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'Quran in one hand, atom bomb in other': Islamist leader's 'jihadi' advice to eradicate poverty in Pakistan

New Age Islam News Bureau

03 February 2023

Islamist leader Saad Rizvi


• MP govt renames Bhopal's Islam Nagar village as 'Jagdishpur' with immediate effect

• Afghanistan: 110 graduate from Taliban's jihadist school in Balkh province, says report

• Johor Islamic council issues fatwa prohibiting Muslims from participating in rituals of other faiths

• Top cleric warns of Al Khalifa regime's plan to 'Judaize Bahrain'

• Iran Lambastes Demolition of Palestinians' Houses as Example of Western-Style Human Rights

• Sharia court dissolves Ganduje daughters 16-year-old marriage

• Norway bans planned anti-Islam protest outside Turkish embassy over fears of Quran book burning

• Biden meets Jordan’s King Abdullah, affirms support of Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque



• Another Ahmadi Mosque Attacked in Karachi, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Members Suspected

• 'State Tied Our Hands, Thrown Us to Beasts': Pakistan Police Feel 'Abandoned' After Mosque Blast

• ‘It’s never too late’: PM Shehbaz calls for national unity to become ‘one wall’ against terrorism

• Terror surge provides govt opportunity to negotiate with arch-rivals

• 2 terrorists killed during exchange of fire in North Waziristan: ISPR

• TTP can’t be eliminated without Kabul’s support, says Fawad

• China assures Pakistan to support in counter terrorism

• Pakistan urges Afghan govt to take ‘concrete steps’ against TTP

• Former PTI MP faces sedition charge over criticism of military’s approach to TTP



• India’s Haj quota at around 1.75 lakh this year

• Govt tutor linked to 3 Jammu and Kashmir blasts held, police find ‘perfume bomb’

• No proposal to restore Maulana Azad National Fellowship for minority students: Irani

• Siddique Kappan walks free after two years and four months


South Asia

• Taliban reacts to India's budget 2023. Here is what their leadership says

• NIA receives terror threat letter on 'orders' of Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani; Mumbai and other cities on alert

• Taliban ‘beat and detain’ Afghan educator who spoke out on women’s school ban

• “Don’t blame others for your own failures…” Taliban to Pakistan on Peshawar mosque blast

• UN Says Its Aid Agencies Will Not Quit Afghanistan Despite Taliban Restrictions


Southeast Asia

• No place for violence in the name of Islam, says Mufti after 18-year-old detained under ISA

• Johor Muslims can’t observe Thaipusam processions, take part in Pongal celebrations

• Bank, travel agency launch shariah-compliant umrah financing package

• Johor Ruler to attend Thaipusam celebrations in Skudai

• Unity govt needs wake-up call on reforms, says Syed Saddiq

• Indonesia’s largest Islamic group draws government officials eyeing political positions


Arab World

• Emirati astronaut Sultan al-Neyadi grapples with Ramadan fast while in orbit

• France to host international meeting on crisis-hit Lebanon on Feb. 6

• UN experts slam slow progress in Lebanese activist murder probe

• TotalEnergies pulls staff from Iraq in wrangling over projects: Sources

• Targeting Iran, US tightens Iraq’s dollar flow to counter money laundering

• Father of murdered Saudi student says US woman preyed on his son’s kindness

• Iraq’s new leaders must keep fighting corruption: UN envoy



• Israeli warplanes strike Gaza overnight

• Iran Dismisses IAEA Report on Undeclared Change at Fordow Nuclear Facility

• Turkey summons nine western envoys over security warnings

• Iran: Preliminary Investigations Show Israel Responsible for Drone Attack on Military Facility

• Israel arrests American over Jerusalem church vandalism

• Iran Categorically Rejects French Claims of Smuggling Arms to Yemen

• Israel to Chad: Need to curb Iran, Hezbollah clout in Sahel region

• Iranian FM Describes Sanctions as Terrorist Tool

• Israel’s finance minister confiscates Palestinian money to compensate Israeli victims of attacks

• Iran’s IRGC chief vows punishment after desecration of Quran in Europe

• Israel’s foreign minister arrives in Khartoum to discuss Sudan normalization

• Iran blames cyberattack for internet disruption: Report

• Israel’s attorney general says Netanyahu cannot be involved in legal overhaul



• Islamic group, JNI, wants security operatives punished over Nasarawa killings

• Sudan, Israel agree to move forward with ‘normalization’: Sudan foreign ministry

• Tunisians struggle with prices and shortages as economy worsens

• Moroccan court rules to extradite Saudi man despite fears of torture, unfair trial



• Vienna court convicts alleged accomplices in 2020 Islamic State shooting

• Muslim org buys UK synagogue it calls 'place of worship of non-believers'

• Anti-Muslim extremist Rasmus Paludan engaged in sex chats with minors

• European Muslims decry Quran burning in Sweden, Netherlands

• UK Home Office orders Afghan refugees to uproot families and leave London within a week

• Religion-based substitute meals in schools not against secular principles, says French court


North America

• In now annual tradition, US urges Israel to keep friction in check ahead of Ramadan

• Monica Lewinsky took Bill Clinton’s eye off bin Laden, leading to 9/11: ex-aide

• Muslim congresswoman, Israel critic Ilhan Omar, removed from House committee

• Pakistani Gitmo prisoner transferred to Belize

• UN General Assembly President visits China, does not raise Uyghur repression

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



'Quran in one hand, atom bomb in other': Islamist leader's 'jihadi' advice to eradicate poverty in Pakistan

Sandeep Sharma

February 02, 2023

Islamist leader Saad Rizvi


Islamabad: Instead of begging for aid in front of the entire world, the Shehbaz Sharif-led Pakistani government should go to nations with a nuclear bomb and demand money, said Islamist leader Saad Rizvi, who heads the previously banned Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan party.

Highlighting the issue of burning of Quran in Sweden and Netherlands, Saad Rizvi said that the Pakistani government gave a weak response, failed to teach them a lesson.

“They are sending the prime minister (Shehbaz Sharif), his entire cabinet and chief of army staff to other countries to beg for economic aid… I ask why are they doing this? They said the Pakistani economy is in danger… Instead, I advise them to take Quran in one hand and the atom bomb suitcase in the other, and take the cabinet to Sweden, and say that we have come for the security of Quran. If this entire universe does not fall under your feet, then you can change my name,” Rizvi said in a viral video.

Through his speech, he said that there was no need for the government to hold discussions with nations and Pakistan could coerce them through threats.

Rizvi’s rally was held in Lahore and according to a report by The Associated Press, at least 12,000 people attended it.

Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan was previously banned in Pakistan, but in 2021, party members forced former Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan to free their leader from Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore and remove his name from the Fourth Schedule, a list of terrorist suspects listed under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997.

The Controversy

Last month, a protest erupted in Stockholm against Turkey and Sweden’s bid to join NATO, including the burning of a copy of the Quran. Rasmus Paludan, the leader of the Danish far-right political party Hard Line, had previously burned a copy of the Quran in front of Turkey’s embassy in Stockholm, Sweden.

Afte the Stockholm incident, Edwin Wagensfeld, the leader of the extremist anti-Islam group Pegida in the Netherlands, tore up pages and burned another copy of the Holy Quran in Den Haag.

Several countries around the world responded strongly to the incidents.

Pakistan Economic Crisis

Amid ongoing economic crisis in Pakistan, a high-level delegation led by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Mission Chief Nathan Porter on Tuesday met Pakistan’s Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and other officials as part of the opening session of 10-day long talks for the completion of the much-delayed programme review for a bailout package.

Pakistan signed a USD 6 billion IMF programme during Imran Khan’s government in 2019, which was increased to USD 7 billion last year. The programme’s ninth review is currently pending with talks being held between IMF officials and the government for the release of USD 1.18 billion.

But the IMF suspended disbursements in November last year due to Pakistan’s failure to make more progress on fiscal consolidation amidst the political turmoil in the country.


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MP govt renames Bhopal's Islam Nagar village as 'Jagdishpur' with immediate effect

Feb 2, 2023

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan (File Photo)


The Madhya Pradesh government announced that Islam Nagar village, situated in the Bhopal district, has been renamed as Jagdishpur. On Wednesday, the MP administration, in an official release, declared the changes and mentioned the change in the name with immediate effect.

In the press note, the state government said the decision was conveyed by the central government's ministry of home affairs. Also, it stated that the home ministry had issued the renaming on September 15, 2022.

Previously, in February 2021, the CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led government had renamed Hoshangabad as Narmadapuram and Nasrullahganj was renamed as Bhairunda.


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Afghanistan: 110 graduate from Taliban's jihadist school in Balkh province, says report

Feb 02, 2023

Representative image. Each jihadist school will have 10 teachers and 8 staff members. Photograph:(AFP)


A total of 110 students graduated from the Taliban's jihadist school in the Balkh province of Afghanistan, a report by Afghanistan International said on Tuesday (January 31) citing the Bakhtar News Agency. The report said as per public statements made by the Taliban's education minister, the Islamic Emirate will establish three to 10 such schools in each district of Afghanistan.

An order attributed to the Taliban's Supreme Leader Hibatullah Akhundzada divulged more details about the formation and expenses of the jihadist schools. The order said that each school will have 10 teachers and eight staff members, adding 500-1,000 students will be trained each semester. A salary scale of 15,000 to 25,000 Afghanis has been approved for the staff members. The students, meanwhile, 150 Afghanis per day.

The Afghanistan International report also said that the jihadist schools' salaries are not comparable to public school teachers’ salaries, adding that a public school teacher, with an undergraduate degree, receives only 9,000 Afghani as salary.

In August this year, the Taliban will mark two years of being the ruling administration in Afghanistan. In recent times, the Islamic Emirate has faced global condemnation over the restrictions imposed on females- the latest being a ban on university education and prohibiting Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) from working with Afghan women.

On Wednesday (February 1), the United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced new visa restrictions against the Taliban in response to the bans. "I am taking action today to impose additional visa restrictions on certain current or former Taliban members, members of non-state security groups, and other individuals believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, repressing women and girls in Afghanistan," Blinken said in a statement, news agency AFP reported.

And on Tuesday, Martin Griffiths, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator at the United Nations (UN) said that following his recent discussions with the Taliban, they would create a set of written guidelines to allow aid groups to operate with female staff in more areas with certainty in coming weeks.

Addressing a press conference, Griffiths said, "We were told that guidelines are being developed by the Taliban authorities, which would allegedly provide the role of functioning of women in humanitarian operations," news agency Reuters reported.

"Let's see if these guidelines do come through. Let's see if they are beneficial. Let's see what space there is for the essential and central role of women in our humanitarian operations. Everybody has opinions as to whether it's going to work or not. Our view is that the message has clearly been delivered. Women are central, essential workers in the humanitarian sector in addition to having rights, and we need to see them back to work," he added.


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Johor Islamic council issues fatwa prohibiting Muslims from participating in rituals of other faiths

02 Feb 2023

Muslims perform Friday prayer at Penang State Mosque, Jalan Masjid Negeri April 1, 2022. — Bernama pic


JOHOR BARU, Feb 2 — The Johor Islamic Religious Council (MAINJ) today issued a fatwa prohibiting Muslims from attending and participating in religious rituals of other faiths in the state.

State Islamic Religious Affairs Committee chairman, Mohd Fared Mohd Khalid, said that the Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Almarhum Sultan Iskandar has consented to the fatwa, which came into effect today.

He said the ulama (religious scholars) from the four schools of Islamic thought, namely Shafie, Hanafi, Maliki and Hanbali, have agreed that Muslims are prohibited from attending and participating in religious rituals of other faiths.

“These non-Islamic religious rituals include in houses of worship, as well as other places.

However, according to a number of scholars, Muslims are allowed to fulfil invitations to a ceremony in conjunction with a celebration of other faiths without a religious ritual ceremony, which is permissible, he told reporters at the Iskandar Islamic Centre, here, today.

Mohd Fared said that this fatwa is hoped to be able to provide a better understanding among Muslims in Johor, and at the same time, guidelines were also issued on non-Muslim festivals which Muslims can attend.

“Among other things, the ceremony is not accompanied by rituals including religious symbols, or singing religious songs which are against the Islamic faith,” he said.

Thus, Mohd Fared said that MAINJ will meet with religious leaders and management of non-Muslim houses of worship, to explain and clarify the guidelines.

“This ban is not meant to disturb the harmony between races, but simply to give advice and guidance, so that community leaders are careful in promoting togetherness without violating certain boundaries,” he said, adding that individuals who violate the guidelines can be prosecuted in accordance with Section 9 of the Johor Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment 1997. — Bernama


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Top cleric warns of Al Khalifa regime's plan to 'Judaize Bahrain'

02 February 2023

Bahrain’s most prominent cleric Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim (Photo by ABNA)


Bahrain's most prominent cleric has blasted some Arab states over normalization of diplomatic ties with Israel, saying that the process runs contrary to the fundamental principles of the Palestinian cause, and poses serious threats to the security, resources and sanctities of the Muslim world.

Sheikh Isa Qassim described struggle against the trend as “decisive,” saying, “If the news about transformation of Bahrain into a base for Zionists in the Persian Gulf region turns out to be true or any effort is made in this regard, the engineers of such a plot will face a determined and serious resistance as Bahraini people, thanks to their religious beliefs, will not allow these goals and objectives to materialize.”

He added, “Bahraini authorities mistakenly think they would be able to maintain grip on power if they continue to tread the path of normalization, and imprison activists and popular figures. That is why resistance against such an approach is essential and mandatory.”

“The perseverance of national campaigners and Bahraini expatriates will set up a major and formidable barrier to the Manama regime’s treacherous policy,” Sheikh Qassim pointed out.

The senior Bahraini Shia cleric went on to denounce the Al Khalifah regime’s attempts to Judaize Bahrain, stating, “State officials are hell-bent on advancing the bids; but popular resistance is building up day by day to thwart the Judaization plans. This is a matter of identity and religion, which cannot be compromised, procrastinated or overlooked.”

“The Palestinian issue will always remain the primary goal of Arabs and the entire Muslim world. Normalization is a destructive trend and runs contrary to the goals and ideals of Palestine. Unconditional and popular support for Palestinian resistance groups will therefore foster the spirit of steadfastness, and foil the sinister plots of those pushing for normalization with Israel and their masters,” Sheikh Qassim said.

Bahrainis have repeatedly expressed their opposition to the normalization of ties with the Israeli regime by holding demonstrations.

Bahrain’s main opposition group al-Wefaq has also repeatedly condemned the normalization move made by the al-Khalifah dynasty.

Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates signed US-brokered normalization agreements with Israel in an event in Washington in September 2020.

Sudan and Morocco followed suit later in the year and inked similar US-brokered normalization deals with the occupying regime.

The move sparked widespread condemnations from the Palestinians as well as nations and human rights advocates across the globe, especially within the Muslim world.

Palestinians slammed the deals as a treacherous “stab in the back” and a betrayal of their cause against the decades-long Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. Palestinians are seeking an independent state in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip with East al-Quds as its capital.


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Iran Lambastes Demolition of Palestinians' Houses as Example of Western-Style Human Rights


"It is a bitter humor that the Palestinians as the owners of their land have to ask the occupiers for a construction permit," Kana'ani said in a post on his Twitter account on Thursday.

“What a bitter humor; The original owners of the land - Palestinians - have to ask the occupier for a construction permit! The occupier does not give it, because it considers it a disturbance to the development of Zionist settlements!! So they destroy!!!" the diplomat added.

"A view of Western Human Rights!” the spokesperson wrote.

On Wednesday, Israeli soldiers razed two houses in Beit Jala and Al-Walaja, Northwest of Bethlehem, claiming that the properties were not licensed.

According to reports, hundreds of Palestinian-owned structures were demolished last year, displacing thousands of Palestinians, including children. Israeli forces have also demolished hundreds of facilities providing various services for more Palestinians, including children and women.

The demolition of Palestinian homes across the occupied territories has increased since an extreme far-right administration led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took office. Netanyahu’s hardline government has put West Bank settlement expansion at the top of its list of priorities.

Tehran says the history of the apartheid regime is full of assassinations, massacre, torture and killing of Palestinian kids, and described Tel Aviv regime's atrocities and massacre of Palestinian women and children as indicative of the destitute of Zionists.

Iranian officials say the Tel Aviv regime has been struggling for more than 70 years to exit its identity crisis which has been mixed with genocide, plunder, forced displacement and scores of other inhumane moves.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Sharia court dissolves Ganduje daughter’s 16-year-old marriage

February 2, 2023

By Wale Odunsi

An Upper Shari’a Court in Kano State on Thursday dissolved the marriage between AsiyaGanduje and Inuwa Uba.

Asiya is a daughter of Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje.

The Judge, Malam Abdullahi Haliru said the marriage was ended through Khul’i (divorce by Islamic means).

The judge ordered the plaintiff to return N50,000 the respondent paid as dowry 16 years ago.

Halliru ruled that the conditions Inuwa earlier raised “should be based on Islamic Sunnah on Khul’i”.

“Khul’i is strictly based on returning the dowry given to a woman.

“The condition should not affect her in any way, especially in giving out her wealth”, he stressed.

Asiya, through her counsel, Ibrahim Aliyu-Nassarawa had insisted on returning the bride price in exchange for divorce.

In her application, the petitioner informed the court that she was tired of her union with Inuwa.

Asiya said “every woman living under strange conditions” has a right under Islamic law to seek for her marriage to be dissolved.

Earlier, Inuwa’s lawyer, Umar I. Umar stated that the issue was beyond the payment of N50,000 dowry.

“The respondent has four kids with the plaintiff, but all efforts to reconcile them proved abortive,” Umar said.

In his conditions, Inuwa asked Asiya to return his credentials, house certificates, cars and relinquish her rights in their joint rice company.

Source: DailyPost Nigeria

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Norway bans planned anti-Islam protest outside Turkish embassy over fears of Quran book burning

February 02, 2023

The Norwegian government has banned an anti-Islam demonstration due to take place on Friday outside the Turkish embassy in Oslo citing security concerns, it has emerged.

