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Islamic World News ( 15 Jan 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Afghan Religious Cleric Warns To Punish Women Who Disregard Islamic Hijab

New Age Islam News Bureau

15 Jan 2020

Penang Mufti Datuk Seri Wan Salim Wan Mohd Nor is seen at an event in George Town, November 25, 2019. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin


• Freedom in Islam Must Be Balanced With Responsibility, Penang Mufti Tells G25

• One Month On, Shaheen Bagh Protesters Say They Will Continue To Fight Against New Citizenship Law

• Declaration of Faith to Be Accepted On Face Value, Not Open To Challenge from Anyone: Pakistan SC

• Federal Lawsuits Target both Iran and Private Firms for Allegedly Financing Taliban and Al-Qaeda Operations That Killed U.S. Troops

• France, West Africa to Unite Forces in Fight against Islamist Militants

• US Troops Sheltered In Saddam-Era Bunkers during Iran Missile Attack

• UK Open To Broader Iran Deal That Tackles Destabilizing Behavior: Raab


South Asia

• Afghan Religious Cleric Warns To Punish Women Who Disregard Islamic Hijab

• Afghan Military: Taliban Customs House Destroyed in Southwest Afghanistan

• Seven Taliban Insurgents Join Peace Process


Southeast Asia

• Freedom in Islam Must Be Balanced With Responsibility, Penang Mufti Tells G25

• ‘Ponggal Haram’ Directive Just To Allay Muslim Fears, Says Education Ministry

• Malaysia’s PM Defends Criticism of India Despite Palm Oil Curbs

• Still slow, says new global report on Malaysia’s human rights reforms

• Malaysia says no case against PM-in-waiting Anwar over sex assault allegations

• In a season of mistrust, some hope for the nation

• Indonesia's 'mosque hunters' count them up one at a time

• Thailand, Indonesia to Share Intelligence to Combat Insurgents



• One Month On, Shaheen Bagh Protesters Say They Will Continue To Fight Against New Citizenship Law

• Is It Our Fault If the Government Can't Even Spell My Name Correctly On Official Documents: NRC Fears Rife In Muslim Village on Bengal-Bangladesh Border?

• Rowdy Bikers Spark Fiery Hindu-Muslim Clash In A South Indian Town

• Security tightened in Mangaluru ahead of anti-CAA protest by Muslim committees of Dakshin Kannada, Udupi districts at Adyar-Kannur

• NIA seizes Rs 82 lakh in NSCN (IM) funding case

• 5 soldiers, 6 civilians dead in separate J&K avalanches

• J&K DSP Davinder Singh’s arrest needs court-monitored probe: Dal Khalsa

• NIA raids Nagaland locations in NSCN (IM) terror funding case

• Iranian FM Javad Zarif arrives in India on 3-day visit

• Nankana Sahib Attack: Taksali leader sees Indian agencies’ hand



• Declaration of Faith to Be Accepted On Face Value, Not Open To Challenge from Anyone: Pakistan SC

• Council of Islamic Ideology Finds Article 45 of Constitution Un-Islamic

• Lahore Court's Decision to Quash Death Sentence of Pervez Musharraf Is 'Unfortunate', Say Pakistan Opposition Parties

• Sanctity of Holy Quran be maintained: Shujat

• Loose opposition alliance faces big challenge to revive its relevance

• PPP, PML-N slam Faisal Vawda for using a boot to ridicule opposition on TV

• PML-Q to meet PTI to decide future of coalition in Punjab, Centre

• Qureshi to meet UN chief, UNGA president

• Army huddle rejects Indian military's 'irresponsible rhetoric' against Pakistan

• London-based entrepreneur invests in Pakistani Ed-tech start up

• PM Imran offers support to Australian counterpart in overcoming bushfires

• Govt working to reform seminaries: Punjab governor Chaudhry Sarwar



• Federal Lawsuits Target both Iran and Private Firms for Allegedly Financing Taliban and Al-Qaeda Operations That Killed U.S. Troops

• Rouhani: Plane Incident That Killed 176 People Was An Unforgivable Error

• Jordan’s Waqf welcomes Israeli de-escalation at Al-Aqsa Mosque

• Turkey Edges toward Islamic Law with New Finance Rules

• Iranian University Students Rally to Condemn Anti-Government Protest

• Iran Warns about Serious Response to London’s Next Anti-Tehran Move

• Iran arrests person behind viral plane attack video: Report

• Iran warns Europe against launching nuclear dispute mechanism

• Iran’s judiciary says around 30 arrested over plane attack protests

• Turkey says will stop Syrian government violations of Idlib ceasefire

• Iran makes arrests in connection to Ukrainian plane it shot down

• Israel to construct new prisons for Palestinian inmates

• Israeli regime floods Gaza’s farmlands

• Yemeni army, allies forces shoot down Saudi-led reconnaissance drone in Jizan

• Turkey to ‘teach a lesson’ to Libyan rebel commander if anti-govt. offensive resumes

• Yemeni army kills Houthi commander in Al-Dhale province



• France, West Africa to Unite Forces in Fight against Islamist Militants

• Niger declares three days of mourning after 89 soldiers killed in attack on military base

• Radical Muslims Kill Thirteen Nigerian Christians

• Sudan’s airspace is open, sovereign council chief says

• Sudanese government forces retake all intelligence buildings in capital: Source

• Haftar sets conditions to end Libya conflict, says militias must surrender arms

• Turkey’s Erdogan threatens Libya’s Haftar

• Libya's Haftar looking for military gains: Expert

• Al-Shabaab kill 3 teachers in Kenya, near Somali border

• Somali security forces recaptures key town from al-Shabaab


North America

• US Troops Sheltered In Saddam-Era Bunkers during Iran Missile Attack

• U.S. Put Environmental Group on ‘Extremist’ List with Nazis: Report

• US sends home 21 Saudis as probe finds shooting was 'terrorism'

• How anti-Muslim war makes US democracy impossible

• Trump agrees with British PM Johnson on a “Trump deal” for Iran

• Guatemalan President to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist group: Spokeswoman

• Katyusha rockets target Taji military base housing US forces



• UK Open To Broader Iran Deal That Tackles Destabilizing Behavior: Raab

• Trump's Iran policies criticized in EU parliament

• Amnesty intl' calls for urgent action over Bahrain executions

• Germany jails jihadi for Syrian massacre

• Putin, Merkel hold phone talks on Libya


Arab World

• Saudi-Led Committee Strikes Deal between Government and Separatists in Yemen

• Man Tries To Set Himself on Fire in Beirut as Lebanon Protests Return

• Funding Lebanon is funding Hezbollah

• Syria says Israel behind aerial attack against military airport

• Lebanon security forces fire tear gas, clash with protesters near central bank

• Missile targets al-Taji military camp north of Baghdad

• Saudi Arabia renews condemnation of Iranian violations of Iraqi sovereignty

• Iraq’s Sadr urges million-man march against US military presence

• Syrian Army Says Confronts Israeli Aggression on T4 Airbase in Homs

• Katyusha rockets target Taji military base housing US forces

• Iraqis must resort to resistance if US forces refuse to pull out: Senior Nujaba official

• Syria calls for Turkish pullout in ‘positive’ talks between spy chiefs

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau




Afghan religious cleric warns to punish women who disregard Islamic Hijab

15 Jan 2020

An Afghan religious cleric in western Herat province has started a widespread campaign, urging women to wear Islamic Hijab – a large headscarf – and has ordered his followers to punish those who disregard it.

Mujeeb Rahman Ansari, a popular Islamic extremist and a religious clerk in the western Herat province installed dozens of billboards and signboards around the city, targeting Afghan women, urging them to wear Islamic Hijab.

During several public speeches, Ansari called on his followers to apply Sharia rules on anyone who disregards the rules determined by him and his followers and ‘not to wait for the government’ in such instances.

Abdul Qayoum Rahimi, the governor of Herat was earlier questioned by a local media outlet about Ansari’s movement in Herat province, wherein Rahimi said he is not going to confront Mawlavi Mujeeb Rahman Ansari as they are being good friends.

The recent statements of Mawlavi Mujeeb Rahman Ansari have sparked mixed reactions among Afghan residents in social media, some condemn the messages spread by Malwavi Ansari, while on the other hand, another group and individuals endorse him.

“Any man who thinks he has ownership of women is a coward. A real man is the one who considers his wife to be his counterpart, not a commodity!”, Waheed Omar, a government official tweeted in response to a billboard message by Malawvi Ansari where it says ‘A man is a coward whose woman disregard Hijab’.

Shabir Shirzad, a Facebook user seemingly connected to the Mujahideen sector has endorsed Mawlavi Mujeeb Rahman Ansari’s messages and has regarded them as ‘guidance’ that is needed for a community to survive in good.

But the provincial Directorate of Hajj and Religious Affairs said the campaign by Ansari has not been conducted in collaboration with the government, and that Ansari’s teachings go against Islam.

“Speeches by Mr. Mujeeb Rahman Ansari are in contravention of the religious teachings. Islam has always insisted on preaching,” an official of the directorate, Fazl Mohammad Hussaini said.

Mujeeb Rahman Ansari has studied ‘Islamic religion studies’ in Saudi Arabia and is currently running a local radio station beside being an Imam for Gozargah Mosque in Herat city.



Freedom in Islam must be balanced with responsibility, Penang mufti tells G25

14 Jan 2020

GEORGE TOWN, Jan 14 — Penang Mufti Datuk Seri Wan Salim Mohd Noor said today he believes pro-moderation group G25 was sincere in its views that Muslims can leave Islam as provided in the Federal Constitution under freedom of religion.

But he believes the group was confused by the concept of freedom and had forgotten that there was no absolute freedom in this world.

“Every freedom must be balanced with responsibility and freedom must also be in accordance with the law, religious rules and moral values,” he said in a statement issued today.

He admitted that Islam does guarantee freedom of religion, freedom to your own opinions and freedom to express your opinions.

“Islam aims to free humans from being enslaved by other humans and to serve only Allah,” he said.

He stressed that this freedom does not mean one can freely break laws, religious laws and go against moral values to commit crimes such as stealing and raping.

“The world will be in chaos if all these laws are ignored, the freedom that we want is freedom of humanity and not animalistic freedom,” he said.

Wan Salim was responding to a report by G25 titled “Administration of Matters Pertaining to Islam” that had topics on the legality of the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim), the role of the Malay monarchy in the administration of Islam, racial intolerance, religious education and apostasy laws.

It was stated in the 281-page report that state laws penalising apostasy were inconsistent with the Federal Constitution which guarantees freedom of religion.



One Month On, Shaheen Bagh Protesters Say They Will Continue To Fight Against New Citizenship Law

by Bilal Kuchay

January 15, 2020

New Delhi, India - Bilquis has been on a sit-in protest since mid-December in the Indian capital against a new citizenship law that critics say runs counter to the country's secular constitution.

For the past one month, thousands of protesters led mostly by hijab and burqa clad Muslim women, many of them homemakers, have occupied a stretch of a main road near Shaheen Bagh - a working class Muslim neighbourhood, connecting the capital city to the satellite city of Noida.

They are protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) passed last month that aims to fast-track nationality of non-Muslims from three neighbouring countries.

The law will grant Indian citizenship to "persecuted" minorities - Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians - from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan - but blocks naturalisation for Muslims.

Many liberal Indians have also joined the anti-CAA protests in solidarity, saying the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to divide Indians by making faith as a basis for citizenship.

"It's my 29th day here today. I eat here, I pray and sleep here only," Bilquis, 82, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday. "I go home only when I have to change my clothes or take a bath," the octogenarian said.

Born before India's independence in 1947, the octogenarian woman has never taken part in any protest before but today it is different, she says.

As women sit in rows, men stand along the ropes and steel fence of a road divider turning the site into a closed rectangular enclosure.

Together they chant: "Halla Bol, CAA Pe Halla Bol"- Raise your voice against CAA; "Hum Kya Chahte Azaadi – Bhedbhav Se Azaadi" – "We want freedom – freedom from discrimination".

The severe winter of Delhi does not seem to have deterred them.

Bilquis along with few elderly women sit close to the makeshift stage behind which a large banner hangs with photograph of Bhimrao Ambedkar - the architect of India's constitution and a Dalit icon.

She patiently listens to revolutionary poetry and speeches by activists, who visit the sit-in site almost daily, and vigorously answers to the slogans that are shouted from the stage.

"We are on the road to protest against this new law that Modi government has brought. It is to target Muslims and send our children to detention camps," she said as a group of women sitting close to her nod their heads in agreement.

"We are protesting for justice, for our rights and we will not move until this law is revoked," says another elderly woman, Saba Khatoon.

What triggered the Shaheen Bagh protest?

The peaceful sit-in at Shaheen Bagh began on December 16 after Delhi Police stormed the campus of nearby Jamia Millia Islamia University and assaulted students who took out a protest march against CAA.

After the protest turned violent, police entered the university campus, fired tear gas shells and thrashed unarmed students. Videos of police brutality shared on social media caused a public outcry.

The new law coupled with a proposed nationwide counting of citizenship (National Register of Citizens or NRC) has India's Muslims, who number nearly 200 million, worried.

Massive protests have been held across India in the past one month. At least 28 people, mostly Muslims, have been killed in police crackdown. Northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state ruled by Modi's by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has reported most deaths.

The protest at Shaheen Bagh began with a small group of men and women but soon swelled as people from other parts of Delhi also joined in solidarity. Shaheen Bagh protest has been compare with Jantar Mantar - a site close to Indian parliament that hosts protests round the year.

Sheeza Fatima, 44, a resident from Aligarh - about 100km from Delhi - had come to a relative's place in Shaheen Bagh when the sit-in began. She joined soon and now visits daily.

"I thought it's better to join these women who are out for a cause rather to go back home," she told Al Jazeera.

Solidarity protests

What started with few Muslim men and women, the protest is no more confined to Muslims. Every day hundreds of people from different faiths come and join the demonstrators in what they call a movement to "save the country and its constitution".

Behind the demarcated site for women, young men and children in groups shout slogans against CAA and government. Many take selfies near the replica of India Gate - the iconic war memorial in New Delhi - installed by the protesters last week which has names of protesters killed in the past one month written on it.

Nearby, a patch of the road has been designed in colorful graffiti with anti-CAA slogans like "Reject CAA, Reject NRC" and calls for unity. "Strength Through Unity, Unity Through Faith" the graffiti reads.

The demonstrators often shout "Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Isaai - Aapas Mein Hain Bhaai Bhaai" (Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians are brothers).

Placards and posters of religious symbols belonging to different faiths are on a display while an inter-faith ceremony was held at the site on Sunday.

Demonstrators also read out the preamble of the Indian constitution and took an oath to preserve its "socialist, secular" values.

"This protest doesn't belong to Muslims only but to all those people who believe in the Indian constitution and want to protect it," said Shyama Khan, 24.

The protest has led to closure of dozens of shops, but traders say they do not mind it.

"The protest has definitely affected our business but we support the protest and as long as the protest continues here, we will not open our shops," said Zakir, who runs a mobile shop and gave only his first name.

"We are ready to bear the financial losses but this protest is important. It's about our identity and dignity," he said.

Similar protests

The Shaheen Bagh protest, which has made headlines in national media, has inspired similar protests in cities across India.

"We all are happy that our protest has inspired people across the country," said 75-year-old Sarwari, who gave only one name.

"This government is saying we won't move back an inch on this law but it has to roll-back. The BJP tried to divide us on religious lines but it has united us all," she said.

Media reported that police will try and persuade protesters at Shaheen Bagh to call off their sit-in, which has forced commuters to take different routes every day for the last one month.

Despite repeated attempts Delhi police officials couldn't be reached for a comment.

But BJP Spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao said "opposition’s criticism of CAA is a motivated propaganda of lies and prompted by political considerations".

Rao however, declined to comment on why the governing party officials have not reached out to the Shaheen Bagh protesters.

Ruheena Khan, 35, a mother of two daughters has been part of the protest since December 18. Every morning at about 10am, she comes to the protest site along with her five-month-old girl and stays till midnight.

"If not today, then when. Will we begin protests when they [government] start putting us in detention centers," she asked.

"We are fighting together for everyone. For those who are Indians but can't prove their citizenship because they are poor and don't have any documents."



Declaration of Faith to Be Accepted On Face Value, Not Open To Challenge from Anyone: Pakistan SC

By Hasnaat Malik

January 14, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Adjudicating a matter related to inheritance on the basis of faith, the top court has ruled that a declaration of faith by one has to be accepted on its face value.

“The question of faith being very personal to oneself and a declaration of faith by one has to be accepted on its face value which of course is not open to challenge from anyone,” says a seven-page ruling authored by Justice Sajjad Ali Shah.

An unusual matter was raised by a woman before a two-member bench of the apex court comprising Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Shah.

Chanani Begum had challenged decisions by two lower courts, which had rejected her assertion that her sister was a Sunni Muslim, and hence she had a right to succession.

On the death of Anwar Sultan, her property was transferred in the name of her only daughter, Qamar Sultan, on the ground that the deceased professed Shia faith.

The lower courts determined the faith of the deceased on the basis of her statements recorded in previous proceedings — she declared herself to be Shia.

The matter later landed in the apex court, and was accepted for hearing on September 27, 2013. The case proceedings were held in November 2019 with the detailed order published on the website two days ago.

The order said that voluntary declaration of faith in previous proceedings was of great persuasive value after the person’s death, and could be used in subsequent proceedings to determine the faith of such individuals.

Referring to its earlier judgment in Muhammad Bashir case, it noted that no principle of universal application was available to determine the faith of a person, which should be determined keeping in view the surrounding circumstances, the way of life, the parental faith and faith of other kith and kin.

The order said that the other important evidence which persuaded the court in deciding the faith of the deceased was the hoisting of Alam of Hazrat Abbas at the house of the deceased.

The court held that hoisting of Alam was a strong indication that the resident of the house was Shia by faith. However, it added, there was a possibility that the family of the deceased comprised of people having both Shia and Sunni faith.

Even the plaintiff, who claimed to be Sunni by faith, chose not to appear in the witness box, and one of her sons who appeared as her attorney declared himself to be of Shia faith.

The judgement said it was strange and intriguing that the plaintiff’s attorney, despite his close relation (nephew) with the deceased, did not deny two important facts related to the case: Alam of Hazrat Abbas was hoisted at her house, where she also held Majlis.

He also admitted that he often visited Dharnaal, Punjab (the deceased resided there), where the Shia prayed at the Sunni mosque (as there was no Imambargah).

“…we are of the view that the two Courts below have rightly evaluated the evidence of record in coming to the conclusion that the deceased was Shia by faith and we see no reason to interfere with such concurrent findings of fact…,” the order concluded.



Federal lawsuits target both Iran and private firms for allegedly financing Taliban and Al-Qaeda operations that killed U.S. troops


January 13, 2020

On December 27, 2019, more than 500 members of American military families, including over 100 Gold Star families, filed two lawsuits: one against the Islamic Republic of Iran, and another against eight multinational companies that operate in Afghanistan. The pair of lawsuits alleges that the government of Iran and these specific corporations – the defendants in the cases – materially assisted al-Qaeda and the Taliban to kill American military forces.

The first lawsuit involves 503 Americans seeking damages from the Islamic Republic under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), which holds state sponsors of terrorism liable for extrajudicial killings of Americans. The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, alleges that Iran provided financial, material, and tactical support to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. This support reportedly resulted in hundreds of American casualties between 2007 and 2017.

Based on State Department cables and Congressional testimony, the lawsuit accuses Iran of building close ties to al-Qaeda. After 9/11, the Iranian government offered a safe haven for senior al-Qaeda leaders. While living in Iran, they reportedly directed and organized terrorist operations around the world. The lawsuit cites Osama Bin Laden’s own admission of Iran being al-Qaeda’s “main artery for funds, personnel, and communication.” In July 2011, the U.S. Treasury Department designated six members of al-Qaeda, citing the Iranian government’s agreement to grant al-Qaeda members “freedom of operation and uninhibited ability to travel for extremists and their families.”

The lawsuit mentions dozens of other cables that underscore Iran’s material support for the Taliban. For example, members of the Iranian government, particularly the Qods Force and Iranian Intelligence Secret Service, met with Taliban officials as early as 2000 to collaborate with them against U.S.-led coalition forces. The lawsuit also cites a 2007 U.S. Treasury Department Press Release, which explains that “since at least 2006, Iran has arranged frequent shipments of small arms and associated ammunition, rocket propelled grenades, mortar rounds, 107mm rockets, plastic explosives, and probably man-portable defense systems to the Taliban … Through Qods Force material support to the Taliban, we believe Iran is seeking to inflict casualties on U.S. and NATO forces.”

