New Age Islam
Wed Oct 21 2020, 09:29 AM

Islamic World News ( 19 March 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

A Pakistani Doctor Who Had Pledged His Allegiance To The Islamic State And Wanted To Carry Out Lone Wolf Attacks In The United States, Arrested






•Coronavirus: Deceased from Muslim Community Should Be Cremated, Suggests Shia Leader Waseem Rizvi

• Asansol Anti- NRC Protest Site Convenor Arrested By Bihar Police

• Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia Halts Prayer in Courtyards of Holy Mosques in Mecca, Medina

• Indonesia Halts Congregation of 9,000 Muslim Pilgrims and Begins Quarantining Them

• Houthi Court Orders Execution of 17 Govt. Military Leaders, Including Yemen VP

• U.S. Calls for Afghanistan's 'Urgent' Release of Taliban Prisoners Due To Coronavirus

• First Phase of Single National Curriculum Completed, Says Govt

• Manchester Arena Bombing: Suburb A 'Hunting Ground' For Extremists

 

 

North America

• A Pakistani Doctor Who Had Pledged His Allegiance To The Islamic State And Wanted To Carry Out Lone Wolf Attacks In The United States, Arrested

• Coronavirus: US Pauses Afghanistan Troop Movements, Quarantines 1,500 New Arrivals

• Trump plans to nominate Special Forces veteran to head counterterrorism centre amid uncertainty about its future

• US imposes new anti-Iran sanctions on UAE companies

• Trump urges Syrian regime to release missing journalist

• US lists 5 UAE firms for facilitating Iran oil sales

 

India

• Coronavirus: Deceased from Muslim Community Should Be Cremated, Suggests Shia Leader Waseem Rizvi

• Asansol Anti- NRC Protest Site Convenor Arrested By Bihar Police

• All India Majlis-e-Itehad-ul-Muslimeen Agree for No Shab-e-Meraj Meetings, Friday Prayers

• Call off Friday Prayers, Cut Duration — How Mosques Plan To Tackle COVID-19

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Arab World

• Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia Halts Prayer in Courtyards of Holy Mosques in Mecca, Medina

• Coronavirus: Bahrain Suspends Friday Prayers At Mosques

• Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia Gives Out Sanitizer, Steps Up Health Measures In Riyadh

• Hashd Al-Shaabi: US Soldiers Incarcerated in K1 Base Like A Prison

• Official Reveals US Assistance to ISIL Terrorists in Iraq-Syria Border Desert

• Syrian refugees in Lebanon face coronavirus threat without soap or sanitizer

• Egypt confirms 46 new coronavirus cases, one new death

• Turkey says two soldiers killed by ‘radical groups’ in Syria's Idlib

• Oman confirms 48 coronavirus cases after reporting nine new ones in 24 hours

• Qatar’s industrial zone a ‘hot spot’ for coronavirus, endangers migrant workers

• Saudi King on coronavirus: We will provide all medicine, food, living needs

• Two Turkish soldiers killed in Syria’s Idlib despite truce agreement

• Syria urges lifting of intl. bans to facilitate fight against coronavirus pandemic

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Southeast Asia

• Indonesia Halts Congregation of 9,000 Muslim Pilgrims and Begins Quarantining Them

• How the coronavirus spread at Malaysia’s Tabligh Islamic gathering

• Indonesia attains highest virus death toll in Southeast Asia

• No Friday prayers at all mosques with movement control order

• Jokowi Calls for Massive Covid-19 Rapid Testing in Indonesia as Market, Rupiah Are Routed

• Suspected Jemaah Islamiyah Leader on Trial in Indonesia

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Mideast

• Houthi Court Orders Execution of 17 Govt. Military Leaders, Including Yemen VP

• Netanyahu Orders Israelis to Stay At Home to Contain Coronavirus Spread

• Israelis protest against Netanyahu’s dictatorship amid virus control measures

• Coronavirus kills one person in Iran every 10 minutes: Spokesman

• Iranian President Congratulates Nowruz to Neighbouring States

• Iran Focusing on Online Identification of Coronavirus Patients

• Coronavirus: Turkey confirms 359 cases, death toll at four people

• Israeli protests accuse Netanyahu of exploiting coronavirus to solidify power

• Palestine slams ‘hostile’ Israeli bills on land grab, death penalties

• Palestinians defy leaders’ health crisis ban on work in settlements

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South Asia

• U.S. Calls for Afghanistan's 'Urgent' Release of Taliban Prisoners Due To Coronavirus

• Kabul: Taliban must end violence before prisoner release

• Taliban Promises Safe Passage for Coronavirus Health Workers

• U.S. warns Afghan leaders over parallel governments

• Afghans launch public awareness campaign to tackle coronavirus outbreak

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Pakistan

• First Phase of Single National Curriculum Completed, Says Govt

• Pakistan Asks India to Lift Kashmir Curfew after Reports Of Virus Cases

• Imran govt incapable of dealing with corona outbreak, says ex-governor

• Maryam breaks social media silence with tweets on coronavirus

• Hindu, Muslim Families Stopped From Crossing Over to Pak After Border Sealed Amid Virus Scare

• In rare move, Bilawal resists temptation of criticising PM

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Europe

• Manchester Arena Bombing: Suburb A 'Hunting Ground' For Extremists

• Manchester Bombing victims: 'Government and mayor 'abandoned' us'

• NHS Officials Told Me Muslim Households Are Particularly Vulnerable To Coronavirus – It’s Important to Understand Why

• Russia denies US claim it ‘killed dozens of Turkish soldiers’ in Syria

• Kosovo seeks help from Turkey to fight coronavirus

• Over 20 DHKP-C terror suspects arrested in Greece

• NATO plans on supporting Turkey’s efforts in Syria

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Africa

• Nigeria Considers National DRR Agency amid Boko Haram Setbacks

• Finish Off Boko Haram Insurgents – Buhari Charges Military

• Five Libyan civilians killed in Tripoli shelling, says unity government

• Libya: 25 Haftar militia members killed in Tripoli

• Attack on army camp in Mali leaves 29 dead

• KDF troops kill 12 suspected Al-Shabaab in Boni Forest raid

• How Mama Boko Haram, others obtained N10m from me –Witness

• Boko Haram: Fighter jet hits ISWAP meeting venue, kills commanders

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Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau


URL:  https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/a-pakistani-doctor-who-had-pledged-his-allegiance-to-the-islamic-state-and-wanted-to-carry-out-lone-wolf-attacks-in-the-united-states,-arrested/d/121362


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A Pakistani Doctor Who Had Pledged His Allegiance To The Islamic State And Wanted To Carry Out Lone Wolf Attacks In The United States, Arrested

Mar 20, 2020

Minneapolis: A Pakistani doctor and former Mayo Clinic research coordinator was arrested Thursday in Minnesota on a terrorism charge, after prosecutors say he told paid FBI informants that he had pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State group and wanted to carry out lone wolf attacks in the United States.

Muhammad Masood, 28, was arrested at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Thursday by FBI agents and was charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

Prosecutors say Masood was in the US on a work visa. They allege that starting in January, Masood made several statements to paid informants — whom he believed were members of the Islamic State group — pledging his allegiance to the group and its leader. He also allegedly expressed his desire to travel to Syria to fight for ISIS and a desire to carry out lone wolf attacks in the US

At one point, Masood messaged an informant "there is so much I wanted to do here .. .lon wulf stuff you know ... but I realized I should be on the ground helping brothers sisters kids," according to an FBI affidavit.

Prosecutors say Masood bought a plane ticket on Feb. 21 to travel from Chicago to Amman, Jordan, and then planned to go to Syria from there. He had planned to leave at the end of March. But on March 16, he had to change his travel plans because Jordan closed its borders due to the coronavirus pandemic. Masood and one of the informants then developed a plan for him to fly from Minneapolis to Los Angeles to meet with that informant, whom Masood believed would help him travel in a cargo ship into Islamic State territory.

Masood was arrested Thursday at the airport after he checked in for his flight to Los Angeles. His attorney, Manny Atwal, had no immediate comment.

Court documents do not name the clinic where Masood worked, but a LinkedIn page for a man with the same name and work history says Masood has worked at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, since February of 2018, first as a research trainee, but has been a clinical research coordinator since May. A profile on researchgate.net says he has done research in cardiology; he was scheduled to present his research for the Mayo Clinic School of Continuous Professional Development in October 2018, according to an online calendar of the event.

Mayo Clinic spokeswoman Ginger Plumbo said Masood formerly worked at the medical center, but "was not employed by Mayo Clinic at the time of his arrest." According to an affidavit supporting the criminal complaint, Masood said in February that he was going to notify his employer that his last day of work would be March 17.

The affidavit said the FBI began investigating in January, after learning that someone, later determined to be Masood, had posted messages on an encrypted social media platform indicating an intent to support ISIS.

On Jan. 24, Masood contacted one of the informants on the encrypted platform and said he was a medical doctor with a Pakistani passport and wanted to travel to Syria, Iraq or the northern region of Iran stretching to Afghanistan "to fight on the frontline as well as help the wounded brothers," the affidavit said.

He explained that he wanted to make the trip because he "hates smiling at the passing kuffar just to not make them suspicios." The affidavit said kuffar is an Arabic term meaning nonbeliever or non-Muslim. Masood also allegedly told the informant he wanted help getting to the front lines. When the informant said Masood might have to kill people, Masood replied, "i want to kill and get killed ... and kill and get killed."

At one point, the informant set up a video conference with the second informant, whom Masood believed to be an overseas commander who could vet Masood to fight for ISIS. Masood allegedly told that informant he wanted to be a combat medic and fight, and had been ready to go for some time.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/pakistani-doctor-arrested-in-minnesota-on-terrorism-charge/articleshow/74723069.cms

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Coronavirus: Deceased from Muslim community should be cremated, suggests Shia leader Waseem Rizvi

Mar 19, 2020

Lucknow: Shia Central Waqf Board chairman Waseem Rizvi on Thursday suggested that if a Muslim dies due to coronavirus, he/she should be cremated and not buried.

"If a Muslim person dies due to COVID-19 infection, the dead body should be burnt in the electric machines available in the crematorium so that the deadly virus also gets killed, " Rizvi said. He maintained that if the pandemic increases in the country, the Shia Board will take a call on whether the deceased from the Muslim community should be buried or burnt in Kabristan.

"Irrespective of religion, all people should stand together in the fight against coronavirus," Rizvi asserted. He further stated that brotherhood amongst the different religious communities is essential to win the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Islamic funeral rites, any deceased Muslim should be buried in ‘Kabristan’.

The Ministry of Family and Health Welfare has released guidelines on dead body management. The circular reads: "The main driver of transmission of COVID-19 is through droplets. There is unlikely to be an increased risk of COVID infection from a dead body to health workers or family members who follow standard precautions while handling body."

"Only the lungs of dead COVID patients, if handled during an autopsy, can be infectious."

According to the government’s guidelines, following steps should be followed at the crematorium and burial ground:

- The Crematorium/ burial Ground staff should be sensitized that COVID 19 does not pose additional risk.

- The staff will practice standard precautions of hand hygiene, use of masks and gloves.

- Viewing of the dead body by unzipping the face end of the body bag (by the staff using standard precautions) may be allowed, for the relatives to see the body for one last time.

- Religious rituals such as reading from religious scripts, sprinkling holy water and any other last rites that do not require touching of the body can be allowed.

- Bathing, kissing, hugging, etc. of the dead body should not be allowed.

According to the latest update of the Union Health Ministry, there are 148 active COVID 2019 cases across India. 14 people have been discharged/cured of the coronavirus disease. The country has reported three deaths. Maharashtra has the highest number of coronavirus cases with a tally of 45 followed by Kerala with 27 cases.

https://www.timesnownews.com/india/article/coronavirus-deceased-from-muslim-community-should-be-cremated-suggests-shia-leader-waseem-rizvi/566694

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Asansol anti- NRC protest site convenor arrested by Bihar police

Mar 20, 2020

The convenor of Qazi Nazrul Bagh anti-NRC protest site in Asansol in West Bengal Mustaqeem Siddiquee was arrested by Bihar police on the night of 16th March from the protest site. He was taken to Jamui. The police lathi-charged to disperse protesters to arrest Siddiquee.According to reports, Mustaqeem Siddiquee was arrested on the basis of an FIR lodged by one Nihal Baig of Jamui who alleged that he has cheated him and his relatives of lakhs of rupees by promising them of providing job in Gulf countries.

Local people and advocates have protested against the arrest and have written a lemtter to the Police Commissioner. They have alleged that on the night of 16th March, some people in civil dress with faces covered claiming to be policemen arrested Mustaqeem Siddiqee. They did not produce arrest warrant nor gave arrest memo. There is no clue about where he has been taken. Siddiqee lawyer Shekhar Kundu said that legal consultations are on and they had trust in the judiciary. Local Congress leader Shahid Pervez said that from day one the Nazrul Bagh protest site was an eye sore of a section of people and various attempts have been made to end the protest but all their attempts had failed. It should be noted that the FIR was logged on 13th March and the arrest was made on the 16th though the dispute is said to be old.

The local people see a conspiracy in Mustaqeem's arrest. A few days ago the secretary of Insaf India,under which the protest is organised, Wasim Khan had received a WhatsApp message from a local OC to end the protest. This had evoked large scale criticism from local people.However, local people say that the protests will go on. Protesters have been demanding Mustaqeem's release.

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Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia Halts Prayer in Courtyards of Holy Mosques in Mecca, Medina

20 March 2020

Saudi Arabia halted entering and praying in the outer courtyards of the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina, especially on Friday, as part of the Kingdom’s efforts to contain the coronavirus, the spokesman for the General Presidency of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Affairs said early Friday.

“The Authority and the security and health agencies decided to halt the presence of people and prayer in the outer courtyards of the Grand Mosque in Mecca and the Prophet’s mosque in Medina staring from Friday March 20, as part of the precautionary and preventative measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus,” said the spokesman according to a statement on Twitter.

Visit our dedicated coronavirus site here for all the latest updates.

Saudi Arabia has 274 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Thursday, according to the health ministry.

King Salman bin Abdulaziz had said in a televised address Thursday night that the government is taking all required measures to combat the coronavirus and working to ensure that each resident and citizen is provided with medicine, food and living necessities during this crisis.

Find out: Coronavirus in Saudi Arabia: The latest facts about what is closed and banned

“Your nation, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, continues to take all precautionary measures to confront this pandemic and limit its effects. We depend on the aid of God Almighty, then on deploying our full capabilities, supported by your strong determination to face adversities with the steadfastness of believers at the forefront,” King Salman said.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/03/20/Coronavirus-Saudi-Arabia-halts-entrance-prayer-in-two-holy-mosques-in-Mecca-Medina.html

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Indonesia Halts Congregation of 9,000 Muslim Pilgrims and Begins Quarantining Them

MARCH 19, 2020

(MAKASSAR, Indonesia) — Indonesia halted a mass congregation of nearly 9,000 Muslim pilgrims and began quarantining and checking their health Thursday to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

The four-day gathering that was to open later Thursday at a boarding school in a rural area in south Sulawesi island wasn’t approved by authorities and drew fears it could widely spread the virus in the world’s fourth most populous nation.

It was organized by Jamaat Tabligh, a Muslim missionary movement that held a similar mass event in Malaysia just three weeks ago that has been linked to nearly two-thirds of that country’s 790 infections as well as dozens of cases in several other nations.

South Sulawesi Governor Nurdin Abdullah said medical teams screening more than 8,600 participants found a local man with fever who was taken to a hospital.

“We’ve worked hard in dealing with this issue, involving religious leaders and security forces. We have told the pilgrims that we are in an emergency state of coronavirus and only common discipline can break the COVID-19 widespread,” Abdullah said.

Indonesia, with a population of more than 267 million, has so far reported 227 cases with 19 deaths, the most fatalities in Southeast Asia.

Pictures and videos posted by some participants on social media showed multiple long rows of blue makeshift tents at a field on the school ground. Devotees in long white robes and skullcaps sat close to each other or slept on mats laid on the ground.

Sentot Abu Thoriq, a member of the organizing committee, said he regretted the government’s decision to nix the event that has been planned more than a year ago. He said those who are ill have been told to stay away, and noted that those who arrived would have passed stringent health checks at the country’s airports and sea ports.

“The decision and the treatment is clearly against our faith and hurt us,” Thoriq said. “Health, illness or death is God’s destiny, we believe that God will bless and protect those who are devout.”

