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Islamic World News ( 19 Jan 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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40 Nationalities Involved In Terror Activities In Saudi

New Age Islam News Bureau

19 Jan 2017

At Interfaith Gathering, Affirmation of Support for Muslims, Minorities


 40 Nationalities Involved In Terror Activities In Saudi

 Jakarta's Governor Election Is A Test For Moderate Islam And Democracy

 Railway Officers Say ISI Link Unlikely, NIA Calls Police Claim ‘Curious’

 Malta Imam: Islam Is Opposed To Euthanasia And Suicide


Arab World

 40 Nationalities Involved In Terror Activities In Saudi

 US Court Orders Release Of 2000 Secret Images From Abu Ghraib

 Iraq announces 'liberation' of east Mosul

 Bomb blast in Baghdad kills at least seven: police and medical sources

 Russia, Turkey stage first joint airstrikes against IS in Syria

 Saudi security forces track down six terrorists from one family

 Anti-regime demo turns violent in Bahrain amid fears of more killings

 US-led coalition air raids breach Syria sovereignty: Cuba

 Source: Pentagon Guiding ISIL Through Deir Ezzur Offensive

 Syrian Army Drives Terrorists out of More Lands in Wadi Al-Bardi

 People Revolt against ISIL Across Deir Ezzur Province

 Syrian Army Marching on Terrorists' Positions in Eastern Damascus


Southeast Asia

 Jakarta's Governor Election Is A Test For Moderate Islam And Democracy

 Death Of Malaysian Militant 'A Huge Blow' To Islamic State's SE Asia Unit

 OIC Envoy For UN Role To Avoid Rohingya Genocide

 Another counter rally, same day as PAS’ shariah law rally

 Muslim Clowns Collect Money for Charity on Passenger Train in Malaysia

 Putrajaya to provide work permits, skills training for Rohingyas



 Railway Officers Say ISI Link Unlikely, NIA Calls Police Claim ‘Curious’

 Muslim Reservations Not Possible On Religious Basis – BJP

 Telangana govt to bring bill for 12% quota for Muslims

 Walk away from terror to start talks: PM Modi to Pak



 Malta Imam: Islam Is Opposed To Euthanasia And Suicide

 Mali Car Bomb Kills 50 In Fresh Blow To Peace

 Death Toll In Nigeria Airstrike Soars To 76

 Explosion kills dozens in Malian military camp

 Refugees tortured and raped in squalid desert camps, arrest of Somali 'sadist' reveals

 Refugees From Kenya Reunite with Family Members in Minnesota

 Nigeria’s Botched Airstrike Shows Boko Haram Isn’t Defeated


North America

 Trump Pledges War on Radical Islamic Terrorism

 At Interfaith Gathering, Affirmation of Support for Muslims, Minorities

 Haley: No Muslim Registry Under Trump Administration

 US court hears case on Muslims held after 9/11

 100 years ago, Americans talked about Catholics the way they talk about Muslims today

 United Nations Chief Calls for Global Fight against Hate Crimes



 Australia’s Grand Mufti Seeks Racial Discrimination Act Cover For Muslims

 Historic Christian Church , Hagia Sofia Mosque For Muslim Worship To Be Restored

 Germany reviewing nearly 550 migrants deemed a security risk

 Florida Airport Shooting suspect says he was ‘Inspired by ISIS’

 UN Meeting Says No to Anti-Muslim Hatred



 Pakistan Has Called On Afghan To Review 'Fragmented' Approach To Taliban Peace Talks

 New Lej Chief Killed In Shootout 

 Panama Leaks case: Judge demands financial records from PM

 Pakistan wasn’t aware of Osama’s presence, says ex-US envoy

 Ready to respond to any type of threat: COAS

 UAE envoy lauds army’s anti-terror role

 Buddhist remains to boost tourism: MD PTDC


South Asia

 Muslim Nations To Heap Pressure On Myanmar Over Rohingya

 Taliban militant and his 4 sons killed by own bomb in North of Afghanistan

 Obama talks with President Ghani and CEO Abdullah

 MoD confirms ISIS militants among 34 killed in latest operations

 31 Haqqani network terrorists arrest in Khost province



 Houthis Deprive 2.5 Million Yemeni Children Of Education

 Demolitions spark deadly violence in Arab Israeli village

 Support for Trump on US embassy move to Jerusalem

 Iran-Saudi cooperation possible if Riyadh sees realities on ground: Zarif

 Fiddling with ‘core issues’ in Middle East can be ‘explosive,’ Obama warns

 Russia says Turkey jets join anti-Daesh operation in Syria’s al-Bab

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




40 Nationalities Involved In Terror Activities In Saudi

19 January 2017

Nationals from 40 countries have been involved in terror and security cases Saudi Arabia witnessed during the past few years. A statement issued by the Interior Ministry through its Tawasul (communications) portal said that 5,085 suspects are in detention in five intelligence prisons in the Kingdom.

Some of these suspects are serving their prison terms upheld by the Specialized Criminal Court of Appeals, some are under trial, while others are under interrogation by the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution (BIP).

The statement said that there are 4,254 Saudis detained in intelligence prisons constituting the largest number of suspects. The Saudis are followed by 282 Yemenis and 218 Syrians. There are three suspects from the US and one each from France, Belgium and Canada.

Also read: UK govt spokesman lauds Saudi role in combating terror

Suspects from other Arab countries include 57 Egyptians, 29 Sudanese, 21 Palestinians, seven Somalis, five Iraqis, three Lebanese, two Moroccans, 19 Jordanians, two Mauritanians, two from the United Arab Emirates, 10 from Bahrain, two from Qatar, and one each from Libya and Algeria.

Suspects also include a Chinese, three Filipinos, 19 Indians, 68 Pakistanis, six Iranians, seven Afghanis, four Turks, four Bangladeshis and one from Kyrgyzstan.

There are 17 detainees from Chad, three from Ethiopia, four from Nigeria, two from Mali and one each from Angola, Burkina Faso and South Africa. Through the Tawasul window the detainees can make audio-visual contact their families and relatives.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on January 19, 2016.



Jakarta's Governor election is a test for moderate Islam and democracy

Jan 19 2017

In December, the ABC was granted an interview with the embattled leader of the Indonesian capital, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama — widely known as "Ahok" — and we were pleased with the candid, free flowing 10 minutes we had with him.

During the interview for the ABC's 7.30 program, Ahok was strong in his comments and outlined his ambitions to one day become the first Christian president of majority Muslim Indonesia.

He insisted the campaign and blasphemy charges against him were politically motivated and well-funded.

But he went further when talking about those who attended an October 4 rally against him, led by hardline Islamic groups like the firebrand Islamic Defenders Front (FPI).

The protest turned violent after dark, leading the President to cancel a visit to Australia.

"It is not easy," Ahok told 7.30.

"You send more than 100,000 people, most of them, if you look at the news, they said they got the money, 500,000 rupiah."

After the comment was aired, a police complaint was made accusing the Governor of slander.

To say that the gubernatorial campaign in Jakarta is sensitive and highly charged would be an understatement. It has an unprecedented viciousness.

It is an election most Australians would care little about, but should, very deeply.

Media player: "Space" to play, "M" to mute, "left" and "right" to seek.

VIDEO: Jakarta's Governor Ahok is a suspect in a blasphemy case, police say (7.30)

Why should Australians care?

Because this is not just a race for a political position, but a test for moderate Islam and democracy in Australia's largest neighbour, of 250 million people.

It is about whether a radical mob can get its way, or a democratically elected Government can stare down the antagonists led by radicals who ultimately want sharia law to spread across the sprawling archipelago.

At the basis of the hatred against Ahok is his religion and ethnicity. He is from a double minority. The fact he is Christian and ethnic Chinese is too much for some to stomach.

Ahok himself believes it is also an attack against his transparent approach to governing.

"I believe this is the status quo, the corrupters strike back at me because I cut too much corruption in this city," the Governor said during the interview with 7.30 last year.

The blasphemy case against the Governor relates to comments he made referencing verse 51 of the Koran. Simply put, he rejected the notion that the verse prohibits Muslims from voting for non-Muslim leaders.

This is Ahok's offending quote: "Maybe in your heart you think you couldn't vote for me, but you're being lied to by using Al Maidah 51."

Tobias Basuki, a researcher at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta, said the case was bigger than Ahok's comment.

"This is not a blasphemy case, this is not religious, this is actually an attack against clean and transparent government both at the local level and also against Jokowi (President Joko Widodo)."

The mass protests that followed, on October 4 and December 2, demanding the Governor be jailed, were impressive in size.

More than half a million people were estimated to have attended the latter, but it would be foolish to write off Ahok's chances of being elected at the poll on February 15.

"In my gut opinion, I would not be surprised if Ahok won in the first round," Mr Basuki told the ABC. "There is momentum for Ahok."

With three candidates running for the position, one will need to receive more than 50 per cent in the first round, or millions of Jakartans will vote again in a second round in April or May when the race will be between the top remaining two.

The two running against Ahok are Agus Harimurtri Yudhoyono, the son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and Anies Baswedan, a former cultural and education minister.

There are few reliable polling companies in Indonesia, meaning survey results cannot be effectively used to gauge public mood.

Djayadi Hanan, a political analyst from Paramadina University, agreed there was potential for Ahok to win outright on February 15, although he believed it was more likely to go to the second round, and that was a wider-held view.

"It is difficult for him to reach more than 50 per cent but we anticipate he will enter the second round," Mr Hanan said. "But there is still a chance for the incumbent to win the election in one round."

It is widely believed the Governor will be found guilty.

Muslim hardline protesters cover their faces as police fire tear gas

Yenny Wahid, the daughter of former president Abdurrahman Wahid, and the head of the Wahid Institute, meets regularly with President Joko Widodo and works tirelessly to promote moderate Islam.

She too thinks Ahok will be elected as Governor but said his performance in two televised debates to come would play a factor in his success or otherwise.

"The Governor still has a fair chance of winning but I don't think he can escape the jail sentence," she said.

Others fear unrest in the capital will increase if Ahok does succeed in continuing to lead the city, that the radical groups and their political supporters will not give up in the campaign against him.

Ms Wahid expressed relief that a debate about the increasing support for a more radical view of Islam in Indonesia was now out in the open.

"I am actually glad that this whole thing happened now because it built awareness of the issue and as a nation we can tackle the problem head-on," she said.

For the key figure leading the protest movement and inciting the unrest, the head of the Islamic Defenders Front, Habib Rizieq, the tides are turning. He is facing a mounting number of police complaints with fresh cases emerging on an almost daily basis.

Among them are allegations of blasphemy, with the FPI leader accused of insulting Christianity during a sermon on Christmas day.

The ABC understands police will deal with the blasphemy charge in the same way they did with Ahok, meaning Habib Rizieq should soon be named as a suspect and face trial.

"The same method he used to get Ahok will come back to bite him," Yenny Wahid said of the radical cleric.

Combating the spread of radical Islam

Ahok was the vice-governor when the now President Joko Widodo held the governor's position.

But Jokowi, as he is known, is a quintessential figure and his Javanese manner makes it almost impossible to gauge whether his loyalties still lie with his former deputy. But there is no indication they don't.

What is clear from his public comments is Jokowi is working to contain the spread of radical Islam.

"I know for sure from my conversations with Government officials, including the President, that he has every intention to make sure that Indonesia remains what it is," Yenny Wahid told the ABC.

"As a country that promotes diversity and doesn't bow down to the pressure of the radical view."

Eyes must also be on Indonesia's national police chief, Tito Karnavian, who will play a key role in how the tensions are managed in the months ahead.

In his latest move, the police general hit out at one of the most powerful clerical bodies in Indonesia, the Ulema Council (MUI), for issuing fatwas (a ruling on Islamic law) relating to the blasphemy case.

"More concerning is that the fatwa based on religious dogma, becomes a threat for plurality of ethnics, religion and race as if it was the words or order of God," General Karnavian said.

Andreas Harsono from Human Rights Watch said the power of the MUI should not be underestimated.

"The Islamic Defenders Front is only the tough," Mr Harsono told the ABC.

"The muscle and the brains is with the MUI. I don't think the Government has done enough to take MUI seriously, that is the source of the problem."

Another mass rally led by radical groups is planned in early February, days out from the election.



Railway officers say ISI link unlikely, NIA calls police claim ‘curious’

Jan 19, 2017

by Deeptiman Tiwary , Avishek G Dastidar | New Delhi | Published:January 19, 2017

BIHAR POLICE may have ignited speculation on a suspected link of Pakistan’s ISI in the recent train accidents in Kanpur, especially the one near Pokhrayan that killed more than 150 passengers, but railway officials and investigating authorities remain sceptical.

Railways officials said that all facts known so far do not point towards any explosion on the tracks, or any sabotage.

Sources said in the Pokhrayan mishap of November 20, statements made by the loco pilot and the assistant loco pilot before railway authorities, as well as in the presence of the Commissioner of Railway Safety, never mentioned any explosion. These two functionaries are best suited to report any event of tracks being blown away by low-intensity explosives to cause derailment. “Statements made by the drivers point closer to a derailment due to classic rail fracture than tracks blown by explosives,” said a source.

Thorough assessment by zonal railway functionaries immediately after the accident never threw up any indication of external factors such as sabotage in tracks or coaches. Removal of fish plates or vital track pieces missing — the conventional signs of sabotage — were never detected at the section concerned.

After the accident, the driver reported that he found the overhead equipment shaking, and that he felt a jerk when he applied emergency brakes. He found that 14 coaches had derailed.

Sources in NIA, which sent a team to Motihari on Wednesday, also called Bihar police’s claims “curious” and “unprecedented”.

An NIA officer said, “If it is true, then it would be unprecedented. We have not come across this sort of sabotage activity funded by ISI.

Two people, among the group, who could not engineer a terror attack were apparently killed for their failure — this ruthlessness is not something witnessed in recent past. Things will be clear only after examination of evidence and the accused (arrested).”

For railway officials, this was reminiscent of the Howrah-Delhi Rajdhani Express accident in Rafiganj, Bihar, when 14 coaches fell in Dhawa river from a bridge on September 9, 2002, killing over 120 people. Then Railway Minister Nitish Kumar, now the Bihar CM, had called it “sabotage” and even “terror link” — a claim subsequently echoed by then chairman of Railway Board I I M S Rana.

Subsequent probe by the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) revealed it was a failure in the railway system.

Sources recall that then Home Minister L K Advani had questioned Nitish’s claim of sabotage or terror link since there was no indicator of either.

Preliminary report by the CRS is still due for the Pokhrayan accident.



Malta Imam: Islam Is Opposed To Euthanasia And Suicide

January 18, 2017

Islam is opposed to euthanasia and suicide, considering them to be mortal sins that should be punishable by law, and that will be punished by Allah in the afterlife, Imam Mohamed El Sadi told a joint meeting of the Social Affairs, Health, and Family Committees.

