New Age Islam
Wed Oct 21 2020, 12:19 PM

Islamic World News ( 27 Feb 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

A Hindu Bride Weds In Muslim Neighbourhood: My Muslim Brothers Are Protecting Me Today,' Savitri Prasad








• Muslim Man in Meerut Prints Daughter's Wedding Card with Hindu Gods to Promote Religious Amity

• Delhi violence: Hindu teen recounts how Muslim neighbours stood guard for him

• Hindu-Muslim Unity Shines Out in Violence-Hit Ashok Nagar in Delhi

• Organization of Islamic Cooperation to adopt Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam

• US Urges India to 'Protect and Respect' Right to Peaceful Assembly Over the Amended Citizenship Act

• UK''s House of Lords Debates CAA, Expresses Concern Over Impact

• Turkey President Denounces "Massacres" Committed Against Muslims in India

• Indonesia's Muhammadiyah Condemns Violence against Muslims In India

• US Deal to Supply High-Tech Weapons to India Could Further Destabilise Region: Pakistan

 

India

• A Hindu Bride Weds In Muslim Neighbourhood: My Muslim Brothers Are Protecting Me Today," Savitri Prasad

• Muslim Man in Meerut Prints Daughter's Wedding Card with Hindu Gods to Promote Religious Amity

• Delhi violence: Hindu teen recounts how Muslim neighbours stood guard for him

• Hindu-Muslim Unity Shines Out in Violence-Hit Ashok Nagar in Delhi

• ‘A Weak Economy, But Hindu Muslim, Hindu Muslim’: Chetan Bhagat on Delhi Riots

• 2 Crime Branch special teams led by DCPs set up to probe north-east Delhi riots

• Sikhs Will Bear the Cost of the Construction of a Mosque That Muslims in UP, Saharanpur Have Agreed To Shift To a New Location

• Islamic bloc condemns 'anti-Muslim' violence in India

• Erdogan denounces 'massacres' committed against Muslims in India

• Delhi violence: Bernie Sanders slams Donald Trump for being non-committal on riots

• NIA refutes claims that Pulwama attack accused was let off

• Desist from commenting on India's internal affairs, New Delhi tells Turkey

• India to attend signing of landmark peace deal between US and Taliban in Doha on Saturday

• Pakistan 'pernicious cradle of terrorism': India at UNHRC

• Afghanistan drawdown mustn’t precipitate a crisis, India tells US

--------

Arab World

• Organization of Islamic Cooperation to adopt Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam

• Thirty-three Turkish soldiers killed in Syria’s Idlib after air strike

• Iraq delays confidence vote on a new government over lack of quorum

• Bahrain confirms all 33 coronavirus cases ‘not at risk and are in recovery’

• UAE suspends passenger ferry services with Iran over coronavirus

• Kuwait suspends studies at military colleges, schools over coronavirus fears

• Kuwait confirms 43 coronavirus cases recently traveled to Iran: Health Ministry

• 34 Turkish troops killed in Syria's Idlib as govt. forces continue gains

• Syrian army troops continue advancing in southern Idlib, liberate six more villages

• Saudi ban on Umrah pilgrims backed by OIC, Arab health ministers

--------

North America

• US Urges India to 'Protect and Respect' Right to Peaceful Assembly Over the Amended Citizenship Act

• US grants Iran sanctions waiver to ease humanitarian aid via Swiss channel

• Uncertainty looms ahead of US-Taliban deal signing

• US senator: Erdogan on right side in Idlib deadlock

• US senator calls for no-fly zone in Syria's Idlib

• US: Syrian offensive devoid of fighting terrorism

--------

Europe

• UK''s House of Lords Debates CAA, Expresses Concern Over Impact

• UN Rights Chief Concerned By India Violence

• Russian govt orders suspension of visas to Iranian citizens: RIA

• UN: Myanmar's Rohingya Subject to Increased Prejudice, Violence

• New Zealand confirms first case of deadly coronavirus in traveller from Iran

• NATO chief condemns attacks by Syrian regime, Russia in Idlib

• Germany urges Syria, Russia to protect Idlib civilians

--------

Mideast

• Turkey President Denounces "Massacres" Committed Against Muslims in India

• Europe's 50 Ex-Fms, Leaders Say Trump 'Deal Of Century' Akin To ‘Apartheid’

• Iran’s virus death toll reaches 26, Tehran’s Friday prayers cancelled

• Iran’s former envoy to Vatican Hadi Khosroshahi dies of coronavirus

• Iranian Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar tests positive for coronavirus: Report

• Mystery Iranian with Coronavirus Travels Across China: Reports

• Three more Turkish soldiers killed in Syria’s Idlib: Erdogan

• Israel urges citizens, residents against travel abroad amid coronavirus outbreak

• Chinese nationals banned from Iran amid coronavirus outbreak

• Health Ministry: More Iranian coronavirus patients discharged from hospital

• Israel approves 1,800 settler units as elections near

--------

Southeast Asia

• Indonesia's Muhammadiyah Condemns Violence against Muslims In India

• PAS MP rejects Anwar, Dr M’s unity government

• Govt dominated by non-Malays won’t survive, warns umbrella group of Malay business interests

• Malaysia political turmoil: BN, PAS step up preparations for possible snap elections

--------

Pakistan

• US Deal to Supply High-Tech Weapons to India Could Further Destabilise Region: Pakistan

• Religious minorities continue to face violence in Pakistan: UN rights chief

• Pakistan shuts schools, suspends Iran flights to curb coronavirus spread

• Prime Minister Imran tweets video of Roger Waters assailing Indian law

• Army ready to defend country at all costs, says ISPR DG

• In Doha, Imran reiterates Pakistan’s continued support to Afghan peace

--------

South Asia

• Former Taliban Hostage In Doha To Witness Peace Deal

• Uncertainty looms ahead of US-Taliban deal signing

• Bangladesh Bans Books for Hurting the Religious Sentiment of Muslims

• Eminent Bangladesh citizens express concern over Delhi riots

• 2 terrorists, one of them Bangladeshi, convicted of terror financing in Burdwan blast case

• One killed and six injured in Kabul IED explosion

• Coronavirus reaches Afghanistan’s capital Kabul city

• Bangladesh police rescue 16 Rohingya attempting to flee

• Afghan government to send delegation to Qatari capital ahead of US-Taliban deal

--------

Africa

• Nigerian Army ‘Captures’ 23 Terrorists In Northeast

• Kenyan Police Seek Civilian Help Against Al-Shabab

• Nigeria reports first case of coronavirus in Sub-Saharan African

• African Union plans 3,000-strong force against extremism in Sahel

• Teenage boy killed as Nigerian forces open fire on Sheikh Zakzaky supporters

• Rocket fire hits Libyan capital's airport

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/a-hindu-bride-weds-in-muslim-neighbourhood--my-muslim-brothers-are-protecting-me-today,--savitri-prasad/d/121180

--------

 

A Hindu Bride Weds In Muslim Neighbourhood: My Muslim Brothers Are Protecting Me Today," Savitri Prasad

February 27, 2020

New Delhi: As deadly clashes hit northeast Delhi this week, the family of a young Hindu woman living in a Muslim-majority area was forced to cancel her wedding.

Dressed in her wedding finery, her hands laced maroon with henna and her skin cleansed with turmeric, 23-year-old Savitri Prasad said she was weeping in her home as violent mobs battled outside on Tuesday, which was to have been her wedding day. But Savitri Prasad's father then organised the wedding for the following day, saying his Muslim neighbours were family and he was comforted by their presence.

"My Muslim brothers are protecting me today," Savitri Prasad told a Reuters team that visited the house on the day of the ceremony, breaking down again as her family and neighbours comforted her.

The rituals took place at Savitri Prasad's home, a small brick building in a narrow alley in the Chand Bagh district.

Steps away, the main street looked like a war zone, with cars and shops vandalised, and the area littered with rocks used in pitched battles between mobs on both sides.

At least 38 people have been killed in the fighting in Chand Bagh and nearby areas of Delhi this week, and hundreds of people have been injured in the worst violence in the capital in decades.

"We went to the terrace and just saw smoke and more smoke," Bhoday Prasad, Savitri Prasad's father, said of the scene on Monday and Tuesday.

"It is terrifying. We just want peace," Bhoday Prasad said he has lived in the area for years alongside Muslims without any trouble.

"We don't know who the people behind the violence are, but they are not my neighbours. There is no enmity between Hindus and Muslims here."

On Monday evening, the day Savitri Prasad was to have henna applied on her hands in a pre-wedding ritual, violence had already spiralled out of control.

"We could hear a lot of commotion outside, but I had the henna applied, hoping things would be better next day," she said.

Instead, they got worse. Her father told the groom and his family it was too dangerous to come to the house.

"Our heart pains for her, who would want their daughter to be sitting home crying when she is supposed to be happy?" said Sameena Begum, one of the neighbours.

Violence ebbed on Wednesday, but markets remained shut and residents stayed indoors, fearful of further clashes.

Savitri Prasad's father said he decided to organise a scaled-down ceremony.

"Hindu or Muslim, we are all humans and we are all terrified of the violence," said Savitri Prasad's cousin Pooja, as she helped the bride dress for the ceremony.

"This fight was not about religion, but it has been made so."

Muslim neighbours gathered to offer blessings as the groom arrived and the wedding rituals took place, with a Hindu priest reciting holy verses and the groom and bride taking the rounds of a small pyre set up inside the house. "We live peacefully with our Hindu brothers," said Aamir Malik, who was standing guard with several other men outside the home.

"We are everything for them. It's been like that we are here for them."

Following an exchange of garlands, Savitri Prasad, her husband and his family were escorted out of the alleys by her family and neighbours.

"Today, none of our relatives could attend my daughter's wedding," said Bhoday Prasad.

"But our Muslim neighbours are here. They are our family."

https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/a-hindu-bride-weds-in-muslim-neighbourhood-amid-northeast-delhi-violence-2186838

--------

 

Muslim Man in Meerut Prints Daughter's Wedding Card With Hindu Gods to Promote Religious Amity

FEBRUARY 28, 2020

An invitation card to a Muslim wedding in Meerut has become the talk of the town as it featured a photograph of Lord Ganesh and Radha-Krishna and also says "Chand Mubarak" alongside.

This unique card was printed by Mohd Sarafat in Hastinapur area for his daughter Asma Khatoon's wedding on March 4.

"I thought it would be a good idea to showcase the Hindu-Muslim amity, especially when communal hatred is gaining ground. My friends have reacted very positively to the initiative," said Mohd Sarafat.

However, for his relatives and Muslim friends, he has printed another wedding card in Urdu.

"Many of my relatives cannot read Hindi and for them I have printed cards in Urdu as well," he added.

https://www.news18.com/news/buzz/muslim-man-in-meerut-prints-daughters-wedding-card-with-hindu-gods-to-promote-religious-amity-2518591.html

--------

 

Delhi violence: Hindu teen recounts how Muslim neighbours stood guard for him

Hemani Bhandari

FEBRUARY 28, 2020

Muslim woman says neighbours assured her nobody will hurt her family

Seventeen-year-old Harsh Singh was home alone on Monday afternoon when clashes broke out a few metres away from his residence in north-east Delhi’s Khajoori Khas. His “Wahab bhai” and another neighbour pushed him inside the house to make sure he was safe.

Hearing the commotion on the street outside on Monday, Harsh, a Class X student, ran out of the house. Stickers reading “Om Namah Shivay” and “Ram Ram” had been pasted on their door. “I was standing outside when I found people pelting stones at each other. Bhabhi and Wahab bhai came and asked me to go inside and also said that I should inform them in case I face a problem,” he said, referring to his neighbours, who belong to the Muslim community. The woman was not found at her residence when The Hindu visited it.

Harsh’s father Satpal Singh is a driver with the Delhi Transport Corporation and was at work when the clashes had broken out. His mother Sheela Devi had left for her mother’s house on Sunday evening to attend a wedding. “My father got to know about the situation and called mamu [Wahab] and asked to take care of me. He said he would return at the earliest,” the teenager said.

The neighbours also asked Harsh if he was hungry as his mother was away, he told The Hindu. “I am not scared at all. I have lived here since birth. They [neighbours] treat me like their own child,” he said.

The boy said he managed to look at the two sides clashing on Monday and “spotted friends on both the sides”. “I saw my Muslim friends on one side and Hindu friends on the other. One of my Hindu friends saw me and asked me if I was trapped. I said, ‘Bhai, yeh mera ghar hai [Brother, this is my house]’,” he said.

Harsh was alone at home on Thursday as well and remained safe.

The second Hindu household in Harsh’s neighbourhood was of 25-year-old Rahul Kumar. He became a father a few days ago. On Monday, he said, the neighbours stood guard and made sure the family was safe.

“On Tuesday morning, my neighbour Iqrar bhai came and told us, ‘Hum bachpan se sath hain, darne ki koi zaroorat nahi hai. Koi dikkat ho toh humain batana [We have been together since childhood. You don’t need to be scared. Let us know if there is any trouble]’,” said Mr. Kumar. Before taking their newborn son to the hospital on Tuesday, Mr. Kumar’s wife Reshma asked a grocery shop owner in the area to take care of their house.

Right across the road, in a Hindu-dominated area in Khajoori Khas, lives Anjum (48). She said her three sons have not gone to work for the last three days and mostly stayed inside the house.

Ms. Anjum’s is the only Muslim family in the locality and “felt safe” after a neighbour, Balvinder Singh, told them not to worry on Monday.

“He came and told us not to be scared and that no one from our locality will hurt us. But we are not sure how people here will react if outsiders come and attack us,” she said.

While both the communities feel safe in their own areas irrespective of the dominance that prevails, the two sides are not crossing over due to which people residing in the Muslim-dominated area are facing a water issue.

Suraj Kumar, a resident of the Muslim-dominated area, said that people in the area had to go fetch water from the other side as their area was “underdeveloped”. “Since Monday, we have not been able to go there. First, they ask our names and if we establish we are Hindus, they ask us to go back and arrange water,” he alleged. Both his children go to schools located on the opposite side and his concern is if the family will be able to cross the road without facing any issue.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/hindu-teen-recounts-how-muslim-neighbours-stood-guard-for-him/article30937191.ece

--------

 

Hindu-Muslim Unity Shines Out in Violence-Hit Ashok Nagar in Delhi

Feb 28, 2020

“We will stand by him (Akbar) no matter what. He is a good person and this should not have happened to him. The men who are responsible for this, each of them, must be identified in the videos and booked. Even if they want to kill me for supporting a Muslim, let them go ahead. I will support him,” Pooja Dixit, a resident of Ashok Nagar, told The Quint.

The violence that began in northeast Delhi on 23 February spread to Ashok Nagar on 25 February, where two mosques, eight shops, and homes of Muslims were vandalised, burned and looted, including Akbar’s meat shop.

He said he has lost items worth Rs 2 lakh in the looting. As he broke into tears, the colony’s women came forward to console him.

It’s wasn’t just shops and homes – two mosques, Badi and Chand Masjid were vandalised too.

On Badi Masjid, situated between Gali No 5 and 6 of Ashok Nagar, a saffron flag was planted. While its vandalism was taking place, 65-year-old Jeetender Verma, who lives across the mosque, rushed out to reason with the mob.

“I tried to tell them to stop vandalising the mosque and the shops. I told them that this is not good for both communities but they started beating me up. I ran for my life and they kept pelting stones at his home.”

Verma said they chanted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ slogans. Despite him telling them they were hurting both the communities, which he believes is against Indian culture, they prevailed. Many eyewitnesses, including Muslims, saw him plead with the mob.

Half-a-kilometre away is Chand Masjid, where Moinuddin told us all Hindus and Muslims lived happily and in harmony with one another in the area.

https://www.thequint.com/videos/news-videos/north-east-delhi-violence-ashok-nagar-hindu-muslim-unity?utm_source=The+Quint+Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=777a9bb9c3-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_02_28_03_06&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_a705f3f64f-777a9bb9c3-137441105

--------

 

Organization of Islamic Cooperation to adopt Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam

February 28, 2020

JEDDAH: Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Dr. Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen announced on Wednesday that the OIC will adopt the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (CDHRI) after it is revised in accordance with international human-rights standards. The foreign ministers of the OIC member states are expected to approve the CDHRI at their meeting in Niamey, Niger in April.

Al-Othaimeen was speaking at the 43rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), held in Geneva on Wednesday, where he highlighted some of the efforts the OIC has made to fight racism and xenophobia — including Islamophobia — claiming that they are the result of “intellectual and political resistance to cultural pluralism.”

He said the OIC, in cooperation with its partners, has prepared “a comprehensive and consensual approach to address incitement to hatred, discrimination and violence on the basis of religion.”

Al-Othaimeen’s speech, which was delivered on his behalf by OIC Geneva Permanent Representative Nassima Baghli, stressed that terrorism, including religious extremism, is a major source of concern for the international community. He pointed out that the OIC continues to condemn the ideological rhetoric adopted by terrorist groups and has established the Sawt Al-Hikma (Voice of Wisdom) Center, which focuses on addressing the ideological rhetoric of extremists.

His speech also reviewed the most common human-rights violations suffered by Muslims, referring to the detailed documentation from the UN’s own human rights bodies and the OIC of discrimination and violence against the Rohingya Muslims.

Al-Othaimeen explained that America’s actions in Palestine in recent months required the OIC to stress that any peace initiative between Israel and Palestine must be consistent with legitimate rights, foremost among which is the right to self-determination.

He also stressed the OIC’s support for Kashmiris in their pursuit of their legitimate right to self-determination in accordance with international resolutions and highlighted the OIC’s condemnation of Armenia’s continued occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven regions bordering Azerbaijan.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1634386/saudi-arabia

--------

 

US Urges India to 'Protect and Respect' Right to Peaceful Assembly Over the Amended Citizenship Act

28 FEBRUARY 2020

Washington, Feb 28 (PTI) The US has urged India to "protect and respect" the right to peaceful assembly of people and hold accountable those perpetrating violence following the Delhi riots over the amended citizenship act, saying that Washington has raised the issue at the highest level with New Delhi.

The Comments came as Delhi this week witnessed worst riots in more than three decades, killing 38 people and injuring 200 others.The communal clashes began in northeast Delhi over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and spiralled into bloodshed.

The Indian Parliament had passed CAA last year, resulting in a series of protests across the country.

According to the CAA, members of the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014 following religious persecution there will get Indian citizenship.

The Indian government has been emphasising that the new law will not deny citizenship rights, but it has been brought to protect the oppressed minorities of neighbouring countries and give them citizenship.

“We strongly condemn the recent violence and urge authorities to protect and respect the right of peaceful assembly and hold accountable those perpetrating violence. We call on all parties to maintain peace and refrain from violence,” a State Department spokesperson told PTI.

