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Islamic World News ( 23 Dec 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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AIMPLB Demands Withdrawal of Triple Talaq Bill, Says It's Against Sharia Law and Will 'Ruin Muslim Families'













Photo: All India Muslim Personal Law Board holds emergency meeting in #Lucknow ahead of tabling of bill on Triple Talaq in Parliament

 

Pork Used In Hate Attack on Belfast Islamic Centre

Officials: Saudi Crown Prince Tried to Persuade Palestinian President to Support US Peace Plan

Jerusalem Tensions Cast Shadow over Christmas in Holy Land

'Pakistan Not In Habit of Taking Notices from Anyone Let Alone US': Rabbani Slams Pence's Remarks

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India

AIMPLB Demands Withdrawal of Triple Talaq Bill, Says It's Against Sharia Law and Will 'Ruin Muslim Families'

Islamic State, Al-Qaeda Competing For Indian Recruits

Haj rule change in India leads to sharp rise in female applicants

Rajsamand love-jihad case: Police says accused Shambulal was in ‘illicit’ relationship with a girl

2017 new high for Pakistan border assaults

J&K: Army Major, 3 soldiers killed in firing by Pakistan along LoC

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Europe

Pork Used In Hate Attack on Belfast Islamic Centre

Islamic State Had Appropriated Ammunition Procured By Swiss Firm

Muslim migrants succeed in Russia despite xenophobia

Young Ahmadi Muslims to Stage Visits and Run Free Taxi Services for Elderly and Isolated Over Christmas

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Arab World

Officials: Saudi Crown Prince Tried to Persuade Palestinian President to Support US Peace Plan

Mosul's Morgue Men Endured Worst of Islamic State Butchery

Islamic State Attack Militia in Iraq

Campaign to be launched to removed Islamic State signs in western Anbar

Al-Nusra Suffers Heavy Casualties in Failed Attack on Syrian Army Positions in Aleppo Province

Syrian Army Sends Troops, Equipment to Northern Lattakia to Face Terrorists' Movements

Terrorists' Logistic Convoy Hit in Syrian Army's Ambush Operation near Israel-Occupied Golan Heights

Syrian Army Preparing for Recapturing Energy-Rich Regions Occupied by Kurds

Syrian Army Utilizing Modern Cannons in War on Terrorism in Southwestern Damascus

Army Repels ISIL's Attack on Gov't Positions in Homs

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Mideast

Jerusalem Tensions Cast Shadow over Christmas in Holy Land

14 Palestinians Killed, Thousands Wounded, Hundreds Detained since US President Jerusalem Move

Hezbollah Deputy Secretary: Al-Quds Must Be Priority, Israel behind All Regional Crises

Bahrain’s Al-Wefaq: Manama Must Halt Military Trials of Civilians

Turkey to Rename Embassy's Street in Ankara in Row with UAE

Muslim world unity foiled plots against al-Quds: envoy

Armed guards posted at Christmas church services in majority Muslim countries

Turkey Sacks 2,766 Civil Servants over 'Terror' Links

Thousands Protest Against Israeli PM in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem

Iranian Top General Warns of Takfiris’ Continued Threats against Muslims

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Pakistan

'Pakistan Not In Habit Of Taking Notices From Anyone, Let Alone US': Rabbani Slams Pence's Remarks

Terrorist Safe Havens Exist In Ungoverned Areas of Afghanistan, Not Pakistan: Maleeha Lodhi

US told to learn from Pakistan in war on terror

3 FC personnel martyred in IED explosion in North Waziristan

Pakistan, Iran agree on joint aerial border monitoring

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Australia

Sydney Conference throws light on Islam in Practice

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North America

US $50,000 Reward for Iraqi Anti-Terror Leader Revealed

US to Resume Aid for YPG in 2018 as Trump Approves $393mln Syria Weapons List

US Court Lifts Trump Measures Barring Some Refugees

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South Asia

Civilians Suffer Heavy Casualties in Helmand Roadside Bombing

SIS military commission chief killed in US drone strike in Afghanistan

Ismail Khan endorses Noor’s recent stance against the govt and Abdullah

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Africa

Christian Youths of Nigeria Calls for Arrest of Islamic Leader

Gunmen kill three at cafe south of Egypt capital

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Southeast Asia

Myanmar Invited to US-Thailand Military Drills Despite Rohingya Issue

Rohingya: 500,000 Unlikely to Receive Schooling in 2018

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/aimplb-demands-withdrawal-of-triple-talaq-bill,-says-it-s-against-sharia-law-and-will--ruin-muslim-families-/d/113677

 

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AIMPLB demands withdrawal of triple talaq bill, says it's against Sharia law and will 'ruin Muslim families'

24 Dec, 2017 16:20:32 IST

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) on Sunday demanded the withdrawal of the triple talaq bill and said no Muslim organisation or scholar was consulted during its drafting, according to several media reports.

The organisation also argued that the bill is against Sharia law, and will ruin Muslim families, CNN-News 18 reported.

On Sunday, AIMPLB held an emergency meeting in Lucknow ahead of the tabling of the triple talaq bill in Parliament.

"No procedure was followed in drafting this bill, neither any stakeholder was consulted. President of AIMPLB will convey this stand to the prime minister and request him to withhold and withdraw the bill," ANIquoted AIMPLB's SajjadNomani as saying.

In August, the Supreme Court in a majority verdict ruled that the practice of instant divorce through triple talaq among Muslims is "void", "illegal" and "unconstitutional". By 3:2 verdict, the apex court held that the triple talaq was against the basic tenets of Quran.

In September, AIMPLB said that it respected the court's decision, but considered the Centre's submission in the Supreme Court about all other forms of their marriages as an "attack on the personal law".

firstpost.com/india/aimplb-demands-withdrawal-of-triple-talaq-bill-says-its-against-sharia-law-and-will-ruin-muslim-families-4273647.html

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Pork used in hate attack on Belfast Islamic Centre

Sunday 24 December 2017

A spokesman said: "The message behind the action was one of hate. "We know this individual does not represent the majority of people in Northern Ireland and reject this attempt to stir up tensions and divisions between Muslims and non-Muslims in Northern Ireland. "They will not succeed." He said there have been a number of incidents recently and asked people to report any harassment to police. DUP South Belfast MP Emma Little-Pengelly said such attacks achieved nothing and were wrong and entirely misdirected.

newsletter.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/pork-used-in-hate-attack-on-belfast-islamic-centre-1-8304953

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Officials: Saudi Crown Prince Tried to Persuade Palestinian President to Support US Peace Plan

Sun Dec 24, 2017 1:59

Abbas was invited to Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh on Tuesday where he held talks with King Salman and MbS. The invitation came shortly following a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Turkey's Istanbul where Abbas announced that he would no longer accept the US as a broker in the peace process, Middle East Eye reported.

However, on Tuesday MbS told Abbas that the US was "the only game in town" with regards to the peace process.

"The US is the only one with real influence on Israel, it's the only country that can put pressure on Israel in any peace process and no one else can do [that], neither EU, nor Russia or China," MbS told Abbas, according to Palestinian officials with knowledge of the meeting.

MbS told Abbas in a previous visit early this month that the US was "preparing for a peace deal and this deal might not look good at the beginning but at the end it will be good."

He also asked Abbas at the time to have the Palestinians in Lebanon align with the pro-Saudi camp and stay away from the pro-Iranian camp led by Hezbollah, the officials said.

"At some point bin Salman warned President Abbas that if he doesn't do the job in Lebanon, there are others who can do it, pointing to Mohammed Dahlan," one official told MEE, referring to the dissident Fatah politician.

In the most recent meeting with Abbas, MbS attempted to use "soft diplomacy" to try to persuade the Palestinian president to return the US-sponsored peace process and to receive US Vice President Mike Pence in his upcoming visit to the region.

The official said Abbas was clear to MbS that he is fully committed to any "meaningful" peace process.

"The president kept the door open, telling the crown prince, 'if the US is willing to declare that a peace process is based on the two-state solution on the '67 boundaries, including East Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Palestine, we are ready to engage immediately, but if they want to drag us to the Israeli version of peace, we cannot'," the official added.

The officials told MEE Abbas was aware of the new US peace plan but regarded it as a copy of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's vision, a mini-state on half of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, without Jerusalem, refugees, borders and water. 

"The president will not accept any partial deal, and the only deal that can be accepted is the one based on the 1967 borders," one official stressed.

He announced that any "temporary partial deal, as the one being prepared by Trump's team" would not be accepted.

US President announced early December that Washington would be recognizing Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s capital, stressing that the United States would relocate the embassy in the occupied lands from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem al-Quds.

The move was hailed by Israel but condemned by the rest of the international community as one which undermines the peace talks.

Washington’s al-Quds move has raised a chorus of outcry across the international community. The Muslim world, the UN, world leaders from Europe to the Middle East to Australia, and even US allies in the West have criticized the bid, saying it would plunge the already tumultuous region into new upheaval.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), in a statement issued following an extraordinary summit in Turkey's Istanbul, declared East Jerusalem the capital of Palestine "under occupation" and urged the US to withdraw from the peace process and back down from its Jerusalem decision.

On Thursday, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) overwhelmingly passed a non-binding resolution condemning US President Donald Trump’s decision and called on states not to move their diplomatic missions to the sacred city. The UNGA vote followed the US veto of a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution Monday. All other UNSC members voted in favor of a motion to rescind Donald Trump’s move.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961003000956

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Jerusalem tensions cast shadow over Christmas in Holy Land

December 24, 2017

Preparations were under way in Bethlehem on Sunday for Christmas, with tensions still simmering in the city and the region following Washington's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The controversial December 6 announcement by President Donald Trump unleashed demonstrations and clashes, including in the Israeli-occupied West Bank city Bethlehem, where Christians will mark the birth of Jesus in a midnight mass.

Bethlehem is normally flooded by tourists at this time of year, but has at times appeared almost empty of visitors as nearby clashes between Palestinian protesters and the Israeli army keep people away.

Archbishop PierbattistaPizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, said "dozens" of groups had pulled out of planned visits after being scared off by the announcement and subsequent violence.

"Of course this created a tension around Jerusalem and this diverted attention from Christmas," the Catholic church's top official in Jerusalem said of Trump's announcement, but stressing that Christmas celebrations would go ahead as planned.

Perhaps as few as 50,000 Palestinian Christians make up just around two percent of the predominantly Muslim population of the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Israel's tourism ministry has said that Christmas preparations have not been affected and that it expects a 20 percent increase in the number of Christian pilgrims this year compared with 2016.

The ministry plans to operate a free shuttle service for the short distance between Jerusalem and Bethlehem for mass.

Extra police

An Israeli police spokesman said that extra units will be deployed in Jerusalem and at the crossings to Bethlehem to ease the travel and access for the "thousands of tourists and visitors".

The annual scouts parade in Bethlehem will march through Manger Square near the Church of the Nativity, built over the spot where tradition says Mary gave birth to Jesus and where celebrations will culminate with midnight mass.

Israel seized east Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed it, in moves never recognised by the international community.

Palestinians view east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, and interpreted Trump's statement as rejecting their right to a capital in east Jerusalem, although the Americans deny this.

In a statement ahead of Christmas, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said that Trump's announcement "encouraged the illegal disconnection between the holy cities of Bethlehem and Jerusalem, both separated for the first time in over 2,000 years of Christianity".

Abbas called on "world Christians to listen to the true voices of the indigenous Christians from the Holy Land... that strongly rejected the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital".