Discussing euthanasia, the Imam said this position was the theological notion that the soul did not belong to man, and that its life and death was in Allah’s hands.

On the other hand, most Islamic scholars considered palliative care and the suspension of ineffective treatment to be permissible in certain cases, he szaid. However, Islam encourages patients to bear with their suffering as a means of purification and forgiveness, and forbids even the wish for death.



Arab World


US court orders release of 2000 secret images from Abu Ghraib

19 January 2017

The U.S. Department of Defense must release a cache of photos showing how Army personnel treated detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison and other sites in Iraq and Afghanistan, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein in Manhattan said the release was proper because departing Defense Secretary Ash Carter failed to show why publishing the photos would endanger Americans deployed outside the United States.

Hellerstein's decision is a victory for the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil and veterans rights groups whose lawsuit seeking the photos under the federal Freedom of Information Act began in 2004.

Photos depicting abuse at Abu Ghraib began to emerge in 2004, with some detainees claiming to have endured physical and sexual abuse, electric shocks and mock executions.

The number of photos sought in the lawsuit has not been disclosed but has been estimated at roughly 2,000, according to the Congressional Record and court papers.

"Those photos, representing a sad episode in our history, are a matter of great public interest and historical importance, which should not, in a democracy like ours, be shielded from public view," said Lawrence Lustberg, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. "The court has wisely reaffirmed our nation's commitment to open government."

A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan, whose office defended Carter's decision, declined to comment.

After Hellerstein in March 2015 ordered the release of additional photos, Carter allowed the release of 198 but kept the remainder under wraps, citing a review of a "representative sample" by four high-ranking generals.

In Wednesday's decision, Hellerstein said the U.S. troop presence in Iraq had fallen to about 5,000 from more than 100,000 at the start of the Obama administration, and that those remaining now serve as advisers rather than in combat.

The judge said that while risks remained, including that portions of Iraq had been "overrun" by the Islamic State, he could not blindly accept withholding the remaining photos.

"I take seriously the level of deference owed to the executive branch in the realm of national security decision making," he wrote. "My complaint is that the executive has failed to articulate the reasons supporting its conclusion that release of the photos would endanger Americans deployed abroad."

Hellerstein first ordered the release of photos in 2005, but Congress later authorized withholding photos whose release could endanger Americans.



Iraq announces 'liberation' of east Mosul

Jan 19 2017

BARTALLA - Iraqi forces have retaken control of east Mosul from the Islamic State group, commanders said on Wednesday, three months after a huge offensive against the militant bastion was launched.

Elite forces have in recent days entered the last neighbourhoods on the eastern side of Mosul, on the left bank of the Tigris River that runs through the city.

Speaking at a news conference in Bartalla, a town east of Mosul, Staff General Talib al-Sheghati, who heads the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), announced "the liberation... of the left bank".

Sheghati added however that while the east of the city could be considered under government control, some work remained to be done to flush out the last holdout militants. The "important lines and important areas are finished," he said, adding that "there is only a bit of the northern (front) remaining."

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said "the efforts of our brave forces were successful in the shape of the completion of the main plan of clearing the left side."

Operations were ongoing to clear some parts of east Mosul, including some forested areas along the Tigris, Abadi said in a statement.

Wednesday's announcement marks the end of a phase in the operation launched on October 17 to retake Mosul, Iraq's second city and the last major urban stronghold IS has in the country. The offensive, Iraq's largest military operation in years with tens of thousands of fighters involved, began with a focus on sparsely populated areas around Mosul.

CTS entered the city proper in November and encountered tougher than expected resistance from IS, whose fighters launched a huge number of suicide car bombs against advancing Iraqi forces.

The going was tough for weeks but a fresh push coordinated with other federal forces and backed by the US-led coalition was launched in December and yielded quick and decisive gains.

The west bank of Mosul is a bit smaller but is home to the narrow streets of the Old City - impassable to most military vehicles - and to some of the city's traditionally most dyed-in-the-wool militant neighbourhoods.

Brigadier General Yahya Rasool also stressed that despite Sheghati's announcement, there would be more fighting in east Mosul in the coming days.

"Sheghati is the head of CTS and he was talking about areas under CTS control. There are some neighbourhoods that are still being liberated and that could take a few days," he told AFP.

Mohammed Hayal, a resident of Al-Arabi neighbourhood in northeastern Mosul, said his part of the city was not yet free of IS fighters.

"Daesh members are still in my neighbourhood and firing mortar rounds on liberated areas," he told AFP by phone. All the bridges across the Tigris in Mosul have been either blown up by IS or destroyed by coalition air strikes, which has made it very difficult for IS to resupply its fighters in the city's east.

It will also make it difficult for elite Iraqi forces to attack the west bank without redeploying to other fronts west of the river that have been largely static for weeks. Interior ministry and federal police forces have held positions just south of Mosul airport, which lies on the southern edge of the city and west of the Tigris, since November.

Punching into densely populated areas however and confronting intense resistance from IS in urban environments is a type of operation which is left largely to CTS.

The fighting inside Mosul has been complicated by the continued presence of much of its population, which did not or could not flee when Iraqi forces started advancing.

According to the United Nations, around 150,000 people are currently displaced as a result of the three-month-old offensive.

Full report at:



Bomb blast in Baghdad kills at least seven: police and medical sources

Jan 19 2017

A car bomb blast in southern Baghdad killed at least seven people and wounded 20 on Tuesday, police and medical sources said.

Full report at:



Russia, Turkey stage first joint airstrikes against IS in Syria

Jan 19 2017

MOSCOW - Russia and Turkey on Wednesday staged their first joint airstrikes against the Islamic State militant group in Syria, the Russian defence ministry said.

Nine Russian and eight Turkish planes took part in the "first joint air operation" in the area around the town of Al-Bab in the Aleppo region, Lieutenant General Sergei Rudskoi told a briefing.

The announcement came less than a week after Russia said Moscow and Ankara had signed an agreement spelling out mechanisms to coordinate their air forces in Syria when conducting strikes "on terrorist targets".

Rudskoi said that "36 targets" had been destroyed. He said Syrian authorities had agreed to the operation that he hailed as "highly effective."

Russia, Turkey and Iran are organising Syria peace talks that begin in the Kazakh capital Astana on Monday in a bid to bolster a frail truce brokered by Moscow and Ankara last month.

The truce went into effect on December 30 and has brought calm to much of Syria, although fighting persists in some regions.

The ceasefire excludes IS and its rival the Fateh al-Sham Front, which changed its name from Al-Nusra Front after breaking ties with Al-Qaeda last year.

As the Islamic State group closes in on government-held areas of Syria's Deir Ezzor, residents said they are terrified of falling victim to the mass killings for which the militants have become infamous.  Besieged by IS since early 2015, the regime-controlled third of Deir Ezzor city is home to an estimated 100,000 people.

Since Saturday, IS has steadily advanced in a fresh assault on that part of the city, sparking fears among residents of widespread atrocities.

"Civilians in the city are terrified and anxious, afraid that IS will enter (government-held parts of) the city since they accuse us of being 'regime thugs'," said Abu Nour, 51. He spoke by phone from inside the city, roughly one kilometre (less than one mile) from approaching IS forces. Deir Ezzor sits in the oil-rich eastern province of the same name, most of which is controlled by IS.

Abu Nour told AFP that residents were haunted by previous abductions and mass executions carried out by IS in the broader province. "The way they killed them is stuck in people's minds here," he said.  IS is notorious for using particularly gruesome methods to kill military rivals and civilians alike, including beheading, lighting them on fire, or launching rockets at them from just metres (feet) away.

As the group advanced on ancient city Palmyra in 2015, it killed dozens of civilians, accusing them of being regime loyalists, then staged mass executions of government troops in the city's theatre.

According to one activist group, IS has already begun executing Syrian soldiers it took captive during the clashes in Deir Ezzor.

IS executed 10 soldiers "by driving over them with tanks", said Omar Abu Leila, an activist from Deir Ezzor 24, which publishes news on the city.

"If IS seizes regime-held neighbourhoods, it could carry out massacres. This is a huge source of concern for us," he said.

In its push for Deir Ezzor, the militant group has launched salvos of rockets on the neighbourhoods it besieged. "Shells have rained down on us for five days," Umm Inas, another resident, told AFP by phone.

"There's very little movement in the street because people are afraid of these shells, which spare no one," the 45-year-old said.

She warned the humanitarian situation was getting increasingly dire, after the World Food Programme said on Tuesday it could no longer carry out air drops over the city because of the fighting.

"If the situation continues like this, hunger will ravage us. The air drops were our only lifeline," Umm Inas said.

The WFP has been dropping humanitarian aid into Deir Ezzor since April 2016, and the government-held area is the only place in Syria where the agency has permission for the drops.

In the past, government and Russian warplanes have also delivered desperately needed humanitarian aid to the city via air drops.

A medical source in the city told AFP more than 100 civilians had been wounded in the recent fighting, and some were taken north to the Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli.

"Some intractable cases were flown to Qamishli because they need special treatment that isn't available in Deir Ezzor," the source said.

Meanwhile, a US congresswoman made a rare secret visit to Syria as part of her effort toward ending the years-long conflict in the Middle Eastern nation, her office said Wednesday.

House Democrat Tulsi Gabbard, an Iraq war veteran, made a fact-finding mission to the capital Damascus despite continued fighting in the war-torn country in contravention of a frail ceasefire.

"As an individual committed to doing all she can to promote and work for peace, she felt it was important to meet with a number of individuals and groups including religious leaders, humanitarian workers, refugees and government and community leaders," said Gabbard spokeswoman Emily Latimer.

The exact dates of the trip were not provided for security reasons, but her office said she was currently in the Middle East.

The congresswoman from Hawaii met with US President-elect Donald Trump in November two weeks after his election victory to discuss Syria policy, raising speculation that the incoming commander in chief might consider her for a position at the Pentagon or State Department.

Full report at:



Saudi security forces track down six terrorists from one family

19 January 2017

After the arrest of Mohammed Hussain al-Faraj on Tuesday, Saudi security forces will have tracked down and eliminated a terrorist group that consists of six people from the Faraj family. The six men were tracked down in al-Awamiyah in Qatif, east of Saudi Arabia.

The list includes Hussain Mohammed Ali al-Faraj, who is wanted for shooting innocent people in public facilities and for involvement in other violent crimes in Qatif.

Mohammed Ali Abdulraheem al-Faraj who is on the list of the 23 most-wanted men Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry had published. He is the father of Hussain al-Faraj who was arrested on Tuesday.

Abdulraheem Abdulraheem al-Faraj was killed after exchanging gunfire while security forces searched his house in Awamiyah. He’s involved in a number of terrorist crimes.

Majed Ali Abdulraheem al-Faraj is still wanted by security forces as he did not hand himself over. Security forces are still pursuing him for his involvement in terrorist crimes with his brother Abdulraheem. His crimes include shooting a number of policemen and killing one and armed robbery.

Full report at:



Anti-regime demo turns violent in Bahrain amid fears of more killings

Jan 18, 2017

Police and anti-regime protesters have clashed in the Bahraini village of Sanabis amid reports saying that more activists are facing execution in the kingdom.

Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of Sanabis on Wednesday, holding placards and chanting slogans against the Al Khalifah dynasty.

The Bahraini police fired tear gas to disperse the protesters.

The march came after Amnesty International said two Bahraini men were at the imminent risk of execution.

The death sentences against Mohamed Ramadhan Issa Ali Hussain and Hussain Ali Moosa Hussain Mohamed were upheld by Bahrain’s Court of Cassation in November 2015 and the verdicts were passed to the country's king, the UK-based rights organization said.

They were accused of killing a policeman in a bomb explosion in the village of al- Dair in February 2014.

Amnesty international said the two men’s trial was grossly unfair and relied on "forced confessions” while the pair did not have access to their lawyers.

On January 15, Bahrain carried out its first execution after a more than six-year hiatus.

The executions of Shia activists Sami Mushaima, Abbas Jamil Tahir al-Sami’ and Ali Abdulshahid al-Singace came after the Court of Cassation upheld the death penalties given to the trio over allegations of killing a member of Emirati forces in al-Daih in March 2014. The defendants had denied the charges.

Full report at:



US-led coalition air raids breach Syria sovereignty: Cuba

Jan 18, 2017

Cuba has denounced US-led coalition airstrikes in Syria, saying they violate the Arab country’s sovereignty as they are not permitted by Damascus.

Cuban Ambassador to the United Nations Humberto Rivero made the criticism during a UN Security Council meeting in New York on Wednesday.

“We demand the cessation of the violations of Syrian sovereignty and the foreign military presence without the consent and the coordination of operations with the Syrian government, the only legitimately elected authority in the country,” Rivero said.

He further condemned the “politicization” of the crisis in Syria and “the tampering of the humanitarian crisis and the suffering” of people in the Middle Eastern country.

Those who are “supplying weapons, money and patronage to terrorist groups are responsible for the thousands of civilian victims of the conflict and the humanitarian situation," the Cuban diplomat said, expressing his opposition to “the promotion of an interventionist agenda” in Syria.

The US-led coalition has been conducting air raids against what are said to be Daesh terrorists inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate. Analysts have assessed the strikes as unsuccessful as they have led to civilian deaths and failed to counter terrorism.

The US Air Force is also carrying out airdrops of weapons, ammunition and other equipment to militants fighting against pro-government forces in Syria.

UN chief optimist on 'conflict freeze'

Separately on Wednesday, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned that the consequences of the Syria crisis had become "too dangerous.”

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks to journalists during a briefing at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, January 18, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

Speaking in a briefing at the UN office in the Swiss city of Geneva, Guterres stressed that the conflict had fueled instability in the Middle East region and terrorist attacks across the globe.

Touching on the upcoming Syria peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana, the UN chief further expressed hope that the discussions could “lead towards a consolidation of the ceasefire and a freeze in the conflict."

The cessation of hostilities took effect on December 30, following an agreement between Syria’s warring parties.

Full report at:



Source: Pentagon Guiding ISIL Through Deir Ezzur Offensive

Jan 19, 2017

Al-Hadath news website quoted the source as saying on Thursday that the US is helping ISIL to win control over Deir Ezzur in an attempt to force the Syrian army to concede to the federalization of the country, "and in a later stage, it will help the Washington-backed militants to defeat ISIL in Deir Ezzur and Raqqa to bring the two major cities under its influence".

The source said the US-led coalition heliborne operations in Deir Ezzur before the start of ISIL attacks is yet another indication of Washington's direct support for the ISIL.

Noting that the Syrian army's top commanders are aware of the US plots, the source said that Damascus is resolved to thwart Washington's plots by liberating Deir Ezzur city.