“We have raised these issues at the highest levels and continue to engage the Government of India on issues related to religious freedom,” the official said responding to a question.

Underlining that respect for religious freedom and equal treatment under the law are fundamental principles of the two democracies, the official said,“We note Prime Minister Narendra Modi''s call for peace and the Indian government''s pledge to prevent further violence and restore normalcy."

Modi appealed for calm and peace in Delhi on February 26.

"Peace and harmony are central to our ethos. I appeal to my sisters and brothers of Delhi to maintain peace and brotherhood at all times. It is important that there is calm and normalcy is restored at the earliest," he tweeted.

Democrat Colin Allred said that a democracy is only made stronger by its inclusion and respect for the rights of minorities.

"India is the largest secular democracy in the world. This violence and suppression of Muslims'' civil liberties undermines India''s values and risks a wider conflict,” Allred said.

Democratic Party leader Bob Menendez, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, termed the violence as shocking and urged the Indian government to do more to defend all of its citizens'' rights, including the right to peaceful protest.

He also condemned President Donald Trump''s failure to "publicly voice concern" about the violence during his visit to India.

The clashes in the Indian capital erupted during Trump''s two-day visit to India from February 24.

"The US must be a leading voice in standing up for democratic values and human rights, including protection of religious minorities. I urge the Trump Administration, and the rest of the international community, to condemn the violence in Delhi and press the Indian government to protect all persons in India regardless of their religion,” he said.

Indian-American Neera Tanden, who heads the Center for American Progress think-tank said that "the violence against Muslims in India" is horrifying and destroys India''s role as a beacon for democracy in Asia.

“The Modi government''s actions have created this climate and it must put an end to this. India as we know it is changing for the worse before our eyes,” Democrat Tanden said.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), in a statement, urged the US government to strongly condemn the violence in Delhi.

“The international community, including the US, must speak out against the growing sectarian attacks in India fuelled by anti-Muslim legislation and hate rhetoric emanating from the highest levels of Indian society,” CAIR said.

In a statement, Indian Overseas Congress (IOC) expressed serious concern over the violence.

George Abraham, IOC vice-chairman, alleged that the inaction by the Delhi police is deeply troubling.

"The Indian Government should take stern action to ensure the security of all its citizens,” he said.

Rajendar Display, IOC general secretary, hoped that the Modi government would concentrate on reviving the economy and addressing the issue of unemployment, especially amongst the educated, instead of raking up divisive issues.

He said that India could achieve progress only when there is peace and all communities work together. PTI LKJ RS AKJ RS

https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/delhi-violence-us-urges-india-to-protect-and-respect-right-to-peaceful-assembly/1746747

--------

 

UK''s House of Lords Debates CAA, Expresses Concern Over Impact

By Aditi Khanna

27 February 2020

London, Feb 27 (PTI) The peers in the Upper House of the UK Parliament held a debate over the impact of India''s Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and sought representations by the UK government to counterparts in India over arising concerns around minority rights.

The House of Lords debate in London on Tuesday evening, tabled by crossbench peer John Montagu, the Earl of Sandwich, called on the UK government to urge Prime Minister Narendra Modi to conduct a review of the CAA and its effects on Indian society amid the deaths associated with mass protests against the act in the country.

The UK government, in response, said it has been closely monitoring the situation as the act has "clearly been divisive in India" and there are some concerns over its full impact.

"Ongoing protests against the act across India leave no doubt that this legislation is divisive. I know that people in this country — including in this House as has been made clear today — feel strongly about it. For our part, the UK government has concerns about the impact of the legislation," said Baroness Liz Sugg, the parliamentary under-secretary of state in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

"Its full impact remains unclear. We hope and trust that the government of India will address the concerns and protect the rights of people of all religions, in keeping with India''s Constitution, its democratic values and its inclusive traditions," she said, adding that the government would continue to "follow and monitor events closely" and raise any concerns with "close friend and partner" India.

The debate was opened by the Earl of Sandwich with references to his own time spent in India, as he also called for an assessment of the CAA''s impact on UK citizens given the strong India-UK relationship.

"The Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019, which passed through the Lok Sabha in December, granted an amnesty to illegal immigrants from three neighbouring countries — Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh — but not to Muslims from those countries. Unsurprisingly, there have been riots and protests in New Delhi, Aligarh and all over the country, and not only from the Muslim community," Montagu said.

"The regular migration of families between our two countries suggests that there is more sensitivity to discrimination than ever within our Asian minorities. This hits the Muslim community hardest," he said.

Indian-origin peer Lord Meghnad Desai sought to highlight that the reactions to the act reflect a "conjectural fear" because neither the act nor the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) have been implemented.

"It is said that the act is unconstitutional, but we do not know that yet because the Supreme Court of India has not yet heard on that issue… People are saying that the CAA has been passed for no other reason than to let the Hindus with dubious papers to go through but not anyone else. This has not yet happened — it is a conjectural fear," said Lord Desai, who also informed the House of his regular newspaper columns in India on the subject.

Fellow Indian-origin peer Lord Raj Loomba stressed that the CAA was passed through an "open, transparent and fully democratic process".

"The government of India has repeatedly clarified that the CAA is to grant citizenship on a one-time basis to a group of persons with no alternative options and not to take away the citizenship of anyone, much less an Indian Muslim," he said.

However, another Indian-origin peer Lord Indarjit Singh warned that the new act could offer a legal route to discrimination against Muslims and, ultimately, against all non-Hindus.

"I appeal to our own government to work directly, and through the Commonwealth, to add to this positive momentum for tolerance and respect for all people, in a wonderful country," he said. PTI AK IND IND

https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/uks-house-of-lords-debates-caa-expresses-concern-over-impact/1746475

--------

 

Turkey President Denounces "Massacres" Committed Against Muslims in India

February 27, 2020

Ankara: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hit out Thursday against "massacres" of Muslims in India after communal violence in New Delhi left at least 38 dead.

"India right now has become a country where massacres are widespread. What massacres? Massacres of Muslims. By who? Hindus," President Erdogan said during a speech in Ankara after violence broke out this week between mobs of Hindus and Muslims over a citizenship law.

Over 200 people were injured and 38 killed since late Sunday in clashes that saw mobs of Hindus and Muslims fight running battles, armed with swords and guns. Thousands of properties and vehicles were touched in the violence.

According to a document seen by AFP, the victims are a roughly even mix of Hindus and Muslims, based on their names.

President Erdogan, a devout Muslim, sees himself as a defender of Islam, often taking public stands on issues concerning the faith and its followers.

He accused the mobs attacking Muslims of hurting children studying in private tuition centres with "metal sticks as if to kill" them.

"How will these people make global peace possible? It is impossible. When making speeches -- since they have a large population -- they say 'we are strong' but that is not strength," President Erdogan added.

The unrest is the latest bout of violence over Prime Minister Narendra Modi's citizenship law, which triggered months of demonstrations that turned deadly in December.

Critics say PM Modi wants to turn the officially secular country into a Hindu state.

Many of the 200 million Muslims in India fear the citizenship law -- combined with a mooted citizens' register -- will leave them stateless or even sent to detention camps.

https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/turkey-president-denounces-massacres-committed-against-muslims-in-india-2186792

--------

 

Indonesia's Muhammadiyah condemns violence against Muslims in India

February 27, 2020

Indonesia’s second largest Muslim group, Muhammadiyah, is voicing its concern over religious violence in India, where deadly clashes between Hindus and Muslims triggered by a newly enacted citizenship law have broken out in the capital New Delhi.

The organization condemned the sectarian violence and attacks against Muslims as they were "clearly against human rights principles", Muhammadiyah secretary-general Abdul Mu’thi said.

Violence broke out this week after Hindu groups objected to Muslims taking to the streets against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which eases the way for religious minorities — except Muslims — from India's neighboring countries to gain Indian citizenship.

Seen as the worst sectarian riots that have hit the Hindu-majority country in decades, the unrest has left 32 people in Delhi dead as of Thursday. Similar protests in December resulted in the deaths of at least 30 people, AFP reported.

“Muhammadiyah urges the Indian government to stop any kind of discrimination and violence against people, especially the Muslims,” Abdul told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

The deadly turmoil has attracted the world's attention, including of people in Indonesia, with many criticizing the acts of the Hindu community — the major supporter of the citizenship law — against the Indian Muslim community.

On Thursday morning, hashtag #ShameOnYouIndia topped the trending topics on Twitter in Indonesia, with at least 46,000 tweets posted about the incidents, most of which condemned the violence.

The Indonesian government has yet to issue any statement over the turmoil in India so far.

Muhammadiyah further urged Indonesia, in its position as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, to bring up the issue on the international stage, Abdul said, adding that he hoped other member states also condemned the crisis.

“What is happening there could threaten peace in South Asia and the world,” he added.

https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/02/27/indonesias-muhammadiyah-condemns-violence-against-muslims-in-india.html

--------

 

US deal to supply high-tech weapons to India could further destabilise region: Pakistan

Feb 27, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday expressed concern over the $3 million defence deal between India and the US for the supply of advanced American military helicopters, saying it will further destabilise the already volatile region.

During President Donald Trump's visit, India and the US on Tuesday finalised defence deals under which 30 military helicopters will be procured from two American defence majors for the Indian armed forces.

Under a $2.6 billion deal, India will buy 24 MH-60 Romeo helicopters from Lockheed Martin for the Indian Navy. Another contract to acquire six AH-64E Apache helicopters for $800 million from aerospace giant Boeing has also been sealed.

Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui during her weekly news briefing here said, “This deal will further destabilise the already volatile region. We have alerted the international community many times about India's aggressive designs not only towards Pakistan but also other countries in the region."

Defence and security ties between India and the US have been on an upswing in the last six years. The bilateral defence trade touched $18 billion mark in 2019, reflecting growing defence cooperation between the two sides.

In June 2016, the US had designated India a "Major Defence Partner," intending to elevate defence trade and technology sharing with New Delhi to a level commensurate with that of its closest allies and partners.

The Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson also welcomed Trump's offer to mediate in de-escalating tensions between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir issue and claimed that the US President lauded Islamabad's efforts against terrorism.

Farooqui said Trump's remarks showed an upward trajectory in Pakistan-US relations.

Although President Trump offered to mediate on the Kashmir issue in the past, New Delhi has told Washington that it is a bilateral matter between India and Pakistan and there is no scope for any third-party mediation.

Tensions between India and Pakistan spiked after New Delhi ended the special status of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5. India's decision evoked strong reaction from Pakistan, which downgraded its diplomatic ties with New Delhi and expelled the Indian envoy.

Pakistan has been trying to internationalise the Kashmir issue but India has asserted that the abrogation of Article 370 was its "internal matter".

The Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson also expressed “grave concern” over communal clashes in New Delhi.

“Our leadership as well as the international community has also raised their concerns on the situation in New Delhi,” she said.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/us-deal-to-supply-high-tech-weapons-to-india-could-further-destabilise-region-pakistan/articleshow/74339817.cms

--------

 

India

 

‘A weak economy, but Hindu Muslim, Hindu Muslim’: Chetan Bhagat on Delhi riots

Feb 28, 2020

Author Chetan Bhagat has expressed disappointment over the violence which has gripped Delhi, and led to the deaths of 38 people.

Bhagat said there are other pressing issues to be taken care of - like coronavirus, the state of economy etc.

“World markets collapse as Corona hits. Global demand will fall. India already suffering a weak economy will find it v difficult to recover. Jobs growth all set to suffer. Immediate attention needed. But hey, Hindu Muslim Hindu Muslim,” the author said on Twitter.

Chetan Bhagat

@chetan_bhagat

World markets collapse as Corona hits.

Global demand will fall.

India already suffering a weak economy will find it v difficult to recover.

Jobs growth all set to suffer. Immediate attention needed.

But hey, Hindu Muslim Hindu Muslim.

5,808

8:47 AM - Feb 28, 2020

Twitter Ads info and privacy

1,881 people are talking about this

The violence in Delhi first broke out on Sunday, but escalated and turned communal on Monday when the groups supporting and against the new citizenship law clashed in Jafrabad, Maujpur, Chand Bagh and other areas of Northeast Delhi.

Shops and vehicles were torched, policemen and locals attacked and property damaged. The groups roamed on the streets with swords and pistols, turning the areas into a war zone.

At the centre of tis unrest is the Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA passed by Parliament in December, 2019, which seeks to grant citizenship to persecuted minorities from three neighbouring countries: Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

Critics and Opposition parties say that the new law seeks to divide the country on religious lines by leaving out Muslims.

But the government maintains that it is India’s duty to give citizenship to persecuted minorities, and have rejected the demands of scrapping the law. Many leaders of teh ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have accused the Opposition parties of making inflammatory statements on the law and stoking fears among the minorities in the country.

In the violence in pockets of Delhi, more than 500 vehicles, including two-wheelers, were burnt between Monday and Thursday morning, according to the estimates by the Delhi Fire Service (DFS).

DFS data accessed by HT shows that Tuesday was the worst day of the riots and alone witnessed 89 incidents of arson. While Wednesday saw 57 incidents of arson, 23 took place on Monday. Fourteen incidents of arson also took place between midnight and 8am on Thursday, the data shows.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/immediate-attention-needed-chetan-bhagat-speaks-about-hindu-muslim-in-delhi-violence/story-APKPVpLPa6aWN2Q1cL6L4J.html

--------

 

2 Crime Branch special teams led by DCPs set up to probe north-east Delhi riots

Neeraj Chauhan

Feb 27, 2020

Two Special Investigation Teams (SIT) of Delhi Police’s crime branch will probe northeast Delhi riots. Delhi police announced the formation of the SITs, headed by Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) rank official on Thursday evening.

The first team will be headed by DCP Joy Tirkey, and the second one will be headed by DCP Rajesh Deo. Each team will have four Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP).

Additional Commissioner of Police, Crime, BK Singh will oversee the work of the above two SITs.

An official release from the police commissioner’s office said all the FIRs related to the three-day-long rioting in northeast Delhi, registered at different police stations in the area, were being transferred to the two SITs. 48 FIRs have been registered in the riot cases so far.

The order says the two teams, also comprising of three inspectors, four sub-inspectors and three head constables/constables, will immediately begin investigations.

The announcement follows allegations that Delhi Police’s response to the situation leading to the riots was not adequate. The Delhi High Court had lashed out at the police for alleged inaction and asked it to register FIRs against people who had made provocative comments.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/bdelhi-police-sets-up-two-crime-branch-special-teams-to-probe-northeast-delhi-riots/story-9Cy4w5wTN2HwMyiB2YcS6M.html

--------

 

Sikhs Will Bear the Cost of the Construction of a Mosque That Muslims in UP, Saharanpur Have Agreed To Shift To a New Location

Anupam Srivastava and S Raju

Feb 27, 2020

Lucknow/Meerut: Sikhs will bear the cost of the construction of a mosque that Muslims in Saharanpur have agreed to shift to a new location to end a decade-long dispute over a plot of land near a gurdwara in the Western Uttar Pradesh city. The two communities on Wednesday agreed to the amicable settlement of the dispute, which triggered riots in July 2014 and left three people dead in Saharanpur’s Kutubsher area.

Shiromani Akali Dal’s state president, Gurpreet Singh Bagga, said the Sikhs had purchased the land adjacent to the gurdwara from a Muslim family for the expansion of the place of worship. “When the construction work started for the extension in July 2014, a group of Muslims objected, claiming that a mosque existed on the land. Following the dispute, clashes broke out which soon turned into a riot that claimed the lives of three people and left 26 injured...” He said a case was filed and the gurdwara’s expansion was halted as a result.

Bagga said a dialogue between the two communities started following district magistrate Alok Kumar Pandey’s intervention. “On Wednesday, both communities agreed that the Guru Singh Sabha [Gurdwara] will bear the cost of the land for construction of the mosque at another location. Muslims will withdraw their claim...”

Bagga said they have purchased a 200 square yard plot for the mosque in Muslim-dominated Nadeem Colony. “Sikhs will also help in the construction of the mosque. We believe in the service to humankind. We do not believe in violence. So solving the matter is very important.” He said the cases pending in courts from both sides would be withdrawn.

Muharram Ali Pappu, a Saharanpur resident, said they have set an example. “This shows every matter can be settled through dialogue. Now a decent mosque will come up on the land given by the Sikh brothers. We will also perform Kar Sewa [voluntary work] for the gurdwara. We are proud Indians, who know to love and live in peace.”

Religious scholar Maulana Khalid Rasheed Farangi Mahali welcomed the dispute resolution. “I am always for brotherhood in the society. This shows the composite cultural strength of our society.”

Nirmal Singh, the president of Lucknow’s Alambagh Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, said this is a great gesture by both communities. “In 2014, when shops were burnt, we collected money not only for Sikh brothers but also for Muslims whose shops were damaged. We never discriminate when it comes to helping others.”

In 2010, when the Sikhs went for the clearance for the gurdwara’s expansion, the Muslims objected for the first time.

Pandey said he wanted to solve the matter and asked both sides to talk. “For 15 months, there were extensive parleys. I am happy that on my last day as DM [district magistrate] Saharanpur, the dispute was resolved...”

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/sikhs-muslims-resolve-decades-old-land-dispute-in-up/story-SM262DZp7N1D4pfARtfPUO.html

--------

 

Islamic bloc condemns 'anti-Muslim' violence in India

Erdogan Cagatay Zontur  

27.02.2020

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Thursday urged the Indian government to stop “anti-Muslim violence” and the desecration of Islamic places of worship in the country.

The OIC statement came as the death toll in ongoing riots in India’s capital New Delhi climbed to 34, with nearly 200 injured.

"OIC condemns the recent and alarming violence against Muslims in India, resulting in the death and injury of innocent people and the arson and vandalism of mosques and Muslim-owned properties,” read the statement.

It expressed condolences to the families of victims of the “heinous acts” and demanded the perpetrators be brought to justice.

“The OIC calls on Indian authorities to bring the instigators and perpetrators of these acts of anti-Muslim violence to justice, and to ensure the safety and security of all its Muslim citizens and the protection of Islamic holy places across the country," the 57-member body said.

Clashes between pro- and anti-citizenship law protesters started on Sunday and have devolved into communal violence.

The northeastern part of New Delhi has been affected the most as rioters ransacked and set ablaze mosques, houses, schools, and businesses.

The violence in India's capital escalated a day after Kapil Mishra, a local leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), appeared in a widely circulated video warning Muslims to end protests in Delhi's Maujpur area.

He said the protesters would face the wrath of BJP supporters if they failed to heed his warning.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/islamic-bloc-condemns-anti-muslim-violence-in-india/1746882

--------

 

Erdogan denounces 'massacres' committed against Muslims in India

February 27, 2020 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hit out Thursday against "massacres" of Muslims in India after communal riots in New Delhi left at least 33 dead.

