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'Pakistan' Village, Having No Muslim and No Mosque, In India's Bihar Wants to Change Name As They Feel Ashamed To Be Addressed As ‘Pakistanis’

New Age Islam News Bureau

19 Oct 2019

Pakistani jailed 5 years for insulting Islamic figure on Facebook


A Cleric Based In Deoband Has Issued a Fatwa Ahead Of Diwali Calling Firecrackers Un-Islamic

Pakistani Jailed 5 Years for Insulting Islamic Figure on Facebook

Pakistan Escapes FATF Blacklist, But Gets Warning

The Past Three Months In Afghanistan Have Been The Deadliest For Civilians In A Decade

Michigan State University Professor Claims Islam Is Not the Root of Islamic Terrorism

Indian Hate Preacher, Zakir Naik Sues Penang Deputy Chief Minister, Ramasamy, Seeks Apology

From Iraq to the Red Sea, Iran-Israel Battleground Now Spans Entire Mideast

Turkish Proxies Appear to Be Using White Phosphorus in Syria

Al Qaeda’s General Command Praises Recent Shabaab Attacks



'Pakistan' Village, Having No Muslim and No Mosque, In India's Bihar Wants to Change Name As They Feel Ashamed To Be Addressed As ‘Pakistanis’

A Cleric Based In Deoband Has Issued a Fatwa Ahead Of Diwali Calling Firecrackers Un-Islamic

Ayodhya Case: 6 of 7 Muslim Appellants Reject Process and Content of Mediation Deal

Kamlesh Tiwari Murder: UP Police Says Case Solved, Remarks On Prophet Muhammad Behind Killing

Ayodhya Case: Muslim Parties Shocked At Sunni Waqf Board Withdrawal Claim Reports

Ayodhya district administration bans TV channels from holding debates in public places

I accomplish what I decide: PM Modi to Pakistan on water threat

Military code error by DGCA led to SpiceJet chase in Pakistan

Bangladesh yet to return Indian fisherman, BSF refutes Bangla border guards’ claims

Five killed in Kashmir's deadliest day since losing special status



Pakistani Jailed 5 Years for Insulting Islamic Figure on Facebook

Pakistan Escapes FATF Blacklist, But Gets Warning

Islamabad Police Ban Catering, Lodging Services for JUI-F’s Azadi Marchers

Bilawal Bhutto announces countrywide anti-govt protests

Marriyum Aurangzeb allowed to meet ex-PM Abbasi

PML-N, PPP should quit assemblies, says Siraj

Two would-be suicide bombers killed in clash with soldiers in Loralai

‘It has been fantastic’: Kate summarises Pakistan visit

PML-N to fully participate in Azadi March, Shehbaz assures Fazl


South Asia

The Past Three Months In Afghanistan Have Been The Deadliest For Civilians In A Decade

62 killed, 33 wounded in an explosion in Nangarhar province of Afghanistan

Afghan forces kill 12 militants; destroy hideout in eastern Logar province

Border Guard Bangladesh Says 'Fired In Self Defence' As BSF Jawan Dies After Flag Meet Shooting

Special Forces kill, detain 7 Taliban militants; destroy caches of weapons in 4 provinces

Afghan forces launch all out operation against militants in Baghlan

Special Forces kill 16 ISIS and Taliban militants; destroy caches of weapons in 3 provinces

Afghanistan mosque attack toll rises to 62, says official



Michigan State University Professor Claims Islam Is Not the Root of Islamic Terrorism

Islamic World Resurges into Knowledge Domain despite Conflicts: Russian Scholar

British Isil 'Matchmaker' Pleads For Return to UK after Escape from Kurdish-Run Camp

France says foiled September 11-inspired attack

Russians accused of extremism cut wrists in court

Call for State to repatriate Lisa Smith in effort to understand radicalisation

EU politicians must tackle growing challenge of anti-Islam acts

UK Brexit plan has ‘decent chance’ in key vote on Saturday, says Javid

EU leaders want to meet with Turkish President Erdogan

Turkey’s Erdogan ‘won’t forget’ Trump letter about Syria offensive


Southeast Asia

Indian Hate Preacher, Zakir Naik Sues Penang Deputy Chief Minister, Ramasamy, Seeks Apology

A requiem for 'Reformasi' as Joko Widodo unravels Indonesia's democratic legacy

U.S. Commission Cites Malaysia for Alleged Religious Freedom Violations

Report: Malaysian al-Qaeda suspect linked to 9/11 could be out of prison next month

Indonesia nabs dozens of alleged militants, foils terrorist plots ahead of presidential inauguration

Singapore hands down first conviction for terror financing

Malaysia trying to cool controversy over varsity head's pro-Malay views and right to protest

Indonesia grapples with how to deradicalise suicide bombers' children


Arab World

From Iraq to the Red Sea, Iran-Israel Battleground Now Spans Entire Mideast

Saudi Shoura Delegation Participates In Inter-Parliamentary Union Meetings In Serbia

Lebanese PM Hariri Gives ‘Government Partners’ 72 Hours To Back Reforms

Syria Cease-Fire Tested by Fighting, Questions about Buffer Zone

Clashes and Confusion Mar Attempt at Cease-Fire in Syria

France, Iraq diplomats hold talks on ISIL prisoners in Syria

Egypt dismisses 1,070 teachers in extremism fight

Lebanon in lock down as protesters demand new government

Iraqi govt. source challenges IRGC’s story of arrest of Iranian dissident

Kuwait, Egypt, US, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain issue warnings to citizens in Lebanon

Saudi Arabia prepares to evacuate citizens from Lebanon

Syrian army secures border crossings in strategic city of Kobani

International community must carry out joint efforts to eradicate poverty, says Saudi diplomat



Turkish Proxies Appear to Be Using White Phosphorus in Syria

Amnesty accuses Turkey of ‘war crimes’ in Syria

Turkey Agrees to Pause Military Operations in Northern Syria

Pompeo assures Israel that U.S. focus stays on Iran 'threat'

Israeli guards kill Palestinian assailant in West Bank

Houthis commit over 500 violations in less than two weeks

Global watchdog gives Iran until Feb. 2020 to tighten anti-money laundering rules

Kurdish-led SDF accuses Turkey of violating truce with attacks on Ras al-Ain

Nearly 70 Palestinians injured by Israeli forces

Turkish invasion must stop, all foreign troops must leave Syria: Assad

Kurdish mayors replaced in Turkey over Syria criticism



Al Qaeda’s General Command Praises Recent Shabaab Attacks

Gunmen Raid Cafes in Libya Capital To Curb Social Freedoms

Sudan peace talks resume after deadlock

Nigerian forces attack Zakzaki supporters during Arba’een mourning rituals

Nigerian forces seize Boko Haram arms cache

Ethiopian premier pledges support to Libya peace

Al-Shabaab commander behind deadly GSU attack identified


North America

Video giant Twitch pushes Trump rallies and mass violence into the live-stream age

South Florida man found guilty of sending weapons to Colombian terrorist group

Trump defends Middle East policy, says Islamic State is under control

Amid a hasty withdrawal, Pentagon scrambles to revise campaign against Islamic State

Trump likens Turkey's offensive against Kurds to a schoolyard fight

No US forces in Syria safe zone enforcement: Esper

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




'Pakistan' Village, Having No Muslim and No Mosque, In India's Bihar Wants to Change Name As They Feel Ashamed To Be Addressed As ‘Pakistanis’

October 18, 2019

Lata Rani

Patna: As bilateral relations between India and Pakistan deteriorate further, residents from “Pakistan” village in Bihar want to get their identity changed as soon as possible. Annoyed villagers have petitioned the government official to change the name of their village soon saying they feel ashamed to be addressed as “Pakistanis”.

Curiously, the Pakistan village located in Srinagar block of Purnia district, more than 300 km east of capital city of Bihar, don’t have any Muslim villager nor it has any mosque located there. The village, home to some 1200 people, has mainly tribal population.

“We are caught in an awkward situation. None want to marry their daughters with youths from our village. We too feel ashamed of being called Pakistanis while we have nothing to do with Pakistan,” a local resident Anup Lal Tuddu told the local media on Friday.

Another villager Ganga Tuddu said Pakistan is refusing to mend its ways despite all efforts by the Indian government. “The way Pakistan has been spitting fire against India and sponsoring terrorism, our patience has run short. The name is also disturbing our relation with our neighbours. We don’t want to be identified as a resident of Pakistan,” explained a visibly irritated Tuddu.

Local officials said they share the sentiments of the villagers and would try their best to change the name of this village. “The local villagers have handed us a petition demanding for change in name of their village. We are forwarding the petition to senior officials for necessary actions,” local circle official Nandan Kumar said.

Purnia district magistrate Rahul Kumar said he had not received the petition so far. “Though I have not received the petition but would act in accordance with the established procedures to get the name changed,” the district magistrate said.

Local parliamentarian Santosh Kushwaha too supported the move of the villagers saying he would be doing everything in this regard.

Villagers say at one point of time Pakistan village was a symbol of love and affinity between citizens from two countries but at presently they are being treated with disdain and viewed with suspicion for having the very name of their village. According to villagers, the village, then in Islampur district of Bengal, was named “Pakistan” in memory of Muslim villagers who migrated in 1947 to what was then known as East Pakistan. This part is now known as Bangladesh.

Reports said before leaving the village, the Muslim residents had handed over their property to Hindu neighbours and the Hindu villagers reciprocated the love by naming their village as “Pakistan”. But now this historic village look set to be obliterated from people’ memory soon.



A Cleric Based In Deoband Has Issued a Fatwa Ahead Of Diwali Calling Firecrackers Un-Islamic

Oct 19, 2019

Meerut: A cleric based in Deoband town of Saharanpur has issued a fatwa against firecrackers calling them un-Islamic ahead of Diwali.

Maulana Abdul Wakeel Qasmi, state secretary, Ittehad Ulema-I-Hind, said, “Not only bursting firecrackers is un-Islamic but even profit earned from the business of firecrackers is haraam (prohibited).”

“What others are doing is none of our concern, but for Muslims, it is certainly haram. Bursting crackers is nowhere mentioned in our religious texts. To burn crackers is like burning your own money. This money can be used for better things like education,” Qasmi further stated.

Notably, Muslims in India burst firecrackers on Shab-e-Barat. Besides, a large number of Muslims are engaged in manufacturing firecrackers across the country.

Deoband, a hub of a large number of madrassas and ulemas owing to the presence of world renowned Islamic seminary Darul Uloom, is known for many controversial fatwas issued here from time to time.

Just a few days ago, another cleric had criticised Bengali actor Nusrat Jahan for celebrating Durga Puja and even advised her to “change her religion as whatever she was doing was bringing bad name to Islam”.

Early this year, Darul Ifta, the online fatwa department of the seminary replying to a query from a Pakistani youth, had said that since mostly selfies are taken to be posted on social media, it gives rise to ‘behayaee’ (shamelessness). Another fatwa by Deoband-based clerics had asked women not to wear designer burqas or body hugging outfits in order to avoid “prying eyes of men.”



Pakistani Jailed 5 Years For Insulting Islamic Figure On Facebook

October 18, 2019

LAHORE: A Pakistani court Friday sentenced a man to five years jail and hard labour for a blasphemous Facebook post, in what is believed to be one of the first such cases under controversial cybercrime laws.

Sajid Ali was charged with posting blasphemous and derogatory content against revered Islamic figures on the social network in 2017.

Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in conservative Muslim Pakistan, where the laws can carry a potential death sentence for anyone deemed to have insulted Islam.

Even unproven allegations have led to mob lynchings and murder.

Prosecutor Munam Bashir Chaudhry told AFP Ali’s case is the first to be tried under a section of the cybercrime laws, which were passed in 2016, pertaining to hate speech.

There have been other cases of prosecution against “online blasphemy” in Pakistan, including one in 2017 that saw a man sentenced to death for sharing what the court said was blasphemous content on social media.

However none of the previous convictions have come under the cybercrime laws, according to Chaudhry.

Shahzad Ahmad, of the digital rights group Bytes for All, said he also believed it was the first such case – but warned that more are being registered.

He called the development “very worrying”.

“Most concerning is the misuse and abuse of this law,” he told AFP, adding that he fears it could be used as a tool of further repression in cases of blasphemy and religion-based hate speech.

Pakistani authorities say they have registered about 500 cases in total under the cybercrime laws since they came into effect.

Critics of the laws say they are open to abuse by government agencies to restrict freedom of expression in a country where activists have long warned of a shrinking space for dissent.

In 2017 the Islamabad High Court ordered the government to open an investigation into “online blasphemy”, threatening to ban social media platforms that failed to censor content insulting Islam and its values.

Pakistan famously blocked Facebook for two weeks in 2010 over blasphemous content.

It also blocked Youtube from 2012 to 2016 because of a film about the Prophet Mohammed that led to violent protests across the Muslim world.



Pakistan escapes FATF blacklist, but gets warning

Mubarak Zeb Khan

October 19, 2019

ISLAMABAD: While giving a four-month lifeline, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has strongly urged Pakistan to swiftly complete its full action plan by February 2020 and until then the country will remain on the ‘grey list’.

The Paris-based FATF reviewed measures taken and progress made by almost 15 countries, including Pakistan, vis-à-vis anti-money laundering and combating financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) in its five-day plenary, which con­clu­ded on Friday. Representatives from 206 countries and jurisdictions around the world took part in the meeting. The Pakistani delegation was led by the Minister for Economic Affairs, Hammad Azhar.

At the end of the meeting, three countries — Iceland, Mongolia and Zimbabwe — were added to the grey list, while Sri Lanka, Tunisia and Ethiopia were removed from the list as they have adequately complied with the FATF recommendations.

The news is not that good in the case of Pakistan as the global watchdog warned of action in case significant and sustainable progress is not made across the full range of action plan by the next plenary scheduled for February 2020, a statement issued by the FATF said. The action, it added, could include the FATF calling on its members and urging all jurisdictions to advise their financial institutions to give special attention to business relations and transactions with Pakistan.

“To date, Pakistan has only largely addressed five of 27 action items, with varying levels of progress made on the rest of the action plan,” the note further said.

While noting recent improvements, the FATF again expressed serious concerns with the overall lack of progress by Pakistan to address its TF (terror financing) risks, including remaining deficiencies in demonstrating a sufficient understanding of Pakistan’s transnational TF risks, and more broadly, the country’s failure to complete its action plan in line with the agreed timelines and in the light of TF risks emanating from the jurisdiction.

The FATF places those countries on its grey list which are not taking measures to combat terror funding and money laundering. Placement on the grey list is a warning for a country that it may be put on the blacklist in case of its failure to take effective measures against money laundering and terror financing.

In 2012, Pakistan was placed on the grey list and remained till 2015. The country was put on the list again on June 29, 2018. Pakistan was given 15 months for implementation of the 27-point action plan, with a warning that in case of failure the country would be added to the blacklist — a list of the countries branded as uncooperative and tax havens for terror funding.

Currently, only Iran and North Korea are on the blacklist.

Since June last year when Pakistan made a high-level political commitment to working with the FATF and APG (Asia Pacific Group) to strengthen its AML/CFT regime and address its strategic counterterrorism financing-related deficiencies, Islamabad has made progress towards improving its AML/CFT regime, including the recent development of its ML/TF risk assessment, according to the FATF statement.

Soon after the FATF announcement, the finance ministry in a statement on Friday reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to implementing the FATF action plan.

The FATF meeting considered Pakistan’s progress report on the action plan and its APG mutual evaluation report (MER).

But the finance ministry claimed that the plenary meeting decided to maintain status quo on the FATF action plan and allow the usual 12-month observation period for the APG MER. The Pakistani delegation also held sideline meetings with various delegations and briefed them on the progress made by Pakistan on the FATF action plan and steps taken for strengthening its AML/CFT framework, the finance ministry’s statement said.

At the plenary, Pakistan reiterated its political commitment to completing its action plan and implementing AML/CFT reforms. At the end of five days, the FATF reminded Pakistan that it should make progress on its earlier commitments, the global watchdog’s statement said. Pakistan should continue to work on implementing its action plan to address its strategic deficiencies, including by adequately demonstrating its proper understanding of the TF risks posed by terrorist groups, and conducting supervision on a risk-sensitive basis, it added.

It said Islamabad demonstrated that remedial actions and sanctions were applied in cases of AML/CFT violations, and that these actions had an effect on AML/CFT compliance by financial institutions. Moreover, competent authorities are cooperating and taking action to identify and take enforcement action against illegal money or value transfer services (MVTS).

The authorities will identify cash couriers and enforcing controls on illicit movement of currency; improving inter-agency coordination, including between provincial and federal authorities on combating TF risks; law enforcement agencies (LEAs) are identifying and investigating the widest range of TF activity and that TF investigations and prosecutions target designated persons and entities, and those acting on behalf or at the direction of the designated persons or entities.

It further said that TF prosecutions result in effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions and enhancing the capacity and support for prosecutors and the judiciary and demonstrating effective implementation of targeted financial sanctions (supported by a comprehensive legal obligation) against all 1,267 and 1,373 designated terrorists and those acting for or on their behalf, including preventing the raising and moving of funds, identifying and freezing assets (movable and immovable), and prohibiting access to funds and financial services.

The FATF said Pakistan is demonstrating enforcement against TF violations including administrative and criminal penalties and provincial and federal authorities cooperating on enforcement cases; demonstrating that facilities and services owned or controlled by designated persons are deprived of their resources and the usage of the resources.

But the statement said that all deadlines in the action plan have now expired.



The past three months in Afghanistan have been the deadliest for civilians in a decade

By Susannah George

October 17, 2019

KABUL — More civilians were killed and injured in Afghanistan in the past quarter than during any other three-month period in the past decade, according to a U.N. report released Thursday, a spike that coincided with increased violence as talks to end an 18-year war gained steam and then suddenly collapsed.

Between July and September, 1,174 civilians were killed and 3,139 were wounded. Those figures bring total civilian casualties (both dead and injured) this year to more than 8,000, according to counts by the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. In the previous quarter, 785 civilians were killed and 1,254 were wounded.

Both the Taliban and the U.S.-backed Afghan military have stepped up operations in recent months. Before President Trump scuttled the talks in early September, both sides were fighting to gain leverage ahead of a deal.

Tadamichi Yamamoto, the U.N. secretary general’s special representative for Afghanistan, said the high number of civilian casualties is “unacceptable, especially in the context of the widespread recognition that there can be no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.”

Overall, the United Nations blamed Taliban attacks for the most civilian casualties this year, because of an increased use of suicide bombs and other explosives. Such attacks have killed 647 and wounded 2,796 since January, the study found.

Women and children have made up 41 percent of all civilian casualties this year, according to the United Nations. The report said violence in Afghanistan has killed 631 children in the first nine months of this year and injured 1,830.

The United Nations warned that “indiscriminate and disproportionate” Taliban attacks using explosives “are serious violations of international humanitarian law that may amount to war crimes.” One such high-profile Taliban-claimed attack on Sept. 19 killed 28 civilians and injured 130 in Zabul province when a truck bomb detonated near an intelligence headquarters and a provincial hospital.

The increase in Taliban attacks marks a shift since July. The United Nations reported that during the first half of 2019, Afghan government forces and their U.S.-led allies were responsible for more civilian deaths than the Taliban.

Afghan and U.S. airstrikes and search operations continue to be deadly for civilians: They have killed 784 and wounded 377 this year, more than in the first nine months of any year since the United Nations began recording civilian casualties in 2009. Since 2018, “international military forces” have been responsible for the majority of civilian casualties caused by aerial operations.

The United States is the only member of the coalition in Afghanistan that carries out airstrikes, apart from the Afghan government.

The United States has significantly ramped up its air campaign in Afghanistan against the Taliban and the Islamic State. In September, U.S. aircraft dropped more munitions than in any other month since October 2010. U.S. Air Forces Central Command said its planes released 948 weapons last month, a figure that does not include airstrikes by the Afghan air force.

The report details two U.S. airstrikes that caused substantial civilian casualties in the past three months, including one in Helmand province on Sept. 22 that killed 15 civilians and one in Nangahar province that killed 19.

Regarding the Nangahar strike, the United Nations said that “shortly after the incident, [U.S. forces] paid compensation to the families of eight of the individuals killed, acknowledging they were civilian.”

The Afghan presidential election on Sept. 28 was also associated with a spike in violence. The United Nations released a separate report this week that said election-related violence killed 85 civilians and wounded 373.

The bulk of the election-related casualties were caused by Taliban operations, including mortar attacks and improvised explosives, that had “indiscriminate effects” in civilian areas. The Taliban had pledged to use violence to disrupt the election that it viewed as illegitimate.

The Afghan government, in its response, said it “notes with concern” the increase in civilian casualties. Protecting civilians “is the government’s constitutional duty and remains a top priority,” it said.

“Faced with an enemy that relentlessly targets civilians, we are taking concrete steps to protect civilians from enemy attacks [and] reduce civilian casualties during combat,” Afghanistan’s National Security Council said in a statement.

The Afghan air force is also taking steps to reduce civilian casualties by instituting “new and stronger measures on targeting, reconnaissance and post attack assessment,” according to the statement.

The conflict in Afghanistan has resulted in steady levels of violence since 2014, when the United States began reducing its forces in the country. The United Nations began recording civilian deaths only in 2009 as the conflict intensified.

During the first half of the year, the United Nations had reported a slight drop in civilian casualties. That reduction was largely a result of the decreased use of suicide bombs and other explosives by the Taliban and other militant groups.

Afghan government forces backed by the United States have retaken a handful of districts from the Taliban in recent months, but the gains have come at a high cost to civilians and pro-government fighters.

Afghan officials do not release figures on their military casualties, but President Ashraf Ghani said last year that 40,000 members of the Afghan forces had been killed since he took office in 2014, and his national security adviser said earlier this year that about 50 troops were dying daily.



Michigan State University Professor Claims Islam Is Not the Root Of Islamic Terrorism

By Andrew Harrod

OCTOBER 18TH, 2019

“If you want to identify people who are okay with suicide bombing, I can give you a list,” including Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Michigan State University Professor Mohammad Hassan Khalil told me at a September Georgetown University lecture. Khalil theorized before an audience of some thirty people at the Saudi-founded Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU) that Islam’s atheistic critics exaggerate the religion’s role in inciting violence.

While ACMCU Professor Jonathan Brown moderated, Khalil’s responses ironically reinforced the critique of Islam he sought to refute. For the record, Qaradawi’s primetime show on Qatar’s Al Jazeera network drew an estimated 60 million viewers. Even had he been the lone cleric promoting suicide bombing — which he was not — the size of his viewership reveals the scope of the problem.

At the Georgetown event, Khalil presented his previously recorded discussion of his new book, “Jihad, Radicalism, and the New Atheism,” in which he disputes claims of many “New Atheists,” particularly Sam Harris, “that Muslim terrorism can be best explained by Islamic scriptures.” Harris further labels benign interpretations of Islam as “interpretive acrobatics.”

Khalil explained his focus on the so-called New Atheists, saying that “[m]any of [his] own colleagues and students have been and continue to be more profoundly impacted by the writings of New Atheists than, say, polemical works by far-right religiously-affiliated critics of Islam.” Correspondingly, he cited Harris’s statement to fellow atheist Bill Maher that “we have to be able to criticize bad ideas, and Islam is the motherlode of bad ideas.”