Abdullah said 411 foreigners from nine countries including Malaysia, Singapore and Saudi Arabia will be isolated at a hotel while pilgrims from other regions of Indonesia will be quarantined at a government dormitory. He said they will be allowed to leave later based on their ticket dates.

Local participants from Sulawesi will be escorted back to their villages. Abdullah said all Indonesians will have to face compulsory quarantine for 14 days once they reach home.

https://time.com/5806170/indonesia-sulawesi-muslim-pilgrims-quarantine/

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Houthi Court Orders Execution of 17 Govt. Military Leaders, Including Yemen VP

18 March, 2020

A Houthi-run court in Sanaa issued 17 execution orders against legitimate government military leaders among which was General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, the vice president of Yemen, and Defense Minister Mohammed Ali Al-Maqdashi.

The court rulings follow a host of other orders in which the Iran-backed militias indicted 35 Yemeni lawmakers and called for their execution and the confiscation of all their assets.

In other news, the Houthis kidnapped seven school principals in Sanaa and took them to an unknown destination.

Educational sources in Sanaa confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that Houthi militants, led by Nabil Al-Kamim and Muhammad Shujaa, arrested on Monday Professor Sabah Al-Qara’i, the principal of the Al-Shaheed Al-Samawi School, and Professor Amal Al-Qayadi, the principal of the Mayo School, in addition to five other school directors.

The government deplored the abduction and said that the act is part of a chain of a terror intimidation against the women in Yemen.

Speaker of the Arab Parliament Dr. Mishaal bin Fahm Al-Salami, labeling it an inhumane crime, also condemned the kidnap and held Houthis responsible for the safety of the principals.

In a statement, Al-Salami affirmed his categorical rejection of the terrorist acts carried out by the Houthi militias against Yemeni civilians and civil institutions, stressing that these acts represent flagrant violations of international laws, conventions and norms, as well as the United Nations resolutions and international treaties.

He called on the UN, as well as the human rights and women's rights organizations, to take immediate and urgent action to release the abductees and to compel the Houthi militia stop targeting civilian installations.

He stressed that the Arab Parliament stands by the Yemeni people and supports the Yemeni government in achieving security and stability in their country.

The abduction comes days after the publishing of international and local human rights reports in which crimes and violations by Houthi militias against women in Yemen were condemned.

Rights Radar had documented more than 16,000 violations against women committed by the Houthis since their capture of Sanaa in 2014.

https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/2186491/houthi-court-orders-execution-17-govt-military-leaders-including-yemen-vp

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U.S. Calls For Afghanistan's 'Urgent' Release Of Taliban Prisoners Due To Coronavirus

BY TOM O'CONNOR

3/18/20

The United States is urging Afghanistan to release Taliban prisoners as committed under prospective peace talks, warning that the detainees were at risk due to the spread of the new coronavirus.

U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said in a series of tweets Wednesday that Washington "would like to see prisoner releases begin as soon as possible in line with the U.S.-Taliban agreement." The historic deal was reached late last month as a planned precursor to direct negotiations between the government and Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan but as Khalilzad said, "No prisoners have been released to date despite the commitment to do so expressed by both sides."

"Coronavirus makes prisoner releases urgent; time is of the essence. We are committed to do our part and after consultation with all relevant sides," Khalilzad wrote, before listing three points the U.S. "understands" moving forward.

These points included meetings between technical teams, face-to-face conversations due to coronavirus, avoiding "provocative media statements" and that the "Taliban commit that released prisoners will abide by the commitments made in the peace agreement and not return to the battlefield."

"The time has come to move forward on prisoner releases," the diplomat said.

Recently re-elected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani issued a decree last week ordering the release of 1,500 Taliban prisoners, who presidential spokesperson Sediq Sediqqi said on Twitter would be followed by 500 additional prisoners freed every two weeks to reach a total of 5,000 prisoners on the condition that the intra-Afghan dialogue progressed.

The following day, Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen rejected the move as a violation of the U.S.-Taliban framework, which calls for up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and 1,000 other prisoners under Taliban captivity to be "expeditiously" released as talks began on March 10. The year-long, Qatar-based series of negotiations between Washington and Taliban officials that produced the agreement did not include Kabul, which remains skeptical of its foe's intentions.

"We proposed a mechanism for the peace process to move forward," Afghan National Security Council spokesperson Javid Faisal wrote Saturday on Twitter. "Taliban will have to work with us to find a solution, get their prisoners released and push for peace. The ball is in their court now to decide on whether to remain part of the problem or become part of the solution."

But Afghanistan, the venue for the longest war in U.S. history, now faces a completely new issue that's rocked even the world's most powerful countries. COVID-19 has stricken more than 210,000 people across the globe, about 83,200 of whom have recovered and more than 8,700 of whom have died.

The Afghan Health Ministry placed the number of national COVID-19 cases on Wednesday at 22, and one patient recovered and was sent home that same day. Shaheen said Tuesday that the Taliban's rival health commission "assures all international health organizations and WHO of its readiness to cooperate and coordinate with them in combatting the Corona virus [sic]."

"Similarly, the Islamic Emirate urges world's humanitarian and health organizations to pay special attention to the health of thousands of our prisoners," Shaheen said.

A separate statement released Wednesday by Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid described the coronavirus as "a disease ordained by God Almighty that may have been brought about due to human disobedience, sins of mankind or other reasons." It recommended religious activities such as reading the Quran, as well as following the guidelines of medical professionals.

As part of the U.S.-Taliban agreement, the hardline Islamist organization has vowed to battle the local branch of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) and prevent any other forces from using Afghanistan. to launch attacks against the U.S. or its allies. In return, foreign forces will withdraw for the first time since the 2001 invasion that followed the 9/11 attacks orchestrated by Al-Qaeda.

The groups allied in the wake of the CIA-backed mujahideen insurgency that ousted a Soviet intervention in the 1980s but Washington has sought to separate the two forces. Still, Al-Qaeda leadership welcomed the U.S.-Taliban peace deal as a "victory."

https://www.newsweek.com/us-calls-afghanistan-release-prisoners-coronavirus-1493091

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First phase of single national curriculum completed, says govt

Syed Irfan Raza

March 20, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The government has claimed to have completed the first phase of the implementation of the single national curriculum in the country by developing a uniform syllabus for class 1 to 5, but says it will take another year for its implementation in all educational institutions and madressahs [religious seminaries].

It was said at a meeting held at Prime Minister Office (PMO) on Thursday. Presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan, the meeting was attended by Minister for Education Shafqat Mehmood.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) dreamt of implementing a uniform curriculum in the whole country when it came into power after the 2018 general elections. But, it would take three more years to fulfil this promise as according to the PMO implementation on it will be completed in 2023, the year in which the next general elections are scheduled to be held.

The PMO said the prime minister was apprised that under the phase-I, uniform curriculum for class 1 to 5 had been developed and its implementation would be completed by March 2021.

The phase-II curriculum for class 6 to 8 would be ready by March 2021 and implemented by March 2022, while the phase-III curriculum for class 9 to 12 would be ready by March 2022 and enforced by March 2023.

The prime minister was told that among extensive stakeholders’ consultations, four-day workshops were conducted in all the provinces in which more than 400 experts participated, including members of the Ittehad Tanzeem-ul-Madaris.

The meeting was informed that the nation’s school education system and curriculum were divided into three streams, private education largely English medium, foreign certification, state schools (largely Urdu medium, including madressahs and Dars-i-Nizami).

The meeting was told that a system of winners (the elite class) and losers (the rest) existed in the country and that the entire socio-economic system supported the elite class.

The prime minister was informed that there was a difference of mindsets in the country and different curriculums were being implemented that caused a fractured national psyche.

The meeting was also informed about measures being taken to control the spread of novel coronavirus in educational institutions. It was informed that a special educational transmission of seven-hour duration would be broadcast by the Pakistan Television so that students could continue their education at the home.

Speaking on the occasion, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that the aim behind enforcement of a uniform educational curriculum was to equip the young generation to cope with challenges of the technological age and to instil in them social values that highlighted a distinct national character.

The prime minister emphasised that the teachings of Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), guidelines of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and the philosophy of Allama Muhammad Iqbal should be made part of the curriculum. He also highlighted that the curriculum should cater to the needs of modern times.

The prime minister directed that the “mafias” role should be eliminated during publication of uniform curriculum textbooks. He assured full support of the federal government in implementation of the uniform education system in the country.

The meeting was told that the present class-based education system had not only divided the educational institutions, education standard, teachers and students, but it had also created a system based on the whole social and economic structure, which was serving the interests of a particular class. The system was creating a diverging mind-set in society, which had caused a divided national consciousness and psyche.

The meeting was informed that the present government after coming into power formed the National Curriculum Council, comprising representatives from all the federating unites, besides famous personalities from the private sector and religious seminaries.

It was briefed that implementation of the uniform curriculum for educational institutions and its evaluation had remained one of the important elements of the PTI’s election manifesto. The rationale behind the decision was to eliminate the disparity between curriculum, facilities, mediums of instruction, teachers and students performance, which had resulted into differing mindsets causing a fractured national psyche.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1542309/first-phase-of-single-national-curriculum-completed-says-govt

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Manchester Arena bombing: Suburb a 'hunting ground' for extremists

19 March 2020

When Hashem Abedi was found guilty of planning the Manchester Arena bombing with his brother Salman, he became the latest home-grown terrorist to be convicted in a UK court. But he was also the product of a small area dubbed a "breeding ground" for extremists.

In south Manchester there is a small pocket of neighbourhoods, just a few square miles wide.

The suburbs here include trendy Chorlton, Rusholme, with its curry mile, Levenshulme and Burnage, home to the Gallagher brothers.

Salman and Hashem Abedi were born in the city and grew up in Fallowfield, one of the suburbs in an area that has produced more than 20 extremists.

They are men and women who've joined terrorist organisations, been jailed, disappeared or killed themselves.

Among them were an Islamic State group (IS) recruiter and at least two other suicide bombers.

'Ostracised and demonised'

Youth worker Ismael Lea South knows these areas well and recognises a well-worn path.

"Manchester has long been a hunting ground for extremist groups and groomers," he said.

"You get people who feel ostracised, dehumanised and demonised.

"They don't feel 100% British but they don't feel they belong to the country of their parents so there's confusion.

"This is where the hotbed comes in. But far-right extremism is also a problem too."

Salman and Hashem Abedi became radicalised after their parents left for Libya in 2016, while the the brothers remained at the family home in Fallowfield.

Salman Abedi was seen at demonstrations and even visited IS recruiter Abdalraouf Abdallah in prison.

Haras Rafiq, of the counter-extremism group, the Quilliam Foundation believes the brothers' visit to Libya was the turning point.

"When they were living at home, they used to hear stories," he said.

"But when they actually went out to Libya and saw the violence with their own eyes, that is something that gave them something tangible, something they could see, something they could potentially be part of when it comes to violence.

"So that actual tipping point when it comes to being violent in the name of a political cause, I think, really, really hit home."

South Manchester's terrorists

The list includes:-

Abdalraouf Abdallah, 26, of Moss Side - jailed in May 2016, for nine years for preparing and funding acts of terrorism

Zahra and Salma Halane - the 16-year-old sisters fled their home in Chorlton to become "jihadi brides" in Syria in June 2014.

Jamshed Javeed, 35, of Levenshulme - jailed for six years in 2015 after admitting preparing acts of terrorism by plotting to go to Syria to fight

Munir Farooqi, 54, from Longsight, - found guilty of trying to recruit undercover police officers to fight UK troops in Afghanistan

Jamal al-Harith, 50, from Moss Side - born Ronald Fiddler, he killed himself in an IS suicide car bomb attack near Mosul, Iraq, in February 2017

Mr Lea South said young people are still being groomed by extremists in the UK.

He decided to help other young people at risk after his nephew was radicalised in prison.

His organisation, The Salman Project, runs workshops in schools and mosques in Manchester and London.

He believes four or five people a year are still at risk of being radicalised in Manchester.

"It's a lot. Definitely," he said.

"But thankfully there are people working on the ground. And at the same time we need to get the communities working together."

Mr Lea South gives talks on the problems of drugs and knife crime - which the Abedi brothers were involved in - and how they can lead to extremism.

"People might think they are transporting drugs for a dealer but they could be taking equipment in a bag.

"Like bomb parts that could be used for a mass killing, and not even know," he tells his audience.

'Head in the sand'

Naeem Briggs from Manchester is a youth worker but a few years ago he was preparing, with friends, to travel to Palestine or Afghanistan to fight abroad.

He said he knows about 20 people who've gone abroad to join terrorist organisations.

When he realised he was crossing a line, he turned to outreach work about radicalisation which he said is widespread.

"Go to your mosque, your bookshops. It's people getting together at people's houses. Honestly it's not hard to come by. I think everyone in the Muslim community needs to discuss it openly and be honest."

Too many mosques "have their head in the sand thinking extremism is not a problem," added Mr Lea South.

Councillor Rabnawaz Akbar, Welfare Officer for Manchester Council of Mosques, said there was a challenge but radicalisation was not just restricted to Islamic fundamentalism.

He said most referrals to Channel, part of the government's Prevent deradicalisation programme, were from the Far Right.

"There are people still getting radicalised by Isis ideology clearly and that isn't going away", he said.

"Mosques are there to play a role and tackle that, and actually right across the city we have other mosques doing outreach work which is what's needed."

A Home Office spokesperson said "more people than ever" were getting support through Channel to "reject the influence of terrorist groomers".

They said Prevent "works best when delivered in partnership with communities" and "helped to empower over 142,000 people to build their resilience to terrorist ideologies" last year.

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-manchester-51950166

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North America

 

 

Coronavirus: US pauses Afghanistan troop movements, quarantines 1,500 new arrivals

19 March 2020

The US military says it is pausing the movement of any new troops into Afghanistan and is quarantining 1,500 troops and civilians who recently arrived in order to protect them from the new coronavirus, the top commander in the country said Thursday.

Troops who are already in the country may have their deployments extended so missions can continue.

The announcement comes as the US is reducing its troops presence in Afghanistan as part of the peace deal signed last month between the Taliban and the US.

In a tweet, Army Gen. Scott Miller said the military has started new screening procedures for personnel arriving in the country. About 1,500 service members, civilians and contractors who have gone to Afghanistan from various countries in the past week are living in screening facilities.

Miller said most are either new deployments or people returning from leave and they are being quarantined “out of an abundance of caution, not because they are sick.” He added that the US-led coalition is also limiting access to critical personnel and bases.

So far, 21 US and coalition personnel exhibiting flu-like symptoms are in isolation and receiving medical care.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/03/19/Coronavirus-US-pauses-Afghanistan-troop-movements-quarantines-1-500-new-arrivals.html

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Trump plans to nominate Special Forces veteran to head counterterrorism centre amid uncertainty about its future

By Ellen Nakashima

March 18, 2020

President Trump on Wednesday announced his intent to nominate Christopher Miller, a senior Pentagon official in charge of Special Operations and combating terrorism, to head the National Counterterrorism Center — the agency set up after 9/11 to safeguard the nation from attack.

Miller, formerly the top counterterrorism official at the National Security Council, is seen as an experienced hand and career professional who can lead the agency at a time when its mission and effectiveness are under review.

But the move is also being seen with trepidation by some insiders who wonder if it is part of a Trump administration effort to purge the intelligence community of career professionals. The acting NCTC director, Russell Travers, a respected career intelligence officer with decades of experience, has held the line against cuts at his agency. And though he has long been expecting to retire, he did not learn of Trump’s intention to nominate Miller until Wednesday morning, according to a person familiar with the matter.

At the National Security Council, Miller, an Army Special Forces veteran with more than 30 years of government service, focused on pressuring the Islamic State, hostage recovery and hunting down the remnants of al-Qaeda’s leadership. On his watch, the Trump administration killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and a key lieutenant.

Islamic State defector critical to success of Baghdadi raid

Miller also shepherded completion of the White House counterterrorism strategy in 2018 that expanded the scope of threats facing the United States to include Iran, Hezbollah and domestic terrorism. He moved to the Pentagon in December.

“I’m encouraged that the administration is turning to a career national security professional for this job as opposed to picking a career politician or some known ideologue,” said Nicholas Rasmussen, who led the NCTC from 2014 to 2017.

“What’s important is whether Chris Miller or any nominee can do what needs to be done most — which is to preserve the integrity and independence of the NCTC as an intelligence organization,” he said.

The counterterrorism agency has been helmed by Travers, who stepped into the position last August when then-Director Joseph Maguire was tapped by Trump to serve as acting director of national intelligence. Maguire was pushed out by Trump last month amid a controversy over a briefing given by an Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) official on Russian threats to the 2020 election. The president named a loyalist, U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, to serve as acting DNI until a permanent director is confirmed.