"India right now has become a country where massacres are widespread. What massacres? Massacres of Muslims. By who? Hindus," Erdogan said during a speech in Ankara after violence broke out this week between mobs of Hindus and Muslims over a citizenship law.

Over 200 people were injured and 33 killed since late Sunday in clashes that saw mobs of Hindus and Muslims fight running battles, armed with swords and guns. Thousands of properties and vehicles were touched in the violence.

According to a document seen by AFP the victims are a roughly even mix of Hindus and Muslims, based on their names.

Erdogan, a devout Muslim, sees himself as a defender of Islam, often taking public stands on issues concerning the faith and its followers.

He accused the mobs attacking Muslims of hurting children studying in private tuition centres with "metal sticks as if to kill" them.

"How will these people make global peace possible? It is impossible. When making speeches -- since they have a large population -- they say 'we are strong' but that is not strength," Erdogan added.

The unrest is the latest bout of violence over Prime Minister Narendra Modi's citizenship law, which triggered months of demonstrations that turned deadly in December.

Critics say Modi wants to turn the officially secular country into a Hindu state.

Full report at:

https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/02/27/erdogan-denounces-massacres-committed-against-muslims-in-india.html

--------

 

Delhi violence: Bernie Sanders slams Donald Trump for being non-committal on riots

Feb 28, 2020

Leading Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders attacked US President Donald Trump for failure on human rights leadership, saying Trump’s comment that handling the unrest over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was up to India was inadequate.

Sanders tweeted on Wednesday, “Over 200 million Muslims call India home. Widespread anti-Muslim mob violence has killed at least 27 and injured many more. Trump responds by saying, ‘That’s up to India’. This is a failure of leadership on human rights.” Sanders took on Trump for his reaction at the press meet here on questions about the clashes.

Over 200 million Muslims call India home. Widespread anti-Muslim mob violence has killed at least 27 and injured ma… https://t.co/xukArMLDBX

— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) 1582748654000

In a milder reaction, supportive of the Indian government, a senior US state department official also tweeted on the violence in Delhi, urging calm and respect for the right of peaceful assembly. “Our hearts go out to the families of the deceased and injured in New Delhi,” Alice G Wells, principal deputy assistant secretary for south and central Asian affairs at the state department, tweeted on Thursday.

“We echo PM Narendra Modi’s call for calm and normalcy and urge all parties to maintain peace, refrain from violence and respect the right of peaceful assembly,” she wrote.

Our hearts go out to the families of the deceased and injured in New Delhi. We echo PM @NarendraModi’s call for cal… https://t.co/9C2CKhplx7

— State_SCA (@State_SCA) 1582802595000

BJP general secretary (organisation) B L Santhosh responded to Sanders’s tweet on Thursday and said his party may be “compelled” to play a role in the US presidential elections coming up later this year. He, however, soon deleted his tweet.

sanders

Santhosh posted a sharp reaction at 7.45am on Thursday, saying, “How much ever neutral we wish to be, you compel us to play a role in the presidential elections. Sorry to say so… but you are compelling us.”

While BJP did not react to Santhosh’s tweet and deletion, clearly a political faux pas, the party general secretary evidently realised that he might have crossed the line and acted hastily by making the statement on social media.

Sanders took on Trump for his reaction at the press conference here on questions about the clashes during his visit, saying, “As far as the individual attacks, I heard about it, but I didn't discuss that with him (PM Modi). That’s up to India.”

Apart from the Democratic presidential candidate, other influential Senators too expressed concern over the developments on Wednesday. "We are alarmed by the recent violence in New Delhi. We continue to support an open dialogue on issues of significant concern in order to advance our vital long-term relationship," Senator Mark Warner from the Democratic Party and John Cornyn from the GOP said in a joint statement. they are co-chairs of the Senate India Caucus, the largest country-specific caucus in the US Senate.

Richard N Hass, who heads the powerful Council on Foreign Relations, said the reason for India's relative success has been that its large Muslim minority saw itself as Indian. "But this is at risk owing to govt attempts to exploit identity politics for political advantage," he said.

Earlier in the day, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) urged the Indian government to take swift action for the safety of its citizens. Expressing "grave concern" over the violence, the US body said the Indian government should provide protection to people regardless of their faith amid reports of an attack on Muslims.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/bernie-sanders-slams-donald-trump-for-being-non-committal-on-riots/articleshow/74350563.cms

--------

 

NIA refutes claims that Pulwama attack accused was let off

Feb 27, 2020

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) denied reports and allegations that an accused in the Pulwama terror attack case in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed was released on bail due to its laxity.

The agency issued a clarification on Thursday and said Yousuf Chopan was arrested in a terror conspiracy case involving Jaish-e-Mohammed and not in the Pulwama case.

The clarification followed after allegations by the Congress that NIA had not filed charge sheet against Chopan as it failed to gather evidence against him leading to his bail.

The NIA spokesperon said Chopan was arrested in the case pertaining to a criminal conspiracy hatched by senior commanders of the Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group to carry out terror attacks in different parts of India, including Delhi-NCR.

The agency also said it was close to a breakthrough in the 2019 Pulwama terror attack carried out by a suicide bomber who rammed his vehicle in the CRPF convoy at Lethpora in Srinagar.

“It’s to clarify that Yousuf Chopan was never arrested in Pulwama attack case, however, he along with 6 others was arrested in the NIA case no 08/2019/NIA/DLI (JeM conspiracy case) in which 2 charge sheets were filed against eight accused among who two were killed in encounter with security forces,” NIA statement stated.

NIA further said that during the investigations in the JeM conspiracy case, seven over ground workers of the terror outfit were arrested, out of which six barring Yusuf Chopan were charge sheeted.

The agency cited lack of enough evidence as the reason for not naming Chopan in the charge sheet. It said he was given default bail by the court and rearrested under the public safety act.

“He (Chopan) has been sent back to Kot Bhalwal, jail Jammu under Public Safety Act by the order of DM Pulwama. Needless to say, NIA follows the policy of fairest possible investigation,’’ the statement said.

The NIA statement said “significant leads” have “emerged” in the Pulwama case and a breakthrough in the case was “expected shortly”.

Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel had earlier today attacked the central government over the issue.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/nia-refutes-claims-that-pulwama-attack-accused-was-let-off/story-spi6hz7NTmJoOSX32LBDtM.html

--------

 

Desist from commenting on India's internal affairs, New Delhi tells Turkey

Feb 27, 2020

GENEVA: India on Thursday asked Pakistan's close ally, Turkey, to refrain from commenting on the internal affairs of the country and also cautioned Ankara against encouraging cross-border terrorism.

India's reaction came after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Thursday criticised the country after communal riots in Delhi left at least 38 people dead.

"I can but only advise the Turkey to refrain from commenting on the internal affairs of India and develop a better understanding of the democratic practices," First Secretary at India's Permanent Mission Vimarsh Aryan said while exercising the right of reply after Pakistan raised concerns over human rights in Jammu and Kashmir at the 43rd Session of the Human Rights Council here.

"I also caution them not to encourage cross-border terrorism," Aryan said.

Turkey has been backing Pakistan on the Kashmir issue and President Erdogan has angered India by raising the issue at the UN General Assembly. He has also criticised the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

"India right now has become a country where massacres are widespread. What massacres? Massacres of Muslims. By who? Hindus," AFP quoted Erdogan as saying during a speech in Ankara after violence broke out this week in Delhi between Hindus and Muslims over the amended citizenship law.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/desist-from-commenting-on-indias-internal-affairs-new-delhi-tells-turkey/articleshow/74342563.cms

--------

 

India to attend signing of landmark peace deal between US and Taliban in Doha on Saturday

Feb 27, 2020

NEW DELHI: India's Ambassador to Qatar will attend the signing of the landmark peace deal between the US and the Afghan Taliban in Doha on Saturday, official sources said on Thursday.

The deal would allow for the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. The US has lost over 2,400 soldiers in Afghanistan since late 2001.

Sources said India has been invited by the Qatar government for the ceremony where the deal will be signed and Indian ambassador P Kumaran will attend it.

It will be for the first time India will officially attend an event involving the Taliban.

India has been a key stakeholder in the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

In a significant move, India had sent two former diplomats in "non-official" capacity to a conference on Afghan peace process in Moscow in November 2018.

The conference organised by Russia was attended by a high-level Taliban delegation, representatives of Afghanistan as well as from several other countries, including the US, Pakistan and China.

Major powers such as the US, Russia and Iran have been reaching out to the Taliban as part of efforts to push the stalled Afghan peace process.

India has been supporting a national peace and reconciliation process which is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan controlled.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/india-to-attend-signing-of-landmark-peace-deal-between-us-and-taliban-in-doha-on-saturday/articleshow/74343291.cms

--------

 

Pakistan 'pernicious cradle of terrorism': India at UNHRC

Feb 27, 2020

GENEVA: Describing Pakistan as the "pernicious cradle of terrorism", India on Thursday slammed the neighbouring country for raising concerns over human rights in Jammu and Kashmir and said that before preaching others, it must remember that terrorism is the worst form of rights abuse.

Exercising the right of reply after Pakistan raised concerns over human rights in Jammu and Kashmir at the 43rd Session of the Human Rights Council, First Secretary in India's Permanent Mission Vimarsh Aryan said that over the past seven months India has undertaken a series of democratic and progressive legislative reforms in Jammu and Kashmir.

He said the reforms are aimed to further protect the overall human rights of Indian citizens and to curb Pakistan's "nefarious designs" aimed at damaging the syncretic fabric of Indian society.

"The international community has abundantly witnessed the subsequent hysterical reactions of Pakistan at various fora, that only attempted to create storm in the tea cup, but unwittingly implied that democratic traditions and religious tolerance are not Pakistan's cup of tea," Aryan said.

"As the biggest victim of the cross-border terrorism emanating from this pernicious cradle of terrorism we would like to inform this Council that Pakistan is a country whose former president and prime ministers including the incumbent have openly acknowledged the support and inter-operational linkages between their state machinery and the UN proscribed terrorist organizations," he said.

Pakistan is a country that has considerably shrunk the size of its minority communities since independence, and has subjected Christians, Sikhs, Ahmadis, Hindus, Shias, Pashtuns, Sindhis and Baloch, to draconian blasphemy laws, systemic persecution, blatant abuse and forced conversions, he said.

"Jammu & Kashmir has been, is and will continue to be an integral part of India and Pakistan should cease to covet it," Aryan said.

"We ask Pakistan that instead of spewing lies for a self-serving mendacious propaganda, work constructively and devote equal attention to protection and promotion of human rights of minorities in Pakistan," he said.

Before preaching others on human rights, Pakistan must remember that terrorism is the worst form of human rights abuse, he said.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pakistan-pernicious-cradle-of-terrorism-india-at-unhrc/articleshow/74341954.cms

--------

 

Afghanistan drawdown mustn’t precipitate a crisis, India tells US

Feb 27, 2020

NEW DELHI: Ahead of the Afghanistan peace deal, and in the just concluded Indo-US summit, India conveyed to the US that it must not fritter away gains made in the past 19 years with a hasty withdrawal. Official sources said that the peace deal which the US is looking to cut with the Taliban should not let Pakistan off the hook in terms of the pressure that has been applied on Islamabad to act against cross-border terrorism in the past few years, official sources said.

Discussing the important outcomes from the visit, these sources said the US was supportive of India’s position that Pakistan can’t hide behind the excuse that cross-border terrorism is perpetrated only by non-state actors.

The Trump-Modi summit, according to India, saw the most comprehensive and substantive discussions between the two countries in recent years on not just security and strategic issues but also trade, technology, energy cooperation and regional and international cooperation. For the first time ever, as a source said, issues concerning H-1B visas and totalisation were raised at the summit level. On trade, the two sides agreed to give "legal shape" to the understanding already reached and the two countries are hopeful of concluding the first phase of negotiations soon.

"On Pakistan, it was very clearly mentioned that pressure to act against cross-border terror had to continue, especially in areas covered by the FATF," said a source. While Indian ambassador to Qatar P Kumaran is expected to attend the signing of the peace deal in Doha on February 29, India continues to watch developments related to Afghanistan with some concern, not least because of Pakistan’s claims of having played an important role in reaching the "historic" deal.

India is learnt to have made the point that the drawdown must not precipitate a crisis.

On J&K, the US is said to have acknowledged that focus was now on issues like development and promotion of tourism. "US is familiar with the level of normalcy in J&K since the visit of ambassador Kenneth Juster," official sources said.

President Trump apparently appeared very calm during the discussions and was ready to discuss issues at length. US authorities are also said to have told Indian officials that there was no offer of mediation by the US on Kashmir and that it was only Pakistan which was asking for it.

Some other important takeaways for the two countries, according to sources, were the focus on people-to-people contacts, Modi and Trump personal chemistry. Trump is learnt to have taken Modi’s electoral victory last year as something very significant and appreciated that Modi is "able to defend his country’s interests".

Official sources said the fact that 46 million people in India watched the Motera event on TV across 180 channels, and also that the visit got good coverage even in the US media, suggested there was strong support for Indo-US ties in both countries.

"The bond and respect which they share was palpable throughout the visit. Both had the ability to engage in serious discussions," sources here said.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/afghanistan-drawdown-mustnt-precipitate-a-crisis-india-tells-us/articleshow/74341006.cms

--------

 

Arab World

 

Thirty-three Turkish soldiers killed in Syria’s Idlib after air strike

28 February 2020

Turkey has raised the death toll from a Syrian government airstrike on its forces in northwestern Syria the day before to 33 Turkish troops killed. Yesterday, it was reported 22 soldiers were killed.

The fatalities on Thursday marked the largest death toll for Turkey in a single day since it first intervened in Syria in 2016.

“What a shame I have to say that the death toll has risen to 22,” Rahmi Dogan, the governor of Hatay in Turkey which sits on the border with Syria, said in televised remarks. He earlier said nine soldiers were killed in the air strike.

The governor said that soldiers injured in the air strike had been brought back to Turkey for treatment but did not give a figure.

Earlier Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held an extraordinary meeting on the situation in Idlib after the attack, at his presidential complex in Ankara.

The security summit was attended by Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Chief of Staff General Yasar Guler and spy chief Hakan Fidan, NTV broadcaster said.

The Turkish presidency confirmed the meeting lasted two hours.

Retaliation

Turkey was retaliating against the Syrian regime after the Turkish soldiers were killed, an official said on Friday, as he urged the international community to fulfil its responsibilities.

"Known targets of the regime have come and will continue to come under fire from the air and ground,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's communications director, Fahrettin Altun, said in a statement.

“We urge the international community to fulfil its responsibilities,” Altun added.

When there were unconfirmed reports of heavy casualties earlier, Anadolu and other media reported that the Turkish military had “neutralized” 1,709 regime elements.

The media also listed dozens of tanks, helicopters and armored vehicles belonging to regime elements which were destroyed by Turkish forces, quoting anonymous Turkish security sources.

Turkey has 12 observation posts in Idlib, the last rebel-held bastion, under a 2018 deal with Russia.

But President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has pressed an offensive backed by Moscow air strikes, killing hundreds and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee their homes.

Erdogan has repeatedly warned the regime to withdraw from Turkish posts before the end of February, threatening an “imminent” operation if Damascus did not heed the warning.

Cavusoglu spoke to NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg on the phone, a Turkish diplomatic source said early Friday without giving further details.

The number of Turkish security personnel killed in Idlib this month is now 42.

There has been an escalation in tensions after Ankara threatened to attack Damascus, with multiple rounds of talks between Turkish and Russian officials to find a way forward. The latest negotiations were on Thursday.

Extremists and Turkish-backed rebels re-entered Saraqeb earlier on Thursday, a key crossroads town in Idlib that they had lost earlier this month.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/28/22-Turkish-soldiers-killed-in-Syria-s-Idlib-after-air-strike-.html

--------

 

Iraq delays confidence vote on a new government over lack of quorum

27 February 2020

Iraq’s parliament on Thursday adjourned a session to approve a new cabinet proposed by Prime Minister-designated Mohammed Allawi, state television reported.

It said the parliament had failed to convene a quorum as many lawmakers unhappy with Allawi’s ministerial nominees boycotted the session.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/27/Iraq-delays-confidence-vote-on-a-new-government-over-lack-of-quorum.html

--------

 

Bahrain confirms all 33 coronavirus cases ‘not at risk and are in recovery’

27 February 2020

Bahrain’s health ministry said that all 33 patients infected with the coronavirus are not at risk and are currently recovering from the disease, state news agency BNA reported.

The news agency cited Dr. Safaa al-Khawaja as saying that all cases are being closely monitored.

“The 33 cases that were registered were subjected to treatment and care according to the medical protocols, global guidelines, and guidelines of the Gulf Health Council, all of which show a marked improvement and a positive recovery,” al-Khawaja said.

Bahrain extended by 48 hours its suspension of all flights arriving from Dubai and Sharjah airports from Wednesday as part of the kingdom’s efforts to halt the spread of coronavirus.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/02/27/Bahrain-confirms-all-33-coronavirus-cases-not-at-risk-and-are-in-recovery-.html

--------

 

UAE suspends passenger ferry services with Iran over coronavirus

27 February 2020

The UAE’s Federal Authority for Land and Maritime Transport (FTA) has suspended ferry services with the Islamic Republic of Iran until further notice, and obliged all commercial vessels coming into the country to present a statement of health condition for their crews, 72 hours ahead of arrival.

The development, reported by Emirates News Agency (WAM), is part of the proactive measures being taken by the UAE to identify suspected novel coronavirus cases, prevent the spread of the virus and ensure protection of the society and its safety as per international practices and guidelines.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/02/27/UAE-suspends-passenger-ferry-services-with-Iran-over-coronavirus.html

--------

 

Kuwait suspends studies at military colleges, schools over coronavirus fears

27 February 2020

The Kuwaiti army will suspend studies at military institutions - colleges and schools - for two weeks from March 1 due to concerns about the coronavirus outbreak, state news agency KUNA said on Thursday.

The Gulf Arab country now has 43 confirmed cases of coronavirus, all involving people who had been to Iran, a Kuwaiti health ministry official said earlier on Thursday.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/02/27/Kuwait-suspends-studies-at-military-colleges-schools-over-coronavirus-fears-.html

--------

 

Kuwait confirms 43 coronavirus cases recently traveled to Iran: Health Ministry

27 February 2020

Kuwait Health Ministry confirmed a total of 43 coronavirus cases on Thursday during a press conference. All cases had recently been to Iran.

All patients are currently quarantined but are in stable conditions, a doctor said during the press conference.