Media sources in the region said on Wednesday that US-led collation's air attack on Syrian army positions in Southern Deir Ezzur in September paved the ground for ISIL's large-scale attacks on government positions in the last couple of days.

The Arabic language Lebanese al-Akhbar paper reported that recent attacks of ISIL on government positions in Deir Ezzur in the last two to three days are the results of the US air attack on army positions in September as the air raids weakened the army troops.

The paper added that ISIL's control over the entire territories in Deir Ezzur province will benefit significantly the US-led coalition.

The paper said that ISIL intends to take full control of Deir Ezzur city and vast regions in Syria's desert from South of Sweida up to Palmyra in Homs and from Raqqa to Deir Ezzur to take control of Syria's border with Iraq.

Al-Akhbar underlined that based on field information the ISIL's plan was practically kicked off when the US-led coalition's fighter jets bombed the Syrian Army's positions in al-Thardah mountain in September 17 that left tens of army soldiers dead and wounded.

The army later pulled back their men from trinary al-Thardah mountain that plays a protection role for Deir Ezzur airbase.

Full report at:



Syrian Army Drives Terrorists out of More Lands in Wadi Al-Bardi

Jan 19 2017

A military source said that the army men that took full control of the key villages of Basimeh and Ein al-Khazra a couple of days ago have now prevailed over terrorists' defense lines in Ein al-Fijeh and have fortified more positions there.

The source further added that the army soldiers that are deployed in the surrounding heights of Ein al-Fijeh have been monitoring terrorists' movements to gather information on their military plans.

The source added that as the main drinking water reservoirs of Damascus are in Ein al-Fijeh, and stated, "The army is carrying out its operation in this region very carefully and slowly without the back up of the country's fighter jets to avoid damaging the water facilities in the region."

Meantime, the caves that stretch around Ein al-Fijeh have also slowed down army's operation, as some militants are hiding in these caves.

Syrian media said that simultaneous with Syrian army's advances inside Ein al-Fijeh, the terrorist groups are setting fire on people's houses in the village.

Full report at:

The Syrian army's advances came after killing tens of terrorists and fleeing of many others.



People Revolt against ISIL Across Deir Ezzur Province

Jan 18, 2017

People in the towns of al-Mayadeen and al-Ashareh stormed several ISIL centers and set fire on them.

The popular uprising broke out after the ISIL terrorists' advanced against the Syrian Army troops in the Southern and Southwestern outskirts of Deir Ezzur and cut off the a key road connecting the city to a military airport.

Residents of al-Mayadeen also set fire on several vehicles of ISIL's so-called special police.

Military sources revealed earlier today that the Syrian Army troops in the city of Deir Ezzur have launched a large-scale attack on ISIL's positions in the Southern outskirts of the city to remove the newly-laid siege on the military airport.

The sources said that the army soldiers engaged in intensive fight against ISIL North of al-Omal region to recapture al-Omal and then the city's cemetery to reopen the road connecting the city to the airbase.

The source added that Syrian and Russian fighter jets have been providing massive aerial back up for the ground troops of the army.

In the meantime, the army men fended off ISIL's attacks in Panorama and the university's residential area in Southwestern outskirts of Deir Ezzur, killing tens of the militants.

Full report at:



Syrian Army Marching on Terrorists' Positions in Eastern Damascus

Jan 18, 2017

The army soldiers stormed terrorists' concentration centers in the farms East of the town of Harazma in al-Marj region and took control over 12 farms in an operation that came in retaliation for several violations of the nationwide ceasefire by the militants in Eastern Ghouta.

In the meantime, the army men engaged in heavy fighting with terrorists in Douma and managed to take full control over the entire farms, positions and residential districts between the towns of al-Bahariyeh and al-Qasemiyeh.

Also, sporadic clashes erupted between the army troops and Fatah al-Sham Front (previously known as the al-Nusra Front) in al-Jobar, and then the army's artillery and missile units shelled Fatah al-Sham's positions in the neighborhood.

In relevant developments in the province on Tuesday, the terrorist groups once again breached nationwide ceasefire in Eastern Ghouta forcing the Syrian army troops to launch retaliatory attacks on militants' positions.

Terrorist snipers deployed in Eastern Ghouta opened fire at the vehicles and passengers on Damascus-Homs road in Harasta region.

Full report at:



Southeast Asia


Death of Malaysian militant 'a huge blow' to Islamic State's SE Asia unit

By Amy Chew

19 Jan 2017

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian militant Zainuri Kamaruddin, a leader of Islamic State’s (IS) Southeast Asia unit, Katibah Nusantara, was a veteran fighter whose death in a Syrian military air strike last week is being viewed as a major but not fatal blow to the group.

“This is a big loss to Katibah Nusantara as Zainuri was a very experienced fighter with bomb-making skills. He was also charismatic. Malaysian militants in Syria looked up to him. He was their leader over there,” Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, deputy commissioner of Special Branch counter-terrorism unit, told ChannelNewsAsia.

Special Branch is the intelligence arm of the Royal Malaysian Police.

“He occupied an important position in Katibah and acted as the group’s representative as evidenced from a video he appeared in last year where he threatened to wage war on the Malaysian government. The video carried the IS logo,” said Ayob.

Katibah Nusantara is a Malay-speaking unit of IS that groups together fighters from Indonesia, Malaysia and the southern Philippines. According to a 2015 commentary by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, the unit had 700 fighters from Indonesia, 200 from Malaysia, and a smaller number from the Philippines and even Singapore.

“His death is a huge blow but it will not weaken Katibah Nusantara. Its operations are still intact,” said Ahmad El-Muhammady, a counter-terrorism expert from International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) who helps to rehabilitate jailed militants.

That view was shared by Ayob, who said he expects Katibah Nusantara to continue to carry out attacks in Syria and Iraq as well as calling for attacks to be carried out in Malaysia.

According to the police, Zainuri, who was 50 when he was killed, left for Syria on April 19, 2014 despite having gone through a rehabilitation programme while in prison.

Counter-terrorism expert Ahmad, who has close links with intelligence officials and militants, said the official assessment of Zainuri after he had completed the rehabilitation process was that he was “ok”.

"He underwent the rehabilitation and demonstrated positive change and cooperativeness with the authorities. The authorities assisted him a lot financially, getting him a job,” said Ahmad.

"What triggered his motivation is the civil war in Syria, the suffering of the Syrians killed and oppressed by the Assad regime... I suspect that his anchor belief, of fighting for religion, was his long and unfulfilled dream, as if he can’t achieve satisfaction in life unless he fulfills that dream,” he added.


According to the police, Zainuri had a long track record in the Malaysian jihadi world. He fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s when he was barely out of his teens. It was there that he learnt how to assemble bombs and handle weapons.

He later joined the Malaysian Mujahidin Group (KMM), which aimed to overthrow the secular government through an armed struggle in 1996, according to police.

His bomb-making skills accidentally caused the death of his first wife in 1998 - he had assembled a bomb and hid it in the kitchen of his home in Perak state.

“At around 1-2am, his wife came to the kitchen to prepare milk for their child. Some water dripped onto the bomb and it exploded, killing his wife. There was a huge fire,” said Ayob.

Zainuri was in the house but was unharmed. He cleaned up all traces of the bomb before the fire services arrived, Ayob added.

He subsequently married his late wife’s younger sister. Her whereabouts are unclear at the moment. Zainuri has three other wives in Syria, according to the police.

Police intelligence also claims that he carried out a long list of attacks in Malaysia, including assassination attempts against Muslim apostates.

In 1998, he twice tried to kill a Hindu man for allegedly converting his wife to Hinduism, police said.

In 1999, he tried to kill a young Malay Muslim woman at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, the police claimed. She had wanted to convert to Catholicism.

In November 2000, police say he was involved in the killing of a member of parliament, Joe Fernandez, who was accused of converting Muslim women working in a factory in Kulim, Kedah, to Christianity.

Ahmad said that Zainuri’s attacks on apostates would not have been simply because of blind hatred. Rather, it’s an integral part of the doctrine which many extremist groups, including IS, subscribe to. 

The authorities caught up with Zainuri in 2001 when he was arrested and held under Malaysia’s Internal Security Act (ISA)

He was subsequently released before being re-arrested for possessing firearms. He was then jailed for 10 years, according to police.



OIC envoy for UN role to avoid Rohingya genocide

Jan 19 2017

KUALA LUMPUR - The United Nations should intervene in Myanmar's Rakhine State to stop further escalation of violence against Rohingya Muslims and avoid another genocide like in Cambodia and Rwanda, said the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation's special envoy to Myanmar.

The conflict which has left at least 86 dead and an estimated 66,000 people fleeing into Bangladesh since it started on Oct. 9, 2016, is no longer an internal issue but of international concern, said Syed Hamid Albar, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Special Envoy to Myanmar. Syed Hamid said the OIC should seek UN intervention. His comments come ahead of a special OIC meeting called by Malaysia on Thursday to discuss measures to deal with the conflict affecting the Rohingya minority, who are predominantly Muslim. "We don't want to see another genocide like in Cambodia or Rwanda," Syed Hamid told Reuters in an interview ahead of the meeting in Kuala Lumpur.

"The international community just observed, and how many people died? We have lessons from the past, for us to learn from and see what we can do," he said.

The OIC represents 57 states and acts as the collective voice of the Muslim world.

Refugees, residents and human rights groups say Myanmar soldiers have committed summary executions, raped Rohingya women and burned homes since military operations started in the north of Rakhine State on Oct. 9.

The government of predominantly Buddhist Myanmar, led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, has denied the accusations, saying many of the reports are fabricated, and it insists the strife in Rakhine State, where many Rohingya live, is an internal matter.

The military operations were in response to attacks on security posts near Myanmar's border with Bangladesh that killed nine police officers. The Myanmar government has said that militants with overseas Islamist links were responsible.

A Myanmar government spokesman said it will not attend the OIC meet as it is not an Islamic country, but that it had already made its actions clear to ASEAN members at their last meeting in December, and that UN intervention would only end up facing "unwanted resistance from local people".

Full report at:



Another counter rally, same day as PAS’ shariah law rally

January 18, 2017

PETALING JAYA: After the Bersih 5 (yellow shirts) rally and Red Shirts counter-rally of Nov 19 last year, another rally and counter-rally is expected to take place on Feb 18 in Kuala Lumpur.

This time it is the Himpunan RUU355 rally organised by PAS in support of the amendments to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 and the counter-rally by a group calling itself Bebas.

The announcement on the counter rally was made in a statement released today by Bebas, which describes itself as a movement that upholds equality, opposes racial discrimination and advocates religious freedom in Malaysia.

Bebas said it plans to organise a peaceful rally on Feb 18, 2017, at Padang Merbok, Kuala Lumpur, to express its strong objection to the amendments, which were tabled by PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang as a Private Members Bill last year.

“Our rally, called ‘Malaysians Reject Hadi’s Bill’, will take place from 3pm to 5pm, on Feb 18.

“All Malaysians, irrespective of race and religion, are welcome to join the rally to protest against Hadi’s Bill, which is a dangerous piece of legislation that could open the door to hudud law,” the Bebas statement said.

The statement was signed by three members — Azrul Mohd Khalib, Azira Aziz and R Suresh.

Calling the amendments “disingenuous”, Bebas said there had been no justification or rationale provided for the need to enhance shariah punishments.

It was previously reported that the original Hadi’s bill had been modified and will now be limited to just enhancing shariah punishments instead of enforcing its own version of the shariah criminal code.

The enhanced punishments include 30 years’ jail, RM100,000 fine and 100 lashes. At present, shariah courts can impose three years’ jail, a RM5,000 fine and six strokes of the rotan.

“We have heard no citation of research studies which attest that harsher punishments lead to deterrence or reduced occurrences of shariah offences, or convict recidivism in Muslim countries already implementing similar laws.

“Any proposed reforms must be done through an evidence-based policy-making process, not merely rhetoric,” Bebas said.

Saying that the amendments must be open to scrutiny and treated like any other legislation up for a vote in parliament, Bebas added that the amendment and the opinion by Hadi must be open to scrutiny and questioning by all, including both Muslims and non-Muslims.

Full report at:



Muslim Clowns Collect Money for Charity on Passenger Train in Malaysia

Jan 19 2017

KUALA LUMPUR - Passengers on a Light Rapid Transit train in the Malaysian capital Wednesday witnessed a curious sight during their journey: Muslim clowns raising donations for cancer-stricken children.

About 14 clowns from the Muslim Clown Malaysia group rode on the train, performing tricks for commuters and collecting money for the charity Cancer Associates and Kindred Network (Cakne).

While on the train the group - consisting mostly of men but with a few women - made balloon animals and gave them to commuters, eliciting smiles and delight.

One passenger, Fairuz Fadilah, 28, told epa that the fun performances motivated her to drop money into the clowns' collection box, and 22-year-old Nurul Najwa Lazim said she was glad to receive a balloon animal from them.

Once they arrived at the KL Sentral station the colorful troupe put on a small magic show and continued making balloon creatures and seeking donations.

"We go to three hot spots in Kuala Lumpur to collect funds: Kuala Lumpur (Petronas) Towers, KL Sentral, and Masjid Jamek," said group leader Rosli Nazri, 38, also known as Mr. Papa Clown.

Full report at:



Putrajaya to provide work permits, skills training for Rohingyas


January 19, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 19 — Putrajaya is working on a plan to provide semi-skilled trainings and temporary work permits to the 56,000 Rohingya refugees in the country, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said today.

Ahmad Zahid said that the move would convert the Rohingyas “from liabilities to assets” and provide them with job opportunities.

"We are working out the details and I will announce it in due course," he told reporters here.

He said that the training and permit apply to Rohingyas who hold United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) cards.

“They can become additional workforce in certain industries,” he said.

He said that the move would reflect Malaysia’s commitment on the Rohingya issue in the eyes of the international community.

He was speaking on the sidelines of the extraordinary session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which was called to discuss the plight of the Rohingyas.

Zahid also said that Malaysia has not received permission from Myanmar for its flotilla aid to cross into Myanmar waters.

Full report at:





Muslim reservations not possible on religious basis – BJP

January 19, 2017

Hyderabad: Govt. should abandon misleading the people since it is not possible to implement 12% reservation for Muslims on the basis of religion. Govt. should take necessary steps to enhance Hajj subsidy and ensure equal development for all the sections of society. It is also the responsibility of the Govt. to improve the status of BCs. These thoughts were expressed BJP MLC Mr. N. Ramachandra Rao while participating in discussions in Telangana Legislative Council on the issue of reservation for Muslims. He further told that the procedure adopted by the Govt. for identification of BCs is un-democratic. Sudhir Commission of Inquiry has no legal standing. Mr. Ramachandra Rao indirectly opposed the reservation for Muslims saying that there is no provision for such reservation on the basis of religion in constitution. He also told that there is no class system among the Muslims. Govt. is dividing them into classes.