The Norwegian police, who canceled the event on advice from the Norwegian foreign ministry, revealed authorities were concerned that protesters planned to burn a copy of the Quran, imitating an event that took place in Sweden last month and enraged the Islamic world.

“The police emphasize that burning the Quran is a legal political statement in Norway, but this event can’t go ahead due to security concerns,” Oslo Police Inspector Martin Strand told local media.

The far-right Stop the Islamization of Norway (SIAN) organization confirmed to Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang on Thursday that its supporters planned to burn the Quran at the protest outside the Turkish embassy.

“I applied to hold a political demonstration on Friday in front of the Turkish embassy. I do this in the context of Turkey’s intolerance of Western values of freedom. We cannot let Erdoğan rule with the authorities in Western countries, the organization’s leader Lars Thorsen told the newspaper.

Following its knowledge of the planned demonstration, Turkey summoned the Norwegian ambassador in Ankara to express the government’s outrage the event had been given the green light by Norwegian authorities.

Norway’s foreign ministry subsequently demanded the demonstration be called off, revealing Ankara had warned it was a “provocative act.”

In a statement, Norway’s foreign ministry revealed the country’s ambassador to Turkey had “pointed out that freedom of expression is enshrined in the constitution in Norway, and that the Norwegian authorities neither support nor stand behind the announced demonstration.” However, the decision to ban the demonstration appears to have been taken nonetheless.

A similar demonstration was allowed to take place outside the Turkish embassy in Sweden last month when Danish fringe politician Rasmus Paludan burned a copy of the Islamic holy book. Ankara was so incensed that the protest had been allowed to take place that it canceled planned talks with the Swedish government over Sweden’s ambitions to join NATO.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan consequently said his government may end up approving Finland’s membership application, but wouldn’t ratify Sweden joining the alliance until it started to crack down on anti-Turkey protests in the country and extradited asylum seekers Ankara deems to be terrorists.


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Biden meets Jordan’s King Abdullah, affirms support of Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque

03 February ,2023

President Joe Biden on Thursday underlined his support for the legal “status quo” of Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound in a meeting at the White House with Jordanian King Abdullah II.

Biden, the King and Crown Prince Hussein had a private lunch in which the US president “reaffirmed the close, enduring nature of the friendship between the United States and Jordan,” the White House said. They also both spoke with Iraq’s prime minister by phone.

Referring to growing tensions around the al-Aqsa mosque -- located on a site venerated both by Muslims and Jews inside Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem -- Biden reaffirmed “the critical need to preserve the historic status quo.”

Biden also recognized Jordan’s “crucial role as the custodian of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem,” the White House said in a statement.

On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Biden reiterated the US position of “strong support for a two-state solution,” also thanking King Abdullah “for his close partnership and the role he and Jordan play as a force for stability in the Middle East.”

While with the King, Biden spoke by phone with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani “to reaffirm US commitment to Iraq,” the White House said.

Biden hailed Sudani’s “efforts to strengthen Iraq’s sovereignty and independence,” the statement said, adding Biden expressed support for the country’s “economic agenda and plans to ensure that Iraq’s economy is delivering for the Iraqi people.”

Biden and Sudani stressed their commitment to keeping ISIS from being able to “threaten the Iraqi people or regional and international security.”

King Abdullah was invited to join the call, the White House said, and he “stressed Jordan’s support for Iraq, including through joint strategic infrastructure projects.”

Al-Aqsa mosque is the third-holiest place in Islam and the most sacred site to Jews, who refer to the compound as the Temple Mount.

Under a longstanding status quo, non-Muslims can visit the site at specific times but are not allowed to pray there.

In recent years, a growing number of Jews, most of them Israeli nationalists, have covertly prayed at the compound, angering Palestinians. In January, the national security minister in Israel’s new far-right government made his own visit to the site, sparking a torrent of international condemnation.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Another Ahmadi Mosque Attacked in Karachi, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Members Suspected

By: Manoj Gupta

FEBRUARY 03, 2023

Suspected members of the far-right Tehreek-e-Labbaik outfit in Pakistan allegedly vandalised and destroyed the Ahmadi Mosque in Karachi.

According to local reports, unidentified men broke the minarets of the Ahmadi Masjid in Sadar, Karachi and escaped. Some people wearing helmets reportedly came with a ladder and escaped after causing damage to the mosque structure.

This is the second such incident in a month after minarets of the Ahmadi Jamaat Khata on Jamshed Road were demolished. In the last three months, this is the fifth Ahmadi mosque to be attacked.

Local sources said the attackers in the latest incident were from the TLP.





Source: News18

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'State Tied Our Hands, Thrown Us to Beasts': Pakistan Police Feel 'Abandoned' After Mosque Blast

FEBRUARY 03, 2023

Pakistan police officers say they have been “thrown to the beasts" in their battle against rising militancy after a blast at a city headquarters killed dozens of their colleagues.

A suicide bomber wearing a police uniform infiltrated the heavily guarded compound in Peshawar on Monday and blew himself up during afternoon prayers at a mosque, in the deadliest attack Pakistan has seen for several years.

“We are in a state of shock, every other day our colleagues are dying, how long will we have to suffer?" one police officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“If the protectors are not safe, then who is safe in this country?"

Authorities say the blast, which also killed a civilian, was carried out in revenge for police operations against relentless assaults by Islamist groups in the region, which borders Afghanistan.

“We are at the frontline of this war, we are protecting the schools, offices, and public places but today we feel abandoned," a junior officer said.

“The state has tied our hands and thrown us to the beasts."

Bickering politicians who are months away from contesting a general election have traded blame for the deteriorating security situation, with the country also weighed down by a severe economic crisis.

Source: News18

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‘It’s never too late’: PM Shehbaz calls for national unity to become ‘one wall’ against terrorism

February 3, 2023

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday called for national unity against terrorism “or else history will not forgive us”, as he addressed the Apex Committee meeting in Peshawar that was convened after a deadly terrorist attack in the city’s Police Lines Area claimed the lives of 101 people, mostly policemen.

His remarks come as Pakistan has been hit by a wave of terrorism, mostly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but also in Balochistan and the Punjab town of Mianwali, which borders KP. A terror attack also reached as far as the peripheries of Islamabad.

January was the deadliest month since 2018, in which 134 people lost their lives — a 139 per cent spike — and 254 received injuries in at least 44 militant attacks across the country.

As he began his speech, he called for unity across the political spectrum and expressed frustration at the criticism levelled against the federal government from opposition parties in the wake of terrorism.

“Over 80 people who were praying at the mosque were subjected to martyrdom barbarically,” he said. “We are here to express sympathies with their families and this is the purpose of the meeting.

“This [act of] terrorism managed to breach the security check post and reach the mosque. We should not feel hesitant in admitting the facts.”

He said it was being asked how terrorism — which had been eradicated a few years ago — let this happen. However, he hit back at the “conspiracy theories” that spread in the wake of the attack.

“In the wake of this incident, undue criticism was seen on social media. This is certainly condemnable. The occurrence of the incident due to security lapses will be probed. But saying this was a drone attack and similar related accusations were uncalled for in this tragic time.”

He said he was certain that the entire Pakistani nation was thinking about how the menace would be tackled in future. “What measures will be taken to stop this terror wave? It is the need of the hour that provinces and the Centre along with the leaderships of political parties take ownership and shun their differences, be they political or related to any religious reasons.

“We should unite and tackle this.”

He said this was the “moment which makes or breaks a nation”. He vowed the country would “collectively” overcome this challenge. “All resources will be mobilised. This meeting reaffirms our aim to sit together until this menace is eradicated.”

The prime minister said in the past years, operations Zarb-i-Azb and RaddulFasaad “broke the back of terrorism” and sacrifices were rendered in its wake. “Our friends and foes give testimony to this,” he added.

“Eradicating terrorism which had spread across four provinces was not easy. Many people lost their lives confronting terror. Our police and armed forces gave huge sacrifices. Our citizens were on the frontline.”

He said history would always remember the martyrs and their sacrifices. “And such sacrifices cannot be forgotten.”

However, he called for avoiding “criticism for the sake of criticism”. “We have to talk about [taking] responsibility.”

He said following terrorist acts in Bannu, Nowshera and Peshawar, the Centre was at the receiving end of criticism for “not supporting us” and “there is a dearth of resources”.

PM Shehbaz said: “I want to tell you that Rs417 billion were given [to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa since 2010] and I want to give credit to the then federal government of the PPP and leadership of the four provinces that they achieved the NFC award.”

He said Rs417bn were given to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in these 13 years “but where did this money go”.

“We had formed CTD [in Punjab] for Rs2.5bn and similar forces should have been formed here. We built Safe City for Rs14bn. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had Rs417bn, they should have built safe city centres and satellite forensic labs. Nobody would have questioned them.”

He vowed that despite the economic challenges to the country, his government was with the province. “The terms that we have to meet with the IMF are beyond imagination. Despite all these problems, the Centre is with you. We will strengthen CTD to the best of our abilities; we are here to serve you.”

He again returned to questioning how the Rs417bn was spent and said if “one-fourth of the amount was spent on the purpose (counter-terrorism) then people would be sleeping soundly”.

He said: “If only this would have happened, but it did not. We now have to move. Terrorists have no religion, they attack humanity. And there could nothing worse than this.”

He again called for unity. “We have to avoid differences and become one wall [against terrorism]. The political leadership has to take ownership. All constitutional institutions have to unite people and if we don’t do this, our purpose won’t be fulfilled.”

He said he also invited religious leaders yesterday for the meeting and the All Parties Conference (APC) on Feb 7. “I asked all of them despite differences — if there are any. If we do not act now, history will not forgive us.”

“Those who spread cruelty inside Pakistan; you are taking steps to settle them [here], but to improve the country’s fate, you are not ready to shake hands with your own people. But these double standards will not work.”

Without naming the PTI, the prime minister lamented that militants were “brought here to be settled” but they were not willing to work together for the country’s future.

“According to my information, terrorists have not occupied any area. They do not have an inch in their control. They roam about here and there. But there is no place in their possession. If this is the instance, this is welcoming. But who brought them here? This is the question that the nation is looking for the answer to.”

Earlier, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said the prime minister would chair an important meeting of the Apex Committee in Peshawar today.

Television footage showed the Prime Minister and other stakeholders taking their seats at the Governor House in Peshawar.

The committee, which was formed in 2015 for each province following the Army Public School attack to oversee the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism, will meet at the Governor House and comprise all stakeholders, including law enforcement and intelligence officials.

In a tweet, the minister said that the meeting will discuss anti-terrorism measures.

All stakeholders, police, rangers and senior officers of sensitive institutions are participating in the meeting.

Meanwhile, PTI Chairman Imran Khan reiterated his disapproval of the incumbent government and held it responsible for the spread of terrorism.

He accused the government of “destroying the economy, democracy and the rule of law.”

“And when I look at terrorism being allowed to spread under my nose, I wonder how Shehbaz Sharif can be so shameless!” the ex-PM tweeted.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had on Thursday convened a multi-party conference (MPC) to discuss “important challenges” being faced by Pakistan.

Source: Dawn

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Terror surge provides govt opportunity to negotiate with arch-rivals

Amir Wasim

February 3, 2023

ISLAMABAD: In a move that is being seen as a significant development amid rising political temperatures in the country, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday convened a multi-party conference (MPC) to discuss “important challenges” being faced by Pakistan.

According to an announcement by Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, the MPC will be held in Islamabad on Feb 7, for which an invitation has also been extended to PTI chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan.

The invitation to the PTI was formally delivered to party leaders Pervez Khattak and AsadQaiser by former speaker and federal minister, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq.

The minister has also asked the PTI to nominate two representatives who would attend a meeting of the provincial apex committee, to be held in Peshawar today (Friday).

Multi-party conference scheduled for Feb 7; PTI representatives also invited to today’s apex committee meeting in Peshawar

The committee, which was formed in 2015 following the Army Public School attack to oversee the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism, will meet at the Governor House and comprise all stakeholders, including law enforcement and intelligence officials.

According to the official announcement, the situation developing in the wake of the Jan 30 attack on Peshawar’s Police Lines and the upgradation of police and Counter-Terrorism Department’s capabilities would come under discussion in the apex committee meeting.

However, there was no official word from the PTI on the invitation, which comes three days after the deadly suicide attack that claimed the lives of over 100, mostly policemen, in Peshawar.

The MPC also comes as the country faces one of the worst economic crises in its history, in addition to the serious security threats stemming from a resurgence in the activities of the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Moreover, there has been a demand from a number of political parties to call a joint sitting of the parliament on the issue and seek a briefing from the military leadership.

Since the Peshawar blast, a war of words is going in between the leaders of the ruling coalition and the PTI, blaming each other for the recent rise in terrorism.

Parties in the ruling coalition blame the recent wave of terror on the ‘wrong policy’ of the previous PTI government to engage militants and allow them to resettle in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

During a recent session of the National Assembly, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah had referred to in-camera briefings given to parliamentarians by the then-military leadership during the PTI’s tenure, after the Taliban takeover of Kabul, terming the decision to resettle TTP militants “faulty”.

The defence minister had claimed that the briefings had remained “inconclusive” and they were only informed about the already taken decisions which were never endorsed by the parliament.

At the time, Rana Sanallah had informed the assembly that the previous regime had told them that there were some 8,000 militants, along with 25,000 of their family members, including children, who should be given an opportunity to surrender before the law.

“Maybe this policy was developed with good intentions, but the decision proved to be wrong,” the interior minister said, adding that the nation was suffering today because of this policy.

Source: Dawn

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2 terrorists killed during exchange of fire in North Waziristan: ISPR

Naveed Siddiqui

February 3, 2023

Two terrorists were killed during an exchange of fire between terrorists and security forces in the Esham area of the North Waziristan district, according to a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) on Thursday.

Following the “intense exchange of fire”, weapons and ammunition were also recovered from the killed terrorists, the ISPR added.

It further said the terrorists had remained “actively involved in terrorist activities against security forces”.

The ISPR added: “The incident re-vindicates [the] Pakistan Army’s resolve to have zero tolerance for terrorism in Pakistan and reaffirms its determination to take on any and all entities that resort to violence.”

The exchange of fire comes after a surge in terrorist activities in the country, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces, since the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) ended its ceasefire with the government.

On Monday, a devastating suicide blast took place in the Peshawar Police Line area that resulted in 101 people killed and around 59 injured, according to official numbers until now.

On January 18, security forces gunned down at least four terrorists during an Intelligence-Based Operation (IBO) in Balochistan’sHoshab.

Source: Dawn

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TTP can’t be eliminated without Kabul’s support, says Fawad

Ikram Junaidi

February 3, 2023

ISLAMABAD: PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry on Thursday said the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan could not be eliminated without the ba­­c­­king of Afghanistan government.

He said the issue of terrorism cannot be solved without stable diplomatic ties with the government in Afgha­n­­istan. He made these remarks while ad­­d­­­ressing a press conference alongside other PTI leaders, including Hammad Azhar, Shahbaz Gill and Ali Nawaz Awan.

“Only using [military] force would further complicate the issue,” he said, adding that terrorists carry out attacks in Pakistan and then escape to Afghanistan.

He also claimed there was no terrorism during his party’s government from 2018 to 2022 because former prime minister Imran Khan believed in non-military solution to the Afghanistan issue.

Mr Chaudhry, who serves as PTI vice president, said at a time when the country was grieving the victims of Peshawar blast, the government was busy taking revenge from the opposition. He referred to the case made against former PTI MNA Sha­ndana Gulzar and the arrests of ex-interior minister Sheikh Ra­­shid and journalist Imran Riaz Khan.

Mr Chaudhry said the PTI government had succeeded in curbing terrorism effectively and no major terrorist attack took place.

This was despite the fact that the region was passing through a major transitional period as the US troops were withdrawing from Afghanistan, added Mr Chaudhry.

He added that ex-PM Khan knew the leadership of Afghanistan and was cognisant to the fact that war was not the solution. “So, he launched an initiative which was widely welcomed and peace was restored in the country.”

“We brought the country back to tourism from terrorism within nine months,” he added.

Article 6

Commenting on the polls to be held for Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies, Mr Chaudhry warned the caretaker setups in the two provinces to refrain from delaying tactics.

He said the two governors must hold polls within three months. He warned the Punjab and KP governors of action under Article 6 on the Constitution if polls were delayed.

He said if elections were not held within 90 days, there would be no government and martial law would be enforced automatically.

MrAzhar said the IMF team was currently in Pakistan and ceding to the lender’s demand would result in hyperinflation.

“The country needs stability at this time because political stability is directly proportional to the economic stability,” said MrAzhar, who briefly served as the finance minster during the previous government.

Talking about the return of PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz, Mr Gill stated she returned to dent the PTI but instead cracks have emerged within her own party.

Source: Dawn

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China assures Pakistan to support in counter terrorism

February 2, 2023

ISLAMABAD: China’s top leadership has assured its unwavering support to Pakistan in countering terrorism, promoting national action plan, ensuring security of its people and stability of the country.

The assurance was given by Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang in a condolence message addressed to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, in which they condemned the terrorist attack in a mosque in Peshawar, according to a Radio Pakistan’s report.

Both leaders expressed condolences on behalf of Chinese government and people to the families of those martyred in the incident and conveyed best wishes for speedy recovery of the injured.

Source: Pakistan Today

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Pakistan urges Afghan govt to take ‘concrete steps’ against TTP

February 2, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan expects sincere cooperation from the Afghan interim government to address the challenge of terrorism and hopes that Afghanistan will live up its commitments made with the international community and Pakistan in this regard.

This was stated by Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, while replying to a question during her weekly news briefing here in Islamabad on Thursday.

She said terrorism is a common threat to both Pakistan and Afghanistan and we must take a strong stand against such entities that use violence against innocent citizens and law enforcement agencies.

The Spokesperson expressed Pakistan’s resolve to root out the evil of terrorism and safeguard the security of every citizen. She said we do not believe in accusations or finger pointing.

However, we would reiterate our expectations that no country should allow its territory to be used for perpetrating terrorism against Pakistan, she said, adding that it is time that the commitments made to the world are fulfilled with sincerity and in good faith actions.

Responding to another question, the Spokesperson said Pakistan has a foreign policy that prioritizes developing good relations with all countries.