Trump names Richard Grenell as acting director of national intelligence

The ODNI is weighing cuts in funding and staff for the NCTC, which was set up in 2004 to ensure that information from any source about potential terrorist attacks against the United States was available to analysts. But as the Islamic State’s caliphate has been wiped out and al-Qaeda has diminished as a threat, policymakers are weighing whether to downsize the agency amid a shift to other priorities such as China, Iran and Russia.

The NCTC, which is the largest component within the ODNI, is not an operational entity. Rather, its roughly 1,000 personnel integrate analysis and collection from the government’s counterterrorism enterprise. They also operate a master database, from which the country’s terrorism watch list is drawn.

A review of the NCTC began in the summer of 2018 as part of a broader “transformation initiative” launched by then-DNI Daniel Coats. The goal was to gain efficiencies without cutting capabilities. As the largest of the four centers under the ODNI, the counterterrorism organization was a natural place to look.

“But it’s also a reality that NCTC has a line mission function that is unlike most of what the rest of ODNI does,” said a former intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid. That function incorporates authorities and abilities from various agencies across the intelligence community that no one spy agency possesses, the former official said.

At the same time, there is pressure to cut, and as a second former intelligence official put it, “The knives are out for NCTC in a pretty major way.”

Christopher Costa, a former special assistant to the president for counterterrorism who hired Miller onto the National Security Council, has known him since the 1990s, when they were both in Special Operations. He hired Miller as his eventual successor. “I wanted somebody who could lead that White House team, and Miller was the right guy at the right time,” Costa said. “I can’t think of anybody better suited to lead NCTC.”

Miller became senior director in the spring of 2018, eventually taking on the title of special assistant in the spring of 2019. Javed Ali, who preceded Miller as senior director and who is a former senior NCTC official, said Miller understands both policy and operations. “So now he’s bringing all of that experience — in operations, in Defense Department policy as a civilian and in NSC policy — to NCTC,” Ali said.

Full report at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/christopher-miller-national-counterterrorism-center/2020/03/18/1590b98e-691c-11ea-b313-df458622c2cc_story.html

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US imposes new anti-Iran sanctions on UAE companies

19 March 2020

The United States has imposed new anti-Iran sanctions on five companies based in the United Arab Emirates, accusing them of having purchased petroleum products from Iran in 2019.

The US Treasury Department claimed in a statement on Thursday the UAE companies purchased the petroleum products from the National Iranian Oil Company for delivery to the Arab country.

The firms include Petro Grand FZE, Alphabet International DMCC, Swissol Trade DMCC, Alam Althrwa General Trading LLC, and Alwaneo LLC Co., the Treasury Department said on its website.

Earlier on Wednesday, the US State Department said Washington was imposing sanctions against some Iranian, Chinese, Hong Kong and South African firms.

The State Department claimed in a statement that those sanctions were meant to deprive Iran of “critical income from its petrochemical industry and further Iran’s economic and diplomatic isolation.”

Those targeted include Iran’s Armed Forces Social Security Investment Company Hong Kong-based Mcfly Plastic Hk Ltd, Saturn Oasis Co, Sea Charming Shipping Company Ltd; South Africa’s SPI International Proprietary Ltd And Main Street 1095; and Chinese companies Dalian Golden Sun Import & Export Co. Ltd., Tianyi International (Dalian) Co. Ltd. and Aoxing Ship Management (Shanghai) Ltd.

Mike Pompeo, the hawkish secretary of state and former CIA chief, said the sanctions are supposed to target nine entities and three individuals, accusing Tehran of “violent behavior.”

The illegal sanctions were announced amid Tehran’s call on world states to defy US sanctions in the midst of Iran’s fight with the coronavirus pandemic.

Washington has been urged by China and Russia, along with others, not to impede Iran’s efforts to contain the covid-19 outbreak in the country.

US President Donald Trump’s administration, however, insists on keeping up with its “maximum pressure” campaign as the country itself struggles with the fast growing coronavirus pandemic.

Trump reinstated US sanctions on Iran in May 2018 after he unilaterally left the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed between Iran and major world powers.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/19/621216/US-Iran-United-Arab-Emirates-sanctions

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Trump urges Syrian regime to release missing journalist

Michael Hernandez  

19.03.2020

WASHINGTON

U.S. President Donald Trump urged the Syrian regime Thursday to release Austin Tice, a freelance American journalist who was abducted in 2012 while covering the early years of the country's decade-long conflict.

"Syria, please work with us. We would appreciate your letting him out," Trump told reporters at the White House.

"If you think about what we've done, we've gotten rid of the ISIS caliphate in Syria, we've done a lot for Syria. We have to see if they're going to do this. It would be very much appreciated if they would let Austin Tice out immediately," he added.

Trump said he recently sent a letter to the regime seeking Tice's release, but additional details about the correspondence were not immediately available.

Tice's whereabouts, as well as whether he has survived captivity, remain unknown. He was last seen in a video released one month after his 2012 capture where he blindfolded and held by armed men. No group has confirmed it is holding Tice.

But the U.S. suspects regime forces of carrying out his abduction and continuing to hold him incommunicado.

Trump later clarified that his remarks do not confirm that Tice is alive, saying "we're trying to find that out."

"This has been going on for years, many years they've been trying to find Austin Tice," he added.

Tice's parents have embarked on an unrelenting campaign for their son's release for years, but it has so far failed to result in his release.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/trump-urges-syrian-regime-to-release-missing-journalist/1772255

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US lists 5 UAE firms for facilitating Iran oil sales

Servet Günerigök  

19.03.2020

WASHINGTON

The U.S. on Thursday imposed sanctions on five United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based companies accused of facilitating Iran's petroleum and petrochemical sales.

"In 2019, these five companies collectively purchased hundreds of thousands of metric tons of petroleum products from the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC)," the Treasury Department said in a statement.

The listed firms are Petro Grand FZE, Alphabet International DMCC, Swissol Trade DMCC, Alam Althrwa General Trading LLC, and Alwaneo LLC Co.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin accused Tehran of using oil and petrochemical sales revenues for funding terrorist proxies.

"The Trump Administration will continue to target and isolate those who support the Iranian regime and remains committed to facilitating humanitarian trade and assistance in support of the Iranian people," said Mnuchin.

The designations come one day after Washington blacklisted nine companies from South Africa, China and Hong Kong for trading Iranian oil.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-lists-5-uae-firms-for-facilitating-iran-oil-sales/1772214

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India

 

All India Majlis-e-Itehad-ul-Muslimeen Agree for No Shab-e-Meraj Meetings, Friday Prayers

BY SM BILAL

MARCH 20, 2020

Hyderabad: A delegation of Muslim religious leaders led by All India Majlis-e-Itehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi met Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao at Pragathi Bhavan on Thursday and assured him that the community was ready to implement any suggestion, including staying away from Friday congregation at various mosques in the State to stop the spread of Covid 19.

After the conclusion of meeting, Asaduddin Owaisi addressing media persons said the delegation informed the Chief Minister that they would support any government order that would help in preventing the spread of the virus.

He informed that the religious heads have advised Muslims to stay away from gatherings such as marriages and also not to venture out without any major reason. The clergy urged the community to extend all possible help to the government in containing the virus.

The delegation, which also thanked the Chief Minister for adopting a resolution against CAA-NPR-NRC, urged him to see that the NPR was not conducted in the State.

Get the latest updates in Technology, Entertainment, Sports, Politics and Top Stories on WhatsApp & Telegram by subscribing to our channels. You can also download our app for Android and iOS.

https://www.siasat.com/muslim-clergy-agree-no-shab-e-meraj-meetings-friday-prayers-1861501/

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Call off Friday prayers, cut duration — how mosques plan to tackle COVID-19

FATIMA KHAN and AZAAN JAVAID

19 March, 2020

New Delhi: Amid the coronavirus pandemic, several mosques across India are planning to adopt “precautionary measures” for the upcoming Friday prayers, with some even calling off the prayers.

The Friday Jumah prayers have traditionally seen massive footfall, with Muslims thronging mosques for prayers to be offered in congregation.

But with the government calling for social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus, here are some of the ways in which mosques in various states are planning to conduct the Friday prayers.

Kerala

At least two mosques in Kozhikode have called off all prayers, including Friday prayers. These include the Pattala Palli mosque and Othayamangalam Palli mosque.

“We have made sure all people, especially older people who usually come to the mosque, are made aware of the perils of social gatherings right now. To ensure proper safety, we have called off the prayers completely,” T.P.M. Sahir, former MLA from Kozhikode and president of Pattala Palli mosque, told ThePrint.

The Samastha Kerala Jamiyyathul Ulama, one of the largest Muslim bodies in Kerala, has said every mosque needs to try and adopt measures in line with the government advisories.

“For smaller mosques, which would usually have five rows during prayers, we have asked them to limit it to two rows. This would mean fewer people and lesser contact,” said Ali Kutty Musliyar, general secretary of the organisation.

He said whoever can, should pray at their homes. “However, if someone comes to a mosque to pray, they can’t be turned away.” he added.

Delhi

Delhi’s Jama Masjid, however, said they would go ahead with the Friday prayers as usual.

“No decision on suspension of prayers has been made yet,” Amanullah Khan, the mosque’s spokesperson, told ThePrint. He added that announcements pertaining to taking precautions are being made continuously.

“People are repeatedly being asked to wash their hands, use sanitisers and maintain distance. We have also asked them to use different gates and not congest one or two gates,” Khan said.

On Wednesday, Imam Bukhari issued an appeal, saying: “… people, leaders, civilised society… and religious establishments should, without hesitation, become part of the precautionary and prevention movement launched by the governments and contribute to them at their best.”

The Delhi Waqf Board has said it has advised all mosques to take necessary precautions, but cannot ask them to call off the prayers.

“As a government body, we can only ask the mosques to make sure people are aware. The decision to call off prayers rests on the shoulders of religious bodies. It’s their discretion, not ours,” Basit Ali, media coordinator of the Delhi Waqf Board, told ThePrint.

Jammu and Kashmir

In Jammu and Kashmir, heads of all religious bodies will be meeting Saturday to discuss the issue of Friday prayers.

Prayers this Friday, therefore, will continue as usual.

Jammu and Kashmir Grand Mufti Nasir-ul-Islam, however, said people who think they can maintain required hygiene to pray at mosques should go ahead but those who think otherwise can avoid.

“Our Holy Prophet has said that in times such as these, one needs to take all precautions. Muslims who pray five times cleanse themselves on multiple occasions during the day. Still there is a tremendous need to be extra cautious,” he said.

“For those who think they can maintain hygiene should wear face masks before going for Friday prayers tomorrow. Sick people must avoid, the elderly should take extra precaution. The congregations tomorrow will be short. Once heads of all religious bodies meet on Saturday, a consensus will be arrived and shared with the public. For now Friday prayers will happen as scheduled,” he told ThePrint.

Islam added the Mirwaiz of Kashmir, Umar Farooq, had called him and asked him to issue a decree on Friday prayers.

“However I told him any decision by me might be acceptable to some and unacceptable to others. This would have created confusion. So a meeting will take place on Saturday which will also have representation from the Mirwaiz,” Islam said.

On Thursday evening, the Jamiat-e-Ahle Hadith, a socio-religious organisation, issued a statement, asking its followers to put Friday prayers on hold and added that many Muslim-majority nations have done the same.

The socio-religious organisations, who will attend the Saturday meeting, are Karwan-e-Islam, Jamiat-e-Ahlihadith, Anjuman-e-Himayatul Islam, Islamic Study Circle, Anjuman-e-Share Shian and representatives of the Mirwaiz, who heads the powerful Jama Masjid of Srinagar.

Karnataka

The Karnataka Waqf board has issued a list of advisories for all mosques and dargahs across the state to follow during the Friday prayers.

The board has asked the mosques to cut down the entire prayer time and speed up the process.

“Heads of masjids and Imams are requested to conclude the entire Jumah congregation in 15 minutes for the next three weeks and avoid using public microphones for the Jumah khutbah (sermon) and salah (prayer),” the advisory stated.

The entire Friday prayer, including the sermon, can take up to half-an-hour, on an average.

Another advisory by the board cites precautions taken by “Islamic countries” as an example to follow.

Full report at:

https://theprint.in/india/call-off-friday-prayers-cut-duration-how-mosques-plan-to-tackle-covid-19/384109/

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Arab World

 

Coronavirus: Bahrain suspends Friday prayers at mosques

19 March 2020

Bahrain will suspend Friday prayers at mosques starting from tomorrow as a precautionary measure against the spread of the new coronavirus, official Bahrain News Agency reported on Thursday.

Mosques will remain open for all other prayers.

The measure will be enforced until further notice.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/03/19/Coronavirus-Bahrain-suspends-Friday-prayers-at-mosques.html

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Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia gives out sanitizer, steps up health measures in Riyadh

19 March 2020

Authorities in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh are giving out sanitizer and sterilizing public places in increased measures to combat the spread of coronavirus, which continues to spread across the world.

Saudi Arabia reported 67 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, raising the official total number to 238. To combat the spread, the Riyadh Municipality has been giving out sanitizer to drivers at 25 different locations across the city, according to a tweet from the municipality’s account.

“For the second day in a row, the Riyadh Municipality continues to increase the level of sterilizer production and distribute it for free in more than 25 separate locations inside the city of Riyadh as part of preventive measures to prevent the spread of #coronavirus,” said the municipality in a tweet.

أمانة منطقة الرياض

@Amanatalriyadh

لليوم الثاني على التوالي.. #أمانة_منطقة_الرياض تستمر في زيادة مستوى إنتاج معقمها وتوزيعه مجانًا في أكثر من ٢٥ موقعًا متفرقًا داخل مدينة الرياض كجزء من التدابير الوقائية لمنع انتشار فيروس #كورونا

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The municipality has also been sterilizing public places, including garbage deposits and rubbish bins. A second tweet showed men in full protective gear spraying areas with chemicals.

أمانة منطقة الرياض

@Amanatalriyadh

ضمن الجهود المبذولة لمنع انتشار فيروس #كورونا..#أمانة_منطقة_الرياض تكثف أعمال تعقيم وتنظيف الحاويات في مختلف أرجاء مدينة الرياض..

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The municipality had announced the measures on Tuesday, saying it will be handing out sanitization items at traffic lights and in several mosques around Riyadh.

The measures are the latest in the Kingdom’s various efforts to halt the spread of coronavirus. Other measures taken include halting all international flights, closing malls, and urging people to stay home.

In Riyadh, authorities shut down on Sunday a number of shisha cafes that did not comply with the government’s ban on serving shisha as part of its efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/03/19/Coronavirus-Saudi-Arabia-gives-out-sanitizer-steps-up-health-measures-in-Riyadh.html

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Hashd Al-Shaabi: US Soldiers Incarcerated in K1 Base Like A Prison

Mar 19, 2020

“The K1 base in Kirkuk in which the US forces have been deployed has turned into a large prison,” Ali al-Hosseini told the Arabic-language Baghdad al-Youm news website on Thursday.

He added that the Americans are not running any operation in Kirkuk as the region is under the full control of the Iraqi security forces, including the Army, the Federal Police and Hashd al-Shaabi.

Al-Hosseini called on the Iraqi government to evacuate the US forces from K1 and turn the base into a tourism or economic area.

A prominent analyst had warned in January that Washington has transferred a large number of its forces from the Iraqi Kurdistan region to Kirkuk in a bid to take control of the oil-rich region.

"The US army has transferred a large number of its forces from its base in Erbil to K1 base in Kirkuk and they have been deployed at the airbase and are making new moves inside Kirkuk and nearby areas," Mo'ayed al-Ali told the Arabic-language al-Ma'aloumeh news website.

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.ir/newstext.aspx?nn=13981229000262

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Official Reveals US Assistance to ISIL Terrorists in Iraq-Syria Border Desert

Mar 19, 2020

“The US is increasing its forces in al-Anbar and monitors the bordering line between Iraq and Syria,” Head of Badr Organization's Office in al-Anbar Qusai al-Anbari told the Arabic-language al-Ma’aloumeh news website on Thursday.

He added that the US is attempting to transfer the largest-ever number of ISIL terrorists into Iraq, adding that the militants are supported by Washington in the desert areas of al-Anbar after arriving from Syria through US heliborne operations.

Al-Anbari warned that certain Iraqi sides are also attempting to facilitate the ISIL traffic into Iraq’s Western deserts in support of terrorism following a clandestine agreement with the Americans.