Kuwait is in constant contact with the World Health Organization (WHO), said the spokesman, adding that there have been many measures taken and programs put in place to avoid further spread of the virus in the country.

Ministry of Interior on Thursday also suspended the use of the national identity card by Kuwaiti nationals and GCC nationals to travel to and from the country. This temporary measure helps authorities know if a traveler has been to a country where coronvirus has been spreading.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/02/27/Kuwait-confirms-all-43-coronavirus-cases-recently-traveled-to-Iran-Health-Ministry.html

--------

 

34 Turkish troops killed in Syria's Idlib as govt. forces continue gains

27 February 2020

Dozens of Turkish soldiers have reportedly been killed in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib as Syrian government forces, backed by allied fighters from popular defense groups, continue to score territorial gains in battles against foreign-sponsored Takfiri militants in their last major bastion in the country.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 34 Turkish soldiers had been killed in airstrikes in the area on Thursday.

The Britain-based monitor further noted that the casualties took place in a district located between the town of al-Bara, located in the Zawiya Mountain, and Billion town.

The report came hours after Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech aired on the private Turkish-language NTV television news network that three Turkish troops had been killed in Idlib.

“The developments in Idlib are now in favor [of Turkey],” he added at the opening ceremony of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s Politics Academy conference.

The fighting in Idlib is still ongoing, Erdogan said, adding that Turkey and Russia continue negotiations in the meanwhile.

Erdogan went on to claim that Turkey’s involvement in Syria is completely legal under the scope of the Adana agreement signed between Ankara and Damascus decades ago.

The Adana Interstate Agreement on Combating Terrorism was signed between Turkey and Syria on October 20, 1998. It clearly stated that the Damascus government would not allow any activities of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group on Syrian soil, and would block any terror activities that could threaten Turkey's sovereignty.

Erdogan holds emergency meeting over Syria's Idlib

Meanwhile, Erdogan chaired an emergency security meeting late on Thursday to evaluate the latest developments in Syria’s Idlib region.

Turkish security sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told pro-government and English-language Daily Sabah newspaper that all ministers and senior officials were present in the meeting.

Russia accuses Turkey of illegally sending strike drones to Idlib

Separately, Russia's Defense Ministry has accused Turkey of illegally sending strike drones into Syria's Idlib region to support Takfiri militants fighting Syrian government forces, and of providing artillery support for them.

Earlier, a military source said Turkish military forces were using shoulder-fired missiles to shoot down Russian and Syrian military aircraft in Idlib as heavy fighting continues in the area.

“Syrian and Russian planes are stopping militants again and again. But the sky above Idlib is also dangerous. The militants and Turkish specialists are actively using portable air defense systems,” Russia’s state-owned Rossiya 24 television news network reported on Thursday.

The report noted that Russian and Syrian planes were therefore being forced to take countermeasures after they carry out a string of airstrikes against militant positions in the region.

Turkish military strikes northern Syria after soldiers killed in Idlib airstrikes

Furthermore, Turkish military forces have fired barrages of missiles at targets in Syria's west-central province of Hama, the northwestern towns of Kafr Nabl and Zahraa as well as the strategic western coastal city of Latakia in response to an airstrike blamed on Damascus in Idlib region that killed thirty-four Turkish soldiers.

Russia: Turkey’s non-commitment to Sochi agreement behind deterioration of Idlib situation

Moreover, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has blamed Turkey’s non-commitment to the Sochi agreement for the exacerbation of fighting in Syria’s Idlib region.

“The area has turned into a stronghold for the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) terrorist coalition, and we believe that one of the main reasons behind the deterioration of the situation (in Idlib) is the failure to comply with the Russian-Turkish memorandum signed (in the Russian resort city of Sochi) on September 17, 2018,” the Arabic service of Russia’s Sputnik news agency quoted her as saying in Moscow on Thursday.

Under the Sochi agreement, all militants in the demilitarized zone that surrounds Idlib, and also parts of the provinces of Aleppo and west-central province of Hama, were supposed to pull out heavy arms by October 17, 2018, with the Takfiri groups having to withdraw two days earlier.

Zakharova highlighted even though Russia's military declared a ceasefire between Syria's warring sides in Idlib province on January 9, foreign-backed militants continue to shell nearby residential areas and Syrian army positions.

‘Some countries seeking to turn Security Council into NATO platform to support Turkish aggression’

Additionally, Syria's Ambassador to the United Nations Bashar al-Jaafari says some countries are seeking to turn the Security Council into a platform for the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to support the Turkish aggression on Syrian territories.

Speaking at a council’s session in New York on Thursday, Jaafari said the complete liberation of the strategic northwestern city of Aleppo has given local residents a sense of security.

The top diplomat then called on countries that hold sway over the Ankara government and Takfiri militants operating inside Syria to force them into allowing nearly a million displaced Syrians to return home.

Jaafari then criticized Syria’s disappointment with the World Health Organization’s delay in dispatching necessary medical supplies to Syria, emphasizing that the Damascus government together with international non- governmental organizations and the UN has been providing humanitarian aid, social support, healthcare and basic needs to millions of Syrians.

“Syria stresses once again its categorical rejection of any Turkish or foreign illegitimate presence on its lands, and calls for the cessation of Turkish hostile acts and its support for terrorism in Syria,” he said.

Jaafari concluded that Erdogan and Turkish UN ambassador Ayşe Cihan Sultanoğlu have no right to talk on behalf of Syrian people, as Ankara supports terrorism in Syria and continues attacking the territories of the crisis-hit Arab country.

Syrian air defense forces shoot down Turkish drone in Idlib

In another development, the Russian military announced on Thursday evening that Syrian air defense units had intercepted and targeted a Turkish strike drone after it violated the Syrian airspace and was preparing to carry out strikes against the positions of government forces in Maarzaf area of Idlib.

This picture taken on February 25, 2020 shows the wreckage of an unmanned aerial vehicle belonging to the Turkish military after it was intercepted and targeted by Syrian forces in the skies over Dadikh village, northwestern province of Idlib. (Photo by SANA)

Heath of the ministry’s Center for the Reconciliation of Opposing Sides in Syria, Rear Admiral Oleg Zhuravlev, said Ankara keeps violating the Sochi deal as regards a demilitarized zone in northern Syria.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/27/619675/34-Turkish-troops-killed-in-Syria's-Idlib-as-govt.-forces-continue-gains

--------

 

Syrian army troops continue advancing in southern Idlib, liberate six more villages

27 February 2020

Syrian government forces, backed by allied fighters from popular defense groups, have retaken control of a number of villages in the southern countryside of the northwestern province of Idlib following clashes with foreign-backed Takfiri militants.

Syria’s official news agency SANA reported that Syrian army troops and their allies – supported by artillery and missile units – regained full control of six villages, namely al-Huwash, al-Amiqa, Tanjarah, al-Ankawi, Shirmaghar and al-Arima, on Thursday after they directly targeted militant strongholds and fortification lines there.

The Syrian military offensives incurred heavy losses on the terrorists in terms of military hardware and personnel, forcing scores of them to flee to neighboring areas for their lives.

Syrian government forces have launched an operation to capture those extremists.

Later in the day, Syrian soldiers seized the strategic Shahshabou mountain, and linked up with their counterparts advancing in Kafar Awid region of Hama province.

Syrian soldiers, Turkish-backed militants battle for control of strategic highway

Separately, Syrian soldiers and Turkish-backed militants were engaged in intense clashes over the control of the key M4 highway in Syria's northeastern province of al-Hasakah.

The highway connects the flashpoint town of Saraqeb with government-held western coastal city of Latakia.

SANA reported that the fierce skirmishes between the two sides resulted in the closure of the M5 highway that connects Aleppo province in the north with the capital Damascus in the south.

The Syrian army secured the road earlier this month and opened it for travel and trade purposes for the first time in eight years.

Syrian government troops captured Saraqeb from Turkish-backed militants on Feb. 6, which enabled the army to secure the M5.

Israeli drone strike kills civilian near Syria’s Golan Heights

Moreover, a civilian lost his life when an unmanned aerial vehicle belonging to the Israeli military launched an airstrike in Syria’s southwestern province of Quneitra near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

SANA reported that the victim was traveling in his car along a road in Hader village on Thursday, when the Israeli drone fired a missile, killing him on the spot.

Syria finds Turkish-made weapons in ex-militant redoubt

Additionally, Syrian government forces carried out a string of clean-up operations in the southern sector of the country, discovering a substantial amount of munitions and medical supplies from former strongholds of foreign-backed Takfiri terrorists.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/27/619650/Syrian-army-troops-continue-advancing-in-southern-Idlib,-liberate-six-more-villages

--------

 

Saudi ban on Umrah pilgrims backed by OIC, Arab health ministers

February 27, 2020

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s temporary ban on Umrah pilgrims, imposed as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the killer coronavirus, was on Thursday backed by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

The OIC’s General Secretariat stressed its full support for the Kingdom’s preventive measures aimed at protecting its citizens and worshippers intending to perform Umrah or visit the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.

In a statement, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the decision to suspend entry to the country for Umrah pilgrims was made to ensure public safety and stop the deadly virus, known as Covid-19, from spreading.

The common practice of foreign pilgrims visiting the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah before or after the completion of their religious duties in Makkah, had also been halted, the ministry added.

Approving the move, the OIC said: “The Kingdom’s decision to ban the entry of pilgrims temporarily will help preserve their safety. It comes in line with the adopted international standards and supports the efforts of states and international organizations, particularly the World Health Organization (WHO).”

The OIC’s view was on Thursday echoed by the Council of Arab Health Ministers at the end of its 53rd session being held at the Arab League’s headquarters.

Council members highlighted the importance of “boosting cooperation between Arab states to implement joint measures preventing the transmission of Covid-19 and supporting the affected states when discovering new cases.”

The health ministers also emphasized the necessity of making the most of the adoption of risk assessment systems and approaches for dealing with the virus outbreak among Arab states.

The council commended measures already taken by Arab countries, in accordance with WHO guidelines, to respond, prevent and fight the spread of the coronavirus. It pointed out the importance of promoting communication, the exchange of information, and continuous coordination between Arab League member states and their relevant health bodies and sectors.

However, chairman of the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s committee on hotels, Abdullah Filali, warned of tough times ahead for the holy city’s accommodation sector.

He told Arab News that with more than 1,300 hotels, Makkah was heading toward a difficult season with high financial losses if the Umrah ban continued and was extended until Ramadan.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian Minister of Religious Endowments Sheikh Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa, gave his support to the Saudi move. “The decision to ban Umrah visas is justified, as it intends to preserve the lives of pilgrims from a certain doom. The Saudi foreign ministry said that this measure is temporary and will be continuously re-evaluated,” he said.

“We all know that crowded places are more vulnerable to the spread of the virus, which was confirmed by the WHO’s reports. We ask Allah to save all humanity and protect Saudi Arabia and the rest of the world against all harm,” the minister added.

Sheikh Dr. Khalid Al-Halibi, director of the House of Expertise for Research and Social Studies, said: “We support our government’s decision which aims to preserve the lives and the well-being of the people. It is a necessary preventive measure that was appreciated by the professionals.”

The Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques announced its readiness to deal with any epidemic, saying it would provide all necessary information to pilgrims and had doubled cleaning schedules for courtyards and corridors at the Two Holy Mosques.

Highly qualified cadres used the latest cleaning and sterilization tools, said Jaber Widaani, director of the mosques’ department of disinfection and carpets, noting that 13,500 prayer rugs were swept and fragranced on a daily basis.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1634211/saudi-arabia

--------

 

North America

 

US grants Iran sanctions waiver to ease humanitarian aid via Swiss channel

28 February 2020

The United States has issued a license to permit some humanitarian trade transactions to be conducted with Iran's sanctioned central bank.

On Thursday, the US Department of the Treasury announced the Swiss Humanitarian Trade Agreement External link (SHTA) is fully operational, which means companies can now send food, medicine and other critical supplies to Iran.

This will “help ensure that humanitarian goods continue to reach the Iranian people,” said Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement, adding, “We thank our Swiss counterparts for their dedicated efforts in establishing the SHTA and we look forward to our continued collaboration.”

This comes after US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said last week that food and drug companies were very much interested in using the SHTA.

The SHTA began trial operations last month during which Novartis, a global healthcare company based in Switzerland, supplied Iran with €2.3 million worth of cancer medicines and medicines needed for organ transplants.

The SHTA aims to ensure that Swiss-based exporters and trading firms in the food, pharmaceutical and medical sectors have access to a secure payment channel with a Swiss bank, by means of which payments for their exports to Iran are guaranteed.

Although food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies are exempt from the sanctions imposed by Washington, the US measures, targeting everything from oil sales to shipping and financial activities, have deterred several foreign banks from doing business with Iran, including humanitarian deals.

In 2018, US President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from a 2015 international deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), reached between Iran and the 5+1 Group - the US, the UK, Russia, China, France, and Germany.

The US then returned its sanctions against Iran in defiance of the agreement’s multilateral nature and the fact that it had been ratified by the United Nations Security Council.

Washington then began forcing other parties to toe its sanctions line. The three European signatories to the JCPOA -- the UK, France and Germany -- have stopped their transactions with the Islamic Republic, bowing under the pressure.

Late in January 2019, the three countries unveiled a mechanism meant to safeguard their trade ties with Tehran in the face of the harsh US sanctions.

The mechanism officially called the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) is a non-dollar direct payment channel.

In its initial stage, INSTEX was supposed to facilitate trade of humanitarian goods such as medicine, food and medical devices, and later be expanded to cover other areas of trade, including Iran’s oil sales. However, it has not resulted in any trade deals so far.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/28/619676/US-Iran-sanctions-humanitarian-aid-Swiss

--------

 

Uncertainty looms ahead of US-Taliban deal signing

27 February 2020

Washington and the Taliban are set to sign a deal Saturday to secure America's exit from its longest war through gradually withdrawing troops and starting talks between Kabul and the militants.

The agreement will likely be heralded as marking the start of a hopeful new era for Afghanistan, which has seen 40 years of conflict.

But what happens next is anyone's guess, with questions swirling around the Taliban's intentions and Afghanistan once more in the grip of a political crisis threatening to plunge the impoverished country further into the abyss.

The accord, to be signed in Doha, comes after more than a year of talks between the Taliban and the US that faltered repeatedly as violence raged.

While the deal's contents have not been publicly disclosed, it is expected to see the Pentagon begin pulling troops from Afghanistan, where between 12,000 -13,000 are currently based.

The US has said an initial drawdown over the coming months would be to about 8,600 -- similar to the troop level President Donald Trump inherited after his 2016 election win.

Further reductions depend on how well the Taliban honor pledges to start talks with the government of President Ashraf Ghani — who until now they have dismissed as a US-backed puppet —  and seek a comprehensive "intra-Afghan" ceasefire and peace deal.

The militants are also supposed to guarantee Afghanistan is never again used by terrorists groups such as al-Qaeda and Daesh to plot foreign attacks — a concept even some of Trump's closest advisors remain deeply skeptical of.

Saturday's signing comes after a week-long, partial truce that has mostly held across Afghanistan aimed at building confidence between the warring parties and showing the Taliban can control their forces.

While isolated attacks have continued in rural areas, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that the truce period was "working."

"We're on the cusp of an enormous, enormous political opportunity," he said.

More than 100,000 Afghan civilians have been killed or injured over the past decade, according to the United Nations, and the conflict has cost the US taxpayer more than $1 trillion in military and rebuilding costs since the US-led invasion of 2001.

Uncertainty

As many as 30 nations are expected to be represented at Saturday's signing in the Qatari capital, although notably, the Afghanistan government will not send a delegate, an Afghan official told AFP.

"We are not part of these negotiations. We don't trust the Taliban," the official told AFP.

The continued hatred may not bode well for future talks.

Compounding tensions, Afghanistan is in the midst of a full-blown political crisis, with the US refusing to unequivocally endorse Ghani's re-election months after a poll that was marred by fraud allegations.

Trump has repeatedly vowed to bring US troops home and end America's "stupid" wars while bemoaning Washington's global "policeman" role.

But analysts warn any rush to leave Afghanistan could create an unmanageable situation.

Washington "will shoe-horn this through and they're going to declare victory and then whatever happens after that they'll say 'that's on the Afghans'," Colin Clarke, a researcher at the Soufan Center think tank, told AFP.

"What incentive do the Taliban have to stick to the agreement, particularly once they have what they want, which is US withdrawal?"

Mediated by Qatari diplomats, the talks were often marathon affairs — sometimes tense, sometimes respectful — that stretched long into the night.

Both sides had appeared to be on the verge of agreeing a deal after a grueling ninth round of talks ended in September.

But Trump torpedoed the process following the death of a US serviceman in a Kabul attack blamed on the Taliban.

He then astonished many by announcing he had invited the Taliban to the US presidential retreat at Camp David before scrapping the encounter.

His famed unpredictability could yet see the Doha plans up-ended, although Trump vowed to "put his name" on a deal if the partial truce endures.

Deputy Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani wrote in an editorial last week that "everyone has lost somebody they loved. Everyone is tired of war."

"I am convinced that the killing and the maiming must stop," he wrote in The New York Times.

But Clarke, the analyst, warned that Haqqani notably "didn't denounce Al-Qaeda" in the article, calling into question the Taliban's intention to go after terrorists.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/27/619632/Afghanistan-Taliban-conflict-US-peace-deal-Qatar

--------

 

US senator: Erdogan on right side in Idlib deadlock

Servet Günerigök  

28.02.2020

WASHINGTON

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio backed Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday amid an ongoing offensive in Syria’s Idlib province.   

Turkish troops have come under attack in recent weeks by Bashar al-Assad’s forces in the province, the scene of an offensive by regime forces backed by Russia.

Marco Rubio

@marcorubio

Re-upping my post from yesterday because today #Turkey suffered mass casualties after an air strike in #Syria.

A @NATO partner is on the verge of armed hostilities with #Russia. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/27/world/middleeast/russia-turkey-syria-war-strikes.html?referringSource=articleShare … https://twitter.com/marcorubio/status/1232792866596016128 …

Turkish military forces in Syria’s Idlib Province this week. The attack on Thursday took place south of Idlib City.

Russia Strikes Turkish Forces in Syria, Turkey Says

The Turkish army suffered mass casualties in a Russian airstrike, Turkish officials say, an attack that could dramatically shift the course of the Syrian war.

nytimes.com

Marco Rubio

@marcorubio

The prospects of a direct military confrontation between #Turkey & #Russia in #Syria are very high & increasing by the hour.#Erdogan is on the right side here.#Putin & #Assad are responsible for this horrific humanitarian catastrophe.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/syrias-carnage-nears-a-horrific-climax/2020/02/25/ed98be9c-5730-11ea-9b35-def5a027d470_story.html …

341

4:23 AM - Feb 28, 2020

Twitter Ads info and privacy

362 people are talking about this

On Twitter, Rubio, a Florida Republican, said the “prospects of a direct military confrontation between Turkey and Russia in Syria are very high & increasing by the hour.”