Mr. Mohammed Mahmood Ali, Dy. CM of Telangana, Mr. Moahmmed Ali Shabbeer and Syed Altaf Haider Rizvi made an objection on the statement made by Mr. Ramachandra Rao. Mr. Mahmood Ali told that persons benefiting out of reservations belong to some religion. He also told that if reservation are provided to Muslims on the basis of their backwardness, no one should object.

Mr. Ramachandra Rao also opposed the steps taken Govt. of Telangana to include Dalit Christians in STs. Christian MLC, Mr. Rajehwar opposed his statement. Mr. Ramachandra Rao replied that when there is a provision for Christians under BC-C category, where is the need for the Govt. to include them under STs. However, he admitted that Muslims and minorities are backward and State Govt. should formulate welfare schemes on par with Central Govt. to eradicate their backwardness.



Telangana govt to bring bill for 12% quota for Muslims

Jan 18, 2017

The Telangana government would bring a bill for providing 12% reservation to backward sections among Muslims in the Budget session of Legislative Assembly, chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao said on Wednesday.

“We will put up the Muslim Reservation Bill in the coming Budget session itself,” he said in the Assembly during a debate on welfare of minorities. The budget session is expected to begin next month.

The 12% reservation to Muslims was a key election promise of the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS).

The state government had appointed a Commission for conducting a study of social and economic status of Muslims and the panel has submitted its report, Rao said in a statement on the issue.

The state government has forwarded the report to the Backward Classes Commission for its opinion.

The BC Commission is gathering views of different groups in the matter for expressing its opinion, Rao said.

“In order to provide 12% reservation to Muslims, a relaxation should be given to the stipulation that the reservations should not exceed 50%.

“The government of Tamil Nadu introduced Act 45/94 and with the consent of Indian Parliament got incorporated the issue of enhancement of reservation in the 9th Schedule of the Indian Constitution. We will follow the same policy in our state also,” Rao said in his statement.

Expressing confidence that the Centre would act favourably on the state’s move to provide 12% quota, he, however, said the state government would also take a legal recourse on the issue if the Centre does not respond positively.

BJP floor leader G Kishan Reddy said the high court had already held that reservations on the basis of religion is against the Constitution.

Full report at:



Walk away from terror to start talks: PM Modi to Pak

by Shubhajit Roy

January 18, 2017

Underlining that India alone cannot walk the path of peace, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Tuesday urged Pakistan to “walk away from terror” if it wants resumption of bilateral dialogue. Ties between the two countries have hit rock bottom in the wake of attacks by Pakistan-based terror outfits which prompted India to carry out surgical strikes along the Line of Control.

On relations with China, the Prime Minister said it was not unnatural for two large neighbours to have some differences but both sides should show sensitivity and respect for each other’s core concerns and interests — Beijing has stalled New Delhi’s entry to the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group and put a technical hold on India’s application to get Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar banned by the United Nations.

Flagging India’s top diplomatic challenges as he delivered the inaugural address at the second edition of the Raisina Dialogue, a three-day conference in the Capital, Modi referred to his telephone conversation with US President-elect Donald Trump and how they agreed to “keep building on these gains in our strategic partnership”.

But it was on Pakistan that he expressed his sense of disappointment: “My vision for our neighbourhood puts premium on peaceful and harmonious ties with entire South Asia. That vision had led me to invite leaders of all SAARC nations, including Pakistan, for my swearing-in. For this vision, I had also travelled to Lahore. But, India alone cannot walk the path of peace. It also has to be Pakistan’s journey to make. Pakistan must walk away from terror if it wants to walk towards dialogue with India.”

“Our strong belief in delinking terrorism from religion, and rejecting artificial distinctions between good and bad terrorism, are now a global talking point. And, those in our neighbourhood who support violence, perpetrate hatred, and export terror stand isolated and ignored,” he said.

“In our engagement with China, as President Xi and I agreed, we have sought to tap the vast area of commercial and business opportunities in the relationship. I see the development of India and China as an unprecedented opportunity, for our two countries and for the whole world. At the same time, it is not unnatural for two large neighbouring powers to have some differences. In the management of our relationship, and for peace and progress in the region, both our countries need to show sensitivity and respect for each other’s core concerns and interests.”

Modi’s thrust on India’s ties with China was apparent as he focused on the conference theme ‘Multilateralism with Multipolarity’.

“Prevailing wisdom tells us that this century belongs to Asia. The sharpest trajectory of change is happening in Asia. There are large and vibrant pools of progress and prosperity that spread across the landscape of this region. But, rising ambition and rivalries are generating visible stress points. The steady increase in military power, resources and wealth in the Asia-Pacific has raised the stakes for its security.

Therefore, the security architecture in the region must be open, transparent, balanced and inclusive. And, promote dialogue and predictable behavior rooted in international norms and respect for sovereignty,” he said, in an oblique reference to China’s muscular foreign policy.

“The political and military power is diffused and distributed The multi-polarity of the world, and an increasingly multi-polar Asia, is a dominant fact today. And, we welcome it. Because, it captures the reality of the rise of many nations. It accepts that voices of many, not views of a few should shape the global agenda. Therefore, we need to guard against any instinct or inclination that promotes exclusion, especially in Asia,” he said.

And in words that were perceived as a signal for the incoming US administration, Modi said, “For multiple reasons and at multiple levels, the world is going through profound changes. Globally connected societies, digital opportunities, technology shifts, knowledge boom and innovation are leading the march of humanity. But sluggish growth and economic volatility are also a sobering fact. Physical borders may be less relevant in this age of bits and bytes. But, walls within nations, a sentiment against trade and migration, and rising parochial and protectionist attitudes across the globe are also a stark statistic. The result: globalisation gains are at risk and economic gains are no longer easy to come by.”

Full report at:





Mali car bomb kills 50 in fresh blow to peace

Jan 19 2017

GAO - A suicide bombing targeting militia groups committed to restoring peace in Mali left nearly 50 people dead Wednesday and struck a fresh blow at long-running efforts to stabilise the troubled north.

The car bomb attack in Gao, the region's biggest city, targeted a camp grouping former rebels and pro-government militia who are signatories to a 2015 peace accord struck with the government.

The attack occurred as former rebels from the Tuareg-led CMA movement prepared to go on a joint patrol with pro-government militia members, under the terms of the peace deal.

Mali's north fell under the control of Tuareg-led rebels and militant groups linked to Al-Qaeda in 2012. The Islamists sidelined the rebels to take sole control.

Although they were largely ousted by a French-led military operation in January 2013, implementation of the peace accord has been piecemeal with insurgents still active across large parts of the region.

The joint patrols, which also include regular Malian army troops, are supposed to help prepare for the reorganisation of the army.

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita ordered three days of national mourning following the attack, the worst in the country in recent years. Defence Minister Abdoulaye Idrissa Maiga was to fly to Gao later Wednesday.

The provisional toll is "47 dead and several injured", said state TV broadcaster ORTM. Earlier, a hospital source in Gao said at least 40 people had died and 60 were hurt. The UN peacekeeping mission MINUSMA said dozens had died and many more were hurt.

"The explosion caused heavy losses. According to preliminary information, dozens of deaths and dozens of injuries are reported among the 600 individuals hosted in the camp," a statement said.

The attack took place at 8:40 am (GMT) as the former rival groups "were due to soon leave on a joint patrol," a MINUSMA source added.

The powerful blast, which went off during a training session, ripped apart bodies, scattering limbs across the camp, a witness said.

The vehicle used in the blast bore the logo of the unit coordinating the joint patrols, army spokesman Diarran Kone told AFP.

The assailant "came to town alone to procure equipment and fit the vehicle out to commit a suicide attack," a Malian security source who asked not to be named told AFP.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the camp is very close to Gao airport, a key transport hub which was closed briefly in late November following an attack blamed on militants.

The car bomb destroyed prefabricated hangars used by MINUSMA's aircraft and damage to the installations and debris on the runway made the airport temporarily unusable.

"The joint patrols were the target," French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told French media on Wednesday. "The political aim is to hamper the peace process and reconciliation." "Peace remains fragile," he added.

France is considering a UN Security Council draft resolution that would set up a sanctions regime for Mali to target opponents of the peace deal signed 19 months ago.

The Security Council will meet Wednesday to discuss the situation in Mali.

The proposed sanctions regime would set up a mechanism to allow individuals and entities to be blacklisted by the United Nations. Targeted sanctions include a global travel ban and an assets freeze.

The United Nations has deployed 13,000 troops in Mali to serve in the MINUSMA force, considered one of the deadliest missions in peacekeeping.



Death toll in Nigeria airstrike soars to 76

Jan 19 2017

GENEVA - At least 76 people were killed in Tuesday's accidental Nigerian Air Force strike on a refugee camp and more than 100 were wounded, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (ICRC) said on Wednesday.

The air force has said an unknown number of civilians were killed and wounded in the mistaken strike in Rann, Borno state. The state has been the epicentre of Boko Haram's seven-year-long attempt to create an Islamic caliphate in the northeast. The air force has said civilians were accidentally killed and wounded in the attack, which was aimed at the militant group, but neither it nor the government has provided an official figure for the number of casualties. Aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has said 52 were killed and 120 were wounded. ICRC said six Nigeria Red Cross members were killed and 13 wounded. "In addition to aid staff, it is estimated that 70 people have been killed and more than a hundred wounded," it said in a statement.

Lai Mohammed, the information minister, said "the accidental bombing is not a true reflection of the level of professionalism" he had witnessed in the air force.

The strike followed a military offensive against Boko Haram in the last few weeks.

Full report at:



Explosion kills dozens in Malian military camp

Jan 19 2017

A vehicle exploded at a military camp in the northern Mali city of Gao on Wednesday, killing dozens of people, according to a Reuters witness who saw the aftermath of the blast.

Full report at:



Refugees tortured and raped in squalid desert camps, arrest of Somali 'sadist' reveals

18 JANUARY 2017

The arrest of a “sadistic” Somali smuggler in Italy has revealed the shocking abuse suffered by refugees and migrants who are held in squalid camps in the Sahara before being herded onto boats across the Mediterranean.

Prosecutors have compiled a 40-page dossier on the horrific abuses allegedly carried out by Osman Matammud, 22, who is accused of raping women and savagely beating men in a dusty desert camp south of Tripoli.

Matammud managed to make it to Italy by passing himself off as a refugee, but in September he was recognised by fellow Somalis in a migrant centre in Milan.

He was almost lynched, before police stepped in and arrested him. Initially suspected of being a straight-forward trafficker, it soon became apparent from witness testimony that he had instituted a reign of terror at the abandoned hangar in Bani Walid, 100 miles south-east of Tripoli, with prosecutors comparing him to a Nazi concentration camp guard.

“I’m not Somali, I’m not Muslim – I’m your boss,” he allegedly told migrants and refugees when they arrived at the camp, having crossed the Sahara from Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan. 

Several Somali women told investigators in Italy that they had been repeatedly raped by Matammud, who is from Mogadishu. The violence was in part to exert pressure on their families to pay more money for their passage across the Mediterranean, with the going rate set at $7,000.

But Matammud also allegedly took a sadistic pleasure in meting out the abuse, witnesses said. He would allegedly place plastic bags on the backs of migrants and set them alight so that molten plastic blistered their skin.

One teenage girl told Milan prosecutors: “The first night, he came into the hangar, he grabbed me and he ripped off my clothes in front of everyone. He penetrated me. I fainted but when I came to, there was blood everywhere. I was raped many times by him – every night.” Another girl, aged 17, said: “My family were struggling to pay the extra money, and he said to me, ‘I’ll take care of you tonight’ and from that night I suffered horribly.”

Migrants were given little food and water and kept in unsanitary conditions. “We all slept on the floor. It was impossible to escape, the camp was a hangar surrounded by a high wall,” one man told prosecutors.

Full report at:



Refugees From Kenya Reunite with Family Members in Minnesota

January 18, 2017

The bitter Minnesota cold was like Heaven for the last month for three refugees. They came from the largest refugee camp in the world in Kenya. They are celebrating their arrival here.

Hasan, Basra and their son Abdirahman came to reunite with their son Suud a few days before Christmas. They believe they got here just in the nick of time. They were worried President-elect Donald Trump could change immigration policy and prevent Muslims and refugees from entering the U.S.

Their son Suud Olat worried about that too as he drove from St. Cloud to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport on a subzero night in the darkest of evenings, in the coldest of December days, before the longest night of the year.

"This was a long journey, long journey,"Suud said. It was the journey of more than 1826 days. "I've been waiting for my family five years now," he said. 

Olat, his sister Fatumo, and their relative Nesteho are all refugees from Somalia. They all grew up in the Dadaab, the Kenya refugee camp. Olat was less than a year old when his parents escaped the Somali civil war to go to Kenya.

"We came to Kenya dreaming peace would prevail,  that never happened living there for 21 years," said Olat.

Suud and Fatumo got refugee status and settled in Minneapolis, where the biggest Somali population in the country lives.

"I was hoping my family would join me in a few days me, but the the process is  very very difficult for refugees," said Olat.

A few days, turned into five years. The wishes, hopes and dream of those five years were not just 30 minutes away at the end of an airport hallway where Olat waited for his parents.

"I can't wait to hug them and kiss them and welcome to the United States," he said excitedly.

Suud and Fatumo's brother and parents were going to walk through the doors into a world they'd never experienced. The lights and the sliding doors would be foreign to them. Suud and his sister waited patiently but it seemed the time was just not moving as quickly anymore in the last minutes before their plane was scheduled to arrive.

Olat paced back and forth in front of the sliding doors. It's easy to be lonely in a crowd. Every time the doors opened and closed, it was a second closer. But something wonderful happened while Olat was waiting.

"Happy holidays, whatever you celebrate," said a stranger to Olat. "Happy new year, happy new year," Olat told the stranger, hugging her. She said she came to wish him after she heard him talking about his parents arrival.

"You're going to make me cry," she told Olat. Her name was Linda. Maybe there are no strangers, in our sharing and caring. "That makes me feel home, that makes me love Minnesota more than ever," said Olat of Linda's selfless gesture.

He went back to pacing in front of the sliding doors. It's hard to stand still when time doesn't fly. Suddenly, the arrival board showed Olat's parents had landed.

"It's like a dream come true," he excitedly said. "Only a few seconds, my heart beating my heart beating, cant wait," he added as he moved closer to the sliding doors. He finally saw them. "Here they come, they are here!"

The wait was over. Olat and his sister and relative hugged his parents and brother tightly. They all stood in a small circle holding each other.

Full report at:



Nigeria’s Botched Airstrike Shows Boko Haram Isn’t Defeated

Jan 19 2017

Just over a year after Nigeria proudly declared Boko Haram was all but defeated, its fighter jets mistakenly bombed a camp full of people driven from their homes by the militants.