She said we have constructive dialogue with all countries, including Russian Federation, the United States, the European Union, and our neighbors. She said bilateral relations with Russia, including economic cooperation, will further deepen in the future.

Mumtaz Zahra Baloch informed that Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar will undertake a two-day visit to Sri Lanka from tomorrow (Friday).

The Spokesperson said the Minister of State will participate in the 75th Independence Day of Sri Lanka as a Guest of Honour. In addition to attending the Independence Day events, she will call on the Sri Lankan leadership and hold a meeting with the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka.

She said Pakistan and Sri Lanka have historic ties that have grown steadily in all aspects of bilateral cooperation. We also have worked closely in multilateral forums including SAARC, she added.

She said the visit of the Minister of State would contribute to enhanced understanding between the two countries and signal Pakistan’s support for Sri Lanka in a difficult time.

‘Look for reasons instead of blaming Afghanistan’

Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s Taliban-appointed foreign minister asked Pakistan to look for the reasons behind militant violence in their country instead of blaming Afghanistan.

The comments from Amir Khan Muttaqi came days after Pakistan said the attackers who orchestrated Monday’s suicide bombing that killed 101 people in Peshawar staged the attack on Afghan soil.

During a ceremony to inaugurate a drug addiction treatment centre in the capital of Kabul on Wednesday, Muttaqi asked Islamabad to launch a serious investigation into Monday’s mosque bombing in Peshawar.

He insisted that Afghanistan was not a centre for terrorism, saying if that was the case then attacks would have also taken place in other countries.

“If anyone says that Afghanistan is the centre for terrorism, they also say that terrorism has no border,” Muttaqi said. “If terrorism had emanated from Afghanistan, it would have also impacted China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan or Iran.”

Source: Pakistan Today

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Former PTI MP faces sedition charge over criticism of military’s approach to TTP

February 2, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Shandana Gulzar Khan, a former Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) MP, has been booked for sedition in a case filed over her criticism of the military made during a political chat show.

The first information report (FIR) was registered on January 31 at a women’s police station in Islamabad and Khan has been charged under sections 153-A, 505 and 124-A of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

The FIR claims Khan attempted to incite violence and create disharmony in the country through her comments on the TV channel.

This makes Khan the third opposition lawmaker to face sedition charges after Azam Khan Swati and Fawad Chaudhry, both of whom are currently out on bail.

Khan, who holds a law postgraduate degree from the University of Cambridge, was elected to the National Assembly in the 2018 general elections, securing a reserved seat for women from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Throughout the four-year term, she held the positions of deputy minister and parliamentary secretary for the Ministry of Commerce.

Source: Pakistan Today

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India’s Haj quota at around 1.75 lakh this year


Feb 2, 2023

NEW DELHI: Around 1.75 lakh pilgrims will be able to go for Haj to Saudi Arabia as per the quota assigned to India by Saudi Arabia this year. The application process for Haj is yet to be opened through the dedicated online portal by the ministry of minority affairs. The first batch for Haj normally leaves in May or June depending on the schedule notified and shared along with the guidelines by authorities in Saudi Arabia.

Last year after a two year break due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Indian Muslim pilgrims were able to go for Haj. However, a limited quota of around 79,000 was assigned by Saudi Arabia amid the pandemic related precautionary restrictions. The authorities in Saudi Arabia had issued Covid-19 related guidelines for pilgrims to follow.

In a written reply to a question in Lok Sabha, minister for minority affairs Smriti Irani informed Parliament that the ministry has had a number of interactive sessions on Haj management with the stakeholders including Haj Committees of the states and Union Territories (UTs) wherein requests for restoration of Haj quota were received.

“The issue was addressed under the annual bilateral agreement with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) for Haj 2023 and inspite of challenges of Covid-19, the original Haj quota of the country 1,75,025 has been restored for Haj 2023,” the minister said in her reply.

She further stated that the quota earmarked for Haj Committee of India (HCoI) under the annual bilateral agreement is meant for pilgrims from various states and Union Territories for Haj 2023. “The increase in Haj quota has now enabled the government to send more pilgrims from states/UTs for Haj,” she added.

Source: Times Of India

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Govt tutor linked to 3 Jammu and Kashmir blasts held, police find ‘perfume bomb’

Feb 3, 2023

SRINAGAR/JAMMU: J&K police claimed Thursday to have arrested government teacher Arif Ahmad, suspected to be a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative, for three bombings in the Jammu division over the past year.

The three bombings include two synchronised explosions of “perfume bombs” in the busy industrial area in Jammu city on January 21 that woundedninepeople. Investigators picked up the scent of “perfume bombs”— IEDs rigged into aerosol cans of room freshener and dronedropped from the Pakistan side of the border—following the arrest of the suspected Lashkar operative who they said had planted the explosives in two parked vehicles. DGP Dilbag Singh said when Arif was prodded, investigators found he had a role i n Jammu blast and Katra bus bombing that killed four passengers.

Source: Times Of India

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No proposal to restore Maulana Azad National Fellowship for minority students: Irani

Feb 2, 2023

NEW DELHI: There is no proposal to restore or re-instate the Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF) scheme and pre-matric scholarships for the minority community students from Classes 1 to 8, minister for minority affairs Smriti Irani informed Parliament on Thursday.

The ministry had put out public notices on its website later last year announcing the discontinuation of MANF and the pre-matric scholarship for Classes 1 to 8, pitching it as a revamp aimed at preventing overlaps with other schemes. The move has evoked resentment from the minority community members with many questioning the long-term implications of the decision.

In a written response in Lok Sabha, the minister said, “The coverage under the pre-matric scholarship scheme has been revised from 2022-23 and made applicable for Classes IX and X as the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009 provides for free and compulsory elementary education (Classes I to VIII) to each and every child. This modification has also been done to harmonise the scheme with identical scholarship schemes implemented by other ministries,” she said.

She stated that it has been observed that the Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) scheme of UGC and CSIR is open for students of all categories. Besides, students from minority communities are also covered under national fellowship schemes for Scheduled Castes and OBCs implemented by the ministry of social justice and empowerment and national fellowship schemes for Scheduled Tribes implemented by the ministry of tribal affairs. “As the Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF) Scheme overlaps with various fellowship schemes for higher education, the government has decided to discontinue the MANF Scheme from 2022-23,” she said.

Source: Times Of India

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Siddique Kappan walks free after two years and four months

Piyush Srivastava   |   Lucknow  


Malayalam journalist Siddique Kappan, who has become a symbol of government crackdown on dissent, was at last freed on Thursday after 28 months in Uttar Pradesh jails, following the completion of all bail formalities.

An upbeat Kappan, who walked out of a Lucknow prison with a thumbs-up sign, said he remembered the beatings and the shabby treatment but also learnt two important things during his long incarceration.

He learnt to speak decent Hindi. And he learnt the value of freedom.

“I realise that I didn’t know till October 5, 2020 (when he was arrested) what freedom meant. Now I know,” the Delhi-based Keralite reporter told this newspaper.

Kappan, 43, has been finally set free five months after the Supreme Court granted him bail in a terror-and-sedition case and six weeks after Allahabad High Court gave the relief in a money-laundering case.

He spoke to The Telegraph outside a Lucknow hotel before flying to Delhi — where he has to stay the next six weeks as part of his bail conditions — with wife Raihanath, young son Muzammil and his lawyer, Mohamed Dhanish K.S. of Kerala.

“I am out of jail after 28 months and am feeling happy. I thank the media for supporting me. False cases have been filed against me. I was never associated with the PFI (Popular Front of India, a radical outfit),” he said.

Kappan had been arrested in Mathura while travelling from Delhi to Hathras in Uttar Pradesh to cover the gang rape and murder of a Dalit teen, and booked on sedition, terrorism and other charges on the ground of planning to foment violence and unrest.

His three companions — co-passengers and students Atiq-ur-Rahman and Mohammad Alam, and cab driver Masood Ahmad — were arrested in the same case. They were all accused of being members of the PFI, which wasn’t banned at the time but was later proscribed in September 2022.

Later, the Enforcement Directorate booked Kappan for alleged money-laundering.

Kappan told this newspaper that he had taken the two students along with him because they knew Hindi and he didn’t.

“I didn’t know Hindi at all at the time and would have been unable to communicate with the Dalit girl’s parents. That was the reason I had accompanied two students of Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi who knew Hindi very well,” he said.

He added with a smile: “I learnt Hindi in prison while interacting with other inmates.”


“I still fail to understand what this government wants from me. They took me to Manth police station after intercepting me on my way to Hathras. First, the police forced me to admit that I was a Maoist sympathiser. They kept asking me this and slapped me continuously for about five minutes whenever I said ‘no’ to their question. They hit me on the knees and the soles of my feet,” Kappan said.

“After a few hours, members of the anti-terrorist squad arrived. They asked me to admit that I was an Islamic terrorist. Whenever I said ‘no’, they slapped me on both cheeks for about five minutes before repeating the question.

“The special task force entered the scene after a month, when I was in Mathura district jail. They started saying that I was a member of the Popular Front of India”.


Kappan said he fell unconscious in Mathura jail, and eventually tested positive for Covid on April 12, 2021.

“I was admitted to the Medical College, Mathura, where they kept me in metal handcuffs for seven days, allowing me to use the washroom only once during my stay. I urinated in plastic bottles,” he said.

“I was shifted to AIIMS, Delhi, on April 28 on the orders of the Supreme Court, where the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) had filed a writ petition.”

Kappan, secretary of the KUWJ’s Delhi unit at the time of his arrest, was kept in Mathura jail for over a year before being shifted to a prison in Lucknow in December 2021 because of his deteriorating health.

“I am diabetic but didn’t get proper treatment in Lucknow. There, we were treated by doctors and compounders who are themselves inmates, arrested for some or other crime. They treated the patients only half-heartedly,” he said.

“Despite my repeated requests for something to read in Malayalam or English, the jail authorities kept providing me with Hindi books.”

Kappan cannot read Hindi even now, he has only learnt to speak the language.

A senior state police officer, who didn’t want to be named, said: “There are definitely problems in our jails but nobody should expect everything to be ideal around them in prison.”


The Supreme Court had granted Kappan bail in September 2022, asking the state government during hearing of the bail plea: “Every person has a right to freedom of expression. He is trying to show that (Hathras) victim needs justice and raising a common voice. Will this be a crime in the eyes of law?”

But Kappan had to remain in jail because of the money-laundering case, in which he eventually got bail on December 23 from the Lucknow Bench of Allahabad High Court.

The special court hearing the money-laundering case then asked Kappan to furnish two sureties of Rs 1 lakh each. After this was done on January 9, the court ordered verification of the identities of the persons who had stood surety. This was completed on Wednesday.

Rajendra Singh, jailer at the Lucknow prison, said: “We received his release order from the court on Wednesday and released him after legal formalities at 9.15am on Thursday.”

Kappan and the other three were booked for sedition (IPC 124A), promoting enmity between groups (153A) and outraging religious feelings (295A), and under provisions of the anti-terror Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Information Technology Act.

While cab driver Masood has secured bail, the two students are still in jail.

Asked about his jailed companions, Kappan agreed that he had been “luckier” than them, adding that this was perhaps because he was a journalist and had the support of many citizens and organisations.

‘Two pens’

PTI reported that to a question about what recoveries the police had made from him, Kappan told the media: “Nothing... I had only a laptop and mobile.”

Asked about reports that some objectionable materials too had been found on him, he said: “Two pens and a notepad.”

During his jail stay, his mother died. Kappan had earlier been allowed to travel to Kerala and meet her when her health deteriorated.

“The Supreme Court granted bail in the UAPA case and his innocence was revealed…. We have experienced a lot of pain and suffering. But I am happy that justice, though belated, has been served,” wife Raihanath said.

Source: TelegraphIndia

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South Asia


Taliban reacts to India's budget 2023. Here is what their leadership says

Feb 3, 2023

Kabul: The Taliban on Thursday welcomed India's Union Budget 2023-2024, and said the aid announcement by India for Afghanistan would help to improve ties and trust between the two nations, Khaama Press reported.

The Taliban's remarks came after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman proposed a USD 25 million development aid package for Afghanistan in the Union Budget.

Sitharaman started her Budget speech at 11 AM on Wednesday, the last full Budget of the Modi government in its second term. Like the previous two Union Budgets, the Budget 2023-24 is also presented in paperless form.

India has pledged Rs 200 crore in development aid to Afghanistan. This is India's second year of support after the Taliban gained control of Afghanistan. The initial announcement was made in the budget last year, according to Khaama Press.

Welcoming India's budget, Suhail Shaheen, former Negotiations Team Member for the Taliban said, "We appreciate India's support for Afghanistan's development. It will help to improve ties and trust between the two nations."

When the Taliban seized power in Kabul in August 2021, relations between Afghanistan and India were strained, and most initiatives supported by India came to a halt.

Regarding this, Shaheen said, "There were various projects in Afghanistan which India was funding. If India resumes work on these projects, it will boost relations between the two countries and eliminate distrust," Khaama Press reported.

India's budget for 2023-2024 holds much significance as the country is scheduled to have the next Lok Sabha election in April-May 2024.

The budget session of the Parliament began on Tuesday with President's address, subsequently tabling the Economic Survey for 2022-23. The formal exercise to prepare the annual Budget for the next financial year (2023-24) commenced on October 10.


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NIA receives terror threat letter on 'orders' of Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani; Mumbai and other cities on alert

Feb 3, 2023

Mumbai: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has received a terror threat letter on its email. Taking note of the threat letter, Mumbai and other cities have been put on alert.

The threat mail was received on the email ID of NIA, after which different cities of the country have been alerted.

The premier terror probe agency informed the Mumbai Police about the terror threat letter.

Sources said that the e-mailer introduced himself as a Taliban and claimed that this was going to happen on the orders of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the main leader of the Taliban organisation.

After this email, along with other agencies, the Mumbai Police also got involved in the investigation.

Notably, a report published in Khaama Press stated that the Taliban welcomed India's Union Budget 2023-4, saying that the aid announcement for Afghanistan would help to improve ties and trust between the two nations.

The government has proposed a USD 25 million development aid package for Afghanistan in the Union Budget that was presented by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.


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Taliban ‘beat and detain’ Afghan educator who spoke out on women’s school ban

03 February ,2023

Afghanistan’s Taliban authorities have “beaten and detained” an academic who voiced outrage on live television against their ban on women’s university education, his aide said Friday.

Veteran journalism lecturer Ismail Mashal caused a storm by tearing his degree certificates to shreds on TV in December, protesting the edict ending women’s higher education.

In recent days, domestic channels showed Mashal carting books around Kabul and offering them to passers-by.

“Mashal was mercilessly beaten and taken away in a very disrespectful manner by members of the Islamic Emirate,” Mashal’s aide Farid Ahmad Fazli told AFP, referring to the Taliban government.

A Taliban official confirmed the detention.

“Teacher Mashal had indulged in provocative actions against the system for some time,” tweeted Abdul Haq Hammad, director at the Ministry of Information and Culture.

“The security agencies took him for investigation.”

Mashal -- a lecturer for more than a decade at three Kabul universities -- was detained on Thursday despite having “committed no crime”, Fazli said.

“He was giving free books to sisters (women) and men,” he added. “He is still in detention and we don’t know where he is being held.”

Footage of Mashal destroying his certificates on private channel TOLOnews went viral on social media.

In deeply conservative and patriarchal Afghanistan it is rare to see a man protest in support of women but Mashal, who ran a co-educational institute, said he would stand up for women’s rights.

“As a man and as a teacher, I was unable to do anything else for them, and I felt that my certificates had become useless. So, I tore them,” he told AFP at the time.

“I’m raising my voice. I’m standing with my sisters... My protest will continue even if it costs my life.”

A small group of male students also held a brief walkout protesting the ban.

The Taliban promised a softer regime when they returned to power in August 2021 but they have instead imposed harsh restrictions on women -- effectively squeezing them out of public life.

In December, the authorities ordered all aid groups to stop their women employees coming to work. They have since granted an exemption to the health sector, allowing females to return to employment there.

Source: Al Arabiya

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“Don’t blame others for your own failures…” Taliban to Pakistan on Peshawar mosque blast

3 February, 2023

Kabul, Afghanistan: The Taliban on Wednesday slammed the Pakistan Government for blaming Afghanistan for the Peshawar mosque blast.

The Taliban’s Acting Foreign Minister Amir Muttaqi called on Pakistan to investigate the Peshawar attack rather than blame neighbouring Afghanistan for terror carnage. “Don’t blame others for your own failures,” said the Taliban.

On January 30, a suicide bombing at a mosque in the Peshawar Police Lines area claimed the lives of at least 101 people, mostly police officials.

Muttaqi called on Pakistan to investigate the Peshawar attack instead of blaming Kabul and said that Afghanistan is not a safe haven for terrorists.

“If Afghanistan was the centre of terrorism, it would have gone into China, Central Asia & Iran,” he said.

Muttaqi told a gathering in the capital, Kabul, that Pakistani officials should find a solution to their security challenges locally and desist from “sowing the seeds of enmity” between the two countries.

Pakistani authorities were quick to blame the outlawed Pakistani Taliban, also called Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), for what they said was a suicide bomb attack and suggested the violence emanated from Afghanistan, reported Voice of America.

Muttaqi echoed suspicions and questions being raised by critics in Pakistan in the wake of the large-scale destruction caused by the blast and said, “Our region is used to wars and bomb blasts. But we have not seen in the past 20 years a lone suicide bomber blowing up roofs of mosques and killing hundreds of people.”

The TTP, designated a global terrorist group by the United States, has long been conducting deadly terrorist attacks in Pakistan and its leadership allegedly directs the violence from Afghan sanctuaries. But the Pakistani Taliban has formally denied involvement in the Peshawar mosque bombing, reported VOA.

Moazzam Jah Ansari, the provincial police chief, told reporters Tuesday that a suicide bomber had entered the mosque as a guest, using up to 12 kilograms of explosive material earlier brought to the site in bits and pieces.

A spate of recent terrorist attacks in Pakistan, mostly claimed by the TTP, has strained relations between the two countries.