In 2014, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned two Qods Force officers for providing “logistical support” to terrorists for attacks in Afghanistan.

The FSIA complaint provides evidence of Iran training terrorists specifically to attack Americans. It cites a February 2005 military-intelligence report that the Iranian government paid the Taliban approximately $1000 for each U.S. troop killed and $6000 for each U.S. military vehicle destroyed. These payments were made after the dozens of husbands, sons, brothers, and parents of the defendants were killed in suicide bombings, IED attacks, and rocket propelled grenade attacks.

The second lawsuit, an Anti-Terrorism Act complaint, was filed against parent companies and subsidiaries of MTN Group, Centerra Group, Environmental Chemical Corporation, G4S, Janus Global Operations, DAI Global, Louis Berger Group, and Black & Veatch Special Projects Corporation.

Notably, the latter three corporations executed contracts in Afghanistan for the U.S. Agency for International Development(USAID). These contracts with USAID contained a “standard clause,” stating that “U.S. law prohibits transactions with, and the provision of resources and support to, individuals and organizations associated with terrorism. It is the legal responsibility of the contractor/recipient to ensure compliance with these Executive Orders and laws.” However, the aforementioned companies that had contracts with USAID allegedly hid their protection payments from the federal agency.

The lawsuit alleges that these eight international corporations financed al-Qaeda and the Taliban through “protection payments” aimed at coaxing the terrorist organizations into permitting business operations in Afghanistan.

In exchange for these payments, the Taliban allegedly promised not to harm physical infrastructure, such as transmission masts, and to refrain from threatening to attack contractors and employees of these corporations.

The lawsuit argues that all eight corporations “knew or recklessly disregarded” both the endemic corruption in all business operations in Afghanistan and that their payments would directly finance terrorism against Americans. These payments allegedly funded the post-9/11 Taliban insurgency that killed and wounded hundreds of American troops. Since 9/11, over 2,400 Americans have been killed in Afghanistan.

One of the corporations accused of paying the Taliban is South Africa’s MTN Group, Africa’s largest telecommunications company and the eighth largest in the world. “MTN was a particularly aggressive practitioner of protection payments,” the lawsuit asserts.

The just-filed lawsuit alleges that MTN’s protection payments enabled the company’s rapid growth from 2006 to the present. For MTN to successfully expand their business to almost every province in Afghanistan, “every single one of the shadow provincial governors set up by the Taliban leadership council received $50,000 to $60,000 in protection money.”

The lawsuit claims that financing from the World Bank Group“ was pivotal to MTN’s decision to enter the Afghan market and to expand its footprint throughout the country.” Some of the financing of MTN’s operations in Afghanistan came from two Washington, D.C.-based arms of the World Bank: the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA).

The lawsuit alleges that loans from the IFC went towards “[funding] its protection payments and [building] the cellular towers.” MIGA allegedly gave MTN coverage guarantees, a form of insurance against political risk, for its operations in Afghanistan.

Neither IFC nor MIGA had knowledge of MTN’s alleged business with the Taliban, according to the lawsuit. IFC’s contract with MTN prohibited material support to terrorism and required MTN to regularly report terrorism-related security issues. MTN allegedly failed to disclose its dealings with the Taliban, thereby breaching its contract with IFC. Similarly, MIGA’s contract with MTN required the company to regularly send updates about its operations in Afghanistan. According to the lawsuit, MTN allegedly breached its contract with MIGA and “failed to inform its American financers of its illegal payments.” The lawsuit concludes that “had MTN disclosed…that it was paying protection money to the Taliban” these arms of the World Bank “would not have continued to back MTN’s operations.”

MTN, which has operated cellular towers in Afghanistan since 2006, allegedly abided by the Taliban’s request to deactivate cellular towers, on which the U.S. military relies to apprehend Taliban fighters before they executed terrorist acts.

MTN has also been at the center of other controversies over its business interests in Iran.

MTN secured a lucrative license from Iran to become the country’s second cellphone operator. A lawsuit filed by a Turkish competitor said that Chris Kilowan, a former MTN executive in Iran turned-whistleblower, alleged that MTN did so by seeking to meet Iran’s demands to “acquire military hardware … and to win support for Tehran’s nuclear development program” by “providing access to high-level South African government officials.”  MTN denies Kilowan’s allegations and is contesting the lawsuit.  

MTN received the license to form Irancell, a joint venture with a company tied to Iran’s military establishment. A 2006 State Department cable stated that Irancell is “fully owned” by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Cyril Ramaphosa, one of South Africa’s wealthiest citizens and the country’s current president, served as chairman of the boardof MTN Group from 2002 to 2013. 

MTN also has been ensnared in a scandal in Nigeria, where the company did not comply with the Nigerian government’s initiative to address rampant illicit activity by Boko Haram, an Islamist terrorist group. In 2015 the Nigerian government ordered all telecom companies operating in Nigeria to disconnect unregistered SIM cards from their networks. MTN did not comply, which according to Nigeria’s President contributed to Boko Haram’s ability to covertly coordinate attacks with their unregistered SIM cards and evade Nigerian authorities. At least 10,000 Nigerians were reportedly killed by Boko Haram between 2009 and 2016.

In October 2015, the Nigerian Communications Commission fined MTN $5.2 billion, but this fine was reduced to $1.7 billion. Allegations surfaced in 2016 that MTN bribed the Chief of Staff to the Nigerian president to reduce the fine, which MTN denied.

Companies operating in countries with highly corrupt governments that have no checks run the risk of getting entangled with terrorist organizations and malign actors. In the case of Afghanistan, profit-motivated corruption of these enterprises allegedly resulted in the death of hundreds of American service members.



France, West Africa to Unite Forces in Fight Against Islamist Militants

Jan. 13, 2020

PARIS — France and five West African states agreed on Monday to combine their military forces under one command structure to fight a growing Islamist militancy in the Sahel region, with Paris committing an extra 220 troops.

French President Emmanuel Macron had called the leaders of Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger and Mauritania, known as the G5, to the southwestern French town of Pau to discuss the battle against insurgents in the Sahel, an arid region just below the Sahara desert.

With growing anti-French sentiment in the five countries over Paris' handling of an insurgency by Islamist militants that has seen hundreds of their soldiers killed in recent weeks, Macron had warned that he could withdraw French troops without a clear political commitment from them.

France, the former colonial power, has 4,500 troops in Mali and the wider Sahel, but security has been progressively worsening. Macron said the situation had now been clarified.

Militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State have strengthened their foothold, making large swathes of territory ungovernable and stoking ethnic violence, especially in Mali and Burkina Faso.

"Today, more than ever, the fact is that the results, despite the effort, are below the expectations of the population," Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Kabore told a joint news conference. "It's for this reason that we have decided to review the deployment and redefine the pillars for our future action."

The new structure, named Coalition for the Sahel, brings the G5 states, French forces and any future troops under a single command. It aims to enable joint operations, greater intelligence-sharing and quicker response time in particular for French forces in the border areas linking Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, where the insurgency is at its worst.


Criticised in France for allowing French troops to get bogged down and facing growing hostility in West Africa for failing to restore stability, Macron has become increasingly frustrated, but the French leader appeared satisfied with Monday's results.

Another 220 French troops will be sent to give fresh momentum to the fight with more European special forces expected to join in the coming months, he said.

"The priority is Islamic State in the Grand Sahara. ... It is our priority because it is the most dangerous," Macron said. "We have no choice, we need results."

French troops were hailed as heroes in 2013 when their intervention helped prevent an Islamist militant push to the Malian capital, Bamako.

But their standing has slipped as the security situation deteriorated. At least 89 local soldiers were killed in a suspected jihadist attack on an army base in Niger this weekend, four security sources said.

Pau, the location of the summit, is home to a helicopter regiment which saw several of its French soldiers killed in a helicopter collision in Mali in November.

Macron said he was also worried of a possible withdrawal by the United States military in the area. It provides intelligence, logistical and drone support for France's forces. There have been mixed signals from Washington that it could pull out.

"If the Americans were to decide to leave Africa it would be really bad news for us," Macron said. "I hope to be able to convince President (Donald) Trump that the fight against terrorism also plays out in this region."



US troops sheltered in Saddam-era bunkers during Iran missile attack

January 14, 2020

Al-Asad air base, Iraq (CNN)Akeem Ferguson was in a bunker when his team received the bone-chilling radio transmission: Six Iranian ballistic missiles were headed in their direction.

The concrete slab they had taken cover under offered little protection from projectiles that US troops in Iraq were being attacked with.

"I held on to my gun and put my head down and I tried to find a happy place, so I started singing to my daughters in my head," said the six-foot tall US staff sergeant. "And I just waited. I hoped that whatever happened, that it was quick."

"I was 100% ready to die," he added.

Ferguson survived unscathed along with other US troops and civilian contractors on Iraq's al-Asad base, after a barrage of Iranian ballistic missiles on the morning of January 8.

The strike was the widest scale attack on a base housing US troops in decades. Troops said the absence of casualties was nothing short of a "miracle."

American troops stationed at the base are helping to counter ISIS and train Iraqi security forces. No Iraqi troops were hurt in the attack.

A closer look at the site reveals a base vulnerable to this type of assault. Personnel received advance warning of the strike several hours before it took place, enabling them to take cover. Still they lacked the surface-to-air defenses to fend off a ballistic missile assault -- US military did not build structures on the base, one of the oldest and largest in Iraq, to protect against an attack of this kind. They were at the mercy of the downpour of missiles.

Near the airfield, shards of metal crack underfoot as two military personnel take measurements of the gaping crater left behind by one of the missiles. It is around 2 meters deep and roughly 3 meters in diameter -- a burned copy of "Beauty and the Beast" teeters on the edge of the hole. A flip-flop, an Uno card, and a military jacket stick out from the charred wreckage left in the wake of the missile.

This was a housing unit for drone pilots and operators on the base. They evacuated the unit before the strike. Incidentally, the they had nicknamed the living quarters "chaos."

Like most of the US section of the base, they had already been on lockdown at bunkers for over two hours when the first missiles landed.

The strike was an Iranian response to the US drone attack, ordered by US President Donald Trump, that killed Iran's most powerful general, Qasem Soleimani, less than a week before.

After days of anticipation, Tehran's zero-casualty retaliation came as a relief to many. At al-Asad camp, troops could rest easy after days of heightened alert. For countries across the region, it marked a welcome climbdown after the killing of Soleimani raised the specter of region-wide war.

Ten of the 11 missiles struck US positions at the sprawling desert Iraqi airbase. One struck a remote location on the Iraqi military's side.

Roughly one-third of the base is controlled by the US. The Iranian missiles, which used on-board guidance systems, managed to shred sensitive US military sites, damaging a special forces compound, and two hangars, in addition to the US drone operators' housing unit.

CNN journalists were the first to be granted access to the base after the Iranian attack.

Advance warning

The first warning came from secret intelligence signals in the evening before the attack. By 11 p.m. on January 7, most of the US troops at al-Asad were sent to bunkers, and a few had been flown out, according to commanders at the base.

Only essential personnel, such as tower guards and drone pilots, would remain unsheltered. They were protecting against a ground assault which base commanders expected would follow the missile attack.

Ground forces never came, and troops would only re-emerge from their shelters at the break of dawn. The strike had ended just before 4 a.m.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi has said he was told by Iran, at around midnight, to expect airstrikes inside his country. An Arab diplomat who CNN spoke to said that the Iraqis passed on information about the strikes to the US.

But the US had already received reporting about a ballistic missile attack by the time the Iraqis could notify them, according to al-Asad's Lt. Col. Tim Garland.

The first missiles fell at 1:34 a.m. They were followed by three more volleys, spaced out by more than 15 minutes each. The attack lasted over two hours. Troops on the base described it as a time fraught with suspense, fear and feelings of defenselessness.

"You can defend against (paramilitary forces), but you can't defend against this," said Capt. Patrick Livingstone, US Air Force security forces commander on the base, referring to previous rocket attacks by armed groups. "Right now, this base is not designed to defend against missiles."

Ill-equipped to defend against ballistic missiles

As the expected attacks drew nearer, most troops filed into dusty, pyramid-like structures peppered throughout the base. These bunkers were built during the rule of deposed President Saddam Hussein.

The thick, slanting walls were constructed decades previous to deflect blasts from Iran. Baghdad had a bloody eight-year war with Tehran (1980-1988) which ended with a stalemate. It was a time when the new Islamic Republic was beginning to demonstrate its military prowess.

US troops said that they were unsure whether the Saddam-era shelters would withstand the ballistic missiles. But they were more sturdy than US bunkers, made to protect against rockets and mortars.

Relatively light-weight rockets and mortars are typically used by ISIS, jihadi extremists and Shia paramilitary in Iraq, who for years have had US troops in their crosshairs. But Iranian ballistic missiles have a far longer range and carry a far bigger payload of explosives -- estimated to be at least half a ton each.

Footsteps echo in a narrow passageway leading into the Saddam-era bunker. The walls are double-layered -- large holes in the interior reveal the coppery outer wall embedded with fans. Two spacious living areas are filled with folding beds, mattresses, stretchers and lockers. On the night of the attack, one of the rooms doubled as a makeshift bathroom, with cut up plastic water bottles serving as urinals.

Lt. Col. Staci Coleman was one of the US team leaders who corralled troops into such a bunker. After about an hour and a half of being in the shelter, she had doubts.

"I was sitting in a bunker and I was like man, maybe I made the wrong decision [to come down here]," said Coleman.

"About 10 minutes, after I said that to myself, it went boom boom boom boom boom and I said well there's my answer."

"The whole ground shook. It was very loud," she said. "You could feel the blast wave in here. We knew they were close."

She said the doors appeared to bend like waves with every hit that reverberated through the shelter. None of the bunkers on the base were impacted.

Meanwhile, Staff Sgt. Ferguson was in a US-made bunker -- a crammed space held together by slabs of five-inch concrete fortified by sandbags. He watched the attack unfold through cracks between the adjacent walls.

"There's a little hole on the side of the shelter and we saw a flash of orange light," said Ferguson. "After that we figured that every time we see a flash it's just a couple of seconds before it's going to hit.

"It was Flash. Boom. Flash. Boom. We didn't know when it was going to stop. We sat there and waited for it to end."

After the first volley, several went out to look for casualties. When the second volley hit nearly 15 minutes later, some were caught in the open.

Ferguson said he was worried about comrades who were trapped outside. "After the second volley was over, I was worried about them being at the gate. So I left and went and grabbed them, brought them back to the shelter with us, and then we waited..." he said.

At the time of the expected ground assault, Ferguson had emerged from his bunker to face off with whatever came next. He described peering into the darkness over their gunsights, worn out by the shock of the missiles. But the attack never came.

"We were so tired. It was the worst adrenaline rush ever," said Ferguson.

When troops had all emerged from the bunkers, many went to work, repairing the damage. They described feeling a mixture of relief and shell-shocked. "It was 'normalish' afterwards," said Coleman. "But we were all looking each other in the eye as if to say 'are you ok?'"

Several troops CNN spoke to said the event had shifted their view of warcraft: the US military is rarely on the receiving end of sophisticated weaponry, despite launching the most advanced attacks in the world.

"You looked around at each other and you think: Where are we going to run? How are you going to get away from that?" said Ferguson.

"I don't wish anyone to have that level of fear," he said. "No one in the world should ever have to feel something like that."



UK open to broader Iran deal that tackles destabilizing behavior: Raab

14 January 2020

Britain is willing to work with the United States and European partners to build a broader initiative which would address not just Iran’s nuclear ambitions but its destabilizing activity in the region, foreign minister Dominic Raab said on Tuesday.

“We believe, as of now, that the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) is the best available deal for restraining Iran’s nuclear ambitions and we want Iran to come back into full compliance,” Raab told parliament.

“Equally .... the prime minister, the United States, and our European partners are fully open to a broader initiative which would address not just the nuclear concerns but the broader concerns around the destabilizing activity that we’ve seen recently,” he added.



South Asia


Afghan Military: Taliban Customs House Destroyed in Southwest Afghanistan

By Mohammad Habibzada

January 13, 2020

WASHINGTON - Afghanistan's military says a Taliban customs house was destroyed during an operation in the southwestern part of the country.

A spokesperson of the Afghanistan Defense Ministry, Fawad Aman, told VOA Monday that the insurgent group generated a daily revenue of more than $38,000 from the customs house it was running in Farah province.

The ongoing military campaign, code-named Operation Lucky, was launched in December 2019 with the objective of clearing the province of Taliban militants.

Since security forces began targeting Taliban narcotics processing labs in early 2018, the Taliban reportedly has resorted to establishing customs houses as a means to generate more revenue to help finance its insurgency in southern Afghanistan.   

The insurgent group also runs customs houses in other provinces, including Herat, Ghor and Nimruz, according to the Afghan military. The Afghan Taliban also enforces a strict judicial system in remote parts of the country where authorities have no control.

Security officials also say the Taliban is using the money to purchase weapons and strengthen its combat capabilities against Afghan forces.

“Our plan is to destroy not only the Taliban’s customs houses, but also their check posts where they have been extorting money from people,” Defense Ministry spokesperson Aman told VOA. 

Desperate to finance its militant activity, the Taliban has been using illegal avenues to make money, including kidnapping and extortion, and smuggling drugs, minerals and gemstones, according to Afghan officials.



Seven Taliban Insurgents Join Peace Process

14 Jan 2020

According to the local officials in Qala-e-Naw district of Badghis province, seven Taliban insurgents gave up violence and joined the peace process on Monday, January 13, 2020.

Najmuddin Burhani, the spokesperson for Badghis governor, said that previously Taliban insurgents used to operate against the government in the Laman region, Abkamari district, and took ransomed money from passengers and car owners on and off.

The Taliban also surrendered their weapons and pledged to return to work and ordinary life. This is good news both for the local government t and the residents of Badghis province.

In the meantime, the provincial governor warmly welcomed the insurgents who joined the peace process and encouraged them to strive for a happy life from now on.

“We appreciate the gesture of the Taliban and other anti-government groups to join the peace process, live in harmony and work together for a prosperous life in our country,” said one resident.

Full report at:



Southeast Asia


‘Ponggal Haram’ Directive Just To Allay Muslim Fears, Says Education Ministry

January 15, 2020

PETALING JAYA: The education ministry says a Jan 13 circular barring Muslim students from taking part in Ponggal festivities which begin today was not intended to stop schools from organising events to celebrate the South Indian harvest festival.

“The letter was issued to allay fears among Muslim parents over the involvement of their children in the celebration.

“The letter takes into account the stand and guidelines issued by the Department of Islamic Development (Jakim),” the ministry said in a statement today.

Jakim, in a separate statement, said it had merely given its view on the matter after being approached by the education ministry.

“The decision (to issue the directive) comes under the jurisdiction of the ministry,” the department said, adding that it had never said wishing Ponggal greetings was “haram”.

Meanwhile, the education ministry said it encouraged efforts to “instil tolerance, understanding and mutual respect” among people of all races, adding that all students should take part in cross-cultural activities in schools.

An earlier directive by the ministry, sent to all state education directors, had warned that participation in the rice and milk boiling – a key ceremony during Ponggal – was strictly out of bounds for Muslims.

It was signed by education deputy director-general Adzman Talib, who said a shariah experts panel from Jakim had decided last year that Ponggal was haram for Muslims.

It listed six conditions for Muslims attending Ponggal events, including a prohibition on wearing clothes and paraphernalia with Hindu symbolism, taking part in rituals, as well as the proper manner in greeting friends and neighbours “Happy Ponggal”.

The directive also warned Muslims not to make fun of Hindu gods during the celebration.

Several non-Muslim ministers have criticised the directive, saying Ponggal is not a religious festival.

“It should be viewed as an event for our society to strengthen their ties, respect culture and promote unity and nation-building,” said Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo in a Twitter post today.

Ponggal is traditionally celebrated by Indians after the first harvest as a mark of gratitude for the produce.

In agrarian societies, the first grains that are harvested are placed in a pot and boiled with milk, and as the cooked rice and milk boil over, everyone rejoices.

It signifies the start of good times and puts people in a positive frame of mind to face the challenges of the year ahead. Many Tamils consider it the new year.



Malaysia’s PM defends criticism of India despite palm oil curbs

January 15, 2020

Malaysia is concerned about India's new curbs on imports of palm oil after a diplomatic dispute, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Tuesday but indicated he would continue to speak out against "wrong things" even if it cost his country financially.

India, the world's biggest buyer of edible oils, last week changed rules that traders say effectively ban imports of refined palm oil from Malaysia, the world's second-biggest producer and exporter of palm oil after Indonesia.