The airstrike illustrates the insurgents — the world's deadliest terrorist group during 2015 — are still far from subdued.

Estimates for the number killed in Tuesday's botched operation outside the northeastern town of Rann ranged from 50 to more than 100.

Filippo Grandi, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, on Wednesday called the incident a "truly catastrophic event" and called for a full investigation.

In a rare public apology, Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari offered his condolences to the families, labeling the bloodbath a "regrettable operational mistake."

Buhari first proclaimed in December 2015 that he had "technically defeated" Boko Haram, the violent Sunni Muslim sect that has waged war in northeast Nigeria since 2009.

He has made similar claims in the 12 months since, and anyone listening to these speeches might be moved to ask: If Boko Haram has been defeated, who are Nigeria's jets trying to bomb?

The Nigerian military has been successful in liberating almost all of the territory once held by Boko Haram, but the country's northeast is still peppered with hit-and-run attacks and suicide bombs.

Last year, a split emerged in the group. One faction is now led by the enigmatic Abubakar Shekau, one of America's most-wanted terrorists with a $7 million reward for information on his head, and the other by Abu Musab al-Barnawi, who has received the backing of ISIS.

The military appears to have had some success against Shekau's faction, but less against al-Barnawi's group, according to J. Peter Pham at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank.

"More worryingly, this faction is displaying complex tactics and weapons, and that suggests outside influence," said Pham, who has just returned from the region. "My reading is that ISIS is being squeezed in Libya and it is coming south to Nigeria."

Pham said the army has improved its counterterrorism strategy and enjoyed gains against Shekau's faction along a southeastern front near the border with Cameroon. "They don't get enough credit for that," he said.

But it's had less success in the north near the Niger border, where Pham said the newer, ISIS-backed faction is operating.

He said the bombing also showed a need for Nigeria to up its intelligence game. "Granted, accidents happen in warfare but this was a huge error," he said.

A map posted by Human Rights Watch showed the camp for displaced people clearly visible from the air.

Stunning miss: Camp bombed by #Nigeria easily seen from air--packed with tents & next to military base, notes @hrw sat image pro Josh Lyons.

— Letta Tayler (@lettatayler) January 18, 2017

It's not just the ongoing fighting that means Nigeria remains in a state of crisis.

The legacy of the group's pitiless seven-year insurgency is also being felt more than ever, with much of the region's farming and trade having been obliterated.

Boko Haram came into international view in 2014 after kidnapping more than 270 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok, an assault that provoked the #BringBackOurGirls campaign supported by Michelle Obama and many Western celebrities.

Full report at:



North America


Trump Pledges War on Radical Islamic Terrorism

January 18, 2017

President-elect Donald Trump's campaign pledge to wage war on "radical Islamic terrorism" is about to become U.S. policy.

In its emphasis on ideology, it is a war that puts him at odds with his two immediate predecessors. While both former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama have avoided casting the war on terror in ideological terms for fear of alienating Muslim allies, Trump has stressed that very dimension and the need to counter it ideologically.

"Containing the spread of radical Islam must be a major foreign policy goal of the United States," Trump said in April in the first of two major foreign policy speeches he delivered during the campaign. "Events may require the use of military force. But it's also a philosophical struggle, like our long struggle in the Cold War."

More than campaign rhetoric, it seems to be a deeply held view. In the weeks since his Nov. 8 election, Trump has steadfastly stuck to his hardline position on terror even as he's softened his views on other hot-button issues.

After a Tunisian man drove a truck through a crowded Christmas market in Berlin last month, killing 12 people, Trump tweeted: "This is a purely religious threat, which turned into reality. Such hatred! When will the U.S., and all countries, fight back?"

And when he was asked about his controversial campaign call to bar Muslims from entering the country, he replied: "You know my plans all along — I've been proven to be right."

Blaise Misztal, director of the national security program at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, said Trump sees radical Islam as an ideological threat to his nationalistic vision of "making America great again."

"I think by seeing the threat as an ideological one, President Trump will see the problem as not just stopping attacks but stopping the spread of that ideology and stopping the potential for further radicalization," Misztal said.

Evolving view

Trump wasn't always so hawkish on fighting terror. Nor was he the first to warn about radical Islam.

The credit for popularizing the phrase goes to his Republican rivals — and some of his subsequent advisers, such as incoming chief strategist Stephen Bannon — who repeatedly chastised Obama for refusing to utter the words. Indeed, in his June 2015 presidential announcement, Trump made no mention of radical Islam and called China a "bigger problem" than Islamic State.

But Trump's rhetoric grew increasingly bellicose as the campaign wore on and a rash of terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States unnerved voters, leading him to make some of his campaign's most incendiary comments and proposals.

After a terror attack in Paris in November 2015 and a deadly shooting by a Muslim couple in San Bernardino, California, the following month, Trump proposed a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S.

In March 2015, he told CNN that "Islam hates us" and later defended his comment, saying "large portions of Muslims" have "tremendous hatred" for the West. And two months later when a Muslim-American gunman killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Trump blamed the violence on radical Islam and said he favored a suspension of immigration from countries with "a proven history of terrorism."

'Ideological warfare'

In August, with Americans still jittery over terrorism, Trump delivered what some experts saw as his most coherent policy statement on national security. Comparing radical Islam to fascism and communism, he championed a "new approach" and a "long-term plan" to fight what he branded an "ideology of death."

"All actions should be oriented around this goal, and any country which shares this goal will be our ally," he told supporters at Youngstown University in Ohio, echoing Bush's post-9/11 rhetoric.

He advocated "ideological warfare" against Islamic State and vowed to work with NATO and "our friends in the Middle East" and to find "common ground" with Russia to defeat the group.

"My administration will aggressively pursue joint and coalition military operations to crush and destroy ISIS, international cooperation to cut off their funding, expanded intelligence sharing, and cyberwarfare to disrupt and disable their propaganda and recruiting," he said. ISIS is an acronym for Islamic State.

Trump said the common thread among terrorist attacks since 9/11 was the involvement of immigrants or the children of immigrants, and he called for an ideological test for immigrants to screen out those who do not "share our values and respect our people.” The policy implications of Trump's call to arms remain to be seen. Colin Clarke, a political scientist at RAND, said it is too early to tell how the rhetoric of Trump and his advisers translates into policy.

"That still doesn't tell you what he'll do differently in terms of combating the threat," Clarke said. "It doesn't tell you how he's going to allocate resources any differently than the Obama administration."

Homeland secure

Critics of Obama's refusal to acknowledge a link between terrorism and Islam hailed Trump's drive to highlight the issue, but they cautioned against painting the world's 1.5 billion Muslims with a broad ideological brush.

"Actually it does have something to do with Islam," said former CIA Director Michael Hayden. "A lot of it is about Islam. But I quickly add, it's not all about Islam, and for God's sake, it's not about all Muslims."

Apart from his controversial Muslim ban and proposal to work with Russia, nearly everything Trump has proposed to fight terror — bombing IS, working with Middle Eastern allies, and using drones and special forces — are policies that have been carried out by the Obama administration.

"I haven't seen anything [new]," Clarke said. "I've been looking. Trust me. I think a lot of people have."

In securing the American homeland against terrorist attacks since 9/11, the U.S. may have exhausted nearly all the law enforcement, investigative and intelligence tools at its disposal, Hayden said. While mass-casualty attacks like 9/11 have grown highly improbable, he warned that so-called lone wolf attacks by homegrown extremists will be hard to prevent.

New strategy?

According to Pentagon data, in the two years since the U.S. launched a bombing campaign to roll back IS, coalition aircraft have carried out nearly 17,000 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, damaging or destroying nearly 32,000 targets.

"Getting tough" has its limits, Hayden cautioned. "I'm fond of saying, if being tough is all you needed, if you could kill your way out of this, we'd have been done a decade ago," Hayden said.

But Trump advisers say the threat of international terrorism has grown over the last eight years and requires a new strategy.

"I do think there are, there are clear and broad distinctions between the past administration and the future administration," said James Carafano, director of foreign policy studies at the conservative Heritage Foundation who advises the Trump transition team on foreign policy. "And it's logical that there ought to be big changes because by almost every observable measure, the problem of transnational terrorism is worse than it was eight years ago."



At Interfaith Gathering, Affirmation of Support for Muslims, Minorities

Jan 19 2017

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- "If you want peace, work for justice. That includes housing the homeless, ending the death penalty, organizing labor unions, standing up for minority rights, and countering rising Islamophobia in the U.S.”

So said Dublin-born San Jose Diocese Bishop Patrick J. McGrath, leader of over 50 Catholic churches in Santa Clara County, and the prime mover behind the Catholic-Muslim dialogue held at the Shia Association of the Bay Area (SABA) Center on MLK day, January 16.

Bishop McGrath quoted MLK to make his point: “Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”

Speaking to an overflow audience of about 500 Christians and Muslims, he reminded them that “Xenophobia has always been a part of America’s social and political landscape ... But we have much more in common than what divides us. Both the Bible and the Quran list mercy and justice as foremost divine attributes. I ask each one of you to use your light to replace the darkness of hate.”

Aurora Solis, a Latina leader with San Jose-based ‘People Acting in Community Together’ (PACT) spoke of a co-worker who told her, “I am a Muslim. I am scared. What will happen to me and my family?” Her response: “I will be with you. My friends and I will register as Muslims if it comes to that. We will work with Muslims so we can become better Christians.”

Tahir Anwar, an Imam and a long-time Bay Area activist, spoke passionately of the Golden Rule, a common theme that unites the major religions of the world: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

He also urged those in the audience to "make a habit of visiting synagogues, churches, mosques and other places of worship," adding,  “Islamophobia poses a threat not just for Muslims but for everyone. If our phones are tapped, yours will be too, sooner or later. The Quran says we will have some good days and some not-so-good days. That is life. But if we work together, we will overcome.”

Imam Tahir narrated how he travels separately from his family when returning to the U.S. from a trip abroad. “I am questioned at such length and harassed by immigration and law-enforcement officials that I try to spare my children the humiliation I am often subjected to when I return to my country. So they travel a day or two before I do.”

Speaker after speaker reminded us of the importance of extending hospitality to strangers, not to be haughty but to associate with the lowly, the sick, the disabled, the unemployed and the underemployed, to cherish our diversity, to overcome evil with good, to not suffer injustice with silence but to engage in non-violent activism that can change the world for the better.

There is a moral momentum growing across America. On January 21, the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, an estimated 200,000 women are expected to participate in the Women’s March on Washington. On a smaller scale, this symbolic march will be enacted in cities throughout America, including San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco.

As in other cities, too, San Jose city leaders recently approved a campaign to create sanctuary places in schools and churches were deportation sweeps may occur, while Santa Clara County supervisors allocated about $1.5 million over two years to provide legal aid for undocumented workers in danger of deportation.

On a personal level, it also struck me forcefully how easily Shias and Sunnis prayed, listened and shared meals together at this event, as we have been doing for all the decades we have been in the Bay Area. I am a Sunni because I was born into a Sunni family, and I find no hindrance to my visiting Shia mosques to pray when it is convenient to do so. Same goes for Shias who pray at our mosque at the Evergreen Islamic Center when it is convenient for them.

Full report at:



Haley: No Muslim registry under Trump administration


Nikki Haley, President-elect Donald Trump's pick for ambassador to the United Nations, repudiated the idea of a registry for Muslim immigrants or Muslim Americans during her confirmation hearing Wednesday.

When asked about Trump's openness to the idea of a registry during a rapid-fire round of questioning, Haley swatted aside the suggestion as an idea from "early on" in the presidential campaign that Trump no longer supports.

"His administration and I don’t think there should be any registry based on religion," she said.

"What we do need to do is know which countries are a threat and those are the ones we need to watch and be careful and vet," she said.

Sen. Ben Cardin (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, pressed Haley on whether there could ever be justification for a registry of Muslim Americans in the country.

"No, there is not," Haley responded.

Trump said during the fall of 2015 that he would "absolutely" require Muslims to register in a database. He also called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S. from other countries. After backlash, he amended his push, calling for a ban on immigration from countries with terror ties.

Full report at:



US court hears case on Muslims held after 9/11

19 January 2017

Muslims in the United States who were rounded up and detained in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks took their case before the US Supreme Court on Wednesday.

The US high court reviewed whether the men, who say they were held after the al-Qaeda attack based solely on their identity as Arab Muslims, had the right to sue top US officials including then-attorney general John Ashcroft and Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller, for their allegedly illegal detention.

The men were among 750 Muslims rounded up after the terror attacks, many on grounds that they did not have legal US immigration papers. They said they were held in small isolation cells for up to 23 hours at a stretch and subjected to mental and physical abuse. They were held in detention for three to eight months.

Also read: White House: No evidence of Saudi role in 9/11

A lower court had ruled in the men’s favor, and the officials appealed that to the Supreme Court, arguing that the national security and immigration requirements of the time justified the sweeping arrests.

A ruling on whether the men had a right to sue rests on court precedents involving constitutional protections against illegal search and seizure. But Justice Stephen Breyer got to the hub of the broader case: whether the atmosphere at the time justified such a broad reaction.

“I can understand after a bomb attack and 3,000 people are killed,” Breyer said. “I can understand that the first reaction of the law enforcement authorities is pick up anybody you might think is connected, and we'll worry about the rest of it later.”

Also read: The Sept. 11 road began from Tehran

“Now, eight months?... The answer is pick up anybody who might have a connection, and then just keep them there?” he asked. The current Barack Obama administration came in on the side of Ashcroft, Mueller and the others being sued.

“This is something that was done as the officials are trying to sort through how to respond to the very difficult situation,” said Justice Department Lawyer Ian Gershengorn.

“Some of the people on the list had ties to terrorism -- may have had ties to terrorism. Some of them may well not have,” he said. But officials had to take the time to figure that out, and in the meanwhile did not violate any laws, including those on discrimination, he said.

Full report at:



100 years ago, Americans talked about Catholics the way they talk about Muslims today

Jan 18, 2017

About a century ago, millions of Americans feared that members of a religious group was amassing an arsenal of weapons for a secret, preplanned takeover of the United States.

The feared religious group wasn’t Muslims. It was, as Los Angeles Times reporter Matt Pearce wrote in a great piece in 2015, Catholics:

Hatred had become big business in southwestern Missouri, and its name was the Menace, a weekly anti-Catholic newspaper whose headlines screamed to readers around the nation about predatory priests, women enslaved in convents and a dangerous Roman Catholic plot to take over America.…

America’s deep and widespread skepticism of Catholics is a faint memory in today’s post-Sept. 11 world. But as some conservative politicians call for limits on Muslim immigration and raise questions about whether Muslims are more loyal to Islamic law than American law, the story of Aurora’s long-ago newspaper is a reminder of a long history of American religious intolerance.