Although critics such as the ex-Muslim atheists behind the “Awesome Without Allah” campaign would affirm Harris’s observations, Khalil accused Harris of “cherry-picking.” Reiterating his previous analysis of Islamic canons to argue that jihadists like Osama bin Laden use “interpretative acrobatics” to justify attacks on civilians, Khalil asserted that “Harris’s interpretation of Islam is so obdurate and so extreme that it cannot even be ascribed to the man behind 9/11.”

Khalil claimed such jihadists are “on the fringes of the jihad tradition” in Islam, despite ample precedent of jihadists applying distinctly Islamic doctrines to fight non-Muslims. “The attempts of al Qaeda and ISIS to justify terrorism on Islamic grounds typically require the abandonment of both strict literalism and the historically prevailing interpretations of Islamic thought,” Khalil said. “Before the early 1980s, there was no such thing as a Muslim suicide bomber,” Khalil added.

He next criticized the portrayal of a failed suicide bomber in Harris’s book “The End of Faith.” Instead of accepting Harris’ description of terrorists’ motives as religiously informed, Khalil cited common, debunked tropes of socioeconomic disadvantage driving men to violent jihad. Khalil concluded, erroneously, that “in blaming Islam’s foundational texts for contemporary terrorism, while downplaying other factors,” arguments of the New Atheists “are just as facile as those of the apologists they criticize.”

This continues a common trend of denying the Islamist roots of jihadi attacks, even as survey data show that a deeply disturbing minority of Muslim believers support terrorism. As Israeli analyst Shmuel Bar wrote in 2004, in leading Islamic clerical circles, “radical ideology does not represent a marginal and extremist perversion of Islam, but rather a[n] … increasingly mainstream interpretation.”

During the audience question and answer session at Georgetown, moderator Jonathan Brown failed to assuage concerns about the religious nature of jihad, even as he assailed New Atheists as the “most intense representatives of this sort of white, patriarchal ‘West is best’ idea.” He referenced his 2007 Yemen trip, during which he saw cigarette lighters for sale with themes of Bin Laden and Hassan Nasrallah, the terrorist Hezbollah leader. Brown strained believability to dismiss these images as indicating not support for terrorism, but for individuals “who really stuck it to the man” of Western imperialism — as if mass atrocities were mere protest.

Khalil stated that he is “obsessed with 9/11 in a dark way.” Yet his obsession hardly obviates valid concerns about radical Islamic jihad. In dismissing historically accurate criticisms of radical Islam and Islamism, Muslims like Khalil undermine their credibility — and, by hosting such apologists, ACMCU reaffirms its place as America’s leading center of Islamist propaganda.

Andrew E. Harrod is a Campus Watch Fellow, freelance researcher, and writer who holds a Ph.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a J.D. from George Washington University Law School. He is a fellow with the Lawfare Project. Follow him on Twitter at @AEHarrod.



Indian Hate Preacher, Zakir Naik Sues Penang Deputy Chief Minister, Ramasamy, Seeks Apology

October 18, 2019

PETALING JAYA: Indian Muslim preacher Dr Zakir Naik has filed a defamation suit in the Kuala Lumpur High Court against Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy over four articles.

Naik is seeking an injunction to restrain Ramasamy from publishing and distributing the reports in any medium, as well as an apology to be published in newspapers and news portals, including FMT, within seven days.

In his statement of claim, filed by Messrs Akberdin and Co, sighted by FMT, Naik also demanded compensation and exemplary damages.

He accused Ramasamy of ridiculing him and depicting him as a bad character and a threat to Malaysia’s security.

He said the DAP leader had called him “satan” in a Facebook posting two years ago, and written a defamatory article titled “Is Malaysia harbouring alleged fugitive Zakir Naik? on FMT in 2017.

He further said Ramasamy had on Aug 11 twisted his speech in Kota Bharu, Kelantan, by saying that Naik had questioned the loyalty of Malaysian Hindus.

Naik also referred to an interview Ramasamy gave to India Today on Aug 20, which he said was an attempt to spread hatred against him globally.

Naik in his statement of claim described himself a renowned preacher and orator on comparative religion, adding that he received numerous awards including the Tokoh Maal Hijrah International Personality Award in 2013.

It is understood that letters of demand were also sent by Naik to Human Resources Minister M Kula Segaran, Klang MP Charles Santiago, Bagan Dalam assemblyman Satees Muniandy and former ambassador Dennis Ignatius, claiming they had defamed him.



From Iraq to the Red Sea, Iran-Israel Battleground Now Spans Entire Mideast

Amos Harel 

Oct 18, 2019

As the eyes of many in the Middle East are focused on northern Syria, a special note should be given to what was said in Tehran. After a mysterious incident off the coast of Saudi Arabia, it took the Iranians time to reach a conclusion as to what happened there. But on Wednesday, a member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission in Tehran said that Israel and Saudi Arabia were involved in the attack on the Iranian oil tanker that came after a series of similar attacks by Iran on tankers making their way to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In other words, the Iranian account with Israel is still open – and sooner or later an attempt might be made to close it.

Ten years ago there were numerous reports about Israeli actions in the Red Sea, primarily directed against Iranian arms smuggling to the region and against weapons manufacturing sites in Sudan. The international media attributed various operations to the IDF, including aerial bombardments and commando raids on the Sudanese coast. Back in 2002, in the Red Sea south of Sharm al-Sheikh, Israeli naval commandos raided the Karine A, a ship loaded with weapons that the Iranians were attempting to smuggle to the Palestinians. This successful IDF operation at the height of the second intifada also yielded an important diplomatic gain, as it helped Israel convince U.S. President George W. Bush of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat’s deep involvement in terrorism.

If the latest Iranian claims are accurate, it means the battleground between Israel and Iran, which stretches throughout the Middle East, has been expanded even further. In just the past two months, there have been reports about Israeli strikes in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Prior to this, there were even accusations of secret Israeli involvement in the Saudis’ moves in Yemen’s civil war, where Riyadh supports the regime that is fighting the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

Most of the moves attributed to Israel were directed against potential Iranian arms-smuggling convoys or weapons systems whose long range would expose Israel to a strike similar to that which happened in Saudi Arabia. However, the latter incident was about inflicting economic damage.

This field of combat is not without risk. Israeli infrastructure sites and other important sites for the Israeli economy are vulnerable to attack, especially with Iran expanding the arsenal of weapons being stocked up by its proxies in neighboring countries and working to improve their precision. It’s hard to escape the impression that the “campaign between wars” has moved up a notch – in the pace and magnitude of events, and how much notice they are receiving. It’s doubtful that things can continue at this rate for long.



Turkish Proxies Appear to Be Using White Phosphorus in Syria


OCTOBER 17, 2019

Turkish-backed forces appear to be using munitions loaded with white phosphorus—a chemical that can maim and kill when it comes in contact with human flesh—in their violent campaign against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, Foreign Policy has learned.

If Turkish proxies are intentionally using white phosphorus-loaded munitions to target civilians, that could constitute a war crime. After publication of this article, U.N.-backed investigators said they were looking into the accusations.

Photos provided to Foreign Policy by a Kurdish sources and confirmed by a senior U.S. administration official show children from Ras al-Ain with severe chemical burns on their torsos and faces consistent with wounds from white phosphorus, though the exact substance has not yet been confirmed by independent investigators. (One of the photos, which is graphic, is published here.)

Meanwhile, reports emerged overnight that Turkey has continued to attack Kurdish fighters and civilian settlements in the border town of Ras al-Ain, despite a cease-fire agreement announced by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. A Kurdish medical convoy and an American aid organization trying to evacuate wounded civilians was targeted by Turkish-backed forces and unable to enter the town.

As of Oct. 18, there were more than 38 injured people inside the Ras al-Ain hospital who were unable to evacuate, according to the Kurdish Red Crescent, a humanitarian nonprofit organization that operates on the ground in northern Syria. The hospital was partially destroyed and some patients died due to lack of blood and other medical care.

An official with the Kurdish Red Crescent told Foreign Policy that six patients, including children and soldiers, arrived at the National Hospital in Hasakah city with first- and second-degree burns from an unknown substance after a Turkish airstrike in Ras al-Ain. The patients said they saw “strange lights” during the airstrike, said the official, who requested anonymity for security reasons.

Separately, the official said victims from Ras al-Ain arrived at a hospital in Sulaymaniyah, a city in Iraqi Kurdistan, with similar symptoms. Those victims are showing more severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing.

A Kurdish Red Crescent convoy tried to enter Ras al-Ain to collect additional evidence, such as clothing, to find out more about the substance but was fired on by Turkish-backed forces and had to retreat, the official said.

In a letter supplied to Foreign Policy by Bassam Saker, the representative of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) to the United States, the co-secretaries of the SDC’s health department, Rapareen Hasn and Manal Mhemed, urgently called on the international community to evacuate the wounded civilians.

“Turkey uses all kind of weapons including the internationally prohibited ones, and our medical teams are unable to evacuate the civilians,” according to the letter, which was also confirmed by the senior U.S. administration official. Saker confirmed that the prohibited weapons referred to in the letter are suspected to be “unusual bombs” loaded with white phosphorus.

A former combat medic who deployed to Syria in 2017-2018 separately confirmed to Foreign Policy that the photos appeared to show chemical burns.

It is not yet clear if Turkish proxies are deliberately using white phosphorus against civilians. The use of white phosphorus in military applications is not banned, but its use as an incendiary weapon in civilian areas is prohibited by international law.

The news comes just hours after Pence announced that the United States and Turkey had agreed to a temporary cease-fire in northern Syria that appeared to hand Ankara a major victory in its campaign to remove Kurdish fighters from its southern border.

White phosphorus-loaded munitions are used primarily by Western militaries to create smoke screens to mask the movement and position of forces but can also be used as incendiary weapons. When a shell explodes, the chemical inside immediately creates a thick white cloud. When the chemical comes in contact with flesh, it burns to the bone.

There is some debate over whether the use of munitions loaded with white phosphorus constitutes the use of a chemical weapon. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons defines a chemical weapon as “a chemical used to cause intentional death or harm through its toxic properties.” The organization goes on to state that: “Munitions, devices and other equipment specifically designed to weaponise toxic chemicals also fall under the definition of chemical weapons.”

There have been reports that munitions loaded with white phosphorus have been used previously in Syria, both by Syrian government forces and the U.S.-led coalition battling the Islamic State.



Al Qaeda’s general command praises recent Shabaab attacks


October 17, 2019

In a statement released online yesterday, al Qaeda’s general command levied heavy praise on Shabaab, its branch in East Africa. The statement speaks to Shabaab’s recent attacks on foreign troops inside Somalia.

An additional audio statement commending Shabaab by Ibrahim al Qosi, a senior leader within al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and former Guantanamo detainee, was also published yesterday.

The two statements were released as a coordinated messaging campaign, as evident by the synchronization of the publication of each respective statement. It should be noted that some senior AQAP leaders are also believed to serve within AQ’s general command.

Al Qaeda’s praise of Shabaab

“Western Crusader occupying forces have for long sought to conceal their sinister role in Somalia. However, the valiant men of Shabaab have demonstrated that they are even more keen to expose this hidden role by inflicting humiliating blows on Western interests,” the statement penned by al Qaeda’s general command begins.

In making a comparison to the infamous “Black Hawk Down” incident in 1993, al Qaeda’s general command alleges that the “recent attack in the Shebelle state of southern Somalia represents the biggest blow in the history of the contemporary Crusader occupation of Somalia.”

The leadership promotes Shabaab as “making no distinctions black and yellow Crusader blood; rather they have continued, and shall continue, dispatching Americans in coffins from the defiant land of Somalia.”

Al Qaeda then claims that last month’s attack on the US base in Baledogle “killed or wounded dozens of American and Israeli military personnel,” repeating Shabaab’s version of events in which it purports to have killed over 100 US soldiers.

The US, however, has stated that the assault, which involved a suicide bombing, was repulsed and that only one soldier was treated for a concussion.

Al Qaeda’s statement then turns to commending Shabaab for targeting Italian troops in Mogadishu on the same day as the assault on the American base. “We congratulate our brothers in Shabaab and fully support their leadership in their noble endeavors,” it reads.

Al Qaeda’s message to global branches

The statement also delivers a short message to al Qaeda’s branches elsewhere in the world.

“We would remind our brothers to uphold the flag once more. Let us continue the journey by targeting every single vital interest of the Zionist-Crusader forces.”

Speaking to recent news of US troop deployments to Saudi Arabia, the general command warns that “if you [the US] do not desist, you shall be made to forget the nightmare of 9/11 and everything that followed. Your coming war with the sons of the Arabian Peninsula shall be fiercer and way too painful for you to bear.”

Then statement then turns to AQAP specifically, telling al Qaeda’s men in Yemen to “hold on to patience, ribaat [defensive fortifications], and mutual exhortation. Build strong determination amongst yourselves to offer and sacrifice for the sake of this religion.”

Message from Ibrahim al Qosi

Showing the degree of coordination in messaging, AQAP also released an audio message from one of its senior leaders, Ibrahim al Qosi, which was also dedicated to Shabaab.

Qosi begins by congratulating Shabaab on the aforementioned Baledogle attack, praising the targeting of alleged Israeli troops at the base.

The jihadist leader continues by encouraging Shabaab in continuing its attacks on the “Crusaders” and “African apostates” inside Somalia.

He then states that the recent attacks came as a response to US drone strikes on Shabaab. “This is a message to the floundering Trump administration and to the American people that their aggressive policies against Muslims in Somalia and everywhere else will have dire consequences.”

Under the Trump administration, the US has escalated its air campaign against the al Qaeda branch. In the final year of the Obama Administration, the US launched 15 strikes against Shabaab. In 2017, under Trump, the US hit Shabaab 31 times. This tempo has continued and even increased in the years since.

Qosi is a senior leader within AQAP. He was originally detained at Guantanamo in 2002, but was transferred to his native Sudan in 2012. In 2014, he joined up with AQAP inside Yemen where he has been a staple in their productions since 2015.

While a message from AQAP to Shabaab is important, it is not surprising. In recent years, as AQAP faces setbacks inside Yemen, Shabaab has tried to boost AQAP’s morale in its own message to the group.

Threats to Israel

In both statements yesterday, the al Qaeda leaders continued the trope that their fight is a global campaign against Israel.

In the message released by the general command, the leadership states that “let us continue, with full faith and perseverance, the series of operations entitled “Jerusalem will never be Judaized” and “Expel the disbelievers from the Arabian Peninsula” until Palestine and every inch of Muslim lands is liberated from the Jews and Crusaders.”

This has been a recurring theme for al Qaeda and its branches. Shabaab has long portrayed its fight as against the Jewish state, among others, in defense of Palestine.

Under the moniker of “Jerusalem will never be Judaized” both Shabaab and al Qaeda’s group in Mali, the Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), have conducted terrorist attacks in the name of fighting Israel.

Shabaab messaging

Shabaab itself also released a message yesterday, promising to continue attacks on foreign troops inside Somalia.

“Crusaders will never find a safe-haven in Somalia as long as they continue to occupy our land, wage war against our religion, spread immorality, plunder our resources, and prevent the establishment of Shari’a,” the statement reads.

While Shabaab’s recent attacks on US and Italian forces inside Somalia were largely ineffective, it is clear that they fit within al Qaeda’s propaganda portraying itself as defenders of Islam and Muslims around the world.

This aligns with Shabaab’s overall role within al Qaeda. The group regularly advertises its role in al Qaeda’s global network and has often reciprocated the admiration shared yesterday.

Yesterday’s messaging campaign is also further proof of Shabaab’s role and how it is viewed by al Qaeda’s global leadership.

Caleb Weiss is a contributor to FDD's Long War Journal.

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Ayodhya case: 6 of 7 Muslim appellants reject process and content of mediation deal

by Seema Chishti

October 19, 2019

Attempts to secure even a weak and partial mediation committee-led deal in the Ayodhya matter were dealt a blow as representatives of six of the seven appellants on the mosque side rejected the process and content of the mediation deal, as well as the circumstances and timing of the submission of the final report.

In a statement on Friday, they said they “do not accept the proposal made which has been leaked out to the press, nor the procedure by which the mediation has taken place, nor the manner in which a withdrawal of the claim has been suggested as a compromise”.

As reported by The Indian Express on October 17, on the last day of hearing in the Ayodhya matter, the mediation committee submitted the contours of a “deal” to the Supreme Court premised on the chairman of the Sunni Waqf Board offering “no objections” to the government taking over the disputed portion of the land, in return for ASI mosques being opened up for namaz, repair of mosques in Ayodhya, an alternative mosque in place of the demolished Babri Masjid and an institution for social harmony in Ayodhya. However, as reported, the deity (Ramlalla), Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas and Nirmohi Akhara refused to be a party to the mediation.

The offer to give up was backed by just one of the seven Muslim parties. On Friday, all the Muslim sides barring one went on to say that it was their understanding that “only the limited persons attended this mediation which were Dharma Das of Nirvani Akhara, Mr Zufar Faruqui of Sunni Central Waqf Board and Mr Chakrapani of Hindu Maha Sabha. We are also made to understand that the two other persons interested may have attended the mediation.” Consequently, they said, “It is difficult to accept that any mediation could have been done under the circumstances especially when the main Hindu parties had openly stated that they were not open to any settlement and all the other Muslim Appellants made it clear, but, they would not do so.”

Those arguing on behalf of the deity Ramlalla had, in open court, when the mediation process got a second lease of life, declared that they would not be participating in any mediation talks.

In March this year, days after the mediation committee was constituted, the Muslim sides had submitted a written proposal to the committee to construct both a temple and a mosque on the site, but it elicited no response from any Hindu party, so there was little scope for a breakthrough.

Alluding to the timing of the final ‘deal’ having been given to the Supreme Court, the public statement today points out that one of the mediators, senior advocate Sriram Panchu “had sent a communication to the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India that protection be granted to Mr. Zufar Faruqui and the State of U P was directed to make arrangements for him.” The statement also takes umbrage at the “leak” and its timing; “timing of the leak to the press and its confirmation by Mr. Rizvi (advocate on record acting on behalf of Zufar Faruqui) on 17th October 2019 on the very date when the hearing closed seems to have been well thought out. Mr. Panchu was also in the premises of the Supreme Court on 16th of October and was communicating in the premises to Mr. Zufar Faruqui.”

After being deemed as “failed” in August, just about a month ago, the Chief Justice allowed the mediation to continue alongside arguments in Court. The Court appointed team of mediators is led by retired Chief Justice of Madras High Court, Justice FMI Kalifulla, and senior advocate Sriram Panchu and Art of Living founder, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar are its other members.



Kamlesh Tiwari Murder: UP Police Says Case Solved, Remarks On Prophet Muhammad Behind Killing

October 19, 2019

Uttar Pradesh Police has claimed to solve the sensational Kamlesh Tiwari murder case. Uttar Pradesh Director General of Police (DGP), OP Singh addressed a press conference in Lucknow in connection with Kamlesh Tiwari murder case.

OP Singh said, "A joint team of UP and Gujarat Police has detained 3 persons and interrogating them. Their names are Maulana Mohsin Sheikh, Faizan, & Khurshid Ahmed Pathan. Two other accused were also detained but released later, they are being monitored."

UP DGP confirmed the murder of the Hindu leader Kamlesh Tiwari to be a radical killing and held the Hindu Samaj Party leader's objectionable 2015 comments on Prophet Muhammad as the reason behind the killing.



#WATCH Uttar Pradesh DGP, OP Singh on Hindu Samaj Party leader #KamleshTiwari's murder: The inciting speech that the victim had given in 2015 was a reason behind this. As per the information that we have received, it seems it was done in a planned manner.

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"Prima facie this was a radical killing, these people were radicalized by the speech that he [Kamlesh Tiwari] gave in 2015, but much more can come out when we catch hold of the remaining criminals," he added.

In the FIR, two people were named as conspirators, Maulana Anwarul Haq and Mufti Naeem Qazmi. These 2 have also been detained and they're being questioned.

No terror link found

While initially Islamic State was believed to be behind the killings, no link with any terrorist organisation has been found.

OP Singh further said, "In the initial interrogation no criminal background of the three people, who have been detained, has been established yet. If needed, we will take them into remand, bring them to UP and question them.

Full report at:



Ayodhya case: Muslim parties shocked at Sunni Waqf Board withdrawal claim reports


Muslim parties in the Ayodhya land dispute case on Friday issued a statement expressing shock over reports suggesting that the Sunni Waqf Board was withdrawing from the case.

Advocate Eijaz Maqbool, who represented key Muslim litigant M. Siddiq in the Ayodhya land dispute, said all Muslim parties, except the Sunni Waqf Board, have rejected settlement as the main Hindu parties to the dispute were not part of the mediation process and its purported settlement.

The Muslim parties, except the Sunni Waqf Board, issued a clarificatory statement to say they don't accept the Supreme Court-appointed mediation panel's proposal on the purported settlement to amicably resolve the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute.

On October 16, when a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi reserved its verdict in the case after 40-days of hearing, the mediation panel's also reportedly submitted submitted its report to the court.

The three-member mediation panel is headed by former apex court judge Justice F. M. I. Kalifulla.

According to sources close to the mediation panel, the report filed in a sealed cover is a "sort of a settlement" between the Hindu and the Muslim parties.

The sources said the Sunni Waqf Board, Nirvani Akhada, Nirmohi Akhada, Ram Janmabhoomi Punruddhar Samiti and some other Hindu parties are in favour of settling the contentious land dispute.

Full report at:



Ayodhya district administration bans TV channels from holding debates in public places

Oct 18, 2019

AYODHYA: Ahead of the Supreme Court's verdict on the Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid case, the Ayodhya district administration has banned TV channels from holding debates on the sensitive issue in pubic places to maintain law and order.

The administration has also restricted television channels from inviting litigants of the Ayodhya case for debates.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday wrapped up the 40-day hearing in the decades-old temple-mosque dispute in Ayodhya -- the second longest proceedings in its history -- and reserved its verdict in the politically sensitive case that is expected in a month's time.

Ayodhya District Magistrate Anuj Kumar Jha said, "Television channels have been banned from holding debates in public places in Ayodhya as this may disturb peace and cause communal unrest. We have implemented prohibitory orders in Ayodhya."

He, however, clarified that no written order banning TV debates has been issued.

"Under Section 144 of CrPC, assembly of four or more persons at a time at a place is banned. However if any television channel wants to hold a debate, it can do so in private premises with prior permission of the magistrate," he said.

"This order of banning TV channels from holding debate in public places will not affect news reporting in any way," the district magistrate added.

An application form has been issued by the district administration for TV channels who are willing to hold public debates in Ayodhya. The third point in the application form states, "Litigants of the dispute will not be called (for the debates)".

Deputy Director, Information, Murli Dhar Singh said, "We did it because during such debates if there is any untoward incident with the litigants, then there will be a huge problem. So we have asked the TV channels not to invite any litigant of Ayodhya case."

"We have also warned TV channels not to comment on any religion or community. If anything wrong happens then the applicant will be held responsible," he said.

The News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) has advised all television channels to take "caution" while reporting on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case and avoid "inflammatory debates" which are likely to create tension.