Pakistan is weighing its options to deal with the resurgence of terrorism with a focus on how to ensure that the Afghan interim government fulfills its promises, people familiar with the development have said.

It is evident from background discussions with the relevant quarters that Pakistan is increasingly frustrated over the lack of cooperation from the Afghan Taliban in tackling the growing threat posed by the banned TTP.

Meanwhile, the desperate police in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have been brought to the point where they are protesting for their rights.

“This is an example of a complete loss of trust in the State. They have been dying needlessly in the Establishment’s double games, and there is no one to put an end to this,” tweeted Mohsin Dawar, Member National Assembly, NA-48, North Waziristan.

In an unusual protest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police in front of Peshawar Press Club chanted slogans, “We know all the unknown persons.”

Videos shared on social media show groups of police officers raising slogans against rising terrorism.

Source: ThePrint

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UN Says Its Aid Agencies Will Not Quit Afghanistan Despite Taliban Restrictions

Akmal Dawi

February 02, 2023


The United Nations says its humanitarians will not leave Afghanistan and will continue delivering lifesaving aid despite Taliban restrictions on Afghan women’s work for nongovernmental organizations.

“The humanitarian community does not go on strike,” Martin Griffiths, a top U.N. official for humanitarian affairs, told representatives of member states on Wednesday.

The announcement comes as some international aid agencies have suspended their operations in Afghanistan to protest a December 24, 2022, order by the de facto Taliban government banning local women from working for NGOs.

The Taliban say the restrictions on women’s work and education are temporary until they figure out how this can be done within religious confines.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, an intergovernmental body of 48 majority Muslim countries, and many Muslim scholars have condemned the Taliban’s restrictions on women as inherently against Islamic values.

Griffiths, who traveled to Afghanistan last week urging Taliban officials to reverse the ban, said some immediate exceptions have been offered for women to work in the health and education sectors.

“Where exceptions exist, we will work,” he added. "This year, the U.N. has appealed for $4.6 billion in humanitarian response to the crisis in Afghanistan.

The funding, if provided by donors, will be used to assist 28 million Afghans, 6 million of whom are close to famine, Griffiths said.

Last year, donors met nearly 60% of the $4.4 billion the U.N. requested for the Afghanistan appeal.

Despite the U.N.’s readiness to continue operating in the country, it is unclear how donors will respond to providing funding to a country under a system that women’s rights groups have called gender apartheid.

Donors’ dilemma

The United States, European countries and other donors have refused to recognize the Taliban government. They have imposed sanctions and have warned that there would be costs for the group’s misogynistic policies.

Over the past 18 months, the United States has given about $2 billion in humanitarian assistance to U.N. agencies and other relief organizations to feed and assist millions of Afghans who have been pushed to extreme poverty.

“The Taliban regime’s institutionalized abuse of women raises the important question for policymakers of whether the United States can continue providing aid to Afghanistan without benefiting or propping up the Taliban,” the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said in a report on Thursday.

Taliban authorities extract revenue from aid money to Afghanistan in the form of tax, license fees and administrative expenses, SIGAR said.

Germany, another major humanitarian donor to Afghanistan, has voiced concerns about whether aid can be delivered without violating humanitarian principles.

“It is clear to us that if women cannot continue to work and cannot participate in the implementation of humanitarian aid, then very fundamental humanitarian principles are being violated, principles that must be adhered to in the allocation of humanitarian aid,” German Foreign Ministry spokesperson Andrea Sasse told reporters in Berlin on Wednesday.

“The measures by the Taliban violate all of these principles. As the federal government, we are discussing how to respond to this behavior on the part of the Taliban,” Sasse said.

Sweden, which gave roughly $32 million in humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan in 2022, may provide a similar amount this year but a decision will be made in March.

“We still hope that the edict will be rescinded, since it presents a serious obstacle to the delivery of principled humanitarian aid,” Rebecca Hedlund, a spokesperson for Swedish representation at the U.N., told VOA.

The State Department did not respond to written questions about whether Washington is considering reducing or ending humanitarian aid to a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

Condemning the Taliban’s ban on women, the United States this week announced additional visa restrictions on unnamed Taliban officials and members of their families.

“We continue to coordinate closely with allies and partners around the world on an approach that makes clear to the Taliban that their actions will carry significant costs and close the path to improved relations with the international community,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Wednesday.


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Southeast Asia


No place for violence in the name of Islam, says Mufti after 18-year-old detained under ISA

Jean Iau

FEB 2, 2023

SINGAPORE – There is no place for violence and aggression in the name of Islam, said Singapore’s top Muslim leader in the wake of the detention of an 18-year-old student radicalised by extremist teachings.

In an Instagram post from his office, Mufti NazirudinMohd Nasir called Muhammad Irfan Danyal Mohamad Nor a “misguided young Muslim who channelled his religious fervour wrongly and dangerously through the online exploitations of extremist ideologues and groups”.

Irfan was detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in December 2022 after he planned to stab and kill non-Muslims in dark alleys, carry out a mass-casualty attack at the Amoy Quee Camp by recruiting a suicide car bomber, and construct a C4 explosive to bomb the Keramat Habib Noh grave site at Haji Muhammad Salleh Mosque in Tanjong Pagar.

The Mufti said on Thursday: “There is no place for violence and aggression, not in the name of our faith and our beloved Prophet’s teachings.

“The world must also change its course in order to preserve harmony and mutual respect so that our young and future generations are witnesses to the protection of lives, faiths and beliefs, and places of worship.”

He called for more to be done to guide and convince young people that the Islamic faith calls for goodness and kindness.

Experts The Straits Times spoke to said that while anyone can fall victim to radicalisation, extremist groups target young people because of their susceptibility.

“This is because their relative emotional immaturity and tendency to think in binary, black-and-white terms, and to be excited by some wider political or ideological cause, render them relatively susceptible to extremist manipulation, especially within closed ideological echo chambers online,” said S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) dean Kumar Ramakrishna.

Dr Jolene Jerard, executive director of public safety and management consultancy firm Centinel, said that while there has been an uptick in youth being radicalised, recruitment is aimed at all age ranges to allow terrorist groups to find like-minded individuals.

She added that the easy access to information on the Internet, coupled with the prevalent use of digital devices, increases vulnerability to online radicalisation if one is not cautious or discerning enough to know the danger of obtaining information solely from online sources.

Dr Jerard, who is also an adjunct senior fellow at RSIS, agreed with Mr Shanmugam, who on Wednesday emphasised that tackling the matter of youth becoming radicalised is a community issue.

However, she argued that having discussions on the risks of the digital world could be more important. She said: “There is a need to build and reinforce safe and constructive environments for dialogues while maintaining constant and open communication with youth.”

For those who have been radicalised, Professor Ramakrishna said reintegration occurs by extricating the radicalised individuals from their extremist echo chambers and giving them religious counselling, support groups and chances to resume their education.


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Johor Muslims can’t observe Thaipusam processions, take part in Pongal celebrations

Dineskumar Ragu

February 3, 2023

PETALING JAYA: Muslims in Johor are barred from observing Thaipusam processions and taking part in Pongal celebrations under a new fatwa issued by the Johor Islamic Religious Council (MAINJ), state mufti Yahya Ahmad said.

He explained that these celebrations are defined as religious rituals under the fatwa as they are “exclusive” to Hindus.

“If these rituals take place in a house of worship, then they are included in the fatwa,” he told FMT.

“But for functions done outside a house of worship for non-ritual purposes such as open houses and dinner events, they are allowed as long as they follow the guidelines issued by MAINJ.”

On attending the funerals of non-Muslims, the state mufti said Islam has “zero issues” with that. “However, what is not allowed is participation in religious rituals for the dead,” he said.

Yahya said the fatwa was issued by the religious authority to clarify to Muslims what is permissible and forbidden in Islam

However, he said the fatwa does not touch on non-Muslim rituals that do not involve any form of idol worshipping.

“In Islam, we call rituals ‘ibadah’, while in religions other than Islam, rituals mean the act of worshipping gods. This fatwa does not concern rituals that do not involve worshipping,” he said.

Yesterday, MAINJ issued the fatwa which prohibits Muslims from attending and taking part in religious rituals of other faiths in the state.

State Islamic religious affairs committee chairman Fared Khalid said Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar had consented to the fatwa, effective immediately, Bernama reported.

He said the ulama from the four schools of Islamic thought – Shafie, Hanafi, Maliki and Hanbali – had agreed that Muslims were prohibited from attending and taking part in the religious rituals of other faiths.

Source:Free Malaysia Today

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Bank, travel agency launch shariah-compliant umrah financing package

February 3, 2023

PETALING JAYA: Muslims planning to go on a pilgrimage can now finance their trip in line with Islamic principles.

AmBank Group and Emraz Travel & Tours SdnBhd have jointly launched a financing package that is shariah-compliant for the purpose of travelling to Mecca and Medina to perform the umrah.

The new product was unveiled at Menara AmBank in Kuala Lumpur today.

The package offers an AmBank Credit Card-i customer a waiver of the management fee on his first application for the QuickCash Instalment plan for loans of up to RM15,000. The package must be purchased through Emraz.

Thereafter, the customer can apply for an AmBank Islamic personal financing facility of up to RM250,000 with flexible tenures of up to 10 years.

AmBank Group CEO Sulaiman Tahir expressed hope that the new financing solution could assist its Muslim customers who are looking for flexibility and a customised umrah experience.

“We are committed to be innovative so we can offer relevant and up-to-date shariah-compliant financial products and services to meet the needs of our customers,” he said in a statement released to the media today.

AmBank Islamic CEO EqhwanMokhzanee said the package was an attractive option for its Muslim customers who wish to visit Mecca and Medina to perform the umrah.

Emraz CEO and director ZulkarnainEndut said the specialised and customisable package would help to moderate the increase in cost of umrah packages.

“This will open up more opportunities for our customers to perform the umrah with flexible financing options,” he said.

Source:Free Malaysia Today

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Johor Ruler to attend Thaipusam celebrations in Skudai


03 Feb 2023

JOHOR BARU: Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim IbniAlmarhum Sultan Iskandar will attend the state-level Thaipusam celebrations at Arulmigu Sri Balasubramaniar temple in Skudai here.

It is learnt that this would be His Majesty's first visit to the temple to witness the Thaipusam celebrations, which will be held this Sunday (Feb 5).

This would also be the first time in three years following the Covid-19 pandemic that Sultan Ibrahim will attend Thaipusam celebrations.

The last time His Majesty attended the celebrations was in 2019 at ArulmiguThendayuthapani temple in Wadi Hana here.

Sri Balasubramaniar temple chairman Datuk S. Balakrishnan confirmed Sultan Ibrahim’s attendance at the Thaipusam celebrations.

"His Majesty will be coming to the temple to witness the celebrations at 11am this Sunday. Other state leaders will also be joining Sultan Ibrahim including MentriBesar Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi.

"About 10,000 devotees will be present during the celebrations, which will be held in a grand manner following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions," he said when contacted on Friday (Feb 3).

On Thursday (Feb 2), state Islamic religious affairs committee chairman Mohd Fared Mohd Khalid said Muslims in Johor were allowed to attend celebrations held by people of other faiths, but should not take part in their religious rituals.

Citing open houses, weddings and funerals as examples, he said Muslims were permitted to attend such events if they were invited.

This was based on the opinions of a number of Muslim scholars who stated that the law of accepting invitations to non-Muslim celebrations, such as open houses, was both necessary and permissible.

"In this context, organisers of non-Muslim celebrations should be sensitive and ensure the sensitivity of Muslims is respected in line with Islam’s position as the federal religion and the official religion of Johor," he said at a press conference pertaining to the fatwa.

He said the Johor Ruler had consented to the fatwa, which forbids Muslims in the state from taking part in the rituals of other faiths.

"Under the fatwa, Muslims have been banned and prohibited from participating in non-Islamic celebration rituals, which include those performed in religious houses of worship or other places.


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Unity govt needs wake-up call on reforms, says Syed Saddiq

K. Parkaran

February 3, 2023

PETALING JAYA: Pakatan Harapan and its allies in the unity government need a “wake-up” call to understand that good governance, which is being closely watched by all Malaysians, will be key in how voters decide in the coming state elections, says Muda president Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman.

As a slew of reforms were promised in the last general election (GE15) by the parties and coalitions in the unity government, he said, serious efforts were needed to put them in place to show the government is serious about making the changes.

“Let’s not forget that those who actually voted us to power are those who believe in these ideals. If you can’t even deliver, and backtrack on many basic things, I think you will lose support especially when you try to pander too much,” the Muar MP told FMT.

The PH-held states of Selangor, Penang and Negeri Sembilan, and PAS-run Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah are due to hold their elections after June.

Syed Saddiq said the unity government could still do it as there are a few months more before the state elections are held, but warned that it could not afford to drag the implementation.

“I think that in the end, people look back to good governance and competence, so that’s the priority. As long as you show that, you can get support.

“I’m not discounting the fact that race and religion play a pivotal role in shaping politics in Malaysia, but I wouldn’t see it as the strongest force. I think we have to give a little bit more credit to our electorate,” he said.

Syed Saddiq disagreed that the so-called “green wave” in GE15 was mainly caused by tahfiz-schooled youths as there was more to it. For example, he said, the state election in Johor last March saw BN winning with a two-thirds majority.

He said the tide would not have seen such a huge change just eight months later in GE15 if that was the factor.

“The reason why there is a rise in right wing conservatism is because there is no coherent alternative. Everyone is trying to outdo one another on the spectrum to the right. There’ll be a lot more coming.

“At the same time, people take moderate, multiracial voters very lightly,” he said.

Asked what should be done to convince Malay-Muslim youths to vote for a multicultural Malaysia, Syed Saddiq said there is no escape from providing good governance to show that in the end, a united and prosperous Malaysia lies in competent leadership.

He said policy and decision-making processes must be driven by data and science, which was seldom done in the past.

“For example, after decades of so-called financial assistance, a quarter of Bumiputeras and Sabahans still live below the poverty line. Why is it the case? Why are there still privileges given to the elite Malays while in reality, there are many other Chinese and Indian underprivileged students and families who are suffering without proper assistance?

Source:Free Malaysia Today

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Indonesia’s largest Islamic group draws government officials eyeing political positions


JAKARTA - Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the largest Muslim organisation in Indonesia, as well as the world, celebrates its 100th anniversary with several familiar faces in the government taking on high-profile roles in the group.

They include Minister of State-Owned Enterprises Erick Thohir and Deputy Minister for Maritime and Investment Affairs Jodi Mahardi.

Founded by Indonesia’s well-respected cleric Hasyim Asy’ari, NU has become a powerful political force with an estimated membership of 45 million. The organisation – or its members – could become a swing factor that may decide who would be Indonesia’s next president.

NU’s stronghold is East Java, which is home to 40 million Indonesians, making it the second-most populous province after West Java. None of Indonesia’s top three most-touted presidential hopefuls has a strong supporter base in East Java.

Central Java Governor GanjarPranowo from the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) is currently the most popular, followed by former Jakarta governor AniesBaswedan – who does not belong to any political party but has the backing of three parties – and Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto from Gerindra party.

If any of them can find a running mate who is an NU figure, the person could have a significant electoral gain in 2024.

For example, incumbent Vice-President Ma’ruf Amin, who is a senior member of NU, played an important role in courting votes in the re-election of President Joko Widodo in 2019.

Politicians and government officials who aspire to enter politics have been making moves towards NU to garner support.

Mr Erick is among the vice-presidential hopefuls and wants to pair up with MrGanjar or Mr Prabowo, who are both from President Widodo’s camp. MrAnies is considered the President’s political foe.

Mr Erick served as head of the NU steering committee for an event in Jakarta on Tuesday night to mark NU’s anniversary on Feb 7. He was recently made an honorary member of NU’s youth wing organisationBanser, while Deputy Minister Jodi is head of the international affairs department.

“He (Mr Erick) has an entrepreneur background and lacks ties to a social organisation. He clearly needs to associate himself with NU,” political analyst Djayadi Hanan told The Straits Times.

“NU has always had a huge following. About 50 per cent of adult Indonesians practise NU’s culture and way of life, while about 25 per cent are members of NU.”

In 2014, then NU general chairman Said Aqil Siradj, faced with growing criticism over NU’s links to political parties, admitted that members were split between those supporting Mr Widodo, a presidential candidate at the time, and those backing his closest rival Prabowo. However, he stressed that the organisation was greater than political parties.

Dr Said Aqil later conceded that he had supported Mr Prabowo, who lost to Mr Widodo in the polls. His comment raised eyebrows as it was uncommon for the head of NU to endorse a presidential candidate.

Dr A’anSuryana, visiting fellow at the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, told The Straits Times that the current NU elites have shown much more restraint, pointing out that if there is any move by an NU executive to support a political hopeful, he will do so quietly, and the action does not represent NU as an institution.

“NU’s current leadership tends to stay out of politics. It is the opposite of the previous one, which was more articulate and had no qualms engaging in practical politics,” said Dr A’an.

NU was founded in 1926 and its 100th year would fall on Feb 7, 2023, according to the Islamic lunar calendar. The NU event on Tuesday was attended by former president Megawati Soekarnoputri, who is also chairman of the ruling PDI-P, and scores of ministers. The highlight was the presentation of high achievement awards, including posthumous awards to Mr Sukarno, the country’s first president, and Mr Abdurrahman Wahid, the fourth president.

The main event on Feb 7 will be held in Sidoarjo, East Java, said NU general chairman Yahya CholilStaquf, adding that guests will include Islamic clerics from overseas.

What is Nahdlatul Ulama (NU)

- About 25 per cent of Indonesia’s Muslim adult population – or about 45 million people – say they are members of NU, while 50 per cent of the Muslim population practise NU’s culture such as tahlilan (prayer gathering) and nyekar (regular visits to ancestors’ graveyards).

- NU’s leadership comprises one general chairman, four deputy general chairmen, and a panel of 27 chairmen. It also has 12 treasurers, one secretary-general and 20 deputy secretary-generals.

- NU, as an institution, does not engage in politics, but its members have been known to support different political figures and parties.