Al-Anbari had also cautioned in April that the US stationed 700 ISIL terrorists in Western al-Anbar to target the Iraqi security forces.

He said that the US military men stationed in occupied bases in al-Anbar province used the ISIL terrorists in disguise of ordinary people to target the Iraqi forces in desert areas of the region.

Al-Anbari was quoted by al-Ma'aloumeh as saying that the US forces deployed in Ein al-Assad and al-Habaniyeh bases in al-Anbar deserts in Western Iraq were using a new method to attack the Iraqi security forces.

He added that they disguise the ISIL terrorists as shepherds and tribesmen to launch on against the Iraqi security forces, Hashd al-Shaabi and civilians in al-Anbar desert.

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.ir/newstext.aspx?nn=13981229000296

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Syrian refugees in Lebanon face coronavirus threat without soap or sanitizer

20 March 2020

Syrian refugee Mohamed al-Bakhas is doing his best to protect his family from coronavirus by keeping their camp as clean as he can. But without enough soap or the money to buy sanitizer or face masks, there is only so much he can do.

"They gave us an awareness session and one bar of soap each, but this is not enough," said Bakhas, 40, referring to aid workers who visited his camp in northern Lebanon this week.

"We ask for disinfectants, sanitizers for the camp. We are a big group," said Bakhas, who fled to Lebanon from Homs in Syria eight years ago and lives with his wife and child.

Visit our dedicated coronavirus site here for all the latest updates.

Lebanon has recorded 149 cases of coronavirus. Four people have died from the virus so far.

No cases have been recorded yet among Syrian refugees, who number around 1 million of Lebanon's population of 6 million.

As Lebanon's public health system struggles with the outbreak, the government is worried about the virus spreading to camps for both Syrian and Palestinian refugees.

Health Minister Hamad Hassan said refugee health care was a responsibility shared by the state and United Nations agencies but he said the international community had been slow to react to the crisis.

“The international community with its U.N. agencies is a bit late in putting plans, thinking about establishing a field hospital or supporting the health ministry so that it can carry out its obligations towards its people: Lebanese society in addition to the Palestinian and Syrian brothers," Hamad said.

The UNHCR refugee agency said efforts to fight the spread of coronavirus to refugee communities had started early on.

Awareness campaigns and the distribution of hygiene materials were underway and preparations were being made for additional hospitalisation capacity that may be needed.

"We are all working around the clock," said Lisa Abou Khaled, communications officer at UNHCR in Lebanon.

Given the high population density of the camps, Hamad noted the difficulties of maintaining personal hygiene and said the spread of coronavirus was a real danger.

Field hospitals would allow for the isolation and treatment of the infected.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/03/20/Syrian-refugees-in-Lebanon-face-coronavirus-threat-without-soap-or-sanitizer.html

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Egypt confirms 46 new coronavirus cases, one new death

19 March 2020

Egypt on Thursday registered 46 new coronavirus cases, the health ministry said in a statement, bringing the total up to 256.

The ministry said that there was one new fatality, bringing the total number of deaths to 7.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/03/19/Egypt-confirms-46-new-coronavirus-cases-one-new-death-.html

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Turkey says two soldiers killed by ‘radical groups’ in Syria's Idlib

20 March 2020

Turkey's Defense Ministry said on Thursday that two of its soldiers were killed in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib in a rocket attack by "some radical groups".

One other soldier was wounded in the attack, the ministry said, adding that its forces had opened fire on targets in the area.

Turkey, which backs rebels opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, agreed a ceasefire with Russia two weeks ago after months of fighting displaced nearly 1 million people in Idlib.

Moscow supports Syrian government forces.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/03/20/Turkey-says-two-soldiers-killed-by-radical-groups-in-Syria-s-Idlib.html

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Oman confirms 48 coronavirus cases after reporting nine new ones in 24 hours

19 March 2020

Oman has confirmed nine new coronavirus cases raising the total number of cases in the Sultanate to 48, the ministry of health said on Thursday.

The ministry said the nine cases were of eight citizens and a resident. Three of the cases came into contact with previously infected patients, and six cases were linked to travel to the UK, US, India and Egypt.

The ministry added that 13 cases have recovered.

The Sultanate’s latest set of measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus have come into effect as of Tuesday March 17.

Those include: banning the entry of non-GCC citizens through all land, sea and air ports, and placing anyone entering the Sultanate under quarantine, closing all public parks, banning all public gatherings such as weddings and funerals, and banning holding Friday prayers in mosques.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/03/19/Oman-confirms-48-coronavirus-cases-after-reporting-nine-new-ones-in-24-hours.html

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Qatar’s industrial zone a ‘hot spot’ for coronavirus, endangers migrant workers

19 March 2020

Qatar's old industrial zone has emerged as a hot spot for the coronavirus in the Gulf Arab state, putting at risk many migrant workers who live and work in the area of car service centers, warehouses and small shops.

The tiny country, where expatriates comprise the majority of the population, on Thursday reported eight more infections to take its tally to 460, the highest number among the six Gulf Arab states that have reported a total of more than 1,300 coronavirus cases.

Government spokeswoman Lulwa Rashed al-Khater told a news conference that the new cases included two Qataris who had been in Europe, with the rest migrant workers.

Qatari authorities on Tuesday announced the closure of several square kilometers of the industrial area in Doha, the capital, which also contains labor camps and other housing units.

The country relies on about 2 million migrant workers for the bulk of its labor force, mainly from Asian countries.

"The majority of (coronavirus) cases in Qatar to date have been located in the Industrial Area," the Government Communication Office (GCO) said earlier in a statement in response to a Reuters' query.

"Every effort is being made to prevent the spread of the disease in Qatar and protect every member of the population. As a result, some areas of Qatar have been cordoned off to contain the virus," it said.

The GCO did not comment on the total number of people under lockdown in the industrial zone, the total number of migrant workers who have tested positive or the number under quarantine.

Authorities on March 11 said 238 people under quarantine in a residential compound tested positive for the disease. Subsequent announcements have linked most reported cases to migrant workers without mentioning nationalities.

The GCO said authorities were working with employers to ensure payment of salaries and distribution of food, water, masks and hand sanitizer to people in lockdown sites, and people under quarantine were being tested and monitored by medics.

Like other Gulf states, Qatar has taken drastic measures to contain the spread of the virus, including banning non-Qataris from entering and shutting public venues.

"This is a crucial stage in breaking the chain of the virus spread," al-Khater said, urging people to stay at home.

Qatar, locked in a dispute with larger neighbor Saudi Arabia and its allies that has seen them impose a boycott on Doha since mid-2017, has been gearing up to host the 2022 World Cup by building venues and scaling up its infrastructure.

Since being named host of the event, Qatar has been criticized by rights groups for poor labor conditions. It responded by enacting broad reforms to guard worker rights.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/03/20/Qatar-s-industrial-zone-a-hot-spot-for-coronavirus-endangers-migrant-workers.html

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Saudi King on coronavirus: We will provide all medicine, food, living needs

19 March 2020

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz said in a televised address on Thursday the government is taking all required measures to combat the coronavirus and working to ensure that each resident and citizen is provided with medicine, food and living necessities during this crisis.

“Your nation, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, continues to take all precautionary measures to confront this pandemic and limit its effects. We depend on the aid of God Almighty, then on deploying our full capabilities, supported by your strong determination to face adversities with the steadfastness of believers at the forefront,” King Salman said.

“The strength, steadfastness, determination that you have demonstrated during the honorable defiance of this difficult phase, and your full cooperation with relevant government agencies, are the most important contributing factors and pillars of the success of the state’s efforts, which has prioritized safeguarding health and made it the state's top concern.”

The Saudi King reassured the nation of the government’s efforts to ensure the public’s needs are met: “Rest assured that we are very keen on providing the necessary medication, food, and living necessities for citizens and residents of this blessed land. All government sectors, led by the Ministry of Health, are doing all they can and taking all necessary measures to ensure the health of the nation's citizens and residents.”

King Salman expressed his gratitude to all government entities and especially recognized the health sector professionals.

“We reaffirm that continuing this sincere and hard work at such a difficult time can’t be achieved but with solidarity and collaboration, and by building on our positive spirits, further enhancing our individual and collective awareness, and strictly adhering to the instructions and guidelines provided to overcome this pandemic.”

The King said that the coming phase will be even more difficult than the current situation.

“You are well acquainted with my honesty in addressing public matters. That is why I started by saying that we are going through a difficult phase, as part of what the whole world is going through. I will tell you as well that the coming phase will be more difficult on a global level to confront the rapid spread of this pandemic.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/03/19/Saudi-Arabia-s-King-Salman-to-address-nation-on-coronavirus.html

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Two Turkish soldiers killed in Syria’s Idlib despite truce agreement

19 March 2020

Two Turkish soldiers have been killed in Syria's embattled northwestern province of Idlib, officials say.

A soldier was killed in a "heinous attack" in the Idlib town of Muhambal, deputy chairman of Turkey’s ruling party Mahir Unal  wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

Later in the day, the governor's office of the central Turkish province of Sivas tweeted that a 25-year-old soldier from the area was also killed in the northwestern province.

The two Turkish officials did not provide any details on how the troops were killed or exactly where.

On March 5, Russia and Turkey agreed on a ceasefire to stop clashes in Idlib, the only large territory in the hands of terrorists after the Syrian military managed to undo militant gains across the Arab country.

Under the deal, the two countries are required to establish a secure corridor along a key east-west highway in Idlib and hold joint patrols there as of March 15.

After signing the truce agreement, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said the country’s military personnel will stay in Idlib and that any withdrawal from the embattled Syrian region is “out of the question.”

Syria army repels militant attack in Idlib

Meanwhile, a report by state news agency SANA on Thursday said the Arab country’s military troops had killed a number of Turkish-sponsored militants near Hizareen town in Idlib after they violated the ceasefire deal by targeting their military posts. 

The counterattack also destroyed the terrorists’ weapons and ammunition, it said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said recently that the militants were not complying with the terms of the ceasefire.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/19/621220/Turkey-Syria-Russia-Idlib-troops

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Syria urges lifting of intl. bans to facilitate fight against coronavirus pandemic

19 March 2020

The Syrian government has called for the removal of sanctions against the Arab country amid the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the region. 

“In light of the dangerous escalation represented by the coronavirus and the international alert to confront this pandemic and to contain it and prevent its spread, the US and the European Union are continuing to impose illegitimate unilateral coercive measures on a number of states, some of which are hugely suffering from the spread of the virus, in a blatant violation of human rights and the simplest humanitarian values and principles,” an official source at Syria's foreign ministry said on Thursday.

Syria "whose people have suffered and still suffer from the terrorist aggression and the illegitimate unilateral coercive measures which affect the life of the citizens and particularly the health sector, calls on the international community to respect the principles of the international humanitarian law and the sanctity of the human life, and to work on lifting those sanctions immediately,” the source added.

Syria has delayed parliamentary elections, shut schools and canceled most public events to prevent any potential spread of the virus in the country.

The source noted that that Syria calls for immediate and unconditional lifting of international sanctions and urges other states to break the illegitimate siege of the country.

The Syrian foreign ministry said Damascus holds the “US and its allies fully responsible for every human victim” of this pandemic as the sanctions have already hampered access to medicine and medical equipment in many countries. 

Since 2011 when foreign-backed terrorism started plague Syria, the European Union and some Arab states have imposed draconian sanctions on the country over its non-existent chemical stockpile.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/19/621198/Syria-US-EU-COVID-19-coronavirus-sanctions

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Southeast Asia

 

How the coronavirus spread at Malaysia’s tabligh Islamic gathering

19 Mar, 2020

As Malaysia adjusts to its partial lockdown, a few hundred participants of a “tabligh”, or mass Islamic gathering, that was held in late February are currently quarantined in a mosque waiting for results after being tested for the novel coronavirus.

The gathering – which was attended by 16,000 people, 14,500 of them from Malaysia – resulted in hundreds of new coronavirus cases throughout the country, as well as cases being spread to Thailand, Brunei and Singapore.

Almost half of Malaysia’s 900 cases are linked to the tabligh, while one of the country’s first deaths, a 34-year-old man, was infected after attending it. So far, one other person has died in the Southeast Asian nation.

WHAT IS A TABLIGH?

Tabligh events usually see several days of communal prayers, meals and speeches. Attendants stay at the mosque, sleeping there as well, and listen to sermons. A portion of attendants are deputised to cook meals and keep the mosque clean.

Walk-ins are allowed to join the gatherings, some of which can attract millions of people, especially the “ijtima” event – an annual gathering that lasts for three days.

Malaysia’s ijtima this year – held at the Sri Petaling Mosque – was no different to similar events held previously, according to those who attended: two and a half days of prayers and sermons, following which some groups went door-to-door to spread their message.

One other ijtima was organised after Malaysia’s – in South Sulawesi, Indonesia. About 9,000 Muslims gathered despite coronavirus fears, initially ignoring demands from the authorities to postpone the event. However, at the last minute the organisers complied and cancelled the event.

WHO ORGANISES THE GATHERINGS?

Tabligh means “to reach out” in Arabic. The gathering in Malaysia was organised by the Tablighi Jamaat movement, a global missionary society or initiative that champions practising Islam as it was during in the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad, from dressing to customs and rituals.

Founded in 1927 in India, the movement has a presence in nearly 200 countries and wields considerable influence in Islamic communities. The movement maintains it is apolitical and non-violent, and also shuns technology in its outreach efforts, relying instead on door-to-door preaching and mass gatherings. However, some of its preachers do have a presence on YouTube and television.

According to Barbara Metcalf, an expert in the history of South Asia’a Muslim population, adherents of the philosophy are meant to travel to proselytise for anywhere from an evening or a few days to a prolonged journey.

HOW MANY INFECTIONS HAVE BEEN LINKED TO MALAYSIA’S TABLIGH?

Nearly 600 coronavirus cases in Southeast Asia have been linked to the Sri Petaling mosque ijtima, including 513 in Malaysia, 61 in Brunei, 22 in Cambodia, at least five in Singapore and two in Thailand.

According to defence minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, the police are looking for 4,000 attendees who have not yet come forward, while Malaysian authorities are also scrambling to track down about 2,000 Rohingya men who attended the gathering.

More than 100,000 Rohingya live in Malaysia after fleeing from Myanmar, but they are considered illegal immigrants. Their status would likely make many of them reluctant to identify themselves to get tested for the coronavirus even if they showed symptoms, according to sources in the Rohingya community.

ARE THERE RULES BANNING LARGE-SCALE EVENTS?

Under Malaysia’s partial lockdown, all houses of worship and business premises are closed except for supermarkets, public markets, convenience stores and shops selling everyday necessities. Friday communal prayers, obligatory for Muslims, have been suspended.

Malaysians returning from overseas must undergo a health check and self-quarantine for 14 days. Restrictions have also been imposed on the entry of tourists to Malaysia, but foreigners will be allowed to leave the country.

Nationwide, all kindergartens, primary and secondary government and private schools, as well as all public and private higher education institutions and skills-training institutes, are shut.

Indonesia, meanwhile, has urged the public to limit large gatherings but there are no rules banning them.

https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/explained/article/3075968/how-coronavirus-spread-malaysias-tabligh-islamic-gathering

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Indonesia attains highest virus death toll in Southeast Asia

March 19, 2020

JAKARTA: Faced by a rising death toll from coronavirus and a big jump in infections, Indonesia’s president on Thursday called for testing to be stepped up immediately in the world’s fourth most populous country.

Less than three weeks since the country of more than 260 million announced its first case of the virus, its death toll had reached 25 — higher than in any other Southeast Asian country.

The number of infections in Indonesia jumped by 82 to 309, which together with daily rises of 110 in Malaysia and 60 in Thailand sent the number of reported infections across Southeast Asia to nearly 2,200.

“I ask that the number of testing kits and the number of test centres are increased and we get more hospitals involved,” President Joko Widodo said.

The presidential palace said both he and his wife had tested negative for Covid-19.

Indonesia has faced criticism from medical workers for a slow start to testing that might have more quickly revealed the scale of the problem in an archipelago that spans an area greater than the continental United States.

Indonesia had carried out only 1,592 tests as of Thursday — only a few hundred more than Cambodia despite having over 16 times as many people and being far wealthier.

South Korea, which has been praised for testing that has helped to stem its outbreak, has been carrying out an average of more tests every two hours than Indonesia has done in total. It has carried out over 290,000 tests.

A health ministry official said nearly all of the dead in Indonesia had other medical conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure or chronic heart problems.

The youngest’s age was given was 37.