The move came after New Delhi objected to Mahathir's criticism of India's new religion-based citizenship law. The 94-year-old leader, whose outspoken nature has soured ties with India and Saudi Arabia in recent months, earlier accused India of invading the disputed Muslim-majority region of Kashmir.

India's Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) makes it easier for "persecuted" minorities from three neighbouring countries to get citizenship but not if they are Muslims.

Last month, Mahathir said "people are dying" because of the law. India rejected Mahathir's remarks, calling them "factually inaccurate".

On August 5, India's Parliament, in a shock move, revoked Articles 370 and 35A of its constitution, which gave Kashmir partial autonomy and barred non-residents from buying property or settling in the region. India said it did it to boost development in the region and integrate it into India.

As Malaysian palm refiners stare at an enormous loss of business, Mahathir said his government would find a solution.

"We are concerned of course because we sell a lot of palm oil to India, but on the other hand we need to be frank and see that if something goes wrong, we will have to say it," he told reporters. "If we allow things to go wrong and think only about the money involved, then I think a lot of wrong things will be done, by us and by other people."

The benchmark palm oil contract for March delivery was down 0.9 percent in afternoon trade in Asia.

Reuters reported on Monday the Indian government had informally instructed traders to stay away from Malaysian palm oil. Indian traders are instead buying Indonesian crude palm oil at a premium of $10 tonnes over Malaysian prices.

India's foreign ministry said the palm curbs were not country-specific but that "for any commercial trading, the status of relationship between any two countries" is something a business would consider.

India was Malaysia's biggest buyer of palm oil in 2019, with 4.4 million metric tonnes of purchases. In 2020, purchases could fall below 1 million tonnes if relations do not improve, Indian traders say.

To make up for the potential loss, Malaysian officials say they are trying to sell more to Pakistan, the Philippines, Myanmar, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria and Jordan.

But replacing the top buyer will not be easy, and that is why the Malaysian Trades Union Congress, whose members include palm workers, has urged the two countries to talk things out.

"We wish to implore upon both governments to use all possible diplomatic channels to resolve this issue putting aside any personal or diplomatic ego," it said in a statement.

Full report at:



Still slow, says new global report on Malaysia’s human rights reforms

January 15, 2020

PETALING JAYA: The continued use of draconian laws, crackdowns on Shia Muslims and a lack of vigour in banning child marriages shows that the two-year-old Pakatan Harapan government has been slow in carrying out promised reforms to improve human rights, according to the latest global rights report issued by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“The government needs to make a renewed effort to follow through on its promises for human rights reforms,” said HRW deputy Asia director Phil Robertson.

In its 653-page report on Malaysia, HRW noted that the Sedition Act was still being used to silence dissenting views, including those who are critical of the royalty as well as vocal on race and religion.

The report, among others, took note of police action against several politicians for speaking out against fugitive Indian Muslim preacher Dr Zakir Naik, as well as arrests of people accused of militant links.

Klang MP Charles Santiago was among those questioned by police for criticising Naik’s remarks on Malaysia’s non-Muslim minority.

Last October, 12 people, including DAP assemblymen, were detained under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act for sympathising with the now-defunct Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

“No judicial review is permitted for these measures. The new government has committed to ‘abolish draconian provisions’ in these laws, but has yet to do so,” said HRW.

HRW also noted restrictions on the rights of Malaysian Muslims to follow other Islamic schools of thoughts

“In September, the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) instructed mosques in the state to deliver a sermon describing Shia Muslim beliefs and practices as ‘deviant’, ‘heinous’, ‘nonsense’, and ‘nauseating’.

“On Sept 6, Jais arrested 23 Shia, including children, for practising their religion, while another eight Shia were arrested at a private event in Johor on Sept 9,” the report said, referring to a crackdown on Shia Muslims as they marked the annual Ashura mourning ceremonies.

It also criticised Putrajaya for not going all out to ban child marriages under both civil and Islamic laws.

It said stricter guidelines in granting permission for children to marry “has not ended the practice”.

HRW meanwhile noted that the present leadership has been more vocal in speaking out against human rights abuses in other countries, although it said this has been selective.

It said while the government came out strongly against Myanmar’s mistreatment of Rohingya Muslims, the same was not the case in China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims.

But HRW said Malaysia bucked an age-old Asean practice of “non-interference” in November when it permitted exiled Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy to enter the country, despite objections from Phnom Penh.

Robertson meanwhile said the government’s rights record would be judged based on its accomplishments and not its promises.

Full report at:



Malaysia says no case against PM-in-waiting Anwar over sex assault allegations

JANUARY 14, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia’s solicitor general on Tuesday ruled out charges against prime-minister-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim over allegations that he sexually assaulted a former male aide, saying there was not enough evidence to proceed.

The former aide accused the former deputy premier last month of trying to force him to have sex in September 2018. Anwar denied the accusation, describing it as “politics at its worst”.

Solicitor general Engku Nor Faizah Engku Atek said that the investigation would be closed.

“Upon careful evaluation of all the evidence gathered in the investigation papers submitted by the (police), we found contradictions of material facts which could not support the prosecution of any person,” she said in a statement.

Engku Nor Faizah also said there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.

The solicitor general’s statement did not name Anwar or the accuser, but referred to allegations against a “political personality” in early December.

Anwar, in a Twitter post, welcomed the decision.

“While legitimate claims should be investigated according to due process, we cannot condone frivolous, vexatious and scurrilous allegations,” he said.

Muhammed Yusoff’s lawyer did not have an immediate comment.

Anwar spent nearly a decade in jail on two separate counts of sodomy and for corruption, charges that he and his supporters maintain were aimed at ending his political career. He was first jailed in 1999.

Same-sex acts are illegal in Muslim-majority Malaysia and carry penalties of up to 20 years in jail.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, 94, has promised to hand over power to Anwar despite the allegations.

Anwar was first jailed during Mahathir’s first 1981-2003 tenure as premier. The pair joined forces to lead the opposition to an unexpected election victory last year.

Full report at:

Azmin has been regarded as a possible challenger for the premiership promised to Anwar.



In a season of mistrust, some hope for the nation

Dennis Ignatius

January 15, 2020

It was quite an extraordinary sight that we were treated to last week – no less than seven Pakatan Harapan (PH) ministers standing together to oppose an ugly outburst of bigotry. It is precisely the kind of leadership that is needed to counter the growing racism in our nation.

Earlier in the week, Mohd Khairul Azam of Parti Bumiputera Perkasa Malaysia made the asinine claim that it was unconstitutional for a Chinese school to put up decorations in conjunction with Chinese New Year (CNY).

He alleged that the decorations amounted to religious propagation and went on to complain about “excessive decorations” that made the school look like “a Chinese-owned market with religious elements on display that are other than Islam”.

He asserted that the school had created an environment that was “distressing for Muslim students.”

It was a claim so preposterous, so inherently racist, so devoid of logic and common sense, that it left many wondering from which dark corner people like this come from?

But this is where we are headed for – a nation increasingly held hostage by a few gormless bigots who constantly try to outdo each other with vacuous but incendiary statements.

If it’s not lights on a wall that look like a cross or a unity speech at a school function or lanterns, it’s something else. With the kind of febrile minds that our jaundiced education system keeps producing, there is simply no shortage of insecure people who feel threatened or upset by almost anything non-Islamic or non-Malay in the country.

The country faces huge problems but all they worry about is the impact of a few lanterns on an already dominant and well-entrenched religion.

They have nothing to say when billions are looted from public coffers or when so-called defenders of the faith defraud the faithful, but they get all worked up by a few CNY decorations.

How have we come to such levels of asininity, fanaticism and bigotry? How have we morphed into a culture where men aspire to greatness by putting others down, by inciting hate and sowing division?

Thankfully, this time the Cabinet didn’t just sit around lamenting the poor state of race relations in the country; instead it quickly issued a statement rejecting the racism and extremism inherent in Khairul’s allegations.

It also reiterated the government’s commitment to multiculturalism and called on all Malaysians to embrace our diversity.

“We must respect one another because the different customs and cultures are a precious asset to the country,” the statement said.

Basic, perhaps, but no less profound given the way things have been going recently.

In addition, six ministers led by the deputy prime minister herself went to the school concerned in a show of support. That one picture – of Malay, Chinese and Indian cabinet ministers and officials standing alongside Malay, Chinese and Indian students in support of multiculturalism – did more to promote national unity than all the ministerial speeches on the subject since PH came to power.

Thanks to the strong, decisive and united leadership of the cabinet, the issue was kept from becoming yet another major irritant in an already fractious society.

This is what people expect from a multiracial coalition like PH – unequivocal and uncompromising rejection of all forms of racism and bigotry.

What the Cabinet did was to rescue the PH brand from the infamy that was beginning to stick to it like barnacles on a ship’s hull.

Instead of playing to their respective galleries as they have tended to do, the cabinet stood together; I dare say that many took note, took heart and took hope.

Now compare that to the manner in which the whole Jawi/Dong Zong issue was handled. In the first place, Cabinet should have been more sensitive to the competing interests involved and how the issue might play out in an already charged environment.

Of course, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad didn’t help matters either; instead of appealing for calm and working to resolve the issue, he lashed out at Dong Zong and warned of a Malay reaction. His remarks were widely seen as encouraging Malay hostility towards Dong Zong.

Undoubtedly, Dong Zong, too, could have better managed the whole Jawi issue. Instead of quiet negotiations given the sensitivity of the issue, it chose a more confrontational approach.

Even now, as it seeks a meeting with Mahathir (who is acting minister of education) to resolve the issue, it is taking pot shots at him, warning him not to “be stuck in his old ways” or return to his “old policies like teaching science and mathematics in English”.

It is never a good negotiating tactic to publicly insult the very person you are trying to negotiate with.

Instead of making rude and bellicose comments, Dong Zong should sit down quietly with the prime minister and others in Cabinet and try to find a way out for everyone’s sake.

Instead of drawing red lines around issues, both sides need to accommodate each other. The introduction of a few pages of Jawi is not going to spell the end of Chinese education in the country.

On the other hand, there needs to be clarity that the introduction of Jawi will be managed in a way that does not undermine Chinese education.

When trust on both sides is low, extra effort (and patience) is needed to overcome suspicion and doubt.

Let’s face it: the only way we are going to be able to live together in peace and harmony, the only way we are going to make multiculturalism work, is on the basis of compromise and by taking the time to understand each other’s perspectives.

Of course, there will always be people like Khairul Azam. There is no question that we have to stand up to them and their bullying ways because Malaysia belongs to us all.

Whether they like it or not, we are all citizens with as much right to be here as anyone else.

The constitution guarantees all Malaysians certain fundamental rights; bigots must never be allowed to diminish those rights through fear and intimidation.

But we also need to be sagacious in how we fight our battles. Hopefully, with the Cabinet now rising to the challenge, a better way might be found to manage our differences and work to overcome the distrust and suspicion that has accumulated after years of race-baiting.

Full report at:



Indonesia's 'mosque hunters' count them up one at a time

15 JAN 2020

MAMUJU (INDONESIA) - As Friday prayers wrap up at Suada mosque, worshippers turn their attention outside where Fakhry Affan steers a drone high above, snapping pictures of the building tucked in a corner of Indonesia's Sulawesi island.

Affan leads a government team of some 1,000 mosque hunters who have spent years visiting every corner of the 5,000 kilometre (3,100 mile) long archipelago to answer one question: how many mosques are there in the world's biggest Muslim majority nation?

"Only God knows exactly how many mosques there are in Indonesia," former vice president Jusuf Kalla quipped recently.

"Some say around one million and people will take it for granted."

So far, Affan's team has registered 554,152 mosques and the census -- which kicked off in 2013 -- is only about 75 percent done, Affan says.

Earlier government estimates pegged the total at more than 740,000 nationwide.

Nearly 90 percent of Indonesia's 260 million people are Muslim and it is home to Jakarta's Istiqlal mosque, Southeast Asia's biggest with room for 200,000 worshippers.

So it's an Herculean task for Affan and his team at the religious affairs ministry as it scours a country of some 17,000 islands, where new mosques are going up all the time.

- Monitoring radicalism -

After getting key information about Mamuju city's 3,000 capacity Suada mosque -- including building permit and mosque committee details -- Affan uploads his drone pictures to a bulging online database.

"We did it manually in the past, but now we're going digital," he told AFP.

The government is also planning to launch an Android-based app called Info Masjid (Mosque Info) so Muslims can use their smartphone to find the nearest place of worship.

Nur Salim Ismal, who attends the Suada mosque, hopes the move online will bring greater transparency.

"Mosques manage huge amounts of money from worshippers and it should be clear how it's being used," he said.

But the mosque hunt isn't just a counting exercise -- it's also a way to keep an eye on radicalism.

"Radical ideology can mushroom anywhere and mosques are one of the easiest places for it to spread," Affan said.

"Why? Because you don’t need to invite people to the mosque, they'll come anyway.

"We want to ensure that all imams and (mosque) committees are moderate because Islam in Indonesia is moderate," he added.

Indonesia's long-held reputation for tolerant pluralism has been tested in recent years.

Muslim hardliners are becoming increasingly vocal in public and the country is home to dozens of extremist groups loyal to Islamic State group's violent ideology.

- 'Endless job' -

In 2018, Indonesia's intelligence agency said it had found dozens of mosques that catered to government workers spreading radicalism and calling for violence against non-Muslims -- in one Jakarta neighbourhood alone.

The alarming figures came several months after Indonesia's second-biggest city Surabaya was rocked by a wave of suicide bombings carried out by families at churches during Sunday services, killing a dozen people.

Members of an IS-loyal group tried to assassinate Indonesia's chief security minister last year, while in November a militant suicide bomber killed himself and injured six others during an attack at a police station.

Indonesia's new vice-president Ma’ruf Amin, a cleric-turned-politician, has said the government would start certifying preachers and mosque congregations nationwide to stamp out militants in their ranks.

"There is potential for mosques to be prone to radicalism if they're not monitored," said Ali Munhanif, an expert on political Islam at Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University Jakarta

"The government has a responsibility to keep its eye on all mosques in Indonesia."

In the tally so far, the team has counted 258,958 large mosques and another 295,194 smaller ones, which fit 40 people or fewer.

Affan and his team hope to finish the initial round of counting this year.

"But this is an endless job and it'll never be finished," he said.

Full report at:



Thailand, Indonesia to Share Intelligence to Combat Insurgents

Jan. 14, 2020

ACEH, Indonesia — Thailand and Indonesia on Tuesday signed an intelligence sharing agreement that the Thai army chief said would help limit the movements of insurgents operating in the Muslim-majority southern region of Thailand.

Buddhist-majority Thailand and Muslim-majority Indonesia will share information on "movements of extremists, rebels or perpetrator groups who have been undermining national security", the official document seen by Reuters said.

It was signed during an official visit by Thai Army Chief General Apirat Kongsompong to the Indonesian province of Aceh on Tuesday.

"This is about limiting the freedom to operate by groups, because we will be sharing information and monitoring individuals," Apirat said.

Apirat said that Indonesia, particularly Aceh, has been used in the past by Thai insurgent groups to train as well as to hide and plan operations against Thailand.

Thailand is fighting a Muslim separatist insurgency in the southern provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat that has killed nearly 7,000 people since 2004, according to the Deep South Watch monitoring group.

In one recent attack, the insurgents stormed a security checkpoint and killed 15 people.

Top Indonesian general Perkasa did not mention any specific militant groups that Jakarta was requesting Thailand to monitor but stressed regional cooperation.

"In handling any security issue, we should handle it together," General Perkasa said.

Threats to Indonesia include Islamist militant groups like Jemaah Islamiyah and other Islamic State inspired groups.

Aceh was embroiled in an insurgency that killed 15,000 people over three decades until a 2005 truce between the Free Aceh Movement and Jakarta that gave the region special autonomy and allowed it to implement Sharia law.

Apirat, however, expressed no imminent hope for a peace deal with the southern Thai insurgents.

Full report at:





Is It Our Fault If the Government Can't Even Spell My Name Correctly On Official Documents: NRC Fears Rife In Muslim Village on Bengal-Bangladesh Border?

14th January 2020

KOLKATA: Standing on the edge of his farmland, 67-year-old Rijawul Mandal pulls out his government papers to point out discrepancies. "Is it our fault if the government can't even spell my name correctly on official documents? Now with this, they will hound us during NRC," he rues.

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is now a regular topic of discussion for the people of Bhira, a village that lies approximately three kilometers within the Indian side of the border with Bangladesh.

At first glance, the village is nondescript. But the inhabitants make it unique. They are all Muslims. And worried. Very worried.

The Modi government's plans to introduce a pan-India NRC has brought palpable anxiety to this village in the North 24 Parganas.

"There are 400 households here. None of us are from Bangladesh. Our forefathers were born here. During partition, our fathers refused to move to the other side of Bengal. The government is trying to throw out Muslims from the country, but we won't let that happen. Pran diye debo kintu amader desh amra charbo na (We will sacrifice ourselves but we won't leave our motherland)," Mandal asserts.

Fanning the villagers' anxiety has been the Rs 1220-crore NRC exercise in neighbouring Assam, where over 19 lakh people were excluded from the list published on August 31.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi might have claimed the government won't expand this exercise and conduct a pan-India NRC. But Home Minister Amit Shah reiterating in both the Houses of Parliament and during rallies that 'no force can stop the NRC from being implemented' is stoking the fears of the villagers in Bhira. 

They express their anguish that the Citizenship Act fast-tracks citizenship for Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

"Why is the government targeting Muslims?" asks Salim Rahman, a farmer. "Most of us are poor farmers. How can we show birth certificates when there was no concept of such documents in villages when we were born fifty years ago. Most of the migrants in Bongaon (their constituency) are Hindus, yet they will target us, who have never been to the other side (Bangladesh)," he says.

Although Bengal and Bangladesh share a 4096-km porous border spread over nine districts, there seems to be no official data on the number of Muslim (legal or illegal) migrants who have crossed the border in search of greener pastures. What is known is that the Muslim population of Bengal has risen from 18.6 percent in 1951 to 23 percent in 2011, taking the count of the state's Muslims to over 2 crores.

The village shifted its loyalty to Trinamool (TMC) after it came to power in 2011 and has now placed its faith in Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, who has taken the fight against the Citizenship law on to the streets.

"Didi has been fighting against the NRC and the CAA for poor people like us and we are right behind her. She will make sure no harm befalls us," says Samir Mandal.

While the fear of NRC looms over everyone in the village, it's the women who fret the most about a possible loss of citizenship. 

"I have heard we need land papers and birth certificates, where will we procure them from? Many married women have been left out of NRC in Assam," says Ruksana Begum.

Her concern when it comes to land papers is genuine. Most of these women will fail to produce them since the patriarchal society they live in bars them from coming into a property of their own.

Twenty-two-year-old Asifa, on the eve of her marriage, shares a different worry. "I am now Khatoon but after marriage, I will change my name to Asifa Begum. There will be discrepancies. Will they also throw me into a detention camp?" she asks.

A brief pause hangs in the air before an ember of defiance lights up in her. “I was born in this village. Is this not proof enough for me to live in my country?”

The words are defiant, but her eyes - Asifa’s worried eyes - betray the emotions that have welled up within her...



Rowdy Bikers Spark Fiery Hindu-Muslim Clash In A South Indian Town

January 14, 2020

NEW DELHI: Police arrested dozens of people in a south Indian town after a tour by rowdy bikers through the streets sparked clashes between Hindus and Muslims, an officer said Tuesday.

More than a dozen people were injured after locals objected to motorcyclists taking silencers off their bikes and riding loudly through a slum in Bhainsa, Telangana state.

Police said three Muslim bikers were allegedly beaten up before members from rival groups joined in and properties were set of fire.

Forty people were arrested over the arson and hours of fighting that went into the early hours of Monday when authorities clamped restrictions on public movement, police added.

Authorities also cut mobile internet services to control “rumours” and “incitement” in the region that is due to hold municipal elections next week.

Nearly two dozen homes and more than 24 motorbikes and vehicles were gutted in the blaze as the rival communities fought.

“Forty accused have been arrested and more are wanted for the violence,” C Shashidhar Raju, regional police chief, told AFP.

He said the situation remained tense Tuesday with a large police deployment in the area.

Full report at:



Security tightened in Mangaluru ahead of anti-CAA protest by Muslim committees of Dakshin Kannada, Udupi districts at Adyar-Kannur

Jan 15, 2020

Mangaluru: Security has been tightened in the city and suburbs ahead of the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protest rally planned by Muslim central committees

of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts at Adyar-Kannur near Mangaluru on Wednesday.