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Arab World


Emirati astronaut Sultan al-Neyadi grapples with Ramadan fast while in orbit

02 February ,2023

The second Emirati to journey into space, martial arts enthusiast Sultan al-Neyadi, weighed up Thursday fasting in Ramadan while in orbit – and promised to pack his jiu-jitsu suit for the ride.

Al-Neyadi, 41, dubbed the “Sultan of Space” by his alma mater, will blast off on February 26 for the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

During his six months in orbit – a record time for any Arab astronaut – al-Neyadi said he would like to observe the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims typically fast from dawn to sunset.

But space travel presents unique challenges.

“The ISS travels quickly... meaning it orbits around the Earth in 90 minutes,” he told reporters in Dubai.

“On average, there are 16 sunrises and sunsets daily... When do you (start and) break your fast?”

Al-Neyadi said he could fast according to GMT time, which is used on the ISS, if circumstances allow.

Fasting is not compulsory for certain groups of people, including those who are travelling or unwell.

“I will prepare for the month of Ramadan with the intention to fast,” al-Neyadi said.

He will become the second man from the United Arab Emirates to go to space, after Hazzaa al-Mansoori’s eight-day mission in 2019.

During the voyage, al-Neyadi will study the impacts of microgravity on the human body in preparation for future missions to the Moon and Mars, he said.

Six months “may seem like a long time, but I don’t mind because the schedule is packed.”

It has already been a long journey for al-Neyadi, who served 20 years in the UAE military.

He also studied electronics and communications engineering in Britain, and then completed a PhD in data leakage prevention technology at Griffith University in Australia.

The UAE is a newcomer to the world of space exploration but quickly making its mark.

It sent an unmanned spacecraft to Mars in 2021, in the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission, and last year a rover to the Moon.

Al-Neyadi said he was “happy” to embark on the mission and would take along “pictures of my family, maybe some toys that belong to my children.”

“I will also take my jiu-jitsu uniform because of my love for the sport,” he added.

Source: Al Arabiya

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France to host international meeting on crisis-hit Lebanon on Feb. 6

02 February ,2023

France will host an international meeting on Monday on how to end months of political deadlock in cash-strapped Lebanon, the foreign ministry said.

The Paris gathering is to be attended by representatives from France, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt, foreign ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre said Thursday.

Lebanon is being run by a caretaker government and is also without a president as lawmakers have repeatedly failed to elect a successor to Michel Aoun, whose mandate expired at the end of October.

The political impasse has hampered efforts to lift the Mediterranean country out of its worst-ever financial crisis.

The currency has lost more than 95 percent of its market value to the dollar since 2019, and more than 80 percent of the population lives in poverty, according to the United Nations.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, “has expressed her very serious concern on Lebanon’s political deadlock,” Legendre said. Colonna was visiting Saudi Arabia on Thursday.

France and regional partners including Saudi Arabia have been discussing means “to encourage the Lebanese political class to assume its responsibilities and foster a way out of the crisis,” Legendre added.

“This approach will be the subject of a follow-up meeting with the French, US, Saudi, Qatari and Egyptian administrations on Monday to continue coordinating with our partners and find ways to move forward.”

It was not immediately clear if any Lebanese representatives had been invited.

No meeting at ministerial level has been planned for now, Legendre said.

Source: Al Arabiya

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UN experts slam slow progress in Lebanese activist murder probe

02 February ,2023

UN rights experts voiced deep concern Thursday at the slow pace of an investigation into the killing of Lebanese intellectual Lokman Slim two years ago, demanding that Beirut ensure accountability.

“It is incumbent on the Lebanese authorities to fully investigate and bring to justice the perpetrators of this heinous crime,” the four independent experts said.

“Failing to carry out a prompt and effective investigation may in itself constitute a violation of the right to life.”

A secular activist from a Shia family, 58-year-old Slim was found dead in his car on February 4, 2021, a day after his family reported him missing.

His bullet-riddled body was found in southern Lebanon -- a stronghold of the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement of which he was heavily critical.

In their statement, the UN special rapporteurs on extrajudicial executions, the independence of judges and lawyers, the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the situation of human rights defenders voiced outrage that no one responsible for his assassination had been identified.

“Shedding light on the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Lokman Slim and bringing those responsible to justice is also part of the State’s obligation to protect freedom of opinion and expression,” said the experts, who are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council but who do not speak on behalf of the world body.

“A culture of impunity not only emboldens the killers of Mr. Slim, it will also have a chilling effect on civil society as it sends a chilling message to other activists to self-censor,” they said.

The experts stressed that investigations into unlawful killings must be “independent, impartial, prompt, thorough, effective, credible and transparent.”

Source: Al Arabiya

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TotalEnergies pulls staff from Iraq in wrangling over projects: Sources

02 February ,2023

French oil major TotalEnergies is pulling its foreign staff from Iraq as it struggles to resolve challenges with Baghdad over a $27 billion cluster of major energy projects, three sources told Reuters.

Foreign staff have left the country while TotalEnergies has asked local employees to work from home, according to one of the sources. The news was first reported by Iraq Oil Report.

TotalEnergies declined to comment, while Iraq’s oil ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It is unclear if the withdrawal is simply a negotiating tactic, member of Iraqi parliament Mustafa Jabbar Sanad wrote in a twitter post on Jan. 30.

Iraq’s demand for a 40 percent share in the project is a key sticking point for the long-delayed deal, while TotalEnergies wants a majority stake, three sources said.

The disagreement caused a meeting last week between Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani, who took office last October, and TotalEnergies CEO Patrick Pouyanne to turn sour, one of the sources said.

Baghdad cannot cancel the previous government’s decision to demand 40 percent, two sources said, as this would be seen as giving away Iraq’s rights.

ExxonMobil, Shell and BP have all sought to scale back their operations in Iraq in recent years, contributing to a stagnation in Iraq’s oil production.

TotalEnergies rekindled hopes for the sector in 2021 when it signed a deal with Baghdad to build four oil, gas and renewables projects with an initial investment of $10 billion in southern Iraq over 25 years.

Iraq’s oil production capacity has grown to around 5 million bpd from 3 million bpd in recent years. Yet at one time there had been hopes of rivalling top producer Saudi Arabia with its output of 12 million bpd, or more than a tenth of global demand.

The deal with TotalEnergies has stalled, however, amid disputes between Iraqi politicians over its terms, which have not been made public, sources familiar with the situation told Reuters early last year.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Targeting Iran, US tightens Iraq’s dollar flow to counter money laundering

02 February ,2023

For months, the United States has restricted Iraq’s access to its own dollars, trying to stamp out what Iraqi officials describe as rampant money laundering that benefits Iran and Syria.

Iraq is now feeling the crunch, with a drop in the value of its currency and public anger blowing back against the prime minister.

The exchange rate for the Iraqi dinar has jumped to around 1,680 to the dollar at street exchanges, compared to the official rate of 1,460 dinars to the dollar.

The devaluation has already sparked protests.

If it persists, analysts said, it could challenge the mandate of the government formed in October after a yearlong political stalemate.

The dinar’s deterioration comes even though Iraq’s foreign currency reserves are at an all-time high of around $100 billion, pumped up by spiking global oil prices that have brought increasing revenues to the petroleum-rich nation.

But accessing that money is a different story.

Since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iraq’s foreign currency reserves have been housed at the United States’ Federal Reserve, giving the Americans significant control over Iraq’s supply of dollars. The Central Bank of Iraq requests dollars from the Fed and then sells them to commercial banks and exchange houses at the official exchange rate through a mechanism known as the “dollar auction.”

In the past, daily sales through the auction often exceeded $200 million per day.

Ostensibly, the vast majority of the dollars sold in the auction are meant to go to purchases of goods imported by Iraqi companies, but the system has long been porous and easily abused, multiple Iraqi banking and political officials told The Associated Press.

US officials confirmed to the AP that they suspected the system was used for money laundering but declined to comment in detail on the allegations or the new restrictions.

For years, large quantities of dollars were transferred out of the country to Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Lebanon through “gray market trading, using fake invoices for overpriced items,” a financial adviser to the Iraqi prime minister said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

The inflated invoices were used to launder dollars, with most of them sent to Iran and Syria, which are under US sanctions, leading to complaints from American officials, he said.

In other cases, the currency is smuggled across land borders under the protection of armed groups that take a cut of the cash, said Tamkeen Abd Sarhan al-Hasnawi, chairman of the board of Mosul Bank and first deputy of the Iraq Private Banks League. He estimated that as much as 80 percent of the dollars sold through the auction went to neighboring countries.

“Syria, Turkey, and Iran used to benefit from the dollar auction in Iraq,” he said.

A member of one of Iraq’s Iran-backed militias, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the subject, said the majority of Iraqi banks are owned indirectly by politicians and political parties that have also used the dollar auction to their benefit.

Late last year, the Fed began imposing stricter measures.

Among other steps, at the request of the US, the Central Bank of Iraq started using an electronic system for transfers that required entering detailed information on the intended end-recipient of the requested dollars. One hundred Central Bank employees were trained by the Fed to implement the new system, the prime minister’s financial adviser said.

“This system started rejecting transfers and invoices that used to be approved by the central bank,” he said. “Around 80 percent of transactions were being rejected.”

The amount of dollars sold daily in the auction plummeted to $69.6 million on January 31, from $257.8 million six months earlier, according to Central Bank records. Far fewer of the dollars are going toward buying imports as well, down to around 34 percent from 90 percent.

Even when transactions are approved, it takes banks up to 15 days to get the funds rather than two or three days, Hasnawi said.

Unable to get dollars at the official price through banks, he said, traders turned to the black market to buy dollars, causing the price to rise.

In November, the Central Bank of Iraq added four new banks to the list of those banned from dealing in dollars. Two US officials confirmed that the Fed requested the four banks be blocked because of suspected money laundering. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment on the case.

A spokesperson for the New York Fed declined to discuss the specific measures taken with regards to Iraq. But the Fed said in a statement that it enforces “a robust compliance regime” for the accounts it holds.

The statement said that this regime “evolves over time in response to new information, which we gather in the regular course of monitoring transactions and events that may impact an account and in communication with other relevant US government agencies.”

The system of keeping Iraq’s oil revenues at the Fed was originally imposed by UN Security Council resolutions after the 2003 ouster of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein by the US-led invasion. Later, Iraq chose to maintain the system to protect its revenues against potential lawsuits, particularly in connection to Iraq’s 1990s invasion of Kuwait.

The new US restrictions come at a time of increased tensions between the US and Iran. Negotiations over a nuclear deal are floundering. Washington has imposed new sanctions and condemned Iran for cracking down on protesters and providing drones for Russia to use in Ukraine.

Also, in Iraq, allegations came to light in October that over $2.5 billion in Iraqi government revenue was embezzled by a network of businesses and officials from the country’s tax authority.

The case “brought (US) attention to the scale of corruption in Iraq” and how the corruption can benefit Iran and other parties hostile to the US, said Harith Hasan, head of the Iraq unit at the Emirates Research Center, an Abu Dhabi-based think tank.

The new Iraqi prime minister, Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, who came to power via a coalition of Iranian-backed parties, does not have a strong relationship with the US that could have enabled him to soften the implementation of the new financial measures, Hasan said.

Al-Sudani has downplayed the current devaluation as “a temporary issue of trading and speculation.”

He replaced the Central Bank governor and instituted measures intended to ensure a supply of dollars at the official rate.

Al-Hasnawi said the government’s recent measures will not stop the financial bleeding. If the current situation persists, he said, “within one year, most banks will declare bankruptcy” and there is likely to be mass civil unrest.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Father of murdered Saudi student says US woman preyed on his son’s kindness

03 February ,2023

The father of a Saudi student who was murdered in the US said the killer repeatedly tried to take advantage of his son’s kindness in an attempt to get him to give her money.

In a heinous crime that has shook the Kingdom, Al-Walid al-Gharibi – a 25-year-old studying in the US on a scholarship – was found dead in the bathtub in Nicole Marie Rodgers’ bathroom with multiple stab wounds on January 21 in the state of Philadelphia.

In an exclusive interview with Al Arabiya, Abdullah al-Gharibi said that Rodgers had been trying to get closer to his son in the months leading up to her crime.

He denied rumors that his son had put up an advert online offering his furniture up for sale.

The woman – who lived in the same building as his son – had repeatedly tried to start conversations with the young man, his father said, adding that al-Gharibi would often stay in his room to avoid her.

His son had also told friends that Rodgers was making him uncomfortable, and he thought she was only trying to get close to him for financial gain, the father said.

In one instance, the woman had knocked on al-Gharibi’s door and asked him to help her get back into her bedroom because she had locked herself out, according to the father.

On the day of the murder, Rodgers had approached al-Gharibi for help to carry some of her belongings to her car. When the young man went up to the third floor where her room was located, the woman allegedly stabbed him in the neck and pushed him into the bathroom before continuing to strike him with a knife multiple times, his father said.

According to al-Gharibi’s father, Rodgers then went down to his son’s room where she proceeded to steal his mobile phones, laptops, expensive shoes, and his wallet before making her escape.

Records show that al-Gharibi’s credit card was used in a nearby town after his death, the father said.

Another resident who was in the adjoining bedroom heard the attack and immediately called the building’s owner who arrived at the scene about 15 minutes later, the father said.

Upon discovering al-Gharibi’s body, the building’s owner called the authorities and tried to resuscitate him, but it was too late.

The father received an email from the Philadelphia police four hours later urging him to contact the murder department.

After speaking to the police, he told Al Arabiya that he immediately booked a flight to the US from the Kingdom.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Iraq’s new leaders must keep fighting corruption: UN envoy

February 03, 2023

UNITED NATIONS: The UN special envoy for Iraq urged the country’s new government Thursday to keep fighting corruption and move quickly on much-needed economic, fiscal and financial reforms.

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert told the UN Security Council many other areas also need immediate government attention, among them ensuring human rights, resolving issues with the Kurdistan Regional Government, improving public services, addressing environmental challenges, and continuing to return Iraqis from camps and prisons in northeast Syria.

“The hope is that the confirmation of Iraq’s new government will provide an opportunity to structurally address the many pressing issues facing the country and its people,” she said. “The urgency is for Iraq’s political class to seize the brief window of opportunity it is awarded, and to finally lift the country out of recurring cycles of instability and fragility.”

A more than year-long political stalemate punctuated by outbreaks of street violence ended in late October with the confirmation by Iraq’s Council of Representatives of a new government and Cabinet led by Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani.

Hennis-Plasschaert said that during its first three months, Al-Sudani’s government has shown a commitment to tackle endemic corruption, poor public services and high unemployment.

Turning to the fight against corruption, she pointed to a number of important steps taken by the government, including trying to recover stolen funds and investigating allegations of graft.

“That said, I can only encourage the Iraqi government to persevere, as those who stand to lose will undoubtedly seek to hinder these efforts,” she said. “But if Iraq is to build a system that serves the need of society instead of serving a closed community of collusion, then ensuring accountability across the spectrum is absolutely essential.”

The UN special representative said “systemic change” is vital to address corruption and improve services that directly affect people’s lives.

As for economic, fiscal and financial reforms, Hennis-Plasschaert expressed concern at the increase in the exchange rate on the parallel market “adding to the pressure on everyday Iraqi women and men.”

“On the short term, it is obviously essential that the federal budget is passed expeditiously,” she said. “A further delay will only result in worsening the situation due to the well-known spending constraints.”

Despite high unemployment, Hennis-Plasschaert cautioned against any “further bloating” of Iraq’s “already extremely inflated public sector.”

She cautioned the government against relying totally on the country’s oil, which is vulnerable to price shocks, and urged it to focus on diversifying the economy, including by developing an employment-generating private sector.

Hennis-Plasschaert said the government also needs to swiftly implement the Sinjar Agreement brokered by the UN in October 2020 between Baghdad and the Kurdish-run regional government to jointly manage the Sinjar region. It is home to Iraq’s Yazidi religious minority, and the agreement aims to restore the state’s hold over the patchwork of militia groups and competing authorities in the area after the defeat of Islamic State extremists.

When IS fighters swept into northern Iraq in 2014 the militants massacred thousands of Yazidi men and enslaved an estimated 7,000 women, including Nadia Murad, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her campaign to end sexual violence as a weapon of war. She returned to her home village in Sinjar this week with actress and activist Angelina Jolie to meet survivors of IS brutality and see progress in redeveloping the region.

US deputy ambassador Richard Mill called on the government to improve its respect for human rights and commit to implementing the Sinjar Agreement in close consultation with the Yazidi community.

He said the United States supports the prime minister’s efforts to root out corruption and improve public services, particularly providing electricity, and encourages development of the private sector and job growth, “with a focus on increasing women’s participation in the workforce.”

Source: Arab News

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Israeli warplanes strike Gaza overnight

February 3, 2023

GAZA: Israeli aircraft struck in Gaza on Thursday in response to Palestinian rocket fire, days after the United States called for calm, but there was no immediate sign of a wider escalation in violence following days of tension.

With no reports of serious casualties, the exchange followed a familiar pattern that signalled neither side was seeking a wider conflict.

Separately, Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said Israel, which collects taxes on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA), would use 100 million shekels ($29 million) from PA funds to compensate victims of Palestinian attacks. There was no immediate comment from the PA.

The military said its air strikes targeted rocket and weapons production sites used by Hamas, the group that controls the blockaded strip, in response to Wednesday’s rocket launch.

Hamas calls attack ‘continuation of cycle of aggression against Palestinian people’

No Palestinian groups claimed Wednesday’s rocket fire.

Powerful explosions shook buildings and lit up the night sky over Gaza as sirens sounded in Israeli towns and villages around the strip warning of incoming rocket fire before dawn on Thursday.

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem called the Israeli strikes “a continuation of the cycle of aggression against the Palestinian people”. He accused Israel of “opening the door to escalation on the ground”.

The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) said it had fired some of the rockets in response to the air strikes and the “systematic aggression” against Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

The exchange of fire underlined the tensions between Israel and the Palestinians after a Palestinian gunman shot dead seven people near a synagogue on the outskirts of Jerusalem and an Israeli raid in the West Bank killed 10 Palestinians, including eight fighters.