"They are the descendants of the first followers of Jesus Christ and an integral part of the Palestinian people," Abbas said, calling the local Christian community "an inherent part of our societies".

In neighbouring Egypt, Coptic Christians who celebrate Christmas on January 6 saw a church in Giza attacked by a mob following Muslim prayers on Friday, the latest in some 20 such incidents in 2017.

Hundreds entered the church, chanting slogans calling for its demolition, destroying furniture and attacking worshippers before security forces restored order.

But in Iraq, this year marks a positive turning point for the Christian community in the northern city of Mosul.

Christmas mass will be celebrated there for the first time in years following the city's recapture from the Islamic State group in July.

IS seized Iraq's second most populous city as part of a lightning offensive in 2014, driving out many Christians, and only small numbers have since returned.

Christian dignitaries as well as Iraqi political and military leaders are expected to attend the annual service at St Paul's Church in the eastern sector of Mosul.

dawn.com/news/1378590/jerusalem-tensions-cast-shadow-over-christmas-in-holy-land

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'Pakistan not in habit of taking notices from anyone, let alone US': Rabbani slams Pence's remarks

December 24, 2017

Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani, in response to a warning from United States (US) Vice President (VP) Mike Pence to Islamabad earlier this week, made it clear that Pakistan is not in the habit of "taking notices" from anyone.

Pence, while addressing US troops at the Bagram military base in Kabul, had said that Pakistan has allegedly provided safe haven to terrorists for too long but those days are over now, as US President Donald Trump has now "put Pakistan on notice".

"Two days ago, Pence had the gall, the audacity to say that Trump has put Pakistan on notice," Rabbani said in Islamabad on Sunday. "Let the word ring out in clear terms that Pakistan is a sovereign state and is not in the habit of taking notices from anyone, let alone the US."

The Senate chairman was addressing the first six-nation Speakers' Conference, which was inaugurated by President Mamnoon Hussain earlier today.

The conference themed "The challenges of terrorism and inter-regional connectivity" is being held in Islamabad, with representatives from Russia, China, Iran, Afghanistan and Turkey in attendance.

Addressing the conference, Rabbani further said that Trump, in his recently announced South Asia policy, had blamed Pakistan for the failures of the US in Afghanistan.

"We saw the US ignoring the sacrifices made by Pakistan," Rabbani observed.

He went on to state that the US has pursued a policy of "regime change and bringing about destabilisation in Muslim countries" particularly in the Middle East.

Describing Trump's decision to shift the US embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem the "blunder of all blunders", Rabbani said that Washington had failed to understand that it is neither supported practically, nor in fact, nor by history in their decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Rabbani noted that the United Nations General Assembly had given a befitting reply to Washington when over 120 countries rejected the US move.

"What they [US] fail to recognise is that the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital will give rise to a new intifada as the people of Palestine move to achieve their historic rights."

During his address, Rabbani also spoke about the Trump administration's recently unveiled national security strategy, noting that a new nexus seems to be emerging comprising of US, Israel and India.

"We find the US is trying to use or build up India as a policeman of the region," Rabbani said.

He added that although Pakistan "believes in dialogue and friendly relations with its neighbours [...] until and unless India is willing to speak on equal terms, we will perhaps just be looking at the mirage of peace in the region."

Earlier in the day, National Assembly Speaker AyazSadiq addressed the conference and noted that Pakistan's economy has suffered gravely due to "cowardly acts of terrorism".

He said that the problem of extremism had been aggravated by the rise of the drug trade.

"Why has the global coalition against terrorism consistently failed to control and destroy poppy cultivation?" Sadiq asked, noting that the drug had become a major source of terror financing.

"Although religious fanaticism has often been cited as the main cause of global terrorism, let us not forget that the rise of the populous right and the sanctioning of oppression has also added to the mayhem," Sadiq said.

"The world has failed to address the root cause of extremism," he added.

He said that the controversy over Jerusalem's status did not only violate international laws but also undermined peace efforts, divided the people of the world and fanned religious animosity.

He said that the US move to veto a United Nations Security Council’s draft resolution rejecting the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital was proof that the world needs a more just and equitable order.

dawn.com/news/1378569/pakistan-not-in-habit-of-taking-notices-from-anyone-let-alone-us-rabbani-slams-pences-remarks

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India

AIMPLB demands withdrawal of triple talaq bill, says it's against Sharia law and will 'ruin Muslim families'

24 Dec, 2017 16:20:32 IST

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) on Sunday demanded the withdrawal of the triple talaq bill and said no Muslim organisation or scholar was consulted during its drafting, according to several media reports.

The organisation also argued that the bill is against Sharia law, and will ruin Muslim families, CNN-News 18 reported.

On Sunday, AIMPLB held an emergency meeting in Lucknow ahead of the tabling of the triple talaq bill in Parliament.

"No procedure was followed in drafting this bill, neither any stakeholder was consulted. President of AIMPLB will convey this stand to the prime minister and request him to withhold and withdraw the bill," ANIquoted AIMPLB's SajjadNomani as saying.

In August, the Supreme Court in a majority verdict ruled that the practice of instant divorce through triple talaq among Muslims is "void", "illegal" and "unconstitutional". By 3:2 verdict, the apex court held that the triple talaq was against the basic tenets of Quran.

In September, AIMPLB said that it respected the court's decision, but considered the Centre's submission in the Supreme Court about all other forms of their marriages as an "attack on the personal law".

firstpost.com/india/aimplb-demands-withdrawal-of-triple-talaq-bill-says-its-against-sharia-law-and-will-ruin-muslim-families-4273647.html

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Islamic State, al-Qaeda competing for Indian recruits

December 24, 2017 11:00 IST

The Islamic State and Al Qaeda have been engaged in a fierce competition to promote their propaganda in India, an analysis of messages posted on social media platforms suggest.

In the past few months, both the IS and the Al Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) have been posting several provocative messages.

A senior officer in the security establishment said the agencies were monitoring the content but were particularly concerned with the Al Qaraar media of the Islamic State that has been posting ‘Kashmir’ centric messages.

On December 3, the Al Qaraar group released a poster threatening attacks in India. An official said one of the pro-IS channels on the social media platform Telegram reached out to the AnsarGhazwat-ul Hind (AGuH) group headed by former HizbulMujahideen leader Zakir Musa.

“We are surprised by this development as AGuH is an Al Qaeda-backed group. A message was posted on a secret Telegram channel by Al Qaraar appealing AGuH members to join them, when it is widely known that IS and Al Qaeda are rival groups,” said the official.

The official said in the initial stages, Al Qaraar was only advocating the Sharia (set of Islamic religious principles) but now it advocated the IS ideology. The development is being watched closely given IS losses in Iraq and Syria.

Support for Rohingya

On November 28, the AQIS released a video where its spokesperson, Usama Mahmoud, called on Muslims in “Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Kashmir” to support the Rohingya in Myanmar and asked them to seek revenge.

The AQIS was created by Al Qaeda in August 2014 and was led by an Indian, Asim Umar, who was later identified as a Uttar Pradesh resident, SanaulHaq. Intelligence officials strongly suspect that the AQIS is being backed by the Pakistani establishment to carry out attacks in India on its pretext.

Terrormonitor.org, a non-profit watchdog that tracks the online activities of terror groups, said the AQIS had re-branded its media approach since it was challenged by the IS.

“The AQIS terror outfit has been promoted by official Al-Qaeda media such as Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF) and Al-Qaida affiliate groups like AQAP, AQIM, Al-Shabaab and others. We also see intense competition between Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Both groups want to dominate the jihadist movement globally. Al-Qaeda has re-branded its media approach since the IS challenged its global domination,” an official with Terrormonitor.org said. He said India was the alternative front for Al-Qaeda despite their failure to gain a foothold in the country and it has been focussing on “propaganda-centric approach.”

“These [messages] are part of an aggressive propaganda campaign to show the Al-Qaeda strength as the IS has lost almost all its territory. Al-Qaeda, however, is still struggling to win the propaganda war with the IS to show it has re emerged in strength,” the official said.

On November 17, the Amaq news agency of the IS posted a message claiming responsibility for the attack in the Zakura area of Kashmir where a State police sub-inspector was killed and a militant Mugees Ahmad were killed and a special police officer was injured. It was said to be the first attack carried out by IS in the Kashmir Valley.

thehindu.com/news/national/islamic-state-al-qaeda-competing-for-indian-recruits/article22270385.ece

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Haj rule change in India leads to sharp rise in female applicants

The change in rules now means that women can undertake the Islam pilgrimage without a male companion.The panel that reviewed the policy noted that the religion per se didn’t prohibit this.

Updated: Dec 24, 2017 08:15 IST | SaubhadraChatterji and Zia Haq

A record 1,244 Indian women have applied to go for Haj next year after the NDA government allowed for the first time Muslim women to undertake the annual pilgrimage to Mecca without the company of a male relative.

Till now, Muslim women had to be accompanied by a mehram, usually a husband or a relative to whom marriage is unlawful, for the pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.

Officials in the minority affairs ministry said of the 1,244 applications from single women, 1,016 applications have been accepted so far.

The recommendation to allow women-only groups to apply for Haj was made by the Afzal Amanullah panel constituted to review the earlier Haj policy. The panel’s recommendation was accepted by the Narendra Modi government in October.

“There are many schools of thought on this (women going alone) but the religion per se doesn’t prohibit it. So I decided to make the recommendation,” Amanullah said.

Since demand often outstrips the quota of pilgrims India is allowed to send, applications are picked through a lucky draw. But in the category of women without male companions, there is no quota limit as the Centre wants to give priority to such applicants.

Kerala tops the list with 288 women, said Mohammed Hassain, who vets records at the Kerala Haj Committee.

Scholars say there is no restriction in Islam that explicitly bars single women from embarking on Haj. Saudi Arabia admits women-only groups if the pilgrims are over 45 years of age.

Puttutty, who goes by one name, has never wandered alone from her small village in Kottayam, a Kerala district famous with vacationers. When she occasionally does, the 54-year-old is usually accompanied by a male relative.

In June next year, Puttutty will break free from the many fetters traditional societies put on women. She, along with three other women in her group, will make a lifetime’s journey without a male looking over their shoulders.

“We are four women, so I am not at all nervous,” Puttutty told HT over the phone.

Another pilgrim who will lead an all-women’s team to Haj from neighouringMallapuram, Asya, said she too was venturing out alone for the first time but “God will help us”.

Faizan Mustafa, a scholar and the vice-chancellor of the Hyderabad-based NALSAR University of Law calls it “a welcome step”.

“It should have happened long ago. Why should the Indian government impose any restrictions on Indian Muslim women to go to Haj? I also think women should have representation in the Haj committees. When 50% of the population is women, they must find more space in these bodies.”

Afyia Siddiqui, a social activist from the NGO ‘Lab Azad Hai, described the reform as a “giant leap”.

In 2017, at least 1.24 lakh Indians went for the pilgrimage, while the total number of applicants was nearly 4.5 lakh.

Former Indian-origin American reporter AsraNomani created headlines when she published a memoir Standing Alone in Mecca after performing Haj by stealth as a single woman with an infant son born outside marriage.

SehbaFarooqi of the National Federation of Indian Women, said: “I have seen Muslim women married outside the community going to Haj taking help from neighbours or distant relatives and fudging their identities. Now, as the government is allowing women to go unaccompanied by male relatives, it will become very easy for them to travel to Saudi Arabia.”

“But I don’t know how the clergy will react. I must say, this is a great challenge for Indian Muslim women to assert their rights within the Sharia structure.”