Today, there are calls for federal surveillance of mosques in the name of preventing terrorist attacks; a century ago, it was state laws that allowed the warrantless search of convents and churches in search of supposedly trapped women and purported secret Catholic weapons caches.

This may seem absurd today, but there was a real fear among Protestant Americans back then that Catholics were planning to take over the country. As Pearce reported, the fears led to serious violence: Lynch mobs killed Catholic Italians, arsonists burned down Catholic churches, and there were anti-Catholic riots. It was a similar sentiment to the kind of Islamophobia today that’s led many Americans to call for shutting down mosques, forcing Muslims to register in a national database, and even banning Islam.

The point of the comparison is not to say that the US faces the same problems today as it did a century ago, or that the discrimination toward Catholics back then and Muslims today is exactly the same. But when looking back at the history of the US, it’s easy to see a pattern of consistent xenophobia and fears of outsiders.

Xenophobia is a staple of American history

In response to terrorist attacks across the globe, much of the conversation has focused on refugees and immigration. This conversation has been tinged by xenophobia toward Muslims, with President-elect Donald Trump once calling for a ban on Muslims entering the US.

But this sort of rhetoric is not new to the US. As the Pew Research Center found, Americans have generally opposed taking in refugees even as they went through abhorrent, well-known crises. (Dara Lind reported for Vox that America even rejected some Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany.)

Americans have regularly opposed refugees from other countries.

Full report at:



United Nations Chief Calls for Global Fight against Hate Crimes

January 18, 2017

“In times of insecurity, communities that look different become convenient scapegoats. We must resist cynical efforts to divide communities and portray neighbours as ‘the other’,” Guterres said Tuesday, in a video message to a high-level event on combating anti-Muslim discrimination and hatred, in New York.

The UN Chief said anti-Muslim hate crimes and other forms of bigotry are on the rise as are xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism.

“Discrimination diminishes us all. It prevents people and societies from achieving their full potential,” he said.

He made a strong appeal for people to draw strength from the values of inclusion, tolerance and mutual understanding.

Quoting from the Holy Quran, Guterres said people everywhere need to feel that their cultural identities are valued.

The high-level event was organised by the Permanent Missions of Canada and the US to the UN and the Delegation of the European Union and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

Guterres also highlighted the Organisation’s Together campaign, an effort to promote respect, safety and dignity for all.

Full report at:





Australia’s Grand Mufti Seeks Racial Discrimination Act Cover For Muslims

January 19, 2017


Australia’s Grand Mufti has called for Muslims to be given the same protections as ethnic groups under section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, saying the law must be “strengthened”, not weakened, in the interest of minor­ities.

The push to broaden the act is already drawing criticism from conservative government MPs, with one Liberal senator warning it would be tantamount to creating a “national blasphemy law”.

Ibrahim Abu Mohammed, the Grand Mufti since 2011, has added his voice to a growing backlash from community, relig­ious and ethnic groups against reforming section 18C, in a cam­paign that will test Malcolm Turnbull’s ­resolve to change the law.

In his submission to the freedom-of-speech inquiry, which the Prime Minister ordered to examine 18C and the role of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Dr Mohammed says any ­“watering down” of the law would “expose” minority groups — especially Muslims — to discrimin­ation, vilification and hate speech.

He also recommends amending the act to include the prohibition of religious vilification to cover Muslims and all religions, in accordance with article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Victorian Liberal senator James Paterson, a member of the parliamentary joint committee on human rights inquiring into 18C, slammed the idea as “very dangerous”. “Effectively that would mean Australia has a nation­al blasphemy law because criticising someone’s religious belief­s in a way that offended them could breach the law.

“That would mean legitimate criticism of religion or religious beliefs could become unlawful in Australia,” Senator Paterson said.

“Religion shouldn’t be off limits­ for public criticism and debate­, and widening this law would mean atheists, who often ridicule religious beliefs … would effect­ively be stopped from critic­ising ­religion.”

As the committee prepares to embark on hearings nationwide, The Australian can reveal there is some sceptic­ism within government ranks that the inquiry process can prod­uce a clear and workable path toward­s reform.

It is illegal under section 18C to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate a person on the basis of race, colour, or national or ethni­c origin­. The AHRC says “ethnic origin” has been broadly interpreted in several jurisdictions to include Jewish and Sikh people but does not cover Muslims as the faith is widespread and across many nations and languages.

It can consider claims of racial hatred made by Muslims “if on the face of the information they have provided it appears the act of racial ­hatred is connected to their race, colour, or national or ethnic ­origin”.

But if a person alleges that they have been subjected­ to hate speech “solely on the basis of their Muslim identity in an area outside their employment”, the AHRC would say their concerns were not covered­ by the act.



Historic Christian Church , Hagia Sofia Mosque For Muslim Worship To Be Restored


A restoration effort will be performed at the Hagia Sofia Mosque in the Black Sea province of Trabzon in northeastern Turkey, the Hurriyet Daily News reported Thursday.

The mosque reopened its door to Muslim worshippers in 2014 after having been a museum for 52 years. The project is expected to take up to two years to complete but is scheduled to open for Islamic prayer services during construction sometime this year.

The Hagia Sofia Mosque, which was originally built between 1238 and 1263 as a medieval church, was renamed the Trabzon Center Mosque in 2014 when it was converted from a museum. The restoration process is estimated to cost just over $500,000 and will feature an electric shielding system placed in front of the Byzantine-era Christian paintings and frescoes adorning some of its walls. Restoration plans also include creating a walking path made of natural stones surrounding the mosque.

Ismet Çalik, the provincial director of historical sites in Trabzon, told reporters that the electronic shields would be clear but able to be darkened at the press of a button so that Muslim worshipers wouldn’t see the paintings while engaging in religious services at the mosque.

“When we push the button, all mural paintings will become opaque … Thus, people will be able to worship without any influence from paintings,” Çalik said.

The former Hagia Sofia church was constructed by the Byzantine Empower Manuel I Komnenos, a Christian crusader, during his reign over regions including Northern Turkey between 1238 and 1263. When it was turned into a mosque following the Ottoman sultan Mehmed II conquering Trabzon in 1461, the frescos on the southern part of the building were whitewashed due to the Islamic ideology of not portraying religious iconography. Consequently, Çalik said the southern part of the mosque would be open to Muslim worshipers while the frescoes that can still be seen on the northern walls of the building would be covered by the opaque electronic tape.

The Hagia Sofia Mosque is a renowned example of late Byzantine architecture, according to the Daily Sabah.

Full report at:



Germany reviewing nearly 550 migrants deemed a security risk

Jan 19 2017

Germany said on Wednesday it would review the cases of nearly 550 asylum seekers who have been deemed a security risk, spurred by new questions about the handling of a Tunisian migrant who killed 12 people last month at a Berlin Christmas market.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told lawmakers the country's Joint Terrorism Task Force would look carefully at each of the 547 people identified as a security risk to determine if they needed to be deported or taken into custody.

Burkhard Lischka, domestic policy spokesman for the Social Democrats in parliament, said authorities had lost track of three of those people, and he drew parallels to the case of the failed Tunisian asylum seeker, Anis Amri, who plowed a truck through the Berlin Christmas market.

The German government, in a reply to a parliamentary inquiry by the Left party, said Amri had been investigated for an attempted murder in March 2016, but gave no further details, according to a report in Die Welt newspaper.

Sahra Wagenknecht, who heads the Left party in parliament, told Die Welt that de Maiziere's inability to answer key questions about the Amri case a month after the attack meant he was "clearly in the wrong job." She called for creation of a special committee to investigate the case.

Amri had been identified as a threat last February, but investigators decided it was unlikely he would carry out an attack, according to German media reports.

"They are playing with fire, and every wrong calculation can be deadly," Lischka said after a meeting of the internal affairs committee.

Amri, 24, plowed a truck through a Berlin Christmas market on Dec. 19. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, calling Amri "a soldier" of the militant group.

De Maiziere and Justice Minister Heiko Maas, representing the two blocs in Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling coalition, agreed this month on tougher measures for asylum seekers whose documents are not in order or who are deemed a security threat.

De Maiziere, a Christian Democrat, on Wednesday cited heightened security threats and urged lawmakers to quickly approve the new measures, which would make it easier to take people into custody for deportation.

He said it was imperative to set up uniform guidelines for state authorities and the national government for dealing with dangerous migrants and said it was unacceptable that Islamist militants were moving around Germany freely.

Patrick Sensburg, a Christian Democratic lawmaker, told the Funke Mediengruppe newspaper chain that state authorities who had investigated Amri had not informed Germany's chief prosecutor about those probes until after the attack.

"The justice minister could not determine why multiple investigations of Amri by the states for social benefits fraud, falsification of documents and drug trafficking were not cross-linked," Sensburg told the newspaper.

Full report at:



Florida Airport Shooting suspect says he was ‘Inspired by ISIS’

Jan 19 2017

FORT LAUDERDALE: The man suspected of fatally shooting five people and wounding six others at a Florida airport told investigators initially he was under government mind control and then claimed to be inspired by Islamic State websites and chatrooms, authorities said at a hearing Tuesday.

FBI agent Michael Ferlazzo also confirmed that the 9mm Walther handgun used in the Jan. 6 shooting rampage at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is the same weapon Anchorage, Alaska, police seized and later returned to 26-year-old Esteban Santiago last year.

Ferlazzo testified at a bond hearing that Santiago mentioned after the shooting that his mind was under some kind of government control. Later in the interview he claimed to have been inspired by Islamic State-related chatrooms and websites, although it is not clear if the FBI has been able to corroborate any terror-related claims.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Lurana Snow set a Jan. 30 arraignment hearing for Santiago to enter a formal plea. Snow ordered Santiago kept in custody as a risk of flight and a danger to the community, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Rick Del Toro said was clear from his actions at the airport.

“He has admitted to all of the facts with respect to the terrible and tragic events of Jan. 6,” Del Toro said. “These were vulnerable victims who he shot down methodically.”

Santiago could get the death penalty if convicted of federal airport violence and firearms charges that resulted in death. His public defender, Robert Berube, said Santiago would not contest the pretrial detention order.

“Mr. Santiago is prepared to remain in custody,” Berube said.

Investigators say Santiago legally brought a gun box containing his weapon and ammunition as checked luggage for his flight, then retrieved it at the Florida airport and went into a bathroom. After loading the gun, authorities say he came out firing randomly and then laid down on the floor after using all 15 bullets in two clips.

Much of the hearing focused on Ferlazzo’s testimony about what Santiago said after the shooting and what records from Alaska reveal about him.

Ferlazzo said Santiago, an Iraq war veteran who was a member of the Puerto Rico and Alaska National Guard, visited a gun range late last year before booking the one-way ticket from Alaska to Fort Lauderdale. It was previously reported that Santiago visited the FBI office in Anchorage last year complaining about hearing voices and supposed CIA mind control, which led to Anchorage police temporarily seizing his gun and Santiago’s brief stay in a mental hospital.

Full report at:



UN Meeting Says No to Anti-Muslim Hatred

By Andy Hazel

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 17 2017 (IPS) - The rise in anti-muslim attitudes around the world prompted a special UN meeting Tuesday, just days before the inauguration of US President-elect Donald Trump whose controversial policies have drawn on anti-Muslim sentiments.

As if to illustrate just how easily noble intentions are misinterpreted, co-opted and misused, the event’s hashtag #No2Hatred was quickly taken over by nefarious social media actors and became an outlet for angry political diatribe.

“Anti-muslim hatred does not occur in a vacuum,” said David Saperstein, American Ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom at the event. “The rise of xenophobia across the world creates challenges that focus our attention and the data leaves us no doubt that this is happening.”

Saperstein quoted studies showing a massive rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric and violence, France has seen a 223 percent increase in attacks on Muslims between 2014 and 2015, the British investigative group TELL MAMA reported a 326 percent increase in abuse and public attacks on Muslims in the UK over the same period. A 2016 study found 72 percent of  Hungarians admit to a negative view of Muslims.

“Underreporting is a very serious structural problem that obscures these numbers. The silencing effect is enormous and we must resolve to confront this,” Saperstein said.

“I sincerely regret just how necessary these deliberations have become,” said Richard Arbeiter, the Director-General, Office of Human Rights, Freedoms and Inclusion, Global Affairs Canada. “Most Muslim hate crime is against women and I would encourage everyone to consider the gender-specific aspects to this violence.”

Panels looked at civil society building how governments could best combat anti-Muslim discrimination, and positive narratives to promote inclusion. Several topics recurred for discussion; how best to engage with political actors and organisations of different beliefs, and how to counter misinformation online.

The American Jewish Committee’s Muslim-Jewish relations director, Mr Robert Silverman reinforced the idea of creating powerful messages by finding alliances and shared priorities with unlikely groups.

“Too often initiatives result in people speaking within bubbles to each other. In a country like the United States or in a place like Europe, we need to get out of our bubbles and reach out to the unlikely and unorthodox partners.”

“You should focus on the common ground,” he continued. “Don’t try to bring in an issue like climate change. Just focus narrowly on the common grounds.”

European Commission Coordinator on Combating anti-Muslim hatred David Friggieri outlined his meeting with the heads of Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google where “open and frank discussion” lead to the enforcement of the European Union’s free speech laws in an effort to counter anti-Muslim sentiment. The ‘red line’ agreed to by the companies and the European law, he told IPS, was one of incitement.

“We have a law prohibiting incitement to violence or hatred based on race, religion, ethnicity or nationality,” said Friggieri. “We are monitoring the situation with them every few months. We have had our first monitoring and there are some improvements but we look forward to seeing more.”

“In terms of the really bad type of hate speech such as incitement to violence, we look at: how are they taking it down? How long before they take it down? What responses does the company give to individuals who notify and to trusted flaggers? Ultimately the aim is to take down (from the internet) the worst type of incitement to violence.”

In a similar effort to address the recent increase in hate speech and anti-Muslim rhetoric, Moiz Bokhari, advisor to the Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation spoke of the Center for Dialogue, Peace and Understanding a newly established website that provides foundations to deconstruct dangerous narratives. The site is aimed at addressing the potential for crimes, radicalisation and to “counter all types of radical extremist discourse in order to delegitimise the violent and manipulative acts committed in the name of religion, ideology or claims of cultural superiority.”

The High Level Forum on Combating Anti-Muslim Discrimination and Hatred was dominated by discussion of how to address anti-Muslim sentiment and increase the  message of tolerance and inclusion. The forum was convened by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations and the Permanent Missions of the United States and Canada.

UN Secretary General Antònio Guterres used his introductory address to reaffirm the recently-launched initiative Together – Respect, Safety and Dignity for All. An outcome from the Summit for Refugees, the strategy is designed to strengthen the bonds between refugees migrants and host countries and communities.

