñ jo ā jāye / bijlī hī girā jāye). This Krishna is, in short, an icon that can be easily used in service of anti-colonial nationalism.

A call to action

With this invigorated, confident Krishna in mind, Jalandhari now paints a picture of India suffering under colonial rule, using Vrindavan as a symbol for all of the subcontinent.

He takes us back to the banks of the Yamuna, which were full of beauty and joy during Krishna’s youthful lilas. What do they look like now? The Yamuna has become silent (sunsān), and its waves are weak and lacking in energy (josh). Once-beautiful gardens have been ruined (barbād), and the gopis (perhaps standing in for all people of India) have become distraught (pareshāñ) without Krishna’s presence.

Jalandhari now makes his own plea to Krishna: “Oh king of India / come just once more!” (ai hind ke rājā / ik bār phir ā jā) Interestingly, while Jalandhari makes Draupadi use the Sanskrit bhārat in her plea to Krishna, Jalandhari uses the Arabic/Persian hind when he is speaking in the poem.

He begs Krishna to return to Mathura (symbolising all of India) and restore his rule: “If you come, glory will come / if you come, life will come” (tū āye to shān āye / tū āye to jān āye). With this call for Krishna to liberate India from foreign rule, Jalandhari ends his nazm.

The Pakistan question

Krishn Kanhaiya is one of Hafeez Jalandhari’s more obscure works. As I mentioned earlier, Jalandhari is known today largely because he wrote the lyrics for Pakistan’s national anthem. By comparing Krishn Kanhaiya to Jalandhari’s more famous work, I believe we can learn a lot about the cultural politics that have influenced South Asia over the past century, and continue to do so today.

Jalandhari’s Wikipedia page claims that before he moved to Pakistan, he was the director of the Song Publicity Department (it is unclear whether this was under the British colonial administration, or an Indian political party), and he wrote a number of popular songs during World War II.

He is described as an “active participant” in the Pakistan movement, and after independence in 1947 participated in India and Pakistan’s first war over Kashmir. For the rest of his life, Jalandhari was intimately involved with Pakistani military and government institutions: Director General of Morals for the Pakistan Armed Forces, Director of the Writers’ Guild of Pakistan, and a senior adviser to Pakistan’s second President, Ayub Khan.

I mention all of this simply because I find it fascinating that the same person could write both Krishn Kanhaiya and the national anthem of Pakistan. Each of these works represents a dramatically different worldview.

I do not intend to oversimplify Jalandhari’s worldview, but I would argue that Krishn Kanhaiya represents a deeply syncretic form of South Asian identity. In his poem, Jalandhari doesn’t just display a remarkable understanding of Krishna’s mythology, Hindu temple worship, and epics like the Mahabharata (which he all does very well); he even situates Krishna firmly within the Islamic tradition of prophets.

This is a cultural mode that the great Indian political psychologist Ashis Nandy describes quite eloquently in his essay in which the gods and goddesses of India inevitably find their way into other religious traditions, thus creating new, syncretic cultures and ways of existing. Nandy mentions the People of India census conducted by the Anthropological Survey of India between 1985 and 1994, in which 35 Indian communities described themselves as both Hindu and Muslim!

Final thoughts

What does it mean that the same person wrote both Krishn Kanhaiya and the national anthem of Pakistan – works which have such radically different cultural rootings?

In the end, we are left with more questions than answers. Part of this is due to gaps in the historical record. Frustratingly, we don’t know when Krishn Kanhaiya was written, or in what written work it was published. Did Jalandhari write it before he became involved with the Pakistan movement and was exposed to the Two-Nation Theory? Did he write the poem after migrating from India to Pakistan? Without knowing these details, I admit that it is hard to make an argument about cultural politics using this poem.

However, one thing is very clear to me. The worldview that produced Krishn Kanhaiya is under threat. Extremists in both Indian and Pakistan thrive off the idea that Muslim and Hindu religious and cultural identities should be as separate and distinct as possible, with no room for overlap. Anyone who oversteps the boundaries set by fundamentalists is a target.

Let us ask ourselves: could a poem like Krishn Kanhaiya be written in today’s cultural atmosphere in South Asia? Despite all the negative forces of nationalism and fundamentalism, I believe that it still could.

Syncretism is by no means dead in South Asia. However, it will not operate on auto-pilot; when it comes to culture, nothing is guaranteed to last. It is up to us to make space for these cultural products that defy easy categorisation and exist purely in a state of hybridity. It is these cultural products which have the power to unify communities.

In these times, I too call out to Hafeez Jalandhari’s Krishna:

ai hind ke rājā, ik bār phir ā jā!

Oh king of India, come just once more!

Here’s the full text of the poem. I’d like to thank my friend Hamza Shad for helping me with this translation.

Krishn Kanhaiya, by Hafeez Jalandhari

ai dekhne wālo

is husn ko dekho

is rāz ko samjho

O onlooker,

gaze upon this beauty;

try to understand this secret:

yeh naqsh-e-hayālī

yeh fikrat-e-ālī

This figment of the imagination;

this grand thought

yeh paikar-e-tanvīr

yeh krishn kī tasvīr

This form of light;

this image of Krishna.

ma’anī hai ki sūrat

san’at hai ki fitrat

Is he reality or representation?

Is he craft or nature?

zāhir hai ki mastūr

nazdīk hai yā dūr

yeh nār hai yā nūr

Is he apparent or hidden?

Is he near or far?

Is he fire or light?

duniyā se nirālā

yeh bāñsurī wālā

gokul kā gwālā

He’s an odd one,

this flute player;

this cowherd of Gokul.

hai sehr ki aijāz

khultā hī nahīñ rāz

This is a magical miracle;

this secret will not open.

kyā shān hai wallāh

kyā ān hai wallāh

By God, what glory!

By God, what dignity!

hairān hooñ kyā hai

ik shān-e-hudā hai

I am perplexed by what he is;

he is the Majesty of God.

but-hāne ke andar

hud husn kā but-gar

but ban gayā ā kar

Inside the temple,

the sculptor of beauty himself

entered and became the idol.

woh turfa nazzāre

yād ā gaye sāre

jamunā ke kināre

Those rare happenings—

they’ve just come back to me—

Back on the banks of the Yamuna…

sabze kā lahaknā

phūloñ kā mahaknā

The plants waving in the breeze;

the fragrance of flowers…

ghanghor ghaTāyeiñ

sarmast hawāyeiñ

The dark rain-clouds,

the intoxicated winds…

ma’asūm umañgeiñ

ulfat kī tarañgeiñ

That innocent enthusiasm,

those waves of love…

woh gopiyoñ ke sāth

hāthoñ meiñ diye hāth

raqsāñ huā brijnāth

Together with the gopis,

placing his hand in theirs;

the lord of Braj danced.

bansī meiñ jo lay hai

nasha hai na mai hai

kuchh aur hī shai hai

In his flute is a melody that

is neither intoxication nor wine;

it’s something beyond.

ik rūh hai raqsāñ

ik kaif hai larzāñ

It is a dancing soul;

it is a quivering joy.

ek aql hai mai-nosh

ik hosh hai mad-hosh

It is a mind fond of drink,

it is an intoxicated consciousness.

ik handa hai sayyāl

ik girya hai hush-hāl

It is a laugh flowing like a torrent,

it is a joyful cry.

ik ishq hai maġhrūr

ik husn hai majbūr

ik sehr hai mas-hūr

It is an arrogant love,

a constrained beauty,

a mesmerizing spell…

darbār meiñ tanhā

lāchār hai kirishnā

aa shyām idhar aa

Alone in the [Kaurava] court,

Draupadi [also called Krishnaa] is helpless.

She calls out: “Come, Shyam, come here!”

sab ahl-e-husūmat

haiñ dar pa’e izzat

“All these hateful people;

their honor lies at the door!”

yeh rāj dulāre

buzdil hue sāre

“These beloved princes [the Pandavas, Draupadi’s husbands]

have all become cowards!”

parda na ho tārāj

bekas kī rahe laaj

“Without a veil, I will be shamed;

may this helpless wretch’s honor be saved!”

ā jā mere kāle

bhārat ke ujāle

dāman meiñ chhupā le

“Come, my Dark One,

the light of India;

Drape me in your robe!”

woh ho gayī an-ban

woh garm huā ran

ġhālib hai duryodhan

They have started quarreling,

they have heated up the war.

Duryodhan seems victorious.

woh ā gaye jagdīsh

woh miT gayī tashvīsh

Wait—he has come, the Lord of the World!

Our anxiety has been erased!

arjun ko bulāyā

upadesh sunāyā

He called Arjuna,

and preached to him [the Bhagavad Gita].

ġham-zād kā ġham kyā

ustād kā ġham kyā

What is the sorrow of that sorrowful one?

What is the sorrow of the teacher (guru)?

lo ho gayī tadbīr

lo ban gayī taqdīr

lo chal gayī shamshīr

The solution has been reached;

the divine decree has been pronounced;

the sword has been swung!

sīrat hai adū-soz

sūrat nazar-afroz

dil kaifiyat-andoz

His virtues burn enemies;

his face shines a bright gaze;

his heart understands character.