Full report at:



I accomplish what I decide: PM Modi to Pakistan on water threat

Oct 19, 2019

HISAR/GOHANA: A day after Islamabad said that any attempt by New Delhi to divert water of rivers flowing into Pakistan will be considered as an 'act of aggression', PM Narendra Modi sent across a strong message on Friday saying, "Once I decide to do something, I always accomplish it."

On Thursday, Pakistan foreign office had reacted to Modi's remarks during an election speech in Haryana earlier this week that he would stop water of rivers flowing into Pakistan and divert it to the northern state as it belongs to India.

On Friday, while addressing a rally in Hisar, Modi went a step ahead, saying: "Ek baar thaan liya, use kar ke hi rehta hoon. Mein Hisar ke bhaiyon aur behanon ko kehta hoon, aap ke haq ka paani ab Pakistan nahin bahega. Aur Modi hai, yeh kar ke rahega. (Once I decide to do something, I always accomplish that. The water over which Haryana's farmers have the right will not flow to Pakistan now. Modi is going to ensure this)."

Full report at:



Military code error by DGCA led to SpiceJet chase in Pakistan

Oct 19, 2019

NEW DELHI: The episode of Pakistan scrambling F-16 fighter jets for a SpiceJet aircraft on a schedule commercial Delhi-Kabul flight last month has led to heads getting rolling in India.

It has emerged that the "transponder code" allotted to the aircraft by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) was a military one and not that of a schedule commercial airliner. This discrete code is given to identify an aircraft uniquely on radar across the flight path it takes. "A DGCA official has been suspended for this lapse," said an official.

Full report at:



Bangladesh yet to return Indian fisherman, BSF refutes Bangla border guards’ claims

Oct 19, 2019

NEW DELHI/ KOLKATA: The BSF on Friday said the firing by Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) along a riverine stretch between Bangladesh and West Bengal, in which killed a BSF head constable was killed, was "unprovoked". It also refuted BGB's version of the incident that its patrol party had fired in self-defence amid gunfire by BSF men, with a senior officer saying that "not a single bullet was fired by our troops".

Meanwhile, tension continued to prevail at Kakmarichar in Murshidabad's Jalangi on Friday with Bangladesh refusing to return fisherman Pranab Mandal

"Our men have not fired a single bullet. It was an unprovoked and unprecedented action by BGB to target the BSF party that had gone for a flag meeting," the official said. A Court of Inquiry (CoI) has been ordered into the incident.

"After the firing, another flag meeting was held on Thursday during which the BGB said that Mandal has been handed over to the Bangladesh police and would be released on Friday. This did not happen. We are also shocked at the purported statements made by BGB regarding Thursday's incident of firing. We have lodged a strong protest," a senior BSF official of the South Bengal Frontier said.

The BGB had, in a statement put out on Thursday night, said that since the BSF personnel had intruded into Bangladesh territory, they were told the personnel would be handed over to authorities after the proposed meeting.

The situation created panic among Indian border guards, it claimed and alleged that "the BSF men then turned furious and opened gunfire and started going back to their (Indian) territory".

As per BSF sources, its patrol party comprising six troops had entered 400 metres into the international border across the Padma river in Murshidabad district as that is the "designated place for flag meeting and their boat sported an orange colour flag that is the standard protocol used to denote flag meeting".

The BGB statement had said their patrol team tried to detain three Indian fishermen who had entered into Bangladesh waters in an engine-run boat, but two of them managed to flee.

Soon four armed BSF men, including one in uniform, "intruded" 650 yards inside the Bangladesh territory with a speedboat to take away the detained fisherman, it said.

"We are shocked to hear that BGB called this movement by BSF an 'incursion' into Bangladesh territory. A photograph released by BGB to the media in Bangladesh clearly shows the speedboat with the orange flag," the BSF official said.

Another senior BSF officer in Delhi said the troops "did not try to forcibly take away the lone fisherman from the custody of BGB as they had gone for flag meeting inside Bangladesh territory on getting a call from the BGB."

The Border Security Force also defended its party leader or post commander of the local area wearing shorts during the flag meeting, saying it is a requirement of that special geographical area.

The BSF officer added that when there was a telephonic talk between the commanding officers of the two sides, post the incident on Thursday, the counterpart "did not say that BSF men had either violated the IB or entered inside Bangladesh territory."

Full report at:



Five killed in Kashmir's deadliest day since losing special status

17 Oct 2019

Five people were killed in Indian-administered Kashmir on Wednesday, thought to be the deadliest day in the region since it was stripped of its autonomy this summer.

Two non-Kashmiris – an apple trader from Punjab and a migrant labourer – were killed in separate attacks by suspected militants in Shopian and Pulwama, south Kashmir. A second apple trader was in a critical condition.

Earlier on Wednesday security forces killed three alleged rebels near Bijbehara town, 28 miles south of the main city of Srinagar.

Kashmir has been under a security lockdown since 5 August when the Indian government scrapped its special status. Mobile phone services were restored for some users on Monday after a 72-day blackout but internet services remain suspended.

Before Delhi’s announcement that it was to remove Kashmir’s autonomy, the leader of the region’s largest militant group, Hizbul Mujahideen, had warned that the move would make Indians in the territory legitimate targets.

Indian officials argued that removing Kashmir’s special status, which granted it its own constitution and rules protecting land ownership, would bring greater development and rid the state of terrorism.

Some policy experts say the high death toll on Wednesday undermines such pledges. “The government’s claims are really falling flat,” said Khalid Shah, an associate fellow at the Observer Research Foundation. “My sense is that the violence is only going to increase, it’s not going to decrease, and to what extent, where it leaves Kashmir, is very difficult to say.”

An insurgency has waxed and waned on the Indian-administered side for three decades, and tens of thousands of people have been killed. Critics say Delhi’s actions have undermined the political mainstream and created fertile ground for militant groups.

Kashmir’s most prominent political and business leaders as well as the president of bar association are all in detention. Officials said such detentions were to prevent unrest, but others warned of a dangerous power vacuum.

Last weekend a spokesman for al-Qaida in Indian Subcontinent described Indian-administered Kashmir as “the worst prison” and called for attacks against the Indian government and army.

In Anchar, a neighbourhood of Srinagar where residents have fought back against security forces, graffiti on the wall reads “Welcome Taliban”.

In an attempt to win over Kashmiris, the Indian government placed a front-page advert in one of the region’s most popular newspapers, Greater Kashmir, urging people to resume normal life. “Closed shops, no public transport? Who benefits? Are we going to succumb to militants? Think!”, the advert said.

In Srinagar, government offices are operating but shops are open only during early morning hours and children are not attending schools. Residents told the Guardian that the refusal to open businesses was an act of defiance. Some reported that residents were complying with a shutdown because they were afraid of being targeted by militants.

Arshad, who lives in south Kashmir, where sympathies for militants are widespread, said he would welcome “any external support” that came for Kashmir’s separatist struggle.

Full report at:





Islamabad police ban catering, lodging services for JUI-F’s Azadi marchers

Oct 19, 2019

Islamabad Police has placed a ban on providing catering, sound system and tent services to the protesters of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam’s (JUI-F) Azadi March while hotels, motels and guest houses have also been prohibited to offer them accommodation.

JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman will march on Islamabad on Oct 31 to “topple the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government”, accusing it of coming into power through rigged elections. All major opposition parties including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Awami National Party (ANP) and Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) have already announced their support for the protests.

In a written warning notice, the Islamabad Capital Territory Police also warned crane and excavator machine operators, power generator vendors, welders and hardware stores against offering their products and services to the participants of the protest.

According to reports, all 22 police stations of Islamabad have issued advance notices to the mentioned service providers and business owners operating in areas of their jurisdiction. As per the warning notice, supply of any tools, accessories and equipment for the protest is strictly prohibited. Those found involved in the activity would face action, it read.

Rejecting the police’s warning not, All Pakistan Anjuman Tajaran President Ajmal Baloch questioned how could an institution prohibit traders from earning their living?

Baloch said that the law does not allow any such move.

“Not long ago, people from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) would procure food from catering services and hotels in Islamabad and Rawalpindi when they were on their anti-government protest spree and staged a sit-in at D-Chowk for 126 days,” said Baloch, adding that there were no such restrictions back then so why is such a ban being placed right now?

It merits a mention here that in his inaugural speech in Parliament House as prime minister, Imran Khan had vowed to facilitate the opposition if they planned to stage protests against his government in the federal capital.

PM Imran had even offered to provide food for the protesters besides arranging for containers for the opposition leaders at D-Chowk.



Bilawal Bhutto announces countrywide anti-govt protests

Oct 19, 2019

KARACHI: Pakistan's opposition leader Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has announced that his party would hold nationwide anti-government protests to press Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign and restore "real democracy" in the country.

Bilawal, the chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party, said the government had lost its credibility in the masses as it did not fulfil any of its promises.

"Our demand is to restore democracy [in the country]," he said in his address at a party rally here.

"We don't accept this artificial democracy… the democratic and socio-economic rights of the masses shall be restored… and for that Imran Khan has to resign.”

Bilawal, 31, said all opposition parties had decided that the government must step down.

"Our anti-government movement has started from Karachi,” he said, as he announced his plan for further protests across the country.

He said the PPP will protest in Thar on October 23, demonstrate in Kashmore in Sindh province on October 26 whereas rallies in Punjab will begin from November 1.

"We will tour the entire country... you [Imran Khan] will have to go…We will expose your incompetence in every nook and corner of the country,” he said.

The PPP chairman said his party had always played a constructive role for the supremacy of Parliament but to no avail.

"Imran Khan neither has the capability nor seriousness to govern a country of 200 million people,” he said. “Parliament has been side-lined and politicians have taken to the streets.”

Bilawal alleged that the incumbent rulers had compromised on the issue of Kashmir.

The PPP leader said the 2018 elections were massively rigged, and even banned outfits were allowed to contest the polls.

Full report at:



Marriyum Aurangzeb allowed to meet ex-PM Abbasi

Malik Asad

October 19, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The accountability court of Islamabad on Friday allowed Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb to meet former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in Adiala jail.

Ms Aurangzeb on Thursday had filed an application seeking the court’s permission for meeting Mr Abbasi who is on judicial remand in connection with the LNG terminal case.

National Accountability Bureau (NAB) arrested Mr Abbasi in July in connection with the inquiry of the case. The former prime minister however did not engage a lawyer to contest his case and remained on physical remand till Sept 26. He is on judicial remand since then.

Mr Abbasi did not seek any post-arrest bail before the IHC and even refused to sign the bail petition, said a senior lawyer of the PML-N.When asked why Mr Abbasi was not filing a post-arrest bail petition, his sister Barrister Sadia Abbasi said he would file a petition soon.

When the judge of the accountability court asked if Mr Abbasi was not willing to meet anyone in the jail, Ms Aurangzeb replied: “We would make him agree to meet us if permission is granted by the judge.”

Full report at:



PML-N, PPP should quit assemblies, says Siraj

October 18, 2019

LAHORE: The PML-N and the PPP should quit assemblies if they want early elections in the country, says Jamaat-i-Islami Emir Senator Sirajul Haq.

Speaking to journalists after addressing ‘Mashaikh Conference’ at the JI headquarters Mansoora on Thursday, he said: “The JUI-F has the right to protest against the government and it’s the responsibility of Prime Minister Imran Khan to fulfill his words and provide container and food to the protestors planning to enter Islamabad on Oct 31,” he said.

Regretting that the government and opposition have lost interest in Kashmir, he said both had their own priorities. The rulers, he added, wanted to fight the case of Kashmir while sitting in air-conditioned halls of Islamabad without realising the threat the Modi government posed to the country’s sovereignty.

He warned the rulers against designs of New Delhi which was bent upon changing the demography of the region. He said the government should make preemptive strike to thwart the designs of enemy against Pakistan. He demanded that the government announce clear roadmap for the liberation of Kashmir from Indian yoke.

He sought suggestions from the scholars and mashaikh on Kashmir, asking them to play their role in creating awareness among people on an issue which was a matter of life and death for Pakistan.

Ameerul Azim underscored the need for unity in the Muslim world. He said western powers had long unleashed an attack on Islamic ideology which could only be confronted if the Muslims demonstrated unity among its ranks.

The JI secretary general expressed grave concern over the silence of the world on the Kashmir issue.

The conference vowed to defend with full force every article and sub-article of the constitution dealing with the Islamic ideology of the country. The participants expressed concern over the plight of the Muslims in Palestine, the IHK, Syria, Iraq and Burma, stressing the need of unity among the Muslim countries to address the problems facing the Ummah.

Full report at:



Two would-be suicide bombers killed in clash with soldiers in Loralai

Saleem Shahid

October 19, 2019

QUETTA: Security forces foiled a terror attack bid on Friday, killing one would-be suicide bomber during an exchange of fire, while another bomber blew himself up during a search operation in the Loralai area.

Two soldiers of the Frontier Corps — Abdul Latif and Mohammad Sharif — were also injured in the incident and later shifted to the Combined Military Hospital, Loralai.

Official sources said that the FC personnel posted at a check-post in the Killi Kawar area on the outskirts of Loralai town near the University of Loralai signalled two men riding a motorcycle to stop. But instead of stopping, they opened fire on the security forces.

According to the sources, the suspects tried to escape and took shelter near a seasonal river. The security forces cordoned off the area and launched a search operation.

During the ensuing encounter, one would-be suicide bomber was killed while another detonated the explosives attached to his jacket.

An official of the Counter Terrorism Department, which had joined the paramilitary soldiers in the operation, said that both militants were wearing suicide jackets and apparently planning to attack some important place in Loralai.

However, he said, the security forces had foiled the terror attempt by taking prompt action against the suicide bombers.

Full report at:



‘It has been fantastic’: Kate summarises Pakistan visit

Oct 19, 2019

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton, returned to the United Kingdom after a five-day visit to Pakistan, following which their interview to international publication, CNN, surfaced.

When asked to reflect on the eventful tour to Pakistan, the Duchess of Cambridge summarised the maiden tour to the country.

“It has been fantastic, We have seen a lot of Pakistan… It was amazing seeing some of the geography yesterday, but then to see some of the community activities today has been really special,” she told the interviewer standing beside Prince William, her husband.

The royal couple spent a busy Thursday in Lahore, during which they played cricket, visited SOS Village, a children’s orphanage, visited Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and toured the iconic Badshahi Mosque, one of the world’s largest mosques.

Particularly, the duchess said that the couple really wanted to see an SOS village.

“There’s so many vulnerable women here but they’ve really used their positivity and the support that the Village here provides them … to support and protect the next generation of children in their care and give them the best possible start to their future lives,” said the Duchess about her visit to the SOS village.

Full report at:



PML-N to fully participate in Azadi March, Shehbaz assures Fazl

Oct 19, 2019

LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif on Friday put all rumours regarding his reluctance to join the anti-government march to rest, as he announced his party’s complete support for Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s Azadi March.

Speaking to media persons after meeting Fazl, Shehbaz said that a massive rally will be held in Islamabad on October 31 to present a joint list of demands by the opposition.

He reiterated the demand for snap elections, claiming that if elected into power, the PML-N will bring the economy on the right track within six months.

President PMLN


اگر شفاف الیکشن ہوئے اور اللہ پاک نے ہمیں موقع دیا تو میں وعدہ کرتا ہوں کہ 6 ماہ میں اس تباہ کن معیشت کو دوبارہ اپنے پاؤں پر کھڑا کریں گے۔ بیروزگاری اور غربت کے خاتمے کے لئے شبانہ روز محنت کریں گے۔ اس حکومت نے پاکستان کو تباہ کر دیا ہے ہم اس کو دوبارہ آباد کریں گے

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18:36 - 18 Oct 2019

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Despite the support that [Prime Minister] Imran Khan enjoys, he has failed the country and is placing the burden of his failures on the shoulders of our institutions,” he said, adding that “if even the most far gone of governments had received just 25 per cent of the support Imran Khan has received, then Pakistan would have been soaring high in the skies of progress”.

From Karachi to Peshawar, the entire nation is in agreement that this government should go home and as soon as possible, fresh elections should take place,” said Shehbaz.

I have the utmost respect for Maulana […] we have received instructions for the Azadi March he has set out on, from Mian Nawaz, our quaid, in a letter.

On October 31, we will ensure our full participation in the march and we will be there in Islamabad to welcome him. We will hold a massive rally to voice our demands and will decide on the next course of action then,” said the PML-N president.

Shehbaz said that it is not just him, but “the whole of Pakistan that stands in agreement with [Fazlur Rehman] over the fact that [under] the selected government and selected prime minister, [the country has witnessed] in the past year, the worst performance in all fields whether it is education or health”.

Speaking to media, Fazl said the JUI-F has “decided to enter the federal capital on October 31 so that nearby caravans and far away caravans can both enter as one”.

He said all future decisions will be made in joint consultation with the opposition parties, as he thanked for expressing their complete support for participation in this march.

The JUI-F chief reiterated his party’s stance of the incumbent government being “illegally appointed” and “incompetent”.

This can be garnered from their conversations and mannerisms in which on the one hand they can be seen forming committees for negotiations and on the other, they bad-mouth us,” said Rehman.

Holding talks before handing in a resignation, in our eyes, holds no meaning,” said the JUI-F chief.

Furthermore, Shehbaz said October 27 will be observed in complete solidarity with Kashmiris.

He also rejected the “oft-repeated mantra by the government” that the economy was left in dire straights by the PML-N government. “The economy was in a very healthy state when the PTI government came into power,” he insisted.

We will work hard day and night for the elimination of unemployment, poverty and illness the way we did for a dengue outbreak, the way we installed power plants under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif. The way we took Pakistan to new heights, we will do so once more.

This is our only consideration. This government has destroyed Pakistan and we [have what it takes] to have Pakistan up on its feet once again,” declared Shehbaz.

Full report at:



South Asia


62 killed, 33 wounded in an explosion in Nangarhar province of Afghanistan

18 Oct 2019

The local officials in Nangarhar province confirmed that the death toll from today’s explosion inside a mosque in Nangarhar has climbed to at least 62.

Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the provincial government said the explosion wounded at least 33 people.

Khogyani further added that the explosion took place during the Friday prayers inside a mosque in Haska Mina district of Nangarhar.

The Governor’s Office of Nangarhar in a statement said roof of the mosque collapsed following the explosion which left dozens of prayer participants dead or wounded.

No individual or group has so far claimed responsibility for the explosion.



Afghan forces kill 12 militants; destroy hideout in eastern Logar province


PUL-E-ALAM, Afghanistan, Oct. 17 (Xinhua) -- The security forces have killed 12 militants in a tunnel used by the insurgents as a hideout to target security forces in the eastern Logar province, said an army statement released here Thursday.

Acting upon intelligence report, the security forces targeted a Taliban hideout in Charkh district on Wednesday and killing 12 armed insurgents on the spot, the statement said.

According to the statement, the hideout virtually was a tunnel dug by the militants to target the security forces and hide themselves and their weapons inside it.

Taliban militants who are active in parts of the relatively troubled Logar province haven't commented yet.



Border Guard Bangladesh Says 'Fired In Self Defence' As BSF Jawan Dies After Flag Meet Shooting


NEW DELHI/DHAKA — In a first of its kind incident, Bangladeshi border guards opened fire at a Border Security Force (BSF) team on Thursday killing a jawan after a ‘flag meeting’ along the Indo-Bangla riverine frontier in West Bengal, officials said.

A second jawan was injured in the firing incident, they said.

However, in a statement issued late night in Dhaka, the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) said they fired the gunshots in “self defence”.

The action against the Indian personnel in what was called by officials in New Delhi as “high handedness” by the BGB sparked tension prompting the BSF chief, VK Johri, to call up his counterpart Major General Shafeenul Islam over hotline.

The BGB Director General assured Johri a thorough probe into the incident, officials said.

The jawan killed in the shooting was identified as head constable Vijay Bhan Singh and he hailed from Chamaroli village in Firozabad district of Uttar Pradesh. The 51-year-old trooper, who is survived by his wife and 2 young sons, had joined the BSF in 1990.

The BGB in the statement said their patrol team tried to detain three Indian fishermen who had entered into Bangladesh waters in an engine-run boat, but two of them managed to flee.

Soon four armed BSF men, including one in uniform, intruded 650 yards inside the Bangladesh territory with a speedboat to take away the detained fisherman.

However, the BGB team told the BSF personnel that the issue could be settled through a flag meeting in line with the practice and also told them that since they too intruded into Bangladesh’s territory, they would be handed over to the authorities after the proposed meeting.

The situation created panic among the Indian border guards, the statement said.

“The BSF men then turned furious and opened gunfire and started going back to their (Indian) territory,” it said.

“The BGB patrol team fired gunshots in self-defence amid gunfire by the BSF men,” the statement said, adding that it was revealed later at a commander-level flag meeting that a BSF member was killed and another injured during the fire exchanges.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh’s home minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal termed the incident “unexpected”, but said the unwanted episode took place as four armed BSF men intruded more than 500 yards inside the Bangladesh territory.

The BGB said later in a meeting the BSF commandant concerned and his Bangladesh counterpart decided to investigate the incident from their respective sides.

The meeting was held “peacefully” and the two sides also decided to hold further talks on the issue, the statement said.

The relations between the border forces of India and Bangladesh that guard the 4,096-km long international border have been very cordial and no bullet has been fired between them for decades.

The first of its kind incident is an aberration and efforts are being made to ensure that the situation does not deteriorate, officials said.

The top security establishment in New Delhi was taken aback by the incident and the Union ministries of home and external affairs were briefed by the BSF.

A BSF statement said the incident took place under the Kakmarichar border post of the BSF in Murshidabad district around 9 am when a force party approached BGB personnel, standing at a “char” or a riverine in the middle of the Padma river, to resolve an issue linked to Indian fishermen.

Officials said the trouble arose when the BGB personnel held three Indian fishermen who were allowed by the BSF to fish within the International Border, that runs through the middle of the 3-km-wide Padma river.

The river offers a rich catch of the hilsa fish.

A BGB team then allowed two fishermen to go and inform the BSF that the third person has been held by them and that was when the BSF post commander of the 117th battalion, a sub-inspector, took a 6-member party on a motor-boat to resolve the issue, the statement said.

A BGB jawan identified only as Sayed fired from behind when the BSF party started to return on their motor-boat after sensing the “aggressiveness” by the Bangladeshi personnel and an intention to “surround” them, officials said.

The BGB trooper, officials said, fired from his AK-47 rifle and shot Vijay Bhan Singh on his head, while constable Rajvir Yadav sustained bullet injuries on his hand.

Singh died on the boat itself while Yadav deftly saved the boat from sinking and managed to bring it to the Indian side.

A fisherman, identified as Pranab Mandal of Shirochar village, is stated to be still in the custody of the BGB.

Senior BSF officials reached the spot and are assessing the situation.

Security has been stepped up all along the Indo-Bangla border in the wake of the incident.

Full report at:



Special Forces kill, detain 7 Taliban militants; destroy caches of weapons in 4 provinces

18 Oct 2019

The Afghan Special Forces killed 2 Taliban militants, arrested 5 others and destroyed caches of weapons during the operations in four provinces in the past 24 hours.

The military officials said Friday the Special Forces conducted the operations in Uruzgan, Helmand, Farah and Ghazni provinces.

The officials further added that the Special Forces killed 2 Taliban militants and destroyed a cache of weapons in Tarin Kot district of Urzugan.