Religious gatherings suspended

In a measure to curb the spread of the virus, the capital Jakarta will suspend all religious gatherings such as Muslim Friday prayers and church services for two weeks, the governor said.

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.

A rally of Muslim pilgrims that had already drawn thousands of people to the South Sulawesi province was cancelled under pressure from local authorities after a similar event in Malaysia led to hundreds of infections.

After resisting the closure of the event and stating “we are more afraid of God” than the coronavirus on Wednesday, organiser Mustari Bahranuddin said he would cancel the rally, but it would be hard for pilgrims to leave quickly.

With 900 infections, nearly two-thirds linked to the mosque event, Malaysia has more than any other Southeast Asian country, but has only had two deaths so far.

Malaysian authorities were trying to track down about 2,000 Rohingya men who attended the 16,000-strong gathering at a mosque in Kuala Lumpur that led to more than 670 new cases of the virus across Malaysia, Brunei, Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.

After cases rose in the wake of the mosque event, Malaysia introduced tough internal travel restrictions and banned foreigners from entering and Malaysians from leaving.

The Philippines, where 17 people have died of the virus, said it was banning all foreign visitors to try to stop the virus spreading. More than half of the country’s 107 million population is under a month-long quarantine.

Thailand said on Thursday that all arrivals would need to present medical certificates to show they do not have coronavirus.

Indonesia has banned visitors from some countries with large numbers of coronavirus cases, but has not introduced the same level of restrictions as Malaysia or the Philippines.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/highlight/2020/03/19/indonesia-attains-highest-virus-death-toll-in-southeast-asia/

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No Friday prayers at all mosques with movement control order

March 19, 2020

PUTRAJAYA: All mosques in the country will suspend Friday prayers during the movement control order (MCO) period to help break the chain of Covid-19 infections, the government said today.

“Follow the directives issued and replace the Friday prayers with Zohor prayers at home with your family members,” Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri said in a public service announcement broadcast on TV.

Zulkifli said the move was also in line with the measures taken in other Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

“Almost all agree (with the decision) in this kind of situation and all parties should obey the order of the government.

“Once again, my message is, pray Zohor at home, InsyaAllah there is wisdom behind it,” he said.

On Monday, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin declared a nationwide MCO from March 18 to 31 to curb the spread of Covid-19, the first time the government has enforced such an order.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/03/19/no-friday-prayers-at-all-mosques-with-movement-control-order/

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Jokowi Calls for Massive Covid-19 Rapid Testing in Indonesia as Market, Rupiah Are Routed

BY JAKARTAGLOBE

MARCH 19, 2020

Jakarta. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has issued an order to carry out massive rapid Covid-19 testing across Indonesia, as the country ramps up efforts to fight the pandemic.

"We must do this immediately, rapid testing with greater coverage so we can detect Covid-19 infections much earlier," Jokowi said during a cabinet meeting at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta on Thursday.

The president also called for a clear and straightforward health protocol everyone could follow, especially regarding self-isolation after taking the Covid-19 test.

Indonesia is finally listening to the World Health Organization's call for extensive Covid-19 testing in its territory, which has quickly become a hotbed for the pandemic in Southeast Asia.

The most populous country in the region announced 19 deaths from the disease on Wednesday, four times the number a day earlier.

This means the country now has one of the highest Covid-19 fatality rates among its neighbors.

Indonesia reported 227 new confirmed cases on Wednesday after testing just 1,592 people, or six in a million out of its total population.

Jokowi's call came as rupiah, the country's currency, fell as much as 4.1 percent to trade at 16,132 against the US dollar at intraday trading on Thursday, a level it has not seen since the traumatic experience of the Asian Financial Crisis in 1998.

What happened at the stock market today compounded fears that Covid-19 could trigger a global recession this year.

Global investment bank Morgan Stanley said the world's economy is likely to shrink by 0.3 percent in the first quarter – when China's economy suffered the worst hits of the pandemic – and by 0.6 percent in the second when the rest of the world will likely struggle with the pandemic's fallout.

The Indonesia Stock Exchange also imploded on Thursday, forcing the bourse to hit its 5-percent-decline circuit breaker for the four times in the past six days.

On Thursday's meeting, Jokowi seemed to have finally come to terms with the fact that Indonesia is now playing catch up with a pandemic – there was no more comment about people recovering from the disease by themselves in the president's speech.

"Our first priority is to prevent the wider spread of Covid-19," Jokowi said.

"The most important thing is to reduce people's mobility, prevent them from moving from one place to another. We will continue to share information about the importance of keeping our distance from each other, of social distancing," he said.

The president also issued an order to provide maximum support for medical workers, ensuring they are supplied with adequate equipment and medical supplies, from surgical masks, rubber gloves to hazmat suits.

"We've been exporting the masks and medical equipment. We will stop. Let's make sure we've got enough of them ourselves," Jokowi said.

"I've also asked the Finance Minister to provide incentives for doctors, nurses and hospital staff who are handling Covid-19 cases," he said.

The president also promised a massive mobilization of private hospitals and hospitals under the control of state-owned enterprises and the military to provide treatment for Covid-19 patients.

Indonesia now has only 310,000 hospital beds across the archipelago, or 1.2 beds for every 1,000 people, according to the WHO's latest data.

"If necessary, we can also use the athlete housing in Kemayoran, which can fit in around 15,000 people. Hotels operated by state-owned enterprises can also be used," Jokowi said, referring to the Athlete's Village in Central Jakarta used for the  2018 Asian Games.

Limit Religious Gatherings

The president also calls for the Covid-19 Task Force – a joint operation of ministries, regional governments and the Indonesian Military (TNI) under Lt. Gen. Doni Monardo, the head of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) – to persuade religious leaders to join the government's efforts in combating the pandemic.

"We must re-evaluate religious events that involve a large crowd," Jokowi said.

On Wednesday, Doni scrambled to stop two massive religious gatherings scheduled for Thursday in Gowa, South Sulawesi, and in Ruteng, East Nusa Tenggara.

The government just managed to halt the Islamic event in Gowa, which had gathered at least 8,000 people, including hundreds of foreigners from Malaysia, India and Pakistan.

A Catholic bishop ordination in Ruteng, on the other hand, went forward at a smaller scale. Attendees shared images of around 2,000 people packing the town's cathedral, but also photos of its empty yard, which was initially reserved for another 5,000 pilgrims from around the diocese.

The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) on Monday issued a fatwa – a non-binding edict for Muslims – calling on mosques in areas with confirmed Covid-19 cases to suspend Friday prayers and tell congregations to pray at home instead.

So far, authorities have confirmed the presence of the disease in 14 provinces, including Jakarta, Central Java, Bali, Banten, West Java, East Java and North Sumatra.

"The fatwa... is a guide for the Muslim community so they can continue worshipping but also help with preventing the spread of Covid-19," said Asrorum Niam Saleh, the secretary of MUI's fatwa council.

Full report at:

https://jakartaglobe.id/news/jokowi-calls-for-massive-covid19-rapid-testing-in-indonesia-as-market-rupiah-are-routed

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Suspected Jemaah Islamiyah Leader on Trial in Indonesia

March 18, 2020

JAKARTA, Indonesia — The suspected leader of Indonesia's al-Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiyah network went on trial Wednesday on charges of terrorism that could result in a death sentence.

Prosecutors told the East Jakarta District Court that Para Wijayanto became leader of the banned organization in 2009. The group was blamed for the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists.

Wijayanto and his wife were arrested last July by counterterrorism police at a hotel in the Jakarta satellite city of Bekasi, following the arrest of nine people believed to be members of his group who had returned from fighting in Iraq and Syria.

The nine other suspects were tried separately in the same court on Wednesday.

"The defendant and his friends have been involved in an evil conspiracy to commit terrorist crimes," prosecutor Ade Solehudin said. “They made preparations, plans and provided assistance for terrorist attacks.”

Solehudin said Wijayanto, a civil engineer who received military training at a jihadi camp in the southern Philippines in 2000, also was involved in sectarian conflict in Poso, a hotbed of Islamic militancy on Indonesia's Sulawesi island.

In the indictment, Solehudin said that since 2013, Wijayanto has recruited and trained members of Jemaah Islamiyah's military wing, sending some to Syria to fight with the al-Qaida-affiliated group Jabhat al-Nusra. He faces a possible death penalty if convicted.

Police said Wijayanto, who has eluded capture since 2003, was involved in the making of bombs used in a series of attacks including a 2004 bombing at the Australian Embassy that killed nine.

Wijayanto became leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, replacing another militant, Zarkasih, who was arrested in 2007 and sentenced to 15 years in prison, police said.

A court banned Jemaah Islamiyah in 2008, and the group was weakened by a sustained crackdown on militants by Indonesia's counterterrorism police with U.S. and Australian support. A new threat has emerged in recent years inspired by Islamic State group attacks abroad.

The country's last major militant attack was in May 2018, when two families carried out suicide bombings in Indonesia's second-largest city, Surabaya, killing a dozen people including two young girls whose parents had involved them in one of the attacks. Police said the father of the girls was the leader of a militant Jemaah Anshorut Daulah cell.

A radical cleric who founded that group, Aman Abdurrahman, was sentenced to death in 2018 for inciting attacks including a 2016 suicide bombing at a Starbucks in Jakarta.

Full report at:

https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2020/03/18/world/asia/ap-as-indonesia-militant-trial.html

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Mideast

 

Netanyahu orders Israelis to stay at home to contain coronavirus spread

20 March 2020

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday tightened a national stay-at home policy, announcing guidelines aimed at halting the spread of the coronavirus would now be enforced by police under emergency orders.

"Under these orders, you, Israel's citizens, are required to stay at home. It is no longer a request, it is not a recommendation, it is an obligatory directive that will be enforced by enforcement authorities," Netanyahu said in a televised address.

The measures stopped short of a total national lockdown: Netanyahu said Israelis would still be allowed to shop for food and medicine, and some workers would be exempted from the restrictions.

Netanyahu had threatened on Wednesday to turn shelter in place guidelines into official orders, enabling police to fine or arrest those who ignore them, unless the public stepped up compliance.

Israel's Health Ministry has reported 573 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection. Forty-seven cases have been reported among Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/03/20/Netanyahu-orders-Israelis-to-stay-at-home-to-contain-coronavirus-spread.html

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Israelis protest against Netanyahu’s dictatorship amid virus control measures

19 March 2020

Hundreds of Israelis have held protests against what they believe is a dictatorship led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after he banned gatherings over the coronavirus outbreak.

The protesters gathered Thursday in front of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in the occupied Jerusalem al-Quds, to decry measures by Netanyahu and his allies in the government to shut down the courts and the parliament, moves that many say are meant to postpone his long-awaited trial over charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Protesters held banners, reading “No to dictatorship" and "crime minister," urging Netanyahu to allow the trial to go on.

Netanyahu is leading a caretaker government after he failed to gain a majority in three general elections in one year.

Opposition leader Benny Gantz has been mandated to form a new government but Netanyahu’s stay-at-home policy announced amid the coronavirus outbreak in the occupied territories has made a change of office effectively impossible.

A total of 573 infection cases have been identified so far including 74 Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank. However, no one has died of the virus, provoking criticism that Netanyahu has gone too far to impose measures similar to a full lockdown.

Israeli police said they had made several arrests during the Thursday protest while blocking movement of cars and convoys of protesters seeking to approach the Knesset building.

The opposition Blue and White party has reacted angrily to a Wednesday decision by Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein to dismiss a sitting of the legislature because of Netanyahu’s virus-related orders.

Yair Lapid, a senior figure in the party, said the move, as well as the closure of the courts to allegedly postpone Netanyahu’s corruption trial, showed that Israel had effectively turned into a dictatorship led by an unelected group.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/19/621226/Israel-Netanyahu-coronavirus

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Coronavirus kills one person in Iran every 10 minutes: Spokesman

19 March 2020

The new coronavirus kills one person every 10 minutes in Iran, the health ministry spokesman tweeted on Thursday, as the death toll in the Middle East worst-affected country climbed to 1,284.

“Based on our information, every 10 minutes one person dies from the coronavirus and some 50 people become infected with the virus every hour in Iran," Kianush Jahanpur tweeted.

A total of 18,407 people have been infected with the virus as of Thursday, according to figures provided by the Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/03/19/Iran-death-toll-rises-to-1-284-number-of-infections-now-18-407.html

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Iranian President Congratulates Nowruz to Neighbouring States

Mar 20, 2020

"Nowruz; this ancient, glorious tradition brings the message of love and kindness, and spring is blowing the spirit of life into nature, the manifestation of endless divine power and the season of renewal,” President Rouhani said in his messages sent to leaders of Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Armenia, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Iraq and Uzbekistan.

"Unfortunately, this year's Nowruz coincided with the spread of coronavirus to Iran and many countries, and it is natural that we need to cooperate with each other on a daily basis to overcome the crisis this dangerous virus has caused,” he added.

"We need to help each other by gathering our medicine and medical facilities to fight this invading virus and turn Nowruz feast into the celebration of securing health and blessings for our nations," President Rouhani said.

He wished health and success for the people of the countries in the Nowruz Civilization Zone.

Nowruz, which coincides with the first day of spring on the solar calendar, is mostly celebrated in Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan.

The International Day of Nowruz was registered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on February 23, 2010.

For Iranians, Nowruz is a celebration of renewal and change, a time to visit relatives and friends, and pay respect to senior family members.

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.ir/newstext.aspx?nn=13990101000082

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Iran Focusing on Online Identification of Coronavirus Patients

Mar 19, 2020

“Only in Zahedan (the provincial capital of Iran's Southeastern Sistan and Balouchestan province), over 37,000 people have filled in the information forms about their health conditions in line with the electronic screening of people suspected of coronavirus infection,” Deputy Head of Zahedan University of Medical Sciences Mehdi Tabatabayee said on Thursday.

He added that all Iranian people can visit the health ministry’s website for the relevant coronavirus forms to inform the ministry of their health conditions.

Meantime, Deputy Head of Kermanshah province’s University of Medical Sciences Dr. Roshani told FNA that a phone line has been launched to provide the public with the needed help and information on how to take care of patients suspected of infection to COVID-19 virus at home.

He added that people can contact the center and ask their questions from medical experts.

Meantime, Head of the Civil Defense and Crisis Management of Mashhad city’s municipality Vahid Akmali said that several industrial sheds have been disinfected and prepared to be delivered to the health ministry as a medical center for the treatment of coronavirus patients.

Also, voluntary groups in different cities and towns, including Chahar Mahal and Bakhtiari and Sistan and Balouchestan provinces, have embarked on the production of masks for the medical staff and people.

An official in the Western province of Chahar Mahal and Bakhtiari said that 13,000 masks are produced in 28 workshops every day by volunteers.

Also, Representative of Zahedan people in the parliament Hossein Ali Shahriari told FNA on Thursday that a workshop to produce facial masks has been set up in the countryside of Zahedan city to provide people’s needs.

The coronavirus COVID-19 is affecting 170 countries and territories around the world. The virus was first reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year. It has so far killed more than 9,200 people and infected over 225,000 others globally.

Iran reported on Thursday 1,284 fatalities and 18,407 cases of infection. Meanwhile, 5,979 people have recovered.

The Iranian foreign ministry declared that despite Washington’s claims of cooperation to transfer drugs to Iran via the new Swiss-launched payment mechanism, the US is troubling the process amid the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

Although US claims that medicines and medical equipment are not under sanctions, they have practically blocked the transfer of Iran’s financial resources in other countries into the Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement (SHTA), Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi said.

As the death toll from the virus surges, Iran intensifies its preventive safety measures. Closures of schools and universities have been extended for the next two weeks.

The government also imposed travel restrictions, specially on Iran’s north, which is among the red zones. The country has also adopted strict digital health control procedures at airports to spot possible infections.

Health Minister Saeed Namaki announced earlier this month that a new national mobilization plan would be implemented across the country to fight against the coronavirus epidemic and more effectively treat patients.

Namaki said that the plan will include all the 17,000 health centers and the 9,000 medical and clinical centers in all cities, suburban areas and villages.

He added that the plan will include home quarantine, noting that infected people will receive the necessary medicines and advice, but they are asked to stay at home.

Namaki said that people with a more serious condition will stay at the hospitals, adding that the public places will be disinfected, the entries of infected towns and cities will be controlled to diagnose and quarantine the infected cases.

He added that the necessary equipment and facilities have been provided, expressing the hope that the epidemic would be curbed.

Namaki said that the number of medical laboratories to test coronavirus infection has reached 22, and will increase to 40 soon.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says Iran's response to the virus has so far been up to the mark. Still, it says the US sanctions are a big challenge, and Washington would be complicit in the rising death toll in Iran if it would not remove its sanctions.