ġhusse meiñ jo ā jāye

bijlī hī girā jāye

aur lutf par āye

to ghar bhī luTā jaaye

If he gets angry,

he strikes down lightning;

and if he is pleased,

he still loots houses. [similar image to stealing hearts?]

pariyoñ meiñ hai gulfām

rādhā ke liye shyām

Among the angels, he is rose-colored;

For Radha, he is Shyam, the Dark One.

balrām kā bhayyā

mathurā kā basayyā

bindrā meiñ kanhaiyā

Balaram’s brother,

the famed one of Mathura,

that Kanhaiya of Bindra (a forest near Gokul).

ban ho gaye vīrāñ

barbād gulistāñ

sakhiyāñ haiñ pareshāñ

Forests have become desolate;

gardens ruined;

the gopis are distraught.

jamunā kā kinārā

sunsān hai sārā

The banks of the Yamuna

have gone silent.

tūfān haiñ hāmosh

maujoñ meiñ nahīñ josh

Even its storms are silent;

there is no passion in its waves.

lau tujh se lagī hai

hasrat hī yahī hai

My affection is to you;

this is my unfulfilled wish:

ai hind ke rājā

ik bār phir ā jā

dukh dard miTā jā

Oh king of India,

come just once more!

Destroy our suffering and pain!

abr aur hawā se

bulbul kī sadā se

phūloñ kī ziyā se

From the clouds and the winds,

from the nightingale’s song,

from the flowers’ radiance

ādū-asarī gum

shorīda-sarī gum

The effect of magic is lost

The lovesickness is lost

hāñ terī judāyī

mathurā ko na bhāyī

Indeed, your absence

does not befit Mathura.

tū āye to shān āye

tū āye to jān āye

If you come, glory will come;

if you come, life will come.

ānā na akele

hoñ sāth woh mele

sakhiyoñ ke jhamele

Don’t come alone,

let those festivals also be there together,

those quarrels with the gopis…



Pakistani FM to visit Iran, regional states to discuss US new policy

September 2, 2017

(AhlulBayt News Agency) - Some Pakistani media quoting foreign ministry sources said that Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif will visit Iran, China, Russia and Turkey for consultations on the new American policy for Afghanistan and South Asia.

According to reports the regional tour would be carried out in the second week of September.

Chairperson of Pakistan Senate committee on foreign affairs Nuzhat Sadiq told Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) that in previous days Foreign Minister’s visit to the regional countries have been discussed both in Senate and National Assembly and all of the parliamentarians have insisted that Khawaja Asif needs to visit regional states including Iran to discuss and have consultations on recent developments with them.

Last week foreign ministry spokesperson had formally announced that foreign minister will visit China, Russia and Turkey but now it looks Iran has also been included in Khawaja Asif’s planned regional tour.

The US President Donald Trump announcing his new strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia on August 21, denounced Pakistan for allegedly allowing terrorists to maintain safe havens inside its territory.

Trump’s speech was perceived by many, including the Pakistani government and parliament, as a direct threat to the country’s sovereignty.


Arab World

US-backed Syrian force seizes Raqa Old City

September 02, 2017

HASAKEH: US-backed Syrian fighters ousted the militant Islamic State group from Raqa’s Old City on Friday, bringing them closer than ever to the jihadist bastion’s well-defended and densely populated heart.

Backed by US-led coalition air strikes, the Syrian Democratic Forces first broke into Raqa in early June and penetrated its Old City a month later.

On Friday, they successfully captured the entire historic district from jihadists.

“Our forces today seized full control of the Old City in Raqa after clashes with Daesh,” spokesman Talal Sello said, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

“We are on the edges of IS’s security quarter in the city centre, where most of its main bases are.” SDF forces are in control of neighbourhoods across Raqa’s south, west and east — constituting more than 60 per cent of the city.

IS, in turn, holds part of the north and centre, where up to 25,000 civilians are estimated to still be trapped.

IS’s prized “security quarter” lies directly west of the Old City and is home to buildings formerly used by Syria’s government but now taken up as bases by IS.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said the SDF was still locked in clashes with IS in a small part of the Old City on Friday.

Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said that around 1,000 jihadists were still left in the whole city.

IS overran Raqa in 2014, turning it into the de facto capital of its self-declared “caliphate”.

The city was the scene of some of the group’s worst atrocities, including public beheadings.

The SDF advanced into the Old City two months ago by breaching the Rafiqah Wall, a 2.5-kilometre wall sur­rounding the district.



Suicide attack on power plant kills 7 in Iraq

September 02, 2017

Suicide bombers killed seven people and wounded 12 in an attack on a power plant north of Baghdad on Saturday, an Iraqi security official said.

Armed with grenades and wearing explosives belts, three attackers entered the facility in Samarra, about 100 kilometres north of the capital, at 2am (local time), the official told AFP.

“They attacked the plant's workers, killing seven and wounding 12, according to an initial assessment,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Security reinforcements then arrived on the scene, killing two of the bombers and evacuating the employees.

The attack comes as Iraq marks the first day of the Eidul Azha feast.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but the militant Islamic State (IS) group frequently carries out suicide bombings in Iraq.

In 2014, IS captured almost a third of Iraqi territory in a lightning offensive. It now only holds two pockets of territory in the country.



Muslims around world celebrate Eid as hajj enters final days

AP | Sep 1, 2017, 15:15 IST

MINA: Muslims around the world are celebrating the Eid al-Adha holiday on Friday as some 2 million Muslim pilgrims carry out the final rites of the annual hajj in Saudi Arabia.

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims made their way toward a massive multi-story complex in Mina after dawn to cast pebbles at three large columns. It is here where Muslims believe the devil tried to talk the Prophet Ibrahim out of submitting to God's will.

Muslims believe Ibrahim's faith was tested when God commanded him to sacrifice his only son Ismail. Ibrahim was prepared to submit to the command, but then God stayed his hand, sparing his son.

In the Christian and Jewish version of the story, Abraham is ordered to kill his other son, Isaac.

The final days of hajj coincide with the Eid al-Adha holiday, or "Feast of Sacrifice," to commemorate Ibrahim's test of faith. For the holiday, Muslims slaughter livestock and distribute the meat to the poor.

For the final three days of hajj, pilgrims sleep in a large tent valley called Mina and for three days take part in a symbolic stoning of the devil. Mina is also where more than 2,400 people were killed two years ago in a stampede and a collision of two crowds that crushed people under the force.

The Saudi government has since widened some roads in Mina to try and improve the safety of the hajj. More than 100,000 security forces are managing the hajj this year, assisting pilgrims and directing the massive crowds that move from one location to another in the areas around Mecca for five days during the hajj.

The government also offers all pilgrims free health care and access to hospitals during the hajj.

Most pilgrims will remain in Mina until Monday before completing the hajj. They will then circle the cube-shaped Kaaba in Mecca, Islam's most sacred site, before departing.

The Kaaba represents the metaphorical house of God and the oneness of God in Islam. Observant Muslims around the world face toward the Kaaba during the five daily prayers.

The five-day-long hajj is a series of rituals meant to cleanse the soul of sins and instill a sense of equality and brotherhood among Muslims.

The pilgrimage is required of all Muslims with the means to perform once in a lifetime.

During the last three days of hajj, male pilgrims shave their heads and remove the terrycloth white garments worn during the hajj. Women cut off a small lock of hair in a sign of spiritual rebirth and renewal



Baghdad Dispatches More Forces to Central Iraq to Launch Huweija Liberation Operation


TEHRAN (FNA)- Iraqi Federal Police have sent more forces to Kirkuk to participate in the upcoming liberation operation of the town of Huweija codenamed Qademoun Ya Huweija against ISIL, an Arab media outlet reported on Saturday.

The Arabic-language Elam al-Harbi reported that the Iraqi Federal Police has forwarded more units from Baghdad to Kirkuk to join their comrades' upcoming large-scale operation to free Huweija from ISIL's occupation as soon as possible.

Also, Ali al-Hosseini, the spokesman for the Iraqi popular forces of Hashd al-Shaabi in the Northern flank announced his forces' readiness to participate in Huweija battle.

In the meantime, the Iraqi planes dropped thousands of leaflets in the region calling on people to leave ISIL-held regions.

Ahmad Khorshid, a member of Huweija Council, estimated that less than 2,000 ISIL terrorists are in Huweija.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi announced on Thursday the complete liberation of Tal Afar city and the whole territory of the Nineveh Province from ISIL terrorists.

Abadi said as cited by local TV channel that Tal Afar, a strategically important city in Northwestern Iraq, which is located near the border with Syria, was liberated after being held by ISIL for some three years.

After the fall of Mosul, Tal Afar became ISIL's last stronghold in the war-plagued country.

The Iraqi government forces' operation to retake the city was kicked off on August 20.The city was seized by militants in 2014. Before the seizure, it was home to 750,000 people.

The Iraqi federal police announced the end of the military operation to liberate the city of Tal Far on August 26.



Iraqi Gov't Forces Ready to Launch Fresh Anti-ISIL Operation to Liberate Huweija


TEHRAN (FNA)- The Iraqi pro-government forces announced that they are preparing to kick off a fresh round of large-scale operations in the Central part of the country to drive ISIL terrorists out of the town of Huweija, a media outlet reported Saturday.

The English-language AMN website reported that the Iraqi government and popular forces announced their new plan to a launch large-scale operation to retake Huweija, the last urban bastion of ISIL in the country, after recapturing Tal Afar city and region.

Iraqi soldiers have now forced the ISIL out of the entire territories except the town of Huweija, 300 kilometers (190 miles) North of Baghdad, and three pockets of territory near the border with Syria.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi announced on Thursday the complete liberation of the city of Tal Afar and the whole territory of the Nineveh Province from ISIL terrorists.

Abadi said as cited by local TV channel that Tal Afar, a strategically important city in Northwestern Iraq, which is located near the border with Syria, was liberated after being held by ISIL for some three years.