Full report at:





Pakistan Has Called On Afghan To Review 'Fragmented' Approach To Taliban Peace Talks

January 19, 2017

ISLAMABAD -  Pakistan has called on Afghan leaders to review their “fragmented” approach to peace talks with the Taliban on containing and ending the resilient insurgency, instead of blaming Islamabad for the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan.

In an exclusive interview with Voice of America (VOA), Adviser to PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that a lack of political consensus and prevailing ambiguity in Afghanistan about whether to treat Taliban insurgents as terrorists or stakeholders in national politics has blocked internationally-backed efforts to start peace talks between warring Afghan sides.

“Their approach to talks with the Taliban is very, very fragmented. We want the (Afghan) government of national unity to succeed, to establish its writ, we want them to send a clear signal to the Taliban and other groups that the whole world wants them (insurgents) to talk (to Kabul) and solve the problem because nobody wants fighting in Afghanistan to continue,” Aziz told VOA.

The clarity in the Afghan approach coupled with Pakistan’s resolve to prevent the use of its soil against Afghanistan and international pressure may send “right signals” to the Taliban and they may come to the table for peace talks.

“I think they will come under greater pressure and so, if serious negotiations begin in 2017 that will be our best hope for peace in Afghanistan,” Aziz said.

He said that years of reliance on the use of military power to resolve the Afghan conflict has so far not yielded results and instead strengthened the Taliban.

“The Taliban may not be able to capture (the) bulk of Afghanistan or the capital or any other (major urban) place but they can carry on insurgency for a very long time and the people of Afghanistan do need peace as early as possible… In the meanwhile, of course, ISAF (international) forces are trying to help Afghanistan to make sure that they (the Taliban) don’t gain much territory because if they start gaining (more territory) then obviously they will be reluctant to negotiate,” cautioned Aziz.

Continued Taliban battlefield attacks and last week’s deadly bombings in different Afghan cities have refuelled a war of words between the two uneasy neighbours.

President Ashraf Ghani has alleged that planners of recent terrorist attacks in his country “live, move freely and recruit people in Pakistan”. Pakistani officials refute the charges as unfounded, politically motivated and an attempt to divert attention from internal Afghan problems.

Aziz says Pakistan has repeatedly assured Ghani that space has been squeezed on anti-Afghan insurgents and those hiding on the Pakistani side of the border have mostly gone back to Afghanistan.

“So, that commitment we are gradually honouring. Through operation Zarb-e-Azb, North Waziristan was cleared. The infrastructure of all the terrorist groups was destroyed so they can no longer operate as forcefully and as frequently as they used to but remnants are still scattered. The cleaning up operations are going on,” Aziz said.

He was referring to the military-led counter-terrorism offensive underway in traditionally volatile tribal districts near the Afghan border.

The de-facto foreign minister says his government has also intensified efforts to boost security along its 2,600-kilometre-long porous border with Afghanistan. He called for Afghan authorities to make a matching response on their side, saying unlike the decades-old tradition of free cross-border movement, travellers are now required to show valid identity documents to move in either direction.

“This (new policy) will enable us to monitor the movement of all kinds of people and so this documentation travel has to be (introduced) on both sides. So far they (Afghanistan) aren’t (implementing it on their side)…and that is the best way to ensure that undesirable elements do not go (to Afghanistan) and this is the only way we can ensure that our commitment of not allowing our soil to be used can be observed,” Aziz asserted.

Allegations that Taliban insurgents operate out of Pakistani safe havens have long strained Pakistan’s relations with the United States, which is leading the international peace and stability efforts in Afghanistan.

Adviser Aziz, however, sounded upbeat about maintaining “a very constructive and positive” engagement with the incoming Donald Trump administration for achieving what he said was shared peace and security objectives of a peaceful Afghanistan and the region in general.

“So, I think here both US and Pakistan agree that a peaceful solution through negotiations and through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process is the way forward. So, we hope that because of this convergence of views on this subject we will be able to move forward together to seek a peaceful solution to the Afghan crisis.”



New LeJ chief killed in shootout 

Jan 19, 2017

LAHORE: Officials of the Punjab Police's Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) claimed to have killed the new leader of the proscribed outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and three other militants in an operation in Sheikhupura.

The killings came 18 months after police gunned down longtime notorious Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) leader Malik Ishaq in a separate encounter.

Among the four militants killed on Tuesday night was Asif Chotoo, also known by the name Rizwan, who was named LeJ's Chief following Malik Ishaq's death, the CTD said. "He was now heading Lashkar-e-Jhangvi," read a statement.

Full report at:



Panama Leaks case: Judge demands financial records from PM

January 18, 2017

ISLAMABAD: A five-member larger bench led by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa resumed hearing the Panama Leaks case on Wednesday

Justice Azmat Saeed demanded that financial records of transactions between the Prime Minister and his children be shown.

There are discrepancies in the Prime Minister’s speech in the parliament and his stance in the court, Justice Asif Khosa remarked. “Explain the discrepancies in the next hearing,” he said.

The hearing has been postponed till January 19 (Thursday).

Maryam Nawaz is not dependent on PM: PM's counsel

During the proceedings, the Prime Minister’s counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan argued that the Prime Minister’s daughter Maryam Nawaz was not his dependent. He said that Hussain Nawaz had given money to the Prime Minister as a gift, who gave it to Maryam Nawaz. She later bought property with the money.

"Are you trying to say that this money was transferred in a bank account," Justice Asif Saeed Khosa laughed. 

The PM's counsel argued that all transactions occurred through a bank and tax was paid on gifts, adding that Hussain Nawaz Sharif’s NTN was attached in the evidence. The Prime Minister has not evaded any taxes, he said.

Justice Asif Saeed Khosa remarked that in order to make black money white, it is laundered, and that same money is sent back to Pakistan."It is very possible that money was transferred illegally," he said.

The Prime Minister's counsel argued that everyone has the right to keep his bank details private.

He said that in the tax forms, the Prime Minister wrote Maryam Nawaz's name as his dependent as no other option was present in the form.

Nawaz Sharif has laundered money: Imran Khan

Speaking outside the Supreme Court, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan said that Nawaz Sharif was involved in money laundering. "During the proceedings today a third mill also came under discussion," he said.

Full report at:



Pakistan wasn’t aware of Osama’s presence, says ex-US envoy


Jan 19, 2017

KARACHI: Former US ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter on Wednesday revealed that Pakistan did not know about the presence of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad and the detection of the Al Qaeda leader’s location there created mistrust between Islamabad and Washington.

He was speaking at a dinner hosted by the chairman of Pathfinder Group in honour of former chief of the army staff, retired Gen Raheel Sharif, in Davos, according to a Geo News report.

“Those who claimed that Pakistan knew about the whereabouts of bin Laden were wrong,” said Mr Munter, who is currently president of the East-West Institute.

He said that the killing of the Al Qaeda leader inside Pakistan further deepened mistrust between the two countries. “Terrible mistakes were made due to deep mistrust.”

The former envoy said Pak-US relations were greatly affected by ‘two myths’.

“The Pakistan myth is that Americans used Pakistan when it needed and abandoned it afterwards while the US myth was that Pakistan would not be a reliable partner despite getting billions of dollars in aid, both military and civilian,” he added.

The problem is that there was little truth in both of these myths and that deepened the mistrust, he said.

Full report at:



Ready to respond to any type of threat: COAS


ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK) Prime Minister (PM) Raja Farooq Haider and United Arab Emirates (UAE) Ambassador Essa Abdullah Albasha Alnoaimi visited the General Headquarters separately on Wednesday and held meetings with Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Bajwa. Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General (DG) Major General Asif Ghafoor, matters of mutual interest were discussed in a meeting with the UAE ambassador. The top general condoled loss of lives of UAE nationals in the recent bombings in Kandahar. The COAS praised the envoy's role in enhancing Pakistan-UAE cooperation in different fields. He also thanked the ambassador for his country's contributions towards developmental projects in Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Full report at:



UAE envoy lauds army’s anti-terror role

January 19, 2017

ISLAMABAD - UAE Ambassador Essa Abdullah Albasha Alnoaimi on Wednesday appreciated role of Pakistan Army in fight against terrorism and expressed the desire of UAE to continue working with Pakistan for peace and stability in the region.

According to ISPR, UAE envoy met with Chief of Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa in Rawalpindi.

It further said that the army chief expressed condolence over the loss of precious lives of UAE nationals in recent bomb blasts in Afghanistan.

“Matters of mutual interest were also discussed during the meeting”, ISPR added. The Army Chief appreciated UAE’s role in development projects in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.


Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Wednesday said that Pakistan Army is fully prepared and capable to respond to any threat from across the border.

According to ISPR, Chief of Army Staff stated this while talking to Prime Minister Azad Jammu and Kashmir Raja Farooq Haider Khan who called on him at GHQ Rawalpindi. 

Full report at:



Buddhist remains to boost tourism: MD PTDC

January 19, 2017

Rawalpindi - Pakistan is the cradle of Gandhara Buddhist civilizations and there are numerous holy places in Pakistan which are of great value for Buddhist people.

This was said by Chaudhry Abdul Ghafoor Khan, Managing Director PTDC on Wednesday during a visit of Thai Buddhist Monks to Khewra Salt Mines, the monks are visiting Pakistan on invitation of MD PTDC through Embassy of Thailand in Islamabad.

The group comprises of seven monks headed by Ambassador for Thailand in Islamabad, Suchart Liengsaengthong visited Khewra Salt Mines today.

Speaking on the occasion Chaudhry Ghafoor said that after restoration of peace and betterment of law and order situation in the country, the Thai tourist flow is once again showing a remarkable increase over the previous two years.

The significance of Buddhist remains of civilization in Pakistan for Thai people can boost up tourist flow to Pakistan as a result of proper publicity. 

He added, “Above 33 million tourists visit Thailand every year and we are ready to learn from their experience by adopting the strategies of Thailand tourism industry. Soon we will translate our tourism publications in Thai language for distribution among Thai tourists.”

“We request Thai government to hold food festivals and also arrange tourism and hospitality training programmes for Pakistani nationals.”

The ambassador said that he was surprised to learn that in addition to Buddhist remains, Pakistan has uncountable tourism treasure and Khewra salt mines is one of its living proof.

Thailand government will provide assistance for restoration/maintenance of Ghandhara Archaeological sites in Taxila and Swat. He assured that embassy will provide maximum projection of these valuable touristic assets of Pakistan in Thailand and also publicize the safe, secure and tourist friendly image of the country to attract more tourist groups for Thailand to visit Pakistan.

Full report at:



South Asia


Muslim nations to heap pressure on Myanmar over Rohingya

Jan 19, 2017

The world’s main pan-Islamic body is expected to pile pressure on Myanmar over a bloody crackdown on Rohingya Muslims when it meets for a special session in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.

Nearly 70,000 Rohingya have fled the northern part of Rakhine state since October when the Myanmar army launched “clearance operations” to root out insurgents accused of deadly raids on police border posts.

Arriving in neighbouring Bangladesh, the displaced Rohingya have recounted allegations of widespread military abuse including rape, extrajudicial killings and the burning of villages.

The treatment of the Rohingya, a stateless group denied citizenship in Myanmar and reviled as illegal immigrants by the majority Buddhist population, has become a lightning rod for anger across the Muslim world.

Diplomats from the 56-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) will join Thursday’s special session to debate the issue.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has taken a lead role in condemning the Myanmar crackdown.

Analysts say that is at least in part down to a desire to burnish his international image after a damaging graft scandal at home.

On Wednesday Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Anifa Aman upped the ante ahead of the meeting, calling for “unimpeded access” for humanitarian aid to reach the Rohingya.

He is expected to spearhead an effort within the OIC to raise cash and open aid routes into areas in western Rakhine state which remain locked-down.

“The OIC meeting is expected to call on the Myanmar government to help end the violence against the Rohingya Muslims,” a South-east Asian diplomat familiar told a foreign media agency.

“The OIC foreign ministers are also expected to provide assistance in cash or kind for the Rohingya.”

Buddhist-majority Myanmar refuses to recognise the Rohingya as one of the country’s ethnic minorities.

Instead, it describes them pejoratively as Bengalis — or illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh — even though many have lived in Myanmar for generations.

The latest chapter of a crisis that has festered since riots broke out in Rakhine in 2012 has once more drawn in regional neighbours.

Bangladesh is struggling to cope with the fresh arrivals, while Malaysia has for years housed thousands of Rohingya refugees — many arrived during a 2015 exodus that saw boatloads of Rohingya stranded at sea.

The plight of the Rohingya has put Myanmar’s democracy champion and de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi under immense international pressure.

She has been criticised for failing to speak up robustly in defence of the Rohingya, while analysts say the latest crackdown suggests she lacks leverage over Myanmar’s still powerful military.

Premier Najib’s intervention in the crisis has angered Myanmar which considers the violence in Rakhine state an internal matter.

It also uprooted diplomatic convention among the regional bloc, ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), a grouping long used to turning a blind eye to internal rights transgressions among member states.

Najib’s championing of the Rohingya is likely to be well received by his rural Malay heartlands.

The premier has been buffeted by allegations that he took part in the looting of billions of dollars of public cash through state fund 1MDB.

Both he and the fund vehemently deny the allegations.



Taliban militant and his 4 sons killed by own bomb in North of Afghanistan

Jan 19 2017

A Taliban insurgent was killed along with his four sons in an explosion triggered by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) which had made for an attack.

According to the local officials, the incident took place in Qosh Tapa area.

Provincial governor’s spokesman Zabiullah Amani confirmed that IED went off prematurely in the residence of the Taliban militan.

The Taliban militants group has not commented regarding the report so far.

Taliban militants and insurgents belonging to other militant groups are frequently using Improvised Explosive Device (IED) as the weapon of their choice to target the security forces and government officials.

However, in majority of such attacks, the ordinary civilians are targeted as the anti-government armed militants are accused of incurring the most casualties to the civilians.

The  United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said late in October last year that the mission has documented 8,397 conflict-related civilian casualties (2,562 deaths and 5,835 injured) between 1 January and 30 September,  representing a one per cent decrease compared to the same period in 2015.

Full report at:



Obama talks with President Ghani and CEO Abdullah

Jan 19 2017

President Barack Obama has spoken with President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.

The White House said President Obama called President Ghani to speak with the two leaders regarding the bilateral relations of the two nations.

“President Obama spoke by phone today with President Ashraf Ghani of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, who was joined by Chief Executive Officer Dr. Abdullah Abdullah,” according to a statement by White House.

The statement further added that President Obama expressed his deep appreciation for the steadfast partnership between the United States and Afghanistan.

“He commended the leaders for their commitment to the Afghan people and applauded the National Unity Government’s efforts to  reduce corruption and support the rule of law,” the statement said.

Full report at:



MoD confirms ISIS militants among 34 killed in latest operations

Jan 18 2017

The Ministry of Defense of Afghanistan (MoD) confirmed 6 loyalists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist were killed along with 28 other militants during the clearance operations.