The Special Forces arrested 4 Taliban militants and destroyed a cache of weapons in Nahr-e Saraj district Helmand, the officials added.

In another in Bala Boluk district of Farah, the Special Forces arrested a Taliban fighter and destroyed a cache of weapons.

Full report at:



Afghan forces launch all out operation against militants in Baghlan

17 Oct 2019

The Afghan forces launched an all out operation against Taliban militants in northern Baghlan province of Afghanistan.

According to a statement released by Ministry of Defense, the security forces launched the operations on Wednesday night in Dand-e Shahabuddin, Dand-e Ghori and Kelgai.

The statement further added that the security forces will continue to their operations until they fully clear Baghlan province of militants.

The Ministry of Defense also added that the security forces launched the operations after conducting similar operations in Badakhshan, Takhar and Kunduz provinces.

Full report at:



Special Forces kill 16 ISIS and Taliban militants; destroy caches of weapons in 3 provinces

19 Oct 2019

The Afghan Special Forces killed 16 militants of the Taliban and ISIS groups and destroyed caches of weapons in three provinces in the past 24 hours.

The military officials said the Special Forces also arrested 8 Taliban militants during the same operations.

The officials further added that the Special Forces killed the 10 ISIS militants in Achin district of Nangarhar province.

The Special Forces also destroyed a small cache of weapons during the same operation, the officials added.

Furthermore, the Special Forces killed 2 Taliban militants, arrested 6 others and destroyed a cache of weapons in Jaghatu district of Wardak province.

Full report at:



Afghanistan mosque attack toll rises to 62, says official

18 October 2019

The death toll from an attack on a mosque in Afghanistan during Friday prayers has risen to 62, authorities in the eastern Nangarhar province said.

The toll “has risen to 62 dead and 33 injured,” said a spokesman for the local governor.

The blast took place in Haska Mina district in Nangarhar province.   Multiple explosions at a mosque in eastern Afghanistan collapsed the roof on worshippers during Friday prayers, killing at least 62 and wounding more than 100, officials said.

Both the Taliban and ISIS are active in Nangarhar province. The Taliban have condemned the attack and blamed it on the ISIS extremist group.

Attaullah Khogyani, spokesman for Nangarhar province’s governor, said bombs had been placed inside the mosque in the Jawdara area of Haska Mena district.

“People using an excavator are still working to bring out the bodies and injured from under the roof,” said Sohrab Qaderi, a member of the provincial council in Nangarhar, adding that the death toll was likely to rise.

Malik Mohammadi Gul Shinwari, a tribal elder from the area, said that the mosque had been destroyed.

“It was a heartbreaking scene I witnessed,” Shinwari said.

The blast came after the United Nations released a new report on Thursday saying that an “unprecedented” number of civilians were killed or wounded in Afghanistan from July to September.

Civilians have long borne the brunt of violence in Afghanistan’s conflict, and the UN called the casualties “totally unacceptable.”

Full report at:





Islamic world resurges into knowledge domain despite conflicts: Russian scholar


By Binsal Abdulkader

MOSCOW, 18th October, 2019 (WAM) -- Islamic countries are reembracing the world of knowledge they commanded during the ancient and medieval period of history but conflicts prevent that resurgence, said a prominent Russian scholar in Arabic and Islamic studies.

The role of technological progress in the UAE is an example for such a resurgence to knowledge, said Constantine Truevtsev, senior research fellow at the Institute of Oriental Studies in Moscow, and added on another note that the UAE’s propagation of moderate Islam would positively influence the Muslim-dominated regions in Russia.

He was speaking to the Emirates News Agency, WAM, in an exclusive interview. WAM was part of a UAE media delegation that visited the institute in Moscow, ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to the UAE.

During Putin’s visit on Tuesday, Russia and the UAE signed several agreements in various vital sectors, including trade and investment, and sustainability and environment, which would further develop strategic partnerships between both countries.

Truevtsev said, "Desire for knowledge is a historical thing in Islam. Muslim world actually played a very significant role in dissemination of knowledge during ancient and mediaeval periods of history.

"Even Greek philosophy came to Europe through Arabs. Great medicines came to Europe through Islamic world," he pointed out.

Then, he said, many Islamic countries started lagging behind in knowledge domain . "I think this gap is coming to an end now.

"But one of the most important things that prevents this development is conflicts that happen in the Arab world. If not conflicts, Arab world might have progressed much more rapidly," Truevtsev explained.

Elucidating the Muslim world’s resurgence to knowledge, the scholar put forward the technological progress in the United Arab Emirates as an example.

"Why we show the role of the Emirates [in this regard]? It is one of the countries [in the Muslim world] that did not witness conflicts. It is the only Arab country that is the most advanced in technological sphere," Truevtsev said.

About the similar developments in international arena, the scholar pointed out that many prominent global scholars in different domains in the United States and Europe are from the Muslim world "not only from the Arab countries but also from elsewhere such as Pakistan, Malaysia and Bangladesh etc."

Likewise, in the United Kingdom, huge chunks of medical doctors are from Egypt, he said.

On a different note, asked about some Russian diplomats’ observation that developments in the Middle East always influence Russia’s Muslim-dominated regions, he pointed that Russia suffered from terrorist activities in the Caucasus region and other Muslim-dominated regions.

Terrorism emerged because element of tolerance was broken away from the religion, he said. "Majority of Muslim people are deeply convinced that this has happened."

Asked whether the UAE’s propagation of moderate Islam would positively influence the Muslims in Russia, Truevtsev said, "Yes, I think so. Here is a big sphere where cooperation between UAE and Russia is very relevant," the scholar concluded.

Russian Federation has eight autonomous Muslim republics such as Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Chechnya, Karachay-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Ingushetia, Dagestan and Adygea.

Under Russian law, these regions are autonomous republics because of their non-Russian majorities and they can choose their own languages, constitutions, presidents and security structures.



British Isil 'matchmaker' pleads for return to UK after escape from Kurdish-run camp

Josie Ensor

17 OCTOBER 2019

The British “Islamic State matchmaker” who escaped a detention camp has said she wants to be given passage to Turkey and allowed back home, in an interview with The Telegraph from a rebel “safehouse” in northern Syria.

Tooba Gondal, 25, who is being held by Syrian rebel fighters close to the Turkish border, says she "wants her nightmare to end", in her first interview since she fled from a Kurdish-run detention camp over the weekend.

“I want to go home, see my family,” the former Goldsmiths, University of London, student said via WhatsApp messages. “But if I am not able, I want to seek refuge in Turkey.

“After all these years, I’m tired, you know? Enough,” she said, from the outskirts of the...

Full report at:



France says foiled September 11-inspired attack

OCTOBER 18, 2019

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s interior minister said on Thursday that intelligence services had arrested a man for planning an attack inspired by plane attacks on the World Trade Center in New York in Sept. 2001.

France has for several years grappled with how to respond to both homegrown jihadists and foreign militants following a series of attacks across the country. French officials say the threat of attacks remains very high.

On Oct. 3, an IT specialist with suspected Islamist sympathies, who had a security clearance, killed three officers and one civilian employee before he was shot dead by another police officer.

“Just before (that attack) there was a 60th attempted attack since 2013,” Christophe Castaner told France 2 television.

“An individual, who was inspired by the events of Sept. 11 and the planes which destroyed the World Trade Center towers, was arrested by our intelligence services.”

France has seen more than 230 people killed in the last four years on its territory from Islamist militant attacks, notably in Nov. 2015 after coordinated strikes across the capital.

The attacks were claimed by Islamic State in Syria, and were carried out in part by French-born fighters.

Full report at:



Russians accused of extremism cut wrists in court

17 October 2019

Two Russians on trial for belonging to an anarchist organisation have slit their wrists in a Moscow courtroom.

The pair, Ruslan Kostylenkov, 25, and Vyacheslav Kryukov, 20, face extremism charges after being accused of belonging to Novoye Velichiye (New Greatness) group.

They were removed from the witness stand. Their condition is not yet known, Russian media report.

Both had called to be put under house arrest but had their request rejected.

When their request was denied, they reportedly told the courthouse: "This is an unfair trial" and "Glory to Russia, freedom of Russia, freedom of political prisoners."

They then slit their wrists.

Lawyer Alexander Lupashko said it was unclear how the pair had managed to get sharp objects into the courtroom.

"They were checked by dogs. I believe either a piece of glass or a piece of a blade was carried in there," he said.

Mr Kostylenkov's lawyer, Svetlana Sidorkina, said: "Their nerves couldn't handle it any more. All of the evidence proves that they didn't commit a crime."

The pair are part of a group of 10 young people facing trial on charges of creating an extremist organisation and seeking to overthrow President Vladimir Putin's government. The suspects include teenagers.

One alleged member of the group, Anna Pavlikova, 19, has already been charged. Her health deteriorated in prison and she was later placed under house arrest.

The prosecution's case largely relies on the testimony of an undercover policeman who infiltrated the group.

Full report at:



Call for State to repatriate Lisa Smith in effort to understand radicalisation

Oct 18, 2019

Ireland should bring Islamic State supporter Lisa Smith home to study how an Irish soldier can be turned into an Islamic extremist, a leading counter-terrorism expert has said.

an Acheson, who worked on counter-terrorism and counter-extremism policy for the UK government, said it was vital to understand terrorists and people associated with terrorism without condoning their actions.

He said Ireland must avoid falling into the trap of “moral superiority” when addressing violent extremism, “particularly when it comes to the far right”.

“It’s not very helpful to simply stand on the sidelines and pretend we are superior to them if you want to prevent future violence.”

Mr Acheson is speaking on Friday at a conference about the rise of right wing extremism and what this may mean for Ireland. He said he does not believe right wing or Islamic extremism can be stopped.

“What we have to do is contain it and there’s a lot more we can be doing to contain it,” he said.

Mr Acheson, a senior adviser with the US-based Counter-Extremism Project, said society must understand how terrorists are radicalised and motivated.

“We don’t want to in any way, shape or form cede any ground to people who wish to murder for ideological or theological reasons,” he said.

“But we can’t talk to dead terrorists. We can talk to the ones who are alive and in custody. We can learn so much from them. That includes people associated with extremist movements, people like Lisa Smith and others in Syria. ”

Ms Smith, a former member of the Air Corps, is believed to be in the custody of a Syrian militia in the north of the country.

Mr Acheson said repatriating her would be a demonstration of Ireland’s “moral authority” and would show solidarity with the Kurdish people who have borne the brunt of Islamic State aggression.

“And we also need to get them back to understand how someone who served on the Irish government jet can become radicalised like this.”

Dr Owen Worth, of the University of Limerick, will tell Friday’s conference that a reason Ireland is yet to experience far-right extremism on the level seen in other western countries is because for a movement to develop, a central figure must emerge and this has yet to happen.

Full report at:



EU politicians must tackle growing challenge of anti-Islam acts


Muslims have long suffered from discrimination and hate speech leaning toward racism throughout the world, yet in recent years the situation seems to have gotten worse with several incidents such as the Christchurch attack of March 15 in New Zealand, the Quran burning of April 29 in Denmark and the Bærum mosque shooting of Aug.10 in Norway, all of which happened this year.

"We do not intend to blame the whole of European Union society, we try to say that there are problems. As the report puts forth, there is an increase in attacks and harassment," Deputy Foreign Minister Faruk Kaymakçı said at the event yesterday, urging European states to take action against rising anti-Muslim sentiments.

Answering the question of what the EU's main challenge was today, the deputy minister said it was the rise of anti-Islam acts. "There are many solutions and recommendations to the problem, yet I think the best solution is the membership of Turkey to the EU," Kaymakçı said, adding that by this means the EU can change its image and lead to an EU in which all beliefs are respected.

"European societies are challenged by the rise of violent far-right groups that not only preach hatred of Muslims but also participate in the organization of bloody terror attacks," according to the European Islamophobia Report of 2018 recently published by the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA), which is the fourth edition complied so far. One of the authors, Enes Bayraklı, pointed to the fact that "Islamophobic terrorism occurs even in remote and peaceful countries such as New Zealand," during the opening ceremony of their project against anti-Islamic acts yesterday in Ankara.

Accordingly, the most targeted people are women and especially those with headscarves; in Belgium, 76% of victims of reported Islamophobia are female. In Austria, 540 cases of Islamophobic incidents took place, while 676 took place in France and 678 in Germany in 2018. However, only 12% of Muslims discriminated against in the EU report this to the authorities.

The 844-page report created in cooperation with the EU and several other institutions raises questions in itself. "I hope this report will get thinner by time," Kaymakçı said.

In order to fight misperceptions and discrimination toward Muslims, Turkish officials will organize panels throughout Europe, raising awareness. The rise of far-right parties, online Islamophobia and legalizing Islamophobia with laws such as the hijab ban and attempts to close mosques as witnessed in Austria, are among the main problems.

Anti-Muslim hatred has significantly risen in Europe in the recent years. Far-right extremism and xenophobia have fueled anti-Muslim hatred in Western countries, where terror attacks by Daesh and al-Qaida are used as an excuse to legitimize those views. Although enmity toward Muslims is not a new phenomenon, it intensified after 2001 when two airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City. Since then, for almost two decades, Islam has been unjustly tarnished with labels that have negative connotations and portrayed as a religion of hate and violence with anti-Western sentiment and women's oppression. This trend of intolerance has triggered deadly attacks against Muslims and immigrants since then.

Full report at:



UK Brexit plan has ‘decent chance’ in key vote on Saturday, says Javid

18 October 2019

Britain’s new Brexit deal has a “decent chance” of clearing parliament on Saturday and the alternative is to leave the European Union in two weeks’ time without anything to soften the economic shock, finance minister Sajid Javid said.

Javid rejected calls from some members of parliament for an economic impact assessment of the agreement struck by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the EU earlier on Thursday which now needs approval by lawmakers.

Instead, he said, parliament had to realize that the plan would end the uncertainty that has dogged the world’s fifth-biggest economy since voters decided to leave the EU in 2016.

“It is self-evident that what we have achieved in terms of this deal is the right way forward for the economy, much better than any alternative,” Javid told reporters on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank fall meetings.

Furthermore, Brexit was not just a debate about economics, he said.

“This is also an issue about the fabric of our democracy. People want to see Brexit done. They overwhelmingly prefer to see that done with a good deal and that is what we have achieved,” Javid said.

Lawmakers opposed to Brexit have warned that the prime minister’s plan will hurt the economy.

Last year, Britain’s finance ministry estimated that the hit to growth from a free trade deal with the EU, similar to Johnson’s plan, would be greater than the impact of closer ties proposed by former prime minister Theresa May.

Asked about the Treasury’s research, Javid said it was based on assumptions that did not necessarily apply to the new deal which offered the most promise for striking trade agreements with countries around the world.

Johnson has said he will take Britain out of the EU on October  31, if necessary without a transition deal.

However, British lawmakers have passed legislation that they say would force a Brexit delay rather than a no-deal Brexit.

Javid said he saw a “decent chance” the plan would clear parliament, despite the opposition of a Northern Irish party which has been a key ally of Johnson.

Javid also said the search for the next Bank of England governor was on track and was going “very, very smoothly.”

“I think the most important thing for me is I really, crucially value the independence of the Bank of England and I want someone who values that too and will be independent-minded,” he said, declining to comment further.

On his budget plans, Javid said he believed interest rates would be low for a long time and he reiterated that he was looking at how to take advantage of cheap borrowing costs to increase long-term productive public investment.

Full report at:



EU leaders want to meet with Turkish President Erdogan

Yusuf Ozcan



French President Emmanuel Macron said he decided with German chancellor and British prime minister to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the following weeks.

Speaking in a press conference after EU Leaders' Summit in Brussels on Friday, Emmanuel Macron said they have taken a joint decision over Turkey.

"We stopped weapons exports to Turkey. We decided with [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel and [British Prime Minister Boris] Johnson to meet with President Erdogan in the following weeks. Probably we will meet in London," Macron said.

Macron also said that the foreign terrorists which conducted attacks in Iraq will be tried in Iraq but those who want to return to France from Syria should come back via Turkey.

Full report at:



Turkey’s Erdogan ‘won’t forget’ Trump letter about Syria offensive

Oct 18, 2019

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he won’t forget a letter sent by his US counterpart Donald Trump telling him not to be a “fool” and start a military operation in northern Syria.

The letter, sent on October 9, was leaked to the press the day before Washington and Ankara reached an agreement on Thursday to suspend the Turkish offensive for five days while Kurdish fighters withdraw from the area.

In one paragraph, Mr Trump tells Mr Erdogan that history will look upon him as “the devil” if he invaded Syria, finishing with: “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!”

Trish Regan


EXCLUSIVE: I have obtained a copy of ⁦@realDonaldTrump⁩’s letter to #Erdogan. ⁦@POTUS⁩ warns him to not “be a tough guy! Don’t be a fool!” Says he could destroy Turkey’s economy if #Syria is not resolved in a humane way. Details tonight at 8pm #TrishRegan #FoxBusiness

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1:28 AM - Oct 17, 2019

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Mr Erdogan’s comments on Friday are his first public reaction to the letter.

Speaking to foreign reporters, he said Turkey would “do what’s necessary” about the letter “when the time comes” but did not elaborate further.

He added: “President Trump’s letter, which did not go hand in hand with political and diplomatic courtesy, has appeared in the media. Of course, we haven’t forgotten it. It would not be right for us to forget it.”

The Turkish president threatened to restart the military operation if the Kurdish fighters refused to withdraw from the “safe zone”, areas at least 32 kilometres away from the Turkish border in north-east Syria.

"If the promises are kept until Tuesday evening, the safe zone issue will be resolved. If it fails, the operation... will start the minute 120 hours are over," Mr Erdogan said.

He said Turkish armed forces would remain in the region "because the security there requires this", adding that there had been no issues so far.

But a British-based war monitor said on Friday there were Turkish air strikes on the village of Bab Al Kheir, east of Ras al-Ain on the border. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 14 civilians were killed.

Donald J. Trump


Just spoke to President @RTErdogan of Turkey. He told me there was minor sniper and mortar fire that was quickly eliminated. He very much wants the ceasefire, or pause, to work. Likewise, the Kurds want it, and the ultimate solution, to happen. Too bad there wasn’t.....


9:12 PM - Oct 18, 2019

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Mr Trump spoke to Mr Erdogan over the phone on Friday, tweeting afterwards that the Turkish president "very much wants" the ceasefire to work.



Southeast Asia


A requiem for 'Reformasi' as Joko Widodo unravels Indonesia's democratic legacy

Tim Lindsey

October 18, 2019

It’s deeply ironic that Indonesia’s third president, BJ Habibie, died on September 11 – less than a week before the national legislature passed a law that gutted the highly-regarded Anti-Corruption Commission (KPK), effectively killing it.

On one level, the irony is because Habibie was forced to abandon his attempt to retain the presidency in 1999 precisely because of the type of corruption scandal the KPK has been so successful in uncovering and prosecuting.

Habibie had a flawed record that included his past as a member of Soeharto’s inner clique, his often eccentric behavior, and his grandiose technology projects as Soeharto’s Minister for Research and Technology.

On another level, the irony is because, for all his flaws, Habibie became a key champion of the dramatic reform process that transformed Indonesia between 1999 and 2002 and eventually led to the establishment of the KPK.

Habibie was once a crony of President Soeharto, whose repressive regime lasted three decades to 1998 before Habibie succeeded him. Yet in his 517 days in office, the shortest of any Indonesian president, Habibie presided over some of the most important legal and political changes in his country’s history.

He oversaw the unraveling of his mentor’s corrupt authoritarian system, launching Indonesia on the path towards liberal democracy and a more open and contestable economic and political system.

It is yet another irony that Habibie’s failed candidacy in 1999 proved how much the system had changed under his rule.

The accidental father of democracy

It is often said Habibie had little choice in all this. He began as an unpopular vice-president who found himself in the top office only because Soeharto was forced to step down.

Habibie’s grasp on power was tenuous from the start. Ambitious and jealous rivals surrounded him, including in the military, and Indonesia was erupting into violence amid what was then called “Kristal” – total economic and political crisis (krisis total). On this account, Habibie’s sudden embrace of democratization was simply the only way he could cling to power.

His sternest critics even accuse him of doing so chiefly to allow Soeharto’s New Order elite the chance to reconfigure and guarantee their survival, as most of them did.

There is truth in this, but it’s not the whole truth. Habibie was certainly in a very difficult position when he was sworn in on May 21, 1998. However, he made a decision that some of his rivals – then General Prabowo Subianto, for example - would not have: to embrace the liberal democratic aspirations of the Reformasi movement.

And he did so at considerable political risk, with Prabowo even said to have turned up at the palace with trucks full of soldiers to voice his objections to Habibie’s rule.

I was able to meet Habibie several times during his presidency, and he convinced me that his conversion to Reformasi was genuine. Even then, he insisted democratization would come to be seen as his legacy – something that seemed very unlikely when he left office in 1999.

History was on his side, he said. And after years of self-imposed exile in Germany to let tempers cool, he guaranteed his legacy by publishing his well-received memoir, Decisive Moments. This portrayed him as the determined father of democratization, an image now widely accepted in Indonesia.

Ending the corruption ‘franchise’

Habibie became closely identified with the Reformasi movement, which was determined to end the elaborate corruption “franchise” Soeharto had developed. This tied the political, business and military elite together in a complex web of patronage, much of which is, sadly, still intact.

Soeharto’s corruption franchise allowed Indonesia’s commercial world to be dominated by a tiny group of interconnected families. But pulling this apart could never even be attempted unless Indonesia established something it never had before – an independent, powerful, committed and untouchable anti-graft institution.

To the surprise of many, the KPK, established in 2002, became precisely this. So it’s not hard to understand why the political and commercial elite have always utterly loathed – and feared – it.

Many, like Habibie, are cronies who had survived Soeharto’s fall. Others are newcomers, but just as keen to reap the spoils of power, including by recovering the vast amounts they have to pay to win election or appointment.

All have good reason to hate the KPK.

In more than a thousand prosecutions, it has lost just one. It has used wiretaps and raids to bring down corrupt police, prosecutors, judges, tycoons, bankers, generals, provincial governors, members of every political party, ministers, and even a speaker of the national legislature. It has been hugely successful and is hugely popular with the public as a result.

Politicians have thrown everything they have at the KPK for more than a decade, but it has repeatedly used its popular support to force presidents – including New Order survivor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono – to back it against the elite.

Until now.

Politicians’ efforts to crush the KPK finally bore fruit on September 17, just days after Habibie died.

On that day, the legislature passed a new law that makes wiretaps, searches and seizures impossible without permission of new supervisory board appointed by the president.

Few hold out much hope the current president, Joko Widodo (Jokowi), will appoint a board sympathetic to the KPK’s anti-corruption agenda. In fact, he recently approved the new head of the KPK, a senior police figure who faces allegations of corruption. The board is expected to block investigations and leak like the proverbial sieve.

For weeks, Jokowi has been under intense pressure from civil society and street protesters to issue an emergency decree to revoke the new KPK law, but so far he has declined. This is largely because he’s under even stronger pressure from political parties to keep the law in place.

What’s more, he’s being pressured from the powerful police force, a bitter enemy of the KPK, which he has allowed to gradually place proxies across a host of other key state agencies, from cabinet to the powerful intelligence agency to the national logistics agency, among others.