“Erdogan is on the right side here,” he wrote, referring to the deadlock where hundreds of Syrians are on the brink of being killed or displaced. 

He said Russian President Vladimir Putin and Assad are responsible for the “horrific humanitarian catastrophe” in Idlib.

According to UN officials, some 900,000 people have been displaced by the offensive since December. 

In the latest attack, a total of 29 Turkish troops were martyred by an airstrike in Idlib, and Turkey has vowed to retaliate against the “illegitimate” Syrian regime, said the country’s Communications Director Fahrettin Altun.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-senator-erdogan-on-right-side-in-idlib-deadlock/1747803

--------

 

US senator calls for no-fly zone in Syria's Idlib

Michael Gabriel Hernandez 

27.02.2020

WASHINGTON

Senior U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham called for the implementation of a no-fly zone in northwestern Syria's Idlib province Thursday amid a regime offensive backed by Russia and Iran on the rebel stronghold. 

Graham called the situation in the region "one of the greatest humanitarian disasters in decades" that he said "needs to come to an end."

“The world is sitting on its hands and watching the destruction of Idlib by Assad, Iran, and the Russians," he said in a statement, referring to the head of the regime and his allies.

"I very much appreciate Turkey’s intervention in Idlib. It is now time for the international community to establish a no-fly zone to save thousands of innocent men, women, and children from a horrible death," he added.

Addressing U.S. President Donald Trump directly, the senator from the state of Kentucky said "it is in our national security interest to stop the slaughter and get ahead of a humanitarian crisis that could see millions of additional refugees flow out of Syria, creating further chaos."

The UN estimates the regime offensive has displaced 900,000 people since it began in December.

In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

But more than 1,800 civilians have been killed in attacks by regime and Russian forces since then, flouting a 2018 cease-fire and a new one that began in January.

More than 1.7 million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border due to intense attacks in the past year.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-senator-calls-for-no-fly-zone-in-syrias-idlib/1747447

--------

 

US: Syrian offensive devoid of fighting terrorism

Michael Hernandez

27.02.2020

WASHINGTON

The U.S. on Wednesday slammed the Syrian regime and its allies' stated reasoning for their ongoing campaign in Idlib province, denying any sort of interest on their part in fighting terrorism

"The Assad regime’s interest in Idlib has nothing to do with fighting terrorists that are there, and everything to do with re-establishing control over territory and subjecting the civilian population there to the sort of brutality we’ve come to expect from that regime," Nathan Sales, the State Department's counterterrorism coordinator, told reporters.

"And the same goes for the Assad regime’s outside enablers. They’re not concerned about fighting terrorists. They’re concerned about re-establishing hegemony,” he added.

The Syrian regime, backed by Russian air power and Iranian troops, launched its campaign to re-take Idlib province from opposition groups in December.

The warring that has since transpired has displaced some 900,000 people, according to UN estimates.

Mark Lowcock, the UN's humanitarian chief, has described the situation in northwestern Syria as unprecedentedly "horrific."

"I haven't seen anything really as horrific as what's happening now in northwestern Syria. And people are out in the cold in the mud, babies are dying, and every day, we're getting reports of this violence," Lowcock told Anadolu Agency last week.

Idlib, near Turkey's southern border, falls within a de-escalation zone laid out in a deal between Turkey and Russia in late 2018.

The Syrian regime and its allies, however, have consistently broken the terms of the ceasefire, launching frequent attacks inside the territory, where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

David Schenker, the State Department's top official for the Middle East, told reporters that not only is the situation "atrocious," it is deliberate.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-syrian-offensive-devoid-of-fighting-terrorism/1746267

--------

 

Europe

 

UN rights chief concerned by India violence

Peter Kenny  

27.02.2020

GENEVA

The UN’s top human rights official on Thursday raised concerns over Indian authorities' failure to stop attacks against Muslims in the country.

Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, was giving an oral update at the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council at the UN’s European headquarters in Geneva.

She said the Citizenship Amendment Act passed by India last December was “of great concern.”

"Indians in huge numbers, and from all communities have expressed -- in a mostly peaceful manner -- their opposition to the act, and support for the country's long tradition of secularism,” she said.

For over a month, thousands of Indians have been protesting the law, which makes it easier for non-Muslims from regional countries to get Indian citizenship but excludes Muslims from its beneficiaries.

Clashes between pro- and anti-citizenship law protesters in New Delhi started on Sunday and devolved into communal violence that claimed at least 34 lives as of Thursday morning.

"I am concerned by reports of police inaction in the face of attacks against Muslims by other groups, as well as previous reports of excessive use of force by police against peaceful protesters," said Bachelet.

“This has now widened into broader inter-communal attacks, with 34 people killed since Sunday. I appeal to all political leaders to prevent violence.”

Palestine and Saudi Arabia

Bachelet said the loss of lives and injuries caused by Israeli forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was another “source of concern.”

“The loss of life in 2019, and the thousands injured by use of live ammunition by Israeli forces -- including many children -- are a source of concern. Plans for new Israeli settlements in the occupied territory more than doubled in the past year. Settlements on occupied land are illegal under international law,” the UN human rights commissioner said.

She said the illegal expansion has been accompanied “by the highest level of settler violence against Palestinians since 2013.”

“I am troubled by increasing restrictions of the civic space in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, where human rights defenders and political opponents are being targeted with arrests, travel bans, ill-treatment, smear campaigns, administrative sanctions and obstructions to funding,” she added.

Turning to Saudi Arabia, Bachelet called for a transparent investigation and “comprehensive accountability” for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi, a contributor to The Washington Post, was killed at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018. After initially denying responsibility, Saudi officials blamed his death on a botched rendition attempt. International authorities have said the truth about the murder has yet to be revealed.

The UN rights chief urged Saudi Arabia to seize the opportunity of this year's G20 Summit in Riyadh and “demonstrate progress in implementing its international human rights obligations.”

“I encourage legislative frameworks to uphold freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association for all, and reviews of the judgments of those who have been convicted for expressing their opinions -- including human rights defenders, religious leaders, and journalists,” she said.

Bachelet also called for the release of several women who have been detained by Saudi authorities for their legitimate demand for “reforms of discriminatory policies in the country.”

China's Uighur Muslims 

The UN rights chief also urged Beijing to provide an advance team “unfettered access” to the Muslim-majority Xinjiang region to prepare for her visit later this year. 

“I welcome the invitation by the Chinese government for me to visit China this year, including Xinjiang. We will continue to request unfettered access for an advance team in preparation for this proposed visit,” said Bachelet. 

“We will seek to analyze in depth the human rights situation in China, including the situation of members of the Uighur minority.” 

Her comment came a day after China’s ambassador to the UN said Beijing was looking forward to Bachelet’s visit and working on finalizing arrangements. 

Chen Xu also dismissed criticism of China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims, describing it as “groundless accusations” by certain Western countries. 

China’s western Xinjiang region is home to around 10 million Uighurs. The Turkic Muslim group, which makes up around 45% of Xinjiang’s population, has long accused Chinese authorities of cultural, religious, and economic discrimination. 

In a report last September, Human Rights Watch accused China of carrying out a “systematic campaign of human rights violations” against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

China denies the charges, claiming Uighurs are being educated at “vocational training centers.”

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/un-rights-chief-concerned-by-india-violence/1747209

--------

 

Russian govt orders suspension of visas to Iranian citizens: RIA

28 February 2020

The Russian government ordered its foreign ministry to suspend the issuance of visas to Iranian citizens amid concerns about the deadly coronavirus, RIA news agency reported on Friday.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/02/28/Russian-govt-orders-suspension-of-visas-to-Iranian-citizens-RIA.html

--------

 

UN: Myanmar's Rohingya Subject to Increased Prejudice, Violence

By Lisa Schlein

February 27, 2020

GENEVA - The United Nations says Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar are experiencing an upsurge in violations and abuse fueled by prejudice and hate speech.  The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights submitted a report on the root causes of abuse in Myanmar to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Introducing the report, U.N. rights chief Michele Bachelet said laws and policies promoting discrimination and exclusion against religious and ethnic minorities in Myanmar have existed for more than half a century.

“They have contributed to and perpetuated violence, extreme poverty, exploitation and dispossession. Notably, the 1982 citizenship law rendered stateless a significant proportion of the Rohingya and other Muslims, compounding their vulnerability,” Bachelet said.

Oppression of the stateless Muslim minority peaked in August 2017. That was when violence and persecution, reported killings and rapes by the Myanmar military triggered a mass exodus of more than 700,000 Rohingya to Bangladesh.

Bachelet said other ethnic and religious minorities across Myanmar also suffer serious human rights violations at the hands of the military. She said its counter-insurgency policies and tactics at times have deliberately targeted civilians.

“The recent upsurge of xenophobia and violence can also be partly attributed to the stresses and uncertainties of Myanmar’s current transition from decades of authoritarian rule. The dramatic expansion of public access to social media has enabled extremist and ultra-nationalist movements to propagate messages inciting hatred and violence, fueling communal tensions,” the U.N. rights chief said.

Bachelet urged Myanmar’s government to de-escalate xenophobic, discriminatory practices and to promote inter-faith and inter-ethnic tolerance.

Myanmar’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Kyaw Moe Tun, said his government’s efforts to achieve national reconciliation and peace with ethnic armed groups are advancing.  But he added that transforming the country from authoritarian rule into a democratic federal union takes time. 

He said his government is concerned about the conflict in Rakhine state and those affected by it, but disclaimed responsibility for the events that triggered the exodus of the Rohingya. 

Full report at:

https://www.voanews.com/east-asia-pacific/un-myanmars-rohingya-subject-increased-prejudice-violence

--------

 

New Zealand confirms first case of deadly coronavirus in traveller from Iran

28 February 2020

New Zealand confirmed its first coronavirus case Friday, saying a recent arrival from Iran who travelled to Auckland via Bali had tested positive.

Health officials said the person, aged in their 60s, was being treated in Auckland City Hospital.

“They are in an improving condition in isolation, in a negative pressure room to prevent any spread of the disease,” the health department said in a statement.

Officials said the person, reportedly a female New Zealand citizen, arrived in Auckland on Wednesday and family members went to the hospital after becoming concerned about the individual’s condition.

The officials urged any passengers on Wednesday’s final leg of the Emirates airline journey, which goes from Bali to Auckland, to contact authorities if they were concerned.

However, authorities downplayed the risk to the public saying the situation was being well managed.

“Although we have our first case of COVID-19, the chances of community outbreak remain low,” the statement said.

Earlier, Health Minister David Clark said New Zealand was introducing strict travel bans on arrivals from Iran similar to those already imposed on arrivals from China.

He said the action was taken after a spike in infections in Iran, where the virus has killed 26 people, the highest death toll outside China – and because of the unreliable information coming out of the Islamic republic.

“Obviously this situation in Iran is concerning, there is ongoing spread of the disease there and a large degree of uncertainty about the scale of the outbreak and the ability to contain it,” he told reporters.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/02/28/New-Zealand-confirms-first-case-of-deadly-coronavirus-in-traveler-from-Iran-.html

--------

 

NATO chief condemns attacks by Syrian regime, Russia in Idlib

Serife Cetin  

28.02.2020

BRUSSELS

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Friday condemned the attacks carried out by the Bash al-Assad regime and its supporter Russia in Idlib, northwestern Syria. 

Stoltenberg has also called for an end to the attacks, NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu told Anadolu Agency.

He also called on the Syrian regime and its supporter Russia to comply with international law and support the peace efforts of the United Nations.

“By defusing the tension, all sides should prevent this terrible situation and humanitarian conditions in the region from getting worse,” he said.

At least 29 Turkish soldiers were martyred and 36 others injured in an airstrike by the Bashar al-Assad regime in Idlib, northwestern Syria, on late Thursday.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/nato-chief-condemns-attacks-by-syrian-regime-russia-in-idlib/1747796

--------

 

Germany urges Syria, Russia to protect Idlib civilians

Servet Günerigök  

27.02.2020

WASHINGTON

German foreign minister demanded the Syrian regime and Russia protect civilians in Idlib. 

Heiko Mass told the UN Security Council that UN officials have described conditions in the province where people are freezing to death and attacks on civilians are "cruel beyond belief" in a scene of an ongoing offensive that has left hundreds of thousands displaced.

"Germany calls on Syrian regime and Russia to listen to these voices, [and] to stop ignoring the facts. As parties to the conflict, they have an obligation to protect civilians," said Mass.

He said the regime and Russia are instead bombing schools and hospitals.

"Indiscriminate attacks on civilians are war crimes and those responsible must be held accountable," he added.

A humanitarian cease-fire is essential, said the top German diplomat.

Idlib, near Turkey's southern border, falls within a de-escalation zone laid out in a deal between Turkey and Russia in late 2018.

The Syrian regime and its allies, however, have consistently broken the terms of the cease-fire, launching frequent attacks inside the territory, where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

The de-escalation zone is currently home to 4 million civilians, including hundreds of thousands displaced in recent years by regime forces throughout the war-torn country.

Some 1 million Idlib refugees have moved towards the Turkish border in recent months, fleeing attacks by the Assad regime and its allies, which caused a desperate humanitarian situation.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/germany-urges-syria-russia-to-protect-idlib-civilians/1747211

--------

 

Mideast

 

Europe's 50 ex-FMs, leaders say Trump 'deal of century' akin to ‘apartheid’

27 February 2020

Fifty former European foreign ministers and leaders have strongly lambasted as akin to “apartheid’ the so-called “deal of the century” plan recently proposed by US President Donald Trump as a solution to longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

In a strong-worded letter published by the Guardian on Thursday, the European figures – including former premiers and senior ministers – urged action to oppose the plan, which is titled “Peace to Prosperity” and commonly known as Trump’s “deal of the century.”

“The plan contradicts internationally agreed parameters for the Middle East peace process, relevant UN resolutions, including Security Council resolution 2334, and the most fundamental principles of international law,” the letter said, stressing that the details of the scheme was similar to “apartheid.”

Trump infuriated Palestinians last month, when he unveiled his much-delayed “deal of the century” during an event at the White House alongside Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Palestinian groups have unanimously rejected Trump’s one-sided plan, which largely meets Israel’s demands in the decades-old conflict with the Palestinians while envisioning a Palestinian state with limited control over its own security and borders.

The so-called “peace” plan enshrines Jerusalem al-Quds as “Israel’s undivided capital” and allows the regime to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank and the Jordan Valley. The plan also denies the right of return for Palestinian refugees to their homeland, among other controversial terms.

“The map featured in the plan proposes Palestinian enclaves under permanent Israeli military control, which evoke chilling associations with South Africa’s Bantustans,” the letter further stated.

In conclusion, the signatories urged Europe to reject the US plan to pave the way for negotiations and take urgent and effective steps to eliminate the threat of annexation of Palestinian territories by the Israeli regime.

They also said that considering the urgency of the situation they called to action from “the international community, particularly the European Union”, in a bid to “preserve the dignity and rights of the Palestinians.”

The signatories of the joint letter are as follows:

Douglas Alexander Former minister of state for Europe and secretary of state for international development, United Kingdom

Ben Bradshaw Former minister of state for the Middle East, United Kingdom

Gro Harlem Brundtland Former prime minister, Norway

John Bruton Former prime minister, Ireland

Micheline Calmy-Rey Former foreign minister and president, Switzerland

Ingvar Carlsson Former prime minister, Sweden

Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz Former foreign minister and prime minister, Poland

Daniel Cohn-Bendit Former co-president of the Greens-European Free Alliance group in the European Parliament, Germany

Joe Costello Former minister of state for trade and development and chair of the European affairs committee, Ireland

Willy Claes Former foreign minister and Nato secretary general, Belgium

Massimo d’Alema Former foreign minister and prime minister, Italy

Teresa Patrício de Gouveia Former foreign minister, Portugal

Dominique de Villepin Former foreign minister and prime minister, France

Ruth Dreifuss Former foreign minister and president, Switzerland

Alan Duncan Former minister of state for Europe and the Americas, and minister of state for international development, United Kingdom

Espen Barth Eide Former foreign minister, Norway

Jan Eliasson Former foreign minister and UN general assembly president, Sweden

Uffe Ellemann-Jensen Former foreign minister and president of the European Liberals, Denmark

Benita Ferrero-Waldner Former foreign minister and European commissioner for external relations, Austria

Sigmar Gabriel Former foreign minister and vice-chancellor, Germany

Peter Hain Former minister of state for the Middle East, United Kingdom

Lena Hjelm-Wallén Former foreign minister and deputy prime minister, Sweden

Trinidad Jiménez Former foreign minister, Spain

Tom Kitt Former minister of state for overseas development and human rights, Ireland

Bert Koenders Former foreign minister, the Netherlands

Martin Liedegaard Former foreign minister, Denmark

Mogens Lykketoft Former foreign minister and UN general assembly president, Denmark

Sven Mikser Former foreign minister, Estonia

Per Stig Møller Former foreign minister, Denmark

Holger K Nielsen Former foreign minister, Denmark

Andrzej Olechowski Former foreign minister, Poland

Marc Otte Former EU special representative to the Middle East peace process, Belgium

Chris Patten Former vice-president of the European commission, United Kingdom

Hans-Gert Pöttering Former president of the European parliament, Germany

Jacques Poos Former foreign minister, Luxembourg

Vesna Pusić Former foreign minister and deputy prime minister, Croatia

Mary Robinson Former president and United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Ireland

Jacques Santer Former prime minister and president of the European commission, Luxembourg

Karel Schwarzenberg Former foreign minister and deputy prime minister, Czech Republic

Robert Serry Former UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, the Netherlands

Javier Solana Former foreign minister, Nato secretary general and EU high representative for common foreign and security policy, Spain

Michael Spindelegger Former foreign minister and vice-chancellor, Austria

Jack Straw Former foreign secretary, United Kingdom

Gareth Thomas Former minister of state for international development, United Kingdom

Erkki Tuomioja Former foreign minister, Finland

Ivo Vajgl Former foreign minister, Slovenia

Jozias van Aartsen Former foreign minister, the Netherlands

Frank Vandenbroucke Former foreign minister, Belgium

Hubert Védrine Former foreign minister, France

Sayeeda Warsi Former cabinet minister and Foreign Office minister for the United Nations, human rights and the ICC, United Kingdom

Trump’s plan has triggered waves of protest rallies both across the Palestinian occupied territories and around the globe.