The new Haj policy is among a series of reforms by the judiciary and the government to empower Muslim women and ensure gender justice in the community. The Supreme Court this year struck down instant triple talaq and also allowed women to enter the Haji Ali shrine in Mumbai.

In September, Saudi Arabia reversed its much-pilloried, long-standing policy of not allowing women to drive, as the kingdom faces pressure to modernise its patriarchal laws.

hindustantimes.com/india-news/haj-rule-change-in-india-leads-to-sharp-rise-in-female-applicants/story-mqfM6MH1s4Dk1XWzvA7nrJ.html

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Rajsamand love-jihad case: Police says accused Shambulal was in ‘illicit’ relationship with a girl

Days after an inhuman incident surfaced from Rajasthan's Rajsamand where a man was killed and burnt alive in an alleged case of love-jihad, the probing team in the case has said that the accused who killed the man was in an illicit relationship with a girl. Meanwhile, the investigation is still underway in the case.

By NewsX Bureau | Updated: 24 December 2017, 3:36 PM

Probing the Rajasthan’s Rajsamand alleged ‘love-jihad’ case, where a man was killed and burnt alive, the police during its investigation has found that the accused ShambulalRaigar was in an illicit relationship with a girl and to hide the truth from his family and society, he tried to gave it an angle of love-jihad. According to police, the accused was in a practice of watching hate videos, therefore, to save himself from public shame, he gave the entire episode a love-jihad angle.

Speaking on this case, the police informed that they have videographed portions of their investigation as a proof and also to avoid any fake information circulating around. The police which is currently investigating this case said that they have videographed the statements of girl’s mothers who said that Shambulal was asked to bring back her daughter from a man in West Bengal. She further said their daughter did return from Bengal but she was kept at a rented place for about 10 months. The Woman also mentioned that due to fear of the society, they did not inform that matter to the police.

Further speaking on the case while the investigation is still on, AnandSrivastav, Inspector General of police, Udaipur Range, “He was into illicit relation with a girl in the town for more than 10 months, The girl too was questioned who said she was continuously been hassled by the accused Shambulal. Thus, in order to deviate everyone’s attention towards this issue, he himself planned to do something that can change the perception of people,” said. However, it has also been learnt that the accused targeted the wrong person and mistakenly killed someone else. 

Carrying investigation in the case to find out whether the accused Shambulal was in an illicit relationship or not, the probing team has also recorded the statements of accused’s mother, neighbours, girl’s mother and others. The entire case came into public view after a horrific video has surfaced where a man was killed and burnt alive. The deceased according to reports was identified as Mohammed Bhatta Sheikh. The incident has surfaced from Rajasthan’s Rajsamand district after a video where a man was shot being burnt alive, went viral on social media.  The accused, Shambulal Raigad, was later arrested by the police. The incident had taken place on Dev heritage road in Rajnagar area of Rajsamand district.

newsx.com/national/rajsamand-love-jihad-case-police-says-accused-shambulal-illicit-relationship-girl

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2017 new high for Pakistan border assaults

TNN | Dec 24, 2017, 02:51 IST

SRINAGAR: The cross-border firing by Pakistan army that killed a major and three soldiers at Keri in J&K's Rajouri sector on Saturday came towards the end of a year that saw over 780 ceasefire violations by Pakistan along the 778km Line of Control and 120 along the 198km international border.

Over 33 people, including 12 civilians, have been killed in these firings. This marks a new high in recent years. Ceasefire violations along the LoC in 2014 and 2015, for instance, stood at 153 and 152, respectively, while the tally was 228 last year.

Army chief General BipinRawat recently held that peace talks with Pakistan could take place only when it stopped supporting terrorists in Jammu & Kashmir. But given its actions and behaviour, it didn't appear that Pakistan really wanted peace, he added.

Director general of military operations Lt Gen A K Bhatt had also told his Pakistani counterpart, Major General SahirShamshad Mirza, last month that there appeared to be a "disconnect" between his army headquarters at Rawalpindi, which professes a desire for peace, and its troops on the ground along the LoC, who resort to heavy firing and ceasefire violations without any provocation.

While maintaining that the Army will continue its efforts to ensure peace and tranquillity on the borders, Lt Gen Bhatt said it will "continue to take all retaliatory measures and retain the right to punitively respond to any provocative acts of aggression from the Pakistani side".

The Indian Army has, over the last few months, repeatedly told the Pakistan army to desist from actively abetting cross-border terrorism and infiltration, warning that all misadventures to either target Indian troops or provide cover fire to infiltrating terrorists would be met with retaliatory punitive fire assaults.

India has stressed that any collateral damage in the cross-border firings is due to the Pakistan army's "unacceptable" support to cross-border terrorism and infiltration as well as its strategy to deploy civilians at forward posts to gain intelligence and act as guides to terrorists crossing the LoC.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/2017-new-high-for-pakistan-border-assaults/articleshow/62226645.cms

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J&K: Army Major, 3 soldiers killed in firing by Pakistan along LoC

RajatPandit | TNN | Updated: Dec 23, 2017, 21:10 IST

A major and three soldiers were killed in cross-border firing by Pakistan army at Keri in Jammu and Kashmir

An “area domination patrol” of the 2 Sikh battalion deployed in the Keri sector, under the 120 Infantry Brigade, was underway when it came under fire from Pakistan army posts

File photo used only for representationJ&K: Army Major, 3 soldiers killed in firing by Pakistan along LoC

NEW DELHI: A major and three soldiers were killed in cross-border firing by Pakistan army at Keri in Rajouri sector of Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday afternoon, even as the two countries continue to exchange heavy fire at different places along the Line of Control (LoC) on a daily basis.

An "area domination patrol" of the 2 Sikh battalion deployed in the Keri area, under the 120 Infantry Brigade, was underway when it came under fire from Pakistan army posts at about 12.15pm.

"Major PrafullaAmbadas (32), Lance-NaikGurmail Singh (34) and SepoyPargat Singh (30) were killed in the unprovoked ceasefire violation, while two other soldiers were injured. One of them later succumbed to injuries in hospital. Our soldiers retaliated strongly and effectively on the Pakistan army posts. The martyrdom of our soldiers will not go in vain," said an officer.

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@ANI

J&K: Visuals of an army officer, and three jawans who lost their lives in ceasefire violation by Pakistan in Keri (120 Infantry Brigade) Batallion Area

9:08 PM - Dec 23, 2017

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India has recorded over 780 ceasefire violations by Pakistan along the 778-km LoC already this year, while the number has crossed 120 along the 198-km international border manned by BSF in J&K. Over 33 people, including 12 civilians, have been killed in these firings.

This marks a new high in recent years. The ceasefire violations along the LoC in 2014 and 2015, for instance, stood at 153 and 152, while the tally was 228 last year. Army Chief General BipinRawat recently held that peace talks with Pakistan could take place only when it stops supporting terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir. But given its actions and behavior, it doesn't appear that Pakistan really wants peace, he added.

The Indian director-general of military operations, Lt-Gen AK Bhatt, had also last month told his Pakistan counterpart, Major General SahirShamshad Mirza, that there appeared to be a "disconnect" between his Army headquarters at Rawalpindi, which professes a desire for peace, and its troops on the ground along the LOC, who resort to heavy firing and ceasefire violations without any provocation.

While maintaining that the Indian Army will continue its efforts to ensure peace and tranquility on the borders, Lt-Gen Bhatt said it will "continue to take all retaliatory measures and retain the right to punitively respond to any provocative acts of aggression from the Pakistani side".

The Indian Army has over the last few months repeatedly told the Pakistan army to desist from actively abetting cross-border terrorism and infiltration, warning that all misadventures to either target Indian troops or provide covering fire to infiltrating terrorists would be met with retaliatory punitive fire assaults.

India has stressed that the main reason for any collateral damage in the cross-border firings is due to Pakistan army's "unacceptable" support to cross-border terrorism and infiltration as well as its strategy to deploy civilians at its forward posts to gain intelligence and act as guides to the terrorists crossing the LoC.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/jk-major-3-soldiers-martyred-in-cross-border-firing-by-pakistan-army/articleshow/62222157.cms

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Europe

Pork used in hate attack on Belfast Islamic Centre

Sunday 24 December 2017

A spokesman said: "The message behind the action was one of hate. "We know this individual does not represent the majority of people in Northern Ireland and reject this attempt to stir up tensions and divisions between Muslims and non-Muslims in Northern Ireland. "They will not succeed." He said there have been a number of incidents recently and asked people to report any harassment to police. DUP South Belfast MP Emma Little-Pengelly said such attacks achieved nothing and were wrong and entirely misdirected.

newsletter.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/pork-used-in-hate-attack-on-belfast-islamic-centre-1-8304953

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Islamic State had appropriated ammunition procured by Swiss firm

Dec 24, 2017 - 09:57

A report on the weapons used by the Islamic State claims that ammunition procured by Swiss firm Tradewell AG from Serbia for Iraqi forces was appropriated by the terror group and used in Syria.

The European Union funded report released on December 19 was a result of a three-year investigation by the NGO Conflict Armament Research. Entitled Weapons of the Islamic Stateexternal link, the publication analysed more than 40,000 items recovered from Islamic State between 2014 and 2017. In 2015, researchers found 19 boxes of 7.62 x 54R mm ball ammunition in the Syrian city of Kobane that they were able to trace back to the Swiss firm Tradewell AG. According to the SonntagsZeitung paper, the company did not have required approval from the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs which has filed a complaint against Tradewell AG to the Attorney General.

The ammunition was part of a 2004 legal shipment of five million rounds from Serbia to the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq (MNSTC-I) as “part of the efforts of the international community to equip and strengthen the capacity of the central government of Iraq to deal with security challenges on its entire territory”. Tradewell AG, along with the American firm Laudes Corporation, were given permission to procure and deliver the materiel for and on behalf of the MNSTC-I for use by Iraqi security forces.

Islamic State was able to get its hands on this ammunition during its battles with the Iraqi armed forces in Mosul in 2014. According to the report, the terror group immediately commandeered weapons and ammunition captured in Mosul and used them during their siege of the Syrian city of Kobane. It is estimated that at least 12% of all weapons and ammunition recovered from Islamic State came from Iraqi stockpiles.

swissinfo.ch/eng/tradewell-ag_islamic-state-had-appropriated-ammunition-procured-by-swiss-firm-/43778964

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Muslim migrants succeed in Russia despite xenophobia

by Mansur Mirovalev 2|  hours ago

Moscow, Russia - Ravshan and Joomshut are two comical characters playing labour migrants from ex-Soviet Central Asia in Our Russia, an immensely popular TV show.

Their broken Russian, bad hygiene, servitude to their Slavic boss and complaints about their unfortunate sex lives have made their names a slur - a negative symbol of many Russians' attitudes towards the natives of the mostly Muslim region of more than 60 million.

The duo's slapstick image masks the fear of "darkies", as some xenophobes call Central Asians and other Muslims, said SandjarYanyshev, a Moscow-based, Uzbekistan-born essayist and poet. Their skin is dark, their culture is a riddle, their presence in Russia fills some locals with fear, and the fastest way to overcome this fear is to make fun of it, he said.

"What's funny is not dangerous," Yanyshev told Al Jazeera.

Millions of Central Asians - mostly from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan - work in Russia, usually in low-paid, menial jobs. They face widespread xenophobia: Some 27 percent of Russians feel "irritation, dislike or fear" towards Central Asians, and almost one in five Russians think that their presence in Russia has to be "limited", according to a survey by the Levada polling agency conducted in July.