After the fall of Mosul, Tal Afar became ISIL's last stronghold in the war-plagued country.

The Iraqi government forces' operation to retake the city was kicked off on August 20.The city was seized by militants in 2014. Before the seizure, it was home to 750,000 people.

The Iraqi federal police announced the end of the military operation to liberate the city of Tal Far on August 26.



Syrian Army Scores Significant Victories against Terrorists by Utilizing Russian Missiles


TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army's Russia-made Malyutka anti-tank missiles have played a significant role in the pro-government forces' victories against terrorists in the war-hit country, a Russian media outlet reported Saturday.

The Arabic-language website of the Russia's state news agency, Sputnik, reported that the Syrian Army has used Malyutka (the small in Russian language) anti-tank missiles, known by NATO as the AT-3 Sagger, in the battlefields of war on terrorism across the war-torn country.

Sputnik said that the Malyutka anti-tank guided missiles were previously used by the Russian army.

The Syrian army destroyed a large number of terrorist groups' military vehicles by Malyutka missiles that hits the target at the speed of 120m/s, the Arabic Sputnik added.

Also, military experts said that the Syrian Army that enjoyed modern Kornet anti-tank missile made by Russia, is still insisting on utilizing Malyutka missiles in the battlefields.

Military experts reported last week that the army started using the Russia-made MT-LB armored vehicles for the safe transfer of soldiers to the frontlines in the war-hit country.

The military experts said that MT-LB armored vehicles, manufactured in Russia, could boost the Syrian Army's strength for a safer dispatch of soldiers to the battlefields.

In the meantime, the Arabic Sputnik reported that the MT-LB vehicles were used for transfer of cannons and their crew.

Sputnik added that different weapons could be easily mounted on the MT-LB vehicles.



Syrian Army Continues Anti-ISIL Operation in Eastern Homs, Western Deir Ezzur


TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army troops, backed up by the Syrian and Russian fighter jets, continued to advance across the administrative border of Homs and Deir Ezzur provinces after imposing control over more ISIL-held regions in Badiyeh (desert) on Saturday.

The army soldiers, supported by warplanes, continued to advance against the ISIL in the depth of Badiyeh and managed to seize control over more terrorist positions along the highway that connects the town of al-Sukhnah in Eastern Homs to Deir Ezzur province, capturing the strategic Mount al-Bashari and its nearby regions in Western Deir Ezzur.

Also, the fighter jets pounded ISIL's positions and movements in Wadi al-Thardah region, Panorama region, al-Maqaber (cemetery) region, the village of al-Baqaliyeh and the neighborhoods of Ayyash and al-Roshdiyeh in Deir Ezzur city and its outskirts, destroying terrorists' command centers and military vehicles.

According to footage released by the Syrian Defense Ministry, Russian gunships have provided tactical air support to the Syrian troops whilst Russian military advisors directed Syrian soldiers' operations on the ground.

Relevant reports said on Friday that the army men captured a region 12km in length and 4km depth North of the village of Manoukh near Jubb al-Jarrah in Eastern Homs.

The ISIL suffered heavy casualties and its military hardware sustained major damage in the attack.



Russian Air Force Bombs Heavily Terrorists' Military Hardware in Eastern Syria


TEHRAN (FNA)- The Russian Air Force carried out a number of combat flights over ISIL's positions and movements in the Eastern province of Deir Ezzur, destroying a number of their tanks, cannons, arms depots and trucks in the last two days, the Russian Defense Ministry reported on Saturday.

"Over the past two days, Russian planes have destroyed 9 pieces of hardware, including two tanks, 6 artillery nests, one homemade multiple rocket launchers, 3 ammunition depots, a command center, as well as 20 trucks loaded with fuel, arms and ammunition in air raids on ISIL's defense lines in Deir Ezzur," the ministry's statement read.

The Russian military said it was destroying ISIL targets round the clock, including hardware, ammo depots and artillery nests.

"A convoy of 12 ISIL trucks carrying weapons and ammunition and off-road vehicles with mounted heavy machine guns, anti-aircraft weapons and mortars was destroyed on the road between Deir Ezzur and al-Rasafeh (in Raqqa province)," the ministry said.

An Arab media outlet released a front-line report on Friday showing mechanized forces of the Syrian Army being rushed to Eastern Syria in preparation for further offensives against ISIL terrorists in Deir Ezzur province.

The Al-Ghadeer media group's report showed al-Sukhnah flank in Eastern Homs where the Syrian Army is advancing towards the middle Euphrates region where pro-government forces are now about 50 kilometers away from the besieged city of Deir Ezzur.

In the video could be seen many T-72 main battle tanks as well as some T-62 tanks, a BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicle and a number of cannon-armed gun-trucks are seen in the video moving to regions near the front-line in eastern Syria.

Two T-72 tanks spotted near the end of the video appear to be highly modified urban-warfare specialist designs as seen in use with the 4th Mechanized Division, indicating that elements of the army formation may be participating in the final drive on Deir Ezzur city.



Syrian Army Drives ISIL out of Several Regions in Central Part of Country


TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army soldiers stormed ISIL's defense lines in Eastern Hama and managed to capture more key regions on Saturday, tightening noose on the terrorists in the town of Aqayrabat in Eastern Hama.

The army men, backed up by the country's Air Force, engaged in fierce clashes with ISIL in Eastern Hama and took full control over the villages of al-Roweizeh, Khazireh, al-Mo'adhamiyeh, Jarouh, al-Harisheh and Wadi al-Ozam, tightening the circle of forces around the ISIL-held town of Aqayrabat.

The army killed a large number of terrorists and destroyed their military equipment in large scale in the attack.

Relevant reports said on Friday that the army men pushed ISIL back from the village and heights of Salba and the regions of Rasm al-Mazareh, Zenouba, Tweineh, Hasou, Makimen al-Shamali, Makimen al-Janoubi, Tayebeh Dakij and Jubb al-Abyadh, killing and wounding a large number of terrorists and destroying their military equipment.

Also, the resistance forces managed to take control over the villages of the Northern al-Qastal, Southern al-Qastal, Central Qastal, Northern al-Maksar and Southern al-Makser in Eastern Hama.

Army sources said the ISIL ordered its forces in the town of Aqayrabat to retreat towards Northern and Southern al-Qastal to prevent its militants in the two villages from retreating from their positions towards the army-controlled region in Eastern Homs and Hama, but still failed to block the resistance forces' advances.



Army Repels Al-Nusra Front Attacks on Gov't Positions in Aleppo


TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army soldiers repelled terrorists' attack on their positions in Aleppo province after hours of clashes, inflicting major losses on them.

The Al-Nusra Front (Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at or the Levant Liberation Board) terrorists' surprise attack to capture the government forces' positions in Western countryside of Aleppo city were fended off by the strong defense of the Syrian military men.

Meantime, the Syrian army and popular forces continued their military advances in other parts of Syria, including Homs and Hama, over the past 24 hours.

Tens of terrorists were killed and dozens more were injured during the Syrian army's operations in other provinces across Syria.


The Syrian Army troops warded off an overnight surprise attack of the Al-Nusra Front in the Western outskirts of Aleppo, a military source said on Friday.

The source said that the Al-Nusra Front launched the surprise attack in the Western outskirts of Aleppo, targeting the army positions in al-Lairamoun and al-Zahra quarters, along with an attack in the New Aleppo District.

"The Al-Nusra began the assault by launching a barrage of missiles and mortar shells towards the government areas in Western outskirts of Aleppo city; this resulted in a short exchange of fire before intense clashes broke out East of the Scientific Research Facility," the source added.

The source went on to say that clashes would later spread from the aforementioned part of the New Aleppo District to the al-Zahra Association and Al-Lairamoun quarters, where the army soldiers and their allies were able to beat back the encroaching terrorists and restore order to the area.

Calm was restored in Aleppo's outskirts after nearly three hours of intense fighting between the terrorists and the army men.

Deir Ezzur

The Syrian and Russian fighter jets carried out several combat sorties over ISIL's positions and gathering centers in the Eastern city of Deir Ezzur and its outskirts on Friday, leaving a number of terrorists dead and their military hardware destroyed.

The warplanes bombed heavily ISIL's positions in Wadi al-Thardah region, Panorama base, al-Maqaber (cemetery) region, al-Roshdiyeh neighborhood, the villages of al-Baqaliyeh and Ayyash, destroying several command centers and vehicles and killing a large number of terrorists.

Sources said earlier on Friday that the army units stormed ISIL's concentration centers in the Western and Southern outskirts of Deir Ezzur city, in al-Maqaber (cemetery) region and in areas surrounding the city's airbase, killing a number of terrorists.

They added that the army aircraft pounded ISIL's movements and positions in airbase region, al-Maqaber, Panorama base, Huweija Sakar, al-Roshdiyeh and al-Huweiqa neighborhoods and the village of Ayyash, destroying several positions and killing a large number of militants.


The Syrian Army troops engaged in fierce clashes with the ISIL in Eastern Homs and drove them out of a large region in their push towards Deir Ezzur province on Friday.

The army men captured a region 12km in length and 4km depth North of the village of Manoukh near Jubb al-Jarrah.

The ISIL suffered heavy casualties and its military hardware sustained major damage in the attack.

Reports said earlier on Friday that the army troops and resistance forces continued to smash ISIL's centers along al-Sukhnah-Deir Ezzur highway and seized control of a region as large as 10sq/km in Eastern Homs.

Sources reported that the Syrian pro-government forces managed to advance towards Deir Ezzur province and captured a region approximately 10sq/km in area along the al-Sukhnah-Deir Ezzur highway.