The Palestinian Authority, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, wants the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinians state, with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital. The continued expansion of Israeli settlements is one of the major obstacles to the establishment of peace in the Middle East.

Abbas has already severed ties between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli regime as well as the US in reaction to Trump’s highly-provocative scheme.

Apart from the Palestinian leaders, many other international blocs and organizations, including the European Union, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and the African Union, have rejected Trump’s plan.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/27/619657/Palestine-Europe-letter-Trump-Israel-deal-of-century-PA-West-Bank-apartheid

--------

 

Iran’s virus death toll reaches 26, Tehran’s Friday prayers cancelled

February 27, 2020

DUBAI: Iran said on Thursday its death toll from coronavirus had risen to 26 and the total number of infected people now stood at 245, the highest number of deaths from the virus outside China.

The outbreak prompted authorities to call off the Friday prayer in Tehran, state TV later reported, while state news agency IRNA said Iran has banned Chinese citizens from entering the country.

“In the last 24 hours, we have had 106 (new) confirmed cases … The death toll has reached 26,” Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur told state TV, calling on Iranians to avoid “unnecessary trips inside the country”.

Jahanpur said there were plans to impose some restrictions at holy Shi’ite Muslim sites and cancel some sermons on Friday, the Islamic Republic’s traditional day of public prayer.

“But it needs the approval of the president before being carried out,” he said, adding that hundreds of those suspect of being infected by the virus had recovered and been discharged from hospital.

Meanwhile, Iran‘s Foreign Ministry said “some 20,000 coronavirus test kits and some other material” will be delivered to Iran on Friday from China.

“A Mahan Airplane will transfer this cargo, which has been prepared by China’s Red Crescent, to Iran,” said the ministry’s spokesman Abbas Mousavi, according to state TV.

Authorities, including President Hassan Rouhani, said on Wednesday that Iran had no plans to quarantine any “cities and districts” despite the sharp rise in numbers in a short time.

Officials announced Iran’s first deaths and infections from the coronavirus as recently as last week.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/world/2020/02/27/irans-coronavirus-death-toll-reaches-26-tehrans-friday-prayers-cancelled/

--------

 

Iran’s former envoy to Vatican Hadi Khosroshahi dies of coronavirus

28 February 2020

Iran’s former Ambassador to Vatican Sayyed Hadi Khosroshahi has died on Thursday of the novel coronavirus infection, Iranian news media, including the official IRNA news agency reported.

Khosroshahi had been hospitalized in Tehran's Masih Daneshvari hospital on Wednesday.

Khosrowshahi was a prominent figure in the Qom seminary and was a representative of Ayatollah Khomeini in the Ministry of Islamic Guidance after the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979. After two years became the Ambassador of the Islamic Republic to the Vatican.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/28/Iran-s-former-envoy-to-Vatican-Hadi-Khosroshahi-dies-of-coronavirus.html

--------

 

Iranian Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar tests positive for coronavirus: Report

27 February 2020

Iranian Vice President for Women and Family Affairs Masoumeh Ebtekar has tested positive for coronavirus, the state-run daily IRAN reported.

Ebtekar is the first member of President Hassan Rouahni’s cabinet to be infected with the novel coronavirus.

Earlier today, the chairman of the Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign affairs committee Mojtaba Zolnour announced in a video that he had also been infected with the disease.

Two other Iranian officials – Member of Parliament Mahmoud Sadeghi and Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi – have also previously confirmed that they have been infected with the disease.

State media also reported on Thursday that Iranian cleric Hadi Khosroshahi died from coronavirus in Qom.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/27/Iranian-Vice-President-Masoumeh-Ebtekar-tests-positive-for-coronavirus-Report.html

--------

 

Mystery Iranian with coronavirus travels across China: Reports

27 February 2020

An unknown Iranian person with coronavirus traveled across several Chinese provinces, according to Chinese authorities cited by media reports, prompting officials to search for anyone who came into contact with the person to stop further spread of the deadly virus.

Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan but has since spread globally and killed at least 2,800 people. This week Iran emerged as the second center of the virus, with one MP claiming that 50 people have died in the city of Qom alone, and Iranian passengers spreading the virus to nearby countries including Bahrain and Kuwait.

The Iranian could be the first known case of a non-Chinese person potentially bringing the coronavirus back to China.

CGTN

@CGTNOfficial

Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region of NW China reports an imported case of #COVID19 in which the patient was traveling from Iran. The local health authority is looking for the patient's close contacts.

View image on Twitter

294

6:35 PM - Feb 26, 2020

Twitter Ads info and privacy

187 people are talking about this

Chinese media and CNN’s China Bureau Chief Eunice Yoon described the case as “imported,” suggesting that the Iranian had brought the virus back to China from Iran.

Eunice Yoon

@onlyyoontv

Beijing starting to see #coronavirus cases imported back to #China. #Ningxia region reports case of patient who came from #Iran. Local officials say person traveled Feb 19 then went to Moscow, Shanghai, Lanzhou, Ningxia. Wore a mask. Authorities looking for close contacts.

188

10:15 AM - Feb 27, 2020

Twitter Ads info and privacy

139 people are talking about this

According to Reuters, the patient was diagnosed in Zhongwei, a city in the northwestern region of Ningxia. However, local authorities said that they first arrived by flight to Shanghai, before traveling the around 2,000-kilometer journey by train via the city of Lanzhou.

Authorities in Shanghai were seeking anyone who the person had come into contact with on Thursday. The local government announced it was still investigating the case and would ensure that all the places the patient visited were disinfected, reported Reuters.

None of the provinces the man traveled to have numbers of cases anywhere near as high as Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Niangxia province, where the person was diagnosed, had only reported 72 cases of coronavirus as of Thursday morning, according to data from Hong Kong's Department of Health, Centre for Health Protection.

Shanghai, where the person arrived and boarded the train, has had 337 cases, with three dead, while Gansu, where the person changed train, had 91 cases with two dead.

Coronavirus spreading from Iran, South Korea, Italy

The report adds to the concern that while the World Health Organization has said the epidemic in China has already peaked, it is continuing to spread via countries with significant cases including Iran, South Korea, Italy, and Japan.

Iran had reported 22 deaths and 141 confirmed cases of infection as of Wednesday, with travel from Iran spreading the virus to nearby Bahrain and Kuwait.

Iran's official death toll is already the second highest outside of China, but has been disputed after an Iranian MP alleged that 50 people had died of the virus in the city of Qom, prompting concern over the accuracy of the official numbers.

“The United States is deeply concerned by information indicating the Iranian regime may have suppressed vital details about the outbreak in that country,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters on Tuesday.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/coronavirus/2020/02/27/Mystery-Iranian-with-coronavirus-travels-across-China-Reports.html

--------

 

Three more Turkish soldiers killed in Syria’s Idlib: Erdogan

 27 February 2020

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday three more Turkish soldiers had been killed in Syria’s Idlib region, where Turkey’s military is backing Syrian opposition fighters against government forces, but that developments there were turning in Ankara’s favor.

“We have three martyrs, let them rest in peace. But on the other hand, the regime’s losses are very big,” Erdogan said in a speech. Including the latest three deaths, 21 members of the Turkish forces have been killed in Idlib this month.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/27/Three-more-Turkish-soldiers-killed-in-Syria-s-Idlib-Erdogan.html

--------

 

Israel urges citizens, residents against travel abroad amid coronavirus outbreak

27 February 2020

The Israeli government urged its citizens and residents on Thursday against traveling abroad in general amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“There is a high chance that the [infection] has spread in other regions in Europe and in many other parts of the world,” Israel’s Health Ministry said in a Twitter thread. “We urge the public to consider the need for travel abroad in general.”

Anyone returning to Israel and has been to Italy within the past 14 days will be placed in quarantine for another two weeks from the date of arrival, according to the Health Ministry.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/27/Israel-urges-citizens-residents-against-travel-abroad-amid-coronavirus-outbreak.html

--------

 

Chinese nationals banned from Iran amid coronavirus outbreak

27 February 2020

Iranian authorities have decided to impose an outright ban on arrivals of all Chinese nationals into the country amid a sudden surge in coronavirus cases that has led to more than two dozen deaths.

The official IRNA news agency said in a Thursday report that arrival restrictions would apply to all Chinese nationals seeking to enter Iran.

The report said the decision had been adopted by Iran’s Immigration and Passport Police and would be enforced in all airports and points of entry, including the Imam Khomeini airport located outside the capital Tehran.

The ban comes despite recent statistics showing the China has managed to weather a peak of coronavirus outbreak in the country more than a month after it began in the central city of Wuhan.

The number of new cases reported in mainland China on Thursday was for a first time lower than the rest of the world.

More than 2,700 people have died in China as a result of the infection, most of them in the central Hubei province.

Iran stopped passenger flights to China in early February in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus. However, authorities said last week when a first case was reported in the central city of Qom that people routinely travelling to China for businesses purposes had used indirect flights during the outbreak. 

Iranian health ministry said on Thursday that the number of coronavirus cases confirmed in the country had reached 245, adding that a total of 26 people had died.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/27/619644/Iran-coronavirus-outbreak-ban-Chinese-nationals

--------

 

Health Ministry: More Iranian coronavirus patients discharged from hospital

27 February 2020

An Iranian Health Ministry official says despite the surging number of coronavirus cases across the country, more patients have recovered and been released from the hospital during past days, depicting a promising prognosis for Iranians contracting coronavirus infection.

“In Qom and other provinces, including Tehran and Gilan, more people with coronavirus and those suspected of the disease have been released from hospital after complete treatment,” Kianoush Jahanpour, the head of public relations and information center of the Iranian Ministry of Health, said on Thursday.

In addition to the 30 people, whose release was announced yesterday, as many as 22 more were discharged today, he said.

The country, the official said, has begun a far-and-wide search aimed at identifying the patients. As of Friday, as many as 15 laboratories will be performing diagnosis of suspected patients, he said, noting that the number of these facilities will increase to 22 in the upcoming week, and could reach 40 in the weeks that would follow.

Jahanpour said the increase in the number of the laboratories has helped identify 106 cases of infection since Wednesday, adding that seven more people had died from the virus in the same time span.

“Therefore, there are a total of 245 people across the country, who have been found to be definitely infected with the virus, and 26 have so far lost their lives to the infection,” the official announced.

Among the newly-diagnosed patients, thirty-eight people are from Tehran, 23 from the northern province of Gilan, and eight from the central province of Isfahan, he noted. The north-central city of Qom, and the northern Mazandaran Province each have seven cases, while the northwestern Ardabil Province contains five cases, Jahnpour said.

Alborz Province that borders Tehran Province, the northern Semnan Province, and the western province of Lorestan have each reported three patients, and Kermanshah, another western province, and the northwestern East Azarbaijan Province contain two cases each, he reported.

There is one case per province in the western provinces of Hamedan and Kordestan, the northeastern Khorasan Razavi Province, the northwestern West Azarbaijan Province, and the central province of Yazd, the official said.

Jahnpour urged the public to reduce the number of their intra-urban and inter-urban trips and avoid gatherings that could contribute to the disease’s spread.

The virus — named COVID-19 — first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year and is now spreading in Europe and across the Middle East, sparking fears of a global pandemic.

Around 2,800 people have died in China and more than 80,000 have been infected. There have been more than 50 deaths and 3,600 cases in dozens of other countries, raising fears of a pandemic.

In Iran, the virus showed up in the north-central city of Qom, a destination for Muslim pilgrims from across the world.

Iranian medical officials have assured that Iran would, in the near future, rein in the outbreak, noting that the condition of many patients diagnosed with the virus had improved.

The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), Iran’s elite defense force, has expressed preparedness to help fight the outbreak, and Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami has assigned his Ministry's subsidiary organizations with the task of mass-producing liquid disinfectants and protective masks, which are currently in high demand as Iranians want to take protective measures to guard against the virus.

The country has, meanwhile, announced the closure of universities, and the government is to decide on the closure of schools on Friday.

Moreover, health centers have been tasked with distributing protective face masks.

Jahanpour said screening process has gone underway at the entrance to some cities, adding that suspected cases would be quarantined for a space of 14 days.

He described most of the fatalities as people above 60 years of age, those suffering from chronic illnesses, or those taking medicines that suppresses their immune system. People suffering from diabetes, pulmonary diseases, asthma, and autoimmune diseases have also been found among these victims, he added, but did not rule out existence of exceptions, whether concerning the victims’ age or their description, among those who have succumbed to the virus.

‘20,000 diagnostic kits heading for Iran’

Also on Thursday, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi said around 20,000 testing kits, made in cooperation joining the Chinese government and its Red Cross, were to be freighted to the Islamic Republic by air on Friday.

Right after the emergence of the outbreak, the Foreign Ministry placed examining its international aspects, including provision of the required medical supplies, on its agenda, he said.

“Within this framework, the country has pursued receiving voluntary aid from friendly states,” Mousavi said, noting, “This process is gradually being finalized.”

On Wednesday, President Hassan Rouhani also said coronavirus testing kits developed by Iranian experts were undergoing final tests and would enter the mass-production stage in the near future.

Friday prayers called off

The country’s Friday Prayers Policymaking Council, meanwhile, released a statement, calling off this week’s prayers in 23 cities, including Tehran, the shrine cities of Qom and Mashhad, and a number of other provincial centers.

The Council also said the prayers would not take place in other cities that have been declared as “sensitive points” by their respective provincial governors and deans of provincial medical universities through written statements.

Baqer Pishnamazi, head of Tehran Friday Prayers Headquarters, said the Council will soon release a statement addressing the conduct of the prayers in coming weeks, adding that it was yet to be decided and announced whether the prayers would go underway in the weeks that follow.

WHO: Iran has ‘high clinical capacity’ to manage patients

In a related development on Thursday, Director general of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reflected on the rising rate of coronavirus infection in Iran, saying, however, that the rising number of cases in the Islamic Republic does not have “anything to do with clinical care.”

Speaking to reporters in Geneva, Switzerland, Ghebreyesus said, "There is a very high clinical capacity for managing severely ill patients in Iran, so I don't suspect this has anything to do with clinical care. I suspect this is more to do with surveillance and detection of cases."

Also present in the press conference was Michael Ryan, head of WHO's health emergencies program, who said, "The most likely factor is that obviously this disease came unseen and undetected into Iran; so the extent of infection may be broader than what we are seeing."

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/27/619647/Iran-coronavirus-recovery-deaths-infections

--------

 

Israel approves 1,800 settler units as elections near

27 February 2020

Israel gives the green light for construction of close to 1,800 new settler units in the illegal settlements it has built across the occupied West Bank, in a move apparently aimed at securing votes for scandal-hit Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of upcoming elections.

The High Planning Subcommittee of Israel's so-called Civil Administration issued the approval on Thursday, acting on a proposal by Israel’s minister for military affairs, Naftali Bennett, The Jerusalem Post reported.

He swore he would “not give one inch of land” to the Palestinians, saying, “We authorized many units in the settlements and we will continue to do so in the future.”

Thursday’s session came less than two months after the previous one, “marking an increase in the frequency of the committee’s meetings,” The Times of Israel wrote.

It cited Shabtay Bendet from the Peace Now settlement watchdog as saying it appeared that Netanyahu was trying to court voters in the run-up to the parliamentary polls that have been scheduled for Monday. The elections, the third one to take place in a year, will see Israelis’ deciding whether the premier, who has been indicted in a corruption scandal, should remain in office for a fifth term.

The settler units include 620 ones in the central West Bank settlement of Eli, where the regime’s supreme court would for long disallow serious development owing to repeated petitions lodged by the Palestinians. The court, however, officially sided with the settlers last week.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu also announced that he had ordered the promotion of a plan for some 3,500 homes in the contentious E1 area that is located between East Jerusalem al-Quds in the West Bank and Ma’ale Adumim settlement that effectively bisects the occupied Palestinian territory. Tel Aviv had long stopped short of advancing construction in the area amid widespread international condemnation.

Netanyahu announced last week that he had lifted restrictions on the construction of the controversial Givat Hamatos neighborhood in East al-Quds, which the Palestinians want as the capital of their future state. He said 3,000 settlers units would be built in the area.

The approvals revving up Israel’s construction activities in E1 and Givat Hamatos attracted widespread criticism even among Israel’s close allies in Europe, with German, French, Spanish, Italian, Swedish, Irish, Dutch, and British ambassadors to Tel Aviv communicating their objections.

German Ambassador Susanne Wasum-Rainer wrote in a tweet that she and the other envoys had conveyed “their grave concern about announcements of the Israeli authorities regarding new settlement units in the occupied West Bank & East Jerusalem” al-Quds.

Israel has become more brazen in its efforts to trample upon Palestinians’ rights since the 2016 election of US President Donald Trump, who has unprecedentedly intensified Washington’s support for the regime.

Trump has recognized Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital,” relocating the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy occupied city, and announcing a scheme that allows the regime to annex the land on which it has been building the illegal settlements.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/27/619664/Israel-settler-units-West-Bank-elections-Netanyahu

--------

 

Southeast Asia

 

PAS MP rejects Anwar, Dr M’s unity government

27 Feb 2020

BY JUSTIN ONG

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 27 — PAS MP Nik Mohamad Abduh Nik Abdul Aziz claimed PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim cannot be prime minister as his supporters were mostly non-Muslims.

He claimed the government that would fulfil Malaysians’ aspiration must be dominated by Malay-Muslims, which he said also ruled out any so-called unity government.

“It is also the same with Tun Dr Mahathir (Mohamad’s) reconciliation government proposal. It, through individual appointments rather than by party, is seen as robbing the soul and purpose of political parties.

“Islam and Malays might fail to be prioritised in such a government,” he said in a statement posted on Harakahdaily.

The Bachok MP then said the best solution would be to hold an early general election unless the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is able to provide a better way out of the current political stalemate.

Dr Mahathir resigned as the prime minister on Monday and his Bersatu party announced it was leaving Pakatan Harapan the same day.

Parliament will convene a special sitting on Monday for federal lawmakers to select a prime minister from among them, failing which a general election will be necessary.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/02/27/pas-mp-rejects-anwar-dr-ms-unity-government/1841614

--------

 

Govt dominated by non-Malays won’t survive, warns umbrella group of Malay business interests

February 28, 2020

PETALING JAYA: The country’s largest umbrella group of Malay economic bodies has warned that any government formed without support from Malay-based parties will be short-lived, as political blocs seek allies to boost support to fill a week-old power vacuum in Putrajaya.

The Malay Economic Action Council (MTEM), which brings together half-a-million Malay businesses and over 50 groups concerned with Bumiputera economic empowerment, said there was clearly a decline of Malay support for the recently collapsed Pakatan Harapan government.