Spate of attacks

Last year was the deadliest in more than a decade in the West Bank, with violence steadily escalating following a spate of lethal Palestinian attacks in Israel, which drew stepped-up Israeli raids against gunmen.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on both sides to ease tensions on wrapping up a visit to the region on Tuesday, in which he reaffirmed Washington’s support for a two-state solution to the decades-long conflict.

Top US diplomat for the Middle East, Barbara Leaf, and US special representative for Palestinian affairs, Hady Amr, remained behind to continue de-escalation talks between the sides and were due to meet Palestinian officials on Thursday.

In Gaza, activists rallied in support of women prisoners held by Israel after far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who oversees prisons, said he would push ahead with plans to toughen conditions for Palestinian prisoners.

Ben-Gvir has vowed a crackdown on “benefits and indulgen­ces” offered to Palestinian priso­ners and ordered amenities inclu­ding prisoner-operated bread ovens in some prisons to be curtailed.

Hamas official Mushir Al-Masri, who attended the rally, said the latest Ben-Gvir decisions “added fuel to the fire”.

“The issue of prisoners has always been on the agenda of the Palestinian resistance, and the screams by female prisoners inside the jails of the Zionist enemy risk a tough confrontation in which the Palestinian resistance will not stand handcuffed,” said Masri.

Separately, an official from the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad said a delegation from the group’s political office, led by the faction’s chief-in-exile Ziyad al-Nakhala, would visit Cairo on Friday for talks that would also include the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The official, who asked not to be named, said the visit was scheduled before the latest violence but he said the current escalation in Gaza and the West Bank would inevitably be discussed.

Source: Dawn

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Iran Dismisses IAEA Report on Undeclared Change at Fordow Nuclear Facility


Kamalvandi on Wednesday rejected a report by the UN nuclear watchdog that claims Tehran made an undeclared change to uranium enriching equipment at the Fordow facility in the Central province of Qom.

"The report of the International Atomic Energy Agency was based on a mistake by an inspector of the oversight body who mistakenly flagged the issue," he stated.

The spokesperson added that the matter has already been resolved after previous inspectors came to the site and Iranian officials explained to them about the issue.

"The inspector who had previously reported about it also realized his mistake," the AEOI official said.

The AEOI Chief Mohammad Eslami has also responded to the IAEA's report, saying it was issued based on a false inadvertent report submitted by one of the nuclear agency's inspectors.

"The previous inspectors attended the place (Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant) and after the explanations given to them, the mentioned inspector realized his mistake and after their coordination with the agency's secretariat, the issue was practically resolved," Eslami stated.

He expressed regret for the international organization's actions, adding the ongoing process and inspection of nuclear facilities of no country is immediately covered by the media.

Earlier, the IAEA announced in a report that its inspectors found a modification to an interconnection between two clusters of centrifuges that was substantially different than what Iran had declared to the agency. Director General Rafael Grossi has also noted that the change was “inconsistent with Iran’s obligations” under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and undermines the IAEA’s ability to “implement effective safeguards measures” at the Fordow site.

Back in November, the AEOI said that Tehran has began enriching uranium to 60% purity at Fordow nuclear site in a tit-for-tat move against a resolution adopted by the IAEA Board of Governors against Iran.

The AEOI added production of 60% enriched uranium had started for the first time in Fordwo nuclear site, as the country is already enriching uranium to up to 60% purity elsewhere.

The atomic agency noted that a new generation of IR-6 centrifuges had replaced older machines in Fordwo to enable a massive ramp-up in output.

Iran has always had full cooperation with the IAEA and allowed it to visit the country’s nuclear sites, but calls the nuclear agency's approach unconstructive and destructive. But Tehran has asked the IAEA to avoid politicizing the issue and focus on technical aspects in line with the organization’s mandate.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Turkey summons nine western envoys over security warnings

02 February ,2023

Turkey on Thursday summoned the ambassadors and top envoys of nine countries to condemn the mass closure of European consulates in Istanbul due to security concerns.

The United States and several European powers have advised citizens not to attend mass events and avoid tourist hotspots in central Istanbul because of a heightened terror threat.

At least seven European countries have closed their Istanbul consulates to the general public as a precaution.

The US consulate remains open because it is not in the city center and less vulnerable to a terror attack.

The security warnings came during a spike in diplomatic tensions linked to Turkey’s refusal to let Sweden and Finland join the US-led NATO defense bloc.

These have been exacerbated by protests at which an anti-Islamic extremist burnt copies of the Koran in Stockholm and Copenhagen last month.

Turkish officials have voiced growing frustration with the Western security alerts.

Ankara issued a travel warning for the United States and Europe in seeming retaliation last weekend.

A Turkish diplomatic source said the nine ambassadors and senior representatives were summoned to discuss their decision to close the consulates without specifying the countries.

The source disclosed no other immediate details.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu on Thursday condemned the Western closures as an attempt to meddle in Turkey’s May 14 presidential and parliament election campaign.

“They are waging psychological war against Turkey,” Soylu told NTV television. “They are trying to destabilize Turkey.”

The chief spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party accused the West of making “irresponsible statements”.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Iran: Preliminary Investigations Show Israel Responsible for Drone Attack on Military Facility


Iravani wrote in a letter to the Secretary-General and Rotating Chairperson of the Security Council, saying, "Initial probe suggests that the Israeli regime was responsible for this attempted act of aggression."

"Furthermore, in a recent interview with CNN on January 31, 2023, the Prime Minister of the Israeli regime, Benjamin Netanyahu, admitted Israel’s involvement in acts of sabotage and terrorism in Iran," he continued.

The Iranian diplomat underlined that the Israeli regime has openly admitted its involvement in these reprehensible crimes, noting, "Hence, it must be held accountable for all criminal and terrorist acts committed against Iran and face the consequences without exception."

"In light of the destructive consequences of the Israeli regime’s persistent malicious activities in the region, particularly its threat to use force against Iran’s critical infrastructure and peaceful nuclear facilities, the United Nations Security Council must fulfill its responsibility under the Charter and condemn Israel's warmongering statements and acts of terrorism, including state terrorism, which pose a serious threat to regional and international peace and security. The Security Council must also demand that the Israeli regime comply with international law and cease its dangerous plans and malicious activities in the region," the letter read.

"Iran reserves its legitimate and inherent right, in accordance with international law and the United Nations Charter, to defend its national security and respond resolutely to any threats or wrongful actions by the Israeli regime, wherever and whenever deemed necessary," Iravani underscored.

The Iranian Defense Ministry on Sunday announced that the country's air defense units had thwarted a drone raid on a military workshop in Isfahan. Tehran confirmed that the unsuccessful attack did not cause any loss of life and only led to minor damage to the roof of a workshop.

Several news outlets reported that Israel had launched the strike. There was initial speculation in the Arab media that the explosions in Isfahan were the result of a US Air Force operation. But, Pentagon Spokesperson Patrick Ryder has stated that no American forces were involved in the strike, but declined to comment further.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Israel arrests American over Jerusalem church vandalism

02 February ,2023

Israeli police said officers arrested an American man on Thursday over vandalizing a church along a major pilgrimage route in Jerusalem’s Old City.

The suspect was detained after a wooden statue of Jesus was pulled down and damaged in the Church of the Condemnation, where Christians believe Jesus was flogged and sentenced to death.

“The suspect arrested is an American tourist in his forties, who vandalized and broke a statue in the church,” said a statement from police, adding that the man’s mental health was being assessed.

A spokeswoman for the United States embassy in Jerusalem did not comment on the incident when contacted by AFP.

Majid al-Rishq, the gatekeeper who detained the accused, described him as Jewish man armed with a hammer.

“He started hitting the statue of Christ in the Church of the Condemnation... I was able to grab him and pull him off it, but he knocked the statue off and broke it,” Rishq told AFP.

“I grabbed him and then the priests came and called the police,” he added.

The wooden statue was brought from Spain to Jerusalem in 1912, said Eugenio Alliata, director of the SBF Archaeological Museum, which collects artefacts from the Holy Land.

The Old City lies in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem and is home to sites sacred to Christians, Jews and Muslims.

The Church of the Condemnation stands on Via Dolorosa, which Christians believe marks the path taken by Jesus before his crucifixion in the sacred city.

Pilgrims from around the world walk from the Church of the Condemnation, stopping to pray and sing along the cobbled street before reaching Jesus’s crucifixion and burial site at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Israel’s police force said it takes “damage to religious institutions and sites very seriously,” following a series of attacks targeting the Christian community.

Two Jews were arrested over an attack on Saturday against a group of Armenian Christians in the Old City, a police spokeswoman told AFP.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Iran Categorically Rejects French Claims of Smuggling Arms to Yemen


French official claimed on Thursday the country's naval forces in January seized thousands of assault rifles, machine guns and anti-tank missiles in the Gulf of Oman coming from Iran and heading to Yemen.

Rejecting the claimed raised by Paris, Kana'ani stated on Thursday such allegations are raised with political motives with the purpose of misinforming public opinion in the world.

"The countries which are helping the coalition of aggressors against Yemen under military dealings or by providing intelligence assistance and have a role in the inhumane blockade on the Yemeni people are in no position to raise accusations against other nations,” the diplomat added.

The spokesperson advised France and other countries that aid the Saudi-led coalition "to immediately stop their opportunistic and self-interested policies", instead of "giving misinformation and abdicating responsibility" for the war that has been imposed on Yemen.

Tehran has repeatedly rejected allegations about sending weapons to Yemeni forces.

“Medicine and medical goods are sent to Yemenis with difficulty; then how could military equipment go through and sent to them,” an Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson had asked.

The spokesman noted that the Yemeni nation has made astonishing progress in the military field and manufacturing weapons and military equipment after facing the Saudi-led aggression.

Saudi Arabia launched a devastating war on Yemen in March 2015 in collaboration with its Arab allies and with arms and logistics support from the US, the UK and other Western states.

The objective was to reinstall the Riyadh-friendly regime of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, and crush the Ansarullah resistance movement, which has been running state affairs in the absence of a functional government in Yemen.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Israel to Chad: Need to curb Iran, Hezbollah clout in Sahel region

02 February ,2023

Chadian President Mahamat Deby, in Israel to open an embassy near Tel Aviv Thursday, heard his hosts’ concern about what they described as the clout of their arch-foes Iran and Hezbollah in Africa’s Sahel region.

Israel only confirmed Deby’s visit on Wednesday, a day after he arrived. The trip included a rare stop at the Mossad intelligence headquarters - a sign that bilateral ties re-established five years ago have national security importance.

Chad’s embassy is in Ramat Gan, a town abutting Tel Aviv, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said.

“This is a great day, an historic day for Chad and for Israel, too,” Deby said in a videotape of the inauguration.

“I offer a prayer to God that, with the formal opening of our embassy here, relations between our countries will bring value to both peoples, yours and ours.”

Standing beside the Chadian president, Netanyahu said: “We are strengthening our friendship, and our common interest in pursuing peace, security and prosperity.”

Meeting Deby earlier, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant “raised the importance of narrowing the influence of Iran and Hezbollah in the Sahel region, as a key to ensuring stability, and thwarting the export of terrorism,” Gallant’s office said.

There was no immediate comment from the government in Chad or Tehran. In Beirut, Hezbollah’s media office declined comment.

The existence or level of Iranian influence in the Sahel has been disputed.

Morocco cut ties with Iran in 2018, accusing it of working through Hezbollah to train and arm the Polisario Front group, which is waging an armed independence struggle for the disputed territory of Western Sahara. Rabat has also warned of Iranian incursion in the Sahel using Algeria as a gateway.

Algeria and the Polisario have denied this and analysts say they have seen no evidence of such Iranian activity.

Muslim-majority Chad has not publicly spoken of any significant presence by Iran or Hezbollah, a Tehran-backed Lebanese political party with a powerful militia, in the Sahel, parts of which are contending with Sunni “Islamist” insurgencies.

In 2018, Chad’s then-president Idriss Deby visited Israel, reversing decades of diplomatic distance over its policies toward the Palestinians, whose statehood struggle continues. At the time, Idriss Deby cited a joint fight against terrorism.

Having returned to power last month, Netanyahu has vowed to expand the circle of Arab or Muslim countries that recognize Israel - even as he contends with a deepening and violent stalemate with the Palestinians.

There was no immediate comment on the Chadian embassy opening from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ administration. Abbas’ rival Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which spurns coexistence with Israel, condemned Chad’s move.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Iranian FM Describes Sanctions as Terrorist Tool


Amir Abdollahian hailed enhanced ties with Nicaragua during a joint meeting with his Nicaraguan counterpart Denis Moncada in Managua on Wednesday.

“Iran is serious in looking at Latin America within the framework of its foreign policy doctrine. We are witnessing the expansion of relations between Iran and Nicaragua,” he said.

The top diplomat also expressed his satisfaction with the cooperation between the two countries in the energy sector, saying both capitals agree to hold joint economic commission regularly.

“Our ambassadors are actively following up relations and I am happy that the positions of both countries regarding international issues are on the right track,” the minister continued.

He added that the two countries have signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation and political consultations mechanism.

The Iranian foreign minister also stated that Tehran strives for political independence for a multilateral world order.

Referring to US-led sanctions against independent countries, Amir-Abdollahian noted sanctions are a “terrorist threat” that imperial powers use as leverage.

For his part, the Nicaraguan foreign minister said the cooperation document is the first agreement signed with Iran in 2023, noting that 14 such documents were inked last year in line with the interests of both nations.

He also voiced confidence that bilateral relations will be reinforced through joint work and cooperation, highlighting the need to boost cooperation with Iran as a friendly and brotherly country to achieve peace and secure the rights of the two nations.

Amir Abdollahian traveled to Nicaragua on Wednesday, after making a visit to Mauritania. He is also expected to visit Venezuela as his second destination in Latin America.

Iranian officials have noted that the US has been defeated in the maximum pressure policy against Tehran, underscoring that sanctions have all failed to hamper the progress of the country.

In quitting the 2015 nuclear deal, former President Donald Trump restored sanctions on Iran as part of what he called the “maximum pressure” campaign against the country. Those sanctions are being enforced to this day by the Joe Biden administration, even though it has repeatedly acknowledged that the policy has been a mistake and a failure.

Tehran says it will not be able to trust Washington as long as President Biden continues the wrong policy of maximum pressure and sanctions practiced by Trump against Iran.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Israel’s finance minister confiscates Palestinian money to compensate Israeli victims of attacks


February 02, 2023

RAMALLAH: Israel, which collects taxes on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, would use 100 million shekels ($29 million) from PA funds to compensate victims of Palestinian attacks, Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has said.

The amount to be deducted is double the amount normally confiscated monthly — $14.7 million — in the first such move since Smotrich took office.

Smotrich signed off orders, claiming these funds would normally be transferred by the PA to the families of prisoners and those carrying out attacks against the occupation.

This is not the first time that Israeli authorities have confiscated Palestinian tax revenues as “compensation” to the families of Israelis killed and injured in Palestinian operations.

On Jan. 8, Smotrich ordered the seizure of $40.5 million from the PA’s funds as part of the sanctions he decided to impose on the Palestinians.

The sums deducted by Israel between 2011 and 2021 under this clause reached $11 billion.

In 2022 alone, the total unilateral Israeli deductions from Palestinian tax revenues amounted to $450 million.

A senior PA economic official, who preferred anonymity, told Arab News that the Israeli decision to double the deductions would exacerbate the financial crisis the PA has been suffering from for over a year.

“This is a deliberate attempt to weaken and undermine the Palestinian Authority,” he said.

“Considering the rise in prices and the increase in financial obligations for public sector employees, the additional deductions will make the PA unable to even pay 80 percent of the monthly salary to its employees, which will weaken the security establishment and push people to support violence against Israel,” he added.

The authority, he said, had exceeded the limit allowed to borrow from the Palestinian banks, and it was concerned that if it continued to borrow, it would cause a shock to the Palestinian banking sector.

Ahmed Majdalani, Palestinian social development minister, told Arab News that the additional Israeli cuts would impact the private sector as well as the Palestinian government’s ability to pay salaries and provide welfare for impoverished Palestinian families.

“Israel is pushing the PA to the brink of inability to fulfill its obligations, which aggravates the Palestinian situation and weakens PA institutions, including the security services,” he said.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces have arrested 27 Palestinians from the West Bank, most of them from Ramallah, transferred five Jerusalemites to administrative detention for three to six months, and demolished two houses in Duma village, south of Nablus, in the northern West Bank.

Suleiman Dawabsha, the head of the Duma village council, told Arab News that large forces from the Israeli army, accompanied by a military bulldozer, stormed the eastern area of the village and demolished the homes.

At the same time, the houses of 15 more people were threatened with demolition.

In a separate incident, an Israeli settler attacked a child from Hawara, south of Nablus, with pepper spray.

The settler stopped Suleiman Al-Mukhtar’s vehicle on the main street in the town and shot pepper spray through the car window at the face of his 14-year-old son, Faisal.

The Wall and Settlement Resistance Commission said the month of January saw 150 attacks carried out by settlers against Palestinians, including an attempt to establish six new settlement outposts. It added that 72 attacks were carried out in Nablus.

Meanwhile, 160 Palestinian and American human rights and humanitarian organizations have called on the US Congress to stop funding the “massacres” committed by the Israeli government against the Palestinian people.

They stressed the need for Congress to take immediate political measures to stop arming Israel by ending its military funding.

Amnesty International has called on Israeli authorities to dismantle the “apartheid” system, which is upheld by “unlawful killings” that constitute “crimes against humanity.”

It also condemned other grave and ongoing violations committed by Israeli authorities, such as administrative detention and forcible transfer of detainees.

In its statement, the organization said Israeli authorities controlled virtually every aspect of the lives of Palestinians, “subjecting them to oppression and unfair discrimination daily through the fragmentation of regions and legal segregation.”

People in the occupied Palestinian territories are isolated in enclaves, with those living in the Gaza Strip cut off from the rest of the world by Israel’s illegal blockade, which has caused a humanitarian crisis, a form of collective punishment, Amnesty said.

Elsewhere, Hamas condemned the opening of the Chadian Embassy in Israel on Thursday, calling on Chad to review its decision, which contradicts the position of the country’s people, who have historically supported Palestine.