Hundreds of them have been killed and thousands wounded in hate attacks by ultra-nationalists and skinheads, and corrupt police officers routinely prey on them to extort money, otherwise threatening detention or deportation.

Despite all odds

And yet, some Central Asians manage to succeed beyond expectations.

AlisherUsmanov, Russia's wealthiest oligarch with a net worth of $15bn, is an ethnic Uzbek. The son of a minor Communist official now controls steel factories, co-owns the UK's Arsenal football club, and is reportedly very close to President Vladimir Putin.

Uzbek singer NargizZakirova, who boasts a coarse, three-octave voice, a shaved head and elaborate tattoos, tops the list of Russia's most popular touring artists after her success in a television show for aspiring singers.

One of Russia's most successful rappers, Jah Khalib, and film director TimurBekmambetov - who directed some of Russia's most profitable films, in addition to a movie with Angelina Jolie - hail from Kazakhstan.

Cosmonaut SalijanSharipov, who has spent more than 200 days in outer space, was born in southern Kyrgyzstan. He conducted a series of scientific experiments and had a copy of the Quran with him.

Unlike Muslims moving to other European nations, Central Asians share a cultural background with many Russians and often speak their language fluently.

"We've studied this language since school, we know it, and it makes things easier for us here," KhakimGaniev, a chef and author of best-selling books on Uzbek cuisine, told Al Jazeera.

Despite being labelled a blue-collar workforce, many Central Asians work as software engineers, designers, medical doctors and scholars.

Succeed and leave

Success in Russia, however, does not always guarantee a carefree life and freedom from xenophobia.

Aziz Beyshenaliev, an ethnic Kyrgyz who studied the Chinese language and acting in Uzbekistan, moved to Moscow in 1997, and worked as a courier and loader before securing small roles in films and television series.

In dozens of movies, he portrayed "Muslim terrorists" (despite his own conversion to Orthodox Christianity), medieval nomadic warlords, World War II heroes and a Kazakh intellectual who fought for Central Asia's independence from Russia but died in Nazi Germany.

But in 2015, Beyshenaliev decided to leave Russia because his son Seitek, a lanky, amiable palaeontology buff with distinct Asian features, faced ostracism and frequent hate attacks in school.

"I am a grown man who can abstract my mind from the society that dislikes my ethnicity," the 46-year-old told Al Jazeera. "But a child's overcoming of it is incomparably more difficult. He does not have to be at war with the outside world."

Seitek, now 15, thrives in a new high school in Almaty, Kazakhstan's multi-ethnic economic capital, and his father took up film directing and theatre acting.

Living next to Muslims

The arrival of Central Asians continues Russia's centuries-old coexistence with Muslims.

Descendants of Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan ruled the Golden Horde, a medieval superpower that controlled parts of southern Russia and Eastern Europe. Its rulers embraced Islam in the 14th century, but as their power disintegrated, hundreds of nobles pledged allegiance to the emerging principality of Moscow.

They converted to Orthodox Christianity and spawned dozens of Russian aristocratic families. Novelist Vladimir Nabokov of Lolita fame proudly said that his family originated from Nabok, Genghis Khan's illegitimate son.

Russian czars vanquished Central Asia and the Caucasus that once belonged to Persians, Arabs and Turks. In an effort to cut the USSR's Muslims from their roots and religion, Communist Moscow replaced their Arabic-based alphabets with Cyrillic scripts - a factor that still affects their cultures.

"It is easy for our kids to go to school here because everything is in Cyrillic," Pairavsho, an ethnic Tajik man living in the village of Rozhdestveno, 200 kilometres northwest of Moscow, told Al Jazeera. Almost half of the schoolchildren in the village's only school are now Tajiks.

Millions of Slavic civilians were evacuated to Soviet Central Asia during World War II and received a warm welcome that contrasts with today's xenophobia.

Economic woes and integration

The exodus of Central Asians is an echo of USSR's sometimes-catastrophic policies that reshaped the regional economy and agriculture. Moscow forced the region to focus on cotton, a water-thirsty, soil-depleting crop.

"Cotton became a curse of its people," ShukhratGaniev, an expert with the Humanitarian Rights Center, a think-tank in the central Uzbek city of Bukhara, told Al Jazeera.

Diversion of the region's major rivers to new cotton fields in steppes and deserts dried up the Aral Sea, the world's fourth-largest body of water the size of Sri Lanka, causing what the United Nations dubbed "the largest man-made environmental disaster in history" that fosters labour migration.

Moscow boosted industrial development in Central Asia, but the plants and factories were designed as part of the unified Soviet economy, and the USSR's 1991 collapse decimated the region's industrial output - while the region's longtime autocrats with a Soviet mindset still try to control their economies, Ganiev said.

"Unfortunately, we have not moved away from the Soviet vision of our economy's development," he said.

Central Asia now faces further de-industrialisation because of cheap Chinese exports, while global warming, melting glaciers and ineffective water management could trigger wars over water in the arid region.

Migrants' earnings keep their motherlands afloat. In 2016, their remittances contributed more than a third of Tajikistan's GDP and a fourth of Kyrgyzstan's GDP, according to the World Bank.

The success of some Central Asians in Russia heralds integration for many more of their compatriots. Some 800,000 have become Russian nationals, and their presence in the already multi-ethnic nation of 143 million has contributed to Russia's cultural diversity and economic growth, said Sergey Abashin, an anthropologist and migration analyst with the European University in St Petersburg.

aljazeera.com/news/2017/12/muslims-succeed-russia-xenophobia-171224055010711.html

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Young Ahmadi Muslims To Stage Visits And Run Free Taxi Services For Elderly And Isolated Over Christmas

Ahmadi Muslims from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association will also visit homeless shelters nationwide

Tess de la Mare | 7 hours ago

A minority Muslim group has launched a nationwide initiative this Christmas to bring some festive cheer to the elderly and isolated.

Young Ahmadi Muslims from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association (AMYA) will be visiting care homes and hospices as well as providing a free taxi service to the elderly on Christmas Day.

AMYA's members hope to carry out more than 2,000 visits to spend some time with people who might otherwise be on their own, the organisation said.

They will also visit homeless shelters where they will prepare warm meals and gift bags.

One of AMYA's initiatives will see 50 members in Yorkshire offering a taxi services to more than 100 elderly members of the local community and take them to YMCA centres.

Members will “serve them, sit with them, pack them a meal for Christmas Day, then take them home,” the organisation said.

AMYA said it was hoping to beat last year's record of feeding over 1,600 people, donating 336kg of food and 100kg of clothing and visiting 1,500 isolated adults.

The organisation said in a statement: “This campaign is particularly important to us as we feel that it offers our youth vital training and personal development, which helps to shape them into productive, conscientious and well integrated members of British society.

“Moreover, it enables us to demonstrate the motto of our community: Love for all, hatred for none.”

On New Year's Day AMYA has planned a clean-up of Britain's streets involving 500 members who will go out litter picking after 7am prayers.

There are an estimated 35,000 Ahmadiyya in the UK, while AMYA itself has around 8,500 members across its 124 branches.

Ahmadiyya are regarded as blasphemous by radical Islamists because they believe Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who founded the movement in the late 19th century, to be the messiah promised to Muslims in the Koran.

The sect is widely persecuted in Pakistan and in November it emerged threats had been made to the Ahmadiyya community in Britain, prompting some mosques to install metal detectors.

In March last year, Glasgow shopkeeper Asad Shah was murdered by extremist Tanveer Ahmed because of his religious views.

Ahmed, a taxi driver, travelled from his home city of Bradford to carry out the killing after identifying his target through social media.

As he was jailed for a minimum of 27 years, Ahmed shouted: “Praise for the Prophet Mohammed, there is only one prophet.”

independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/muslim-christmas-elderly-free-service-taxi-isolated-ahmadi-homeless-shelter-a8127036.html

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Arab World

Officials: Saudi Crown Prince Tried to Persuade Palestinian President to Support US Peace Plan

Sun Dec 24, 2017

Abbas was invited to Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh on Tuesday where he held talks with King Salman and MbS. The invitation came shortly following a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Turkey's Istanbul where Abbas announced that he would no longer accept the US as a broker in the peace process, Middle East Eye reported.

However, on Tuesday MbS told Abbas that the US was "the only game in town" with regards to the peace process.

"The US is the only one with real influence on Israel, it's the only country that can put pressure on Israel in any peace process and no one else can do [that], neither EU, nor Russia or China," MbS told Abbas, according to Palestinian officials with knowledge of the meeting.

MbS told Abbas in a previous visit early this month that the US was "preparing for a peace deal and this deal might not look good at the beginning but at the end it will be good."

He also asked Abbas at the time to have the Palestinians in Lebanon align with the pro-Saudi camp and stay away from the pro-Iranian camp led by Hezbollah, the officials said.

"At some point bin Salman warned President Abbas that if he doesn't do the job in Lebanon, there are others who can do it, pointing to Mohammed Dahlan," one official told MEE, referring to the dissident Fatah politician.

In the most recent meeting with Abbas, MbS attempted to use "soft diplomacy" to try to persuade the Palestinian president to return the US-sponsored peace process and to receive US Vice President Mike Pence in his upcoming visit to the region.

The official said Abbas was clear to MbS that he is fully committed to any "meaningful" peace process.

"The president kept the door open, telling the crown prince, 'if the US is willing to declare that a peace process is based on the two-state solution on the '67 boundaries, including East Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Palestine, we are ready to engage immediately, but if they want to drag us to the Israeli version of peace, we cannot'," the official added.

The officials told MEE Abbas was aware of the new US peace plan but regarded it as a copy of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's vision, a mini-state on half of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, without Jerusalem, refugees, borders and water. 

"The president will not accept any partial deal, and the only deal that can be accepted is the one based on the 1967 borders," one official stressed.

He announced that any "temporary partial deal, as the one being prepared by Trump's team" would not be accepted.

US President announced early December that Washington would be recognizing Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s capital, stressing that the United States would relocate the embassy in the occupied lands from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem al-Quds.

The move was hailed by Israel but condemned by the rest of the international community as one which undermines the peace talks.

Washington’s al-Quds move has raised a chorus of outcry across the international community. The Muslim world, the UN, world leaders from Europe to the Middle East to Australia, and even US allies in the West have criticized the bid, saying it would plunge the already tumultuous region into new upheaval.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), in a statement issued following an extraordinary summit in Turkey's Istanbul, declared East Jerusalem the capital of Palestine "under occupation" and urged the US to withdraw from the peace process and back down from its Jerusalem decision.

On Thursday, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) overwhelmingly passed a non-binding resolution condemning US President Donald Trump’s decision and called on states not to move their diplomatic missions to the sacred city. The UNGA vote followed the US veto of a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution Monday. All other UNSC members voted in favor of a motion to rescind Donald Trump’s move.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961003000956

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Mosul's morgue men endured worst of Islamic State butchery

MOSUL, Iraq — Dec 23, 2017, 2:22 PM ET

 The young man ended up on the morgue's examining table in two parts.

He had been seized for selling cigarettes, a crime usually punished by flogging by the Islamic State group extremists who had occupied Mosul. But while he was being whipped, he shouted a curse insulting religion. On the spot, they cut off his head for blasphemy.

Sameh al-Azzawi, the 35-year-old medical assistant examining him, was sick of seeing Mosul's youth butchered for the slightest reason. The man was a newlywed. His family was waiting outside; it was one of the occasional times when the fanatics allowed the return of someone killed by the group. So al-Azzawi violated the rules: He picked out some thick thread and quickly sewed the man's head back on, then zipped him up in the body bag. He could sew a head back on a body in four minutes.