He said there had been actions and statements that shaped a perception that Bumiputera issues were sidelined.

“For example, the statements by some government leaders calling for an end to race-based policies without taking into account economic data,” said MTEM CEO Ahmad Yazid Othman.

“Such statements are not grounded in reality.”

Yazid said as the group making up the bulk of the poor Malaysians, there is a need for a government that looks into solving the country’s economic disparity.

“So any government whether formed through an election or the existing parliamentary processes, if it ignores the problems of the people and the economic disparity including the Bumiputera economy, it surely will not survive,” said Yazid.

The comments come as at least three political blocs seek to convince the Yang di-Pertuan Agong that they have enough MPs with them to form the next government.

The PH government collapsed this week following the resignation of Dr Mahathir Mohamad as prime minister, after several leaders broke ranks to seek different allies.

The Agong has since met MPs to seek their individual views on who should lead the next government.

The remaining three PH parties – PKR, DAP and Amanah – have nominated Anwar Ibrahim.

But a quick look at the coalition show that some two-thirds of its MPs are non-Malays.

Out of the 92 MPs from DAP, PKR and Amanah, 59 are non-Muslims, while only 33 are Malays/Muslims.

The Muslim MPs also include DAP’s sole Malay MP, Tengku Zulpuri Shah Raja Puji.

Mahathir has proposed a unity government as a solution to the political stalemate, sidelining the non-Malay majority PH and the overwhelmingly Malay Umno-PAS bloc.

MTEM said it supported the unity government idea, saying it would mean a more stable political climate where the government could use experts in the Cabinet.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/02/28/govt-dominated-by-non-malays-wont-survive-warns-umbrella-group-of-malay-business-interests/

--------

 

Malaysia political turmoil: BN, PAS step up preparations for possible snap elections

27 Feb 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: Allies in the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) have stepped up their preparations in expectation of a snap general election to resolve the power vacuum in Malaysia.

United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) secretary-general Annuar Musa said in a press conference that the party had summoned its divisional leaders for a briefing on Thursday (Feb 27) and gave specific guidelines on how BN and PAS election machinery will work together at the national, state and area levels.

UMNO, which formalised a pact with PAS in September last year under the banner of Islamic unity, is BN's main component party. The alliance also includes the Malaysian Chinese Association and the Malaysian Indian Congress.

"I have issued additional instructions … that all BN election machinery across the country, will work together with PAS as a Muafakat Nasional to prepare for the election," said Mr Annuar.

He added that the preparations were in line with the coalition’s call for parliament to be dissolved and snap polls to be announced amid political turmoil in the country.

UMNO’s press conference on Thursday was held after interim prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said the Malaysian parliament will sit on Mar 2 to determine the next prime minister as no candidate commanded a clear majority.

Dr Mahathir added that snap polls could be called if the House fails to arrive at a decision after the special parliamentary session.

UMNO MEMBERS HURT BY MAHATHIR'S COMMENTS

In his press conference on Thursday, Mr Annuar also noted that Dr Mahathir had singled out UMNO in his special address to the nation the day before.

Dr Mahathir had said that he was not willing to accept UMNO joining a new coalition to govern Malaysia, which includes his party Bersatu, but was willing to take in UMNO members if they left the party.

Addressing this, Mr Annuar said that UMNO party members were “hurt and insulted” by Dr Mahathir’s comments. But he called for them to be patient and continue to act morally in the face of “many accusations”.

"I would like to say that we will react moderately to the statements made by (Dr Mahathir). UMNO understands the situation he is in, the problem he faces on the national level," said Mr Annuar.

"Even though his statement has hurt UMNO, we hope UMNO members will be patient and continue to act with dignity."

On Monday, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) ruling coalition collapsed when 26 MPs from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) and 11 MPs from Parti Keadilan Rakyat exited the alliance.

The Malaysian parliament has 222 seats. The Barisan Nasional coalition has 42 MPs while PAS has 18.

Full report at:

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/malaysia-political-pas-bn-general-election-snap-polls--12477152

--------

 

Pakistan

 

Religious minorities continue to face violence in Pakistan: UN rights chief

Feb 27, 2020

GENEVA: Religious minorities in Pakistan continue to face violence and repeated attacks on their places of worship and government's failure to amend the blasphemy law provisions led to violence against them, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Thursday.

Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, briefing the ongoing 43rd Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on human rights developments around the world, mentioned the case of Junaid Hafeez, a university lecturer in Pakistan, who has been sentenced to death in December for blasphemy.

"Religious minorities in Pakistan continue to face violence, repeated attacks on their places of worship, and discrimination in law and practice," Bachelet said.

"The (Pakistan) Government, despite recommendations from international human rights mechanisms, has not amended or repealed blasphemy law provisions which have led to violence against religious minorities, as well as to arbitrary arrests and prosecution," the former Chilean president said in a statement on Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law.

"The death penalty remains mandatory for blasphemy, and in December, the Multan Court sentenced Junaid Hafeez to death on a blasphemy charge, in contravention of international human rights law," she said.

Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in Pakistan, with even unproven allegations often prompting mob violence. Anyone convicted, or even just accused, of insulting Islam, risks a violent and bloody death at the hands of vigilantes.

Rights groups have said the blasphemy laws are routinely abused to seek vengeance and settle personal scores.

On Wednesday, Pakistan's Minister of Human Rights Shireen Mazari while addressing the UNHRC session said the government was committed to uphold and protect the rights of children, women and minorities through the enactment of progressive legislations.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/religious-minorities-continue-to-face-violence-in-pakistan-un-rights-chief/articleshow/74338160.cms

--------

 

Pakistan shuts schools, suspends Iran flights to curb coronavirus spread

Feb 27, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday shut schools in several areas and suspended flights to and from Iran to try to stop the spread of new coronavirus, after reporting its first cases of the infection, officials said.

The South Asian nation bordering China and Iran, both of which have been hit hard by the virus, reported its first two cases on Wednesday.

Both people had recently travelled to Iran as part of large groups of pilgrims from Pakistan's Shi'ite Muslim community. Health officials have said both were "stable."

Authorities shut schools in the southern province of Sindh, including the country's largest city Karachi where the first case was reported, and the southwestern province of Baluchistan, which borders Iran. They also began to trace nearly 8,000 pilgrims who recently returned to the country from Iran.

Pakistan's Civil Aviation said it was suspending all flight operations with Iran starting from Thursday evening till further notice. "We have decided to close the flights with Iran," the aviation's spokesman Sattar Khokhar told Reuters.

Three Iranian carriers run seven flights a week to and from Pakistan.

Pakistan closed its border with Iran on Sunday following the outbreak in the neighbouring country. Twenty two people have died so far from the new coronavirus in Iran, the official news agency IRNA reported in a chart.

Sindh's Provincial Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said the 28 pilgrims whom the first cases were part of had been traced and would be scanned and monitored.

"We're going to the next step," he told a news conference in Karachi, adding that the Sindh government was out to trace all the 1,500 people who had returned to his province from Iran in the month of February. There are a total 8,000 such pilgrims across the country, he said.

"We're locating each one of them," Shah said, adding they will go through 15 days of strict monitoring before being allowed to leave their homes. Shah said all these people and anyone who had got in touch with them had to be isolated.

The authorities, who have kept more than 200 of the pilgrims in quarantine at the border, have stepped up scanning measures at airports and other border crossing, including western Afghanistan, said government health adviser Zafar Mirza.

He called on the people to not panic. "We don't need to worry unnecessarily. We shouldn't create any kind of panic," he told a news conference Wednesday night. The health ministry has launched a media campaign to educate people, urging them to cooperate with authorities to help identify any suspected cases.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-shuts-schools-suspends-iran-flights-to-curb-coronavirus-spread/articleshow/74334107.cms

--------

 

Prime Minister Imran tweets video of Roger Waters assailing Indian law

February 28, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday tweeted a video of renowned musician Roger Waters speaking out against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act introduced by the Indian government.

The Pink Floyd co-founder was participating in a protest held in London on Saturday to demand the release of Julian Assange.

Introducing Aamir Aazim, a 30-year-old poet from Jamia Millia Islamia, Waters said: “This is a young man none of us know. His name is Aamir Aziz. And he is a young poet and activist in Delhi. He is involved in the fight against Modi and his fascist, racist citizenship law.”

Waters then went on to read out an English translation of Aamir Aziz’s poem Sab Yaad Rakha Jayega. The video has been widely shared by critics of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act amid violence in Delhi.

Sharing the clip on Twitter, Prime Minister Khan wrote: “When musicians who have all their lives rallied for peace, start taking notice of the massacres in India, it is time the world must stand up and take notice. Stand up on the right side of history.”

Dozens of people have been killed and hundreds injured during protests, especially in Delhi, against the controversial citizenship law during the past few days.

Prime Minister Khan in a tweet on Wednesday warned people against targeting non-Muslim citizens or their places of worship in Pakistan, saying anyone found involved in such acts will be dealt with strictly. He categorically said that minorities were equal citizens of this country.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1537137/prime-minister-imran-tweets-video-of-roger-waters-assailing-indian-law

--------

 

Army ready to defend country at all costs, says ISPR DG

Feb 28, 2020

RAWALPINDI: Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Babar Iftikhar on Thursday reiterated Pakistan Army’s commitment to security and national integrity, saying it will respond “whenever there is a challenge to the country’s security and integrity”.

Addressing his first press conference after taking charge of the military’s media wing, Gen Iftikhar spoke on Pulwama incident, Line of Control (LoC) violations, Kashmir issue and anti-terrorism operations in the country.

“After the Pulwama incident, India blamed Pakistan. We offered all cooperation,” he said, adding: “But on Feb 26, they carried out a cowardly attack. We were prepared, the surprise they wanted to give to us, we gave them one instead and they retreated.”

“We salute the bravery of all our soldiers that continue to fight bravely in front of the enemy. We are aware of all covert and overt operations of our enemies and are prepared for all scenarios. The game being played by India, Pakistan’s civil and military leadership is very much aware of it.”

‘DO NOT TEST OUR CAPABILITY’:

“If there is a challenge to Pakistan’s security, we will respond — do not test our capability and resolve,” he warned.

“There is no space for war between two nuclear powers. The consequences for that will be uncontrollable and things will spiral out of control. Intentions can change overnight but capabilities remain.

“Whenever India has taken any such [aggressive] action, we have given them a befitting response.”

When asked about India’s defense, the DG said: “We are prepared; India is among the top three countries for military spending, despite this we are 100 percent capable.

“We will not let any harm come to our country.”

Earlier in the day, DG ISPR had said: “The way we responded on this day [Feb 27, 2019] is proof that any misadventure by enemies of Pakistan will always be defeated. Our adversaries will be surprised by our bold responses every time.”

LOC VIOLATIONS:

Speaking on violations carried out by India across the Line of Control (LoC), he said during the past year there have been 384 violations.

“They do not spare [even] children on their way to school,” he revealed, adding that the most ceasefire violations and casualties were recorded in 2019.

“The Pakistan Army is a responsible force; when we are provoked we respond on military targets, while the Indian forces target civilians.

“If there is a war in the region, there will be far-reaching consequences,” he warned, repeating the words of Prime Minister Imran Khan who, in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly in September last year, had warned of “across the border consequences in case of war”.

‘OPPRESSION IN KASHMIR’:

“Jammu and Kashmir is an internationally recognised dispute between India and Pakistan,” he pointed out, observing that in the past 207 days, the people of occupied Kashmir faced violence and oppression.

“International media and human rights bodies have unmasked the violence in the occupied valley while there are protests in India regarding this. This issue cannot be silenced any longer,” he added.

“The United Nations chief [in his recent tour to Pakistan] has also stressed ending the oppression in the occupied valley. A solution to the Kashmir issue is attached to our national interest. We stood with the Kashmiris in the past, and will do so in the future.”

“The entire world is aware of what is going on in Kashmir and we feel for the people of the valley.

“All our options are on the table. This dispute is being viewed as a flashpoint, we are moving towards a solution but the pace of this is not what it should be.”

“Our country’s leadership has done its best to bring this to light; we are ready, our government needs to decide how to solve this, but everything possible is being done.”

‘FROM TERRORISM TO TOURISM’:

Speaking on Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, which was launched in Feb 2017 in the aftermath of a fresh resurgence in terror attacks in Pakistan, he said the operation has normalised the country.

“We claimed 40,000 area of land (muraba) back from terrorists.

“The journey from terrorism to tourism has been a difficult one, the people also played a part in this. Our cricket grounds are now filled once again,” he said.

“We respect the white on our flag, and salute the sacrifices made by religious minorities,” he said in a comment on the conditions minorities live in the country.

US-TALIBAN TALKS

Commenting on the US-Taliban peace deal set to take place on Feb 29, the DG ISPR stated that while this is the domain of the Foreign Office, there is no news regarding a delay in the signing of the deal.

“There will be positive results from this deal. Nobody wants peace in Afghanistan more than Pakistan. We are hoping for the best,” he said.

He went on to say that there is nothing wrong with Pakistan’s relationship with Afghanistan. “We have a very cordial and good relationship. As far as this peace accord is concerned, Pakistan has done its best to facilitate this [deal], and that has been acknowledged unanimously by everyone. “I don’t see any reasons for our relations with Afghanistan going sour,” he added.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/02/27/army-reiterates-commitment-to-security-national-integrity/

--------

 

In Doha, Imran reiterates Pakistan’s continued support to Afghan peace

Feb 28, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday reiterated Pakistan’s continued support for an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process, as he appreciated Qatar’s valuable role leading to the US-Taliban peace agreement due to be signed in Doha on February 29.

Talking to Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani during a daylong visit to Doha, Imran expressed the hope that all Afghan stakeholders would seize this historic opportunity to reach an inclusive political settlement for the establishment of durable peace and stability in Afghanistan.

The prime minister also briefed the Qatari Emir on the continuing human rights violations in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir under the RSS-inspired BJP government.

The leadership of Pakistan and Qatar also agreed to further enhance economic cooperation, especially in the energy sector.

The two countries also agreed to immediately activate the bilateral Joint Working Group on Commerce and Investment and the MoU on Cooperation in the fields of tourism and business events.

Earlier, on his arrival at the Doha airport, the prime minister was received by Qatar’s Energy Minister Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi.

This was the second visit of the prime minister to Qatar after taking office.

The Emir of Qatar visited Pakistan in June last year. The visit resulted in strengthening of bilateral economic collaboration in diverse areas.

During his last visit to Qatar, the prime minister discussed the matter of exporting workers to Qatar with the Doha leadership.

In December last year, Qatar opened a visa facilitation centre in Islamabad for swift processing of visas of members of the Pakistan workforce wishing to work in Qatar.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/02/27/pm-imran-arrives-in-qatar-on-day-long-visit/

--------

 

South Asia

 

Former Taliban hostage in Doha to witness peace deal

Feb 27, 2020

KABUL: Australian university professor Timothy Weeks, who was held captive for three years by the Taliban, arrived Thursday in Qatar in the Middle East to witness the signing of a peace deal between the US and Taliban.

The Taliban maintain a political office in Qatar, where Washington's peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad conducted negotiations over 17 months to come up with the deal being signed Saturday in the capital of Doha.

The agreement will open the door for US troops to withdraw from Afghanistan and bring an end to 18 years of war.

Weeks was met at the airport by Anas Haqqani, who was freed from an Afghan jail in exchange for Weeks' release as well as American Kevin King.

The two men, both professors at the American University of Afghanistan, were kidnapped in the Afghan capital in 2016. They were held by the Haqqani network.

Anas is the younger brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the chief of the feared Haqqani network, which is part of the Taliban.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted a picture of Weeks and Haqqani.

Mujahid tweeted “Timothy Weeks — an Australian professor who was detained by the Islamic Emirate & later released arrived in Doha.”

Weeks was invited to attend by the Taliban, Mujahid said.

Weeks said on his Twitter account: “I cannot believe I am here in Qatar and have met and spoken with Anas. I am blessed to be an official guest at the signing ceremony.”

Although the full list of those attending Saturday's ceremony has not been identified, Pakistan and uneasy neighbour India are both invited as is Russia. It's not clear who will attend from Kabul.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/former-taliban-hostage-in-doha-to-witness-peace-deal/articleshow/74344213.cms

--------

 

Uncertainty looms ahead of US-Taliban deal signing

February 28, 2020

DOHA: Washington and the Taliban are set to sign a deal in Doha on Saturday to secure America’s exit from its longest war through gradually withdrawing troops and starting talks between Kabul and the militants.

The agreement will likely be heralded as marking the start of a hopeful new era for Afghanistan, which has seen 40 years of conflict.

But what happens next is anyone’s guess, with questions swirling around the Taliban’s intentions and Afghanistan once more in the grip of a political crisis threatening to plunge the impoverished country further into the abyss.

The accord comes after more than a year of talks between the Taliban and the US that faltered repeatedly as violence raged.

While the deal’s contents have not been disclosed, it is expected to see the Pentagon begin pulling troops from Afghanistan, where between 12,000-13,000 are currently based.

The US has said an initial drawdown over the coming months would be to about 8,600 -- similar to the troop level President Donald Trump inherited after his 2016 election win.

Further reductions depend on how well the Taliban honour pledges to start talks with the government of President Ashraf Ghani — who until now they have dismissed as a US-backed puppet — and seek a comprehensive “intra-Afghan” ceasefire and peace deal.

The insurgents are also supposed to guarantee Afghanistan is never again used by jihadist groups such as Al-Qaeda and the militant Islamic State to plot foreign attacks — a concept even some of Trump’s closest advisors remain deeply sceptical of.

Saturday’s signing comes after a week-long, partial truce that has mostly held across Afghanistan aimed at building confidence between the warring parties and showing the Taliban can control their forces.

While isolated attacks have continued in rural areas, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that the truce period was “working”.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1537106/uncertainty-looms-ahead-of-us-taliban-deal-signing

--------

 

Bangladesh Bans Books for Hurting the Religious Sentiment of Muslims

27.02.2020

A Bangladeshi court has ordered a ban on the publication, sale, distribution and marketing of two works of fiction because they hurt the religious sentiment of the Muslims.

A two-judge panel of the High Court passed the ruling asking the authorities to ban the of the books titled "Dia Arefin" and "Diya Arefiner Nanir Bani", written secularist blogger Diarshi Arag.

Deputy Attorney General Amit Talukder said Wednesday the order came after a lawyer brought the books to the court's attention claiming that their contents undermined the Muslim faith and its prophet Muhammad.

In "Diya Arefin," a woman is portrayed as a female prophet of Islam to whom God sends angels to pass on his orders. But in Islam, Muhammad is the last prophet and there is no chance that a female could become one.