In the meantime, the Arabic-language Elam al-Harbi information center reported that the army soldiers should move only 25km Eastward to enter to Deir Ezzur province.

It added that the army men also drove ISIL out of the villages of al-Moshrefeh, al-Hafiyeh and al-Zaqroutiyeh.


The Syrian Army troops imposed control over several villages and heights in Eastern Homs after hours of fierce clashes with ISIL on Friday, inflicting major casualties on the terrorists.

The army men pushed ISIL back from the village and heights of Salba and the regions of Rasm al-Mazareh, Zenouba, Tweineh, Hasou, Makimen al-Shamali, Makimen al-Janoubi, Tayebeh Dakij and Jubb al-Abyadh, killing and wounding a large number of terrorists and destroying their military equipment.

Also, the resistance forces managed to take control over the villages of the Northern al-Qastal, Southern al-Qastal, Central Qastal, Northern al-Maksar and Southern al-Makser in Eastern Hama.

Army sources said the ISIL ordered its forces in the town of Aqayrabat to retreat towards Northern and Southern al-Qastal to prevent its militants in the two villages from retreating from their positions towards the army-controlled region in Eastern Homs and Hama, but still failed to block the resistance forces' advances.

Military sources confirmed last week that the army troops, backed up the country's Air Force, laid siege on ISIL in their last main stronghold in Eastern Hama.

The sources said that the army men laid siege on a large number of ISIL terrorists in the town of Aqayrabat in Eastern Hama.

The sources added that the fighter jets pounded ISIL's movements in the villages of al-Hardaneh, Abu Habilat and Abu Hanaya in Eastern Hama.

In the meantime, the Russian Defense Ministry announced in a statement that the Syrian soldiers, backed up by the Russian fighter jets, laid siege on a large number of ISIL terrorists in Aqayrabat, adding that the trapped ISIL militants were trying to escape from Aqayrabat towards Deir Ezzur.



ISIL Dispatches More Military Hardware, Munitions to Deir Ezzur to Slow Down Syrian Army Advances


TEHRAN (FNA)- The ISIL terrorist group has sent a large volume of military equipment and ammunition to the Eastern province of Deir Ezzur to face the Syrian Army troops' devastating advances in Eastern Homs and Western Deir Ezzur, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

The ISIL terrorists have been pulling back armored vehicles and munitions to Deir Ezzur city, the ministry's statement said.

"Daesh (ISIL) militants are not giving up their efforts to halt the advances of the Syrian troops by moving armored vehicles, off-road vehicles with mounted heavy machine guns, arms and ammunition to the Deir Ezzur region and by setting up new positions reinforced with artillery systems and mortars," the statement read.

Relevant reports said on Friday that the Syrian and Russian fighter jets carried out several combat sorties over ISIL's positions and gathering centers in the Eastern city of Deir Ezzur and its outskirts, leaving a number of terrorists dead and their military hardware destroyed.

The warplanes bombed heavily ISIL's positions in Wadi al-Thardah region, Panorama base, al-Maqaber (cemetery) region, al-Roshdiyeh neighborhood, the villages of al-Baqaliyeh and Ayyash, destroying several command centers and vehicles and killing a large number of terrorists.



ISIL Suffers Heavy Casualties in Clashes with Syrian Army in Deir Ezzur


TEHRAN (FNA)- A number of ISIL terrorists were killed and several more were wounded in the Syrian Army troops' attack in the Eastern city of Deir Ezzur on Saturday.

A group of the army soldiers stormed ISIL's positions in Tal Alloush region and its surrounding areas, leaving 10 terrorists dead and several more injured.

The army men seized also a large volume of ISIL's weapons and ammunition.

The army soldiers returned to their positions without casualties.

Relevant reports said on Friday that the Syrian and Russian fighter jets carried out several combat sorties over ISIL's positions and gathering centers in the Eastern city of Deir Ezzur and its outskirts, leaving a number of terrorists dead and their military hardware destroyed.

The warplanes bombed heavily ISIL's positions in Wadi al-Thardah region, Panorama base, al-Maqaber (cemetery) region, al-Roshdiyeh neighborhood, the villages of al-Baqaliyeh and Ayyash, destroying several command centers and vehicles and killing a large number of terrorists.



Syrian Army Captures 3,000sq/km of Land in Homs-Raqqa-Deir Ezzur Triangle


TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army forces managed to drive ISIL terrorists out of a large region in Badiyeh (desert) covering 3,000sq/km in area in Homs-Raqqa-Deir Ezzur triangle in the central parts of the war-hit country, military sources confirmed on Saturday.

The sources said that the army soldiers, backed up by the country's Air Forces and artillery and missile units, continued to beat back ISIL in Badiyeh and imposed control over one of the largest mountains in Central Syria known as Mount al-Bashari in Homs-Raqqa-Deir Ezzur triangle that was one of the most important bastions of the ISIL.

They went on to say that Mount al-Bashari has stretched across the provinces of Homs, Raqqa and Deir Ezzur and was one of the most important supplying centers of the ISIL, adding that the army captured 3,000sq/km of land after taking control over al-Bashari and its surrounding regions.

The sources added that the army will be capable of seizing military control over a large number of villages and towns in Western Deir Ezzur after capturing Mount al-Bashari.

The sources further said that the army managed to connect two main roads in the Eastern part of Raqqa province to al-Sukhnah-Deir Ezzur highway after capturing Mount al-Bashari. 

Relevant reports said on Friday that the army men captured a region 12km in length and 4km depth North of the village of Manoukh near Jubb al-Jarrah in Eastern Homs.

The ISIL suffered heavy casualties and its military hardware sustained major damage in the attack.



Kurd poll won’t solve region’s woes: Iraqi Shia leader


In run-up to Sept. 25 Kurdish regional poll, head of country's largest parliamentary bloc calls for ‘unified Iraq’

The leader of Iraq’s Shia National Alliance, the largest bloc in the country’s parliament, has voiced disapproval of next month’s planned referendum on Kurdish regional independence.

“Whoever thinks secession [of the Kurdish region from the state of Iraq] will end the region’s problems is deluded,” Ammar al-Hakim said while addressing thousands of supporters in Baghdad on Saturday.

“A unified Iraq is the only guarantee of our freedom; it’s our strength and our glory,” he asserted.

Al-Hakim, whose alliance holds 180 of 328 seats in parliament, added: “Experience has shown that when Iraq is weak, the region is weak... A strong Iraq -- with good neighborly relations -- is in the interest of the entire region.”

On Sept. 25, residents of northern Iraq’s Kurdish region will take part in a popular referendum on whether to declare formal independence from the Iraqi state.

Officials in Baghdad, however, reject the planned poll, saying it could adversely impact the fight against the Daesh terrorist group, which despite a string of recent defeats still maintains a significant presence in Iraq.

The Iraqi government also claims that the poll would violate the country’s 2005 constitution and would be “of no political or economic benefit to the region’s Kurds”.

Turkey, too, rejects the planned referendum, insisting that the region’s stability is inextricably linked to the maintenance of Iraq’s unity and territorial integrity.

Washington also voices concern that the referendum could serve as a “distraction” from other pressing regional issues, especially the fight against terrorism and efforts to bring stability to post-Daesh Iraq.



Hajj pilgrims perform devil-stoning ritual near Mecca


Muslim pilgrims converge on tent city of Mina to hurl stones at symbolic representation of Satan

Hundreds of thousands of Muslims on Saturday threw stones at a symbolic representation of the devil as part of the annual Hajj pilgrimage now underway in Saudi Arabia.

The final ritual of the Hajj, the “Great Jamara” -- in which pilgrims throw seven stones at a wall representing Satan -- is intended to remind Muslims of the devil’s constant efforts to lead the faithful astray.

According to Muslim tradition, the Prophet Ibrahim was the first to perform the ritual after the devil tried to incite him to disobey Allah.

According to the Saudi authorities, more than 2.35 million pilgrims are taking part in this year’s pilgrimage, some 1.75 million of whom came from overseas.

On Saturday, the fourth day of the five-day Hajj ritual, throngs of pilgrims converged on the Jamrat Bridge in the tent city of Mina near the city of Mecca to perform the stoning ritual.

The annual Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia is a religious obligation for Muslims, who must make the journey -- if financially feasible -- at least once in their lives.

Considered the fifth “pillar” of Islam, the Hajj is intended to demonstrate the solidarity of the Muslim people and their submission to Allah.

While the Hajj is generally associated with Islam’s final prophet, Muhammad, who lived in the seventh century, the pilgrimage to Mecca is believed by Muslims to stretch back thousands of years to pre-Islamic times.

The pilgrimage takes place every year from the 8th to 12th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th and final month of the Islamic calendar.

On these five days, Muslim pilgrims converge on Mecca, where they circumambulate the Kaaba seven times; run between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah; drink water from the sacred Well of Zamzam; stand vigil on the plains of Mount Arafat; and, finally, throw stones at the devil.

Pilgrims then cut their hair and sacrifice an animal -- meat from which is traditionally distributed to the poor -- before celebrating the Eid al-Adha, or “Feast of the Sacrifice,” which began on Friday.

Because the Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle, the date of the Hajj changes each year on western calendars.


South Asia

Taliban insurgents suffer casualties in Kandahar and Paktika operations: MoD

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sat Sep 02 2017

The Taliban insurgents have suffered casualties during the operations of the Afghan security forces in southern Kandahar and southeastern Paktika provinces.

The Ministry of Defense (MoD) in a statement said at least 9 insurgents were killed and 4 others were wounded during the operations conducted in Khakrez district of Kandahar.