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.ir/newstext.aspx?nn=13981229000477

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Coronavirus: Turkey confirms 359 cases, death toll at four people

20 March 2020

The death toll in Turkey due to the coronavirus rose to four, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said late on Thursday, adding there was a total of 359 confirmed cases in the country.

The number of confirmed cases was 191 on Wednesday. Koca said 1,981 tests had been conducted in the past 24 hours, 168 of which came back positive.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/03/20/Coronavirus-Turkey-confirms-359-cases-death-toll-at-four-people.html

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Israeli protests accuse Netanyahu of exploiting coronavirus to solidify power

19 March 2020

Hundreds of people defied restrictions on large gatherings to protest outside Israeli parliament Thursday, while scores of others were blocked by police from reaching the area as they accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government of exploiting the coronavirus crisis to solidify his power and undermine Israel's democratic foundations.

In recent days, Netanyahu and his surrogates have shut down the Israel’s court system just ahead of his trial on corruption charges, have begun using phone-surveillance technology on the public and adjourned parliament until next week.

Netanyahu has defended most of these moves as unpleasant but necessary steps to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. But opponents say he is more interested in staying in power as Netanyahu governs in a caretaker role after a third consecutive inconclusive election in under a year.

Outside the Knesset, or parliament, hundreds protested the government’s moves, hoisting banners that said “No to dictatorship,” “Democracy in danger,” and calling Netanyahu the “crime minister.”

Police said they arrested three people for violating a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people. They also blocked a convoy of dozens of cars from entering Jerusalem and prevented dozens of other cars inside Jerusalem from approaching the Knesset building. Many of the cars honked and hung black flags out their windows.

Israel is a “good country, good people and we need to remember the foundation upon which this country was built,” said protester Michal Levi. “We have only one country. That’s it. Don’t give up on it.”

Police rejected accusations that they were carrying out Netanyahu's bidding, saying they were following Health Ministry orders meant to curb the spread of the virus. “No one is above the law or above public health orders released by the ministry of health," it said.

At the nearby Supreme Court, justices heard separate challenges to the new mobile-phone tracking edict and the shutdown of the Knesset. Civil rights groups and the opposition Blue and White party filed the cases.

Netanyahu announced this week that Israel’s Shin Bet security agency would begin deploying its phone surveillance technology to help curb the spread of the coronavirus in Israel by tracking the moves of those infected. The order went into effect late Wednesday when the government said it had notified about 400 people that they had come into contact with infected people and should immediately quarantine themselves.

The virus has spread to more than 100 countries, infected more than 220,000 people worldwide and killed nearly 10,000. For most people, it causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/03/19/Israeli-protests-accuse-Netanyahu-of-exploiting-coronavirus-to-solidify-power.html

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Palestine slams ‘hostile’ Israeli bills on land grab, death penalties

19 March 2020

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has warned the regime in Tel Aviv against approving bills that seek to annex most of the occupied West Bank, including the Jordan Valley, and pave the way for death penalties for Palestinian prisoners.

In a statement on Wednesday, the PA’s Foreign Ministry strongly denounced the Israeli bill that would permanently annex the Jordan Valley, the northern Dead Sea and the Hebron (al-Khalil) desert in the occupied West Bank to Israel, Qatar's al-Sharq paper reported.

Another bill also authorizes issuing death penalties for the Palestinian prisoners accused of carrying out anti-Israeli operations, it added.

The statement said although the submission of this hostile plan comes at a time of internal party strife in the occupied territories, it is a direct fulfillment of the promises of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials.

The statement further called on the international community to help block this anti-Palestine plan.

It further said that the move would undermine efforts to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and would be a final death to the peace process.

The bills were submitted to the Israeli Knesset (parliament) on Wednesday by the right-wing Israeli lawmaker Miki Zohar, who heads the Likud party in the Knesset.

In September 2019, right before the last elections, Netanyahu vowed that if re-elected, he planned to annex additional “vital” parts of the West Bank beyond the Jordan Valley and the major settlement blocs, and do so in coordination with the United States.

The cabinet agreed to turn the wildcat settlement of Mevoot Yericho in the Jordan Valley into an official settlement.

Shortly afterwards, however, the Israeli prime minister said that he had been told by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit that a transition government could not make such a move so close to an election.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/19/621193/Israel-Palestine-Jordan-Valley-prisoners

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Palestinians defy leaders’ health crisis ban on work in settlements

March 20, 2020

RAMALLAH: Palestinians on Thursday defied their government’s call to cease work in Israeli settlements over coronavirus concerns, saying bringing money home to their families came first.

More than 500 cases of infection have been confirmed in Israel, and nearly 50 in the occupied West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority (PA) exercises limited self-rule.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh asked the some 25,000 Palestinians who work in settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank — areas Israel captured in a 1967 war — to stay home from Thursday as part of efforts to reduce transmission.

But in the West Bank settlement of Ramat Givat Zeev, Palestinian day laborers dismissed the PA’s order and shrugged off virus fears.

“You have to adapt, put yourself in a bit of danger so you can provide food for your children,” said Omar Hamad, a construction supervisor from Ramallah. “We have rent, we have expenses, we have lots of things.”

The wrangling sheds a light on how workers in the interwoven Israeli and Palestinian economies might push back on coronavirus restrictions that could threaten their jobs and income.

Palestinian laborers earn relatively higher incomes in Israel, where some 100,000 work, and in the settlements than in Palestinian cities.

Their salaries made up 14 percent of the Palestinians’ $18 billion gross national income in 2018, according to Raja Khalidi, director general of the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute. Khalidi was skeptical the PA would enforce the settlement work ban, which would be hard to implement without cooperation from Israel.

“The (PA) cannot pay the price of cutting off the livelihoods” of Palestinians working in settlements, he said, especially with unemployment in Palestinian cities in the West Bank hovering around 15 percent.

“They would be unemployed and have to fend for themselves in an otherwise hostile and depressed economic environment,” Khalidi said.

For its part, Israel has made no effort to ban the entry of Palestinians with work permits. But the laborers face new restrictions as both the PA and Israel try to limit peoples’ movements during the health crisis.

The Palestinian Authority has imposed curfews in Bethlehem and other West Bank cities under its control. It has given workers with jobs in Israel until March 22 to find housing there, after which the PA intends to ban cross-border travel.

Israeli authorities said that due to the health crisis Palestinians with work permits, who typically return home to the West Bank daily, will be allowed to stay in Israel for up to two months, depending on the nature of their work.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1644066/middle-east

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South Asia

 

Kabul: Taliban must end violence before prisoner release

SAYED SALAHUDDIN

March 20, 2020

KABUL: The Taliban must end violence before Kabul releases its imprisoned fighters, an Afghan government spokesman said on Thursday, a day after US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said Washington would like to see the process begin as soon as possible.

Under a deal signed by the US and the Taliban in Doha on Feb. 29, the Afghan government was obliged to free 5,000 Taliban inmates in return for 1,000 members of the security forces held by the group by March 10, when the first round of intra-Afghan peace talks was expected to start.

Based on an order by President Ashraf Ghani, who took the oath of office for a second term on March 9, the prisoner release process should have started on March 14.

The government has not justified the delay, but following Khalilzad’s call, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s national security adviser, Faisal Javid, said on Thursday: “There has been no change with regard to the prisoner release as per the decree of the president.” However, he specified a condition under which it could begin.

“It’s important that the Taliban stop killing Afghans and Muslims, and we get assurances that those released in the name of peace wouldn’t return to battlefields again,” he said in a video message sent to the media. “It’s time for them to end violence and commit to dignified peace.”

The scheduled intra-Afghan talks have also yet to commence. As Ghani’s contender in September’s presidential election, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah announced himself as the country’s ruler and vowed to form a parallel government. Parties are divided over who should represent the government during the intra-Afghan talks.

 While Khalilzad has been trying to overcome Afghanistan’s deepening political crisis, on Wednesday evening he said the prisoner release was urgent in light of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

“The United States would like to see prisoner releases begin as soon as possible in line with the US -Taliban agreement. No prisoners have been released to date despite the commitment to do so expressed by both sides,” Khalilzad said in a series of Twitter posts.

“Coronavirus makes prisoner releases urgent; time is of the essence. We are committed to do our part and after consultation with all relevant sides, the United States understands.”

Khalilzad said technical teams from both sides can work together and focus on steps to begin the prisoner release as soon as possible.

He added that he would participate in the initial meetings, although the current epidemic makes it more complex.

“While preferable to meet face-to-face, coronavirus and the resulting travel restrictions likely requires virtual engagement for now,” Khalilzad said.

“We call on all sides to avoid provocative media statements. The Taliban commit that released prisoners will abide by the commitments made in the peace agreement and not return to the battlefield. A violation will undermine the peace process.”

Analyst Taj Mohammad said the Afghan government’s condition for the prisoner release process will further delay the intra-Afghan talks and peace in the country.

“We’re in an uncertain situation now, and I think the government is attaching a condition that will lead to a postponement of the exchange and reduce hope for an earlier start of the talks,” he told Arab News.

Taliban representatives could not immediately be reached for comment.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1644131/world

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Taliban promises safe passage for coronavirus health workers

18 Mar 2020

The Taliban in Afghanistan has promised safe passage to international healthcare organisations and humanitarian workers who are fighting against the coronavirus.

In a statement on Wednesday, the group urged health agencies to provide medicine, send aid and the necessary equipment to areas under their control.

"Our brotherly businessmen, in line with their Islamic and humanitarian responsibility, must also support their fellow people in this time of crisis," the statement said.

The Taliban claims the virus is a God-sent scourge in response to "disobedience" and "sins of mankind".

Afghanistan has 22 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Health concerns are mounting in the country; every day thousands of Afghans cross the border with Iran, the regional epicentre of the crisis.

In 2019, the Taliban banned the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), alleging the two organisations were conducting "suspicious" activities. The group later revoked its bans.

On Tuesday, European Union special envoy for Afghanistan Roland Kobia called for a full ceasefire in view of the growing coronavirus threat.

"Everyone has the right to be helped against coronavirus. To be better helped, first measures should be: full ceasefire, stop taxing humanitarian aid, ensure full access and safety, coordinate & cooperate with Government," Kobia said, an apparent message to the Taliban.

Welcoming the statement, Waheed Omer, a senior aide to President Ashraf Ghani, also called on the Taliban to stop attacks and allow health workers to reach vulnerable areas.

Full report at:

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/03/taliban-promises-safe-passage-coronavirus-health-workers-200318162138283.html

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U.S. warns Afghan leaders over parallel governments

19 Mar 2020

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells has warned that parallel governments will be harmful to the Afghan people.

“Afghan leaders must prioritize and protect unity of the nation. Parallel Afghan governments are not the answer, and will be harmful to the Afghan people. The impasse over governance must end,” Ambassador Wells said in a Twitter post.

This comes as efforts are underway to end the ongoing differences on political level in the country.

Both Abdullah and Ghani held oath taking ceremonies in capital Kabul on 9th of March, further fueling political tensions amid ongoing efforts to find a negotiated political settlement to ongoing violence in the country.

The Independent Election Commission announced incumbent Ashraf Ghani as the winner of the controversial presidential elections last month.

However, Ghani’s rival Abdullah Abdullah said he had won the presidential race insisting that he would form a parallel government.

The U.S. envoy for Afghan peace Zalmay Khalilzad also issued a statement late on Wednesday and emphasized “It is time for Afghans to compromise and put their differences aside to resolve the political crisis resulting from elections and dual inaugurations.”

“This crisis undermines security. Coronavirus poses a mortal threat and requires Afghans to put their country, and its people, first. It is a matter of life and death,” he said in a Twitter post.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/u-s-warns-afghan-leaders-over-parallel-governments-04531/

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Afghans launch public awareness campaign to tackle coronavirus outbreak

19 March 2020

Amin Alemi

The Afghan government has adopted a series of measures in order to contain the new coronavirus outbreak. This, as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Afghanistan continues to grow.

Along with the government’s efforts to tackle the outbreak of the new coronavirus, different activist groups and bodies have launched campaigns to help protect the most vulnerable against COVID-19.

The campaigns include public awareness programs in big cities like Kabul to slow the spread of the virus.

Preventive measures against the coronavirus outbreak in Afghanistan have been doubled while the country’s health ministry describes the battle against the coronavirus as exhausting, asking the people to strongly support the government in its fight against the disease.

Besides many attempts aimed at raising public awareness, the government of Afghanistan in close cooperation with public councils and the country’s parliament has put a ban on all big gatherings such as the ancient Nowruz festival which marks the Afghan New Year.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/19/621227/Afghanistan-coronavirus-Kabul-Herat

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Pakistan

 

Pakistan asks India to lift Kashmir curfew after reports of virus cases

March 20, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday urged the Indian government to lift the curfew in occupied Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) following media reports of coronavirus cases in the held valley which is under complete lockdown since Aug 5 last year.

According to India Today, J&K’s coronavirus count had reached four by Wednesday.

In the weekly press briefing, which was held behind closed doors as a precautionary measure amid virus outbreak, Foreign Office (FO) Spokesperson Aisha Farooqui stressed that lifting of restrictions is important to obtain full information of the infected people and to ensure the provision of essential items and medical supplies to the people.

Farooqui also condemned the “inhumane and brutal repression of the people of occupied Jammu and Kashmir by the Indian security forces”.

The spokesperson also noted that despite the Indian annexation of the mountainous valley, Jammu and Kashmir remains a disputed territory and the Indian government’s steps are in sheer violation of the UN resolutions.

Regarding the prevailing coronavirus situation, she said that the government has taken a series of measures to contain its spread. She said the government is monitoring the situation and has employed all mechanisms to ensure the safety of the people.

Farooqui announced a crisis management cell has also been established in the Foreign Office to liaise with the diplomatic corps in Pakistan as well as with foreign missions and Pakistan nationals living abroad.

“Our embassies and consulates abroad have also established hotlines and nominated focal persons to facilitate expatriates,” she said, adding: “They are advised to avoid unnecessary travel and practice social distancing in a responsible manner for their own safety and those around them.”

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/03/19/pakistan-asks-india-to-lift-kashmir-curfew-after-held-valley-reports-virus-cases/

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Imran govt incapable of dealing with corona outbreak, says ex-governor

BY HASSAN NAQVI

Mar 20, 2020

LAHORE: Former Sindh governor and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Muhammad Zubair said the federal government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan was ill-prepared to deal with coronavirus outbreak.

In a conversation with Pakistan Today, the former governor said the PM’s address to the nation on Tuesday showed that the government was groping in the dark concerning the outbreak. “PM only knows two words ‘Ghabrana Nahi’,” he said, taking a jibe at Imran’s much-famed mantra.

“What was the speech supposed to convey,” he questioned and added that people expected specific economic measures from the government, but the PM said nothing about that and spent his address praising the ‘incompetent’ Balochistan government.

“We all know the mess we are in is created by the Balochistan and federal governments,” he said in reference to the entry of Pakistani pilgrims from Iran.

The PML-N leader also criticised the State Bank of Pakistan for an insignificant cut of 75 basis points in the policy rate.

“At 13.25pc, it was simply not viable to do business, especially those competing in the global markets. Such high interest rates in an environment of a fast deteriorating economy simply did not make sense,” the former governor added.

He said to add to this the massive devaluation, unprecedented increase in gas and electricity tariffs and almost an unbelievable increase in taxes was a recipe for economic disaster.

“So, when coronavirus started having its impact, it was natural that businesses and others expected SBP to take bold measures, including a massive rate cut. A significant decrease was being demanded before the coronavirus and now after the outbreak, there was a need for bold measures,” he said.

So, the March 17 announcement by SBP has left everyone wondering if the present government, especially the SBP governor even has a basic understanding of the dismal situation Pakistan faces and the role that SBP needed to play, he said.

He added that a rate cut of 0.75pc wasn’t enough even before the new crisis. Back in November or around, everyone expected SBP to gradually cut rates reaching single digits by mid-year.

“But SBP Governor Reza Baqir and the present economic team have their own thinking. Whatever that thinking is, it could only lead to a further economic mess and possibly civil unrest of the kind that we have not seen in the country,” the former governor said.

He added that the SBP governor himself admitted that Pakistan’s growth will be around 2pc. “But how can that growth pick up if the policymakers are not ready to undertake drastic measures,” he asked.

20 countries around the globe have come up with significant rate cuts in recent days. That’s one of the several economic measures they have taken to ensure the economy survives as a result of the virus attack, the economic expert added.