"Diya Arefiner Nanir Bani", the second book, contains speeches by Diya Arefin's grandmother.

The Muslim-majority South Asian country witnessed a wave of attacks on secularist writers, bloggers, publishers, activists, priests, foreigners and people from the other faiths between 2013 and 2016.

Full report at:

https://en.qantara.de/content/bangladesh-bans-books-for-hurting-the-religious-sentiment-of-muslims

--------

 

Eminent Bangladesh citizens express concern over Delhi riots

February 27th, 2020

They also urge for calm and communal harmony in Bangladesh

Twelve eminent citizens of Bangladesh have expressed grave concern over the communal clashes going on in New Delhi, the capital of neighbouring India, over the new citizenship law.

In a joint statement issued on Thursday, the Bangladeshi citizens called upon the Indian government and citizens to take prompt measures to protect and uphold communal harmony and democratic ideologies.

They also urged the people of Bangladesh to uphold communal harmony here.

The signatories to the statement are: Dr Anisuzzaman, Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury, Hasan Azizul Haque, Anupam Sen, Hasan Imam, Sarwar Ali, Ramendu Majumder, Mofidul Haque, Tariq Ali, Mamunur Rashid, Nasiruddin Yousuf, and Golam Kuddus.

In the statement, the eminent citizens expressed fear that India’s failure to handle the situation could create a volatile environment in its neighbouring countries, which could destroy peace, democracy, development, and communal harmony in the region.

Regarding the situation in India, they said several social and political forces had been protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act through demonstration, statements and rallies, but recently the situation deteriorated, leading to violent attacks on the protesters.

The eminent citizens termed India as a proven friend of Bangladesh, who played a great role by helping Bangladesh during the Liberation War in 1971, and urged it to take action to protect its communal harmony and democratic ideologies.

They also expressed hope that a conscious awareness of harmony against violence would prevent all fanatic acts in Bangladesh.

The latest bout of clashes over the CAA have been going on in Delhi for four straight days, with the death toll from the violence rising to 34 as of yesterday. Over 200 people were injured as well.

The Indian Supreme Court on Wednesday rebuked police for their lack of professionalism in controlling the violence.

Protests and violence have erupted across India since the enactment of the CAA and declarations by the Indian government that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) will be carried out nationwide.

The CAA, passed by the Indian parliament on December 11, 2019, aims to fast-track citizenship for persecuted Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Christians who arrived in India before December 31, 2014 from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan – India’s three neighbours with Muslim-majority population.

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a citizenship record that is the long-delayed culmination of anti-illegal migrant movement in Assam, which led to the signing of the Assam Accord in 1985.

Full report at:

https://www.dhakatribune.com/world/south-asia/2020/02/27/eminent-bangladesh-citizens-express-concern-over-delhi-riots

--------

 

2 terrorists, one of them Bangladeshi, convicted of terror financing in Burdwan blast case

MADHUPARNA DAS

27 February, 2020

Kolkata: A Kolkata sessions court Wednesday convicted two Jamaat-Ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) terrorists, one of them a Bangladeshi national, in a terror financing case in connection with the 2014 Burdwan blast.

Bangladeshi national Sheikh Rahamatulla and Mohammad Burhan Sheikh, an Indian, have been convicted under relevant sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act for money laundering from West Asian countries and financing a terror module run by the banned terror outfit operating out of Bangladesh.

“This is the first such case in the country in which persons accused of terror financing have been convicted,” a top officer of the Enforcement Directorate told ThePrint.

The quantum of punishment will be decided in the next hearing on 17 March.

The verdict has come over five years after a high intensity explosion in Burdwan’s Khagragarh on 2 October 2014 left two dead and several injured.

The probe

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) led the probe into the blasts, busting a huge JMB terror network in the eastern parts of the country, which was also spreading to the southern parts.

Last year, 19 people were convicted in the case under sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the Explosive Substances Act.

Following the NIA probe, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) began its investigation into the money trail that took the agency to the hawala channels originating from West Asian countries via Bangladesh.

The ED issued two provisional attachment orders last year for landed property in Burdwan’s Simulia village and two bank accounts that used to receive money from foreign accounts in phases.

The two operatives also used to run a training centre at an unauthorised madrassa in Simulia village, a senior ED officer told ThePrint.

The 2014 Burdwan blast and its effects

The 2014 Burdwan blast rocked West Bengal as it raised questions on unabated infiltration from Bangladesh into the Indian territory through the state’s bordering districts.

It exposed a JMB module operating in the region, recruiting young Muslim men, training and radicalising them, said a senior NIA officer, who did not wish to be identified.

Following the case, the BJP raised its pitch against Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s government and accused her of appeasing the Muslim community and working against national security for vote bank.

Full report at:

https://theprint.in/judiciary/2-terrorists-one-of-them-bangladeshi-convicted-of-terror-financing-in-burdwan-blast-case/372142/

--------

 

One killed and six injured in Kabul IED explosion

27 Feb 2020

According to reports, an explosion occurred in the 6th district of Kabul city on Thursday evening.

Nasrat Rahimi, a spokesperson to the Ministry of Interior Affairs confirmed the incident and said the explosion occurred at the Sar-e-Kariz area of district 6 in Kabul at 06:20 evening time on Thursday.

It was an IED blast attached to a bicycle that killed one and injured 6 people, Rahimi said.

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

https://www.khaama.com/ied-explosion-in-kabul-injures-6-8789679/

--------

 

Coronavirus reaches Afghanistan’s capital Kabul city

27 Feb 2020

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) registered 15 suspect cases of coronavirus diseases in Kabul, Baghlan, Herat, and Ghor provinces, an official said.

Wahidullah Mayar, a spokesperson to MOPH said on Thursday said that 5 suspect cases of coronavirus are registered in Kabul.

Out of 10 cases registered in Kabul 5 of them were confirmed negative, Mayar said.

The outbreak of Coronavirus originated from Wuhan China negatively affected Afghanistan’s economy including exports and imports to and from China.

The prices of medical masks and groceries that contain Vitamin C have been increased to the sky after the first coronavirus case was reported in the southern Herat province.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/coronavirus-reaches-afghanistans-capital-kabul-city-7868976/

--------

 

Bangladesh police rescue 16 Rohingya attempting to flee

Md. Kamruzzaman  

28.02.2020

DHAKA, Bangladesh

Sixteen Rohingya refugees were rescued by Bangladeshi police in the southern district of Cox's Bazar while trying to illegally migrate to Malaysia by sea trawler early Friday, according to local police.

"Acting on information from our own sources, we rescued the Rohingya refugees as they were heading to Malaysia by trawler with the help of a trafficking syndicate," local police station chief Provash Chandra Dhar told Anadolu Agency.

He added that the detained are being kept by police for further questioning to seek the higher-up traffickers.

Police arrested a local who is suspected of membership in the trafficking syndicate which is very active in Cox's Bazar, the city holding makeshift camps of 1.2 million Rohingya refugees, he added.

On Feb. 11, fifteen Rohingya refugees died when a boat capsized near St. Martin’s Island in the Bay of Bengal while trying to flee Bangladesh to other countries.

In recent months the flow of attempts by Rohingya to migrate to Malaysia or Indonesia by water has been reportedly risen.

Several attempts to peacefully repatriate Rohingya to their homeland in Rakhine state in neighboring Myanmar have failed in the past year, leading to frustration over their future in the camps and prompting them to choose risky sea routes to illegally migrate to Malaysia, Indonesia, or other countries.

Persecuted people

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, pushing the number of persecuted people in Bangladesh above 1.2 million.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience."

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/bangladesh-police-rescue-16-rohingya-attempting-to-flee/1747987

--------

 

Afghan government to send delegation to Qatari capital ahead of US-Taliban deal

27 February 2020

An Afghan government delegation is going to Qatar to make "initial contacts" with the Taliban days before the signing of an agreement, which could see thousands of US troops withdrawn from Afghanistan.

Afghan National Security Council spokesman Javid Faisal said on Thursday that the government would send a six-person delegation to Doha to meet the insurgents following a request from "the Taliban and our international partners".

"It's a group called (an) initial contact group," Faisal said, adding that the delegation was "not a negotiating team and won't be negotiating anything with the Taliban".

The spokesman also confirmed that representatives of the Kabul government will be conspicuously absent from Saturday's signing ceremony between the US and Taliban.

"This team isn't participating (in) the signing ceremony on Saturday."

In the run-up to the event, the Taliban, the US and Afghan forces agreed to a partial week-long truce that entered its sixth day on Thursday.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has recently said the partial truce in Afghanistan between the Taliban, American and Afghan forces was holding.

The situation remains fragile, however, with the interior ministry reporting a policeman's death due to a roadside bomb explosion in northern Balkh province on Thursday.

Another person was killed and 10 others were wounded in an explosion in Kabul the same day.

The two sides have been in talks over the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan in return for security guarantees from the militant group.

Washington's decision to exclude Kabul from the peace talks has also received a firestorm of rebukes from the Afghan government.

In September, the US and the Taliban appeared close to signing a deal that would have seen Washington begin withdrawing thousands of troops in return for security guarantees and potentially end almost two decades of war in Afghanistan.

It was also expected to pave the way for direct talks between the Taliban and the government in Kabul. The Taliban have been saying they do not recognize the Afghan government, which has so far been kept out of previous US-Taliban talks.

Trump ended yearlong talks with the Taliban in September. The negotiations were aimed at ending the 18-year war in Afghanistan.

The US president said at the time that the decision to end the talks was his response to a deadly bomb blast by the militants that killed 12 people in Kabul on September 5, including an American soldier.

During a surprise visit to a US military base in Afghanistan in November, Trump claimed that the Taliban wanted to make a deal.

On Tuesday, Trump told reporters in the New Delhi that he was ready to sign a peace deal with the Taliban if a temporary truce held. He said that the US and Taliban were “pretty close” to signing the deal.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/27/619660/Taliban-US-Afghanistan-Doha-Trump

--------

 

Africa

 

Nigerian army ‘captures’ 23 terrorists in northeast

Olarewaju Kola 

28.02.2020

Nigerian military on Thursday claimed to have captured 23 elements of a Boko Haram’s splinter group and killed three more in the country’s northeastern region.

In an operation in the Borno State along the Lake Chad region, the Nigerian armed forces captured 23 elements of so-called Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), the military said in a statement.

In a separate incident, a Nigerian “depressed soldier” at the Nigerian Army Brigade in Borno State open fire on seven of his colleagues and then shot himself dead on Wednesday after allegedly got information that someone has slept with his wife when he was on an operation, according to local Vanguard news website.

The incident left four people dead killed, including the shooter and two of his colleagues, and wounded three wounded.

“An investigation into the case has since been instituted to determine the circumstances that led to the unfortunate incident,” Vanguard quoted Acting Director of Army Public Relations Col. Sagir Musa as saying.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/nigerian-army-captures-23-terrorists-in-northeast/1747523

--------

 

Kenyan Police Seek Civilian Help Against al-Shabab

By Mohammed Yusuf

February 27, 2020

NAIROBI - Kenyan police are calling on residents of the country's northeast, along the border with Somalia, to do more to help them combat al-Shabab militants.  The danger of attacks in the region has grown to the point that the agency which recruits Kenyan teachers is vowing not to put them in counties along the border.

The debate on the future of education in northeastern Kenya has entered the corridors of parliament, as teachers seek transfers to areas outside the region.

The Teachers Service Commission, an agency tasked with training, hiring and placing instructors across the country, said 42 teachers have been killed since 2014 at the hands of Somali militant group al-Shabab.

The head of the commission, Nancy Macharia, defended the withdrawal of teachers from the terror-hit areas in the northeast.

“It's true the children need education. But also the teachers are entitled to life. Life is sacrosanct,” she said.

In 2018 five teachers were killed in Wajir and Mandera counties.

In January, three teachers were killed when al-Shabab attacked Kamuthe primary school in Garissa county.

Responding to questions from parliament members, the inspector general of police, Hillary Mutyambai, said residents of Kamuthe village were aware of the attack in advance.

“Even the attack of those teachers, it is only the non-local teachers who were not aware about that attack. The students themselves and the other teachers during the material time of the attack they were absent. We have argued the local component is very important to compliment a security operation,” she said.

Mutyambai called on the local leaders to talk to their people and to encourage them to work with security forces to fight al-Shabab.

George Musamali, director of the Center for Risk Management in Africa, blames security agencies for some of the problems in the area.

“The locals are looking at who is the lesser evil, because if you see the way we operate when we are in that area, especially the government security agencies, they go in that area and use brutal force against the locals. As much as we are saying they are cooperating with al-Shabab, there is a high possibility they are not cooperating, what they are doing is turning a blind eye to the al-Shabab activities, not reporting them, not sharing intelligence with the national government,” he said.

Mohamed Dahiye is a lawmaker from northeastern Kenya.  He said authorities must find a way to keep the schools open.

“When you give up to them, to their demands and you close schools basically or when you end deploying teachers out from that area you have left those children and those people to whims al-Shabab and we feel this is extremely unfortunate and totally unacceptable,” he said.

Full report at:

https://www.voanews.com/africa/kenyan-police-seek-civilian-help-against-al-shabab

--------

 

Nigeria reports first case of coronavirus in Sub-Saharan African

28 February 2020

Nigeria on Friday announced the first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus in sub-Saharan Africa.

“The case is an Italian citizen who works in Nigeria and returned from Milan, Italy to Lagos, Nigeria on the 25th of February 2020,” Health Minister Osagie Ehanire said in a statement on Twitter.

“The patient is clinically stable, with no serious symptoms, and is being managed at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos.”

Prior to the case in Nigeria, just two cases had surfaced across all of Africa – in Egypt and in Algeria – a tally that had puzzled health specialists, given the continent’s close economic ties with China.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/02/28/Nigeria-reports-first-case-of-coronavirus-in-Sub-Saharan-African.html

--------

 

African Union plans 3,000-strong force against extremism in Sahel

28 February 2020

African leaders have decided to work on deploying 3,000 troops to West Africa’s troubled Sahel region as extremist attacks surge, an African Union (AU) official said Thursday.

The new force would be a significant new player in the sprawling, arid region south of the Sahara Desert where fighters linked to al-Qaeda and the ISIS killed thousands of people last year – at times working together in an unprecedented move.

Smail Chergui, the AU commissioner for peace and security, relayed the troop decision taken at the recent AU summit during Thursday’s meeting with visiting European Union officials.

The AU continental body is expected to work with the West African regional counterterror force G5 Sahel as well as the West African regional body ECOWAS, which has formed peacekeeping units in the past, Chergui said.

ECOWAS in September announced what Chergui called a “very bold” plan to counter extremism in the region, including mobilizing up to $1 billion through 2024.

“As you see and recognize yourself, the threat is expanding and becoming more complex,” Chergui said. “Terrorists are now even bringing a new modus operandi from Afghanistan and al-Shabab” in Somalia.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/02/28/African-Union-plans-3-000-strong-force-against-extremism-in-Sahel.html

--------

 

Teenage boy killed as Nigerian forces open fire on Sheikh Zakzaky supporters

28 February 2020

A teenage boy has been killed after Nigerian police used live ammunition to disperse protesters demanding the release of jailed Muslim cleric Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky in the country’s northwestern state of Kaduna.

The Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), in a post published on its official Twitter page on Thursday, announced that dozens of people staged a rally in the state capital city of Kaduna, located 198 kilometers northeast of the capital Abuja, the previous day when police assaulted the participants and opened fire at them indiscriminately.

A 15-year-old secondary school student, identified as Muhammad Jawwad Liman, was shot and killed as a result.

Zakzaky, who is in his mid-60s, has been in detention since December 2015 after his residence in the city of Zaria was raided by Nigeria’s forces, during which he was beaten and lost vision in his left eye.

During the brutal arrest, three of his sons were also killed, his wife sustained serious wounds, and more than 300 of his followers were killed.

Last July, Sheikh Zakzaky’s son, Mohammad, said he was shocked by his father’s worsening medical condition after visiting him, stressing that he needed to be immediately hospitalized as “large and dangerous quantities of lead and cadmium have been found in his blood.”

A month later, the couple was transferred to India to receive medical care. However, they were forced to leave India after a few days in protest against the Nigerian government’s “obstruction” of his medical treatment and after they had “lost all faith” in the prospect of receiving proper treatment there.

Zakzaky, who is the leader of the IMN, was charged in April 2018 with murder, culpable homicide, unlawful assembly, the disruption of public peace, and other accusations. He has pleaded not guilty, vehemently rejecting all the accusations brought up against him.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/28/619680/Teenage-boy-killed-as-Nigerian-forces-open-fire-on-Sheikh-Zakzaky-supporters

--------

 

Rocket fire hits Libyan capital's airport

27 February 2020

The Libyan capital's only working airport was hit by rocket fire Thursday, aviation officials said, in the latest violation of a ceasefire between warring sides vying for control of Tripoli.

Flights to and from Mitiga International Airport were suspended for more than four hours after what authorities said in a Facebook post was "continuous bombing" of the facility's perimeter.

The UN mission in Libya (UNSMIL) reported "repeated bombings over the past two days" targeting Mitiga, in a Twitter post.

The UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), based in the capital, blames such strikes on forces of its rival Khalifa Haftar, an eastern strongman who launched an offensive to take the capital last April.

Pro-Haftar forces say the GNA has been using the airport for military purposes.

The two sides agreed to a ceasefire brokered by Turkey and Russia -- the former backing the GNA and the latter pro-Haftar -- that went into effect on January 12, but there have been repeated violations.

The strikes on Mitiga come a day after political talks were due to have started in Geneva, but the rival parties said they were staying away.

The talks are to run in tandem with military and economic negotiations as part of a UN-sponsored dialogue aimed at resolving the conflict.

A joint military commission wound up talks in Geneva last Sunday with a "draft ceasefire agreement" to be finalized in March, according to UNSMIL.

The UN mission "strongly condemned" Thursday's rocket attacks.

"These violations are taking place at the moment when Libyans are working with the UN... to put an end to the conflict and the suffering of the Libyan people, which worsens by the day," it tweeted.

The fighting since April has left more than 1,000 people dead, according to the UN.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/27/619654/Rocket-Fire-Libya-Capital-Airport

--------

URL: https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/a-hindu-bride-weds-in-muslim-neighbourhood--my-muslim-brothers-are-protecting-me-today,--savitri-prasad/d/121180

 

New Age IslamIslam OnlineIslamic WebsiteAfrican Muslim NewsArab World NewsSouth Asia NewsIndian Muslim NewsWorld Muslim NewsWomen in IslamIslamic FeminismArab WomenWomen In ArabIslamophobia in AmericaMuslim Women in WestIslam Women and Feminism

 

Loading..

Loading..