The family quietly thanked him.

The morgue in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul was where atrocity met bureaucracy, the processing point for the machine of butchery that the Islamic State group created across its territory in Iraq and Syria. Every day, the doctors and staff witnessed the worst of what the militants were capable of inflicting on a human being, constantly fearing they could be next.

Yet the morgue men of Mosul found ways large and small to defy their captors by honoring the dead as best they could.

"Our profession as doctors is all about humanity," said the morgue's senior examiner, Modhar al-Omari. "They were doing the exact opposite."

The staff sometimes faced up to 60 or even 100 corpses a day. As pickup trucks laden with bodies did three-point turns to back through the morgue's gates, hands, legs or heads fell off onto the ground.

Some were the mangled bodies of civilians and IS fighters killed in bombardment by the U.S-led coalition or fighting with Iraqi troops. Others bore the marks of IS' brutal enforcement of its radical version of Islamic law. A broken skull on a man with internal bleeding could mean he was thrown from a rooftop, the punishment for those suspected of being gay. A woman with a split skull from a blunt force was likely stoned to death, the sentence for accused adulterers. Then there were punishments for spying or blasphemy: a gunshot wound through the head or decapitation.

Convinced its "caliphate" was here to stay, the Islamic State group was keen on keeping records like a government. As they put together death certificates, the examiners quietly documented IS atrocities . They surreptitiously put an Arabic letter alif to mark a member of the group, and an M, the first letter in the Arabic word for "executed," for the group's victims.

One Excel sheet shows more than 1,200 people shot in the head, a likely sign of IS "executions," between June 2014 when IS took over Mosul and January 2017, when Iraqi forces were fighting to take the city back — an average of 11 a week. The list has 12 women marked as "stoned to death." It also lists 95 people who were beheaded and 50 men and boys who died from a "fall from a height," likely hurled from rooftops.

The staff operated under close scrutiny by IS officials and threat of punishment if they broke the rules or tried to leave. Among those rules: The bodies of those "executed under religious law" could not be returned to their families, except in cases where an IS commander allowed it. Instead, they were dumped in mass graves. Thousands more went directly into mass graves without ever coming to the morgue ad IS brought at least 1,000 bodies to the morgue that they did not allow the staff to examine, so they have no idea who they were and did not record them.

Al-Azzawi managed to sew the heads back on about 10 bodies, he estimates. It had to be quick. He did it after midnight in the washing area, which IS fighters tended to stay out of because it was the worst smelling part of the morgue.

He stopped when one militant saw a body with the head restored. "We cut it and you put it back?" the fighter shouted. He warned that any examiner caught doing it would himself be beheaded.

"HE'S STILL ALIVE!"

A pickup truck dumped nearly a dozen bodies onto the pavement of the morgue courtyard, the latest delivery. "Get up!" an IS fighter screamed at the staff, summoning them to begin their daily task of sorting through the dead.

As the medical assistants went to work, one of them stopped short in surprise: Among the bodies, a young man in a soccer jersey and training pants who had been thrown off a rooftop was breathing.

"He's still alive!" the assistant shouted instinctively.

He hardly had time to realize his mistake. The IS fighter opened fire with his automatic rifle, spraying the bodies. Bullets thumped into the already dead and finished off the young man.

"It's a lot of pressure. Pressure, pressure, pressure," said Raid Jassim, the chief medical assistant. "I always expected them to come at any moment and kill or behead us."

In 2005, Jassim was overjoyed to get a government posting at Mosul's Forensic Department, the morgue. The pay was several times more than what he'd earn in a government hospital. He was a graduate of a medical institute, a two-year diploma after high school, and had gone on to serve as an army nurse. At the morgue, he carried out examinations of bodies under supervision of doctors like al-Omari.

But no training prepared him for what he saw under the killers ruling his city.

A few months after IS took over, a militant brought in the body of a Yazidi woman, one of thousands from the religious minority group taken as sex slaves. She had hanged herself after being repeatedly gang-raped.

Jassim, 48, watched in horror and disgust as the militant spoke to the body. "Why did you kill yourself? I told you I am not selling you to the commander. I told you I was going to marry you," the fighter pleaded.

One evening, fighters drove up with two men, alive, in the trunk of their car. They pulled them into the morgue courtyard and — in front of staffers too terrified to say a word — they shot one in the head and decapitated the other.

"This is a message to anyone who betrays the Caliphate," one fighter yelled. The examiners suspected the two were IS members who had turned against the group. But they didn't know why the fighters brought them to the morgue to kill. Was it a message for the staff somehow?

"In these occasions, we don't open our mouths. We just stay silent," Jassim said.

The morgue was located in the al-Shifaa medical complex, a large compound in the western half of Mosul that included the city's main hospital, Jomhouriya, and other facilities. It was the primary medical facility for the militants, so fighters were brought from elsewhere in Iraq and even Syria for treatment. The office of the IS health minister was located there. That meant the staff was under the militants' eyes all the time.

Jassim is a chain smoker and smoking was a crime. He hid his pack under his belt, covering up the smell with a spray of musk. Still, he was caught and punished with 30 lashes.

Another time he was severely beaten with a rifle butt in the office of IS's deputy health minister, where he was taken after he refused a fighter's demand that he forge a death certificate. Jassim's two young sons, outside the office, heard their father's screams.

But in a few cases, he and other staffers smuggled the dead to their families before they vanished into mass graves. They did it in secret, at night, cutting electricity to shut off the morgue's security cameras as they hustled the bodies into their cars.

In one case, Jassim inspected the body of a woman who had been killed for allegedly feeding information to the Iraqi military.

In February 2016, she had posted on her Facebook page, "Snow is falling." That seemed suspiciously like code to the Islamic State group, and she was arrested. The judge allowed her husband and children to meet with her for an hour before she was taken out to a public square and shot to death.

After that excruciating torment, the family should at least to be able to bury her, Jassim thought.

He met the businessmen at night in a parking garage, switching off the headlights of their cars off for fear of airstrikes. "You brought her?" the businessman asked. "Yes," Jassim replied. The man broke into tears and hugged him in gratitude. Jassim then opened his car's trunk so they could pull out his wife's corpse.

BURYING THE TRAUMA

Al-Azzawi recounts how tragedy after tragedy broke him down.

One day, he was going through the latest body bags when he saw a name he recognized pinned to a corpse. It was his cousin. The face was unrecognizable; he had been shot in the head for allegedly spying.

"I couldn't believe it, I was reading the piece of paper over and over," he said.

Months later, al-Azzawi tried to escape Mosul with a smuggler's help. He and dozen others hid under boxes of potato chips in a truck but were caught near the Syrian border. He spent 10 days in detention, released only after he signed a pledge never to flee again on pain of death.

After that, "anything they ask for I do without complaint."

One day after seeing 60 bodies, he went home and smashed his TV set.

Iraqi troops liberated western Mosul in the summer of 2017, and much of the medical complex where the morgue is located was bombed into ruins during the fighting that drove out the militants.

A stench now pervades the morgue from bodies that were in the refrigerators and are now buried in the rubble. The metal desks in the morgue offices have IS stickers on the drawers. Written on a wall is one of the slogans of the group, "Baqiya" — Arabic for "We will remain." Next to it, someone has scrawled an insult, "Son of dog."

Freed, the morgue men struggle with what they endured. Jassim can't sleep without popping multiple valiums. His 13-year-old son — fearing for his father — won't sleep apart from him. Some staffers have disappeared since liberation, simply not showing back up to work.

Al-Omari, the chief examiner, has been numbed by the helplessness he felt in the face of the fanatics' dictates and butchery.

The 43-year-old veteran doctor and surgeon was well known among his staff for his calm. He was used to wearing suits, but under IS he was forced to wear the "Islamic" garb of shortened pants and a long beard that the group said was the style of the Prophet Muhammad.

The atrocities his staff was forced to contend with seemed endless: 16 boys under the age of 14 shot in the head. Six girls shot in the head. His job was to sign off on the cause of death for victims' brutalized corpses. As a forensics doctor, he also had to investigate the "crimes" of the living — like signing medical examinations of whether women accused of adultery were virgins or not.

He got some revenge by passing on information. He secretly told the government in Baghdad when several senior commanders were killed in airstrikes.

But he says he has never cried for the dead.

"You can't talk or explain. You just keep it inside," he says. "If I cried, I'd cry every day for every single body."

abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/mosul-morgue-staff-bore-witness-islamic-state-horrors-51965585

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Islamic State attack militia in Iraq

Four pro-government militiamen have been killed in an attack by Islamic State militants in northern Iraq.

Deutsche PresseAgentur | December 24, 20177:47pm

Islamic State militants have killed four pro-government militiamen in an attack in northern Iraq, two weeks after Baghdad announced a military victory over the extremist group.

Around 30 militants attacked positions of the Popular Mobilisation Shi'ite militia near the city of Tikrit, 170km north of Baghdad on Sunday, a local security official said on condition of anonymity.

The dawn attack started with mortar shelling, followed by a ground offensive in which the extremists used heavy weapons, according to the official.

Government forces were dispatched to the area and were able to repulse the attack, killing at least three Islamic State militants.

The second such attack in three days in northern Iraq was launched from Mteibeja, a rugged area between the northern provinces of Diyala and Salah al-Din where Islamic State is still active.

Last week, Iraqi forces launched a mop-up operation aimed at cleansing Mteibeja of Islamic State affiliates.

The operation was later halted due to the inhospitable nature of the area noted for its dense vegetation.

On December 9, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the liberation of all of the country's territory that was under Islamic State control, completing a US-backed campaign of about three years against the radical Sunni group.

news.com.au/world/breaking-news/islamic-state-attack-militia-in-iraq/news-story/815d5b7eb12e8fdfe0e60bdd7a77910c

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Campaign to be launched to removed Islamic State signs in western Anbar

Dec 24, 2017, 2:07 pm |  byNehal Mostafa

 Anbar (IraqiNews.com) A wide-scale campaign will be launched to remove the signs of Islamic State in western Anbar, an official announced.

Speaking to AlSumaria News on Sunday, Hussein Ali, mayor of Rawa, said “the local administration of the town, in cooperation with the residents, started a campaign to remove the signs of IS from Rawa.”

“The campaign includes painting the pavements, removing banners as well as any other signs of the group,” Ali added.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi announced, earlier this month, full liberation of Iraqi lands, declaring end of war against IS members.

In November, Abadi said his country has defeated Islamic State over the military level, but will declare final victory after desert areas are purged of militants. Earlier in the month, Iraqi forces recaptured Anbar’s western town of Rawa, the very last bastion under Islamic State control.

Iraqi forces, backed by a U.S.-led coalition and paramilitary troops, have been fighting since October 2016 to retake territories Islamic State occupied in 2014.

The war against IS has displaced nearly five million people, with tens of thousands of civilians and militants killed since the launch of the offensives to recapture occupied cities.

iraqinews.com/iraq-war/campaign-launched-removed-islamic-state-signs-western-anbar/

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Al-Nusra Suffers Heavy Casualties in Failed Attack on Syrian Army Positions in Aleppo Province

Sun Dec 24, 2017 1:43

The sources said that the army men fought Al-Nusra back from their positions along a road connecting the town of Khan Touman to the Warehouses in the region.

The sources said that the army soldiers, backed up by the artillery and missile units, fended off the attack and killed 30 terrorists, destroying 8 vehicles and a large volume of military hardware.