Police have made elaborate security arrangements and a roll call of police officers was held at the police grounds on Tuesday.

The roll call parade consisted of three ADGPs, one DGP, 11 SPs, 18 ASPs, 100 DySPs, 300 police inspectors and 500 police sub-inspectors, police sources said.

Police officers who reached Mangaluru from different districts have been briefed about security and traffic arrangements during the rally, the sources said.

Police have also given guidelines to the rally organisers, participants and the general public, mainly on traffic arrangements.

Full report at:



NIA seizes Rs 82 lakh in NSCN (IM) funding case

Jan 15, 2020

NEW DELHI: Searches conducted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in Imphal and Dimapur on Tuesday in a case relating to terror funding of Naga rebel outfit NSCN (IM), led to recovery of Rs 82.6 lakh cash, documents of properties worth Rs 3 crore and other incriminating material, the agency said.

The searches were carried out at five premises of close associates and relatives of accused Alemla Jamir, wife of NSCN (IM) steering committee member Pungting Shimrang alias James Jamir. Alemla, alleged to be working for NSCN (IM), was arrested last year from New Delhi airport with Rs 72 lakh in cash.

The NIA registered a case alleging terror funding of NSCN (IM) — wherein unaccounted funds were being taken by “cash courier” Alemla from Delhi to Nagaland.

Searches conducted on Tuesday at the premises of close associates and relatives of Alemla led to recovery of Rs 82.6 lakh in cash, documents of properties worth Rs 3 crore, incriminating diaries, photographs, digital devices including 15 smartphones, a hard disk, a pen drive, a memory card and four laptops.

Certain insurgency and extortion related literatures as well as other documents were also seized.

Sources said the searches also revealed that unaccounted money was being used for purchase of properties.

An NIA official said the recoveries showed that NSCN (IM) leaders were using money from extortion activities to buy personal properties.

Full report at:



5 soldiers, 6 civilians dead in separate J&K avalanches

Jan 14, 2020

SRINAGAR: At least 11 people — five soldiers including a BSF jawan, and six civilians — were killed in separate avalanches across Kashmir on Tuesday, officials said. Over the past 48 hours, there have been more than 32 snow slides and unprecedented heavy snowfall in the higher reaches of Gurez, Bandipur, Kupwara, Naugaon and Baramula areas of north Kashmir where Army troops are deployed.

Four soldiers of 45 RR’s Echo Company were buried alive after an avalanche hit their post in Maidan Bagh area of Machil sector in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district. A fellow soldier was rescued and hospitalised, confirmed Kupwara SSP Sriram Ambarkar Dinkar.

In an avalanche along the Line of Control in Kupwara’s Nowgam sector early on Tuesday, a BSF jawan was killed while six others were rescued. The personnel were part of a seven-member patrolling team that went missing after the avalanche, said officials.

Five civilians were killed in an avalanche at Gagangir area of central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district while four were rescued by a joint team of police and Army.

Another man, who was injured along with three of his family in an avalanche at Purana Tulail area of Gurez sector in Bandipora district on Monday evening, succumbed during treatment on Tuesday. His family members are still recovering, said officials.

An Army porter working with 51 RR, who was buried under snow on Monday evening in Baduaab area, was rescued and hospitalised, said a defence spokesperson. In Tangdhar Sector, all seven soldiers who came under a snow slide were safely rescued by alert soldiers of the rescue team. Similarly, in Gulmarg sector, seven soldiers whose shelter came under a snow slide were safely rescued.

The lowest temperature reported in areas of deployment is -57°C in North Glacier (Siachen). Naogaon sector recorded the highest approximate fresh snowfall at 122cm while Gurez recorded 51cm, Machil 117cm, Keran and Tangdhar 56cm and Uri and Gulmarg 61cm.

Six tourists who were seriously ill due to frostbite and high-altitude pulmonary oedema were airlifted to the Army medical facility at Leh, said the spokesperson. A rescue team of the Fore & Fury Corps also saved a group of tourists stranded in bad weather while undertaking the annual ‘Chaddar Trek’ on the frozen Zanskar River in Ladakh. Helicopters of the Army aviation were pressed into service to land a makeshift helipad at Niraq village to airlift the tourists.

SSP Dinkar said 30 sheep were killed after they came under snow in Kupwara’s Awoora area. Another avalanche at Dawar’s Khambiyal forest area damaged a hotel near Gurez’s tourist reception centre. Three residential houses and a cowshed were partially damaged in Bhat Mohalla area of Bagtore after a minor avalanche hit the village on Monday, local sources said. Several residential houses were also damaged in separate avalanches.

Full report at:



J&K DSP Davinder Singh’s arrest needs court-monitored probe: Dal Khalsa

Jan 14, 2020

JALANDHAR: Amid raging debate on arrest of Jammu and Kashmir cadre police officer Dy SP Davinder Singh along with two ‘militants’, one of whom was involved in the killing of migrant labourers last October, Sikh group Dal Khalsa has said that this reflects that how “the deep state operates in Kashmir to carry out false flag attacks”.

“The questions which need answers include: Was he a double agent minting money from both sides ? Was he a mole in the police department working for a third agency? Was he a hero of deep state that used him for overt and covert operations? Who were his senior handlers and why they haven’t protected him at the time of his arrest? What was the reality behind Afzal’s pointing finger towards him? The people of this country need to know answers to all such puzzling questions,” said Dal Khalsa president Harpal Singh Cheema.

“An impartial and transparent probe by top court into the entire role of Davinder Singh as an officer in charge of counter insurgency operations,” said Dal Khalsa.

“This is the same officer who as per Afzal Guru disclosure pressurized him to provide help to one of the accused in the parliament attack. Afzal’s revelations were ignored by the trial court, which pronounced death sentence to him. In 2013, he faced gallows but before that he exposed India’s deep state in Kashmir,” observed Cheema.

“The killings of migrant labourers’ after the abrogation of article 370 by the arrested militant in the company of DSP has raised eyebrows. Indian state wants to discredit Kashmir’s movement for self-determination and freedom under the fabric of terrorism,” Cheema alleged.

The Dal Khalsa leader expressed strong apprehensions about the sinister motive of the controversial cop escorting the militants to the national capital. “Was it part of yet another covert operation,” asked Cheema.

Full report at:



NIA raids Nagaland locations in NSCN(IM) terror funding case

Jan 14, 2020

NEW DELHI: Searches conducted by NIA in Imphal and Dimapur on Tuesday in a case relating to terror funding of Naga rebel outfit NSCN(IM), led to recovery of huge cache of cash, documents of properties worth Rs 3 crore and other incriminating material, according to NIA.

The searches were carried out at five premises of close associates and relatives of accused Alemla Jamir, wife of NSCN(IM) steering committee member Pungting Shirmrang alias James Jamir. Alemla, alleged to be working for NSCN(IM), was arrested on December 18, 2019, at the New Delhi domestic airport with cash totalling Rs 72 lakh. A case alleging terror funding of NSCN(IM) — wherein unaccounted funds were being taken by “cash courier” Alemla from Delhi to Nagaland — was subsequently registered by NIA.

Searches conducted on Tuesday at the premises of close associates and relatives of Alemla Jamir have led to recovery of cash worth Rs 82.6 lakh, documents of different properties worth Rs 3 crore, incriminating diaries, photographs, digital devices including fifteen smartphones, one hard disk, one pen drive, one memory card and four laptops. Certain insurgency and extortion related literatures as well as other incriminating documents have also been seized.

Searches have also revealed that unaccounted money (in cash) is being used for purchase of properties. An NIA official said the recoveries show that NSCN(IM) leaders are using money from extortion activities to buy properties for own personal gain.

Full report at:



Iranian FM Javad Zarif arrives in India on 3-day visit

January 14, 2020

New Delhi: Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Tuesday arrived here amid tensions growing between his country and the US post the killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and the retaliatory Iranian missile strikes on US bases in Iraq.

Zarif will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Zarif will further deliberate on regional issues with his Indian counterpart S. Jaishankar over breakfast after which he will visit Mumbai to interact with a group of business leaders.

After Soleimani’s killing in a US drone attack in Baghdad on January 2, Iran on January 8 launched a missile attack on an air base in Iraq housing US troops, sparking fears of a wider conflict and leading countries that have good relations with Tehran and Washington to mediate in a bid to ease tensions.

On Thursday, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held talks with US counterpart Mark Esper to discuss the developments in the Gulf and shared “India’s stakes, interests and concerns”.

Full report at:



Nankana Sahib attack: Taksali leader sees Indian agencies’ hand

January 15, 2020

Chandigarh: Two days after Pakistan arrested the main accused in the vandalism at the Gurdwara Nankana Sahib in that country, former Deputy Speaker of Punjab Vidhan Sabha and senior Shiromani Akali Dal (Taksali), leader Bir Devinder Singh has claimed that the mob attack at the Sikh shrine seemed to be the “covert operation of Indian intelligence agencies”.

Devinder made statement on FB

Bir Devinder has made the statement on his Facebook wall stating that the incident was caused because of the “nervousness” over the growing bonhomie among the Sikhs and Muslims after the opening of Kartarpur Sahib corridor.

“Intelligent people in the Sikh community, having the knack to read between the lines, were already watchful of such sinister designs of the Government of India. The opening of Kartarpur Sahib corridor has caused deep sense of disquiet to the majoritarian and authoritarian rulers of Delhi.

The National Security Advisor Ajit Doval was reportedly contemplating to evolve a strategy for thwarting the emerging bonhomie among the Sikhs and the Muslims as a consequence to Kartarpur Sahib corridor initiative by the Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan,” alleged Bir Devinder.

He also went on to say that the top ideologues of the RSS were apprehensive of likely emerging scenario of an interfaith dialogue between Sikhism and Islam (Sufism) in times to come.

“So a well thought of strategy was thus worked out to upstage the emerging understanding between two significant minorities. Consequently a hostile vandalism at Nankana Sahib was stage managed through secret agents, under the aegis of coveted cross border operations, which was cunningly crafted by the Indian intelligence agencies to achieve guileful hidden objectives,” he said.

Bir Devinder added that he would not be surprised if the movement of Sikh pilgrims to Kartarpur Sahib through the corridor is obstructed with mischievous intent. “We should intensely examine every nuance of geo-political developments with clinical precision rather than overreacting instantaneously without understanding the surreptitious designs of the majoritarian regime,” he said.

Gurdwara Nankana Sahib, also known as Gurdwara Janam Asthan, is a site near Lahore where the first Guru of Sikhs, Guru Nanak, was born.

Main accused arrested

Nankana police station Inspector Muhammad Jamil on Monday had said that they have arrested the main accused behind the incident. The suspect, identified as Imran Chisti, is the elder brother of Mohammad Hassan who married a teenage Sikh girl in September last after allegedly abducting and converting her to Islam, triggering a controversy. Chisti, a government employee was booked under sections 295A, 290, 291, 341,506, 148 and 149 of Pakistan Penal Code and 7-ATA (anti-terrorism act).

According to the FIR, Chishti incited a mob on Friday in the name of religion and threatened to destroy a worship place of a minority community (Gurdwara Janam Asthan) to build a shrine there. “The suspect incited the sentiments of Muslims in order to have settled his family issue and created a law and order situation in the Nankana city,” the FIR said.

Bir Devinder also referred to the killing of a Sikh youth in Peshawar but stated that this did not appear to be crime against the Sikh community. “I am of the view that the recent unfortunate killing of a young man at Peshawar could not be termed as a target killing of the Sikhs as the deceased person does not don the Sikh identity by any standards of Sikh religion.

Sikh community should be wiser enough to read the nuance, between the lines; rather than reacting vociferously, unmindful of serious insinuation and consequences,” he said.

When contacted by The Indian Express and questioned about how he had reached the conclusions about Nankana Sahib incident, Bir Devinder said, “my statement is backed by inputs from various quarters”.

Full report at:





Council of Islamic Ideology Finds Article 45 of Constitution Un-Islamic

Ansar Abbasi

January 15, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) has found Article 45 of the Constitution, which gives power to the President of Pakistan to grant pardon to convicts, un-Islamic.

While considering a reference made by the Ministry of Law and Justice regarding an amendment sought in the constitutional provision, the Council noted that the president could not pardon any punishment given under Islamic laws of Hadood and Qisas. The constitutional amendment bill was recently moved in the Senate. The Council said that empowering the head of the state with such powers of pardon is against the Islamic Shariah. The Council, however, said that the president has full right to exercise such a power in punishments given under penal code (man-made law) and which does not relate to Haqooqul Ibaad (duties towards mankind in Islam). The Council said that the president in the interest of the country and the nation could grant pardon or remit the sentence.

Article 45 of the Constitution envisages, “The President shall have power to grant pardon, reprieve and respite, and to remit, suspend or commute any sentence passed by any court, tribunal or other authority.” The Jamaat-e-Islami chief, Senator Sirajul Haq, had recently moved a constitution bill in the Senate recommending amendment in Article 45 of the Constitution. Siraj had proposed a proviso to be added to Article 45. The recommended proviso envisages, "provided the president shall not use these power in relation to punishments given under Hadood and Qisas," the Islamic laws.

The Council in its meeting, held last week, considered the proposed amendment and noted that in the past too, the CII had deliberated on the subject and had concluded that the Article 45 in its present shape in un-Islamic. The said recommendation of the CII was published in its annual report for 2012-2013. However, according to sources the then parliament neither deliberated on the subject nor it moved to amend the Article 45 to change it in line with the teachings of Islam.

The Council will not forward its recommendation regarding Article 45 to the Law Ministry, which had referred the case to the CII. The CII’s recommendation will then be presented before the Senate for it consideration. Under the 1973 Constitution, no law could be made against the teachings of Quran and Sunnah. The CII was also constituted for the purpose of reviewing each and every law of the country to ensure that no such law is made or enforced which is against the teachings of Islam. The Council is also mandated by the Constitution to make recommendations to the parliament and the provincial assemblies as to the ways and means of enabling and encouraging the Muslims of Pakistan to order their lives individually and collectively in all respects, in accordance with the principles and concepts of Islam as enunciated in the Holy Quran and Sunnah.

It is also bound to advise a House, a provincial assembly, the president or a governor on any question referred to the Council as to whether a proposed law is or is not repugnant to the injunctions of Islam. The Council also makes recommendations as to the measures for bringing existing laws into conformity with the injunctions of Islam and the stages by which such measures should be brought into effect.



Lahore Court's Decision to Quash Death Sentence of Pervez Musharraf Is 'Unfortunate', Say Pakistan Opposition Parties

Jan 14, 2020

Islamabad: Pakistan's Opposition parties have expressed reservation over a top court's decision to quash the death sentence handed out to self-exiled former dictator Pervez Musharraf in the high treason case. On Monday, the Lahore High Court declared Musharraf's trial by a special court as "unconstitutional", leading to the annulment of the death sentence against the ex-Army chief.

The special court in Islamabad on 17 December last year handed down the death penalty to the 74-year-old retired general, now based in Dubai, after six years of hearing the high-profile treason case against him.

The Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) expressed surprise and reservations over the judgment of the court, a national daily, Dawn, reported.

A statement, issued by the PPP's central media office, said the verdict had baffled the party.

"Today is an unfortunate day for the rule of law," the PPP lawmaker Nafisa Shah was quoted as saying by the report.

Shah said the special court which convicted Musharraf in the high treason case last month had been constituted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan and it consisted of judges from three high courts of the country.

She was of the view that the appeal against the verdict should have been filed in the Supreme Court and not in the high court, the report said.

Shah also said that killers of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto had also not been arrested so far.

PML-N Senator Mushahidullah Khan expressed reservations over the verdict.

He said that despite the judgment, he would pay tribute to Justice Waqar Ahmed Seth, the head of the special court, which convicted Musharraf in the case.

The PML-N leader said that the whole world saw “dictator Gen Musharraf" abrogating the Constitution and putting his boots on it and everyone saw the military ruler threatening and then killing Baloch nationalist leader Sardar Nawab Akbar Bugti, the report added.

The PML-N government led by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had filed the treason case against the former army chief in 2013 over the imposition of an extra-constitutional emergency in November 2007, which led to the confinement of a number of superior court judges in their houses and sacking of over 100 judges.

Musharraf ruled Pakistan from 1999 to 2008.

Monday's ruling came in response to a petition filed by him challenging the formation of the special court for the high treason case against him.

In his petition, Musharraf asked the court to set aside the special court's verdict for being illegal, without jurisdiction and unconstitutional, while also seeking suspension of the verdict till a decision on his petition was made.

The special court had also ordered that corpse of the former military ruler should be dragged to parliament and hang for three days if he dies before his execution.

Full report at:



Sanctity of Holy Quran be maintained: Shujat

January 15, 2020

LAHORE - Pakistan Muslim League(PML) President and former Prime Minister Ch Shujat Hussain has said that “hurmat” (sanctity) of Quran Karim demands that this most holiest book should not be brought into political matters and Speaker National Assembly should ensure that sanctity and hurmat of Holy Quran in any reference or any manner should not be humiliated in any manner.

In a statement issued here on Tuesday, he said that the way Holy Quran is being subjected to discussion in the National Assembly and the Quranic verses are being used for own purposes that is not proper and appropriate because this may not happen tomorrow that like the budget documents are tore down on occasion of budget session, Quran Karim may not be humiliated.

Full report at:



Loose opposition alliance faces big challenge to revive its relevance

January 15, 2020

By Tariq Butt

ISLAMABAD: Lack of consultations on critical national issues has led to flagging of the loose multiparty opposition alliance for the first time since its formation on the second day of the July 25, 2018 general elections when they had unanimously rejected the electoral results.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which has been the driving force behind the cobbling together of the coalition of the parliamentary opposition forces, turned out to be the mainspring in hurting the grouping as it took lead, surpassing all and sundry, in extending unconditional support to the legislation aimed at granting three-year extension to Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa as the chief of the army staff. It preferred a solo flight and did not bother to consult with any opposition party.

The second major partner of the alliance, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), also took no time to follow suit. After the PML-N’s decision, it promptly felt it has been left with no decision but to back the legislation. It did not lag behind for long although it protested to the PML-N for its hasty determination. It did try to attach some ifs and buts to its vote for the law, but gave up its stand too early. The PPP withdrew its amendments without any big effort by the government and quickly accepted even a meek request by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak. When the two principal components, the PML-N and PPP, took their independent decisions without having the smaller partners on board, the grouping plunged into a crisis and was bound to suffer as far as its strength was concerned. The fate of the “Rahbar Committee” of the opposition headed by Akram Durrani now seems uncertain due to the damage done to the alliance by the PML-N and PPP.

The opposition coalition of heterogeneous political parties has never been a solid, strong outfit but it has been maintaining a semblance of cohesion when it came to giving tough time to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led government in the parliament. The prime reason behind their cooperation has been the fact that they have a common political rival. There were many occasions in the Senate and National Assembly when they joined hands against the regime. Particularly, they have not allowed the government to do legislation of its choice in the opposition-dominated Upper House of Parliament. Previously also, the alliance had received a devastating blow when some of its senators especially those belonging to the PML-N and PPP had defected in the secret voting on the no-confidence resolution against Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani. But it had survived the assault as it had remained intact and relevant and kept cooperating.

Before the voting on the legislation of the services chiefs’ extension bills, the grouping was also confronted with a difficult situation when Jamiat Ulemae Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman had sponsored the Azadi March that culminated in a sit-in in the federal capital. To show solidarity with the agitation, the PML-N and PPP leaders had addressed the protesters more than once although the JUI-F supremo kept voicing reservations over the lack of their full-fledged support. However, the alliance ultimately succeeded in keeping its unity unharmed to a great extent. Even after this episode, the Rahbar Committee continued its periodic sessions. Fazlur Rehman’s main grievance against the PML-N and PPP is that they joined hands with a government that the opposition has always considered and treated as illegitimate. His grudge is that they have accorded legitimacy to the regime.

Because of the vote on the crucial legislation, all the allies of the PML-N, who have been standing with it in its hard times, have distanced themselves from it, severing almost all contacts with it. The JUI-F is too irate and it has publicly vented out its annoyance, blaming the top PML-N leadership for this state of affairs. The National Party of Mir Hasil Bizenjo is displeased and has openly articulated its discomfort. The Pukhtoonkhwa Awami Milli Party of Mahmood Achakzai is also unhappy. All of them stayed away from the lawmaking process. Before the voting, they announced that they would not support it. On the one hand, the PML-N’s decision ignited friction and strife in its rank and file that it is forcefully working to neutralise by doing a lot of explaining, and on the other, it estranged its allies. The allied smaller partners are more disappointed with the PML-N than the PPP. It is a big test of PML-N to restore its trust among these forces. The opposition coalition is faced with a challenge to revive its relevance by instilling unity that existed earlier.