Undoing Habibie’s legacy

And here lies yet another irony. Jokowi is the first president since Soeharto not to have been a political player under the New Order. He was first elected because he was seen as a cleanskin outsider, not comprised by elite politics.

Yet it is he who has allowed the KPK – a key institution of democratic governance, created by the post-New Order reforms – to be crushed.

That says a lot about where Indonesia stands today, two decades after Habibie’s short but catalytic presidency.

The gutting of the KPK is not an isolated incident. Liberal democracy in Indonesia is now under siege by the elite. The politicians – dominated by major parties tied to wealthy oligarchs and media barons (or both) – have also been pushing hard to introduce a highly regressive new Criminal Code.

This would wind back the press freedoms won under Habibie by making it a criminal offence to criticise the president or the courts.

It would also criminalize all extra-marital sex, a provision that has horrified Australian tourists, but is actually far more threatening to LGBT+ Indonesians who are facing a new wave of persecution across Indonesia.

And it would expand existing blasphemy laws that over the past 10 years have been used with unprecedented frequency to harass minority religions and unorthodox Muslims.

Also on the list is a new cyber security bill that would transform an existing body – headed by a former army general – into a super-agency with extraordinary powers. It could censor the internet, delete material, block sites and slow it or stop it altogether, things Soeharto could only have dreamed of.

Most worrying of all, the political elite are now openly discussing the possibility of constitutional amendments that would reintroduce aspects of Soeharto’s repressive system.

Some have even publicly suggested this could eventually lead to the end of direct public election of the president, putting his selection back in the hands of legislators.

If these laws are passed, Indonesia’s post-Soeharto transition towards liberal democracy will not have much outlived Habibie, who presided over its birth.

Today’s protesters aren’t intimidating the elite

How could all this have happened? The courageous young men and women who led the Reform movement from 1998 to 2002 and beyond are now in their forties and fifties. Most have now moved on from the NGOs and lobby groups that defined the liberal democratic agenda. Their children, netizens with little memory of the evils of the New Order, are now the voice of the people.

In fact, the median age for Indonesians is as low as 31, and as many as 40% are under 24. They like the KPK but perhaps they don’t really understand how important it has been as the litmus test of Indonesian governance.

They have protested in the streets, and three have tragically died, but they haven’t built the enormous numbers – or the anger – that intimidated the elite in the late 1990s.

So, while they have managed to have the proposed Criminal Code put on hold for now, they haven’t been able to force Jokowi to reverse the KPK law, as he could easily do if he wanted.

The cybersecurity law, and a number of other regressive laws, are still on the agenda, as is the disturbing talk of constitutional amendment.

The more you think about it, the more stark the differences are between Habibie and the current president.

Habibie never served a full term, but on October 20, Jokowi will be sworn in for his second five-year term.

Habibie, a member of the elite, aligned himself with a popular reform movement. Jokowi, who presented himself as a man of the people, seems to have aligned himself with the elite against those trying to preserve the reforms.

Against the odds, Habibie cemented himself a place in history as the leader who presided over Indonesia’s transition towards liberal democracy.

The question now is whether history will remember Jokowi for presiding over Indonesia’s slide back towards authoritarianism.


Tim Lindsey, Malcolm Smith Professor of Asian Law and Director of the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society, University of Melbourne



U.S. Commission Cites Malaysia for Alleged Religious Freedom Violations


An independent U.S. commission has accused Malaysia of “religious freedom violations,” citing the abduction of Pastor Raymond Koh and mysterious disappearances of another prominent religious figure and his wife, as well as a social activist.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) extensively mentioned Koh’s disappearance in its new report released Thursday, more than six months after placing Malaysia under its Tier 2 designation for the next most-serious level of religious freedom violations.

USCIRF’s report also came months after Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told reporters he would open a new probe into the disappearances of Koh and social activist Amri Che Mat. His announcement followed a public inquiry that concluded the duo probably were abducted by state agents, including those linked to the national police’s special branch.

“The aforementioned cases are each disturbing in their own right, but together they are emblematic of a wider disregard for fundamental human rights in Malaysia,” USCIRF said referring to Koh and Amri.

In its 234-page report released on April 29, USCIRF placed Malaysia among 12 countries on Tier 2, including Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Laos, and Turkey.

The commission, which was created by Congress 20 years ago, defines Tier 2 as “nations in which the violations engaged in or tolerated by the government.” It noted that Malaysia has been under Tier 2 since 2014 “for engaging in or tolerating religious freedom violations.”

“Pervasive, institutionalized barriers remain in place that prevent Malaysians from practicing their faith or nonbelief in accordance with their conscience,” it said.

Malaysia’s National Human Rights Commission (Suhakam), in announcing the conclusion of its fact-finding mission in April, said Koh and Amri were abducted in similar ways by men wearing black face masks. Their abductions were swift and, in Koh’s abduction, was captured on surveillance cameras.

But the inquiry could not determine what happened to the two men after they were last seen.

Koh was snatched in broad daylight from a road in the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 13, 2017, when men in black SUVs and motorcycles forced his car to stop.

Amri, who is from Perlis, was last seen on Nov 24, 2016. His disappearance may have been religiously motivated based on allegations that he was spreading Shia Muslim teachings, according to local media reports.

Several rights groups had said Koh might have been targeted because religious authorities believed that he was spreading Christianity to Muslims. Evangelizing Muslims is a crime in Malaysia, where 61 percent of the country’s 33 million people are Muslim and about 20 percent are Buddhist.

USCIRF said “a number of prominent Malaysian religious minority leaders have mysteriously disappeared in recent years,” including Pastor Joshua Hilmy and his wife, Ruth. Hilmy converted to Christianity from Islam, while Ruth is an Indonesian and Christian from birth, it said.

In April, Koh’s wife, Susanna, said she would seek information from the police’s Special Branch or she would consider legal action, according to local reports.

Meanwhile, a nonprofit organization has launched an online campaign urging Christians worldwide to sign a petition demanding that the Malaysian government explain his disappearance. The petition has more than 29,800 signatures.

In its new report, USCIRF said that while the Malaysian constitution makes no distinction between Sunni and Shia Islam, in practice, Shia Muslims experience discrimination.

“Malaysian authorities surveil and harass Shia Muslims, ban literature that promotes non-Sunni Islamic beliefs, prohibit public worship or assembly, and threaten arrests for observing Shia Muslim holidays,” it said.

USCIRF's annual reports are different from the U.S. State Department’s annual international religious freedom report, which covers every nation in the world other than the United States. The commission documents 30 countries that have the most significant religious freedom violations and submits its annual report to the White House, the State Department, and Congress.

For 2019, the USCIRF listed 16 countries, including China and Burma, on Tier 1, alleging that such nations were suppressing religious freedom and permitting persecution.

The commission, in its special report on Malaysia, made several recommendations, including for the U.S. government to urge the Malaysian government to remove the religion field from its national ID cards and allow for marriage between Muslims and non-Muslims without conversion.

Full report at:



Report: Malaysian al-Qaeda suspect linked to 9/11 could be out of prison next month

19 Oct 2019


KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 19 ― Malaysian terrorist Yazid Sufaat, the suspect caught with four tons of ammonium nitrate for a planned series of bombings in Singapore in 2000, could be freed from prison next month, The Straits Times reported.

The 55-year-old US-trained biochemist is expected to be released from Simpang Renggam prison where he had spent two years in detention under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota), which allows the authorities to detain a suspect without trial for that period of time.

Yazid, said to be a member of the Jemaah Islamiah terror network, has been imprisoned three times in the past 17 years for terrorist-related activities.

“The final decision to release him has not been made yet by the Prevention of Terrorism Board, but his detention period will expire this November,” Bukit Aman counter-terrorism chief Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay told The Straits Times.

“Whether or not the detention order will be extended, the decision will be made before the expected date of release.”

Ayob declined to reveal the exact date.

In the 1990s, Yazid attempted to cultivate and load anthrax onto weapons in Afghanistan.

His house in Kuala Lumpur was also used by senior al-Qaeda members for meetings, one of which discussed plans to crash planes in the United States on September 11, 2001, news media reported.

He is the only Malaysian with direct links to the attacks.

Despite spending almost two decades behind bars and undergoing an extensive deradicalisation programme, Yazid was reported to remain totally unrepentant.

Ayob said that Yazid has the ability to easily recruit and incite people despite his limited knowledge of Islam.

The convicted militant is said to have distorted verses of the Quran ― Islam's holy scripture ― to justify his terror acts.

“At Tapah prison, some inmates were radicalised by him, that’s how dangerous he is. Till this day, Yazid remains the most challenging militant for us to rehabilitate,” Ayob said.

Yazid, a former army captain, was first arrested in 2002 under the Internal Security Act (ISA). He was released in 2008 after undergoing rehabilitation and showed signs of “remorse” and “repentance”.

But just five years later, he was detained for the second time under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) ― the legislation that replaced the ISA ― for recruiting new members for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

He served a four-year sentence in Perak's Tapah prison.

Yazid was again arrested in December 2017 under Pota after the authorities found that he had been recruiting fellow inmates for al-Qaeda while in jail.

Throughout the years as a militant, Yazid reportedly held weekly religious classes in 2012 at his house in Ampang, Selangor, where he recruited several individuals including a then 21-year-old man, Muhamad Razin Sharhan Mustafa Kamal.

Full report at:



Indonesia nabs dozens of alleged militants, foils terrorist plots ahead of presidential inauguration


by Mulyanda Djohan Adnan

JAKARTA, Oct. 17 (Xinhua) -- Indonesian counter-terrorism squad has arrested dozens of alleged terrorists, thwarted scores of their plots and beefed up security ahead of inauguration of the country's new president.

Incumbent President Joko Widodo and his running mate Ma'aruf Amin won the April 17 presidential polls after beating rival former general Prabowo Subianto and his mate Sandiaga Uno, the winning pair is scheduled to take oath of the office on Sunday at a ceremony in Jakarta, the country's capital.

As many as 36 alleged militants have been arrested by the anti-terror squad, known as Detachment 88, across the country, including the country's tourism center of Bali resort island, since days ago, spokesman of national police Brigadier General Dedi Prasetyo said.

Among the militants arrested was Abu Rara, who with his spouse stabbed Indonesian Chief Security Minister Wiranto on Oct. 10 in Banten province, according to police.

One local police chief and a civilian were also wounded during the attack by the alleged militants who are believed to be members of an outlawed Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) which claims allegiance to the IS group in Iraq and Syria, according to the police.

Most of the militants arrested by the squad were members of the cell affiliated with IS group, the spokesman revealed.

"We ensure that this group is loyal to IS group. Some of their members have been already arrested and some others are still at large," the spokesman said on Wednesday in Cosmo Amorossa Hotel, stressing that the squad keeps pursuing alleged militants across the country.

More than 31,000 police personnel and soldiers would be dispatched in an effort to boost security ahead and during the inauguration of President Jokowi, the popular name of the president, albeit there was no warning of possible strikes, he said.

During the crackdown against the militants, the anti-terror squad has seized pipe bombs, explosives, knives, airsoft guns and documents outlining the terrorist attack plots, according to the police.

In Cirebon district of West Java province, the police have found out that alleged militants had been working on chemical bombs containing methanol, the police cited.

Police office headquarters and worship places are among the target of the militants, and in recent years, the militants in the country have mostly shifted their target to government's top officials, policemen and worship places from Western and foreign targets.

Full report at:



Singapore hands down first conviction for terror financing

Oct 18, 2019

SINGAPORE: A Singaporean man became the first of the country's citizens to be jailed for financing terrorism after he was convicted of sending money to a radical Islamist preacher.

There have been a steady stream of arrests in Singapore related to support for Islamist extremism, and the affluent city-state's leaders have warned it is a prime target for an attack.

Ahmed Hussein Abdul Kadir Sheik Uduman was jailed for two and a half years for donating Sg$1,146 ($840) to Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal, an Islamist preacher living in Jamaica, according to court documents seen by AFP Friday.

Hussein reached out to Faisal after watching videos on his website and YouTube channels in which he preached support for the Islamic State (IS) group.

Faisal was jailed for nine years in Britain in 2003 after calling for the murders of non-Muslims and was deported to his native Jamaica after serving four years of his sentence.

Hussein, who was handed a prison term Thursday, was arrested in July 2018 under Singapore's Internal Security Act, which allows for detention without trial for up to two years.

He had been radicalised and "wanted to undertake armed violence in Syria in support of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria," court documents said. The prosecution recommended jail time to send "a strong message to other like-minded individuals that supporting terrorist propaganda through financial means will attract uncompromising punishment", they said.

In September, authorities detained three Indonesian maids without trial over allegations they donated funds to support IS. And in July, two Singaporeans accused of intending to join the jihadists were arrested.

Full report at:



Malaysia trying to cool controversy over varsity head's pro-Malay views and right to protest

OCT 18, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR -Malaysia's Education Ministry is mediating between a graduate and his university in a raging controversy over strong pro-Malay views uttered by the school's vice-chancellor and the right to protest against it.

Universiti Malaya's (UM) Wong Yan Ke received his scroll on stage on Monday (Oct 14) during its convocation ceremony.



Indonesia grapples with how to deradicalise suicide bombers' children

October 19, 2019

MEDAN, Indonesia: Ais likes to dance. She knows the words to “I’m a Little Teapot.” Her dimples are disarming.

Her parents didn’t want their daughter to dance. They didn’t want her to sing. They wanted her to die with them for their cause.

Last year, when she was 7, Ais squeezed onto a motorcycle with her mother and brother. They carried a packet that Ais refers to as coconut rice wrapped in banana leaves. Her father and other brother climbed onto a different bike with another parcel. They sped toward a police station in the Indonesian city of Surabaya, a place of mixed faith.

The parcels were bombs, and they were set off at the gate to the police station. Catapulted off the motorcycle by the force of the explosion, Ais rose from the pavement like a ghost, her pale head-to-toe garment fluttering in the chaos. Every other member of her family died. No bystanders were killed. The Islamic State militant group, halfway across the world, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Ais, who is being identified by her nickname (pronounced ah-iss) to protect her privacy, is now part of a deradicalisation programme for children run by the Indonesian Ministry of Social Affairs. In a leafy compound in the capital, Jakarta, she bops to Taylor Swift, reads the Quran and plays games of trust.

Her schoolmates include children of other suicide bombers, and of people who were intent on joining the Islamic State in Syria.

Efforts by Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population, to purge its society of religiously inspired extremism are being watched keenly by the international counterterrorism community. While the vast majority of Indonesians embrace a moderate form of Islam, a series of suicide attacks has struck the nation, including, in 2016, the first in the region claimed by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

Now, with hundreds of Islamic State families trying to escape detention camps in Syria amid Turkish incursions into Kurdish-held territory, the effort has taken on more urgency. The fear is that the Islamic State’s violent ideology will not only renew itself in the Middle East, but may also metastasize thousands of miles away in Indonesia.

There are signs that it is already happening.

Last week, a man whom the police linked to ISIS wounded the Indonesian security minister, Wiranto, in a stabbing. Since then, at least 36 suspected militants who were plotting bombings and other attacks have been arrested in a counterterrorism crackdown, the police said this week.

Hundreds of Indonesians went to Syria to fight for ISIS. In May, the police arrested seven men who had returned from the country and who, the police say, were part of a plot to use Wi-Fi to detonate explosive devices.

The risks, however, are not limited to those who have come back. Indonesians who never left the region are being influenced by the Islamic State from afar.

In January, an Indonesian couple who had tried but failed to reach Syria blew themselves up at a Roman Catholic cathedral in the southern Philippines. More than 20 were killed in the attack, which was claimed by the Islamic State.

In Indonesia, there are thousands of vulnerable children who have been indoctrinated by their extremist parents, according to Khairul Ghazali, who served nearly five years in prison for terrorism-related crimes. He said he came to renounce violence in jail and now runs an Islamic school in the city of Medan, on the island of Sumatra, that draws on his own experience as a former extremist to deradicalise militants’ children.

“We teach them that Islam is a peaceful religion and that jihad is about building not destroying,” Khairul said. “I am a model for the children because I understand where they come from. I know what it is like to suffer. Because I was deradicalised, I know it can be done.”

Despite the scale of the country’s problem, only about 100 children have attended formal deradicalisation programmes in Indonesia, Khairul said. His madrassa, the only one in Indonesia to recei

ve significant government support for deradicalisation work, can teach just 25 militant-linked children at a time, and only through middle school.

Government follow-up is minimal. “The children are not tracked and monitored when they leave,” said Alto Labetubun, an Indonesian terrorism analyst.

When Indonesia achieved independence in 1945, religious diversity was enshrined in the constitution. About 87 per cent of Indonesia’s 270 million people are Muslims, 10 per cent are Christian, and there are adherents of many other faiths in the country.

A tiny fraction of the Muslim majority has agitated violently for a caliphate that would arc across Muslim-dominated parts of Southeast Asia. The latest incarnation of such militant groups is Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, considered the Indonesian affiliate of the Islamic State.

The parents of Ais, who is now 8, were members of a Jamaah Ansharut Daulah cell. Each week, they would pray with other families who had rejected Surabaya’s spiritual diversity.

The day before Ais and her family rode up to the police station in May 2018, another family — mother, father, two sons and two daughters — made their way to three churches in Surabaya and detonated their explosives. Fifteen bystanders were killed. The militant family was extinguished entirely, including the two girls, who went to school with Ais.

Hours later, members of two other families in the prayer group also died, either from shootouts with the police or when explosives hidden in their apartment detonated. The six children who survived the carnage are now in the Jakarta programme with Ais.

When they first arrived from Surabaya, the children shrank from music and refrained from drawing images of living things because they believed it conflicted with Islam, social workers said. They were horrified by dancing and by a Christian social worker who didn’t wear a head scarf.

In Surabaya, the children had been forced to watch hours of militant videos every day. One of the boys, now 11, knew how to make a bomb.

“Jihad, martyrdom, war, suicide, those were their goals,” said Sri Wahyuni, one of the social workers taking care of the Surabaya children.

Some day soon, these children of suicide bombers will have to leave the government programme in which they have been enrolled for 15 months. It’s not clear where they will go, although the ministry is searching for a suitable Islamic boarding school for them.

The children of those who tried to reach Syria to fight get even less time at the deradicalisation centre — only a month or two. Some then end up in the juvenile detention system, where they re-encounter extremist ideology, counterterrorism experts said.

“We spend all this time working with them, but if they go back to where they came from, radicalism can enter their hearts very quickly,” said Sri Musfiah, a senior social worker. “It makes me worried.”

Full report at:



Arab World


Saudi Shoura delegation participates in Inter-Parliamentary Union meetings in Serbia

October 18, 2019

BELGRADE: The 141st General Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) concluded its work with the participation of the Saudi Shoura Council delegation headed by Dr. Abdullah Al-Asheikh in Belgrade, Serbia.

The IPU affirmed its commitment to peace, stressing that international law is the basis for an international order based on solidarity and cooperation.

The IPU pledged to support regional cooperation that would help to improve the international legal system and allow for the full implementation of its common obligations.

Al-Asheikh reaffirmed the keenness of Saudi Arabia to take part in the parliamentary forums, which reflects the Kingdom’s position and its important role in achieving security, peace and stability, in both the region and the world.



Lebanese PM Hariri gives ‘government partners’ 72 hours to back reforms

18 October 2019

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri said on Friday that his “partners in the government” had 72 hours to show that they are serious about reforms, or he will take a different approach.

In his first address as protests rage for the second day in the capital Beirut and other cities across the country, Hariri criticized government partners for holding up reforms and causing the protests.

“The Lebanese people have given us many chances and expected reform and job opportunities,” said Hariri.

“We can no longer wait for our partners in government to start working on the solution,” he said. The statements could put the future of the current Lebanese government into question.

Hariri currently heads a multi-party government which includes his Future Party movement and rivals the Iran-backed Hezbollah and the Future Patriotic Movement.

“The country is going through an unprecedented, difficult time,” added Hariri, who attempted to reassure protesters that reforms do not necessarily mean taxes.

Full report at:



Syria Cease-Fire Tested by Fighting, Questions About Buffer Zone

Oct. 18, 2019

The fate of the cease-fire agreement negotiated by the U.S. and Turkey in northeastern Syria was uncertain Friday, as skirmishes erupted between Turkish and Syrian Kurdish forces and questions arose about the boundaries of a buffer zone from which the Kurds are expected to withdraw.

President Trump said his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, told him in a phone call that “minor sniper and mortar fire” had stopped. Mr. Erdogan dismissed the clash reports as “disinformation.” A U.S. official said most of the fighting...



Clashes and Confusion Mar Attempt at Cease-Fire in Syria

By Patrick Kingsley and Carlotta Gall

Oct. 18, 2019

ISTANBUL — Sporadic fighting continued in northern Syria on Friday, casting uncertainty over an American-brokered truce, as conflicting reports emerged about whether Kurdish forces were retreating or hunkering down and whether Turkish troops were advancing or holding fire.

Clashes continued on and off in the vicinity of a strategic Syrian border town, despite President Trump hailing the cease-fire, announced on Thursday night by Vice President Mike Pence, as “an incredible outcome.”

Mr. Pence had promised that fighting would halt for five days to allow Syrian Kurdish forces to evacuate a central pocket of northern Syria that Turkey wants to wrest from Kurdish control.

But though fighting eased, gunfire could still be heard in the area of Ras al-Ain, a town next to the Turkish-Syrian border, during the early morning and early afternoon. By nightfall the Kurdish military leadership said its forces remained in a “defensive position” in the places they had been deployed when the cease-fire was agreed — contradicting Turkish and American claims that they had started to retreat, as required by the terms of the deal.

Most international news organizations were absent from the battlefield, leaving a dearth of independent information about the situation, which everyone from the lowliest militiaman to the most senior politician had an interest in interpreting to their favor.

Around midday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey denied any fighting had taken place, hours after the Kurdish leadership said it was being shelled by Turkish forces. Then Mr. Trump tweeted that Mr. Erdogan had conceded by phone that there had been, briefly, “minor” sniper and mortar fire.

What was clear by nightfall was that the cease-fire’s desired outcome — a complete cessation of hostilities and the withdrawal of Kurdish troops from part of northern Syria — had not yet fully taken place.

Should Kurdish forces remain in position by Tuesday night, Turkey has pledged to renew its full-scale assault, which began on Oct. 9.

“If the United States can keep its promise, in 120 hours the issue of the safe zone will be resolved,” Mr. Erdogan told reporters at a news briefing in Istanbul. “If not, the operation will continue where we left off.”

The stuttering nature of the cease-fire raised further concerns about the United States’ waning influence on the outcome of Syria’s eight-year civil war.

These fears were compounded on Friday when Mr. Erdogan issued a menacing response to a private letter sent by Mr. Trump to the Turkish president on the day the invasion began.

“Don’t be a tough guy,” Mr. Trump had written, in a letter characterized by informal language rarely seen in diplomatic communications.

Mr. Erdogan responded publicly to the letter for the first time on Friday, saying that his country “cannot forget” the harshly worded communiqué, since it was “not in harmony with political and diplomatic niceties.”

“We also want it to be known that, when the time comes, the necessary response will be taken,” Mr. Erdogan said. However, he also noted that the issue was not a current priority for Turkey.