The remaining pockets of Al-Nusra left behind their dead comrades and their equipment and retreated under the heavy fire of army units.

Relevant reports said on Friday that the army men engaged in heavy fighting with terrorists in a region between the town of Khan Touman and Air Defense Battalion Base and fended off their attack after killing a number of them and destroying their equipment.

In the meantime, the army's artillery and missile units pounded terrorists' positions in the village of Hobar and Rmeileh and Siyaleh regions in Southern Aleppo, killing or wounding a number of terrorists.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961003000936

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Syrian Army Sends Troops, Equipment to Northern Lattakia to Face Terrorists' Movements

Sun Dec 24, 2017 2:45

The sources said that the army has forwarded hundreds of fresh forces and a large volume of military equipment to Northern Lattakia, adding that Ahrar al-Sham, meantime, has sent more militants and heavy weapons to the region.

The sources said that last round of clashes between the army and the terrorist groups in the region took place in June 2016 and lasted until August of the same year.

Also in November 2017 the army troops fended off heavy offensive of a group of terrorists in the Northern territories of Lattakiaprovince , inflicting major losses on them.

The army men warded off terrorists' heavy assault on its positions near the town of Rabi'eh in Northern Lattakia, killing and wounding a number of them and destroying their equipment.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961003001116

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Terrorists' Logistic Convoy Hit in Syrian Army's Ambush Operation near Israel-Occupied Golan Heights

Sun Dec 24, 2017 1:9

The Arabic-language website of AMN reported that the army men ambushed a group of terrorists that tried to penetrate from Israeli-held occupied lands into Beit Jinn in Southwestern Damascus via Jabal (mount) al-Harmoun and destroyed the column.

The AMN reported that the army's missile and artillery units shelled heavily the convoy as soon as it entered the government-held regions, killing a large number of militants.

It added that the remaining pockets of the terrorists crossed the borderline and fled to occupied lands in the Golan Heights.

People in the occupied parts of Syria’s Golan Heights held a protest to condemn what they called Israel’s support for anti-Damascus terrorists in Early November.

The demonstrators accused Israel of backing the al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front (Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at or the Levant Liberation Board), during its assault on the government-held town of Hader in Quneitra province.

Israeli forces were deployed to the area to disperse the protesters.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961003000848

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Syrian Army Preparing for Recapturing Energy-Rich Regions Occupied by Kurds

Sun Dec 24, 2017 12:58

The Arabic-language al-Hadath news quoted the Russian papers as saying that the Syrian intelligence service rests assured that Kurds and the US officers played a key role in evacuating ISIL's Chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and seven of his close aids from his hideout in Iraq to a US-run base in Ra'as al-Ein and then to Rmeilan in Hasaka province in Northeastern Syria.

Al-Hadath further said that the Kurdish militants are likely to retreat from Eastern Syria in the new year, adding that the Syrian Army's elite units are now prepared to take control of oil and gas fields on the Eastern bank of the Euphrates River that the Kurds occupied with the US back up.

In went on to say that the Syrian Army plan to use an assault strategy similar to the Iraqi troops' Kirkuk liberation operation.

According to the report, the Syrian Army Command plans to give the last ultimatum to the Kurds to deliver control of oil and gas fields to the government troops before waging the attack.

Militant-affiliated websites reported earlier this month that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) captured three more regions in Eastern DeirEzzur and deployed closer to the Syrian Army position, increasing the possibility of direct confrontation with government forces.

The websites reported that the SDF imposed control over the villages of Abu Hammam and al-Hayan and the town of Daranj in Eastern countryside of DeirEzzur city near the defense lines of the army men.

The websites added that the SDF's advances close to the army positions doubled the possibility of direct confrontation between the two sides. 

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961003000810

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Syrian Army Utilizing Modern Cannons in War on Terrorism in Southwestern Damascus

Sun Dec 24, 2017 12:11

The Arabic-language website of Russia's state news agency, Sputnik, reported that the army's artillery units have been using ZU-23 cannons that are mounted on armored vehicles to target terrorists' positions in Beit Jinn and Mughur al-Mir in Southwestern Damascus.

It added that the terrorists' heavy counter-attacks have made the army men use ZSU-23 autocannons known as Shilka to target accurately the terrorists' positions.    

RT reported earlier this month that the army was utilizing modern Russia-made UR-77 armored vehicles to cross the Euphrates River to storm ISIL's positions on the Eastern bank of the river in DeirEzzur province.

The Arabic-language service of RT reported that the UR-77 armored vehicles would missiles from the Western bank of the Euphrates River to the Eastern bank.

The Arabic RT further said that the missile blast detonates landmines and ruins other barriers in an area 100 meters in length and 6 meters in width to help the friendly troops to go to the depth of enemy fronts.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961003000725

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Army Repels ISIL's Attack on Gov't Positions in Homs

Sun Dec 24, 2017 11:40

The terrorists' offensive to capture the government forces' positions in the Northern parts of Homs province were warded off by the strong defense of the Syrian military men.

Meantime, the Syrian army and popular forces continued their military advances in other parts of Syria, including Damascus and DeirEzzur, over the past 24 hours.

Tens of terrorists were killed and dozens more were injured during the Syrian army's operations in other provinces across Syria.

Homs

The Syrian Army troops warded off a heavy offensive of the terrorist groups in Northern Homs on Saturday and managed to impose several casualties on the militants.

The army men clashed with the terrorists that attacked pro-government forces' positions in the village of Jabourin from the village of al-Mashrou'a in Northern Homs and managed to fend off their attack after killing a number of them.

In the meantime, heavy fighting is underway between the army soldiers and ISIL in Humeimeh and al-Mo'ayzileh in Southeastern Homs.

Damascus

The Syrian Army troops stormed the positions of the al-Nusra Front (Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at or the Levant Liberation Board) in Southwestern Damascus on Saturday and captured two more regions.

The army men launched a fresh offensive on Al-Nusra positions near the small town of Beit Jinn and drove the terrorists out of al-Tamathiyat and al-Hanqarat regions South of al-Awaj River and East of Beit Jinn Farm.

The army soldiers imposed military control over a large area in Beit Jinn Farm and also cut off the only road between Beit Jinn Farm and the two towns of Beit Jinn and Mughur al-Mir.

A field sources said that the army has captured the strategic al-Hanaker region that enabled the pro-government forces to tighten noose on terrorists in Mughur al-Mir.

DeirEzzur

The Syrian Army troops hit ISIL's strongholds in SoutheasternDeirEzzur on Saturday and imposed control over more regions near the town of Albu Kamal.

The army men stormed ISIL's positions in Albu Kamal's countryside near the border with Iraq and managed to capture the region on the bank of Euphrates River.

A number of ISIL terrorists were killed and their weapons and equipment were destroyed in the clashes.

Relevant reports said that the army troops warded off ISIL's large-scale attack on pro-government forces' positions in a region between the provinces of DeirEzzur and Homs.

The army men exchanged heavy fire with the ISIL in regions near the T2 Oil Pumping Station in Southwestern DeirEzzur and al-Ma'eizileh in Southeastern Homs and managed to fend off their heavy attack.

The army men killed a number of terrorists and destroyed their military equipment.

Hama

The Syrian Army troops and Air Force targeted the positions of Al-Nusra Front in Northern and Northeastern Hama on Saturday, damaging the terrorists' strongholds.

The army's artillery and missile units opened heavy fire at Al-Nusra positions in the towns of al-Latamina and al-Mosheirefeh in Northern Hama, leaving several militants dead and their equipment and positions destroyed.

Also, the army aircraft bombed Al-Nusra's strongholds in the villages of Ibn Wardan, Um Zahmalak and Abu Dali in Northeastern Hama, inflicting major losses on the terrorists.

Idlib

The Syrian Army forces managed to push the Al-Nusra Front back from more positions in Northeastern Hama, paving the ground for the launch of larger anti-terrorism operation in Southern Idlib, field sources reported on Saturday.

The sources said that the army's artillery and missile units shelled heavily Al-Nusra's strongholds in the towns and villages of Atshan, Tal Skeik and Um Hartin in Northern Hama near the border with Idlib.

They went on to say that the army's advances in Northern and Northeastern Hama have paved the way for the pro-government forces to further advances towards the towns of al-Tamanna and Khan Sheikhoun and later towards Ma'arat al-Nu'aman to free Southern Idlib.

The sources further said that the army men managed to advance against the Al-Nusra base in the town of Abu Dali in Northeastern Hama.

Military sources reported on Friday that a large number of reinforcements from the Syrian Army’s Tiger Forces arrived in Northern Hama after spending several weeks in DeirEzzur province.

The sources said that a large number of the Tiger Forces’ Taha Group officially arrived in the town of Qomhana in Northern Hama.

The Taha Group is a seasoned unit from the Tiger Forces that has fought in several battles against the ISIL and Al-Nusra Front in Hama, Homs, and DeirEzzur provinces.

In addition to the reinforcements from the Tiger Forces, a large number of military personnel from the National Defense Forces (NDF) have moved towards the front-lines in Northern Hama, as they prepare to launch a major attack on the militant positions in Idlib province.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961003000446

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Mideast

Jerusalem tensions cast shadow over Christmas in Holy Land

December 24, 2017

Preparations were under way in Bethlehem on Sunday for Christmas, with tensions still simmering in the city and the region following Washington's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The controversial December 6 announcement by President Donald Trump unleashed demonstrations and clashes, including in the Israeli-occupied West Bank city Bethlehem, where Christians will mark the birth of Jesus in a midnight mass.

Bethlehem is normally flooded by tourists at this time of year, but has at times appeared almost empty of visitors as nearby clashes between Palestinian protesters and the Israeli army keep people away.

Archbishop PierbattistaPizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, said "dozens" of groups had pulled out of planned visits after being scared off by the announcement and subsequent violence.

"Of course this created a tension around Jerusalem and this diverted attention from Christmas," the Catholic church's top official in Jerusalem said of Trump's announcement, but stressing that Christmas celebrations would go ahead as planned.

Perhaps as few as 50,000 Palestinian Christians make up just around two percent of the predominantly Muslim population of the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Israel's tourism ministry has said that Christmas preparations have not been affected and that it expects a 20 percent increase in the number of Christian pilgrims this year compared with 2016.

The ministry plans to operate a free shuttle service for the short distance between Jerusalem and Bethlehem for mass.

Extra police

An Israeli police spokesman said that extra units will be deployed in Jerusalem and at the crossings to Bethlehem to ease the travel and access for the "thousands of tourists and visitors".

The annual scouts parade in Bethlehem will march through Manger Square near the Church of the Nativity, built over the spot where tradition says Mary gave birth to Jesus and where celebrations will culminate with midnight mass.

Israel seized east Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed it, in moves never recognised by the international community.

Palestinians view east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, and interpreted Trump's statement as rejecting their right to a capital in east Jerusalem, although the Americans deny this.

In a statement ahead of Christmas, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said that Trump's announcement "encouraged the illegal disconnection between the holy cities of Bethlehem and Jerusalem, both separated for the first time in over 2,000 years of Christianity".

Abbas called on "world Christians to listen to the true voices of the indigenous Christians from the Holy Land... that strongly rejected the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital".

"They are the descendants of the first followers of Jesus Christ and an integral part of the Palestinian people," Abbas said, calling the local Christian community "an inherent part of our societies".

In neighbouring Egypt, Coptic Christians who celebrate Christmas on January 6 saw a church in Giza attacked by a mob following Muslim prayers on Friday, the latest in some 20 such incidents in 2017.