Full report at:



PPP, PML-N slam Faisal Vawda for using a boot to ridicule opposition on TV

Adnan Sheikh

January 15, 2020

Leaders of opposition parties on Wednesday slammed Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda for his outlandish stunt on a TV show last night, during which he used a boot to to heap scorn on the PPP and PML-N for voting in favour of the recently passed Army Act in parliament.

The PTI minister appeared on ARY News' 'Off the Record', hosted by anchorperson Kashif Abbasi, alongside senior PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira and PML-N Senator Javed Abbasi on Tuesday night. Mid-programme, while discussing PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, Vawda pulled out a boot and plonked it on the desk in front of the guests. Both Abbasi and Kaira eventually left the show in protest.

PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, while speaking to Dawn on Wednesday, said that Vawda's stunt did not dignify a response.

However, former law minister and PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah, while appearing on another TV show last night, said that the entire nation was witnessing activities of "jokers", adding that "the government wanted to make a joke of the army as an institution".

PPP leader Sherry Rehman also condemned Vawda's behaviour. "This can’t be normalised, no matter what the point of the parody," she said in a tweet. "Disappointed and disgusted that public discourse has sunk to this level."

"It is everyone's right to critique another's actions but this, this plumbs new depths. Cheap thrills just got a whole lot cheaper," she added.

No PTI leader has yet commented on the incident.

What went down

In the middle of the live programme aired on Tuesday night, Vawda placed a boot, which he had brought with him, on the table and said: "In every programme, I will keep this with me, this is today's democratic N-League."

“You [the PML-N] should have given it respect earlier like we have been doing,” he said, referring to the boot he was holding.

The host, Abbasi, joked that he thought Vawda was pulling out a gun, a reference to an earlier stunt by Vawda, but in fact he had "pulled out something even more dangerous".

"You are talking against them (armed forces’ personnel) even when they embraced martyrdom. Today, when it comes to their loot and plunder Maryam Nawaz and Nawaz Sharif should hold this (the boot) and tell the people that we will respect the boot and do everything (to save us)," Vawda said.

The PTI minister did not spare PPP and asked why it took back the amendments it had proposed earlier in services chiefs’ legislation.

A visibly offended Kaira said that Vawda meant that the PPP and the PML-N had voted for the Army Act not on the request of the PTI government but under the pressure of the army. Vawda clarified that this was not what he was saying.

"He came with a lot of fervour and put the boot here and created a mockery of the army," Kaira said.

At one point, Abbasi asked Vawda who the boot belonged to, to which he said: "Ask them (PPP and PML-N)". He eventually removed the boot, in response to which Kaira wryly remarked that he should leave it on the table.

Both the PML-N and PPP leaders eventually walked out of the show.

Clips of the PTI minister's stunt were circulating on social media on Wednesday morning, with trends such as #PTIDisrespectArmy, #FaisalVawda and #Kashif Abbasi trending on Twitter.

While PTI supporters were seen praising the minister on social media, others expressed regret over the episode and criticised the minister for dragging armed forces by creating an avoidable controversy.

Senior journalist Mazhar Abbas tweeted: "Faisal has disgraced the Institution by bringing the shoe into controversy in otherwise popular talk show. He has not only exposed himself but the party as well. Let us see how the PM will react and above all how the Institution will take it."

This is not the first time the water resources minister has made headlines for his controversial remarks and actions. In 2018, he showed up in a bulletproof vest and armed with a pistol at the Chinese consulate general's office in Karachi minutes after authorities foiled a terrorist attack there.

Full report at:



PML-Q to meet PTI to decide future of coalition in Punjab, Centre

Waseem Ashraf Butt

January 15, 2020

GUJRAT: The PML-Q is all set to hold, what is being touted as, the final round of talks with the senior leadership of the ruling PTI on Wednesday (today) in Islamabad apparently in a bid to achieve what the PTI pledged to it while forming coalition governments in the Centre as well as in Punjab after winning the 2018 general elections.

Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak, senior PTI leader Jahangir Tareen, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and Arbab Shahzad will represent the PTI in the talks, while the PML-Q delegation will comprise federal minister Tariq Basheer Cheema, MNAs Chaudhry Moonis Elahi, Chaudhry Salik Hussain and Chaudhry Hussain Elahi. Punjab Chief Secretary Azam Suleman and Inspector General of Police Shoaib Dastgir are also scheduled to attend the meeting.

After skipping Tuesday’s federal cabinet meeting in Islamabad, it is being said that the PML-Q’s decision to remain in coalition with the PTI depended on the outcome of Wednesday’s meeting. A senior PML-Q leader said his party’s ministers and lawmakers were already under pressure for failing to achieve what they were committed regarding a share in the administration as well as development budgets for their respective constituencies.

Two meetings between the representatives of both coalition partners had already taken place in the last couple of weeks. PML-Q MNA Moonis Elahi had also met with Prime Minister Imran Khan recently during which issues pertaining to the commitments made to the Q League were discussed.

Currently, Tariq Cheema is the lone federal minister from the PML-Q whose leadership had also asked for a federal ministry for Moonis Elahi as per an agreement with the ruling PTI. However that commitment was yet to be fulfilled.

Sources said that the PML-Q had conveyed to the PTI to resolve the issues otherwise they could be meeting for the last meeting over this agenda, as the Q leadership could reconsider its decision to sit in the governments in Punjab and Centre.

In a previous meeting between both the parties, sources said Moonis Elahi had reminded federal minister Asad Umar about a written agreement for power sharing between the allied parties.

According to the formula, both Q ministers in Punjab -- Hafiz Ammar Yasir and Bau Rizwan -- will be consulted in matters of transfers and postings in their respective ministries. The PML-Q will have complete say in the administrative affairs and transfer/posting in at least three districts and as many tehsils of Punjab apart from a major share in the development budget for the schemes proposed by Q lawmakers.

As per the agreement, the Q League had been assured of administrative control of Gujrat, Chakwal and Bahawalpur districts as well as Daska (Sialkot), Phalia and Mandi Bahauddin tehsils where transfers/postings of officers in police, administration and other government departments would be made as per the recommendations of the PML-Q.

But reportedly the party lawmakers had serious reservations over these matters.

The sources also said that the PTI had pledged two federal and as many provincial ministries and the Punjab Assembly speaker’s slot to PML-Q nominees, but the commitment had not been entirely fulfilled.

MNA Moonis Elahi, when asked about his party’s reservations and future course of action regarding the coalition with PTI, told Dawn that the ruling party had started violating the agreements with the PML-Q even prior to the 2018 polls when it did not honour the seat adjustment formula agreed between the two parties – the PTI awarded party tickets to its nominees in the Q’s stronghold and fielded a candidate against Q’s Cheema in his constituency.

Similarly, he said, after formation of the federal and Punjab governments, initially the PTI did not include the Q’s second nominee Bau Rizwan in the Punjab cabinet; he was only inducted when the other Q minister, Hafiz Yasir, had resigned in protest against consistent intervention of the PTI in the affairs of his ministry.

The MNA also claimed that he had categorically told PM Khan that he was not interested in becoming a federal minister as he had paved the way for two Q nominees getting federal ministries during its coalition with the PPP (2011-2013).

Mr Elahi said the PTI should adopt a balanced approach while running Punjab where he said the political segment of the rule should not be ignored. He added that the federal government had given a Rs10 billion development package to the Balochistan National Party-Mengal -- another ally in the federal government, but the PML-Q should be given a better uplift package as it was a bigger party and a partner in Punjab and Centre both.

Asked about his party’s role in case of an in-house change in the federal as well as Punjab governments, he ruled out any such possibility and apprehended that such a move could lead to political chaos or disillusionment of parliament, which might benefit the opposition parties.

Full report at:



Qureshi to meet UN chief, UNGA president

January 15, 2020

UNITED NATIONS: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, currently on a mission to defuse tensions between the United States and Iran, arrives in New York on Wednesday to meet UN leaders before proceeding to Washington.

UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said at his noon briefing on Tuesday that the meeting was “requested by the Pakistan mission” and the “Secretary General is always happy to meet visiting foreign ministers.”

Officials in New York told journalists that during his day-long stay, the foreign minister will meet UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the President of the UN General Assembly, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande.

On Wednesday evening, he leaves for Washington where he is expected to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as part of his efforts to reduce tensions between Iran and the United States.

The foreign minister has already visited Iran and Saudi Arabia where he urged the leaders of the two countries to exercise restraint.

Mr Qureshi is also expected to raise the Kashmir issue in his meetings with UN leaders in New York.

Responding a question about Kashmir, the UN Spokesman said the United States remains engaged with this issue. “We talk to the Pakistanis, we talk to the Indians,” he added.

Full report at:



Army huddle rejects Indian military's 'irresponsible rhetoric' against Pakistan

January 14, 2020

The 228th Corps Commanders' Conference on Tuesday discussed the region's geo-political situation, including the "irresponsible rhetoric" against Pakistan by the Indian military leadership. The conference was headed by Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and attended by the top military brass.

On Saturday, India's new army chief Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane had said that the Indian army will move to claim Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) if it is given orders in this regard by the parliament, Indian media reported.

In a tweet regarding the top-level army huddle, Director General of Inter Services Public Relations Major General Asif Ghafoor said: "Statements of Indian military leadership against Pakistan are an irresponsible rhetoric with implications on regional peace and stability."

He further quoted Chief of Army Staff General Bajwa as saying: “We shall continue to play our responsible and positive role for regional peace without compromising on national security and defend our motherland at whatever cost."

Other topics of discussion at the conference included geo-strategic, regional and national security; the militant Islamic State, the situation along Pakistan's borders and the line of control. The meeting also discussed the situation in occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

According to DG ISPR, the forum also reviewed the evolving security situation in the Middle East with reference to the US-Iran stand off and it’s implications on regional peace and stability.

Tensions between Pakistan and India

Tensions between Pakistan and India had spiked sharply – after Delhi annexed occupied Kashmir on August 5 last year by revoking the region's special constitutional status – and remain high ever since because of the situation in the occupied valley.

Gen Naravane, who was appointed as India's 28th army chief last month, had further ratcheted up the tensions in his first media interview soon after assuming the command in which he said: “If Pakistan does not stop its policy of state-sponsored terrorism, we reserve the right to pre-emptively strike at the sources of terror threat and this intent has adequately been demonstrated in our response during surgical strikes and Balakot Operation.”

The Foreign Office in Islamabad had denounced Naravane’s statement as reckless, saying: “We reject the new Indian army chief’s irresponsible statement regarding 'pre-emptive strikes' across the LoC inside Azad Jammu and Kashmir.”

The FO said that the Indian leadership should not be mistaken “about Pakistan’s resolve and readiness to thwart any aggressive Indian move, inside its territory or AJK”.

The Indian army chief was reminded of Pakistan’s “befitting” response to the “Balakot misadventure” in which two of their jets were downed and one of the pilots, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, captured. The pilot was released days later amidst international efforts to defuse the stand-off.

DG ISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor had also responded to the Indian army chief's threatening statements, saying Gen Naravane "knows full well the situation in the region and the capability of the Pakistan Army. He was part of the Indian force on Feb 27 as well. So he's not new."

Full report at:



PM Imran offers support to Australian counterpart in overcoming bushfires

January 15, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday wrote to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, expressing grief over the loss of lives and environmental damage following bushfires.

The letter read: “The people of Pakistan are deeply saddened over the loss of precious lives and large-scale material damage caused by the bushfires in Australia.”

“On behalf of the government and the people of Pakistan, and on my own behalf, I would like to offer our profound sympathies and prayers for the people of Australia.”

“We have no doubt that the Australian people will overcome this calamity with strength and resilience,” the letter read.

The premier with particular emphasis on measures for climate change added: “I have, time and again, described climate change as one of the defining issues of our time. The challenge cannot be met by any one country alone. I am sure this crisis will also create the opportunity for greater international collaboration to reinforce the imperative of collective solutions.”

Full report at:



Govt working to reform seminaries: Punjab governor Chaudhry Sarwar

January 15, 2020

LAHORE: Hilal-e-Ahmar Punjab (HAP) Chairman Justice (Retd) Sheikh Ahmed Farooq and a delegation led by Shabbir Siddiqui of Tanzeem Mashaikh Pakistan called on Punjab Governor Ch Muhammad Sarwar on Tuesday and discussed various issues.

During the meeting held here at Governor House on Tuesday, Hilal-e-Ahmar Punjab Chairman Justice (Retd.) Sheikh Farooq Ahmed briefed the governor on the performance of the institution and the programmes initiated for public welfare. While assuring the HAP chairman of his full support and cooperation, the governor said the present government’s mission is to ensure strengthening of institutions and provision of health, education and other facilities to people for which all resources will be utilised. Federal and Punjab government will extend their full support to Hilal-e-Ahmar, said Sarwar. He said in addition to the governments, the philanthropists should also cooperate with Hilal-e-Ahmar.

While, in the meeting with delegation led by Shabbir Siddiqui of Tanzeem Mashaikh Pakistan, Ch Sarwar said that vital role of religious parties in forging unity and solidarity in the country cannot be ignored. There is no doubt in it that Ulema and Mashaikh have always united the nation against enemies of the country.

PTI government is also working out reform programmes for seminaries (Madaris) to ensure provision of higher education to students of Madaris as government wants to ensure every Pakistani’s access to education.

Islam teaches us humanity as well as our very existence in this world, and education not only takes a nation to humanism and mannerism but also leads it to righteousness. Lack of education is the major cause of the fall of Muslims today and uniform educational system is indispensable for development. Our government will elimination discriminatory education system and students of Madaris will also have an opportunity to rise through modern education, the governor said.

Full report at:




Rouhani: Plane incident that killed 176 people was an unforgivable error

4 January 2020

Iran will punish all those responsible for the unintentional shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger plane, President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech on Tuesday, adding that the “tragic event” would be investigated thoroughly.

“It was an unforgivable error ... one person cannot be solely responsible for the plane crash,” he said.

“Iranian armed forces admitting their mistake is a good first step ... We should assure people that it will not happen again,” he said, adding that his government was “accountable to Iranian and other nations who lost lives in the plane crash.”



Jordan’s Waqf welcomes Israeli de-escalation at Al-Aqsa Mosque

January 15, 2020

AMMAN: The director of Jerusalem’s Islamic Waqf welcomed Israeli moves to de-escalate tensions surrounding Islam’s third-holiest mosque, but called for a serious and permanent change of policy by Israel.

Sheikh Azzam Khatib — an employee of Jordan’s Waqf in Jerusalem, the Islamic religious trust responsible for the management of the Islamic holy sites around, and including, Al-Aqsa Mosque — told Arab News that certain moves have lessened tensions but serious decisions are still pending. “We welcome the Israeli decision to bring down the scaffolding that has been up for over two years on the walls of Al-Aqsa, but call for the removal of the remaining scaffolding near the Moghrabi gate, which is five times the size of the removed scaffolding.”

Khatib expressed satisfaction at the decision of an Israeli court to reject a request by the pro-settlers right-wing NGO Regavim to reassess the Waqf’s rights over Bab Al-Rahmeh (the Golden Gate).

Khatib also called on the Israeli police itself to withdraw its own petition to the court, explaining, “The Israeli police have filed a case calling for the closure, again, of Bab Al-Rahmeh on charges that it is used for terroristic actions.”

Jordanian officials also welcomed the decision of the Israeli court, but a senior official — speaking on condition of anonymity — told Arab News that he does not believe the Israelis are fully committed to de-escalation.

“If they were serious, they would withdraw the case filed against the Waqf on December 29th and remove all the scaffolding,” the source said.

Bab Al-Rahmeh was reopened to worshippers in February 2019, after a 16-year closure initiated by Israel over claims that the area was used for fomenting anti-Israeli sentiment and actions. It has remained open since despite ongoing Israeli efforts to close it.

Nit Hasson, a reporter for the independent Israeli daily Haaretz, told Arab News that he doubts that the Israeli court system will be much help to the Waqf.

“It is a known tradition that the Israeli courts do not interfere or stand in the way of decisions of the police,” he said.

Hasson said the scaffolding that remains has nothing to do with Muslims or the Waqf, but with the tensions between Orthodox Jews and non-Orthodox Jews.

“The Orthodox Jews don’t want women having any rights at the (Western Wall), while the non-orthodox — many of whom live in the US — are fighting for the rights of women to have access to (it),” he explained.

The scaffolding was raised two years ago, when a stone fell near the location earmarked for female Jewish worshipers.

The scaffolding indirectly blocked that area off, and the Israeli government has kept that part of the scaffolding for internal reasons, according to Hasson. “It is Netanyahu’s way of solving problems,” he said.

Full report at:



Turkey edges toward Islamic law with new finance rules

Orhan Kemal Cengiz

January 14, 2020

For the the first time in the modern Turkish republic, a ruling party has officially imposed religious rules in the public sphere, reigniting concerns that Turkey is gradually drifting toward an Islamic regime.

The Turkish government set out Islamic directives to regulate inspections on interest-free finance. Independent auditing firms will have to obey Islamic rules and established Islamic practices while inspecting the interest-free financial institutions, according to the country's official gazette published Dec. 14. Interest-free finance, also known as Islamic banking, is a fast-growing market in Turkey under the rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Speculation over Turkey’s drifts toward Islam is not new. Ever since the AKP came into power in 2002, there has been incessant discussion of whether Turkey would become an Islamic regime. However, according to most political scientists and observers, the Turkish experience under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not unique. For them, Erdogan is yet another populist leader, not so different from Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban or President Donald Trump. They also tend to think that the regime is not unique to Turkey: It is competitive authoritarianism, where competition exists to a degree and the power of the opposition is curtailed.

When it comes to the role of religion in Turkey, the general tendency has been in line with the above-mentioned approach: Yes, Erdogan openly expresses his wish to raise pious generations, and he doesn’t hesitate to spend state funds for this purpose. He also challenges the secularist order set by Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish republic.

Categorically, one cannot see the pillars of a religious state in Turkey. There is no ban on alcohol and no state-sanctioned dress code, as in Iran or Afghanistan. There is no coercion to send people to the mosques during prayer times.

However, some of Erdogan's decisions, particularly in recent years, contrast with the above perspective. For instance, there may not be an alcohol ban, but under AKP rule alcohol has become extremely expensive. As a result, alcohol consumption is limited to certain segments of society. Also, public alcohol consumption is only possible in major cities and certain provinces of Turkey. It is no longer possible to find restaurants or pubs that serve alcohol in rural Anatolian towns and cities.

Another example is the mammoth annual budget of the Directorate of Religious Affairs, or Diyanet, Turkey’s official religious body. Its 2020 budget is bigger than the budgets of eight ministries, including ministries of interior and foreign affairs. Thanks to its enormous budget, the directorate has extended its services to kindergartens, where the Quran is taught to young pupils.

During the AKP's reign, many schools were converted into religious institutes called Imam Hatip schools. The number of students enrolled in Imam Hatip schools reached some 1.3 million in the 2017-2018 education year.

All of these developments can be seen as efforts to create a pious generation rather than efforts to impose religious rule. But a recent development refutes this optimism.

The Turkish government introduced Dec. 14 unprecedented wording and language to the Turkish public record by a ruling issued in the country’s Official Gazette. For the the first time in the modern Turkish republic, the ruling party officially imposed religious rules to regulate the service sector: inspections on interest-free finance. The ruling sets basic rules and regulations for independent auditors by referencing several Quranic verses and hadiths — the words of the Prophet Muhammad — and fiqhs — the established Islamic practices.

“An act against Islamic jurisprudence and rules cannot be considered legitimate even if it is legal and in accordance with the established practices of the market,” the ruling said.

According to the ruling, the auditors must obey “Islamic jurisprudence and rules,” in addition to the relevant national and international laws, while inspecting interest-free financial institutions.

“The auditor should act with the fear of God, the Exalted and be constantly aware that God, the Exalted, is watching him,” it said.

The ruling came about a month after Erdogan’s much debated call for organizing daily life in accordance with the Islamic rules.

“Time and conditions change, but the words of the Quran do not. … We will act according to Islam, not vice versa,” Erdogan said, addressing the sixth Religious Council meeting of the Diyanet Nov. 28.

Has the time come to change the secular order? Political commentator Levent Gultekin offered a nuanced explanation.

The fear that Turkey "will wake up one morning and see that Sharia rule has been imposed, as in Iran" is "unrealistic, because it is not possible for them to do so," Gultekin wrote Jan. 12 in Diken, an independent Turkish news outlet. "But there is a trend in this direction proceeding step by step."