Separately, the Islamic-Christian Organization for the Support of Jerusalem and Sanctities denounced an attack by settlers on a church in the Old City of Jerusalem.

It described the vandalism of the church as “a dangerous transgression by the settlers toward everything that is not Jewish in Jerusalem.”

The Israeli police said the culprit was an American tourist in his 40s who has been arrested.

Press reports said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, during his visit, pressured Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to accept a security plan formulated by US Security Coordinator Gen. Michael Wenzel to restore the authority’s control over the cities of Nablus and Jenin, which have become centers of unrest.

The plan includes training a special Palestinian force to confront militants in the occupied West Bank.

Source: Arab News

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Iran’s IRGC chief vows punishment after desecration of Quran in Europe

02 February ,2023

The head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) threatened punishment on Thursday for those behind the desecration of Islam’s holy book, the Quran, in Europe.

“Today, we are the guardians of Islam and the Quran … We say to those who burned the Quran, this fire will catch your bodies and turn them into corpses,” state news agency IRNA quoted Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami as saying.

“Live in secret from today and have nightmares every night, Muslims will not leave you even if decades pass,” added Salami.

Last month, a far-right activist from Denmark burned a copy of the Quran outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm. Days later, a Dutch leader of the far-right Pegida movement tore pages from a Quran near the Dutch parliament.

Salami referenced the attack against novelist Salman Rushdie in August, saying that those who desecrated the Quran should expect a similar fate.

The IRGC commander made the same reference last month last month regarding the staff of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo for publishing cartoons of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei deemed “insulting” by Tehran.

Rushdie was stabbed on August 12 as he prepared to speak at an event in western New York. He had long faced death threats for his fourth novel, “The Satanic Verses,” published in 1988.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Israel’s foreign minister arrives in Khartoum to discuss Sudan normalization

02 February ,2023

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen was in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on Thursday to discuss the normalization of ties between the two countries, two Sudanese government sources said.

The trip was part of an exchange of visits between Sudan and Israel and involved discussions on reaching and signing a normalization deal as well as military and security issues, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Sudan agreed to take steps to normalize ties with Israel in a 2020 deal brokered by former US President Donald Trump’s administration, alongside normalization agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco known as the “Abraham Accords.”

In January 2021, Sudan said that its justice minister at the time, NasredeenAbdulbari, had signed on to the Abraham Accords during a visit by US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

There was no immediate comment from Israeli officials, but Cohen’s office said he would in the evening convene a news conference “upon his return from an historic state visit”. It did not elaborate.

As intelligence minister in 2021, Cohen made a ground-breaking visit to Sudan.

Sudan’s military, which has been in charge of the country since an October 2021 coup but says it intends to hand over power to a civilian government, is seen as having led the move towards establishing relations with Israel.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Iran blames cyberattack for internet disruption: Report

02 February ,2023

A nationwide drop in Iranian internet traffic last week was caused by a cyberattack, the semi-official Iranian Students’ News Agency reported.

Investigations are ongoing into the origin of the January 25 attack, which disrupted networks for ten minutes, ISNA reported, citing Communications Minister EisaZarepour.

Iran has restricted internet access since September as part of its crackdown on nationwide anti-government protests sparked by the death in police custody of MahsaAmini, a 22-year-old woman who died shortly after her arrest by Tehran’s morality police for allegedly not complying with the Islamic Republic’s strict hijab rules.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Israel’s attorney general says Netanyahu cannot be involved in legal overhaul

02 February ,2023

Israel’s attorney general has told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu he must avoid being involved in an overhaul to the country’s judicial system proposed by his government, saying in a letter made public Thursday that he risks a conflict of interest in his ongoing corruption trial.

Netanyahu’s new far-right government has made changing the legal system a centerpiece of its legislative agenda and despite mounting public criticism, has charged ahead with steps to weaken the Supreme Court and grant politicians less judicial oversight in their policymaking.

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Netanyahu is on trial for fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in a series of scandals involving influential media moguls and wealthy associates. He denies wrongdoing.

“You must avoid as part of your role as prime minister involvement in initiatives related to the legal system,” Attorney General GaliBaharav-Miara wrote to Netanyahu in the letter, which was sent Wednesday. She said that meant Netanyahu could also not direct others to advance the plan.

The letter included an opinion by Baharav-Miara’s deputy, saying the overhaul would “benefit the prime minister in terms of the administration of his trial.” It said the changes would allow the governing coalition to more easily advance legislation that could assist Netanyahu.

Amir Fuchs, a senior researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute, a Jerusalem think tank, said Baharav-Miara’s position won’t affect the plan’s progress. He said the attorney general’s position is binding, meaning Netanyahu won’t be able to deal with the legal changes, and neither will any of his political appointees on his behalf. But ministers in his government should be able to, he said.

The judicial overhaul was launched by the country’s justice minister, a close confidante of Netanyahu’s, and the Israeli leader has touted it as the right step for the country.

Asked about moves to alter the judiciary by a leader on trial in an interview with CNN this week, Netanyahu said “none of the reforms that we’re talking about…have anything to do with my trial.”

Baharav-Miara’s stance is only likely to deepen a rift in Israel over the power of the judiciary, which has roiled the country since the government took power later last year.

The plan would allow a simple majority of the country’s 120-seat parliament to overturn Supreme Court decisions that deem laws unconstitutional. It would also allow government ministers to ignore the advice of legal counselors and also make the position less independent.

Critics say the plan upends Israel’s system of checks and balances and strips minorities of the ultimate protector of their rights, the Supreme Court. They say it grants politicians too much power and would be destructive to Israel’s democratic fundamentals. The plan has faced widespread opposition, from top legal officials to economists and the country’s robust tech sector to tens of thousands of ordinary Israelis who have come out to protest the move.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Islamic group, JNI, wants security operatives punished over Nasarawa killings

By SaxoneAkhaine, Kaduna

03 February 2023

Apex Muslim body in the North, Jama’atuNasril Islam (JNI), has called on the Federal Government to punish officers of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) and other security operatives allegedly involved in the recent shelling of innocent citizens in Doma, Nasarawa State.

It also urged the government to investigate the incident to avert recurrence.

In a statement issued by Secretary General, Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, yesterday, JNI said: “The Federal Government of Nigeria should pay compensation to the bereaved families, for equity, justice and foreclosing of any possibility of vengeance or reprisal.”

It said government should “prosecute officials that are found wanting in the discharge of their assignments, to serve as deterrent to other nonchalant officials.”

JNI said: “This massacre calls for serious introspection, especially as the 2023 general election is fast approaching. For how long would we continue to wait in vain? How long shall we continue to condemn acts of terrorism without any concerted efforts at ending them? For how long would we continue to suffer hopelessness and despair, such as what we just witnessed in Doma?

“JNI is perplexed and very much concerned over the grisly incident in Doma and its environs. This dastardly act was carried out despite several concerted efforts at peaceful co-existence between the Tiv and Fulani, as well as other sedentary farmers in the area.

“Clearly, there seems to be premeditated sabotage from some quarters. Government should, therefore, thoroughly interrogate the events that culminated to the most unfortunate bloodletting in Doma.”

According to the group, “some sources claimed helicopters bombed the victims, while others said it was a horrific sporadic and coordinated attack from different angles on the victims; a very heart-rending and mind-boggling situation. But for how long shall innocent defenceless Nigerians continue to suffer cruel termination of their lives and utter destruction of their property?”

Source: Guardian Nigeria

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Sudan, Israel agree to move forward with ‘normalization’: Sudan foreign ministry

02 February ,2023

Sudan and Israel on Thursday agreed to move forward with “normalization,” the Sudanese foreign ministry said during a visit to Khartoum by Israel’s top diplomat.

“It has been agreed to move forward towards the normalization of relations between the two countries,” the Sudanese foreign ministry said in a statement.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Tunisians struggle with prices and shortages as economy worsens

02 February ,2023

Tunisian street cleaner Lassad Mejri says life has grown so tough for his family because of the country’s dire economy that they prepare just one meal a day, but as government finances falter, there may be worse to come.

Like many Tunisians Mejri, 57, and his wife Elgeya had already been struggling to cope with basic living costs before recent years brought the COVID-19 pandemic, rising global inflation and a crisis in state finances.

“People are no longer happy and cannot even laugh. Everything is difficult. If you laugh now, you feel bad,” said Mejri, who lives in the town of Tebourba, 30km (18 miles) west of the capital Tunis.

Mejri, his wife, and their son used to eat three meals a day. Now, Elgeya only prepares a midday meal and they only eat in the evening if there are leftovers.

Mejri spends his working days sweeping streets and pavements in Tebourba, pushing a wheeled plastic bin along with him, to earn 400 dinars ($100) a month.

“Everything has become very expensive this year, we can no longer buy anything,” he said.

Tunisia has been pushing for years for an international bailout to help it stave off bankruptcy, but the country’s political turmoil and disputes over economic reforms have thwarted those efforts.

Last week, ratings agency Moody’s downgraded Tunisian sovereign debt, saying there was a likelihood of a default.

Shortages of some subsidised food and medicine already point to the government’s economic problems, and a default would likely make things much worse by raising the cost of borrowing and undermining the dinar, which would worsen inflation.

Mejri needs medicine for a medical condition, but said he was no longer able to find it in Tunisia.

“It’s not a shortage. This medicine is not here anymore,” he said. He said he managed to obtain some from a woman who had imported it specially from France for her own mother.

Shortages have been seen across the country, with supermarkets and local shops out of some products or having to ration basic goods such as sugar, milk, butter and cooking oil.

Even without those shortages, a 10 percent inflation rate - which economists say may be 20 percent for food items - means many Tunisians are buying less anyway.

At a Tunis market, vegetable seller Tawfik Mselmi, 53, said he was ashamed to be demanding such high prices, but was making no profit.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Moroccan court rules to extradite Saudi man despite fears of torture, unfair trial

03 February 2023

A Moroccan court has ruled to extradite a Saudi Arabian Shia Muslim man from a family of activists to the Arab kingdom notwithstanding fears that he could face custodial torture and unfair trial there.

Hassan al-Rabea, held in a prison near Rabat since January 14, was arrested at the behest of Saudi authorities at Marrakech Airport as the 26-year-old was leaving the Moroccan capital for Ankara.

The Rabat Court of Cassation “unfortunately responded favorably to the request for the extradition of Hassan al-Rabea,” his lawyer Mohamed Sebbar was quoted as saying by AFP on Thursday. “No appeal is possible.”

The decision will be sent to the Moroccan justice minister, followed by the prime minister, who is likely to sign a decree ordering his extradition.

Rabea’s brother Ahmed, based in Canada, said there was “no proof” against his sibling and accused Riyadh of “buying” a favorable ruling in the Moroccan courts.

“Hassan will be handed over to a criminal country that will cut off his head,” he said.

The Saudi regime accused Hassan in a November arrest warrant of “leaving Saudi Arabia illegally with the help of a terrorist". Riyadh frequently accuses anti-government activists of links to “terrorism".

Ahmed said Saudi authorities were targeting his brother in order to exert pressure to find their third brother, Munir, who is an activist.

Last year, Saudi Arabia sentenced their older brother Ali to death for allegedly helping Munir escape the country, according to MENA Rights Group, a Geneva-based legal advocacy organization.

Rabea faced “well-founded risks of torture… should he be extradited to his country of origin,” it stated.

The rights group said it had asked the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to intervene, citing a possible violation of the principle of non-refoulment by Morocco.

Rabie will likely be subjected to "enforced disappearance, torture, and arbitrary sentences that may lead to his death" in Saudi Arabia, the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights (ESOHR) warned after the extradition decision.

The Rabea family comes from Shia-populated eastern Saudi Arabia, where frequent protests have taken place since the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, including violent clashes between protesters and security forces there in 2017.

Protesters have demanded reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination.

Since Mohammed bin Salman became Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and de facto leader in 2017, the kingdom has arrested a number of activists, journalists, and academics perceived as political opponents, showing zero tolerance for dissent even in the face of global outcry.

Many Islamic scholars have been arrested and executed, women’s rights campaigners have been put behind bars and tortured, and freedom of expression and association have been denied to people, especially minority Shias, during this period.

According to a new report by Reprieve and the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR), the rate of executions in the kingdom since King Salman and his son Mohammed bin Salman came to power in 2015 has almost doubled annually.

The report, released Tuesday, reveals that the six bloodiest years of executions in Saudi Arabia’s recent history (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2022) have all occurred under the leadership of Mohammed bin Salman as the country’s crown prince and de facto ruler and his father.

Chad opens the first embassy in Israel

In a separate development on Thursday, Chadian President Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno opened his country's first embassy in Israel, four years after the two sides restored diplomatic ties, in a move seen as Tel Aviv’s attempt to continue the charade of normalization in the region.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in 2020 that he had discussed "the possibility of opening an embassy” in al-Quds with a Chadian delegation.

In January 2019, Netanyahu and Chad's former president IdrissDéby, the father of the current leader, announced the renewal of diplomatic relations between the countries at a ceremony in N'Djamena, the capital of Chad.

The elder Deby, who ruled the Muslim-majority nation for more than three decades, was killed in 2021 on the battlefield in a fight against rebels. His son replaced him as president at the head of a military junta.

Source: Press TV

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Vienna court convicts alleged accomplices in 2020 Islamic State shooting

February 2, 2023

An Austrian court has convicted four men of terrorist offenses and participation in murder over their alleged links to a sympathizer of the Islamic State group who carried out a deadly shooting in Vienna in 2020.

Two of the men were sentenced to life in prison by the Vienna state court on Wednesday night and the others to 20 and 19 years, respectively, the Austria Press Agency reported.

Another two defendants were acquitted of the main charges, but were convicted of membership in IS and spreading the group's propaganda. They were given partially suspended two-year sentences.

Four people were killed in the attack on Nov. 2, 2020, and the gunman also died. More than 20 other people, including a police officer, were wounded. Assailant KujtimFejzulai, a dual national of Austria and North Macedonia, had a previous conviction for trying to join IS in Syria.

Source: FoxNews

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Muslim org buys UK synagogue it calls 'place of worship of non-believers'

Feb 2, 2023

The Islamic organization that is purchasing the Wembley United Synagogue property has apologized for a fundraising flyer that described the synagogue as “a place of worship of non-believers.”

The fundraising initiative from Dawat-e-Islami, an international Sunni Muslim organization based in Pakistan, caused an outcry on social media, including on the “Friends of Wembley Shul” Facebook group, for the offensive description of the synagogue, the UK Jewish News reported.

Dawat-e-Islami apologized to the synagogue on Wednesday in an email to Wembley Synagogue chair Charles Vitez.

Wembley United Synagogue held a farewell event attended by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis in December marking the closing of the synagogue’s current location after 60 years.

The congregation put the property up for sale and is moving into a smaller venue due to dwindling numbers, with London's Jewish community today mainly living in other neighborhoods.

Dawat-e-Islami’s Hasan Ali Safdar wrote in the email: “The wording on the leaflet stated the building is ‘a former place of worship of non-believers’, which was referring to non-believers of Islam i.e. any other religion. The wording was never intended to cause any offence.

“We have removed this text from the campaign immediately and apologize profusely for any offence it may have caused… We will not distribute the old leaflets and will only use the amended material.”

According to the report, the sale of the 14,500 square foot former synagogue to the Muslim group, which has been active in the UK since 1995, is nearly completed.

The United Synagogue’s chief operating officer, David Collins, told the news outlet that the deal was made with “robust due diligence processes.”

Source: Israel NationalNews

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Anti-Muslim extremist Rasmus Paludan engaged in sex chats with minors

Audio recordings from the racist politician’s online conversations reveal he spoke to minors about disturbing and graphic sexual scenarios, such as a teacher sexually abusing a boy in front of his class.

Swedish-Danish politician Rasmus Paludan had sexually explicit conversations with minors on the internet despite being aware that they were underage.

The racist convict, notorious for anti-Muslim extremism and conducting "Quran burning tours", engaged in inappropriate and sexually explicit chats with underage boys on the social media platform Discord.

Audio recordings taken from the bigoted and racist politician’s online conversations reveal he spoke to underage boys about disturbing and graphic sexual scenarios, such as a teacher sexually abusing a boy in front of his classmate.

“He cried as he had never cried before at a first violation of his sphincter by the hard plastic tool,” Paludan told his young audience.

In one example, the users even tell Paludan their ages, which range from 13 to 17, in a group chat. When asked how old he was, the politician said he was 39.

While the age of consent in Sweden is 15, Paludan knowingly and continuously had sexually explicit conversations with 14 and 13-year-olds.

Another example of a conversation that demonstrates his shocking behaviour, took place on August 11, 2021, between him and other Discord users, including a minor (let’s call him User #1 to maintain his anonymity).

Paludan again engages in a perverted conversation, explaining to the users that User #1 engaged in sexual activity with "a boy" behind a Netto grocery store.

In response to Paludan's explicit story, another user asks User #1, "Well, but do you work in a Netto, or what? How old are you?"

To which User #1 responds, "I don't work in Netto, I am 14 years old."

Inappropriate chats with minors

Despite being aware of his underage audience, Paludan also told one of the users on August 14, 2021, that he was “naked” when he walked around the kitchen.

In addition, Paludan spoke about Islam to the young boys in an attempt to “educate” or “explain” to them why he doesn't “like that religion”.

He began using Discord after his YouTube account was removed in February 2020. He faced no legal action for the inappropriate chats but has been charged with a total of 14 offences in the past, such as racism, defamation and violation of traffic rules.

Criminal background

His criminal background also reveals he was sentenced to 2-3 months in prison and not allowed to drive for a period of time or work as a lawyer for three years.

Recently, the anti-Muslim extremist burned a copy of the Quran outside the premises of the Turkish embassy in Sweden.

Despite international condemnation, Paludan swears he will burn the holy book every Friday until Sweden is included in the NATO alliance.

Sweden and Finland formally applied to join NATO last May, abandoning decades of military non-alignment, a decision spurred by Russia's military action against Ukraine, which started on February 24, 2022.

But Türkiye – a NATO member for more than 70 years – voiced objections, accusing the two countries of tolerating and even supporting terrorist groups, including the PKK and the Fetullah Terrorist Organisation (FETO), the group behind the July 15, 2016 coup attempt in Türkiye.