Hundreds entered the church, chanting slogans calling for its demolition, destroying furniture and attacking worshippers before security forces restored order.

But in Iraq, this year marks a positive turning point for the Christian community in the northern city of Mosul.

Christmas mass will be celebrated there for the first time in years following the city's recapture from the Islamic State group in July.

IS seized Iraq's second most populous city as part of a lightning offensive in 2014, driving out many Christians, and only small numbers have since returned.

Christian dignitaries as well as Iraqi political and military leaders are expected to attend the annual service at St Paul's Church in the eastern sector of Mosul.

dawn.com/news/1378590/jerusalem-tensions-cast-shadow-over-christmas-in-holy-land

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14 Palestinians Killed, Thousands Wounded, Hundreds Detained since US President Jerusalem Move

Sun Dec 24, 2017 12:9

Fourteen Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank during three weeks of protests against the Washington declaration of Jerusalem as capital of Israel, according to reports.

The total number of Palestinians detained by Israeli forces since the beginning of the protests goes beyond 500, including minors and women, according to official Palestinian and Israeli sources.

Also, thousands of Palestinians have been wounded by Israeli army's fire during demonstrations against the US President decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The Palestinian ministry of public health in Gaza has also announced that the Israeli occupation forces use unknown gas bombs which caused cases of stress, convulsion, vomiting, coughing and rapid heartbeat among the Palestinian civilians. It stressed that the Zionist forces fire bullets directly on the Palestinian protestors.

The Israeli regime forces use brutal and excessive force against the civilians and the rescue teams as well as the medics, according to the Palestinian ministry which called for denouncing the racist actions of the Israeli authorities.

US President announced early December that Washington would be recognizing Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s capital, stressing that the United States would relocate the embassy in the occupied lands from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem al-Quds.

The move was hailed by Israel but condemned by the rest of the international community as one which undermines the peace talks.

Washington’s al-Quds move has raised a chorus of outcry across the international community. The Muslim world, the UN, world leaders from Europe to the Middle East to Australia, and even US allies in the West have criticized the bid, saying it would plunge the already tumultuous region into new upheaval.

Heavy clashes also broke out between Israeli troops and Palestinian protesters after Washington's decision in Jerusalem al-Qud's Old City, Hebron (al-Khalil), Bethlehem and Nablus in the West Bank as well as the besieged Gaza Strip.

People in different countries have also hit the streets to denounce Trump's recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s capital.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), in a statement issued following an extraordinary summit in Turkey's Istanbul, declared East Jerusalem the capital of Palestne "under occupation" and urged the US to withdraw from the peace process and back down from its Jerusalem decision.

On Thursday, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) overwhelmingly passed a non-binding resolution condemning US President Donald Trump’s decision and called on states not to move their diplomatic missions to the sacred city. The UNGA vote followed the US veto of a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution Monday. All other UNSC members voted in favor of a motion to rescind Donald Trump’s move.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961003000560

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Hezbollah Deputy Secretary: Al-Quds Must Be Priority, Israel Behind All Regional Crises

Sun Dec 24, 2017 12:45

Sheikh Qassem said that Al-Quds (Jerusalem) must be a priority for the whole Umma, adding that the Palestinians’ fight against the Zionist occupation will protect their basic rights, Al-Manar reported.

US President Donald Trump announced early December that Washington would be recognizing Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s capital, stressing that the United States would relocate the embassy in the occupied lands from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem al-Quds.

The move was hailed by Israel but condemned by the rest of the international community as one which undermines the peace talks.

Washington’s al-Quds move has raised a chorus of outcry across the international community. The Muslim world, the UN, world leaders from Europe to the Middle East to Australia, and even US allies in the West have criticized the bid, saying it would plunge the already tumultuous region into new upheaval.

Heavy clashes also broke out between Israeli troops and Palestinian protesters after Washington's decision in Jerusalem al-Qud's Old City, Hebron (al-Khalil), Bethlehem and Nablus in the West Bank as well as the besieged Gaza Strip.

Israeli forces have killed 14 Palestinians, injured thousands of others and detained over 500 people since US President Donald Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, which has sparked bloody clashes across the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip in recent weeks.

People in different countries have also hit the streets to denounce Trump's recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s capital.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), in a statement issued following an extraordinary summit in Turkey's Istanbul, declared East Jerusalem the capital of Palestine "under occupation" and urged the US to withdraw from the peace process and back down from its Jerusalem decision.

On Thursday, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) overwhelmingly passed a non-binding resolution condemning US President Donald Trump’s decision and called on states not to move their diplomatic missions to the sacred city. The UNGA vote followed the US veto of a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution Monday. All other UNSC members voted in favor of a motion to rescind Donald Trump’s move.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961003000807

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Bahrain’s Al-Wefaq: Manama Must Halt Military Trials of Civilians

Sun Dec 24, 2017 1:38

Al-Wefaq released a statement on Saturday slamming the military trial as a violation of both domestic and international laws, Shafaqna reported.

The case, which involves 18 civilians, is the first of its kind since Manama altered the country's constitution, granting military courts the right to try civilians.

Bahrain in March approved the trial of civilians at military tribunals in a measure blasted by human rights campaigners as being tantamount to imposition of an undeclared martial law countrywide.

Al-Wefaq also stressed that returning to such practices by the Manama regime only highlights the “unprecedented” crisis in Bahrain.

It also noted that the case is plagued by violations such as the use of torture and incommunicado detention.     

Thousands of anti-regime protesters have held demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the country in mid-February 2011.

They are demanding that the Al-Khalifah dynasty relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established.

Manama has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent. In mid-March 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to assist Bahrain in its crackdown.

Scores of people have lost their lives and hundreds of others sustained injuries or got arrested as a result of the Al-Khalifah regime’s crackdown.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961003000897

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Turkey to Rename Embassy's Street in Ankara in Row with UAE

Sun Dec 24, 2017 2:40

The street will be renamed as Fahreddin Pasha Street, according to the Ankara Metropolitan Municipality, Anadolu Agency reported.

The move comes a week after UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyanretweeted a post on Twitter which accused Fahreddin Pasha of committing crimes against the local population and theft of their property.

The post drew the ire of Ankara, with Turkish President RecepTayyip Erdogan and his top aide Ibrahim Kalin slamming the allegations.

Mayor Mustafa Tuna gave orders for the renaming of 613th Street in Ilkbaharneighborhood of Cankaya district, a statement said, adding the change would become permanent after a decision at the first upcoming Municipality Assembly meeting.

The name of the street and all signs are expected to be changed to "FahreddinPaşaSokağı" (Fahreddin Pasha Street) after the first municipal council meeting.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961003001161

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Muslim world unity foiled plots against al-Quds: envoy

December 23, 2017

Mohammad Haqbin made the remarks on Friday in reference to the United States’ recent decision to declare al-Quds, the first Qibla of the world Muslims, as the capital of the occupying regime of Israel and to relocate Washington’s embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city.

The Islamic states in every corner of the world condemn the U.S. move, Haqbin said, IRNA reported.

Elaborating on Muslim countries’ latest move in the UN to counter the U.S. decision, the diplomat said, “If the Islamic world maintains its unity and solidarity, it will continue to overcome hegemonic powers and the U.S. and the Zionist regime will not be able to occupy and possess the holy Quds as the capital of the Zionist regime.”

Iran has severely denounced the U.S. government’s move, considering it a flagrant violation of the UN Security Council resolutions, he added.

He further said that al-Quds is an “inseparable part of Palestine” and is one of the three holiest Islamic sites.

U.S. provocative and unwise decision to recognize the holy Quds as the Zionist regime’s capital will not contribute to regional peace and stability, he remarked.

Furthermore, it will escalate the tough and violent moves in the region, for which the U.S. and the Zionist regime should stand accountable, Haqbin said.

The diplomat pointed to UN resolutions about al-Quds, saying the holy city is considered a part of the occupied territories.

Members of the UN General Assembly approved a resolution on Thursday denouncing U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision about al-Quds.

The resolution was approved by 128 votes in favor and nine against while 35 countries abstained.

Praising the UNGA move, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad JavadZarif said in a twitter message that the vote was a “resounding global NO to Trump regime's thuggish intimidation at #UN.”

tehrantimes.com/news/419640/Muslim-world-unity-foiled-plots-against-al-Quds-envoy

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Armed guards posted at Christmas church services in majority Muslim countries

Donald Trump's decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem heightens concerns over Christmas attacks in some regions

Gul Yousafzai, AugustinusBeo Da Costa 6 hours ago

church services and other celebrations are being held this weekend under the gaze of armed guards and security cameras in many countries after Islamic State gunmen attacked a Methodist church in Pakistan as a Sunday service began.

Majority-Muslim countries in Asia and the Middle East were particularly nervous after US President Donald Trump’s recent announcement he intends to relocate the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a decision that has outraged many Muslims.

In Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country, police said they had stepped up security around churches and tourist sites, mindful of near-simultaneous attacks on churches there at Christmas in 2000 that killed about 20 people.

Muslim volunteers in Indonesia are also on standby to provide additional security if requested.

“If our brother and sisters who celebrate Christmas need ... to maintain their security to worship, we will help,” said YaqutChiolilQoumas, chairman of the youth wing of the NahdlatulUlema, one of the country’s biggest Muslim organisations.

In Cairo, where a bombing at the Egyptian capital’s largest Coptic cathedral killed at least 25 people last December, the interior ministry said police would conduct regular searches of streets around churches ahead of the Coptic celebration of Christmas on 7 January.

Egypt’s Christian minority has been targeted in several attacks in recent years, including the bombing of two churches in the north of the country on Palm Sunday in April.

At the Heliopolis Basilica, a Catholic cathedral in northeastern Cairo, security forces had set up metal detectors at the main doors and police vehicles were stationed outside ahead of masses on 25 December, which marks Christmas Day for Catholic and Protestant Christians.

German police brought in experts and an explosives robot to investigate a suspicious package at a Christmas market in the city of Bonn late on Friday.

Germany is on high alert a year after a failed Tunisian asylum seeker killed 12 people when he hijacked a truck and drove it into a Berlin Christmas market.

Bombed-out church

In the Pakistani city of Quetta, members of a Bethel Memorial Methodist Church were repairing the damage done by a pair of suicide bombers who attacked during a service last Sunday, killing 10 people and wounding more than 50.

Broken pews and damaged musical instruments were still strewn around church grounds on Thursday, with about a dozen police standing guard.

“We’re making efforts to complete repairs and renovation before Christmas, but it seems difficult in view of the lot of damage,” said Pastor Simon Bashir, who was leading the service when the attackers struck. He was not hurt.

The government of Baluchistan province, of which Quetta is capital, plans to deploy 3,000 security personnel in and around 39 Christian churches this Sunday and Monday.

Provincial police chiefMoazzam Jah Ansari told Reuters volunteers from churches were also being trained to conduct body searches and identify worshippers entering churches.

Pakistan’s Christian minority, which makes up about 1 percent of the population of 208 million, has been a frequent target, along with Shi‘ite and Sufi Muslims, of Sunni Muslim militants.

In the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore, where an Easter Day bombing in a park last year killed more than 70 people, police Detective Inspector General Haider Ashraf said every church would be monitored with CCTV cameras as part of security measures.

Christian KaleemMasih lost his aunt in the Easter attack, which was claimed by Islamic State, and his wife was wounded, but he said they would be attending Christmas services.