The statement further added that a vehicle and six weapons were also destroyed during the same operations.

According to MoD, at least 3 insurgents were killed and 2 others were wounded during another operation conducted in Khair Kot district of Paktika province.

The Ministry of Defense says the operations were conducted in the past 24 hours as part of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) clearance and counter-terrorism operations to suppress the insurgency of the anti-government armed militant groups.

The statement by MoD also added that the during this period, the Afghan forces have conducted 12 clearance operations, 9 special operations in ten provinces of the country.

The Afghan Air Force also participated in the operations and carried out 28 missions in support of the Afghan forces which includes 3 airstrikes, MoD added.

The anti-government armed militant groups including the Taliban insurgents have not commented regarding the reports so far.



UNAMA says 28 civilians killed, 16 wounded in Logar and Herat airstrikes

By KHAAMA PRESS - Fri Sep 01 2017

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released its preliminary findings regarding the deadly airstrikes conducted in Logar and Herat provinces of Afghanistan.

According to UNAMA, at least 28 civilians were killed and 16 others were wounded in the airstrikes, citing preliminary findings the mission conducted into the alleged civilian casualties reports.

The report by UNAMA further added, On 30 August, airstrikes conducted in the Pul-e-Alam district of Logar province killed at least 13 civilians and injured 12 others, UNAMA’s preliminary findings indicate.

UNAMA said, the air strikes reportedly targeted Anti-Government Elements as they used a civilian compound to attack aircraft.

“UNAMA notes the news release issued by United States Forces in Afghanistan that it is aware of an incident in the Logar area and that they have opened an investigation into it,” the report said, adding that “UNAMA will continue its independent work to establish the facts around the harm caused to civilians from these attacks, including looking into allegations that Anti-Government Elements deliberately used civilians or civilian locations as a shield.”

According to the UN mission in Afghanistan, it has recorded a 43 per cent increase in civilian casualties from aerial operations during the first six months of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016, documenting 232 civilian casualties (95 deaths and 137 injured), with substantial increases in women and child deaths.

“I am deeply saddened to hear that women and children have once again suffered so terribly from the conflict,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA. “This is unacceptable. All parties must live up to their obligations to take all feasible measures to protect civilians.”

UNAMA urges authorities to ensure independent, impartial and prompt investigations of both incidents at the earliest opportunity, and for appropriate steps to be taken to ensure accountability, compensation for victims and the prevention of such incidents in the future.



Plane appears on main Kabul road causing panic among city residents

By KHAAMA PRESS - Fri Sep 01 2017

The haul of an airplane belonging to a private airline appeared on a main road in Kabul city late on Thursday night, causing panic among the city residents.

The pictures and videos of the plane’s haul were widely shared on social media platforms amid speculations the plane has made emergency landing.

The plane belongs to Kam Air, one of the private airlines of the country with the informed sources saying the haul of the plane was being shifted to a park so that it can be used as a restaurant.

Pictures shared online shows the empty haul of the plane with the engines and wings removed as it is being dragged on the main road along the airport.

In the meantime, the sources are saying that the plane which was out of order has been shifted to Kabul park and will be used a restaurant.

This comes as Kam Air has stepped up efforts recently to increase the number of its fleet by adding new and modern planes.

The officials in Kam Air Airline Company said in mid-July that an Air Bus 340 type aircraft has been added to the fleet of the aircrafts which will be used for flights to United Arab Emirates and other countries, including Europe once the flight operations permit has been granted.

The officials are saying that the aircraft can transport more than 300 people and can flight for 16 hours.


Southeast Asia

Over 400 die as Myanmar army steps up crackdown on Rohingya militants

September 02, 2017

COX’S BAZAR: Nearly 400 people have died in fighting that has rocked Myanmar’s northwest for a week, new official data show, making it probably the deadliest bout of violence to engulf the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority in decades.

Around 38,000 Rohingya have crossed into Bangladesh from Myanmar, United Nations sources said, a week after Rohingya insurgents attacked police posts and an army base in Rakhine state, prompting clashes and a military counter-offensive.

“As of August 31, 38,000 people are estimated to have crossed the border into Bangladesh,” the officials said on Friday, in their latest estimate.

The army says it is conducting clearance operations against “extremist terrorists” and security forces have been told to protect civilians. But Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh say a campaign of arson and killings aims to force them out.

The treatment of Myanmar’s roughly 1.1 million Rohingya is the biggest challenge facing national leader Aung San Suu Kyi, accused by some Western critics of not speaking out for a minority that has long complained of persecution.

The clashes and ensuing army crackdown have killed about 370 Rohingya insurgents, but also 13 security forces, two government officials and 14 civilians, the Myanmar military said on Thursday.

By comparison, communal violence in 2012 in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine, led to the killing of nearly 200 people and the displacement of about 140,000, most of them Rohingya.

The fighting is a dramatic escalation of a conflict that has simmered since October, when similar but much smaller Rohingya attacks on security posts prompted a brutal military response dogged by allegations of rights abuses.

Myanmar evacuated more than 11,700 “ethnic residents” from the area affected by fighting, the army said, referring to the non-Muslim population of northern Rakhine.

More than 150 Rohingya insurgents staged fresh attacks on security forces on Thursday near villages occupied by Hindus, the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar said, adding that about 700 members of such families had been evacuated.

“Four of the terrorists were arrested, including one 13-year-old boy,” it said, adding that security forces had arrested two more men near a Maungdaw police outpost on suspicion of involvement in the attacks.

About 20,000 more Rohingya trying to flee are stuck in no man’s land at the border, the UN sources said, as aid workers in Bangladesh struggle to alleviate the sufferings of a sudden influx of thousands of hungry and traumatised people.

While some Rohingya try to cross by land, others attempt a perilous boat journey across the Naf River separating the two countries.

Bangladesh border guards found the bodies of 15 Rohingya Muslims, 11 children among them, floating in the river on Friday, area commander Lt. Col. Ariful Islam said.

That takes to about 40 the total of Rohingya known to have died by drowning.

Late on Friday, Bangladesh foreign ministry said it had lodged a “strong protest” against violation of air space by Myanmar helicopters on three days this week, including on Friday, near the area where the Rohingya are fleeing violence.

“These instances of incursion into Bangladesh air space by Myanmar helicopters run contrary to the good neighbourly relations and could lead to unwarranted situation,” said the foreign ministry statement.

Suu Kyi’s spokesman Zaw Htay said that while he was not aware of the complaint, there were channels in place to facilitate dialogue between the two sides and if Myanmar indeed receives the complaint from Bangladesh, it would respond.



Tajikistan bans women from wearing veils

Harriet Agerholm | The Independent | Sep 2, 2017

DUSHANBE: Legislation requiring people to "stick to traditional national clothes and culture" has been introduced in Tajikistan - a move widely interpreted as an attempt to stop women from wearing Islamic clothing.

Women in the central Asian country traditionally wear a scarf tied behind the head, rather than a hijab, which wraps under the chin. Despite being a majority Muslim country, Tajikistan's minister of culture, Shamsiddin Orumbekzoda, told Radio Free Europe Islamic dress was "really dangerous".

He said that "everyone" looked at women wearing hijabs "with concern, worried that they could be hiding something under their hijab."

Although the legislation -an amendment to an existing law on traditions in the country -did not mention the hijab specifically, authorities have previously said the Islamic veil represents an "alien culture".

Under existing laws, women wearing hijabs are already banned from entering the country's government offices. At the beginning of August, officials approached more than 8,000 women wearing hijabs in the capital of Dushanbe and ordered them to wear their scarves in the Tajik style. The new legislation does not introduce a penalty for breaking the rule, but some have claimed that fines could be introduced at a later date.



Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh mark Eid after fleeing violence

AFP | Updated: Sep 2, 2017

DHAKA: Scores of Rohingya Muslim refugees offered Eid prayers on Saturday in Bangladesh, many of them recent arrivals fleeing a surge in communal violence in neighbouring Myanmar.

The festival comes as renewed violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state forces thousands of Rohingya -- a stateless ethnic minority -- to seek refuge in Bangladesh, with many drowning as they attempt to cross the border river in makeshift boats.

It is the bloodiest chapter yet in a bitter five-year crisis that has torn apart Rakhine along ethnic and religious lines, displaced the Rohingya in huge numbers and heaped international condemnation on Myanmar's army and the government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

"I had everything at my home... but now I've become a refugee. There's nothing much to celebrate. Yet it is our duty to perform the Eid prayer," said 39-year-old Makbul Hossain who made the dangerous crossing from Rakhine to the Bangladesh border town of Cox's Bazar last week.

Goats, sheep and cows are slaughtered worldwide to celebrate the major Muslim festival of Eid-ul-Adha, which is known as the Feast of the Sacrifice.

"I used to sacrifice my own animals during Eid," said 60-year-old farmer Deen Mohammad.

But he was forced to flee for his safety after the latest round of violence erupted late August when Rohingya militants swarmed police posts, killing 15 officials and burning villages.

"When the fighting started I left my homestead with everything. I am penniless here," he told AFP, breaking down in tears.

Amid monsoon rains, small-scale festivities were under way in refugee camps in Cox's Bazar, where many have taken cover in schools that have closed for Eid.

The Rohingya are reviled in Myanmar, where the roughly one million-strong community are accused of being illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Since violence broke out, the UN has estimated 40,000 people -- mostly women and children -- have fled to Bangladesh, while nearly 400 people have died in the fighting between Myanmar troops and Rohingya militants, according to the army chief.