The Turkish government defines the Kurdish militia that controls most of northern Syria as a terrorist group, and Mr. Erdogan hailed the planned withdrawal as a victory over it. He also said that Turkey would establish 12 observation points in a 20-mile deep buffer zone along a 250-mile stretch of the border east of the Euphrates River.

American troops would remain in southeastern Syria and would maintain control of the airspace of the entire northeastern zone, said Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for the Turkish president.

Responding to the claims that Turkey had violated the truce, Mr. Erdogan told a reporter after leaving Friday prayers at a mosque in Istanbul: “I do not know where you get your information from. Conflict is out of the question.”

But Mr. Trump posted on Twitter Friday afternoon that Mr. Erdogan had told him in a phone call that “there was minor sniper and mortar fire that was quickly eliminated.”

Nevertheless, Mr. Trump dismissed concerns about the viability of the cease-fire. “There is good will on both sides & a really good chance for success,” he said.

Mr. Trump also said that some European states were now prepared to take back European citizens from the Islamic State who are currently incarcerated in Kurdish prisons, allaying concerns that they might be released during the fighting.

“This is good news, but should have been done after WE captured them,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “Anyway, big progress being made!!!!”

Military positions in northern Syria as of Oct. 18

Turkish Army and Syrian opposition Syrian Army deployed  Closing U.S. military bases and outposts Russian bases

Gunfire continued to be heard in Ras al-Ain midafternoon by members of a civilian convoy attempting to reach the city, according to Robin Fleming, an American researcher traveling with the convoy.

Watching the town from a nearby hilltop shortly before 1 p.m., Ms. Fleming said she could see smoke rising from the town and hear gunshots, but no artillery.

The convoy ultimately turned back before reaching the town because of fears of attack by Turkish-led Arab militias.

Turkish-led forces also prevented a convoy of international aid workers from gaining access to Ras al-Ain to treat people wounded in the fighting, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an independent war monitor based in Britain.

Ras al-Ain has been the site of the fiercest clashes since Turkish troops invaded Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria early last week.

On Friday, Kurdish health officials said they were investigating whether six civilians in the town had been hit by chemical weapons during Turkish airstrikes. Photographs shared by the Kurdish Red Crescent, a medical charity working in the area, showed at least two children with burns on their faces.

Mr.  Erdogan denied the claim and said the Turkish Army had no chemical weapons in its inventory. He accused the main Syrian Kurdish militia, the Y.P.G., of sowing disinformation also about civilian casualties and accusation of war crimes committed by Turkish-backed Syrian forces. 

But Amnesty International, a global rights watchdog, accused the Turkish military and Arab militias fighting under its command of carrying out “serious violations and war crimes, including summary killings and unlawful attacks that have killed and injured civilians.”

In a statement, Amnesty’s secretary general, Kumi Naidoo, added: “Turkish military forces and their allies have displayed an utterly callous disregard for civilian lives, launching unlawful deadly attacks in residential areas that have killed and injured civilians.”

At least 218 civilians in northern Syria have died since the invasion began, according to the Kurdish authorities. A further 20 have been killed in Turkey by Kurdish mortar attacks, Mr. Erdogan said.

Turkey wants to force out the Syrian Kurdish militia that has used the chaos of the conflict to establish an autonomous region across roughly a quarter of Syrian territory. The militia is an offshoot of a guerrilla group that has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey. The Turks view the group as a terrorist organization.

Since 2014, the group had operated under the protection of the United States military, which partnered with the Kurdish fighters to help sweep the Islamic State from the region and, in the process, allowed the Kurdish militia to control most of the land lining the Turkish-Syrian border.

But after Mr. Trump abruptly ordered the withdrawal of United States troops from the border this month, ending their protection of the Kurdish fighters, Turkish forces invaded with the aim of establishing a Turkish-friendly zone, roughly 20 miles deep, along the border.

By Friday, the Turkish troops had captured around 850 square miles of Syrian territory, Mr. Erdogan said in his speech.

The deal announced on Thursday by Mr. Pence and Mr. Pompeo effectively gave American assent to Turkish territorial ambitions in part of the area, handing Turkey a huge diplomatic victory and completing the sudden reversal of a central plank of American policy in the Middle East.

It was sealed without the involvement of the Syrian or Russian governments, to whom the Kurdish authorities turned for protection after the American evacuation and the onslaught of Turkish-led forces.

On Friday, Mr. Erdogan said he would discuss the future of the rest of northeastern Syria with Vladimir V. Putin of Russia at a meeting in Sochi on Tuesday.

“Our aim is to reach a reconciliation with Russia about those matters that are reasonable and acceptable to everyone,” Mr. Erdogan said.

Hwaida Saad contributed reporting from Beirut, Lebanon, and Lara Jakes from Jerusalem.

Patrick Kingsley is an international correspondent, based in Berlin. He previously covered migration and the Middle East for The Guardian. @PatrickKingsley

Full report at:



France, Iraq diplomats hold talks on ISIL prisoners in Syria

17 Oct 2019

Iraq's top diplomat has said Baghdad will take back its citizens suspected of fighting with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) in Syria, while urging home countries of other detainees to also take the "needed measures".

Mohammed Ali al-Hakim's comments on Thursday followed talks with his French counterpart, Jean-Yves le Drian, who was in Baghdad to discuss the fate of thousands of suspected ISIL members held in makeshift prisons in northeast Syria following a Turkish offensive in the region.

"We discussed the situation in Syria and Iraq is taking all measures to prevent foreign fighters from crossing through the border into Iraq," al-Hakim told a news conference.

"The number of the foreign fighters in Syria is very high, and they are from up to 72 countries. These countries should take necessary measures toward their citizens," he said, a move that signals Baghdad will not accept those who came from around the world to Iraq and Syria to join the armed group.

Iraq will repatriate its own citizens and put them on trial, he added.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) says it is holding about 12,000 suspected ISIL fighters in northeast Syria. They include 2,000 foreigners, of which 800 are Europeans.

SDF is also holding tens of thousands of women, many of them wives and widows of ISIL members, and their children. The Kurdish-led forces, however, have warned they might not be able to adequately guard the ISIL fighters because of Turkey's military operation in northeast Syria. Over the weekend, the SDF said some 780 ISIL supporters fled a camp for the displaced in the Syrian town of Ain Issa.

Ankara considers the Kurdish forces as "terrorists" and said its operation, launched last week, is aimed at pushing back the SDF from the Turkey-Syria border.

France and other European countries have warned the Turkish offensive could lead to a revival of ISIL, which once held large parts of Iraq and Syria.

The armed group was defeated in Iraq two years ago and in Syria in March. but its sleeper cells have continued to carry out attacks in both countries.

Thursday's meeting between French and Iraqi foreign ministers in Baghdad came a day after France's President Emmanuel Macron said ISIL foreign fighters who might flee Syrian detention centres and go to Iraq should be arrested and sent to trial there.

Some Iraqi politicians oppose the call.

Influential Shia leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, previously said the Iraqi government must not take foreign fighters, as "we are not ready to spend money on them".

Le Drian, speaking alongside al-Hakim on Thursday, said the international coalition that fought ISIL in Iraq and Syria must confront the "new risks created by the Turkish intervention".

He later met Iraqi President Barham Salih, who called on the international community to support Iraq so that it can preserve its security by preventing ISIL from resuming its activities.

Hundreds of foreigners have been sentenced to death or life imprisonment in Iraq for belonging to ISIL.

Eleven French suspects who were handed over to Iraqi authorities early this year by the SDF were sentenced to death by a court in Baghdad.

Full report at:



Egypt dismisses 1,070 teachers in extremism fight

Menna A. Farouk

October 17, 2019

Egypt has announced the dismissal of 1,070 teachers for belonging to the terrorist-labeled Muslim Brotherhood after they were convicted in court, with some even sentenced to death. The announcement came as part of a government crackdown on extremist ideology and terrorism.

At an Oct. 7 press conference at the general office of Egypt’s Ministry of Education in Cairo, Education Minister Tarek Shawki said the ministry had decided to dismiss 1,070 teachers working in public schools because of their extremist ideas.

He said these teachers have been sentenced by courts; he said the dismissal of the teachers “aims to counter destructive and extremist ideas and preserve the future of students.”

Shawki said those fired were “unfit to be educators.”

Shawki also said that on Oct. 16, he will launch the largest electronic portal for teachers to apply for jobs at public and private schools in Egypt.

He said a new competition will be open for temporary one-year contracts with 120,000 teachers to fill the deficit at schools, provided that the required papers are submitted through the portal. The minister also said the Ministry of Education will finance these contracts from its financial resources.

Analysts and education experts say that the Muslim Brotherhood, since its inception in Egypt in March 1928, has focused on penetrating educational institutions. They have cited that the group's founder, Hassan al-Banna, was an Arabic teacher at an elementary school in Ismailia in northern Egypt.

Tarek Nour el-Deen, former undersecretary of the Ministry of Education, said the Muslim Brotherhood tried to penetrate state institutions, especially education, after the revolution of Jan. 25, 2011, taking advantage of the rise of political Islam to power before it was toppled in July 2013.

“The Brotherhood now targets young primary school students in order to keep their extremist ideology in Egyptian society,” Nour el-Deen told Al-Monitor.

In TV statements Oct. 7, Egypt’s deputy minister of education for teacher affairs Mohamed Omar said the dismissed teachers had adopted extremist ideas. Some of the teachers had been sentenced to death before they were dismissed; others are fugitives.

"The Ministry of Education was hacked after 2011, and there was an attempt to breach the curriculum. Procedures are continuing to cleanse the system of the group’s members,” Omar said during a telephone interview on Sada el-Balad TV channel.

 Some experts say that the existence of some Muslim Brotherhood members at Egyptian schools would cost the government billions of dollars in losses.

“Those members can cause damages to the education process, especially now since it is undergoing a modernization process. The students are using modern technology like tablets and those individuals can make it difficult for students to understand or use [those tablets] due to their political orientation,” Ahmed el-Shami, an economist and a professor of feasibility studies at Ain Shams University, told Al-Monitor.

However, Shami added that other future dismissal cases should take place using great care and without being unjust to some people.

“Thorough investigations should take place and those who have been 100% proven to be disseminating extremist ideas and have been sentenced in court should be dismissed,” he said.

Shami said that since teachers who were fired had already been sentenced to prison terms, their dismissal is routine.

Many students and parents saw the decision as necessary and essential. “Of course, I would not feel safe when my child is being taught about extremist ideology at school. Schools are places for promoting morals and good conduct and not disseminating ideas about terrorism and extremism,” Marwa Hussein, a mother of three children, said.

She added that the educational curriculum on religion at schools and also at universities such as Al-Azhar University should be closely monitored by the Egyptian Ministry of Education.

In 2018, a comprehensive development and overhaul of courses and curriculums in the various stages of education in Al-Azhar institutes — from kindergarten to high school — took place, especially in subjects covering culture, the law and Arab matters, according to the official website of Al-Azhar.

The overhaul also included the establishment of a specialized council for the development of pre-university education, Al-Azhar added.

However, a teacher who requested anonymity told Al-Monitor that the government move comes as part of efforts aimed at reducing the number of civil servants and thus reducing costs. “It is actually both about strangling political freedoms and at the same time reducing the burden on government expenses,” he added.

Full report at:



Lebanon in lock down as protesters demand new government

18 October 2019

Protesters have called on the Lebanese government to resign after unpopular new tax proposals sparked two days of mass demonstrations.

The protests are of unprecedented nature in the mediterranean country, with people of all sects calling for the same demands and taking on the established political order.

One protester died in the Lebanese city of Tripoli, after the bodyguards of a former lawmaker allegedly fired at a demonstration to disperse the protesters, with local media saying that the army arrested one of the shooters.

Throughout Thursday night, protesters in Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square burned anything they could lay their hands on including advertising billboards, construction material, tires and trees.

Some protesters removed street signs and used them as battering rams against advertising units and shop fronts while young men on motorcycles dodged broken glass to feed the blaze with fresh bottles of gasoline.

The anarchic scenes in central Beirut continued throughout Friday, as young men declared that the protests would not end until the government resigned.

Al Arabiya English


Happening now: Lebanese protesters throw empty water bottles and bottle bombs at security forces while chanting “the people demand the regime’s fall.” …

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7:47 PM - Oct 18, 2019

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“This is not the first protest in Beirut. But it could be the first step of a movement because today all the sects have come out into the streets: Muslim, Christian, Druze. We are all striking with one fist,” 28 year old Hasan from Beirut told Al Arabiya English.

People of all religious and political stripes attended the protests, unified in their anger toward the country’s precarious economic situation and widespread corruption among the political class.

Similar unrest has spread across the country, with thousands gathering in Tripoli’s main square according to videos shared on social media. Elsewhere in Beirut protesters blocked major roads and burned trash. Many Beirutis stayed at home, fearing damage to their cars and personal safety.

Economic anger

Anger has been building for weeks over an alleged shortage of US dollars within Lebanon’s highly dollarized economy. The unofficial exchange rate has soared above the authorized trading band of LBP 1,501-1,514 to the dollar, causing fears of bread and fuel shortages.

“Last month the dollar crisis, last week the fuel crisis and the bread crisis. The Lebanese people can no longer take it,” said Mohammed, a chef from North Lebanon’s rural Dinnieh.

Mohammed was forced to move to Beirut to find a job. He struggles to make enough money to pay rent in a city where 25 percent of apartments built since 1996 are empty.

“Now the telecommunications ministry comes out and says we are going to charge you for Whatsapp,” he continued.

At a Cabinet session Thursday, Lebanese ministers approved an unpopular per day fee for using internet-based phone calls over services like WhatsApp. The government is also considering raising value-added tax as part of the 2020 austerity budget, in an attempt to bring Lebanon’s budget deficit to 7 percent of GDP in 2020.

Lebanon has the third highest debt-to-GDP ratio in the world, at around 150 percent. International credit rating agency Fitch downgraded Lebanon’s economy in August to CCC, suggesting that the country will only be able to pay back its debts under favorable conditions.

The proposed Whatsapp tax was enough to spark nationwide protests; and yet Whatsapp and other social media platforms such as Facebook helped galvanize protesters, some of whom were as young as 15.

“It is revolution across all of Lebanon. It is not the first time it has happened, but this time it is on a bigger scale. The country is trash and the wages are rubbish,” said one bare-chested teenager.

Demanding a new government

The protests represent a major challenge to Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government, who cancelled the scheduled Friday cabinet meeting in response to the protests. Hariri is set to speak later this evening.

Lebanon’s Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) leader Walid Joumblatt, a historical ally of Hariri, has called on his supporters to “peacefully” join the protests against the Lebanese government, advising PSP members to protest within the party’s areas to “avoid sensitivities.” Relations between the two party leaders have recently been strained, after a Twitter spat over the summer.

A common demand by demonstrators is a rerun of last year’s parliamentary elections.

“The MPs we voted to power haven’t done anything for us. I don’t have faith in a single MP… wherever there is money, they take it. Even the taxes we pay go into their pockets not into the state. If it went to the state, Lebanon would be in excellent health,” continued Mohammed.

Full report at:



Iraqi govt. source challenges IRGC’s story of arrest of Iranian dissident

18 October 2019

An Iraqi government source has challenged the story of the arrest of an Iranian opposition journalist put forward by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Ruhollah Zam, who Iran’s IRGC claimed to have captured in a “complex operation,” was in fact arrested by Iraqi intelligence services in Baghdad and handed over to Iran, according to an Iraqi government source cited by media reports.

The IRGC claimed on Monday that it arrested opposition figure Zam, who ran “counter-revolutionary” Telegram channel Amadnews, in a “sophisticated and professional operation.”

The statement did not say when or where he was arrested, but hours later, state-run TV showed Zam saying that he is full of “regret” for his opposition to the Islamic Republic.

Media reports have now surfaced that challenge the IRGC’s account of the events.

Zam was arrested by Iraqi intelligence services – not the IRGC – shortly after landing in Baghdad on Saturday and later handed over to Iran, according to the Persian services of Al Arabiya, the BBC and the Independent, who based their reports on an “informed source in the Iraqi government.”

Zam was kept with the Iraqi intelligence service for over a day and then handed over to Iran based on an extradition agreement signed between the two countries in 2011, said the source.

Zam’s wife Mahsa Razani confirmed that her husband had flown to Iraq. She had not heard from him for a day, and then later had a phone conversation with him where he did not speak “normally,” she told the BBC Persian.

Zam was among thousands arrested during the 2009 Iranian presidential elections protests. He fled the country after being released and was granted political asylum in France.

Zam’s father is cleric Mohammad-Ali Zam, a reformist politician who served in senior government positions in the 1980s and 1990s.

According to the Iraqi source, when the plane carrying Zam landed in Baghdad on Saturday, he was not allowed to get off the plane.

Zam was arrested at 03:30 AM local time and was handed over to the Iranian authorities over a day later, the source added.

Zam was transferred to Iran by land, according to the source.

The Iraqi intelligence service had no long-term knowledge of any plan to arrest Zam and received a last-minute request to arrest Zam from the Iranians – presumably in line with the extradition agreement – on Thursday, October 11.

Zam was interrogated by Iranians after his arrest in Iraq, the source added.

Full report at:



Kuwait, Egypt, US, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain issue warnings to citizens in Lebanon

18 October 2019

The embassies of Kuwait, Egypt, the US, and Saudi Arabia in Lebanon have asked their citizens on Friday to avoid crowds amid protests against the country’s government.

“The embassy also calls on citizens currently in Lebanon to take utmost care and stay away from crowds and demonstrations,” the Kuwaiti Embassy said in its tweet.

"The embassy calls on all Egyptian citizens in Lebanon to avoid the areas of gatherings and protests, to be careful in their movements and to abide by the instructions of the Lebanese authorities in this regard," Egyptian state news agency MENA said.

Meanwhile, due to the road closures and unrest, the US Embassy has temporarily restricted off-compound movement of its personnel and instructed its citizens in the country to avoid crowds and areas of demonstration.

Saudi Arabia also instructed its citizens to quickly communicate with it for preparations to leave Lebanon.

Bahrain foreign ministry called on its citizens in Lebanon to leave immediately, the ministry said in a tweet..

Full report at:



Saudi Arabia prepares to evacuate citizens from Lebanon

18 October 2019

Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Beirut began operations on Friday to evacuate its citizens due to the disturbances in Lebanon, according to a communique.

The embassy had asked its citizens to quickly communicate with it for preparations to leave Lebanon.

The embassy allocated a local hotel located on the coastal side of the capital Beirut as a meeting pont for its citizens, visitors and residents, in order to transport them to the Beirut international airport for evacuation to the Kingdom.

The Saudi embassy had earlier on Friday called on its citizens to avoid places where protests are taking place.

Full report at:



Syrian army secures border crossings in strategic city of Kobani

Oct 19, 2019

The Syrian government forces have entered the strategic Kurdish-populated city of Kobani in the face of an ongoing military offensive by Turkish soldiers and allied militants against Kurdish forces in the northern part of the war-battered Arab country.

The Syrian troops arrived in Kobani, officially Ayn al-Arab, on Wednesday as part of an agreement between the government of President Bashar al-Assad and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

Based on the deal, army troops are deployed at the border to confront the Turkish military campaign against the Kurds.

Reports also suggest that Syrian troops have entered several new villages on the outskirts of the town of Tal Tamer in Hasakah province.

They earlier entered the city of Raqqah, the former de facto capital of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in Syria, for the first time in five years and installed some checkpoints there.

On Monday, Syrian government forces arrived in the towns of Tabqa, on the outskirts of Raqqah, and Ayn Isa, which served as the headquarters of the Kurdish-led autonomous administration in northeastern Syria and is located 32 kilometers (20 miles) from the Turkish border.

The shift by Kurdish forces under Turkish fire came after President Donald Trump’s abrupt decision in recent days to withdraw US troops from northeastern Syria, leaving Kurdish forces that had allied with the US-led military coalition purportedly fighting the Daesh terror group vulnerable to Turkish offensive.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Wednesday that government troops and Kurdish militants were “fighting together” against Turkish-sponsored militants northeast of Ayn Issa.

On Thursday, Ankara agreed to a five-day ceasefire to allow for the withdrawal of Kurdish forces from northeastern Syria.

Over a dozen civilians have been killed in sporadic clashes in northeastern Syria despite Ankara's announcement of the ceasefire.

According to the so-called Observatory, 14 civilians lost their lives on Friday in Turkish airstrikes and mortar fires in and around the flashpoint border town of Ra’s al-Ayn.

On Friday, Syrian President al-Assad demanded a complete halt to Turkey's operation against Kurdish forces, and a full withdrawal of foreign forces illegally present in Syrian territories.

Full report at:



International community must carry out joint efforts to eradicate poverty, says Saudi diplomat

October 18, 2019

NEW YORK: Nadin bin Hamza Al-Awfi, second secretary and member of Saudi Arabia’s permanent mission to the UN, delivered a speech to highlight her government’s efforts in eradicating poverty and supporting development around the world.

Al-Awfi conveyed the Saudi delegation’s approval of the statement delivered by Palestine, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.

She noted that achieving development and eradicating poverty are moral and human imperatives, and given the many challenges facing developing countries, Saudi Arabia attaches great importance to development issues.

Al-Awfi added that her country is a leader in prompt responses to all nations around the world, which made it among the world’s major donors. The Kingdom has assisted poor countries through supporting the establishment of the Islamic Development Bank’s fund to address poverty problems, and donated over $1 billion.     

She noted that Saudi Arabia’s efforts are not only limited to assisting poor countries, but international institutions and organizations specialized in anti-poverty programs, such as several UN offices and the World Food Programme.

Al-Awfi said that the Kingdom has provided over $100 billion over the past three decades, where it ranked second in the list of the world’s remittance-sending countries.

She said: “The international community must carry out its responsibilities by joining efforts and dealing with the development of women and eradication of poverty as top priorities.”

Full report at:





Amnesty accuses Turkey of ‘war crimes’ in Syria

October 18, 2019

BEIRUT: Turkish forces and Syrian rebel allies have committed “war crimes” including summary executions during their offensive in northeast Syria, Amnesty International said Friday.

Amnesty accused Ankara’s forces of “serious violations and war crimes, summary killings and unlawful attacks” in the operation launched on October 9.

There was no immediate response from Ankara, which announced a suspension of the attacks late Thursday, but it says all possible measures have been taken to avoid civilian casualties.

Ankara’s operation aims to remove the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from areas near its border in northern Syria.

The offensive has killed at least 72 civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“Turkish military forces and a coalition of Turkey-backed Syrian armed groups have displayed a shameful disregard for civilian life,” Amnesty said.

The charges were based on the testimony of 17 people including medical, aid and rescue workers, journalists and displaced people, as well as video footage, it said.

“The information gathered provides damning evidence of indiscriminate attacks in residential areas, including attacks on a home, a bakery and a school, carried out by Turkey and allied Syrian armed groups,” Amnesty said.

Kumi Naidoo, the organization’s secretary general, said Turkish forces and their allies had “displayed an utterly callous disregard for civilian lives.”

The report included testimony of a Kurdish Red Crescent worker who said he removed bodies from the wreckage of a Turkish air strike near a school in Salhiye on October 12.