According to a statement by MoD, the operations were conducted in the past 24 by the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF).

The statement further added that 29 militants were also wounded during the operations which were conducted with the support of the air force and artillery units.

The operations were conducted in Nangarhar, Kapisa, Uruzgan, Kandahar, Farah, Kunduz, Baghlan, and Helmand provinces.

At least 15 of the militants were killed in the vicinity of Tarinkot city in southern Uruzgan province and 10 others were wounded.

At least 6 ISIS loyalists were killed in Deh Bala area of Nangarhar and 4 others were wounded, MoD said, adding that 4 others were wounded.

According to MoD, at least 5 militants were killed and 8 others were wounded during a separate operation in Maiwand district of Kandahar.

At least 5 Taliban insurgents were killed and 7 others were wounded during an operation in Bala Bolok district of Farah province and 3 more were killed in Baghlan province, MoD added.

Full report at:



31 Haqqani network terrorists arrest in Khost province

Jan 18 2017

At least 31 terrorists belonging to the notorious Haqqani terrorist network have been arrested in Southeastern Khost province.

The Afghan Intelligence, National Directorate of Security (NDS), said the militants apprehended by the intelligence operatives, were operating in two different groups led by the terrorist network.

NDS further added that the militants were arrested during the two separate military operations.

According to NDS, the militants were involved in various terrorist activities in Khost province.

The National Directorate of Security also added that the intelligence operatives confiscated 2 motorcycles, 50 magnetic bombs, 6 hand grenades, 18 RPG rockets, 36 boxes of heavy machine gun, 5 boxes of AK-47 rifle ammunition, 80 AK-47 rifle magazines, and 3 vehicles used by the militants without having registration plate numbers.

Haqqani network was formed in the late 1970s by Jalaluddin Haqqani. The group is allied with al-Qaida and the Afghan Taliban and cooperates with other terrorist organizations in the region.

The network is accused of staging numerous cross-border attacks from their base in North Waziristan, including the 19-hour siege at the US Embassy in Kabul in September 2011.

It is considered the most lethal insurgent group targeting the NATO-led coalition security forces and Afghan personnel in Afghanistan.

Full report at:





Houthis deprive 2.5 million Yemeni children of education

18 January 2017

Houthi militias deprived more than 2.5 million Yemeni children of education, as a result of wars waged in the various governorates in the country according to educational statistics, Al Arabiya.Net reported.

The war in Yemen has caused hundreds of thousands to be displaced and the closure of schools, which the Houthi militias turned into military bases.

According to the statistics conducted by the nongovernmental organization ‘Studies and the Center for Educational media’ more than 1.5 million children have been out of school for the second year in a row, due to the closure of roughly 3,500 school doors in several provinces.



Demolitions spark deadly violence in Arab Israeli village

Jan 19 2017

UMM AL-HEIRAN - Demolitions in an Arab Israeli village activists say has been targeted by racist policies sparked violence on Wednesday, with a policeman killed and the man accused of attacking him shot dead.

A prominent Arab Israeli lawmaker was also wounded in the confrontation in Umm al-Heiran in southern Israel, where activists have long sought to draw attention to what they call the unjust practice of demolishing Arab homes.

Police said the man killed, a local resident, was active in the Israeli Islamic Movement and may have been influenced by the Islamic State organisation - a claim residents strongly denied, calling him a respected teacher.

"A vehicle driven by a terrorist from the Islamic Movement intended to strike a number officers and carry out an attack," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said in a statement. "The officers responded and the terrorist was neutralised."

Meanwhile, police in Israel said an Arab Israeli on Wednesday rammed his car into a group of policemen in the southern Negev region, killing one before being shot dead, though a rights activist who was present disputed it was an attack.

Israel deploys ‘Star Wars’

missile killer system

Israel's upgraded ballistic missile shield became operational on Wednesday, in a "Star Wars"-like extension of its capabilities to outer space where incoming missiles can be safely destroyed.

The Defence Ministry said the US-funded Arrow 3 system, jointly developed by state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries and US firm Boeing Co., was handed over the Israeli Air Force. The Arrow 3, together with the Arrow 2, which has been operational since 2000, would "significantly reduce the possibilities of ballistic missiles" hitting Israel, the ministry said in a statement. The Arrow 2 is designed to intercept projectiles high and low within the atmosphere. Arrow 3 missiles will fly into space, where their warheads detach to become "kamikaze" satellites that track and slam into their targets.

Such high-altitude shoot-downs are meant to safely destroy incoming nuclear, biological or chemical missiles. Israel has frequently voiced concern about a ballistic missile threat posed by its arch-foe, Iran.

The United States has its own system for intercepting ballistic missiles in space, Aegis.

Arrow serves as the top tier of an integrated Israeli shield built up to withstand various potential missile or rocket salvoes. The bottom tier is the already-deployed short-range Iron Dome interceptor, which was used extensively with high success rates in a 2014 Gaza war against Hamas militants.

Another Israeli system called David's Sling is being developed to shoot down mid-range, lower-altitude missiles, such as those in the arsenal of Iranian-backed Hezbollah, a Lebanese group which last fought a war with Israel in 2006.

olice said the violence sparked a riot in the village of Umm al-Hiran, where an operation was underway to demolish Bedouin dwellings deemed by a court as having been built illegally on state-owned land. Police spokeswoman Merav Lapidot said the suspect was a local teacher who "surged towards the forces intending to kill" and that riots erupted after he was shot.But human rights activist Michal Haramati, who had come to Umm al-Hiran to observe the demolitions, said she witnessed the event and that the driver was not heading towards police when he was shot.

"Suddenly the car started to go down the hill, without control, absolutely," she told Reuters in English.

The driver was obviously dead by the time that he lost control this way. That's when he hit the cops."

Most of Israel's Bedouin, who predominate in the desert area that accounts for two-thirds of Israel's territory, are nomadic tribes which have wandered across the Middle East from Biblical times. Arab citizens make up about 20 percent of Israel's population of eight million, and 200,000 of them are Bedouin.

Full report at:



Support for Trump on US embassy move to Jerusalem

19 January 2017

Nikki Haley, nominated to be the next US ambassador to the United Nations, told senators Wednesday that she supports Donald Trump’s plan to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The embassy is located in Tel Aviv, and outgoing secretary of state John Kerry believes that moving it to Jerusalem would be “explosive” since both Israel and the Palestinians claim the city as their capital. Haley, the 44 year-old governor of South Carolina and daughter of Indian immigrants, was asked at her senate confirmation hearing if she supported Trump’s campaign trail promise to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.

“Absolutely,” Haley said. “And not only is that what Israel wants, but that is what this Congress has said that is what they support.” Haley was also asked about her priorities if she gets the new job. “You’d have an explosion, an absolute explosion in the region, not just in the West Bank, and perhaps even in Israel itself, but throughout the region,” Kerry told CBS.

Trump had seemed to take into account warnings and was more circumspect when asked about the move in interviews with Britain’s Times and Germany’s Bild over the weekend. “I don’t want to comment on that, again, but we’ll see what happens,” he told the newspapers.

Obama suggests

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama suggested on Wednesday that moving the US embassy to Jerusalem could have “explosive” results and said he was worried that the prospects for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were waning.

US President-elect Donald Trump has promised to re-locate the embassy to Jerusalem, breaking with longstanding US policy. Israel and Palestinians both claim Jerusalem as their capital, and such a change would draw international condemnation.

“When sudden unilateral moves are made that speak to some of the core issues and sensitivities of either side, that can be explosive,” Obama said at his last news conference as president. He said his administration had warned the incoming Trump administration that big shifts in policy had consequences. “That’s part of what we’ve tried to indicate to the incoming team in our transition process, is pay attention to this because this is ... volatile stuff,” he said in response to a question about a potential embassy move.

Full report at:



Iran-Saudi cooperation possible if Riyadh sees realities on ground: Zarif

Jan 18, 2017

Iran and Saudi Arabia can work together to help end regional conflicts, but Riyadh needs to see the realities on the ground before relations between the two countries could go back to normal, the Iranian foreign minister says.

“I don’t see any reason [why] Iran and Saudi Arabia should have hostile policies towards each other. We can in fact cooperate for future stability of our region. We can in fact work together to put an end to [the] miserable condition of people in Syria and Yemen and Bahrain and elsewhere in the region,” Mohammad Javad Zarif told the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday.

Zarif added that Iran and Saudi Arabia were able to “stop impeding the process of the presidential election in Lebanon,” stressing that the same can be applied to other issues of mutual interest.

He, however, said that Iran had a lot of grievances, including the loss of over 460 Iranian pilgrims in a tragic crush during the Hajj rituals in September 2015, which he said was caused by “negligence” and Saudi officials' anti-Iran rhetoric.

“We have seen a lot of rhetoric from Saudi Arabia… interesting comments from my colleague, the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, which considered Iran responsible for Daesh, which is the joke of the century,” Zarif said, adding that Riyadh needed to see the realities on the ground and the fundamental reasons behind the current problem gripping the region instead of pointing the finger of blame at others.

The top Iranian diplomat said that "nobody can derive any benefits even temporary benefits from supporting terrorism and sectarianism.”

“Once we understand that we cannot contain terrorism in one part of our region, and that terrorism and extremism are like contagious diseases that will spread throughout the region, throughout the world before we know it -- and it is happening right now -- then Iran and Saudi Arabia can start to think about different modus operandi for their relations,” Zarif said.

Astana talks to focus on expanding ceasefire

In his address to the WEF, the top Iranian diplomat also touched on the situation in Syria, and lauded a cessation of hostilities that has been holding in the Arab country since last month.

He said the upcoming talks on Syria in the Kazakh city of Astana would be aimed at expanding the ceasefire agreement in the conflict-hit country.   

“[What] we need to do at the international level is to help the Syrians reach the stage of starting to talk to each other, and I believe the first step has been taken by Iran, Russia and Turkey in bringing about a cessation of hostilities” that has been holding for “over a month and that is the best record that is available in the past five… years of [the] Syrian conflict.” 

“We hope that in Astana, this can be expanded, we hope that the ceasefire [will] incorporate all of Syria,” he added.

Zarif also warned against jumping to any conclusions before the start of the negotiations in Astana.

“We should not try to prejudge the outcome of political negotiations before we even start political negotiations. What is important for everybody is to recognize there is no military solution in Syria,” he said, expressing hope that all the parties that signed the Syria ceasefire agreement “will come to Astana with a view to ending hostilities for a longer term and also starting a political process.”

Astana will host the negotiations between representatives from the Syrian government and armed opposition groups on January 23.

The Daesh and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham Takfiri terrorist groups are excluded from the talks that are to be mediated by Russia, Turkey, and Iran.

The three countries successfully implemented a similar accord in December last year, following the defeat of militants in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

Zarif said the Astana talks would discuss the principles of a peace process based on Syria’s unity and territorial integrity as well as an inclusive government, but he stressed that only the Syrians must determine the future fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Trump to be ‘surprised’ if JCPOA undone

Meanwhile, Zarif warned US President-elect Donald Trump against trying to renegotiate the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was signed between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany in July 2015.

Full report at:



Fiddling with ‘core issues’ in Middle East can be ‘explosive,’ Obama warns

Jan 18, 2017

Outgoing US President Barack Obama says Israel’s illegal settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories are making a "two-state solution impossible."

In his last press conference held on Wednesday just two days before leaving the White House, Obama also warned of an “explosive” Middle East after “sudden unilateral moves,” by the United States, in an apparent reference to Donald Trump’s calls for moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to East Jerusalem al-Quds.

Trump believes East Jerusalem al-Quds, occupied by Israel since 1967, is “the eternal capital of the Jewish people,” and has promised to move the US embassy to it.

Obama warned that "the president-elect will have his own policy," towards the situation in Palestine, asserting that “it's a volatile environment. What we have seen in the past is when some unilateral moves are made that speak to some of the core issues and sensitivities of either side, that can be explosive."

Sending Israel ‘a signal’

Obama also defended his recent decision not to block a UN Security Council resolution against construction of illegal settlements Israel builds in Palestine, a measure that further complicated ties between Washington and Tel Aviv.

"The goal of the resolution was to simply say that the ... growth of the settlements are creating a reality on the ground that increasingly will make a two-state solution impossible," he said. "It was important for us to send a signal, a wakeup call that this moment may be passing."

A picture taken from the Palestinian West Bank village of Lubban al-Sharkiya on January 16, 2017 shows a Palestinian woman standing in front of a view of the illegal Israeli settlement of Eli.

Full report at:



Russia says Turkey jets join anti-Daesh operation in Syria’s al-Bab

Jan 18, 2017

Moscow says Russian warplanes and Turkish jets have jointly targeted positions of Daesh terrorists in the Syrian city of al-Bab. 

The Wednesday aerial attacks by Russian and Turkish war planes were the “first joint air operation” by the two countries against the Daesh terrorist group in Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry said. 

Lieutenant General Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian military's General Staff told a briefing that nine Russian and eight Turkish planes were part of the operation in the area around the city of al-Bab, located 40 kilometers northeast of Aleppo, which was fully recaptured by the Syrian forces in December.

The Russian military official said the operation had been conducted with the Syrian government’s consent.

The Russian Air Force was also providing air support to Syrian government troops trying to fight off a Daesh attack around the eastern city of Dayr al-Zawr, Rudskoi said, adding that Russian jets were also backing a Syrian army offensive near the ancient city of Palmyra.

Lieutenant General Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian military's General Staff speaks at a briefing in the Russian Defense Ministry in Moscow, Russia, January 18, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

Rudskoi said that "36 targets" had been destroyed in the joint operation.

The announcement came less than a week after the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that Moscow and Ankara had agreed to coordinate aerial attacks "on terrorist targets" in Syria, and signed a memorandum on combat flight safety during missions in Syrian airspace.

Meanwhile, a nationwide ceasefire in Syria, brokered by Moscow and Ankara and endorsed by the UN Security Council in late December, is largely holding across Syria as a new round of peace talks, to be mediated by Russia, Turkey, and Iran, are to be held in the Kazakh capital Astana next week.

The Daesh and JabhatFateh al-Sham Takfiri terrorist groups are excluded from the ceasefire and the talks between representatives from the Syrian government and armed opposition groups.

Washington has not been involved in the latest diplomacy on the Syrian conflict as Ankara is ostensibly shifting from its long-time ally and tilting more toward Russia on the war in the Arab country.

Biggest bones of contention between Turkey, US

Ties between Turkey, which is a NATO member, with other member states of the Western military alliance have been strained following their support for Kurdish militias.

The tension between Ankara and its Western allies is significantly linked to the country’s July 15 failed coup, to which Turkey says they did not show due reaction.

Washington’s refusal to extradite US-based Turkish opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of masterminding the botched coup, is another bone of contention between the two countries.

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