Around 20,000 more have been stranded at the no man's land between the two countries' borders.

Rakhine has been the crucible of religious violence since 2012, when riots erupted killing scores of Rohingya and forcing tens of thousands of people -- the majority from the Muslim minority -- into displacement camps.



Turkish President Labels Killing of Rohingya Muslims 'Genocide'


TEHRAN (FNA)- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that the killing of hundreds of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar during the latest wave of violence that erupted a week ago was “genocide.”

"There is a genocide there. They remain silent towards this... All those looking away from this genocide carried out under the veil of democracy are also part of this massacre," Erdogan said in Istanbul on Friday, presstv reported.

The Turkish president added that the issue would be discussed in detail in the upcoming session of the United Nations General Assembly in mid-September in New York.

Erdogan’s comments came as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on Myanmar’s military forces to show “restraint,” warning that a “humanitarian catastrophe” was looming in the west of the country.

Rohingya Muslims, a community of more than a million people, have been denied citizenship and access to basic rights as the Buddhist-majority country of Myanmar views them as intruders from neighboring Bangladesh. The Rohingya reject claims about their origins and say their ancestors have lived in the area for decades.

Buddhist extremists have been waging communal violence in Rakhine since 2012. Hundreds of people have been killed and tens of thousands forced from their homes as a result.

The International Organization for Migration said on Wednesday that the government's latest crackdown in Myanmar had forced 18,500 members of the Rohingya community to flee to Bangladesh in less than a week.

The United Nations believes that Myanmar’s government might have committed ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity in its crackdown on the Rohingya.



Erdogan blasts ‘scandalous’ US indictment of bodyguards

September 02, 2017

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday criticised the indictment in Washington of members of his security detail who were charged with assaulting protesters during an official White House visit in May.

A total of 19 people including Turkish security officials have been identified from video footage of the May 16 clashes with Kurdish protesters following a meeting between Erdogan and President Donald Trump.

Erdogan said in a televised address that the case was a “scandalous demonstration of how American justice works.” More names were added to the case this week after US officials said videos showed Turkish security agents beating and kicking protesters on the ground in the “Embassy Row” section of downtown Washington DC.

Ankara’s foreign minister reacted angrily, protesting “in the strongest terms that such an unjust and biased indictment, with names of people that have never been to the US, has been accepted.” It said it had conveyed its reaction to the US ambassador to Ankara.

A total of 21 counts of assault and hate crimes based on the victims’ ethnicity were levelled against the group by Washington DC district attorney Channing Phillips.



DM Underlines Bolstering Power of Iran's Ballistic, Cruise Missiles


TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami stressed that his country will further boost the combat power of its ballistic and cruise missiles in the next four years.

"We have specified plans to enhance the Islamic Republic of Iran's missile power, specially in the missile field. God willing, the combat capabilities of Iran's ballistic and cruise missiles will enhance in this period (during his tenure as defense minister)," General Hatami said in an interview with the Arabic-language al-Alam news channel on Saturday.

Warning that the enemies are adopting measures to weaken Iran's missile power, he said that Tehran monitors their acts precisely and increases its missile power and capabilities proportionally.

General Hatami also underscored his plans to reinvigorate the country's capabilities in electronic warfare and increase its missiles' destruction power.

In relevant remarks late last month, General Hatami underlined the need for the further reinvigoration of the country's missile and Air Force power.

"We will increase the capabilities in both fields of cruise and ballistic missiles and since the speed of cruise missiles is an important issue, we have a special plan on agenda," General Hatami said in an interview with the state TV last Monday night.

"We will increase the defense power so much that no one dares to make any aggression against Iran and knows that Iran will give a crushing response," he added.

General Hatami also underlined the necessity for boosting the power and capabilities of the Air Force, adding, "We have plans for heavy fighter jets and initial steps and studies have been done and we should move towards a strategic air power."

Elsewhere, he pointed to the home-made version of the sophisticated Russian S-300 missile defense system, dubbed as Bavar (Belief) 373, being manufactured by the Iranian experts, and said its manufacturing progressed over 85%, adding that it is more updated than the S-300.



Hebron Governor: Expanding Israeli Settlers’ Municipal Powers Most Dangerous since 1967


TEHRAN (FNA)- Hebron governor Kamel Hameed Saturday said the Israeli army’s decision to expand municipal powers of illegal settlers in the city of Hebron as “the most dangerous since 1967.

He told the official radio station 'Voice of Palestine’ that the decision is paving the way for undermining Palestinian authority and imposing the Israeli one instead. “The order jeopardizes any political settlement in the area, which stands in contradiction with the peace process and the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

Hebron was divided into two sections in the Hebron Protocol signed by the late leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in January 1997; “H1 is under full Palestinian control and H2 is under Israeli control”.

While H2 is under Israeli military control, civil issues, such as infrastructure, construction, traffic arrangements, in the settlers section continue to be controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

The Israeli army’s order transfers municipal powers from the Palestinian Authority to the Hebron municipal committee under the jurisdiction of Israel’s Ministry of Interior, which constitutes a violation of the Hebron Protocol.

Hameed warned from the consequences of such decision in the future, saying it will lead to a state of confusion and chaos and will threaten order and stability in the area. He called for urgent political, diplomatic and legal action.



Top Commander: Potential Aggressors Deterred by Iran's Reaction outside Borders


TEHRAN (FNA)- Chief of Staff of Iran's Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri said enemies do not dare to attack Iran as they know any invasion of the country would lead to a war that could not be contained to Iran's borders.

"If they decide to launch war, certainly they will not decide about the time and place for its end. Certainly, they will not be able to keep this war contained to the Islamic Republic of Iran and they will not even be the decision-maker with regard to the priority of battle at Iran's borders; this will be the Islamic Republic of Iran's power that will dictate these issues to them," General Baqeri said while visiting Khatam ol-Anbia Air Defense Base on Saturday.

He, meantime, underlined that enemies are aware of the high costs of any war against Iran, and said they are also unlikely to launch a ground invasion against the country for the fear of ultimate defeat.

In relevant remarks in June, General Baqeri described national security as Iran's redline, vowing that Tehran would give a crushing response to any threat or hostile action.

"The mighty and successful Laylatol Qadr operations of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) that comprised of firing precision-striking mid-range missiles against the Takfiri terrorists' command and logistic centers in Deir Ezzur of Syria and punished the culprits behind the Ramadan 12 (June 7) terrorist crimes in Tehran showed that national security is a redline for the Islamic Republic of Iran's Armed Forces and efforts to defend it will not be forgotten even for a single moment," General Baqeri said.

Noting that the missile attacks were carried out concurrent with the US Senate's sanctions against the IRGC and the Iranian nation, he said that the missile strikes made the enemies understand that any threat and aggression against Iran's national security "will face the Armed Forces' reaction".



Iran expresses sympathy for flood victims in India, Nepal, Pakistan

September 2, 2017

(AhlulBayt News Agency) - The Iranian Foreign Ministry on Friday sympathizes with Asian nations of India, Nepal and Pakistan after deadly floods killed hundreds of people.

In the message, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi expressed sorrow over the deadly flooding in parts of South Asia, particularly in India, Nepal, and Pakistan.

He further sympathized with the three nations and governments as well as the bereaved families of the victims.

A month of severe monsoon rains, which peaked earlier this week, resulted in the deaths of at least 1, 200 people across India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, and left two thirds of Bangladesh underwater.

According to the United Nations, around 41 million people have been affected by flooding and landslides that have ensued due to the monsoon across the subcontinent.



Turkish FM: Why are Muslim nations silent on Rohingya?

September 2, 2017

Turkey’s foreign minister on Saturday decried other Muslim countries’ silence on the plight of the Rohingya Muslims.

“There are a great many Muslim countries. Where are they? Why are they silent?” Mevlut Cavusoglu asked at an event marking the Muslim Eid-al Adha holiday in the Mediterranean province of Antalya.

He said to date Turkey had delivered more than $70 million in humanitarian aid to the Rohingya Muslims, and that no country in the world was showing more concern for the Rohingya than Turkey.

But, he added: “It’s not enough to deliver aid. In two weeks we need to hold a meeting in New York with the UN’s secretary-general, leaders of Muslim countries, international organizations, head of the UN Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, Kofi Annan, and other leaders to solve this issue.”

Violence erupted in Myanmar’s Rakhine state on 25 August when the country’s security forces launched an operation against the Rohingya Muslim community. It triggered a fresh influx of refugees towards neighboring Bangladesh, though the country sealed off its border to refugees.

Media reports said Myanmar security forces used disproportionate force, displacing thousands of Rohingya villagers and destroying their homes with mortars and machine guns.

The region has seen simmering tension between its Buddhist and Muslim populations since communal violence broke out in 2012.

A security crackdown launched last October in Maungdaw, where Rohingya make up the majority, led to a UN report on human rights violations by security forces that indicated crimes against humanity.

The UN documented mass gang-rape, killings — including infants and young children — brutal beatings, and disappearances. Rohingya representatives have said approximately 400 people have been slain during the crackdown.



Iran Lauds S. Africa's Support for Palestinian People


TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani praised South Africa for its supportive policies towards the Palestinian people, and stressed cooperation with Cape Town in the fight against terrorism.

"I have said this in a meeting with the South African speaker and say it now again that we appreciate that country's good positions in support of the rights of the Palestinian people," Larijani told reporters in a joint press conference with his South African counterpart Baleka Mbete in Tehran on Saturday.