“I couldn’t tell if they were boys or girls because their corpses were black. They looked like charcoal,” the rescue worker was quoted as saying.

It also said Kurdish female politician Hevrin Khalaf and her bodyguard were summarily executed by members of the Syrian National Army, a Turkish-funded and -trained group.

At least two more executions of Kurdish fighters were confirmed, while Turkey’s Syrian allies had kidnapped two employees of a local medical organization, Amnesty said.



Turkey Agrees to Pause Military Operations in Northern Syria

Oct. 17, 2019

Turkey agreed to suspend military operations in northern Syria for five days in return for a U.S. pledge to facilitate a pullout by Syrian Kurdish fighters, a deal President Trump hailed as “an amazing outcome,” but that some critics said mainly fulfilled Turkish goals.

Vice President Mike Pence reached the deal after five hours of talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday aimed at stopping a nine-day Turkish military incursion into Kurdish-held areas in northern Syria. The U.S. and Kurds have been allies...



Pompeo assures Israel that U.S. focus stays on Iran 'threat'

Rami Ayyub

OCTOBER 18, 2019

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Secretary of State Mike Pompeo underscored U.S.-Israeli efforts to counter Iran in talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, in an apparent attempt to ease Israeli concerns that Tehran could exploit a U.S. military pullback in Syria.

Pompeo and Netanyahu met in Jerusalem hours after Turkey agreed with the United States to pause its offensive on Kurdish forces in Syria.

Thursday’s pause, brokered in Ankara by a U.S. team including Pompeo and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, gives Kurdish forces five days to withdraw from a “safe zone” Turkey had sought to capture.

Pompeo’s subsequent visit to Israel was seen as an attempt to assuage Israeli concerns that a U.S. drawdown could expose it to attacks by Iran or its proxies.

Turkey attacked the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria last week after President Donald Trump pulled a U.S. contingent out of the way, creating a new front in Syria’s eight-year war and prompting 200,000 civilians to flee.

Israel sees Syria’s Kurds, once U.S. allies, as a counterweight to Islamist insurgents in northern Syria. It also worries that its arch-foe Iran or local allies could fill the vacuum left by the United States.

The Kurds responded to the U.S. withdrawal by inviting Syrian government forces, backed by Moscow and Tehran, into towns and cities they control.

Pompeo said he and Netanyahu discussed “all the efforts we’ve made to push back against the threat not only to Israel but to the region and the world from the Islamic Republic of Iran”.

“We shared our ideas about how we can ensure Middle East stability together, and how we would further our efforts to jointly combat all the challenges that the world confronts here in the Middle East,” Pompeo told reporters with Netanyahu by his side.

Asked for his reaction to the pause in Turkey’s offensive, Netanyahu said: “We hope things will turn out for the best.”

Later on Friday, Pompeo goes to Brussels to meet NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.


Interviewed by The Jerusalem Post after meeting Netanyahu, Pompeo said Israel had the right to defend itself. “Our administration’s been very clear,” he said. “Israel has the fundamental right to engage in activity that ensures the security of its people.”

He added that U.S. forces would closely monitor the Iraqi-Syrian border, through which Israel believes Iran smuggles weapons into Syria and to the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement.

“We know this is a corner where Iran has attempted to move weapon systems across into Syria, into Lebanon, that threaten Israel and we are going to do everything we can to make sure we have the capacity to identify those so that we can collectively respond appropriately,” he told the Post.

Officials close to Netanyahu are quick to talk up Trump’s pro-Israel policies, such as quitting the Iran nuclear deal and recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and the Golan Heights as Israeli-annexed.

However, his Syria about-face was the latest in recent steps that have stirred discomfort within Netanyahu’s conservative cabinet, which had previously seen itself and the Trump administration as marching in lock-step.

Indeed, Trump’s recent diplomatic outreach to Tehran and firing of hawkish National Security Adviser John Bolton have cast a cloud over Netanyahu, who highlighted in two inconclusive Israeli elections this year what he described as his close relationship with Trump.

Full report at:



Israeli guards kill Palestinian assailant in West Bank

19 October 2019

Israeli security guards at a West Bank crossing into Israel shot dead a Palestinian assailant who ran at them with a knife on Friday, the Israeli defense ministry said.

Civilian guards employed by the MOD Crossing Points Authority called on the man to stop but when he kept coming he was shot and killed, the ministry said in a statement.

The incident took place just outside the occupied West Bank city of Tulkarem.

The Palestinian health ministry confirmed that a man was killed by Israeli fire but did not immediately identify him.

Israeli troops injured 48 Palestinians

In clashes on Friday along the Gaza-Israel border, Israeli troops injured 48 Palestinians, 15 of whom were hit by live fire, the health ministry said earlier, without giving their condition.

An Israeli military spokeswoman told AFP that around 4,500 Palestinians staged disturbances along the border fence, some throwing petrol bombs and explosive devices.

“A number of suspects breached the fence in the north of the strip but they immediately went back into the strip,” she said in Hebrew.

“Response was with riot control means in accordance with the rules of engagement,” she added.

Full report at:



Houthis commit over 500 violations in less than two weeks

October 19, 2019

DUBAI: Houthi militants committed 514 violations against civilians in less than 9 days in areas under their control, Saudi state news agency SPA reported on Friday.

The breaches happened between Oct. 1 and 10 and include killings, injuries, abductions and random bombings, among other violations, Yemeni Network for Rights and Freedoms said in a report.

The militia killed 51 civilians, wounded 34 and abducted 102. Among those dead was a family of 5.

“A group of militants stopped the car with the whole family on board, and asked the driver to pay 20,000 riyals after they searched it,” the Network reported.

The militia changed their mind after receiving the payment and attempted to arrest the man, but he refused and tried to flee. The militants shot at the wheel during a car chase, causing the vehicle to swerve and ram into a truck.

Full report at:



Global watchdog gives Iran until Feb. 2020 to tighten anti-money laundering rules

18 October 2019

A global dirty money watchdog said on Friday it had given Iran a final deadline of February 2020 to comply with international norms, after which it would urge all its members to apply counter-measures.

“If before February 2020, Iran does not enact the Palermo and Terrorist Financing Conventions in line with the FATF Standards, then the FATF will fully lift the suspension of counter-measures and call on its members and urge all jurisdictions to apply effective counter-measures, in line with recommendation 19,” it said in a statement.

That meant countries should apply countermeasures when called upon to do so by the FATF and should also be able to do so independently of any call by the FATF, it added.

Iran has been accused of engaging in money laundering and using front companies to avoid US sanctions.

Full report at:



Kurdish-led SDF accuses Turkey of violating truce with attacks on Ras al-Ain

18 October 2019

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) accused on Friday Turkish forces of violating the ceasefire in northeastern Syria by targeting civilian and military areas in the town of Ras al-Ain.

Turkish air strikes on Ras al-Ain continued on Friday, reported war monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. “Five civilians were killed in Turkish air strikes on the village of Bab al-Kheir, east of Ras al-Ain,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, the organization's head.

The ceasefire is only hours-old and was agreed to by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after US Vice President Mike Pence visited Ankara.

“Despite the agreement to halt the fighting, air and artillery attacks continue to target the positions of fighters, civilian settlements and the hospital” in the battleground border town of Ras al-Ain, Mustefa Bali said.

The SDF announced it was “ready to abide by the ceasefire,” covering the area from Ras al-Ain to Tal Abyad, SDF chief Mazlum Abdi told a Kurdish TV station on Friday.

Full report at:



Nearly 70 Palestinians injured by Israeli forces

Oct 18, 2019

Nearly 70 Palestinians were wounded as Israeli forces attacked people participating in fresh weekly rallies near the fence separating the besieged Gaza Strip from the occupied territories on Friday.

Hundreds of Palestinians took part on the 79th Friday of protests in eastern Gaza under the banner of “No to Normalization,” rejecting all forms of normalization with Tel Aviv, after the Hamas resistance movement said some Arab states were rushing to normalize ties with the occupying regime.

A spokesman for Gaza’s Health Ministry said 69 people were injured by Israeli forces during the latest protests.

Ashraf al-Qedra added that 26 of those wounded during the protests were shot with live ammunition fired by Israeli troops.

Palestinians have been holding weekly rallies in the Gaza Strip since March 30 last year to protest against the more than decade-long siege imposed by the Israeli regime on the enclave and to stress the right to return of the Palestinians who have been driven out of their homeland by Israeli aggression since 1948.

At least 312 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since the start of the anti-occupation protest rallies. Over 18,000 Palestinians have also sustained injuries.

In March, a United Nations (UN) fact-finding mission found that Israeli forces committed rights violations during their crackdown against the Palestinian protesters in Gaza that may amount to war crimes.

Gaza has been under Israeli siege since June 2007, which has caused a decline in living standards.

Israel has also launched three major wars against the enclave since 2008, killing thousands of Gazans each time and shattering the impoverished territory’s already poor infrastructure.

Israeli troops kill Palestinian in WB

Separately, Israeli forces shot dead a man near a military barrier, south of Tulkaram, in the occupied West Bank on Friday evening over an alleged stabbing attack.

The identity of the man has not been identified yet.

Israeli media outlets claimed that the Israeli forces opened fire at the man as he was running towards soldiers stationed at the gate while carrying a knife. 

The Israeli military regularly opens fatal fire on Palestinians, accusing them of attempting to carry out stabbing attacks against its forces.

Full report at:



Turkish invasion must stop, all foreign troops must leave Syria: Assad

Oct 18, 2019

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has demanded a complete halt to Turkey's operation against Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria, and a full withdrawal of foreign forces illegally present in Syrian territories.

During a meeting with a Russian delegation headed by the Kremlin’s special envoy on Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, in Damascus on Friday, Assad said efforts must be directed at ending Operation Peace Spring and the pullout of all illegal forces, including the Turkish and American soldiers, from Syrian territories since they are considered occupying forces under international conventions.

The Syrian people are entitled to resistance by all available means, Assad said.

On Thursday, the Syrian leader said Damascus would give an appropriate response to the ground offensive by Turkish soldiers and allied Takfiri militants against Kurdish fighters in the region.

“No matter what false slogans could be made up for the Turkish offensive, it is a flagrant invasion and aggression. Syria has frequently hit (Turkish-backed) proxies and terrorists in more than one place. Syria will respond to the assault and confront it anywhere within the Syrian territory through all legitimate means available,” Assad told the visiting Iraqi National Security Adviser Falih al-Fayyadh in Damascus.

An unnamed source at the Syrian Foreign Ministry on the same day condemned the "treacherous Turkish aggression."

On October 9, Turkish military forces and Ankara-backed militants launched a long-threatened cross-border invasion of northeast Syria in a declared attempt to push Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG) away from border areas.

Ankara views the US-backed YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984. The YPG constitutes the backbone of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The Kurdish-led administration in northeastern Syria says the Turkish offensive has killed 218 civilians, including 18 children, since its outset. The fighting has also wounded more than 650 people.

Turkish authorities say 20 people have been killed in Turkey by bombardment from Syria, including eight people who were killed in a mortar attack on the town of Nusaybin by YPG militants on October 11.

Lavrentiev, for his part, stressed Moscow’s firm support for Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The Kremlin’s special envoy to Syria further noted that Russia rejects any step or action that violates Syria’s sovereignty, further complicates crisis there and negatively affects attempts aimed at settlement of the conflict.

The two senior officials also exchanged viewpoints on preparations for the start of the work of Syria's long-awaited constitutional committee.

They underlined that the most significant factor for the success of the constitutional committee is that its work must be far from foreign interference, and that all parties must respect the composition of the committee, which was formed through inter-Syrian talks.

On September 23, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said an agreement had been reached between the government of Syria and the so-called the Syrian Negotiation Commission – an umbrella opposition group supported by Saudi Arabia, on “a credible, balanced and inclusive constitutional committee.”

“It will be facilitated by the United Nations in Geneva,” Guterres told reporters, adding that it would be convened in the coming weeks.

Damascus maintains that the constitutional committee should be a purely Syrian affair to be decided by the Syrian people alone without any foreign interference.

In February, the United Nations special envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, said that he saw a constitutional committee as “the potential door-opener for the political process.”

Full report at:



Kurdish mayors replaced in Turkey over Syria criticism

October 19, 2019

ANKARA: Turkey replaced the mayors of a Kurdish-majority town in its southeast with a state official, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said, amid a crackdown at home on criticism of Ankara’s offensive in Syria.

The HDP said five of its co-mayors in the southeastern Kurdish-majority towns of Hakkari, Yuksekova and Nusaybin, had been jailed on Thursday, pending trial.

Two other co-mayors in the district of Ercis were detained earlier this week and remain in custody, it said.


Turkey has launched a crackdown against dissent in its majority Kurdish areas following its assault against Kurdish-controlled parts of neighboring Syria.

Protests have been broken up with tear gas and scores of people have been arrested for criticizing the military campaign online.

The HDP governs many cities in the mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey. It typically appoints one male and one female co-mayor to promote gender equality.

Semire Nergiz and Ferhat Kut, co-mayors of Nusaybin, were accused of being members of a terrorist organization and replaced by a state-apppointed trustee on Friday, the HDP said.

Yuksekova co-mayors Remziye Yasar and Irfan Sari were jailed for their interviews, columns and social media posts. It was not immediately clear what the Hakkari Mayor Cihan Kahraman was accused of.

The state-owned Anadolu news agency said on Friday local administrators had been appointed to replace mayors in Yuksekova and Hakkari.

Nusaybin is a town on the Syrian border in the southeastern Mardin province, while Hakkari and Yuksekova are situated on the border with Iran.

Nusaybin has been the target of cross-border attacks during the operation, with a mortar and rocket attack by Kurdish militants last week killing eight people and wounding 35 others.

Friday’s moves came just hours after Turkey agreed with the US to pause its offensive in Syria for five days to allow Kurdish forces to withdraw from a planned “safe zone” in Syria’s northeast.

Opposition within

While most of Turkey’s opposition parties have backed the offensive against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, the HDP has called for it to stop, describing it as an “invasion attempt.”

HDP says the operation was an attempt by the government to drum up support amid declining public backing.

The former co-leaders of the pro-Kurdish HDP have both been jailed since 2016 on terrorism charges, with several other prominent members accused of supporting terrorism over what the government says are links to the banned PKK insurgent movement. The HDP denies supporting the PKK.

The Kurdish-led administration in the area said Turkish truce violations in Ras Al-Ain had caused casualties, without giving details.

Full report at:





Gunmen raid cafes in Libya capital to curb social freedoms

Aidan Lewis

OCTOBER 17, 2019

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Gunmen raided two trendy seafront cafes in the Libyan capital Tripoli this month to banish unmarried couples and impose strict religious codes, witnesses said, in a move that has alarmed civil liberties defenders.

The identity of the armed men has not been confirmed, but the episode appears to reflect the rise of Islamist currents, including hardline Salafism, in some of the powerful armed groups that the authorities rely on to keep order.

The raids, the latest of several incidents in eastern and western Libya to worry human rights advocates, add a fresh layer of uncertainty to a city under assault by an eastern-based force that aims to win power nationally.

Both cafes targeted are in the upscale Hay Andalus neighborhood, just west of central Tripoli.

At one, Eleanor, “a group of armed men stormed the cafe with their guns and started questioning the men, to see if they were accompanied by a woman who was a close relative, or by a friend,” on Oct. 6, a witness said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Men who were sitting with (female) friends were taken out of the cafe by the armed group ... they took them into their vehicles for a couple of minutes then released them,” the witness said. “The men came in again to pay the bills and left.”

At another cafe on the same seafront stretch, more than 30 masked, armed men in military uniform swept in one morning earlier this month, said a witness.

The armed men asked to see marriage certificates, telling women they had to be accompanied by their husband or a brother. “I was very scared,” the witness said. “After five minutes the cafe was empty. Even the men left.”

The gunmen said they wanted the family section of the cafe - designed for women and their relatives but also frequented by some single women and couples - shut down.


“They said the next time, if we find something like this, we’re going to close it,” said the witness.

At least two other cafes nearby put messages on Facebook saying they would no longer admit unmarried couples or single men, despite there being no law against such mixing in Libya.

On social media the raids sparked a wave of criticism against the Special Defence Force (SDF), Tripoli’s most powerful Salafist-leaning group, which has modeled itself as the capital’s primary anti-crime and counter-terrorism force.

An SDF spokesman denied the force had stormed cafes in Hay Andalus. The Nawasi brigade, another armed group, which is also Salafist leaning, could not be reached for comment.

The two armed groups are among several which patrol Tripoli at the behest of Libya’s internationally-recognized government, which is based in the capital and competes with eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar to establish national control.

Tripoli’s armed groups are nominally under the interior ministry but retain broad autonomy.

The groups also help defend the city from a six-month-old assault by Haftar, who says he seeks to bring Tripoli’s militias to heel and rid western Libya of radical Islamists. Haftar’s forces also include Salafists within their ranks.

The cafe raids showed that armed groups could still act with impunity in Tripoli, said a women’s rights activist, who asked not to be named for fear her comments would be politicized.

They also reflected a backlash by religious radicals against the increasing presence of women in public spaces, she said. “They really want to push back women to their houses and to stop these social changes happening.”

Twitter users opposed to the raids launched the hashtag: “No to moral and religious guardianship, yes to a civilian state.”



Sudan peace talks resume after deadlock

19 October 2019

Peace talks between the Sudanese government and rebels resumed on Friday in neighboring South Sudan after a rocky start saw one of the main groups threaten to pull out, accusing government forces of bombing its territory.

Officials from all sides said that Khartoum, and the two umbrella groups of rebels it is negotiating with, have managed to pin down a partial agenda for discussions.

Mohammed Hassan Alteishi, spokesman for the Sudanese government delegation, told journalists that parties would start discussions on “political issues... humanitarian issues, and security arrangements.”

The talks between the new government in Khartoum and rebels who fought now-ousted president Omar al-Bashir’s forces in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan states, are being mediated by South Sudan - a former foe still struggling to end its own war.

They were launched on Monday by South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir - who volunteered to mediate - backed by regional leaders including Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

However, the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) on Wednesday threatened to pull out unless the government withdrew from an area in the Nuba mountains where it said government attacks were ongoing.

Hours later Khartoum announced a “permanent ceasefire” in the three conflict zones.

An unofficial ceasefire had been in place since Bashir was ousted by the army in April in a palace coup following nationwide protests against his decades-old rule.

SPLM-N secretary general Amar Amon agreed on Thursday to return to the negotiating table.

“We have been following the situation on the ground and we have seen the government of Khartoum made some steps which we regarded as positive towards addressing all those issues,” he said, adding that some work remained to be done.

The rebel group’s spokesman described the initial agreement on agenda points as “a great achievement”.

In a separate development, a key rebel group that fought government forces in war-torn Darfur, the Sudanese Liberation Army-Abdel Wahid Nur (SLA/AW), said that Khartoum had released 24 of its “war prisoners” on Friday.

“The SLA/AW welcomes Sudan government’s decision to release 24 war prisoners from Port Sudan and Khartoum prisons,” the group said in a statement.

The group is not part of the talks in Juba and has so far not recognized Khartoum’s government of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok tasked with leading Sudan’s transition to civilian rule after the ouster of Bashir.

Full report at:



Nigerian forces attack Zakzaki supporters during Arba’een mourning rituals

Oct 18, 2019

Security forces in Nigeria have attacked the followers of Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zakzaky, the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), during a religious procession in the capital, Abuja, arresting at least four people.

The security forces used tear gas and live ammunition against Zakzaky’s supporters, who were taking part in a procession to commemorate Arba’een, the 40th day after the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (PBUH) — the third Shia Imam — on Friday.

One of the mourners was reportedly injured in the attack.

Nigeria has been cracking down on the IMN for several years.

Sheikh Zakzaky has been in detention since December 2015 after his home in Zaria was brutally raided by Nigeria’s forces, during which he was beaten and lost his left eye.

During the violent crackdown, three of his sons lost their lives, his wife sustained serious wounds and more than 300 of his followers were killed.

Full report at:



Nigerian forces seize Boko Haram arms cache

Olarewaju Kola  



Nigerian forces seized an arms cache as well as ammunition from a Boko Haram terrorist camp in the country's volatile northeast.

Army Media Coordinator Aminu Iliyasu said in a statement that Nigerian and Chadian troops launched an offensive against Boko Haram around the country's Lake Chad region.

"Troops have recovered an additional four AK 47 Riffles, one Rocket Propelled Gun (RPG) Tube, one 60mm Commando Mortar, one abandoned Gun Truck and one motorcycle belonging to the fleeing Boko Haram," he said.

Iliyasu said troops "successfully repelled" a Boko Haram attack on a military base in the town of Gubio, Borno State near Lake Chad.

He said additional weapons and equipment were recovered from the terrorists during the gun battle.

The fresh military offensive against Boko Haram came after nearly five months of renewed attacks on army deployments and civilians in the area.

Full report at:



Ethiopian premier pledges support to Libya peace

Addis Getachew Tadesse



Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Friday voiced concern at the lingering conflict in Libya.

Abiy expressed Ethiopia’s readiness to support peace through regional and international organizations at a meeting with Khalid al-Mishri, chairman of the Libyan High Council of State, the Prime Minister's Office said.

"He encouraged Libyans to be strong and unified in working for their country's peace," the office said in a tweet.

Mishri congratulated Abiy on winning the Nobel Peace Prize and requested support from him in ongoing attempts to stabilize Libya.

He also met with Ethiopia’s State Minister of Foreign Affairs Hirut Zemene on Thursday to discuss bilateral issues of common interest between the two countries.

Full report at:



Al-Shabaab commander behind deadly GSU attack identified

by Sheppernard N. Mosomi

Anti-terror police have identified an Al-Shabaab operative who is said to have commanded planting of an IED that killed 11 GSU officers in Dadaab constituency.

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Abdullahi Banati, an Al-Shabaab operative between Kenya and Somalia border, is said to have been coordinating attacks along the border.

The GSU officers who were in regular patrol died on spot in one of the most recent worst attack by the Al-Shabaab against Kenyan security forces.

“Police have traced the activities of Banati and his team of militants to the border and it is suspected that he escaped to Somalia with the rest of the operatives,” the source said in a report.

Officers who have been trailing Banati say he planned to attack the officers from Har Har GSU camp with the help of individuals operating within the Dadaab refugee camp.

Banati is reported to have joined Al-Shabaab in 2012 and was involved in the foiled attack on a Baure KDF camp in in June 2015.

11 Al-Shabaab militia were killed in the fierce gun-fire exchange that repulsed them.

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday mourned the GSU officers. The state is expected to cater for their burial in coming weeks after completion of DNA tests.

Full report at:



North America


Video giant Twitch pushes Trump rallies and mass violence into the live-stream age

By Drew Harwell and Jay Greene

October 17, 2019

At President Trump’s wild rally a week ago, roughly 20,000 people watched in person, and another 40,000 later on YouTube, as he mocked his political enemies and urged a crackdown on refugees.

But more than 100,000 people have watched the same performance on Twitch, an Amazon-owned video giant that has become the Web’s biggest arena for live-streaming. Viewers used the site’s chat and video tools to cheer on his speech and pull sound bites into clips with names like “GO BACK HOME.”