Gultekin argued that Turkey is rapidly drifting toward Islamism. “In fact, we can say that the country has covered much distance in terms of this transition,” he wrote. According to Gultekin, the public will soon not be able to hold a dialogue on such matters because such a discussion itself will be considered anti-religious.

Indeed, recent developments confirm such a trend. Perhaps Turkey will not adopt Sharia overnight, but there are indications it could gradually drift toward a new order, where secular rules are replaced with religious ones.

Meanwhile, regardless of the religious agenda of Erdogan and his party, surveys show that efforts to create a pious generation are backfiring. A poll by the prominent Turkish firm Konda showed that the number of people who defined themselves as religious conservatives dropped to 25% from 32% between 2008-2018. In the same period, those who fast during Ramadan dropped from 77% to 66%. Also, several polls indicated that the AKP is losing its support base.

Full report at:



Iranian University Students Rally to Condemn Anti-Government Protest

Jan 14, 2020

The students vented their anger against the protesters who took to the streets to allegedly complain about the Ukrainian plane incident which claimed the lives of all passengers and crew.

The main cause of disagreement is that students believe that the illegal gatherings are endangering the security of civilians on the streets where some foreign-backed elements take advantage of the situation and open fire on passersby to accuse police of violent crackdown.

The students vowed support are also angry with the kind of slogans chanted which they describe them as anti-norms and anti-conventions.

The General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces said in a statement on Saturday that the Ukrainian Boeing 737 plane was shot down as a hostile object due to human error at a time of heightened US threats of war.

The statement said an expert investigation by the General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces after the Ukrainian airline company's Boeing 737 incident has found that flight 752 of the Ukrainian airlines has been shot down as a hostile flying object that was approaching a sensitive IRGC center and was shot down due to human error few hours after Iran's missile attack on the US and as Iran's military was expecting attacks by the US army.

A Boeing 737 plane carrying 180 passengers and crew, mostly Iranians, crashed shortly after takeoff from Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran early Wednesday, leaving no survivors.

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei in a message on Saturday extended his condolences again on the death of the Ukrainian plane's passengers, and ordered the Armed Forces to take the needed measures to find faults and flaws that have led to the bitter incident and prevent repetition of similar incidents in future.

In his message, the Leader renewed his most heartfelt sympathy and condolences to the bereaved families of the victims, and reiterated his "order to the General Staff of the Armed Forces to probe into possible faults and flaws in this painful accident," Ayatollah Khamenei said.

He also underscored the need for the relevant Iranian directors and officials to launch the necessary follow-ups to prevent repetition of such incidents in future.

Also, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani extended condolences to the families of those killed in the Ukrainian plane incident, and promised that all those who have been guilty in the unforgivable mistake of shooting down the jet will be prosecuted.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake... My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families. I offer my sincerest condolences," Rouhani said in a statement on Saturday.

The president stressed that "the terrible catastrophe should be thoroughly investigated, and those responsible for this unforgivable mistake will definitely be identified and prosecuted".

Russian State Duma (parliament's lower house) Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin blamed the United States for the exacerbation of tensions in the Middle East that led to the launch of the Iranian missile at the passenger plane of the Ukraine International Airlines near Tehran.

On Monday, the Iranian Foreign Ministry categorically condemned British Ambassador Robert Macaire’s meddlesome behavior in Tehran where the envoy was arrested for provoking anti-government protests, cautioning that the next case of such destructive and illegal behaviors will be responded more harshly.

On Saturday, a senior police official told local media that Macaire was arrested during a mourning vigil which turned into a protest in front of the Amir Kabir University in downtown Tehran where he was organizing and provoking people.

local media cited “informed sources” as saying that Macaire had been holding secret meetings inside a shop opposite the main gate of the Amir Kabir University to monitor the developments that led to the protest on Saturday.

During the meeting at the Foreign Ministry, Macaire was reminded that the presence of foreign ambassadors in unlawful gatherings is not in line with their responsibilities as a political representative of their country and it is contrary to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961.

Meanwhile, it is noted that the British government should explain this matter.

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office has commented on the arrest of its ambassador in Tehran, terming it as being against international norms.

Some parliamentarians urged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take the necessary measures against the UK ambassador's move, which they said is "against all international norms".

Full report at:



Iran Warns about Serious Response to London’s Next Anti-Tehran Move

Jan 14, 2020

The Foreign Ministry issued a strongly-worded statement on Monday where it urged Britain's embassy in Tehran to immediately end all types of meddlesome and provocative activities, warning that in case of repetition of such a behavior, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will adopt measures tougher than summoning the ambassador.

The statement “strongly condemned” endorsement of the assassination of the hero of anti-terrorism campaign in the Middle East, Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, and Deputy Head of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis by terrorist US forces, saying that it proved cooperation of the British regime in the terrorist measure taken by the US.

A US drone carried out an airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport early on January 3, assassinating Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and the PMU second-in-command as well as eight other people.

Both commanders were admired by Muslim nations for their great acts to eliminate the US-sponsored Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in the region, particularly in Iraq and Syria.

In another part of the statement, the Foreign Ministry pointed to recent apprehension of the British ambassador to Tehran for taking part in an illegal gathering, saying it was clear interference in the internal affairs of Iran and against all principles that govern diplomatic relations.

Referring to the latest remarks by UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab, who threatened Iran with more sanctions, the statement said, “It is clear that the British regime, on the basis of a wrong calculation, is still sticking to anti-Iran illusions and seeks to increase tensions in the region and in its relations with Iran.”

"British leaders must know that their accusations against Iran cannot hide their blindfolded subservience to the US regime and shameless inability of Britain to fulfill its commitments as per the JCPOA (the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major world powers) and even the fact that it has refrained from paying hundreds of millions of pounds in arrears to the Iranian nation due to its fear of the United States,” Iran's Foreign Ministry said.

Pointing to Britain's colonial background in the Middle East, it added that it is time that British envoys stopped interfering in other countries' internal affairs and ended fueling the flames of domestic conflicts.

"Britain needs to give up such disgraceful measures," the statement said.

On Saturday, a senior police official told local media that Macaire was arrested during a mourning vigil which turned into a protest in front of the Amir Kabir University in downtown Tehran where he was organizing and provoking people.

local media cited “informed sources” as saying that Macaire had been holding secret meetings inside a shop opposite the main gate of the Amir Kabir University to monitor the developments that led to the protest on Saturday.

During the meeting at the Foreign Ministry, Macaire was reminded that the presence of foreign ambassadors in unlawful gatherings is not in line with their responsibilities as a political representative of their country and it is contrary to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961.

Meanwhile, it is noted that the British government should explain this matter.

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office has commented on the arrest of its ambassador in Tehran, terming it as being against international norms.

Some parliamentarians urged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take the necessary measures against the UK ambassador's move, which they said is "against all international norms".

Full report at:



Iran arrests person behind viral plane attack video: Report

15 January 2020

Iran said it has arrested the person who filmed the footage showing a Ukrainian passenger plane being shot down by a missile, the BBC reported on Tuesday.

Iran announced on Saturday that its military “unintentionally” shot down the Ukrainian jetliner on January 8, killing all 176 aboard, after the government had repeatedly denied Western accusations that it was responsible.

A video that has gone viral shows the missile targeting the airplane shortly after it took off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International airport.

According to the BBC, Iranian media reported that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) had taken a person who posted a video online last week of the missile striking the plane into custody.

An Iranian journalist based in London, who the BBC said initially posted the footage online, said in a Twitter post that authorities had arrested the wrong person.

“The person who is the source of the video is SAFE and I can assure you IRGC is orchestrating another lie,” Nariman Gharib said in the tweet.



I'm getting lots of calls.

They have arrested the WRONG person regarding the #Flight752 In Iran. The person who is a source of the video is SAFE and I can assure you IRGC is orchestrating another lie. They killed 176 passengers on commercial plane. Thats the real story here. …



I'm asking  @JustinTrudeau   and @CanadaFP  to step into this situation and ask Iranian officials to release the WRONG folks they have in custody. My source who is a HERO is safe. also why they need to arrest this person?! #PS752 …


11:14 PM - Jan 14, 2020

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Another video published by the New York Times Tuesday shows verified security camera footage showing two missiles gliding through the sky before hitting the passenger jet.

Full report at:



Iran warns Europe against launching nuclear dispute mechanism

14 January 2020

Iran’s foreign ministry warned on Tuesday of a “serious and strong response” to a European move toward possible sanctions as the nuclear deal they negotiated unravels.

Iran warned Britain, France and Germany about “the consequences” of their decision to launch a dispute mechanism against Tehran under the 2015 nuclear deal.

“Of course, if the Europeans ... seek to abuse (this process), they must also be prepared to accept the consequences,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Full report at:



Iran’s judiciary says around 30 arrested over plane attack protests

14 January 2020

Iran’s judiciary has arrested around 30 protesters who took to the streets after authorities admitted that a Ukrainian plane that was shot down outside Tehran was accidentally hit by an Iranian missile, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

“Around 30 people have been arrested for taking part in illegal gatherings ... We have tolerance towards legal rallies,” said Gholamhossein Esmaili, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.



Turkey says will stop Syrian government violations of Idlib ceasefire

4 January 2020

Turkey is determined to stop Syrian government violations of a ceasefire in northwest Syria’s Idlib to prevent 400,000 people fleeing towards the Turkish border, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday.

Erdogan was speaking to his AK Party in parliament. Russia and its allies halted air strikes in Idlib on Sunday as a ceasefire agreed with Turkey came into force.



Iran makes arrests in connection to Ukrainian plane it shot down

14 January 2020

Iran’s judiciary has arrested some people for their role in the crash of a Ukrainian plane that Tehran said was accidentally hit by an Iranian missile, judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said on Tuesday.

He did not give further details.



Israel to construct new prisons for Palestinian inmates

15 January 2020

Israel has approved a plan to build four new jails in the occupied territories as the regime mounts its arrest campaign against Palestinians.

Israeli media reported on Tuesday that the so-called housing council had authorized constructing the prison complexes, which would comprise several facilities specialized for political, criminal, and minor detainees, south of the occupied lands and the city of Haifa.

Israel's Channel 7 said the new prison complexes would fit for 4,000 political prisoners and would each include detention centers, a police station and a court.

The construction project is expected to be completed in 2040.

Israel currently has 30 prison facilities, most of which are old and crowded.

At the end of November 2019, there were at least 4,638 Palestinian security detainees and prisoners in Israeli jails, including 303 from the Gaza Strip, according to Israeli rights group B'Tselem.

Israeli forces regularly storm Palestinian towns to make mass arrests.

Many Palestinian inmates are kept in Israeli custody without trial or charge.

Palestinians complain that they are subjected to assault and torture at Israeli prisons.

Full report at:



Israeli regime floods Gaza’s farmlands

14 January 2020

Ashraf Shannon

In yet another act of aggression against the people of Gaza, the Israeli regime unleashed havoc on the eastern perimeter of the coastal enclave using flood gates to destroy Palestinian farmlands.

Israel, which has installed the flood gates adjacent to the Gaza Strip, periodically opens them, leading to the flooding of large tracts of Palestinian farmlands as well as homes in the tiny coastal sliver.

An eyewitness told Press TV that Israel has flooded his farmland with water twice this week.

The Palestinian NGO’s Network who organized a field visit to the affected areas has warned of the catastrophic impact of Israel’s repeated flooding of Gaza’s farmlands.

Israel's destruction of farmlands and crops will only worsen the already dire economic situation of Gazan farmers and harm vital food sources in the blockaded enclave.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture, Israel has flooded hundreds of acres of farmlands and destroyed a variety of crops, irrigation systems and agricultural equipment.

Gazan farmers have long been struggling to make ends meet due to the Israeli occupation.

Full report at:



Yemeni army, allies forces shoot down Saudi-led reconnaissance drone in Jizan

14 January 2020

Yemeni army forces, backed by allied fighters from the Popular Committees, have intercepted and targeted an unmanned aerial vehicle belonging to the Saudi-led military coalition as it was flying in the skies over the kingdom’s southern border region of Jizan.

The media bureau of Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement announced in a statement that Yemeni air defense forces and their allies shot down the drone with a surface-to-air missile over Jabal al-Amoud mountainous area on Tuesday evening.

Last week, Yemeni air defense units intercepted and targeted a Saudi-led CH-4 drone while flying in the skies over Yemen's northern province of al-Jawf.

On January 1, Ansarullah announced in a statement that Yemeni air defense forces and their allies had shot down a Saudi-led unmanned aerial vehicle as it was on a reconnaissance mission over al-Dayer area of Saudi Arabia’s southern border region of Jizan, situated 966 kilometers (600 miles) south of the capital Riyadh.

The development came a day after Saree said Yemeni forces and their allies had shot down a Saudi-led spy drone as it was flying in the skies over al-Tina area of the Hayran district in Yemen’s northwestern province of Hajjah.

The spokesman for Yemeni Armed Forces identified the downed aircraft as a Chinese-made Phantom unmanned aerial vehicle.

Yemeni air defense forces and their allies shot down a Turkish-built Vestel Karayel drone with a precision missile on December 30 last year.

Saree said at the time the aircraft was struck as it was on a surveillance mission over al-Salif coastal village in Yemen’s western province of Hudaydah.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crushing Ansarullah movement.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the war has claimed more than 100,000 lives over the past four and a half years.

Full report at:,-allies-forces-shoot-down-Saudi-led-reconnaissance-drone-in-Jizan



Turkey to ‘teach a lesson’ to Libyan rebel commander if anti-govt. offensive resumes

14 January 2020

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey will “teach a lesson” to Libyan rebel commander Khalifa Haftar if he resumes his offensive against Libya’s internationally-recognized government after withdrawing from ceasefire talks in Moscow.

Erdogan issued the threat at a meeting of his party in Ankara on Tuesday, calling the head of the rebel forces in Libya a “putschist.”

“We will not hesitate to teach a deserved lesson to the putschist Haftar if he continues his attacks on the country’s legitimate administration and our brothers in Libya,” the Turkish president said. “Despite this, we find the talks in Moscow were positive as they showed the true face of the putschist Haftar to the international community.”

Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and Haftar held about eight hours of indirect talks brokered by Moscow and Ankara in the Russian capital on Monday.

The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed on Tuesday that Haftar left the talks without signing a draft deal that Sarraj had already signed.

The draft deal was aimed at ending nine months of fighting between the government and the militia groups under the command of Haftar.

A shaky ceasefire had come into force on Sunday; however, both sides accused each other of violating it as skirmishes continued around Tripoli.

Since 2014, Libya has been divided between two rival camps: the government in Tripoli, and a camp based in the eastern city of Tobruk.

Haftar, who is backed by Egypt, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan, is the self-proclaimed commander of an array of militia groups apparently supporting the eastern camp. He launched an offensive to capture Tripoli and oust the government in April.

His forces have been bogged down near the capital, yet he has pledged to continue the offensive.

Full report at:



Yemeni army kills Houthi commander in Al-Dhale province

January 15, 2020

DUBAI: The Yemeni army bombed Houthi reinforcements west of Al-Dhale province, killing five militants including a commander, state news agency SPA reported on Wednesday.

Clashes also erupted between Yemeni forces and Houthis in northwest of the Qataba district, which lasted for hours and resulted in casualties among the militia.

The conflict in Yemen, started with 2014 takeover of Sanaa by the Houthis, drove out the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

The UN has described the situation in Yemen as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.





Niger declares three days of mourning after 89 soldiers killed in attack on military base

January 13, 2020

(CNN)The Niger government has declared three days of national mourning after 89 soldiers were killed in an attack on a military base, a government spokesman said.

The attack happened on Thursday when heavily armed militants attacked an army outpost in Chinagodrar in the country's west, near the border of Mali, government spokesman Abdourahame Zakari said in a statement Sunday.

Niger's flag will also be flown at half-staff throughout the territory as the country mourns the troops killed in the raid.

President Mahamadou Issoufou sent his "deepest condolences" to the victims' families and wished those wounded in the attack a speedy recovery.

The number of troops killed in Thursday's attack tops casualty figures from last month's raid by jihadist militants on another military outpost in the country's west, which left 71 soldiers dead.

Military troops in Niger and neighboring Mali are fighting to suppress a jihadist insurgency, which has seen army outposts in both countries attacked by militants in recent months. In November, 13 French soldiers were killed in a crash involving two helicopters during an operation against jihadists fighters in Mali.

More than 50 soldiers died in a militant attack on a military camp in the northeast of Mali in November.

Officials said they have launched an investigation into the incident and urged residents to be resolute in their support as the country continues to wage war against terrorism.

The government said its security forces killed 77 terrorists as they repelled the attackers who came on motorcycles and with several vehicles to the outpost near the Mali border.



Radical Muslims Kill Thirteen Nigerian Christians

By Jacob Airey

JANUARY 15TH, 2020

Christians in Nigeria were violently assaulted by radical Muslims in the small village of Kulben, located in the central area of the country’s Plateau state Mangu County. At least thirteen civilians were murdered and three more were injured in the attack. Nigerian outlet PM News reports that the Plateau Police Command confirmed the January 8 attack was suspected to be the work of armed members of the Muslim Fulani herdsmen extremist group, who have used violence in the past to suppress Christian communities in the African nation.

Police Public Relations Officer DSP Terna Tyopev explained, “In the early hours of today, we received a distress call that gunmen, suspected to be herdsmen, attacked Kulben community of Kombun District of Mangu.”

“Immediately we received the information, the commissioner in charge of the command, Mr. Isaac Akinmoyede, directed the DCP in charge of Operations, Mr. Aliyu Tafida to mobilize to the scene,” he continued. “As I speak, our team of detectives and other officers are in the scene of the crime to prevent further attacks.”

Local resident Michael Mutding described the assault in a text message to Morning Star News.

“They were shooting with guns in all directions, forcing the villagers to scamper into surrounding bushes,” he said. “Corpses of those killed have been evacuated by soldiers and police to the mortuary of Mangu Cottage Hospital; and all the victims are members of COCIN.”

According to The Guardian, an eyewitness claims that the attack was in retaliation to villagers stopping the heavily armed herdsmen from cattle rustling outside the village of Kerang.

“It was a tough battle between the youths and the rustlers. At the end, three of them were arrested and some of the cows recovered. The cows and the suspects were handed over to the Police in Kerang,” the eyewitness said.

The deadly attack prompted swift responses from Nigerian lawmakers.

Local representative Bala Fwengje said in a statement, “This attack on my people by these herdsmen comes as a rude shock to us, as efforts have been made by security agencies to curtail such incessant attacks on our people.” He added, “It is a sad thing that these attacks are still being carried out by the herdsmen on our people without provocation.”

Plateau state Gov. Simon Bako Lalong echoed those sentiments. “We have toiled to ensure that peace returns to Plateau state, and we will not allow anyone to make nonsense of our efforts,” he said vowing to arrest the suspects. “We are determined to deal decisively and firmly with anybody found culpable in attacking or inciting people to carry out attacks against one another.”

Tyopev confirmed that no arrests have been made. “No arrest is yet to be made, but we are doing everything possible to ensure the criminals are arrested and made to face the full wrath of the law.”

Local Christian leader Audu Tetmut told Morning Star News that the attack was a surprise, since the village has had no prior discernible tension with the radical group.

“Our community had lived peacefully with the herdsmen without any issues of dispute with them,” he said. “So we are surprised that they attacked us.”

Radical Muslims have engaged in a campaign to force the growing Christian community out of Nigeria. In May 2019, the Fulani herdsmen were suspected in an attack near the city Jos that took thirty civilian lives. This assault was on the heels of a March 2019 attack in Maro where over two dozen were killed.

Full report at:



Sudan’s airspace is open, sovereign council chief says

15 January 2020

Sudan’s airspace is now open, the head of the country’s sovereign council, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, said in a speech early on Wednesday.

He also vowed never to allow any coup to take place and confirmed that all intelligence buildings were under the control of the army.

Sudan witnessed violence on Wednesday that was the biggest confrontation yet between its old guard and supporters of the new administration that helped topple former ruler Omar al-Bashir.

Full report at:



Sudanese government forces retake all intelligence buildings in capital: Source

15 January 2020

Sudanese government forces managed late on Tuesday to retake all intelligence buildings in capital held by security agents in revolt, a military source said.

The security agents surrendered after negotiations with their leaders, the source said. They had opened fire to protest against their severance packages.

The former employees of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) had also shut two small oilfields in Darfur in protest about their severance packages, a government source told Reuters. They had an output of around 5,000 barrels a day.