Elsewhere, he welcomed South Africa's investment in Iran's oil, gas and petrochemical sectors, and said, "Today we had good negotiations with the South African speaker and studied different aspects of Iran's investment in South Africa (too)."

"Mutual cooperation in the fight against terrorism and exchange of intelligence in this regard was also paid attention by the two sides in the meeting," Larijani said.

His remarks came after South Africa’s ruling party in July announced its intention of downgrading its embassy in Israel to an “interest office.”

At a major policy conference in Johannesburg, the African National Congress’s international relations committee decided on a number of recommendations to be adopted as official party policy later this year.

“The commission called for the downgrading of the South African embassy in Israel to send a strong message about Israel’s continued illegal occupation of Palestine and the continued human rights abuses against the people of Palestine,” the commission’s chairperson announced.

Also, in 2013, South Africa’s International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane had said that “the struggle of the people of Palestine is our struggle” and South Africa has decided to “slow down” and “curtail senior leadership contact” with the Israeli “regime,”. Already, she said, South Africa’s government ministers do not visit Israel.

 “Our Palestinian friends have never asked us to disengage with Israel [through cutting diplomatic relations]. They had asked us in formal meetings to not engage with the regime,” Nkoana-Mashabane was quoted by South African website News24 as telling a Congress of South African Trade Unions international relations committee meeting. The Congress of South African Trade Unions supports a boycott of Israeli products and has in the past accused Israel of practicing apartheid.

“Ministers of South Africa do not visit Israel currently. Even the Jewish Board of Deputies that we engage with here, they know why our ministers are not going to Israel,” she added.



Islamist hate preacher who called for Britain to be DESTROYED to visit UK

Sat, Sep 2, 2017

Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, a former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and current Imam of the city’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, will visit Britain as part of a delegation organised by Pro-Palestinian group EuroPal, according to Jewish News Online.

An email sent to MPs announced the details of Sabri’s visit agenda and offered meetings in parliament with the group between Monday 11 and Friday 15 September.

Shockingly in a 2001 radio sermon he called for the destruction of Britain and the US and said: “Allah, destroy the US, its helpers and its agents. Allah, destroy Britain, its helpers and its agents. Allah, prepare those who will unite the Muslims and march in the steps of Saladin.”

Sabri has a history of anti-Semitic and terrorist-supporting views, including advocating using children for terrorist means.

In a sermon on Palestinian television, he said: “The Muslim loves death and [strives for] martyrdom.”

In addition to calling for the destruction of America and Britain, he has said Jews are “the most cowardly creatures Allah has ever created”, adding that he is “filled with rage toward the Jews”.

Joan Ryan MP, Labour Friends of Israel chair, said she was horrified Sabri was attempting to visit parliament “given his reported views on the holocaust, terrorism and the Jewish people."

She added: “If these reports are true, he should not be allowed into the UK, let alone into Parliament.


A petition to ban him from the UK has gathered more than 5,000 signatures

“Giving a platform to those who spout hatred and violence is not the way to achieve justice and peace in the Middle East.”

A petition launched by the Christian United for Israel UK (CUFI UK) urging Home Secretary Amber Rudd to ban him from entering the UK and visiting Parliament has gathered more than 5,000 signatures.

A Home Office spokesman said: “The Home Secretary has the power to exclude an individual if she considers that his or her presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good.”

“We are clear that coming here is a privilege and this would be refused to those who seek to subvert our shared values.”



Britain First anti-mosque video filmed in Maidstone shared 31,000 times

02 September 2017

Twelve members of Britain First staged a peaceful protest outside Maidstone Mosque today - and inadvertently raised £120 towards the construction of a new one.

Britain First is against plans to build what it calls a "mega mosque" in Kent's county town.

But a rival group called the Maidstone Anti-Racist Network had promised to donate £10 to the development fund for every Britain First member who turned up.

Outside Maidstone Mosque

The money will go towards replacing the current centre with a three-storey complex of classrooms, library, offices, kitchen, three shops and a flat.

Britain First spokesman published live report on Faacebook

A spokesman for Britain First insisted it had been a successful protest with "loads of beeping and cheering and loads of support."

In a live broadcast on Facebook he said: "You can rest assured we will not stop until these mega mosque plans have been scrapped by the council."

He accused councillors of sitting in "ivory towers" and passing proposals "without a whimper of opposition" and warned: "If you are a councillor who passes any proposals for any type of mega mosque then we will confront you personally and hold you personally responsible."

No More Mosques: Britain First protesters with their banner. Picture: Facebook

When his four-minute piece to camera was interrupted by car horns he continued: "As you can see, the people of Maidstone do not want this mega mosque. Enough is enough."

He said money for the development was coming from the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia and extreme Islamic states in the Middle East and complained: "There is not a single church in the whole of Saudi Arabia."

He went on: "Our disgusting, treacherous, self-serving parasite politicians are selling us out. They are betraying our ancestors by allowing this enormous Islamic influx into our country. Britain First is opposed to this avalanche if Islamisation."

Police on duty at the Maidstone Mosque protest

By 4pm this afternoon the video had been viewed 31,000 times and had more than 500 shares.

Jonathan Terranova, 27, of the Maidstone Anti-Racist Network, said: "Eight supporters of Britain First were in the town centre last Saturday so we have already raised £80 to give to the Imam.

“The more Britain First members who turn up, the more money we will collect through crowdfunding for the mosque. We will use their campaign against them in the most peaceful way possible.”



British retailers failing to cash in on the Muslim pound

September 2, 2017

Businesses should not ignore a market worth 20 billion pounds sterling to UK retailers says the Muslim Council of Britain

With a purchasing power of around £30 billion every year, British Muslims represent a huge consumer market — but it is one that many mainstream retailers are still failing to tap into.

On Edgware Road, London’s so-called “Little Arabia”, the pavements are bustling with customers keen to purchase clothes, fabric, jewellery and snacks in time for Eid Al Adha.

The many local independent and family-owned stores are well-prepared for a surge in business at this time of year, while the Lebanese restaurants and shisha bars are even livelier than usual. Most outlets are open late, some round the clock.

However, a short walk away in Oxford Street, Britain's best-known shopping thoroughfare,it is a very different picture, with few visible signs that the UK’s largest retailers are making any effort to market Eid.

While supermarket chains such as Tesco and Argos rolled out a range of special spreads in the lead-up to Ramadan and Eid Al Fitr, the first of the two annual Eids, earlier this year, there is much less promotion this time around.

Businesses should not ignore the power of the Muslim pound. According to a 2014 report by the Muslim Council of Britain, the Muslim market is worth £20.5 billion a year to retailers in the UK.

Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, believes that amount is much higher. “It certainly would have gone up to at least £30 billion,” he told The National. “There is a huge potential there for investors. That is the really important thing to remember. You’re not doing the Muslim community a favour by having dedicated clothes lines and so on. You’re helping your business grow.”

Mr Shafiq said British retailers have woken up to the opportunity in recent years, but that there is a lot more that could be done.

“About 10 years ago, nobody did anything. Five or six years ago, we started seeing some of the supermarkets in Muslim and Asian areas lay out a small selection of Ramadan-related and Eid-related goods and materials. But that’s about it. That’s all that happens.”

The level of marketing is clearly far less than for other festivals, such as Christmas, Easter and Halloween, which are major events in the British retail calendar.

“The retail market spends billions on Halloween, Bonfire Night and special occasions like that. What’s wrong with spending some money on Ramadan, Eid, and Hindu and Jewish festivals as well?,” Mr Shafiq asked.

One British firm that is actively courting the Muslim pound is Hotel Chocolat. The upmarket confectionery chain advertised a range of Eid products on its website, including hampers containing alcohol- and gelatin-free chocolates. Many Muslims avoid eating gelatin as it can contain processed pork.

“We have really showcased it in the shops,” chief executive Angus Thirlwell said. Muslim customers “loved how we are participating in this event,” he added.

The National contacted retail chains House of Fraser and Asda to ask about their plans to market the Eid holiday, but did not receive a response. According to Mr Shafiq, H&M is the only retailer which puts up any sort of festive Muslim posters, usually at the end of Ramadan. He believes anti-Muslim sentiment is a major reason for why top leading British brands shy away from promoting Islamic festivals.

“There is a real fear among retailers that because of the rampant Islamophobia in our society, their brand will be damaged if they somehow support Muslims to come and shop there. I think that definitely plays a big part.”

He pointed out that when supermarkets started rolling out halal food several years ago, it provoked an outcry from sections of the British public, particularly on the far-right but also in some of the mainstream media.

“There was a fear that ‘Muslims are taking over our supermarkets’,” he said. “Even then, that sort of mentality has not gone away.”

Najah Jawed, who works at Nawras chocolate and dates shop on Edgware Road, believes that mainstream retailers are missing an opportunity.

“We do some extra merchandising and marketing around Eid, mostly we advertise online and that works well with our customers,” she said.“Larger shops that you’d find on the high street don’t really seem to do anything for Eid… maybe they are missing out on part of the market, but Eid is a good time of year for our sales.”

London-based fashion brand Aab, which sells a range of modest clothing online and in various department store chains, also looks forward to this time of the year. The brand puts out a special Eid collection every year, a month before the actual festival.

“We definitely see a spike in sales during Ramadan and Eid, and then the second Eid as well,” Altaf Alim, commercial director at Aab, told The National.

Mr Alim believes mainstream department stores such as Debenhams, which sells Aab’s products, do increasingly recognise the value of the Muslim pound, but more could be done.

“The market as a whole is starting to recognise the value of the Muslim pound. There is definitely awareness and an impetus now for many mainstream brands and retailers to tap into this market.