First popularized by video-game fans, Twitch has transformed into a global playground for advertisers and influencers seeking to win over a young audience that barely cares about traditional TV. Tens of millions of viewers have watched billions of hours of video streamed on Twitch so far this year, including from the campaigns of Trump and from Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Andrew Yang.

But the site’s exploding fan base also has attracted those seeking to sow discord and spotlight mass violence. A day before Trump’s rally, a gunman who killed two people outside a synagogue in Halle, Germany, used a head-mounted camera to live-stream the bloodshed to Twitch’s global clientele. More than 2,000 people watched the attack on Twitch before it was removed, though copies can still be found across the Web.

Joan Donovan, director of the Technology and Social Change Research Project at Harvard Kennedy School, said Twitch’s roots in video-gaming and its audience of young, white, American men have made it a fruitful target for hate groups and extremists seeking to recruit new followers to their cause.

The German shooter’s use of English in his video narration, Donovan said, suggested he was looking to get the attention of American viewers. Because Twitch is newer and less well known than other social media, she added, the shooter may have assumed his video would have a greater chance at not being quickly detected and removed.

“The shooter obviously chose Twitch because of the audience on Twitch,” Donovan said. “The Internet is providing this export of American white supremacy, and these platforms are providing the rails to disseminate them."

Twitch’s emergence as a live-streaming repository for political speech and terrorist propaganda has underscored how quickly the Internet’s bloodstream can change, as audiences and attackers move from platform to platform, outpacing moderators and regulators in a rapid, unstoppable march.

Synagogue attacker hoped to inspire further anti-Semitic attacks, German authorities say

Concerns about political manipulation and extremist violence remain focused largely on legacy social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, which have built up billions of users over years of online operation.

But Twitch is part of a new crop of fast-growing Internet platforms that offer the same basic features as the older sites — from anonymous chatter to live-stream video — but with less public awareness and the same widespread risks.

After the shootings around two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, were broadcast live on Facebook, the social media giant tightened its live-streaming controls and joined large tech companies, including Amazon, in pushing a plan aimed at addressing the technology’s abuse. The anonymous message board 8chan, where the alleged gunmen in Christchurch and El Paso announced their attacks, collapsed after the Internet-infrastructure companies that worked with it pulled their support.

But the gunman in the Halle shooting faced no resistance in streaming his attack on Twitch. Anonymous trolls and self-professed white nationalists in recent days have shared copies of the video and celebrated the anti-Semitic attack on the message board 4chan and another refuge for 8chan exiles, the encrypted messaging app Telegram, where the attack has been viewed more than 70,000 times.

That shift shows how the problems facing the modern Internet are often bigger than any one website, reflecting the inherent risk of a technology that allows anyone with a video device to instantly broadcast to the world. The difficulty of moderating so much live video also means Twitch could become a new avenue for disinformation and radicalization, because the company has few tools to detect and block live-streamed abuse.

“That’s why it’s so interesting to extremists,” said Bill Maurer, dean of the School of Social Sciences at the University of California at Irvine. “There is no way they can stop someone from airing something in real time.”

Three mass shootings this year began with a hateful screed on 8chan. Its founder calls it a terrorist refuge in plain sight.

Twitch has moved aggressively to combat trolls seeking to stream violent videos on its site, filing a lawsuit in June against anonymous users who had repeatedly tried to upload the Christchurch shooting footage and other rule-breaking videos.

Twitch chief executive Emmett Shear told the Hollywood Reporter last month that setting online guidelines was “the issue of our times,” adding, “If you work in social media and you’re not thinking about moderation and safety and trust on your platform, I don’t know what you’re doing.”

But Twitch would not say how many people work to review or moderate the videos on its site. Twitch spokeswoman Brielle Villablanca would only say the company’s “safety operations team” has doubled in size during the past year.

Twitch has injected new adrenaline into live video online, outpacing the live-streaming offerings of Big Tech rivals Facebook and YouTube and developing its own insular subculture of memes, emoji and ways of speech.

When Amazon bought the site in 2014 for nearly $1 billion, the company’s chief, Jeff Bezos, said it was the vanguard of a “global phenomenon.” Bezos also owns The Washington Post.

Anyone can live-stream video there, and more than 3 million people do so every month. That fan base and widespread accessibility have led Sanders and Yang to use the site to stream town halls and ice cream socials.

The most popular Twitch videos are vibrant, manic and overrun with eye candy: A single video stream often features not just the real-time action of what’s happening but a video of the person’s reactions, flashing chyrons and text boxes of links and information, and quick bursts of animation to highlight new user donations, subscriptions and inside jokes.

That excitement has made the streams both alluring to digital natives and largely inscrutable to everyone else. Streamers can make money from advertising and donations from their followers, whom they often talk with while recording, addressing users by name. That one-to-many relationship has turned some streamers into virtual celebrities, and the seeming intimacy and camaraderie over many hours of streaming can turn curious viewers into hardcore fans.

Launched in 2011, the site first exploded in popularity as a home for people to watch other people play video games: its name refers to the fast-twitch muscles needed to excel in first-person shooter games and multiplayer brawls.

But as Twitch has grown up, so, too, have its videos: Streamers now broadcast live videos of arts and crafts, cooking tutorials, karaoke, makeup, social commentary and practically anything else. Videos of “Just Chatting” were Twitch’s fourth-most popular category last quarter, with more than 180 million hours viewed, data from the industry researcher StreamElements show. The site has pushed to expand beyond its gamer base, launching its first official advertising campaign last month with the slogan, “You’re already one of us.”

Twitch has helped bring the messages of the two of the oldest candidates in the 2020 race, Sanders and Trump, to the attention of a younger audience, and the Trump campaign’s Twitch page includes links for viewers to donate, volunteer or buy Trump-branded merchandise. But a younger corner of Washington sees the value, too: In January, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) called into a charity fundraiser on Twitch, during which players spent 50 hours on a marathon session of “Donkey Kong 64.”

From helicopter repairman to leader of the Internet’s ‘darkest reaches’: The life and times of 8chan owner Jim Watkins

The flood of live video has overwhelmed Twitch’s ability to police the content it hosts and distributes. The attack in Germany on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, was live-streamed for 35 minutes, during which the gunman said the Holocaust never happened and that feminism had brought the downfall of Western civilization. “The root of all these problems is the Jew. Would you like to be friends?” he said on live video while preparing his attack.

Only a handful of people watched the video live, Twitch representatives said. But an automatically generated recording of the video was viewed more than 2,000 times on Twitch before it was flagged and taken offline.

The episode drew dark similarities to the Christchurch massacre in March, when a gunman used Facebook to live-stream a grisly attack on two mosques that left 51 people dead. After both shootings, some viewers downloaded the videos and reposted them to other sites in an attempt to circulate them more broadly across the Web.

How social media’s business model helped the New Zealand massacre go viral

The power of online video, and the rush of new platforms seeking to capture it, has challenged the ability of companies and lawmakers to rein in violence, misinformation or abuse.

The video app Snapchat was used by students to record live footage of the shootings last year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. The short-video app TikTok has faced criticism for its potentially predatory viewers and political censorship.

A Senate Intelligence Committee report said this month that Instagram, the Facebook-owned photo- and video-sharing app, was “the most effective tool” used by Russian operatives to spread false information and exploit political divisions during the 2016 campaign.

We’re used to experiencing mass shootings online. But Parkland brought us into the classroom.

When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg debuted the site’s live-streaming service in 2016, he predicted video would dominate the social network within five years, helping spread “the most personal and emotional and raw and visceral ways people want to communicate.” In the years since, Amazon, Facebook and Google, which owns YouTube, have made live video a central element of their business ambitions.

But Facebook, the world’s largest social network, has proved powerless to prevent violence from being live-streamed onto its site. Since the police killing of Philando Castile was broadcast live to Facebook in 2016, the site has been used to live-stream child abuse, rape, murder, the torture of a special-needs man and the suicide of a 12-year-old girl.

After the Christchurch massacre, a Facebook executive wrote in a blog post that the company was investing in human reviewers and artificial-intelligence systems to more quickly detect “suicidal or harmful acts,” adding, “We recognize that the immediacy of Facebook Live brings unique challenges.” The company, which says “the overwhelming majority of people use Facebook Live for positive purposes,” has also instituted more rigid controls for who can stream, including immediate bans for anyone sharing material from a terrorist group.

Twitch, like Facebook, uses automated systems to patrol for copyrighted or objectionable material. The systems scan for patterns and can match videos to blacklist databases, but they aren’t perceptive enough to understand a video’s context — or discern the difference between real-world violence and a video game.

Violent spoof video of Trump killing his critics shows how memes have reshaped politics

The company said it had added the Halle shooting footage to an industry database used to fingerprint and track violent videos. That database can make it easier for other social media sites to pinpoint problematic videos and stem their viral spread, but it does nothing to capture and prevent the live streams from being recorded or viewed in the first place.

The Halle shooting was only the latest episode of violence on the site. Last year, viewers watching a live Twitch stream of a Madden 19 video-game tournament in Jacksonville, Fla., saw an eruption of gunfire that injured 11 and left two dead.

Joshua Fisher-Birch, a researcher at the nonprofit Counter Extremism Project, said the rise of terrorist violence performed online can’t be blamed on any one technology. But the power that a video-sharing platform gives users, to broadcast live to the world, can still have consequences that are too devastating to ignore.

“When someone commits an act of violence like this, they’re speaking to this community that idealizes these extremist mass shooters. There’s a group of people they want to impress,” Fisher-Birch said.

“Live-streaming turns that act of violence into a spectacle, … this simultaneously public and intimate act.” For violent extremists, he added, the technology “has turned mass shootings like these into propaganda gold mines.”



South Florida man found guilty of sending weapons to Colombian terrorist group


OCTOBER 17, 2019

A South Florida man pleaded guilty Thursday to shipping a cache of weapons inside air compressors to a violent Colombian rebel group at the center of an uncommon U.S. terrorism-support case.

Francisco Joseph Arcila Ramirez, who is a legal permanent resident in the United States, reached a plea agreement convicting him of providing “material support to a foreign terrorist organization,” the ELN, a leftist group that was responsible for the deadly bombing of a Bogotá police academy in January of this year. The group, also known as the National Liberation Army, did not use any weapons from Ramirez’s shipment in that attack, however.

Arcila, 36, faces up to 20 years in prison on the sole terrorism-support charge Dec. 19 before U.S. District Judge Jose Martinez. Related conspiracy and weapons charges will be dropped at that time under his plea agreement.

Arcila’s potentially high sentence would depend on whether the judge sides with a terrorism enhancement proposed by prosecutors Randy Hummel and Michael Sherwin. His defense attorney, Ana Davide, said she will oppose it in the hope of limiting Arcila’s prison time.

At Thursday’s hearing, Hummel summarized the plea-bargained case against Arcila, which involved an August 2018 shipment of firearms and assault-rifle magazines sold for roughly $26,000 to an ELN weapons broker. But the prosecutor said it captured only a portion of Arcila’s alleged South Florida weapons shipments to the U.S.-designated terrorist organization.

An initial indictment had charged Arcila and two other South Florida men with conspiring to buy pistols, semiautomatic rifles and other arms from licensed weapons dealers and secretly shipping them in air compressors to Colombia over several months. Arcila had bought the compressors at a Home Depot store in Little Havana, according to surveillance video footage. He then shipped them to his brother in Colombia, authorities said.

That original indictment was later amended to include charges accusing Arcila of providing material support to the ELN. In the past, the ELN has mainly been implicated in U.S. drug-smuggling prosecutions, not pure terrorism cases.

As part of his plea agreement, Arcila is cooperating with prosecutors and federal agents, including the FBI, who are working with their Colombian counterparts.

Colombian authorities have accused the ELN, which was founded in 1964, of carrying out January’s truck bombing of a national police academy in Bogotá that killed 21 people and wounded more than 70 others. The ELN has been expanding its profile as a criminal organization — funded largely by the drug trade, gold smuggling and kidnapping ransoms — after the larger Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) struck a peace deal in 2016 and became a political party.

There is no indication that the weapons illegally shipped from South Florida to Colombia played a part in the deadly Bogotá bombing, authorities said. However, Colombian investigators are conducting a separate probe of weapons suppliers to the ELN, including Arcila’s brother and several others.

Details of the South Florida firearms-smuggling case were disclosed in two related criminal complaints filed in January. They said two of the defendants — Arcila and Gregory Fernando Ortega, who lived in Broward County — used a straw buyer to purchase dozens of firearms from Miami-area gun stores such as Lou’s Police Supply and then shipped them hidden inside Husky air compressors to Arcila’s brother in Colombia. Among the purchases: Glock, Draco and Zastava pistols, the complaints said.

In mid-March, Ortega pleaded guilty to conspiring to illegally deal firearms and was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

A year ago, the straw buyer, James Smith, began cooperating with agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and recorded conversations about the weapon transactions and shipments to Colombia, according to the complaints.

Smith pleaded guilty to the same conspiracy firearms charge in April and was sentenced to two years.

According to the complaints, Ortega admonished Smith not to “say anything about him” to federal agents about the firearms they had purchased a year ago. Ortega told the straw buyer that the agents would not be able to trace any of the weapons because the “serial numbers were scratched off.”

Ortega also told him that he was concerned about Arcila “getting caught,” the complaints said. Arcila arranged the firearms shipments and traveled to Colombia last fall.

Full report at:



Trump defends Middle East policy, says Islamic State is under control

OCTOBER 18, 2019

ALVARADO, Texas (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday defended his Middle East policy, as he comes under bipartisan criticism over his administration’s move to withdraw U.S. troops from northeast Syria and an agreement for a 120-hour pause to a Turkish incursion of the area.

“ISIS is totally under control and we’re continuing to capture more,” Trump said, using an acronym for Islamic State. He spoke at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a factory in Texas.



Amid a hasty withdrawal, Pentagon scrambles to revise campaign against Islamic State

By Missy Ryan

October 17, 2019

U.S. officials acknowledged this week the difficulty of preventing an Islamic State resurgence in Syria once the bulk of American forces withdraw, as the military scrambles to assemble a plan for battling the militants from afar.

The rush to revise the campaign blueprint comes as the Pentagon moves to ensure that U.S. troops aren’t swept up in a Turkish military operation in northern Syria, which has unleashed chaos in what was a relatively stable area and handed a major advantage to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his chief military backer, Russia.

The fast-moving events of the past week follow President Trump’s sudden decision to remove U.S. forces from northern Syria ahead of Ankara’s planned offensive against U.S.-allied Kurdish forces, who helped drive out the Islamic State. The Pentagon had hoped to keep a small number of troops in the area to contain what it says is a still-potent militant threat.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, stressed that the planning has not reached its final stages. They said the discussions centered on arrangements that would permit the United States to continue some level of air attacks and surveillance from outside Syria, relying in part on an expanded footprint in Jordan, and transferring Special Operations forces to Iraq.

Officials are updating proposals generated after Trump, in another abrupt decision last December reflecting his desire to wind down America’s insurgent wars, announced he would withdraw U.S. forces. He later backed away from an immediate exit.

Critics say Trump’s reversal this month on the U.S. alliance with the Kurdish forces, and the latest upheaval in Syria, undermines American influence in the Middle East and illustrates Trump’s disregard for U.S. partners.

Now, as the Pentagon presses ahead with plans to remove all but a small contingent of the 1,000 American service members from Syria by the end of the month, officials said a remote campaign would face new challenges.

“It’s a lot more complicated having to do this over the horizon,” a U.S. official said, using a term for military operations conducted from outside a targeted country. Ensuring that the militants don’t regroup, the official said, would now be “a lot harder.”

The challenges start with obtaining adequate intelligence about Islamic State activities now that the partnership with the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is in danger of shattering.

After U.S. troops began to withdraw this week, the SDF, which Ankara considers part of a terrorist group, struck a deal with the Assad regime to protect themselves against Turkey, which has launched air and ground attacks on Kurdish-controlled towns in northern Syria.

Pentagon leaders fear the situation provides an opportunity for militants to resurge. Already there are reports of Islamic State prisoners going free from Kurdish-run prisons and militant cells launching attacks.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, a senior defense official said the Pentagon was looking for opportunities to continue counterterrorism cooperation with the SDF. But officials have cut off much of the intelligence they once provided to the SDF as part of their attempt to stay out of the Kurds’ fight with Turkey, a NATO ally.

“We will be adjusting to new circumstances on the ground,” the official said. “We are pretty good at adapting.”

The Pentagon has not said how it would navigate the SDF’s new relationship with Russia, an American rival, or whether that dynamic could scuttle or further limit continued cooperation.

U.S. officials also say that they don’t know how the SDF’s deal with Syrian regime forces will affect Kurds’ willingness to partner with the United States in the long run but that Kurdish leaders have appealed to the Pentagon to maintain a small military presence with them in Syria, at least temporarily. It’s not yet clear whether administration leaders would support such a move.

Officials are more confident about plans to bring some troops in Syria to Iraq, where they will join a force of about 5,000 Americans who have assisted the Iraqi government since 2014 to get their own Islamic State problem under control. That force includes elite troops focused on tracking and conducting operations against senior Islamic State figures.

The makeup of the existing force in Iraq, already close to a limit set by the Iraqi government, will have to be revised to accommodate the additional troops from Syria. Officials said it wasn’t yet clear, as they focus their attention on getting troops safely out of Syria, what exact role the forces moved into Iraq would assume.

Since it began airstrikes into Syria in September 2014, the U.S. military and its coalition partners have pounded the Islamic State from a variety of platforms and locations, including aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf and air bases from Cyprus to Kuwait to Turkey.

Officials say future air operations may be focused from Iraq, if its government agrees; Jordan, where the U.S. military is spending millions of dollars to upgrade an air base near the Syrian border; and more distant Qatar, home to a regional American air hub.

But Assad’s strengthened position may complicate U.S. discussions with Iraq and other neighboring countries, whose permission will be needed if the Pentagon plans to use their territory to conduct intensified ground or air operations in Syria.

While many of those countries are U.S. allies and have participated in limited attacks against the Islamic State in Syria, they must balance their counterterrorism concerns with a desire not to be seen meddling in neighbor countries.

Iraqi leaders in particular, who are already facing public pressure after recent protests turned violent, worry about being seen as yielding sovereignty to foreign powers and their interests.

No matter where flights originate, the Pentagon is likely to see a new reality in conducting air operations over Syria. Since 2014, American aircraft have operated nearly unchallenged by the Assad regime, which focused its own air operation in more populated areas in western Syria. After Russia entered the war in 2015, the Pentagon set up special channels to “deconflict” U.S. flights in areas where Russian aircraft overlapped.

As the Assad regime, backed by air defense forces, moves east into areas that have been out of reach for years, the risks to American aircraft are likely to increase.

Officials noted that air-focused counterterrorism operations conducted without a large local partner force had kept militant groups at bay in other places, citing recent periods in Libya and Yemen as examples.

But William Wechsler, a former deputy assistant defense secretary for Special Operations and combating terrorism during the Obama administration, cautioned that air power would be most effective against extremists when paired with partner operations on the ground.

Full report at:



Trump likens Turkey's offensive against Kurds to a schoolyard fight

Oct 18, 2019

US President Donald Trump has praised the temporary cease-fire that Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reached with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and likened Ankara's military offensive against Syrian Kurds to a schoolyard fight.

"Sometimes you have to let them fight," Trump told supporters at the American Airlines Center in Dallas on Thursday night, referring to Turkish and Kurdish forces.

"Like two kids in a lot, then you pull them apart," Trump said.

Trump added that after Turkish and Kurdish forces "fought for a few days," that "we went there and we said, ‘we want a pause.’"

Pence said on Thursday that Turkey agreed to end the military offensive in northern Syria after Kurdish fighters withdraw from Erdogan’s desired safe zone in Syria near the Turkish border, where the Turkish leader wants to relocate the estimated two million Syrian refugees who are in Turkey.

Trump said in return he would suspend the economic sanctions that he imposed on Turkey earlier in the week.

"President Erdogan was a gentleman, he understood," Trump noted. "But without a little tough love … they would’ve never made this deal.”

Trump was probably referring to his October 9 letter where he warned Erdogan “don’t be a fool” and said history risked branding him a “devil”.

The letter was shorn of diplomatic niceties and began with an outright threat. “Let’s work out a good deal!”

“You don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don’t want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy – and I will,” he wrote.

“Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!” he finished, adding: “I will call you later.”

In response, Turkey said Erdogan threw Trump's letter "in the bin".

In addition, Erdogan said he would not meet with Pence and Pompeo during their visit to Ankara. But on Thursday he met and agreed to a 120-hour, or five day, cease-fire.

On Thursday night, Trump also vowed to recapture Daesh terrorists who reportedly escaped during the fighting between Turkish and the Kurdish forces.

"We’re going to keep ISIS (Daesh) all nice and locked up," Trump said. "We’re going to find more of them."

"Turkey's going to be happy, the Kurds are going to be happy, ISIS is going to be unhappy," he added.

Trump's remarks 'obscene and ignorant'

Democratic Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii called out Republican lawmakers on Thursday night following Trump's remarks.

"Enough is enough. Republican silence is a historic travesty," Schatz tweeted in response to Trump's remarks during a campaign rally in Dallas.

Brett McGurk, the former special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh at the State Department, also slammed Trump's remarks as "obscene and ignorant."

"200k innocent people displaced. Hundreds dead. Credible reports of war crimes. ISIS prisoners escaping. US evacuating and bombing its own positions or handing them to Russia. Two kids in a lot?" McGurk tweeted.

Brett McGurk


This is an obscene and ignorant statement. 200k innocent people displaced. Hundreds dead. Credible reports of war crimes. ISIS prisoners escaping. US evacuating and bombing its own positions or handing them to Russia. Two kids in a lot? …



WATCH: President Trump on Turkey attacking the Kurds: "Sometimes you have to let them fight, like two kids in a lot. You have to let them fight, and then you pull them apart!"

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Turkey last week began pounding the positions of Kurdish fighters with jets and artillery and sent in troops to purge them from the area east of Euphrates.

The offensive came three days after Trump announced he would pull US troops from the region, effectively exposing its allied Kurdish militants to their archenemy, Turkey.

Trump's move to withdraw troops from Syria was widely condemned by both Republican and Democratic Party lawmakers in Congress.

On Thursday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said his government will respond through all legitimate means available to the Turkish offensive.

Full report at:



No US forces in Syria safe zone enforcement: Esper

Kasim Ileri  



The U.S. said no troops will be on the ground to implement a safe zone in northeastern Syria where Turkey seeks to ensure an area for the return of refugees.

"No U.S. ground forces will participate in the enforcement of this safe zone, however, we will remain in communication with both Turkey and the YPG," said U.S. defense chief Mark Esper in a press conference.

His remarks came a day after Turkey agreed with the U.S. to pause its cross-border operation in the northeastern Syria to repel PKK/YPG terrorists and form a safe zone.

Ankara suspended the Operation Peace Spring for 120 hours to allow the withdrawal of terrorist YPG/PKK forces from the planned safe zone, 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of the Turkish border.

Upon completion of the terror group's withdrawal, Turkey says it will enact a permanent cease-fire.

Esper said he is looking forward to meeting his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar, next week in Brussels to "reinforce the importance of ensuring a lasting political solution to the situation in Syria."

On Oct. 9, Turkey had launched Operation Peace Spring to eliminate terrorists from northern Syria in order to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.

Full report at:




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