Full report at:



Haftar sets conditions to end Libya conflict, says militias must surrender arms

15 January 2020

Libyan National Army General Khalifa Haftar has informed Russia of a number of conditions to end nine months of fighting in the country, including a time limit of 45 to 90 days for armed militias to fully surrender their weapons.

Haftar also demanded the establishment of a committee made up of LNA representatives alongside the United Nations responsible for the collection of militia weapons provided that the work is fully under the control of the Libyan armed forces.

He also informed Russia of his refusal of Turkey being a mediator in the conflict and demanded that the mediating countries be neutral parties whose position is to support Libya's stability and not to support armed militias or extremists.

Haftar had left Moscow on Tuesday without signing a ceasefire agreement with the UN-recognized Government of National Accord led by prime minister Fayez al-Sarraj.

Germany said it will host world leaders for a UN-sponsored summit on the conflict in Libya this weekend, the German government confirmed.

Full report at:



Turkey’s Erdogan threatens Libya’s Haftar

14 January 2020

Embattled Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday he would “teach a lesson” to Eastern Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar if he resumed fighting after abandoning ceasefire talks in Moscow.

Haftar left Moscow on Tuesday without signing a peace deal aimed at ending nine months of fighting with the UN-recognized government in Tripoli.

The administration in Tripoli is backed by a plethora of armed militia including groups with links to al-Qaeda. Haftar, who is supported by many European and Gulf powers, has vowed to remove these militias from power.

“We will not hesitate to teach a deserved lesson to the putschist Haftar if he continues his attacks on the country’s legitimate administration and our brothers in Libya,” Erdogan told a meeting of his party in Ankara in a televised speech.

Erdogan said the issue would now be discussed at talks in Berlin on Sunday attended by European, North African and Middle Eastern countries, as well as the UN, EU, Africa Union and Arab League.

“The putschist Haftar did not sign the ceasefire. He first said yes, but later unfortunately he left Moscow, he fled Moscow,” Erdogan said.

Full report at:



Libya's Haftar looking for military gains: Expert

Fahri Aksut  


Renegade Libyan Gen. Khalifa Haftar abruptly left negotiations for a cease-fire to protect a well-thought-out strategy on the battlefield, a Turkish expert said Tuesday.

Professor Ferhat Pirincci, an international relations and foreign policy expert at Uludag University, said Haftar's reasons for leaving the negotiations in Moscow can be broken down to a tactical move and a strategic one.

“Haftar does not want to lose his advances in southern Tripoli. Because technically, a possible pullback in the region due to the cease-fire, can be understood as a defeat for the Haftar forces,” he said.

He said there are also two strategic policies among the reasons.

Stressing Haftar's military advance in the battlefield, Pirincci said Haftar does not want to share power in Libya.

"Haftar was about to capture Tripoli completely with his military gains in the field, therefore, he did not want to be only a copartner of a possible new system, he wanted all his gains," he said.

As the second strategic step, Pirincci said that Haftar is not an independent actor in the region, therefore, he needed to convince his strategic partners such as France, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

"As it is understood, Haftar was obliged to leave the negotiation due to his allies despite Russia's efforts," he said.

Pirincci said this approach will work against Haftar and his aggressive behavior will change perceptions about him on the international front.

He said Russia will continue putting pressure on Haftar to abide by the temporary cease-fire which started on Sunday.

"If Russia fails to do that, it is very likely Haftar's forces will strike again," he added.

This might make the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) appear as the sane voice in Libya.

"Haftar's leaving from the negotiation table gave some advantages to GNA and its supporters. If Haftar's forces lose its power and position in the field, local actors who support Haftar can criticize his policies and may change the structure of Haftar forces," he said.

Pirincci advised Turkey to follow a two-pronged strategy after the failed negotiation.

"On the one hand, Turkey should increase the diplomatic pressure on Haftar by taking more political support from Russia, Italy, Tunisia, Qatar and Algeria. On the other hand, Turkey should give more military assistance to GNA forces to repel Haftar forces," he said.

Since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: one in eastern Libya supported mainly by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and the other in Tripoli, which enjoys UN and international recognition. Therefore, severe conflicts have begun between the two powers in the region.

On Jan. 12, the warring sides of the Libyan conflict announced a cease-fire in response to the call of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On Monday, the sides in the Libyan conflict gathered in the Russian capital Moscow to discuss a cease-fire meant to end the hostilities in Libya and start a political dialogue.

Full report at:



Al-Shabaab kill 3 teachers in Kenya, near Somali border

Andrew Wasike 



Three teachers from Garissa county which borders Somalia in Kenya were killed by al-Shabaab militants, affiliated with Somalia-based al-Qaeda, authorities confirmed on Monday.

The militants who crossed to Kenya from Somalia through the porous border also attacked a police station and tried to destroy telecommunications equipment, but they were warded off by the police.

A statement from the Kenya police headquarters noted that “armed AS (al-Shabaab) militia attacked Kamuthe primary school, Kamuthe police post, a telecommunications mast and murdered three teachers.”

“The militants set the police camp on fire and further tried to bring down the communication mast located about 300 meters away, the telecommunications mast is partially damaged but operational. Security agencies are pursuing the attackers. More information to follow.”

The three male teachers killed were all non-locals. Previously, al-Shabaab have been known to target Christian teachers who are posted in northern Kenya.

The militants spared local female residents who were accompanying the three teachers. Locals who survived the ordeal also confirmed it to the local media.

In November 2014, al-Shabaab militants killed 28 Kenyan teachers going on holiday to the capital Nairobi after separating Muslims in Mandera, a town bordering Wajir county.

Full report at:



Somali security forces recaptures key town from al-Shabaab

JANUARY 14 2020

Somalia Special Forces (Danab) on Monday recaptured a key town in the southern region from al-Shabaab and arrested senior leaders of the local terror group.

Ismail Abdimalik Malin, commander of the 16th Brigade, said that Toratorow, a key revenue collection region for al-Shabaab in Lower Shabelle region, was recovered in an operation that also saw the arrest of ten militants.

"Our Somalia National Army liberated Toratorow from al-Shabaab without any resistance from the militants. Ten militants were arrested during the operation," Malin told journalists.

He vowed to intensify security operations in the region to flush out the al-Qaeda militant group in other areas under their control.

It's not the first time the town which is an al-Shabaab stronghold was captured by government forces.

Toratorow is located near the US military base in Balidogle Airfield and is an important revenue collection centre in south-central Somalia.

The town has changed hands between al-Shabaab and Somali security forces several times in the past.

Full report at:



North America


U.S. Put Environmental Group on ‘Extremist’ List With Nazis: Report

Jan. 13, 2020

The Department of Homeland Security has included a group of anti-pipeline activists in a list of “extremists,” alongside white supremacists and murderers, The Guardian reports. The group, called the Valve Turners, consists of five members accused of turning off oil pipes in four states in 2016. Two members were convicted, in a trial that saw prosecutors liken them to the Unabomber and al Qaeda. Three other members were acquitted after a judge dismissed charges against them. Nevertheless, DHS reportedly listed the group alongside extremists like Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who murdered nine black church-goers in a 2015 massacre, and James Fields, a neo-Nazi who killed one person and injured more than a dozen others when he drove a car into a crowd at a 2017 white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The “extremist” classification, revealed as the result of a Freedom of Information Request by the group Property of the People, came shortly after the U.K. was revealed to have placed the environmentalist group Extinction Rebellion on a similar list. Both classifications have prompted backlash from members of the environmentalist and anti-extremism communities, with anti-extremism experts saying the lists wrongly conflated environmental activism with terrorist ideologies.



US sends home 21 Saudis as probe finds shooting was 'terrorism'


The United States will send home 21 Saudi military trainees after an investigation into the "jihadist" killing of three American sailors last month, the Justice Department announced Monday.

Attorney General Bill Barr said the December 6 shootings by Royal Saudi Air Force 2nd Lieutenant Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani at the US Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida was an "act of terrorism."

"The evidence shows that the shooter was motivated by jihadist ideology," he told reporters.

There was no evidence that Alshamrani had colluded with others, although Barr said FBI investigators had been unable to unlock his two phones to determine whom he had contacted.

"We have asked Apple for their help in unlocking the shooter's iPhones. So far Apple has not given us any substantive assistance," Barr said.

The attorney general said 21 of Alshamrani's colleagues were being expelled from the base's flight school after the probe found many of them had jihadist material and child porn.

While the material didn't rise to the level of criminal prosecution, Barr said Riyadh had "determined that this material demonstrated conduct unbecoming an officer in the Saudi Royal Air Force and Royal Navy and the 21 cadets have been dis-enrolled from their training curriculum."

They were to return to Saudi Arabia later Monday, Barr said.

He added that the Saudi government had vowed to review each case under its code of military justice and criminal code.

"Further, the kingdom has assured us that, if we later decide to charge any of those being sent back to Saudi Arabia in connection with this counterterrorism investigation, it will return them for trial," Barr said.

- Jihadist messages -

Alshamrani gunned down three US sailors and wounded eight other people in a classroom block, in what Barr described as a premeditated assault, before police shot the gunman dead.

He had posted a message on social media on September 11, 2019 saying "the countdown has begun," in addition to several other anti-US, anti-Israel and jihadist messages, the investigation revealed.

The shooting threatened a decades-old military training program crucial to the US-Saudi relationship, which involves billions of dollars of military sales to the kingdom.

There are around 850 Saudis among the 5,000 foreign military personnel undergoing training in the United States.

Many, such as the Saudis in Pensacola, are trained in flying and maintenance of US-made military aircraft their countries are purchasing.

"These military partnerships are critically important to our country," Barr said.

- 'Hard reset' -

Florida Senator Rick Scott, however, called for the suspension of the Saudi program for further review by the Department of Defense.

"This was an act of terrorism. Given the FBI's confirmation that a number of Saudi nationals engaged in troubling conduct, it's clear we need a hard reset," Scott tweeted.

"I'm calling on the Saudi gov't to recall all Saudi nationals training in the US until DOD can conduct a full review."

FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich said Alshamrani undertook the attack with a legally-bought semi-automatic pistol.

Bowditch said Alshamrani had 180 rounds of ammunition and multiple magazines, including a high-capacity magazine, which some states have sought to ban or tightly control in the wake of mass shootings.

Barr said the shooting "perfectly illustrates" why US law enforcement should be able to demand cellphone makers' cooperation to unlock phones in appropriate circumstances.

Full report at:



How anti-Muslim war makes US democracy impossible

January 14, 2020

The “usual suspects” are already being rounded up. U.S. citizens with Iranian names and backgrounds are being selected for special screening at the border. City police departments in New York and Los Angeles have vowed to be on alert for Iranian terrorists.

It’s been the same story for decades. Nearly anytime the United States has a military conflict with a country or group that is labeled Muslim, the civil and human rights of Muslims or people who “look Muslim,” whatever that means, are violated by both the U.S. government and some of its citizens.

Anti-Muslim war-making has made real democracy impossible.

I was nine when 52 white Americans were held hostage for more than at the U.S. embassy in Iran in 1979. As yellow ribbons went around the trees, and anger grew across the country, Iranians and brown people associated with Iranians were attacked, harassed, and questioned.

My Arab-American grandmother knew there might be trouble. At the least, she was concerned about reputational damage. I remember her telling strangers that Iranians were not Arabs, and so we had nothing to do with the hostage crisis.

I look back on that moment and realize that she was acting out of fear. And her fear was rational.

No matter how assimilated a Muslim or “Muslim-looking” person is—my grandmother was Christian—the federal government’s policies toward Muslims end up depriving U.S. citizens not only of their political rights but of their chance for social equality, too.

This practice has been rooted as much in repressing Islam among U.S.-born Black Muslims as it has been in restricting the rights of foreign-born Muslims and their families.

In the 1950s, Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam gave birth to some of the most potent dissent in America. Malcolm X’s charismatic critique of white supremacist Christianity, anti-Black racism, and U.S. military intervention abroad was a serious political challenge to the U.S. during the Cold War. The government repressed the group, and the civil rights of Nation of Islam members were violated by the FBI’s Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO), federal prisons, and local police departments.

Though Muhammad Ali would be revered later as a principled opponent of the Vietnam War, it is hard to overestimate how much he was hated by Democrats and Republicans alike for refusing induction into the U.S. military in 1967.

That association of Muslims and Islam with “the enemy” was transformed after 1979 as so-called “Middle Eastern-looking” Muslims took center stage in the federal government’s policy-making and law enforcement.

During the 1991 Gulf War and especially after 9/11, the nation’s focus on war-making in Muslim-majority lands meant that, even as Black Americans remained the group whose civil rights were most violated, Muslims became a class of people whose basic Constitutional rights could be denied as a matter of law.

Long before President Trump implemented his legal ban on Muslim and other visitors, President Obama’s administration singled out Muslims for special treatment in domestic counter-intelligence, devoting extraordinary FBI resources to mass surveillance, undercover informants, and entrapment. The Democratic President profiled Muslims without any suspicion of guilt, used secret evidence to prosecute terrorists, and assassinated U.S. citizens Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan in Yemen. Muslim youth became the targets of sophisticated sting operations that tried to entice them to wage a violent jihad on their fellow citizens even as right-wing neo-Nazi and other white supremacist groups grew stronger. [1]

And before President Obama, there was President Bush’s USA PATRIOT Act, extraordinary rendition, extra-legal detention at Guantanamo Bay, torture of both foreign nationals and U.S. citizens such as Brandon Mayfield, warrantless wiretaps, and a litany of human rights abuses perpetuated against Muslims both at home and abroad.

Since 9/11, the treatment of Muslims has exposed a rot at the core of American democracy, and that rot has been disturbingly bipartisan.

Too many Americans, conservative and liberal, are willing to make exceptions to the Bill of Rights when they believe their security is at risk. Too many are willing to prioritize the safety of some of us over the safety of all of us.

As the President wages war on yet more Muslims, it is important to remember that while Muslims will be its primary victims, this long war on Muslims damages what holds us together, our shared belief in human freedom and dignity for all.


Full report at:



Trump agrees with British PM Johnson on a “Trump deal” for Iran

15 January 2020

US President Donald Trump said he agreed with a comment by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that a “Trump deal” should replace the Iran nuclear deal.

“Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, @BorisJohnson, stated, ‘We should replace the Iran deal with the Trump deal,’” Trump said in a posting on Twitter late on Tuesday. “I agree!”

Johnson, who has praised Trump as a great dealmaker, called on Tuesday for the president to replace the Iranian nuclear deal with his own new pact to ensure the Islamic Republic does not get an atomic weapon.



Guatemalan President to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist group: Spokeswoman

15 January 2020

Incoming Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei is set to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist group, according to a spokeswoman.

He will also keep his country's embassy in Israel in the city of Jerusalem, the spokeswoman said Tuesday, confirming the move made by his predecessor following pressure by US President Donald Trump.

Giammattei, a conservative former surgeon and ex-prison chief, will be sworn in later in the day.



Katyusha rockets target Taji military base housing US forces

14 January 2020

The Iraqi military says Katyusha rockets have hit an airbase north of the capital Baghdad, which houses the US-led coalition forces that purportedly fight Daesh Takfiri terrorists.

The statement from Iraq's military on Tuesday said Camp Taji had been targeted by Katyusha rockets but reported that there were no casualties.

The statement did not say how many rockets had hit the military base, with no group claiming responsibility for the attack.

The Iraqi military also said on Sunday that four people were wounded after eight Katyusha rockets were fired at Balad airbase, which houses US personnel about 80 kilometers north of Baghdad.

The attacks come after Iran launched retaliatory strikes at two US military complexes last week — one at the Ain al-Assad airbase in the western Iraqi province of Anbar and at another outpost in Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan.

The missile operation was in response to the January 3 assassination by US terrorists of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), and a group of their companions in Baghdad. The cowardly operation was conducted under US President Donald Trump’s direction. The US Department of Defense took responsibility for the assassination.

Both commanders enjoyed deep reverence among Muslim nations over their endeavors in eliminating the US-sponsored Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in the region, particularly in Iraq and Syria.

Last week, Iraqi lawmakers unanimously approved a bill that calls for the withdrawal of all US-led foreign troops from the Arab country in the wake of the assassinations.

Full report at:





Katyusha rockets target Taji military base housing US forces

14 January 2020

The Iraqi military says Katyusha rockets have hit an airbase north of the capital Baghdad, which houses the US-led coalition forces that purportedly fight Daesh Takfiri terrorists.

The statement from Iraq's military on Tuesday said Camp Taji had been targeted by Katyusha rockets but reported that there were no casualties.

The statement did not say how many rockets had hit the military base, with no group claiming responsibility for the attack.

The Iraqi military also said on Sunday that four people were wounded after eight Katyusha rockets were fired at Balad airbase, which houses US personnel about 80 kilometers north of Baghdad.

The attacks come after Iran launched retaliatory strikes at two US military complexes last week — one at the Ain al-Assad airbase in the western Iraqi province of Anbar and at another outpost in Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan.

The missile operation was in response to the January 3 assassination by US terrorists of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), and a group of their companions in Baghdad. The cowardly operation was conducted under US President Donald Trump’s direction. The US Department of Defense took responsibility for the assassination.

Both commanders enjoyed deep reverence among Muslim nations over their endeavors in eliminating the US-sponsored Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in the region, particularly in Iraq and Syria.

Last week, Iraqi lawmakers unanimously approved a bill that calls for the withdrawal of all US-led foreign troops from the Arab country in the wake of the assassinations.

The office of Iraq’s caretaker premier said Adel Abdul-Mahdi has asked Washington to dispatch a delegation to Baghdad to initiate preparations for the withdrawal of American troops from the country.



Amnesty intl' calls for urgent action over Bahrain executions

15 January 2020

Mohammad Ramadan and Hussein Mousa are accused of being involved in the explosion in al-Dair on 14 February 2014. But they say they were tortured for days, hung from the ceiling and beaten with iron rods and batons. They claim the guard’s also threatened to subject their families to torture and rape; guards trained by British instructors.

Because of its alleged complicity in their torture, the UK intervened on Christmas day 2018, preventing their execution. Amnesty International and Reprieve say Westminster must intervene again. But will it?

Ramadan and Mousa’s fourth Death penalty appeal hearing was scheduled for Christmas day 2019, but was delayed. On the 8th of January the death penalties were upheld.

Bahrain has the largest number of political prisoners per capita in the world. Britain has spent at least 5,000,000 pounds on Bahrain’s justice system since 2012, on the pretext of helping improve its abysmal human rights record.

But human rights charities like Reprieve say the UK has failed to investigate alleged torture and Manama is not feeling any pressure to stop the abuse.

Full report at:



Germany jails jihadi for Syrian massacre


A German court on Monday sentenced a 31-year-old Syrian man to life in prison for double homicide and accessory to 17 counts of murder committed during his time as an Islamist militant.

The former Nusra Front jihadi was found guilty of killing two people and overseeing the murder of at least 17 others in northern Syria.

The victims were members of Syrian security forces and army personnel captured during the first years of the conflict. They were then executed at a dumping ground near the city of Tabka as part of a larger massacre in the area in 2013.

Three other defendants were also handed down prison sentences ranging from three to eight years. All four came to Germany as refugees.

war criminals

German prosecutors have sought to jail militants and members of Syria's security forces who have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In October, German federal prosecutors announced charges against two suspected former Syrian secret service officers. The charges included participating in mass rape, torture and crimes against humanity

Prosecutors also charged an Iraqi man and his German wife for genocide for chaining up a Yazidi girl and leaving the 5-year-old to die of thirst. Both are believed to be members of the "Islamic State."

Brutal conflict

Full report at:



Putin, Merkel hold phone talks on Libya

Dmitri Chirciu  



Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed recent developments in the Libyan crisis and preparations for an upcoming conference in Berlin on its settlement over the phone Monday.

"The process of preparing for the international conference on the Libyan settlement in Berlin was discussed," the Kremlin said in a statement.

According to the statement, Putin also briefed Merkel on talks on Libya in Moscow which were attended by representatives of both sides of the conflict.

Earlier Monday, a German government spokesman said Berlin will host an international peace conference on Jan. 19 on the Libyan crisis.

The warring sides in the Libyan conflict accepted a joint call by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Putin for a ceasefire late Saturday.

The ceasefire took effect at midnight local time (2200GMT), and the decision was celebrated with fireworks in Tripoli.

Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of Libya’s UN-recognized government in Tripoli, and Haftar arrived in Moscow on Monday for talks on the terms of a ceasefire agreement.

In April, Haftar launched an offensive to capture Tripoli from the UN-recognized government.

According to the UN, more than 1,000 people have been killed since the start of the operation and more than 5,000 others injured.