“A lot of stores do promote the first Eid, but less so the second one. They are missing a trick there — perhaps it’s a case of more education needed so that they understand the different festivals.”

The argument is even more compelling given that the British high street is facing tough times  with economic uncertainty and rising inflation prompting households to rein in spending.

“Retailers should be grabbing an opportunity like this with both hands — particularly in a difficult market like this,” Mr Shariq said. “There is a phenomenal opportunity for people who want to make money. The Muslim pound is a huge resource, and incredibly lucrative if you get it right.”


North America

US mosques open doors to Hurricane Harvey victims

Sat Sep 2, 2017 1:29PM

Several mosques in the US city of Houston in Texas have opened their doors to those displaced by Hurricane Harvey, providing supplies and shelter to Americans, despite warnings of a significant rise in anti-Muslim sentiments and hate crimes this year.

As the floodwaters kept rising in the city, the Houston-area mosques offer the victims a dry place to sleep, food and other supplies, The Washington Post reported.

The president of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston M.J. Khan said that he started to load up on towels and bedding last weekend when the rain began to fall.

Displaced families gather for dinner at the Brand Lane Islamic Center in Stafford, Texas on August 31, 2017.

"Look, helping is a total no-brainer,” he said. “You don't even have to discuss or debate it. It's part of our faith and part of being human. I always feel that this is why God created human beings: for us to help each other."

He assured that people, who take shelter in the mosques “will not be disturbed, they will not be displaced, they will not be moved.”

Another mosque in the city of Beaumont—the Islamic Society of Triplex— started to offer food and volunteer medical care to the neighbors, according to Amna Ahmed, a member of the mosque.

The members of the mosque--even though many of them had to evacuate their homes south of Houston--delivered meals to an estimated 500 people at the city’s two emergency shelters on Thursdays night, Ahmed said.

She said the mosque plans to bring another large supply of meals to a basein Port Arthur.

Displaced youths are provided beds inside a classroom at the Brand Lane Islamic Center in Stafford, Texas on August 31, 2017.

A non-Muslim American woman, who took shelter in the Champions mosque’s gym said, "Muslims are just like any other type of person. They’re caring, loving, giving people."

“I feel very fortunate that they were open and willing to come and have this space,” AP quoted Katherine McCusker as saying.

Many other Americans, who were being housed in mosques, have also taken to social media, saying that they enjoyed the Muslim tradition of hospitality.

Muslim activist Saira Siddiqui, who is a student in social justice, said the disaster provided an “an opportunity for us to simply get to know one another. And that is what will bring about long-term change.”

A key mosque in Houston has opened its doors to evacuees of Harvey storm.

The storm made landfall last Friday as the most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in over five decades. It has since been downgraded to a tropical depression as it heads to the Texas inland and parts of neighboring Louisiana.

Some 779,000 Texans have been told to leave their homes and another 980,000 fled voluntarily amid dangers of new flooding from swollen rivers and reservoirs. So far, at least 44 people were dead or feared dead, according to Texas officials.

Anti-Muslim sentiments and hate crime incidents have been on the rise across the United States since President Donald Trump started his presidential campaign, during which he promised to impose a “complete and total shutdown” on Muslims entering the US, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

In a report published in July, CAIR said hate crimes have spiked since 2016, which was the worst year on record for anti-Muslim incidents. It also warned that 2017 could be the worst year for US Muslims if anti-Islam bias and hate crimes continue at this rate.

Rescue crews save residents in Port Arthur, Texas on September 1, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

“The presidential election campaign and the Trump administration have tapped into a seam of bigotry and hate that has resulted in the targeting of American Muslims and other minority groups," said Zainab Arain, a CAIR coordinator.

The report said that common forms of hate crimes against Muslims from April to June this year involved harassment, physical violence or property damage.



Jim Mattis on Pakistan: Responsible countries take terrorists down

Agencies | Updated: Sep 1, 2017

WASHINGTON: The US intends to work with Pakistan to take down terrorists, defence secretary Jim Mattis has said, asserting that this is what a "responsible" nation does.

He was responding to questions on Pakistan's reaction to the Afghan and South Asia policy announced by US President Donald Trump last Monday.

Trump hit out at Pakistan for providing safe havens to terror groups that kill American soldiers in Afghanistan. He also warned Pakistan that it has "much to lose" by harbouring terrorists.

Mattis did not respond to questions on timeline, if any, for Pakistan to take action against terrorists and terrorist groups.

"We intend to work with Pakistan in order to take the terrorists down. I think that's what a responsible nation does," Mattis said at a media briefing.

His remarks remarks came after the State Department notified to the Congress to place a pause button on $255 million foreign military financing for Pakistan.

US holds up $255m to Pakistan

The United States will hold up $255 million in military assistance for Pakistan until it cracks down on extremist groups that threaten neighboring Afghanistan, officials said Thursday, in the first concrete step since President Donald Trump vowed to ramp up pressure on Pakistan.

In his new strategy for the 16-year Afghan war, Trump singled out Pakistan for harboring Taliban leaders and other militants that are battling American troops in Afghanistan. Trump's tough words about Pakistan, a troubled US security partner, infuriated Islamabad and triggered anti-US protests that Pakistani police have had to use tear gas to disperse.

Although the Trump administration had floated the possibility of curtailing aid, hitting Islamabad with sanctions or severing its status as a major non-NATO ally, it had been unclear until Thursday exactly what types of measures the administration would pursue, or how quickly.

"We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting," Trump said in his Afghanistan speech. "But that will have to change."

Trump's administration had faced a September 30 deadline either to say that it planned to spend the $255 million, or lose it. Ahead of that deadline, the administration told Congress that it will indeed use the money, but is putting a "pause" on spending it or on assigning any funds to specific sales of military equipment to the Pakistanis.

State Department officials said the funds won't be released until the US sees that Pakistan is more successfully addressing US concerns about safe havens in the country for groups including the Haqqani network, which is allied with the Afghan Taliban and has been blamed for some of Afghanistan's worst attacks. The officials weren't authorized to comment by name and requested anonymity.

But Pakistan has long maintained that its purported Taliban ties and tolerance of extremists groups are overblown, arguing it is already doing its best to help the US stabilize Afghanistan. And American officials wouldn't describe any specific steps they were demanding that Pakistan take, nor would they say whether they'd even communicated such steps privately to the Pakistanis.

The vague nature of the US demands on Pakistan, coupled with the split-the-difference approach of putting the promised funds aside indefinitely, suggested the Trump administration was still struggling to settle on its Pakistan policy even after the president unveiled it with fanfare in a prime-time address. On Afghanistan, too, the plan is a work in progress, with Pentagon officials still determining a final number for how many more US troops will be sent to Afghanistan.

"This is symbolic more than significant, on both sides," said Ambassador Jim Jeffries, a former longtime diplomat now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "The Pakistanis will push the usual buttons of protests and complaints and diplomatic anger, but they will also think, 'Boy, what else will Trump do?"'

Islamabad has already reacted angrily to Trump's allegation that the country harbors extremists, with the country's lower house of parliament passing a resolution this week denouncing his claim. Security analyst have also warned that isolating Pakistan could lead it to seek closer ties with Russia, Iran and China — rival powers whose influence in the region is a longstanding concern for the US

The US has sought before to use aid to Pakistan as leverage to secure its cooperation on Afghanistan, previously withholding Coalition Support Funds. To Pakistan's dismay, Trump has also dangled the possibility of bringing India — Pakistan's archenemy — deeper into the Afghanistan process unless Pakistan is more cooperative.

Pakistan has fought for years with the Pakistani Taliban and homegrown extremists, but at the same time has tolerated the Afghan Taliban and the related Haqqani network. It's widely accepted that Afghanistan's Taliban leaders are living in Pakistan and that Pakistani hospitals treat the group's wounded.



Pentagon approves new contract for Afghan Air Force worth $69.3 million

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sat Sep 02 2017

The United States Department of Defense or Pentagon on Friday informed regarding the award of a new contract for the Afghan Air Force having a value of more than 69 million dollars.

“Orbital ATK, Fort Worth, Texas, has been awarded a $69,368,834 firm-fixed-price undefinitized contractual action for the Afghanistan Air Force AC-208 armed intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft requirement,” Pentagon said in a notification of award.

It further added that the work will be performed in Fort Worth, Texas, and is expected to be completed by Nov. 30, 2018.

“This contract is a pseudo foreign military sales requirement. Fiscal Afghan Security Forces funds in the amount of $33,990,728 are being obligated at time of award. The 645th Aeronautical Systems Group, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8620-17-C-4048),” Pentagon added.

The AC-208 Combat Caravan offers a robust day/night intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance solution now available with precision counterinsurgency, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities (ISR), according to te contracting firm.

It is easily convertible from “Clean Wing” ISR to armed operation with Hellfire Missiles.

This comes as the United States last month awarded a contract worth around $727 million in support of the Afghan Air Force and Special Mission Wing as efforts are underway to boost the capabilities of the Afghan national defense and security forces.

“Leidos Innovation Corp., Gaithersburg, Maryland, was awarded a $727,689,796 firm-fixed-price contract to provide support for the Afghan Air Force (AAF) and Special Mission Wing (SMW) helicopter/fixed-wing fleets,” the Department of Defense said in a statement.

The statement further added that aids were solicited via the Internet with one received. Work will be performed in Kabul, Afghanistan, with an estimated completion date of May 31, 2020. Fiscal 2017 operations and maintenance (Army) funds in the amount of $126,689,243 were obligated at the time of the award.