Last June, Türkiye and the two Nordic countries signed a memorandum at a NATO summit to address Ankara's legitimate security concerns, paving the way for their eventual membership in the alliance.

In the memorandum, Sweden and Finland agreed not to provide support to the PKK/YPG/PYD and FETO, to prevent all activities of the terror groups, the extradition of terror suspects, to introduce new legislation to punish terrorist crimes, and not to implement national arms embargoes among the three countries.

However, Sweden has only adopted cosmetic steps to contain PKK, which is accused of raising funds in Europe to finance its terror campaign in Türkiye, in which more than 40,000 people have been killed.

On January 11, a pro-PKK group organised anti-Turkish rally and hanged an effigy likened to the image of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Stockholm.


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European Muslims decry Quran burning in Sweden, Netherlands

FEB 02, 2023

The European Muslim Forum (EMF) has denounced the recent incidents in Europe involving the burning of Islam’s holy book, the Quran – acts that have drawn global condemnations from Türkiye and the broader Muslim world for the past week.

“Some elements in Europe intend to create a second battlefield in the continent,” said Abdul-Wakhed Niyazov, the head of EMF, while addressing a press conference in the Turkish metropolis of Istanbul on Wednesday.

"European Muslims are voicing their presence and their role in Europe is growing. These provocations are trying to diminish their role in Europe," Niyazov told reporters.

He praised President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for being “the most vocal” in condemning the desecration of the holy book and said: “We hope other countries would also react. Most did condemn these acts but they were not effective."

"If the Muslim world had reacted and supported Türkiye, then this issue would have been resolved quickly," he added.

Arguing that the European system is behind such incidents but not the people who undertake them, Niyazov held the Swedish, Danish and Dutch governments responsible for the demonstrations.

"In many European countries, anti-Semitism is regarded as a crime but Islamophobia comes under 'freedom of speech.' This is a double standard," he said, noting that "change is a must."

"We are against the burning of any religious book. I cannot imagine a Muslim conducting such an act. We, as Muslims, are always going to be against such acts of desecration," he emphasized.

For the past three weeks, the Muslim world has been outraged at the desecration of its holy book in western Europe, with Türkiye calling Paludan an "Islam-hating charlatan" and strongly condemned the permission and protection given by authorities for the provocative act which it said, "clearly constitutes a hate crime."

After torching a copy of the Quran outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm on Jan. 21, with both police protection and permission from the Swedish authorities, Swedish-Danish extremist Rasmus Paludan repeated his provocation a week later in front of a mosque in Denmark.

He announced he would burn a copy of the holy book every Friday until Sweden is included in the NATO alliance. Sweden’s bid for NATO membership is facing a dead end as ties strain over Stockholm’s failure to curb anti-Türkiye propaganda by far-right politicians and supporters of terrorist organizations like the PKK and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ).

Not two days following Paludan, another far-right radical Edwin Wagensveld, the leader of the Islamophobic group Pegida, tore out and burned pages of the Quran in the Dutch capital.


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UK Home Office orders Afghan refugees to uproot families and leave London within a week

February 02, 2023

LONDON: The UK Home Office has notified hundreds of Afghan refugees who have been living in London for 18 months that they must move 200 miles north to West Yorkshire within a week, the Guardian reported on Thursday.

They are among 9,000 Afghans who are living in temporary accommodation across the UK after fleeing the Taliban. They left their home country as part of Operation Pitting, which was launched in August 2021 to get British nationals and Afghans who had worked and fought alongside UK forces out of the country after the Taliban seized control.

“We will never forget the brave sacrifice made by Afghans who chose to work with us at great risk to themselves,” former Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at the time.

Now, the Home Office has told 40 families, including 150 children, who have been living in a hotel in Kensington for over a year that they must move to another hotel in Wetherby, near Leeds.

Some of the refugees, including a former general and translators who assisted British Army troops, told the Guardian that they are refusing to move because their children, who have already experienced great trauma, would now be forced to go through the upheaval of changing schools in the middle of the academic year.

Others have found jobs in London and are worried about giving them up and having to find work in a new location.

Most the Afghans living in the hotel have decided to protest against the relocation plan, one of the refugees told the Guardian.

Hamidullah Khan, a former parliamentary adviser in Kabul who came to the UK with his wife and three sons, said the government has broken a series of promises it made to refugees that it would assist them in finding permanent housing.

“We asked the Home Office, ‘Why do you want to force us out?’ and they say: ‘This hotel is expensive. The Leeds hotel is cheaper.’ But we didn’t choose this hotel or this area to live in, the Home Office did,” Khan said.

“Now we have been here, not out of choice, for 18 months. Our children are going to local schools and, in the middle of the school year, they ask us to leave.”

In Wetherby, meanwhile, some residents said they oppose the decision to move Afghan refugees into a local hotel. One person told the Leeds Live website that the government was acting in an “underhand and secretive” manner.

Under the UK’s Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act, the Home Office is obliged to “safeguard and promote the welfare of children when it makes any immigration decision.”

A Home Office spokesperson told the Guardian that the refugees were told months ago that they would have to move north.

“While hotels do not provide a long-term solution, they do offer safe, secure and clean accommodation,” the spokesperson said. “We will continue to bring down the number of people in bridging hotels, moving people into more sustainable accommodation as quickly as possible.

“Occasionally, families may be moved from a hotel scheduled for closure to another hotel. In these instances, families are given appropriate notice of a move and are supported by their local authority. We are proud this country has provided homes for more than 7,500 Afghan evacuees but there is a shortage of local housing accommodation for all.”

Source: Arab News

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Religion-based substitute meals in schools not against secular principles, says French court

Nur AsenaErturk


A French court has ruled that pork substitute meals in schools are not against secular principles, local media reported Thursday.

In June 2018, the municipal assembly of Beaucaire town prohibited pork substitute meals in schools, saying that it is against secular principles of the French nation.

Muslim and Jewish communities contested the decision, and human rights associations filed a complaint.

The Nimes administrative court blocked the decision of the far-right municipality in February 2021.

Beaucaire Mayor Julien Sanchez appealed the court's decision, which was rejected.

The municipality can now go to a higher court, the Council of State, but a previous ruling sets a similar precedent.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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North America


In now annual tradition, US urges Israel to keep friction in check ahead of Ramadan


For the second straight year, the Biden administration has circled the Muslim holy month of Ramadan as a potential accelerant for another eruption in violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

Senior US officials used their visits to Jerusalem over the last two weeks to urge Israel to take preemptive steps in the coming weeks in order to ensure that the sensitive period does not feature more bloodshed, two US and Israeli officials told The Times of Israel on Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The holy month is slated to begin around March 22.

Talks on efforts to defuse tensions are still in their early stages and there were no specific requests made of Israel by White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, who visited last week, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was in town this week, the Israeli official said.

However, the top Biden aides made clear that the issue is a matter of concern for the US and they asked their Israeli counterparts how they plan to address the matter.

The US official said that a particular emphasis was placed during Sullivan and Blinken’s meetings on them confirming that Israel will ensure adherence to the status quo at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, which sees an uptick in Palestinian visitors during Ramadan.

“There’s reason to assume that the violence this year will be worse, given that the new Israeli government is more emboldened to act punitively, but Prime Minister Netanyahu is also keen on keeping things calm so that he can focus on Iran and Saudi normalization and that will impact his calculus,” said a former US official familiar with the matter.

The Israeli official said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in both meetings assured the Biden administration that he would not allow violations of the unwritten policy, under which Muslims are permitted to pray at the Temple Mount while non-Muslims can only visit during limited windows.

But according to the Israeli official, the US did not ask Netanyahu to block National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir from paying a repeat visit to the flashpoint compound. His tour of the site last month sparked a whirlwind of condemnations from across the globe.

US Special Envoy for the Palestinians and US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Hady Amr stayed behind after Blinken left on Tuesday for talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials in an effort to come away with a series of steps that can be implemented in the coming weeks to deescalate tensions, the US official said.

The former official, who previously served in a Democratic administration, said that the US “will have to aim low in terms of what it can accomplish.”

The source explained that the Palestinian Authority has “a list of ten unilateral steps” it opposes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, much of which Netanyahu’s government is unlikely to halt.

The list includes settlement construction, outpost legalization, Israel Defense Forces raids into PA-controlled Area A of the West Bank and violations to the status quo at the Temple Mount.

While the PA urged the US to coax a commitment from Israel to cease such actions, the former US official said such “public guarantees” from Netanyahu’s new hardline government would be “highly unlikely.”

Biden officials held similar conversations with their Israeli and Palestinian counterparts in the months leading up to Ramadan last year. At the time, officials were worried that the confluence of Ramadan, Passover and Easter over the same period could ratchet up religious friction.

Then too, the US urged Israel to take preemptive steps to maintain calm before and during Ramadan, such as freezing evictions and home demolitions along with easing police presence in and around the Old City.

At the time, Israel was led by former prime ministers Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid, whose moderate unity government took pains to align with Washington.

A year earlier, tensions loosely linked to Ramadan snowballed until the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza and rampant street violence in mixed Jewish-Arab cities.

The lead-up to Ramadan 2022 still saw significant bloodshed, including March terror attacks in Beersheba, Hadera and BneiBrak in which 11 Israelis and foreign nationals were killed. Four more civilians were killed in shooting attacks in Tel Aviv and the Ariel settlement toward the beginning and end of the holy month.

Four more people were killed in a stabbing attack in Elad days after Ramadan, including one person who succumbed to wounds on Wednesday. That attack had coincided with Israel’s Independence Day.

Source: TimesOfIsrael

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Monica Lewinsky took Bill Clinton’s eye off bin Laden, leading to 9/11: ex-aide

By Carl Campanile

February 2, 2023

Inveterate White House dog Bill Clinton was so busy wagging his own tail — that he lost track of the biggest threat the US has ever seen, a new book claims.

Veteran campaign pollster Doug Schoen writes in his new memoir that then-President Clinton and his team-were so distracted by the Monica Lewinsky scandal they lost track of al Qaeda terror mastermind Osama bin Laden — allowing him to later orchestrate the 9/11 terrorist attacks that slaughtered nearly 3,000 Americans.

Schoen, who was a White House adviser and senior campaign aide to Clinton during his 1996 re-election bid, lays out the stunning claim of letting bin Laden slip away in his forthcoming “POWER: THE 50 TRUTHS, The Definitive Insider’s Guide,” published by Regan Arts, through Simon & Schuster.

During his 50 years in politics, Schoen has represented American leaders on both sides of the political aisle, from Clinton to a pre-presidential Donald Trump, as well as world leaders including three Israeli prime ministers and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and New York City Mayors Mike Bloomberg and Ed Koch.

He calls Clinton the “Elvis Presley of American Politics”  and “the most accomplished political operative I have ever met,” a master of policy and a natural schmoozer on the stump.

But Schoen was baffled and disturbed by Clinton’s lack of discipline that led him to have sex with White House intern Lewinsky, derailing his second term, triggering House impeachment and forever tarnishing his reputation — particularly diminishing his stature during the #MeToo era.

“I watched this unraveling happen close up, in painful slow motion, from inside the White House …. I watched the White House surreptitiously mount a whispering campaign to discredit Lewinsky,” said Schoen.

“There was also, I believe, a serious impact on national security. On Aug. 20, 1998, Clinton ordered cruise missile strikes against al Qaeda in Sudan and Afghanistan in retaliation for the bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The strikes, named Operation Infinite Reach, missed Osama bin Laden,” Schoen writes.

“Beset by the Lewinsky affair, the Clinton Administration lost focus and leverage to pursue him aggressively and bin Laden struck again on 9/11,” he writes.

He also writes that the Lewinsky scandal and Clinton’s other sexual misdeeds may have cost Hillary Rodham Clinton the presidency to Donald Trump in 2016.

Trump and his campaign were able to neutralize attacks on his own alleged sexual misbehavior, including his recorded “grab ’em by the p–sy” comments,” by pointing to Bill Clinton’s philandering as he faced off against his wife, Democratic nominee Hillary.

“By the time of her presidential bid, after several sexual scandals, he hung like a millstone around her neck. When she lost, I’m told by people close to them, Hillary and Bill

were for a time not even on speaking terms. She seemed to blame him for

her narrow loss,” Schoen said.

“What Bill considered innocent dalliances ended up hurting not just himself

but also Hillary. Harming your wife also counts as self-harm.”

He said Clinton “never understood the fundamental problem” and always “insisted that passive receipt of oral pleasure was not sex — a concept that someone who is not a former law professor like him might struggle to comprehend.”

“To this day,” Schoen writes, “he appears befuddled by the Monica fuss. When she co-produced a TV miniseries about the saga in 2021, the fact that he was unable to offer her the apology she is owed left me disappointed and saddened.”

He said Bill Clinton has lost his once “broad popularity” during the #MeToo movement that has zero tolerance of sexual harassment and mistreatment of women.

“Sometimes, Clinton can no longer even appear in public without sparking angry protests,” Schoen said.

“This is profoundly sad to me because his enormous contributions to politics and policy often go unremarked and unacknowledged. Having heard him speak a number of times privately, I feel it is a profound loss to America that Bill Clinton no longer has the public voice that he used to.”

Clinton had no immediate comment through the Clinton Foundation or his presidential office.

Source: New York Post

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Muslim congresswoman, Israel critic Ilhan Omar, removed from House committee

Adam Lucente

February 2, 2023

Muslim Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., was removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday.

House Resolution 76 narrowly passed with 218 yay votes to 211 nays. The resolution was introduced on Tuesday by Congressman Max Miller, R-Ohio. The vote was split down party lines, with Republicans voting for the resolution and Democrats voting against it.

Why it matters: Omar was elected to Congress in 2018. Her tenure on the influential committee began in 2019 and was marked by controversy throughout due to her statements on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 2019, she tweeted “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby” in reference to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Jewish groups accused Omar of invoking anti-semitic tropes on Jewish money and domination in the tweet. Omar subsequently apologized. On Tuesday, she said she had not been aware of the stereotype at the time.

Miller mentioned the tweet in the resolution.

In 2021, Omar seemingly compared Israel and the United States to Hamas and the Taliban when speaking to Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting.

“We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the US, Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan and the Taliban,” she said.

Some of Omar’s colleagues criticized the remarks, accusing her of equating the United States and Israel to terrorists.

Not everyone is against Omar. Some of Omar’s colleagues have said she receives disproportionate criticism for her remarks. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted in 2021 that Omar is subject to “constant vilification.”

Omar also has support from pro-Palestine organizations such as those affiliated with the anti-Israel boycott “BDS” movement.

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, expressed support for Omar staying on the committee in the days leading up to her removal.

“She’s been very active and brings a lot of thought to the committee,” Meeks told CBS on Wednesday.

In a statement following her removal on Thursday, Meeks called Omar an “invaluable asset” to the committee and accused Republicans of exacting “revenge on their political opponents.”

Many Republicans rejoiced as Omar was voted off the committee.

Omar faced a pro-Israel primary challenger in 2022, but she won re-election that year and again in 2022.

Know more: Omar was born in Somalia and immigrated to the United States when she was a pre-teen. She and Rep. Rashida Tlaib became the first Muslim women to serve in Congress in 2019.


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Pakistani Gitmo prisoner transferred to Belize

Anwar Iqbal

February 3, 2023

WASHINGTON: The Biden administration on Thursday transferred a detainee from its Guantanamo Bay prison facility in Cuba to Belize and is preparing to transfer at least two more in the coming weeks. All three are Pakistani citizens.

Majid Khan left Guantanamo early Thursday and arrived in Belize several hours later. He is the first detainee to be resettled by the Biden administration and one of the few to be sent to a location in the Western Hemisphere.

The other two expected to be released soon are Abdul Rahim Ghulam Rabbani and Mohammad Ahmad Ghulam Rabbani.

“I have been given a second chance in life and I intend to make the most of it,” said Khan in a statement issued through his legal team. “I promise all of you, especially the people of Belize, that I will be a productive, law-abiding member of society.”

The only known legal US resident at Guantanamo, Khan was born in Saudi Arabia. He was granted asylum in the US in 1998, while attending high school near Baltimore but remained a Pakistani citizen.

He returned to Pakistan in 2002 and, according to a US Defence Department detainee assessment, joined Al Qaeda and became a direct subordinate to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), Al Qaeda’s senior operational planner and the principal architect of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Khan was arrested in Karachi in March 2003 and taken to a CIA black site where he was subjected to sleep deprivation, an ice water bath, and forced rectal feeding and rehydration. The chairperson of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, called the treatment torture. In September 2006, then-President George W. Bush announced that Khan was one of 14 “high value detainees” being transferred from CIA detention facilities to Guantanamo Bay to face the military tribunal system.

In 2012, Khan pled guilty to terrorism-related charges and was sentenced to 10 years detention. That sentence ended March 1, 2022. Khan still has family in the US, but US federal law does not allow Guantanamo detainees to be resettled in the country.

Source: Dawn

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UN General Assembly President visits China, does not raise Uyghur repression

Betul Yuruk  



UN General Assembly President Csaba Korosi is on a four-day trip to China and human rights violations against ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region have not come up in discussions with the Chinese authorities, his spokesperson said Wednesday.

Korösi started his trip Feb. 1 to meet senior government officials and scientists working on sustainable development and water management projects.

“President Csaba Kőrösi met today in Beijing with State Councilor Wang Yi,” Paulina Kubiak told reporters at UN headquarters in New York. ''The President thanked China for its leadership role in the United Nations and its efforts to support people and the planet.''

Other topics discussed were Security Council reform, the war in Ukraine and its global economic implications and multilateralism, said Kubiak.

But human rights violations against ethnic Uyghurs were not raised in meetings.

Asked by Anadolu why the president did not raise human rights violations, she said: “The issue of human rights was not discussed. It was not an issue that he raised.”

“The trip to China is an official visit, and it's really aimed at sustainable development at water issues.” she added.

A UN report found last year that mass detention in the Xinjiang region from 2017 to 2019 was marked by credible documentation of torture, sexual violence, and forced labor, as well as forced abortions and sterilizations.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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