Zubair shared that the Federal Reserve in the US has cut the rate to zero – just to play its role in ensuring economic survival. He added that the hot money formula doesn’t seem to work as well. Huge amounts have left in recent days and more is expected in the coming days.

“The stock market expecting a significant rate cut is again down almost 2000 points today – showing its disappointment at the government’s inaction,” Zubair said.

The former governor recalled that since August 2018, this government has repeatedly failed in its key objective- economic management. “It has failed again in coping with this latest crisis. No one knows where we are heading but one thing is sure – the government of Imran Khan does not have the capacity and competence to handle and manage this country.”

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/03/19/imran-govt-incapable-dealing-corona-outbreak-says-ex-governor/

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Maryam breaks social media silence with tweets on coronavirus

Mar 20, 2020

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz in a series of tweets on Thursday said Pakistan is facing one of the gravest crises in her recent memory.

Taking to the microblogging site, she said: “the spread of coronavirus poses a serious threat that needs to be fought at all levels. In the hour of trial, we must take precaution, follow the medical guidelines & pray to Allah SWT for His protection.”

Maryam Nawaz Sharif

@MaryamNSharif

Heartfelt condolences to the families of those who have succumbed to the epidemic & earnest prayers for early recovery of the affected. May Allah protect us all. Ameen. Fee Amaan Allah. https://twitter.com/maryamnsharif/status/1240600748628508672 …

Maryam Nawaz Sharif

@MaryamNSharif

Pakistan is facing one of the gravest crises in her recent memory. The spread of corona virus poses a serious threat that needs to be fought at all levels. In the hour of trial, we must take precaution, follow the medical guidelines & pray to Allah SWT for His protection.

7,429

16:58 - 19 Mar 2020

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She extended “heartfelt” condolences to the families of those who have died from the epidemic and prayed for early recovery of the affected. “May Allah protect us all. Ameen. Fee Amaan Allah.”

Maryam Nawaz, who faces charges of money laundering and is out on bail in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills (CSM) case, conveyed “fervent prayers” from her father Nawaz Sharif for “beloved nation,” saying: ” He [asked me to convey directly to the people of Pakistan].

Earlier, on March 12, PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz broke her months-long silence as she talked to media for the first time after being released from prison on bail in the CSM case.

“I remained silent due to some personal reasons,” she said after meeting PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in Islamabad.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/03/19/maryam-breaks-social-media-silence-tweets-coronavirus/

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Hindu, Muslim families stopped from crossing over to Pak after border sealed amid virus scare

Mar 20, 2020

Attari (Amritsar), Mar 19 (PTI) Over 10 Hindu and Muslim families were stopping from crossing over to Pakistan through the Attari-Wagah check post after India sealed the border with the neighbouring country due to the coronavirus threat.

A senior BSF officer said a notification in this regard was received on Wednesday night after which the border was sealed for 14 days.

He said no one will be allowed to cross over from either side.

Reacting to the development, Pakistani national Lakshmi Devi said, "The governments of India and Pakistan should have informed the public about the sealing of international border well in time."

"Now, we are penniless. We want to join our family in Pakistan" she said, adding that they were told about the development on reaching the border check post.

Another Pakistani Hindu, Shobraj, said, "I came here from Indore to cross over to Pakistan for further journey to my home in Sindh. I can''t afford to stay here since I don''t have enough money."

"Moreover, our relatives here in India (Indore) and in Sindh are disturbed as we are stuck here," he added.

Pakistani national Pawan Kumar, too, expressed worry over the situation.

"I am in depression since my visa is going to expire in a couple of days," he said.

He added after the expiry of his visa, he was not sure about his fate.

Mohammed Bashir said he had a SAARC visa which will expire in a few days.

"This happened all of a sudden. I Don''t know where I would stay in India till the opening of border," he said.

Zara, who had come from Mumbai to go back to Pakistan, was worried about her lodging arrangements.

"To my utter surprise, the authorities are not allowing me to cross over to Pakistan as the border has been sealed. I don''t know where the Indian Government would make my lodging arrangements."

On being contacted, Amritsar Deputy Commissioner Shivdular Singh Dhillon said, "All people who were disallowed to cross over to Pakistan are individuals (private) and the district administration is not responsible to make their lodging arrangement."

"Moreover, by claiming that they don''t have money, they just want to create a dramatic situation, thinking that the border could be opened to accommodate them," he said.

Full report at:

https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/hindu-muslim-families-stopped-from-crossing-over-to-pak-after-border-sealed-amid-virus-scare/1773532

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In rare move, Bilawal resists temptation of criticising PM

Imran Ayub

March 20, 2020

KARACHI: In a rare gesture, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bila­wal Bhu­tto-Zardari on Thursday announced a “no criticism policy” against Prime Minis­ter Imran Khan and his government over its response to the coronavirus pandemic. He expressed the hope that the federal government will meet the challenges posed by the situation, but at the same time called upon it to adopt a “proactive and interventionist” approach in war on COVID-19.

Addressing a press conference at the Sindh Assem­bly with Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, Mr Bhutto-Zardari hinted that “we are heading towards a lockdown” — a day after the country reported its first two deaths from the virus.

He termed the situation a national challenge, saying that beyond political and ideological differences every individual has to play their role in this fight and deal with the fast-approaching situation.

“We should not waste our energies over criticism, the blame game and political point-scoring,” he said in reply to a question about his thoughts over responsibility for the recent surge in coronavirus cases in the country. “It’s not the time to criticise the prime minister and I would not blame him or anyone. Instead, I should hope that he and every single citizen of Pakistan can win this fight. There is a need for increased coordination and unity.”

To a question about concerns that the partial lockdown could cause problems for people acquiring food items, he said that the Sindh government was making all arrangements for any such situation. A plan was in place to deliver rations to affected families at their homes, he added.

“We need to understand that the war against coronavirus has to be fought on two fronts: containing the spread of the virus and mitigating the economic damage the virus will cause. I urge the federal government to help all the provinces. Our steps could only be effective if the country is united,” said the PPP chairman.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari said the federal government needed to finalise its strategy for dealing with the situation. “We need mass testing, we need as many kits as we can and we need to mitigate the impact of this situation on the economy.”

He also urged employers in the private sector to give daily-wage labours their full salaries during the coronavirus shutdown.

During the presser, the PPP chairman directed the Sindh government to ensure that no daily wage worker was laid off and the provincial authorities should make it incumbent upon private organisations to ensure that their employees’ salaries were timely disbursed.

He said the Sindh government was aware of the economic impact of the outbreak and would take concrete measures to tackle the approaching crisis.

He said the Sindh government had identified 34 suspected patients when there was news of the outbreak in Wuhan, China, adding that they all tested negative.

To a question about the recent cut in interest rates by just 75 basis points to 12.5 per cent, he said that it was not enough, adding that the government needed to take concrete steps to deal with the economic fallout from the virus.

Meanwhile, Adviser to the Sindh chief minister Barrister Murtaza Wahab has announced that a patient, who was tested positive for coronavirus around two weeks ago, had recovered.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1542313/in-rare-move-bilawal-resists-temptation-of-criticising-pm

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Europe

 

Manchester Bombing victims: 'Government and mayor 'abandoned' us'

18 March 2020

American popstars have been left to “plug the funding gap” for “abandoned” victims of the Manchester bombing, survivors claim.

Survivors and victims’ relatives claim that funds from the One Love Manchester benefit concert organised by Grande who drafted in fellow pop stars - including: Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Katie Perry, Take That and The Black Eyed Peas - is the only help they have received.

The concert, held at Old Trafford Cricket Ground, raised almost £20million for victims and survivors.

There is currently no specially allocated government funding for victims of terror. While they can claim money through the government’s Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), survivors of the Manchester terror attack say that they are forced to wait years for funds to come through, leaving them “feeling like a criminal”....

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/03/18/manchester-bombing-victims-government-mayor-abandoned-us/

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NHS officials told me Muslim households are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus – it’s important to understand why

Shadim Hussain

March 20, 2020

Britain’s Muslims are amongst the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic – senior NHS officials have told me that up to a quarter of British people who have died from the disease caused by the virus have been elderly Muslims.

To those inside Muslim communities like me, this is shocking but not surprising. Muslims are particularly vulnerable to the virus and it needs to be recognised more broadly before it is too late. If Muslims feel let down, excluded or forgotten by the government response, there will be repercussions that last longer than the outbreak.

Many Muslims live in extended families, often, like my household, with three generations under one roof. This means there are a higher number of carriers who can (and often will) infect an elderly relative. An older person cannot effectively self-isolate when they are living in close quarters with their children, grand-children and perhaps even extended family.

We are all social creatures, but maybe Muslims are more social than most. We eat together – often from one plate, sharing utensils and side dishes. For many Muslims, social intimacy like handshakes and hugs are so hardwired into their behaviour that the week-old invention of “social distancing” is both alien and absurd to them.

This is particularly the case in Britain’s 1600 Mosques (there are 130 just in my home town of Bradford). Islam is a collective religion, and although prominent British Muslim organisations like the Muslim Council of Britain have – in line with Muslim-majority countries like Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt – instructed Muslims to pray at home, many of the UK’s mosques are likely to remain open. Thankfully most mosques have heeded the advice, but the prayer spaces that are still open may have even more people packed into them than usual, increasing the risk.

During Friday prayers (attendance at which is, under normal circumstances, an obligation for most Muslims), the close proximity of worshippers makes the spread of coronavirus a near certainty. We know this from events in the Muslim world: Malaysia’s spread of Covid-19 has been traced back to a single religious gathering at a Mosque, which allowed the virus to spread not only across that country, but to six others.

All this makes coronavirus particularly troubling in Muslim communities, some of which are, like Bradford, in the most deprived areas of the country, with poor health outcomes to match.

The niche ethnic supermarkets and halal butchers that many Muslims depend on for essential goods have less reliable supply chains than the big supermarkets, forcing many local Muslim grocers to significantly increase their prices. This is despite their customers being some of the poorest people in Britain.

And in pockets of Muslim communities, there is mistrust – or simple unawareness – of government advice. The official NHS website on the coronavirus, which has been prominently plugged during the prime minister’s daily press conferences, is available only in English.

This leaves many minorities whose English is not proficient enough to fully understand medical terms like “quarantine” and “pandemic” reliant on foreign or social media sources for their information.

Blogs, TikTok and YouTubers in Asia should not be a primary resource for Brits at a time of national crisis  – their own government should be.

This is particularly the case for refugees, asylum seekers and recent arrivals including asylum seeker children in care, who are likely to have a lower than average level of English proficiency. They are also more likely to be already suffering trauma or mental health issues, which a near or total lock-down may take from bad to worse.

This trauma is going to spread through Muslim communities as the crisis develops. A ban on gatherings of more than 100 people is essentially a ban on Muslim funerals – I have never been to one with fewer than 300 attendees.

Many Muslims are anxious that without swift action, they will find their parents and grandparents dying in larger and larger numbers, and they won’t even be able to bury them properly. And this is during a time when the religious gatherings that would help them process and grieve will be stopped.

The government advice during these unprecedented circumstances has been clear and consistent. Now it must become multilingual and multicultural.

The coronavirus bailout is still minuscule compared to the funding made available during the financial crisis. Surely human lives are more important than bank balance sheets? Support should be made available for local authorities, charities and volunteers across the country to provide the food, supplies and companionship that the most vulnerable need.

Co-ordinated in my locality through an easily available app, the logistical effort behind this rollout is huge: We need everything from interpreters to therapists to expedited DBS checks. I have no doubt that Muslim communities will play their part, but they must be supported by their government.

Hygiene, health and responsibility to one’s neighbours is hardwired into Islamic culture. This includes the responsibility to not infect the neighbours with a fatal disease. But we can only use those values to keep all our fellow Brits safe if we self-mobilise, at the same time as we self-isolate.

Full report at:

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/coronavirus-muslim-mosque-closure-prayer-nhs-a9411936.html

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Russia denies US claim it ‘killed dozens of Turkish soldiers’ in Syria

19 March 2020

A source at the Russian Foreign Ministry has dismissed as “plain lies” claims made by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Russia has killed dozens of Turkish military forces in Syria.

“Even during a global pandemic of an infectious disease, US officials continue their massive anti-Russian propaganda campaign, disseminating information that is clearly false,” the unnamed source was quoted by the Russia’s TASS news agency as saying on Thursday.

“A yet another outrageous statement was made by US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo during the March 17 media briefing. Regretfully, in a bid to drive a wedge between Russia and Turkey, who are cooperating in Syria, US officials even resort to plain lies.”

Pompeo told reporters at a news briefing in Washington on Tuesday that Russia “has killed dozens of Turkish military personnel” in Syria.

“Provocative statements coming from the United States demonstrate once again that they want the war in Syria to continue,” the Russian source said.

The source also said that Syria’s eastern regions were controlled by US troops, who “continue to harbor ISIS (the Daesh terrorist group) and other terrorists, and foster separatist moods among Kurds in an attempt to undermine sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic.”

Anti-American sentiment is currently running high in Syria as the US has been supporting anti-Damascus Kurdish militants and at the same time stealing Syria’s crude oil resources.

On March 5, Russia and Turkey agreed on a ceasefire to stop clashes in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib, the only large territory in the hands of militants after the Syrian military managed to undo militant gains across the Arab country.

Under the deal, the two countries are required to establish a secure corridor along a key east-west highway in Idlib and hold joint patrols there.

Syria launched a counter-terrorism operation in Idlib last December after its troops and those of Russia came under increasing attacks by militants based in the province.

Turkey, a patron of the militants, then launched a massive deployment of troops and military equipment.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/03/19/621194/Russia-Syria-Turkey-Idlib-Pompeo-dozens-of-Turkish-soldiers

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Kosovo seeks help from Turkey to fight coronavirus

Talha Ozturk  

19.03.2020

BELGRADE, Serbia

Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci on Thursday sought help from Turkey to mitigate the spread of the new coronavirus known as COVID-19.

Thaci said on Twitter that he had a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan "to discuss bilateral cooperation and to seek help to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Kosovo".

Thaci also praised Turkey's fight against the virus.

"Kosovo enjoys Turkey's operational and logistical assistance in efforts to defeat COVID-19. Immensely grateful to Turkey and President Erdogan for the support," he added.

Kosovo confirmed the first case of coronavirus on March 13.

There are currently 19 cases in the country, all of them Kosovo citizens, apart from one Italian.

COVID-19 emerged in Wuhan, China last December, and has spread to at least 160 countries and territories. The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a pandemic.

Out of more than 235,000 confirmed cases, the death toll now exceeds 9,500, and over 84,500 have recovered, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University in the U.S.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/kosovo-seeks-help-from-turkey-to-fight-coronavirus/1772351

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Over 20 DHKP-C terror suspects arrested in Greece

Mehmet Hatipoglu  

19.03.2020

ATHENS

Greek police on Thursday arrested more than 20 far-left DHKP-C terror suspects in the capital Athens, the local media reported.

According to the Athens News Agency/Macedonian Press Agency (ANA/MPA), Greek counter-terrorism police carried out an operation against the terror group in Exarcheia and Sepolia neighborhoods.

The operation is still underway, it added.

Greek police said in a statement that they found a tunnel in a house busted in Exarcheia and seized many heavy weapons.

A statement with details will be published after the operation ends, it said.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/over-20-dhkp-c-terror-suspects-arrested-in-greece/1772153

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NATO plans on supporting Turkey’s efforts in Syria

Agnes Szucs 

19.03.2020

BRUSSELS

NATO allies are looking into what can be done to support Turkey’s efforts in the Syrian crisis, the bloc’s secretary-general said on Thursday.

Jens Stoltenberg was speaking at a virtual news conference in which he presented the 2019 Annual Report on the military alliance.

“No other NATO ally is more affected by the crisis in Syria than Turkey,” Stoltenberg pointed out, mentioning the military losses and the fact that Turkey hosts 4 million Syrian refugees.

NATO has increased its naval presence in the region, and Spain is also delivering capabilities to augment the Turkish air defense system, he added.

The secretary-general also condemned the “indiscriminate attacks” by the Russian-backed Assad regime in Syria and called on them to support the UN-led efforts to establish a political and negotiated solution to the crisis in Idlib region and all over Syria.

Stoltenberg described 2019 as “the year when we took big steps in further adapting NATO. It was also the year we marked our 70th anniversary”.

Defense spending across the alliance increased in real terms by 4.6% in 2019.

The secretary-general also spoke about the coronavirus outbreak in his speech, calling it a “global pandemic” against which NATO is implementing tough measures.