Full report at:



Arab World


Saudi-Led Committee Strikes Deal between Government and Separatists in Yemen


January 14, 2020

AL-MUKALLA: A Saudi-led military committee tasked with enforcing the arrangements of the Riyadh Agreement made a significant breakthrough on Monday, convincing Yemeni military commanders to reposition their forces in the south of Yemen, officials said on Tuesday.

The committee visited military bases in Aden, Lahi and Abyan, meeting with commanders from both the government and the separatists to discuss accelerating the redeployment of forces.

A senior government official — who spoke to Arab News on condition of anonymity — said that two government military brigades that took part in fighting against forces loyal to the separatist Southern Transitional Council last year would be deployed in the Thubab area near the Red Sea and Abyan’s Lawder district, while separatists agreed to withdraw some forces from Aden.

“Under the arrangements approved yesterday, the Presidential Protection Forces will enter Aden and will be assigned to protect the presidential palace,” the official said. “Al Zamik’s brigade will go to Thubab and Al Subaihi’s will be deployed in Lawder,” he added, referring to Brig. Lou’i Al-Zamiki, the commander of the 3rd Presidential Protection Forces Brigade, and brigadier Abdullah Al-Subaihi, the commander of the 39th Armored Brigade.

The two brigades will reinforce government forces battling Houthis in Baydha, Hodeida and Taiz. The separatist Southern Transitional Council, the official said, will send back soldiers that came to Aden in August to their bases in Lahj’s Radfan district.

In November, Saudi Arabia brokered a deal between the Yemeni government and the Southern Transitional Council aimed at defusing tensions between the two parties following heavy clashes in Aden, Abyan and Shabwa last year.

Under the deal, the prime minister will return to Aden, while military units will retreat to the positions they held before August — handing over heavy weapons to a team from the Saudi-led coalition. Those weapons will be distributed to military units battling the Iran-backed Houthis. Yemen’s president will then appoint new governors and security chiefs for Aden, Lahj and Dhale, and name a new coalition government. The official said the next step would be to discuss the situation in the province of Shabwa. “They will start implementing arrangements for Aden and Abyan. All heavy weapons — including tanks, anti-aircraft guns and artillery — will be collected in one place,” the official said, adding that pro-government Abu Misha’al Al Zamiki, Abyan’s chief of security, will return to the town of Zinjibar to replace the separatist’s own security measures in the near future.

Speaking to Arab News on Monday night about the joint military committee’s visit to the Southern Transitional Council’s military base, Nizar Haytham, a spokesperson for the council, said. “This is a positive step. We hope it will be followed by the government’s withdrawal from Shabwa and Abyan.” Haytham also said that the council had swapped eight prisoners with the government in exchange for 35 separatists taken prisoner in August.

At a meeting with Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi on Tuesday, the United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths hailed the steps taken so far under the Riyadh Agreement and expressed his hope that more will follow, leading to a comprehensive peace deal. Hadi reiterated his commitment to the UN-led peace process in Yemen.



Man tries to set himself on fire in Beirut as Lebanon protests return

14 January 2020

Two men tried to set themselves on fire in Beirut as protests returned to Lebanon on Tuesday, 90 days after nationwide demonstrations first kicked off.

Video footage acquired by Al Arabiya English shows a man shouting at Lebanese riot police while attempting to pour what was reportedly gasoline over himself before other men quickly stop him from doing so.

Another man had also attempted to set himself alight, according to Al Arabiya English’s source.

The incident took place near the Riad al-Solh square in central Beirut, one of the main centers of protests since demonstrators took to the streets in October to demand an end to the country’s political and economic crisis.

While former Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned on October 29, the country remains deadlocked and has slid into economic crisis amid a shortage of dollars.

Full report at:



Funding Lebanon is funding Hezbollah

JANUARY 13, 2020

December 2019 was a bizarre month in America’s nearly four-decade-long struggle with Hezbollah. It ended with the US embassy in Baghdad under attack by one form of Hezbollah angry at the deaths of their comrades killed in Iraq and Syria on December 29. The Trump administration killed their comrades in another form of Hezbollah because they killed an American contractor and wounded others in Kirkuk on December 27. What makes this so weird is that the month began quite differently when on December 6 the US sent $105 million to Lebanon, a country controlled by Hezbollah.

After the Trump administration withheld $105m. in aid to Lebanon’s military in late September, the Washington press corps thought it smelled another Ukraine-style Trump scandal. The New York Times complained that Trump “officials halted the funding to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), which Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department had approved, at a critical time.”

The Los Angeles Times fretted that Trump was withholding money precisely as Lebanon “convulses under an unprecedented wave of anti-government protests” and announced that Lebanon’s army is “viewed as a guarantor of stability.”

The Washington Post assured its readers that “there is little to no evidence to suggest that the LAF actively cooperates with Hezbollah.” The qualifiers “little to no” and the adverb “actively” betray an editorial caution that imply some evidence of at least passive LAF-Hezbollah cooperation.

Somehow each of these media outlets has missed the reality that Iran runs Lebanon like the Shia colony it has become. Up until he was killed on January 2, Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s al-Quds Force, traveled freely to and throughout Lebanon like a Persian general keeping a watchful eye on the indigenous regiments in the northernmost satrapy of his master’s empire. One of that empire’s most reliable tools is Hezbollah, which controls the Lebanese government.

Under Lebanon’s “confessional” government, the speaker of the parliament is always a Shia Muslim, the president is a Maronite Christian, and the prime minister is a Sunni Muslim. Nabih Berri, the Amal movement party leader, is the speaker of a parliament controlled by Hezbollah. Lebanon’s president, Michel Aoun, wouldn’t be president without Hezbollah’s approval, which he first earned in 2006 by allying his Free Patriotic Movement to the Shia terrorist organization. He supported Hezbollah in its 2007 war against Israel and in turn has enjoyed its support ever since. Lebanon had no prime minister for since Saad Hariri resigned in October. Then Aoun announced on December 19 that he had chosen Hassan Diab, a Hezbollah favorite, to be the new prime minister. Of course, the Hezbollah-controlled parliament approved with a majority vote.

THE LEBANESE government is the Hezbollah government.

“There has been no state of Lebanon for some time now,” as Mordechai Kedar of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies says, for Hezbollah controls everything; Lebanon’s “parliament, government, president, and all of the other state institutions are nothing more than a façade for players directed by [Hassan] Nasrallah.”

Since 2006, the US has sent over $1.7 billion to the Lebanese Armed Forces. What has been achieved by this money, and what evidence is there that the LAF is anything other than the “legal wing” of Hezbollah?

The current impeachment rhetoric notwithstanding, all foreign policy is a quid pro quo. Unlike relief efforts, rescue missions and vaccination programs, which are philanthropic endeavors undertaken out of altruism, nations give arms and cash to foreign powers and train foreign troops for selfish reasons. If the recipient isn’t an ally and isn’t willing to promote the donor nation’s interest, either directly or indirectly, it doesn’t deserve the investment.

Compare US aid to Lebanon with US aid to Egypt. The Egyptian military actually does work to maintain stability in Egypt, exercising strong arm tactics against Islamists and terrorists. Though far from fully representing American ideals or always promoting America’s interests, among the Egyptian military’s mixed record is a history of fighting American foes. For instance, since General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi took over in 2013, the Egyptian military has on numerous occasions flooded Hamas tunnels with sea water or raw sewage, killing an unknown number of Hamas killers and hindering their missile-smuggling operations. The Egyptian military has worked with the Israeli military in operations against ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula. Maybe this is why Trump called Sisi his “favorite dictator.”

US investments in Egypt have paid much better returns than those in other parts of the Muslim world. For well over a decade, Pakistan not only squandered US cash and did very little to promote our interests, but also lied to us about many things – the Taliban, the Haqqanis, the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.

Perhaps the most absurd comment about aid to Lebanon came from former US ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman who told the House Foreign Affairs Committee in November that aid to the LAF should be restored “because of the program’s merit in terms of improving the LAF’s counterterrorism performance.” This is laughable. If the LAF is not fighting Hezbollah it is not engaging in any meaningful counterterrorism.

When the LAF establishes a record of killing Hezbollah terrorists, it will have earned a second chance at American aid. Until then, Lebanon should be recognized as a Hezbollah stronghold, the northern frontier of the Iran’s Shia Empire.

Full report at:



Syria says Israel behind aerial attack against military airport

15 January 2020

Israel carried out an aerial attack that damaged a military airport in central Syria, according to a military source quoted by Syria’s state news agency SANA.

Israel “led a new attack against T4 airport... air defenses were immediately activated against the enemy missiles, destroying several of them,” a military source told SANA.

“Four missiles hit the target zone,” causing damage but no human casualties, the report said.

The attack in Homs province north of the capital Damascus happened at around 10:00 pm (2000 GMT), the source said.

In an earlier report, SANA had said Syrian air defenses were activated to confront the “aggression,” without specifying who was to blame.

An Israeli army spokeswoman gave no comment on the claim when contacted by AFP.

Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said that Iranian forces were stationed at the military airport along with Russian advisers.

The same military base has been hit by Israeli raids in the past.

Full report at:



Lebanon security forces fire tear gas, clash with protesters near central bank

15 January 2020

Lebanese security forces fired tear gas to disperse protesters outside the country’s central bank on Tuesday evening, clashing with dozens of people who pelted them with stones and fireworks.

A group of protesters attempting to enter the Lebanese Central Bank on Hamra street tried to force their way into the building but were stopped but anti-riot police.

“This then led to two hours of clashes between the group of protesters and the security forces. When this happened, hundreds of protesters then joined the street,” Al Arabiya’s correspondent in Beirut Mahmoud Shukur reported.

Protesters also threw tear gas canisters back at riot police and some protesters were seen hurling rocks and stones, according to Shukur.

Protests first began last October against the ruling political elite accused of steering Lebanon toward its worst economic crisis in decades.

Since Saad Hariri resigned as prime minister in late October, politicians have failed to agree a new government or a rescue plan.

The Lebanese pound has weakened on the parallel market, a hard currency squeeze has driven up prices and confidence in the banking system has been battered.

Full report at:



Missile targets al-Taji military camp north of Baghdad

14 January 2020

A missile attack has targeted the al-Taji military camp north of Baghdad, according to Al Arabiya’s correspondent in Iraq.

The Taji camp was targeted by air strikes against Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) militias earlier this month.

The attack comes after Iran had earlier launched a missile attack on US targets in Iraq in retaliation for the death of General Qassem Soleimani, a move that heightened fears of a wider Middle East conflict.



Saudi Arabia renews condemnation of Iranian violations of Iraqi sovereignty

14 January 2020

The Council of Ministers of Saudi Arabia reiterated on Tuesday its condemnation of Iran’s violations of Iraqi sovereignty, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Kingdom reaffirmed its support for Iraq after Iran targeted two Iraqi military bases which host forces for the international coalition fighting ISIS.

The statements were made during the Council of Ministers session, which was headed by King Salman bin Abdulaziz.



Iraq’s Sadr urges million-man march against US military presence

15 January 2020

Influential Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has demanded that Iraqis stage a “million-man march” against the continued US military presence in the country, days after Iraq’s parliament voted to expel the American troops following an assassination operation by Washington on Iraqi soil.

The march is needed “to condemn the American presence and its violations,” Sadr, who leads the largest parliamentary bloc, Sairoon, said in a tweet on Tuesday.

“The skies, land, and sovereignty of Iraq are being violated every day by occupying forces,” he added. The cleric, however, cautioned that such a show of popular disapproval should be a “peaceful, unified demonstration,” but did not offer a date or location for the proposed rally.

On January 5, the parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution calling for the expulsion of all US-led forces, two days after the US military assassinated senior Iranian commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani and along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), among others, near the Baghdad airport.

The parliament resolution also urged the Baghdad government to drop a request for assistance from a US-led coalition of foreign troops purportedly operating against Daesh remnants in Iraq.

The Iraqis censured the targeted killings — which were ordered by US President Donald Trump — as a blatant violation of the country’s sovereignty as well as the security agreement between Baghdad and Washington.

In a letter to the parliament following the vote, Sadr called for an immediate cancellation of the security agreement with the US, the closure of the US embassy, the expulsion of US troops in “a humiliating manner,” and the criminalization of communication with the US administration.

Following the parliamentary vote, the office of Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi asked Washington to dispatch a delegation to Baghdad to initiate preparations for the withdrawal of American troops, who number around 5,200.

In response, Trump threatened to sanction Iraq “like they’ve never seen before ever” if Baghdad were to expel US troops.

Full report at:



Syrian army says confronts Israeli aggression on T4 airbase in Homs

15 January 2020

The Syrian army says it has intercepted and shot down several Israeli drones and missiles targeting a major military airport in the country’s central province of Homs.

Citing a military source, Syria's official news agency SANA announced on Tuesday that the army air defenses had confronted an air aggression perpetrated by Israeli warplanes on T4 airport in Homs and shot down a number of their missiles.

“Nearly at 22.10 p.m. on Tuesday January 14, 2020, the Israeli warplanes perpetrated a new aggression on T4 airport from the direction of al-Tanf region,” the military source said.

The army said it successfully managed to intercept and down several missiles targeting the airbase and that the attack had only caused material damage.

Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria, including in the Golan Heights, most of them against what the Tel Aviv regime claims to be the positions of pro-Syrian forces.

The Syrian military has mostly absorbed the Israeli strikes, locking its defense systems on incoming fire.

In early 2018, Syria targeted and shot down at least one Israeli F-16 that had intruded into its airspace.

Full report at:



Katyusha rockets target Taji military base housing US forces

January 15, 2020

Katyusha rockets targeted the Taji military camp, located north of Baghdad, on Tuesday but no casualties were reported. No group claimed responsibility.

The Iraqi base - located 85km (53 miles) north of the capital - hosts a large number of US troops and other foreign forces, making it a target for Iran-backed armed groups after the US assassination of top commander Qassem Soleimani.

At least two Katyusha rockets were fired, an army captain told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

On Sunday, four people were wounded after eight Katyusha rockets were fired at the Al Balad airbase. Military sources identified the wounded as Iraqi soldiers.

The incidents come amid heightened tensions between the US and Iran following Soleimani's killing and Iran's retaliatory missile attacks against US targets in Iraq.

Full report at:



Iraqis must resort to resistance if US forces refuse to pull out: Senior Nujaba official

14 January 2020

The deputy secretary general of Iraq’s al-Nujaba Movement says the Iraqi nation must choose the path of resistance in case the parliamentary bill demanding the withdrawal of all US-led foreign military forces from the country is not implemented.

“The Iraqi people must opt for the path of resistance unless the parliament’s decision on the pullout of foreign forces is carried out,” Nasr al-Shammari said in an exclusive interview with Lebanon-based Arabic-language al-Mayadeen television news network on Tuesday.

He added that the decision to expel foreign forces from Iraq does not need a parliamentary mandate, stating that the US-led military coalition purportedly fighting the Daesh terrorist group entered Iraq at the request of Baghdad government and can be removed by a letter from the government as well.

“The decision concerning the removal of foreign forces from Iraq is the only decision taken away from sectarian fault lines. A person of sound mind cannot accept the presence of a foreign state that imposes its own authority on a sovereign country. If getting foreign forces out of Iraq is a charge, then we consider it as an honor for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren,”  Shammari pointed out.

He then noted that all Iraqi resistance factions are united to end the presence of foreign troops in the country, saying, “The United States must respect the sovereignty of states and decisions of peoples, and adhere to them.”

“Iraq will not accept being ruled by any country. Any failure to implement the parliament decision on the withdrawal of foreign forces will give the green light for the start of resistance operations,” Shammari highlighted.

The Nujaba official went on to say that Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), better known by the Arabic word Hashd al-Sha’abi, have become more coherent and solid in the wake of the recent US assassination of the second-in-command of PMU, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

“The death of Muhandis does not mean the end of Hashd al-Sha’abi and its role in the region,” Shammari said.

He added that Iraqi resistance groups are indebted to Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).

“The resistance against US forces will soon attain its goal of removing foreign troops from the Iraqi soil. The blood of martyrs will finally bring about the demise of the Zionist entity, and the end of its occupation of Arab lands,” Shammari concluded.

Baghdad moving to internationally prosecute US for crimes in Iraq

Meanwhile, a member of the Iraqi Parliamentary Human Rights Committee said the Baghdad government was preparing to prosecute the United States at international courts of law for its crimes in Iraq, noting that the offenses amount to genocide.

“The United States has been committing the most heinous war crimes since 2003 up until now. The invasion of Iraq, the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse, the Nisour Square massacre and the emergence of Daesh (Takfiri terrorist group) besides the attack on the leaders of Hashd al-Sha’abi are all crimes classified as genocide,” Ahmed al-Kanani said in a statement on Tuesday.

Kanani added, “All the crimes that America has perpetrated against the Iraqi nation are documented, and that there are bids to prosecute Washington for its crimes against Iraqis before international courts.”

On January 5, Iraqi lawmakers unanimously approved a bill, demanding the withdrawal of all foreign military forces led by the United States from the country.

Late on January 9, Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi called on the United States to dispatch a delegation to Baghdad tasked with formulating a mechanism for the withdrawal of US troops from the country.

According to a statement released by the Iraqi premier’s office, Abdul-Mahdi “requested that delegates be sent to Iraq to set the mechanisms to implement the parliament's decision for the secure withdrawal of (foreign) forces from Iraq” in a phone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The prime minister said Iraq rejects violation of its sovereignty, particularly the US military's violation of Iraqi airspace in the airstrike that assassinated Lt. Gen. Soleimani, Muhandis and their companions.

Abdul-Mahdi asked Pompeo to “send delegates to Iraq to prepare a mechanism to carry out the parliament’s resolution regarding the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq,” the statement said.

Full report at:



Syria calls for Turkish pullout in ‘positive’ talks between spy chiefs

January 15, 2020

ANKARA: The heads of Turkish and Syrian intelligence on Monday held their first official talks in years, with Damascus calling for Ankara to immediately withdraw its forces from Syrian territories.

Experts believe the “positive” meeting, which took place on the sidelines of peace negotiations in Moscow, could mark a turning point in Turkish opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s handling of the country’s eight-year civil war and open the door to cooperation against common targets.

Michael Tanchum, a senior fellow for the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy, said Turkey’s acknowledgement of the talks hinted at the possibility of future coordinated action by Ankara and the Assad regime.

“Their joint action might be against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, as both Ankara and Damascus share a common interest in weakening the group’s power,” he told Arab News.

During their meeting in the Russian capital, the Turkish and Syrian intelligence chiefs reportedly discussed the cease-fire in the opposition-controlled Idlib province.

Syrian news agency SANA also said that Syria’s head of intelligence had reminded his Turkish counterpart of the importance of full adherence to Syrian sovereignty as well as to its independence and territorial integrity, calling on Turkey to immediately withdraw its forces from Syrian territories.

In December 2017, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Assad “a terrorist who has carried out state terrorism,” saying that it would be impossible for Syrian peace efforts to continue while he stayed in power.

However, after the withdrawal of US forces from northeastern Syria and the safe zone deal brokered with Turkey last year, Syrian regime troops and Russian military were sent to the territories vacated by the Americans to remove the YPG from the border area.

Assad aims to take back full control of Idlib where Turkey had committed to helping evacuate the region of rebels and their heavy weaponry.

Sources in Ankara suggest that Turkey might give some concessions in Idlib in exchange for more Russian support for its stance on the conflict in Libya.

Aydin Sezer, an Ankara-based Russia and Middle East analyst, told Arab News the fact that such high-level talks had taken place in Moscow was a positive move given the past animosity between Syria and Turkey.

“It will contribute to overcome the deadlock in Syria which Turkey is also trapped in. These talks also meant to hand over the responsibility to deal with the YPG to the Assad government, as the latter is believed to influence the local tribes against the YPG,” he said.

Sezer added that the meeting was also aimed at highlighting to the Turkish public a new phase in relations with Syria. “It is the result of long-time pressure from Russian President Vladimir Putin who repeatedly reminded of the Adana memorandum between Turkey and Syria.”

Since last year, Putin has been pushing for Ankara to restore ties with Damascus on the basis of the 1998 Adana accord which put down a framework for security cooperation between the two countries to remove Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants, who have waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state, from the Syrian border. Ankara considers the YPG an extension of the PKK.

The Adana protocol, that was signed by then-presidents Suleyman Demirel of Turkey and Syria’s Hafez Assad, is still in effect.

Erdogan admitted in February last year that the two countries were maintaining low-level dialogue through their intelligence agencies, although the meetings were never disclosed to the media.

The first low-level get-together was held in 2018 during cease-fire negotiations for Idlib.

Full report at:




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