“The coronavirus outbreak has made clear that many of the challenges we face are too great for only one nation or organization to face alone. It is more important than ever that we stand together, work together and support each other,” he said.

For the first time, the annual report included a poll on public perception of the military alliance.

29,000 citizens across all 29 NATO allies and North Macedonia were involved in the survey, carried out by an independent research and strategy consultancy.

“This is most comprehensive polling about NATO we ever conducted,” Stoltenberg explained.

81% of the respondents believe that the collaboration between North America and Europe on safety and security is important.

60% believe that the country's membership in NATO makes them less likely to be attacked.

If a vote on NATO membership was organized today, in total 64% of people would vote to remain in NATO, and only 9% would vote against being part of the alliance, according to the findings of the survey.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/nato-plans-on-supporting-turkey-s-efforts-in-syria/1771970

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Africa

 

Nigeria Considers National DRR Agency Amid Boko Haram Setbacks

March 18, 2020

On February 19, 2020, Senator Ibrahim Gaidam, the former governor of Yobe State, introduced legislation to create the National Agency for Deradicalization, Rehabilitation, and Reintegration of Repentant Insurgents. Gaidam represents Yobe state, which borders Borno and has been affected by the insurgency. The bill’s purpose is to encourage and rehabilitate Boko Haram defectors and prevent violent extremism in Nigeria. Given the recent requests for additional military force to combat Boko Haram by Nigerian lawmakers, Senator Gaidam’s legislation is an important step toward incorporating deradicalization, rehabilitation, and reintegration (DRR) programs into the overall strategy designed to defeat Boko Haram.

Currently, Nigeria has three deradicalization programs that support Boko Haram defectors. The Prison Program works with militants convicted of violent extremist offenses or those on or awaiting trial. During the program, Imams teach classes on non-violent interpretations of Islam, and other program staff provide vocational training so that, when inmates fulfill their prison terms, they can reenter society with less risk of reverting to terrorism. Second, the Yellow Ribbon Initiative supports women and children associated with Boko Haram by providing psychosocial therapy and reintegration programs. Finally, Operation Safe Corridor, launched by the Nigerian military in 2015, works with Boko Haram defectors by addressing extremist ideology and providing them with trauma counseling. Two thousand members of Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) have defected through Operation Safe Corridor since its inception.

Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno promised to complement security initiatives with programs that provide access to education and job opportunities. But, as military failures at the hands of Boko Haram’s have left much of Borno cut off from itself and the rest of the country, Governor Zulum has apparently—and understandably—prioritized military action by calling on the federal government to recruit 100,000 troops to counter the insurgency. Zulum promised an additional 50,000 "able-bodied" persons to combat the extremist group but did not request support for DRR programs. Instead, Babagana urged the Nigerian military to re-establish a military base in Borno. Other Northern leaders such as Yobe State governor, Malam Mai Mala Buni, are calling on the Nigerian military to expand their presence in the north. While an influx of troops may be important to addressing the immediate security situation caused by Boko Haram, the governors’ prioritization of security forces over investments into more DRR initiatives places their constituents in a revolving cycle of violence.

Many Nigerians, including several lawmakers, oppose DRR programs. Some feel that their communities are not sufficiently consulted when these programs are developed and implemented. Perhaps more problematic, many communities, after enduring years of atrocities, remain skeptical of reconciliation with Boko Haram defectors. A senator from Ondo state said that there was “no justification” for the program proposed by senator Gaidam. “How can an enemy be rehabilitated? These are people who have done Nigeria so much harm." Current DRR efforts have had mixed results due to the Nigerian military’s limited expertise in deradicalization programs such as Operation Safe Corridor and reasonable fears that program participants will face violent retribution upon reintegration.

Vanda Felbab-Brown argues that community opposition to DRR efforts suggests that the Nigerian government “needs to invest more in open and comprehensive discussions with society about rehabilitation, reintegration, leniency, and victims’ rights.” To be effective, Nigerian lawmakers must ensure that DRR programs continue to work with those communities that will receive the rehabilitated fighters. A primarily military effort—still the current approach of the government—has not been successful; leaders owe it to their communities to explore the root causes of the insurgency and support non-military efforts, where possible, such as Senator Gaidam’s new legislation.

https://www.cfr.org/blog/nigeria-considers-national-drr-agency-amid-boko-haram-setbacks

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Finish off Boko Haram insurgents – Buhari charges military

March 19, 2020

By John Owen Nwachukwu

President Muhammadu Buhari has said that Federal Government will ensure that permanent peace and stability is returned to the troubled Northeast.

He charged the armed forces to make clinical finishing of the remnants of Boko Haram insurgents.

A statement to DAILY POST on Thursday signed by Femi Adesina, said that the President spoke on Thursday at the inauguration of the National Humanitarian Coordination Committee (NHCC) in State House, Abuja, the President said the rehabilitation of devastated communities is set to begin in earnest.

“As a result of the mindless actions of the terrorists, many of our compatriots have been killed, maimed, or displaced from their communities.

“This necessitated the efforts of this Administration to develop immediate interventions and measures to alleviate the sufferings of those affected, and to ensure their proper resettlement,” he said.

President Buhari noted that the need to harmonise all humanitarian activities in the region for greater effectiveness informed the establishment of the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development last year (2019) with the mandate to develop humanitarian policies and provide effective coordination of National and International humanitarian interventions, among others.

He added, “Because, what we receive from NGOs sometimes does not permeate, does not go down to the people there…So I got documents from intellectuals so that we could set up a ministry that will coordinate the activities of NEMA (National Emergency Management Agency) and others, so that the resources can be properly accounted for.

“This is the reason the ministry was set up so that the minister will account to the Federal Executive Council and make sure that the resources are properly utilized.”

President Buhari lauded local and international partners for their assistance over time, assuring them of continued government commitment.

“I commend the support of our friends and partners who have over the years provided humanitarian assistance to our people in need.

“At the same time, I also seek their understanding in situations where our sovereignty and national security require more pragmatic and proper consideration.

“This government will continue to evolve ways of ensuring that all humanitarian actors receive the necessary support to carry out their activities safely, in line with established principles and taking cognizance of our national security imperatives,” President Buhari assured.

The Nigerian leader added that it was in realization of the need for a smooth working relationship that government, through the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, approved a “Civil – Security Coordination workshop to provide a platform for all the stakeholders, to deliberate and agree on frameworks and guidelines for civil security coordination in humanitarian action.”

The President also praised the Armed Forces for their efforts so far, calling on them to intensify actions to bring an end to the insurgency in the country.

“I wish to commend our Armed Forces for their commitment towards eliminating the remnants of Boko Haram terrorists and securing the affected communities for the resettlement and rehabilitation of affected populations. I urge our Armed Forces to put more efforts to bring the insurgency to a speedy conclusion.”

In the remarks of the Honourable Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadia Umar Faruq, who is also the chairman of the committee, “there is a global humanitarian crisis, available statistics indicate there are 70.8 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) all over the world. In the Northeast, it is estimated that 2.2million people have been displaced, which presents a serious humanitarian challenge.

“This crisis coupled with coordination gaps in the humanitarian sector in Nigeria and clashes between security and humanitarian actors have brought about the existence of NHCC as one of the mechanisms of Civil-Security Coordination,” she said.

Full report at:

https://dailypost.ng/2020/03/19/finish-off-boko-haram-insurgents-buhari-charges-military/

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Five Libyan civilians killed in Tripoli shelling, says unity government

March 20, 2020

TRIPOLI: Libya’s unity government said on Thursday that five women were killed and five civilians wounded in Tripoli the previous day in bombardment by the forces of eastern-based military strongman Khalifa Haftar.

Amine Al-Hachemi, spokesman for the Health Ministry of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, said: “Rockets and shells hit houses in the neighborhoods of Ain Zara and Bab Ben Ghachir.”

War-torn Libya is largely divided between forces backing the United Nations-recognized GNA and those led by Haftar, who backs a rival administration in the country’s east.

Since last April, Haftar’s forces have led an offensive to capture the Libyan capital, with the GNA accusing them of carrying out the indiscriminate bombing.

On Tuesday, the United Nations and nine countries called on the warring parties to cease hostilities to allow health authorities to fight against the new coronavirus.

In a statement, the GNA responded positively to calls for a truce but said it “reserved the right to respond to daily attacks against civilians and public facilities.”

It called on the international community to “ask the aggressor directly to stop these violations and crimes,” referring to Haftar.

The UN has raised fears over a possible outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Libya, where the health system has been battered by almost a decade of violence.

A fragile truce entered into force on January 12, but there have been repeated violations.

To date, no cases of COVID-19 have been reported by either administration, but experts fear an outbreak could be catastrophic.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1644061/middle-east

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Libya: 25 Haftar militia members killed in Tripoli

Aydogan Kalabalik 

20.03.2020

TRIPOLI, Libya

Forces of Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) neutralized 25 militia members loyal to renegade General Khalifa Haftar early Friday during clashes in the capital.

Tripoli-based Febrayer TV reported that troops taking part in the GNA’s Volcano of Rage Operation and the militias clashed in the Ain Zara region in south Tripoli.

The slain militia members were said to be mercenaries brought over from Sudan and Chad. Photos of their corpses were posted on social media.

“We stress again that we did not start this war. However, we will decide when and where this war will end,” GNA military spokesman Mohammed Qununu said in a press release.

Noting that they had accepted a proposed ceasefire due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Qununu said Haftar’s militias violated it on Wednesday.

Wednesday’s rocket attacks killed three children and injured four others in Ain Zara.

Since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: Haftar in eastern Libya, supported mainly by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and the GNA in Tripoli, which enjoys UN and international recognition.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/libya-25-haftar-militia-members-killed-in-tripoli/1772579

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Attack on army camp in Mali leaves 29 dead

James Tasamba 

20.03.2020

At least 29 people including two soldiers were killed Thursday in a suspected terrorist attack on an army camp in northeastern Mali, the military said. 

“Mali military camp at Tarkint village in Gao city area was the target of a terrorist attack on Thursday morning. The death toll from the attack was 29 people and five injured,” the military said on its Twitter page.

It added that two Malian soldiers were among the dead.

In February, three Malian soldiers were killed and five injured in a terrorist attack on an army camp in Bambara Maoude, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of Timbuktu city.

In March, militants with rocket launchers attacked a checkpoint in central Mali, killing six soldiers and injuring 10.

Last November, some 50 Malian soldiers were killed in a terrorist attack on a military post in northeast Mali.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/attack-on-army-camp-in-mali-leaves-29-dead/1772557

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KDF troops kill 12 suspected Al-Shabaab in Boni Forest raid

MARCH 19 2020

Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) troops on Thursday killed 12 suspected Al-Shabaab militants in a raid at their camp inside the vast Boni Forest in Lamu County.

KDF's special operations team ambushed the terrorists at their Korisa Kotile camp, which has been their hideout for long.

The camp is located at Nginda, between Korisa and Bargoni.

BIG BLOW

Among those killed was a notorious local commander from the Coast region who had been providing intelligence and logistical support to terrorists hiding in the forest.

Sources told the Nation that a suspect armed with an AK-47 rifle and four magazines was captured.

The KDF soldiers found weapons, including three AK-47 rifles, seven magazines, more than 1,000 bullets, pouches and a water carrier.

The raid comes a week after special forces killed six militants and captured one in Garissa County.

This is a big blow to the extremist group as militants holed up in the forest may starve for lack of food supplies and ammunition.

The camp was the group's only remaining one in Kenya, which it used to coordinate their activities.

INTENSIFIED OPERATIONS

The raid was part of ongoing KDF operations in pursuit of terrorists who took part in a botched attack at Kotile Special Operations Group Camp on March 13.

Since the attack, security teams in the region have intensified operations, tracking the assailants in Lamu West and the lower parts of Tana River.

The operations have significantly degraded Al-Shabaab's operations.

They have led to the killing of those attempting to conduct small-scale attacks in Kenya and left others terrified.

Reached for comment by the Nation, Coast Regional Commissioner John Elungata said: “There has been a continuous operation by the KDF. This is commendable."

LONG BATTLE

The army has been fighting the terrorists, both locally and across the border under the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom).

As a result of operations in Somalia since 2011, the Al-Qaeda-linked terror group has carried out many attacks in Kenya, targeting both security agents and civilians.

The Coast and North-Eastern regions have borne the brunt of these attacks.

Key among raids by the terrorists are the September 21, 2013 Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi, the April 2, 2015 killing of 148 students at Garissa University College and the January 5 incident at the Manda Bay army base.

Attacks on quarries, schools and buses in North-Eastern have also raised serious concerns, with many teachers opting to leave the region, precipitating a crisis in the education sector.

Full report at:

https://www.nation.co.ke/news/KDF-kill-12-suspected-Al-Shabaab-in-Lamu/1056-5497376-12v9t6ez/index.html

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How Mama Boko Haram, others obtained N10m from me –Witness

March 20, 2020

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Thursday opened its case in the N66m fraud trial of Aisha Wakil, alias Mama Boko Haram, and two others.

Mama Boko Haram, alongside two employees of her non-governmental organisation, Complete Care and Aid Foundation Prince, Lawal Shoyode and Tahiru Daura, is facing trial before Justice Aisha Kumaliya.

The amended three counts against them border on cheating and obtaining money under false pretences.

A prosecution witness, Ali Tijjani, while being led in evidence by counsel for the EFCC, Mukhtar Ahmad, told the court that he got to know the defendants and Complete Care and Aid Foundation as a result of an advert he saw in the Daily Trust Newspaper for the supply of foodstuffs and other valuables.

Tijjani said, “I went to Complete Care and Aid Foundation’s office and showed interest and I was asked to submit my company’s profile, which I obliged.

“I was asked to supply rice and maize grain (biski); I submitted the quotation for both the rice and biski to Complete Care and Aid Foundation.

“My company, AMT MAT Global Venture, was awarded the contract for the supply of 3,000 bags of maize grain, which I did supply.

“The first award letter of contract was collected from me and I was issued a letter for award of contract to supply 1,500 bags for both maize flour and grain; the contract sum of 3,000 bags was N1m.”

Tijjani equally told the court that he was given a store certification and quality assurance after the 3,000 bags of maize flour and maize grain were supplied to Complete Care and Aid Foundation store but the NGO complained that some bags weighed less than 50kg.

He said, “I was assured that I would be paid after 100 days, but I did not receive a single amount. After a month, Saidu Tahiru Saidu called and informed me that they had an invitation to travel to Morocco and I should finance the trip.

“I sponsored the trip of Aisha Alkali Wakil, Tahiru Saidu Daura, Baba Alhaji Hassan and Saidu Mukhtar to Morocco; I transferred the sum of N3m into the UBA account of Tahiru Saidu Daura from my Access Bank while from my First Bank account I transferred N7m.

“I was given a letter of execution of contracts but I was not paid by the defendants.”

Justice Kumaliya admitted as exhibits the contract award letter; the quality assurance, store certification and certification letter for the sponsored trip to Morocco.

Also testifying, a First Bank official, Salihu Jimoh, told the court that there was a cash inflow of N3m from Tijjani’s First Bank account into Daura’s UBA account on November 15, 2018.

Full report at:

https://punchng.com/how-mama-boko-haram-others-obtained-n10m-from-me-witness/

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Boko Haram: Fighter jet hits ISWAP meeting venue, kills commanders

March 20, 2020

By Maina Maina

The Defence Headquarters on Thursday, said that Nigerian military will continue to sustain the offensives against the enemies of the nation.

This is following the offensive attack launched by the military, which led to the killing of ISWAP leaders in northern part of Borno State, northeast Nigeria.

A statement from BERNARD ONYEUKO, a Brigadier General and Acting Director Defence Media Operations Defence Headquarters, said, “several Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) leaders and fighters have been neutralized and their dwellings destroyed as they gathered for meetings in a cluster of settlements West of Alinwa on the Lake Chad green fringes in the Northern part of Borno State.

“This was achieved during the ongoing subsidiary Operation DECISIVE EDGE, yesterday 18 March 2020, in another successful air interdiction mission.

“The air strike was executed on the heels of impeccable intelligence reports, indicating that some top ISWAP Commanders as well as some of their fighters and designated suicide bombers had assembled at the location for meetings, aimed at orchestrating coordinated attacks against a number of targets in Borno State and environs.

“Operation LAFIYA DOLE therefore dispatched its fighter jets to the location, recording devastating hits on many of the structures housing the ISWAP leaders and fighters, destroying them and neutralizing their occupants.” The statement said.

Full report at:

https://dailypost.ng/2020/03/20/boko-haram-fighter-jet-hits-iswap-meeting-venue-kills-commanders/

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