“Christmas is our holy day,” Kaleem said. “We will fulfill our religious duty by celebrating it with smiles on our faces.”

independent.co.uk/news/world/christmas-church-service-security-pakistan-middle-east-muslim-islamic-state-isis-a8126961.html

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Turkey Sacks 2,766 Civil Servants over 'Terror' Links

Sun Dec 24, 2017 12:45

On Sunday, a decree in the Official Gazette said 637 military, 360 gendarmerie personnel, 61 police and four coastguard members were among those sacked. Some 341 people were dismissed from the Directorate of Religious Affairs, Al-Jazeera reported.

The rest were civil servants from other institutions. The decree also said 115 employees who were dismissed in the past were reinstated.

A separate emergency decree published on the same day said defendants accused of "terrorism" must wear a uniform when appearing in court.

Turkey has arrested or sacked tens of thousands of people from state institutions after a failed coup attempt in July 2016.

Local and international rights groups as well as Turkey's Western allies accuse President RecepTayyip Erdogan's government of using the failed coup as a pretext to silence opposition in the country and tighten its grip on power.

The government said that the purges and detentions are aimed at removing supporters of FethullahGulen from state institutions and other parts of society.

Gulen is a US-based, self-exiled religious leader who Ankara blames for the attempted coup.

The European Union recently shrunk so-called "pre-accession funds" for Turkey for the first time in the 2018 budget, due to what it called the country's "deteriorating situation in relation to democracy, rule of law and human rights".

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961003000767

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Thousands Protest Against Israeli PM in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem

Sun Dec 24, 2017 11:34

Israeli Police announced that several thousand people massed in central Tel Aviv on Saturday in the latest protest against the premier. Several hundred more attended an anti-corruption rally in Jerusalem, with speeches headlined by former defense minister Moshe Yaalon, ABC News reported.

Israeli Prime Minister is involved in two separate corruption cases and investigators have questioned him several times. The first involves receiving gifts from wealthy businessmen and the second is negotiating a deal with a newspaper owner for better coverage in return for curbs on a rival daily.

They have said they suspect him of being involved in bribery, fraud and breach of trust, but Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing and dismisses the accusations as a witch hunt by a hostile media.

At the same time the PM’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, faces fraud charges over allegedly wasting $100,000 of public funds.

The protests come amid widespread public anger over a parliamentary bill which would bar police from publicizing recommendations on indictments, as many announced that the bill is specially devised to protect Netanyahu.

The premier has reportedly asked Israeli lawmakers to prepare a new draft of the bill that could not apply to the ongoing investigations against him.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961003000199

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Iranian Top General Warns of Takfiris’ Continued Threats against Muslims

December, 24, 2017 - 14:26

In a speech in Tehran on Sunday, Major General Baqeri pointed to the recent collapse of the Daesh (ISIS or ISIL) Takfiri group in Iraq and Syria and said incidents that happened in the two countries over the past years could have spread to the entire Muslim world.

In response to the developments, “the righteous front expanded the resistance front” and managed to thwart the plot, the commander said.

However, he said, Takfirism has not just emerged out of nowhere but it has been supported by thoughts and ideologies, adding that the issue is not a trivial scheme.

Major General Baqeri went on to say that if the issue of Takfirism is not countered, it will entangle the Muslim world in conflicts for centuries.

In recent years, the Middle East has been plagued with Takfiri terrorist groups like Daesh, which are believed to have been created and supported by the West and some regional Arab countries.

The terrorist groups, which claim to be Islamic but whose actions are anything but, have been committing heinous crimes not only against non-Muslims but mostly against Muslims in the region.

Iraq and Syria have been among the countries gripped by terrorism.

Iran, a close ally of the two countries, has supported their legitimate governments in their campaign against foreign-backed militancy and terrorism.

tasnimnews.com/en/news/2017/12/24/1609897/iranian-top-general-warns-of-takfiris-continued-threats-against-muslims

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Pakistan

'Pakistan not in habit of taking notices from anyone, let alone US': Rabbani slams Pence's remarks

December 24, 2017

Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani, in response to a warning from United States (US) Vice President (VP) Mike Pence to Islamabad earlier this week, made it clear that Pakistan is not in the habit of "taking notices" from anyone.

Pence, while addressing US troops at the Bagram military base in Kabul, had said that Pakistan has allegedly provided safe haven to terrorists for too long but those days are over now, as US President Donald Trump has now "put Pakistan on notice".

"Two days ago, Pence had the gall, the audacity to say that Trump has put Pakistan on notice," Rabbani said in Islamabad on Sunday. "Let the word ring out in clear terms that Pakistan is a sovereign state and is not in the habit of taking notices from anyone, let alone the US."

The Senate chairman was addressing the first six-nation Speakers' Conference, which was inaugurated by President Mamnoon Hussain earlier today.

The conference themed "The challenges of terrorism and inter-regional connectivity" is being held in Islamabad, with representatives from Russia, China, Iran, Afghanistan and Turkey in attendance.

Addressing the conference, Rabbani further said that Trump, in his recently announced South Asia policy, had blamed Pakistan for the failures of the US in Afghanistan.

"We saw the US ignoring the sacrifices made by Pakistan," Rabbani observed.

He went on to state that the US has pursued a policy of "regime change and bringing about destabilisation in Muslim countries" particularly in the Middle East.

Describing Trump's decision to shift the US embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem the "blunder of all blunders", Rabbani said that Washington had failed to understand that it is neither supported practically, nor in fact, nor by history in their decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Rabbani noted that the United Nations General Assembly had given a befitting reply to Washington when over 120 countries rejected the US move.

"What they [US] fail to recognise is that the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital will give rise to a new intifada as the people of Palestine move to achieve their historic rights."

During his address, Rabbani also spoke about the Trump administration's recently unveiled national security strategy, noting that a new nexus seems to be emerging comprising of US, Israel and India.

"We find the US is trying to use or build up India as a policeman of the region," Rabbani said.

He added that although Pakistan "believes in dialogue and friendly relations with its neighbours [...] until and unless India is willing to speak on equal terms, we will perhaps just be looking at the mirage of peace in the region."

Earlier in the day, National Assembly Speaker AyazSadiq addressed the conference and noted that Pakistan's economy has suffered gravely due to "cowardly acts of terrorism".

He said that the problem of extremism had been aggravated by the rise of the drug trade.

"Why has the global coalition against terrorism consistently failed to control and destroy poppy cultivation?" Sadiq asked, noting that the drug had become a major source of terror financing.

"Although religious fanaticism has often been cited as the main cause of global terrorism, let us not forget that the rise of the populous right and the sanctioning of oppression has also added to the mayhem," Sadiq said.

"The world has failed to address the root cause of extremism," he added.

He said that the controversy over Jerusalem's status did not only violate international laws but also undermined peace efforts, divided the people of the world and fanned religious animosity.

He said that the US move to veto a United Nations Security Council’s draft resolution rejecting the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital was proof that the world needs a more just and equitable order.

dawn.com/news/1378569/pakistan-not-in-habit-of-taking-notices-from-anyone-let-alone-us-rabbani-slams-pences-remarks

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Terrorist safe havens exist in ungoverned areas of Afghanistan, not Pakistan: MaleehaLodhi

December 24, 2017

Pakistan's Permanent Representative to the United Nations MaleehaLodhi on Saturday emphasised that peace in Afghanistan cannot be restored by the continuing resort to military force. She said neither Kabul and the Nato coalition, nor the Afghan Taliban, could impose a military solution on each other.

“The promotion of a political settlement and the pursuit of a military solution are mutually incompatible. You cannot kill and talk at the same time,” the Pakistani envoy told the UN Security Council during an open debate on the situation in Afghanistan.

“Another resort to the military option will not produce a result different from the past. It will not break the impasse much less yield a political solution,” Lodhi said, urging the Taliban to give up violence and stressing that the other side, too, must display a genuine desire for dialogue.

See: 'Trump has put Pakistan on notice,' US VP Pence warns in surprise Kabul visit

She said the violence and terrorism afflicting Afghanistan are the consequences of foreign military interventions, occupation and an imposed war.

Sustainable peace in Afghanistan is only achievable through a negotiated end to the war, a course long advocated by Pakistan, she said.

The envoy said 16 years of war, waged by the world's most powerful forces against an "insurgency of irregulars", had not yielded a military solution.

“This failure cannot be explained away by alleging the existence of safe havens for the insurgency across the border,” she said.

Denying US allegations about the presence of terrorist safe havens in Pakistan, she said such enclaves exist in areas of Afghanistan that are not under government control.

“There are no such safe havens (in Pakistan),” she said. “The only havens that exist for the insurgents and for Daesh [militant Islamic State] and other terrorists are within the 40 per cent of Afghan territory which is outside the control of the Afghan Government.”

Lodhi said apart from the conflict between the Afghan government and the Taliban-led insurgency, a new threat has emerged in Afghanistan: the presence of a conglomerate of terrorists from various parts of the world which have all now adopted the umbrella of Daesh.

“These terrorists are now located in the 40pc of Afghan territory which, according to a recent Pentagon report, is either out of Kabul's control or is contested. It appears that Daesh's 'core', under pressure in Iraq and Syria, may be relocating to these ungoverned spaces in Afghanistan,” she said.

Observing that securing the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and preventing cross-border terrorism is essential for both the countries, the envoy said this could be achieved only through constant vigilance, effective management and real-time communication.

“Terrorists should not be allowed to provoke clashes between our border security forces.”

The peoples of Afghanistan and Pakistan are bound by mutual interdependence and other ties, she said, noting that approximately 3 million Afghans still reside in Pakistan.

To strengthen bilateral relations, Pakistan had last month proposed a comprehensive 'Afghanistan Pakistan Action Plan for Solidarity'.

"This action plan aims to promote constructive and meaningful bilateral engagement through establishment of working groups on political, economic, military, intelligence and refugee issues," Lodhi said.

dawn.com/news/1378410/terrorist-safe-havens-exist-in-ungoverned-areas-of-afghanistan-not-pakistan-maleeha-lodhi

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US told to learn from Pakistan in war on terror

December 24, 2017

KARACHI: A day after the Foreign Office issued a strongly worded statement in response to the US assertion about “putting Pakistan on notice” over alleged terrorist safe havens, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif on Saturday hit out at the US administration, asking it to learn from Pakistan’s experiences in the war against terrorism instead of threatening it.

In a statement on his official Twitter account, the minister said: “Dont blame or threat[en] us, learn from our experiences in war against terror... if that is our common objective.”

On Friday, US Vice President Mike Pence — during an unannounced visit to Afghanistan — alleged that Pakistan had for too long provided safe havens to terrorists but those days were over, as President Donald Trump had “put Pakistan on notice”.

“Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with the United States, and Pakistan has much to lose by continuing to harbour criminals and terrorists,” he said while addressing US troops at Bagram airbase.

Referring to Mr Pence’s ‘warning’, Mr Asif said “frustrations on diplomatic front in UN and war in Afghanistan are reflected in statements of US administration”.

Also on Friday, Inter-Services Public Relations chief Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said that the United States’ threats against Pakistan with respect to the latter’s alleged support for militant groups could harm the existing coordination and cooperation between the two countries.

dawn.com/news/1378484/us-told-to-learn-from-pakistan-in-war-on-terror

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3 FC personnel martyred in IED explosion in North Waziristan

December 24, 2017

At least three Frontier Constabulary (FC) personnel lost their lives in an improvised explosive device (IED) blast in North Waziristan's Ghulam Khan area on Sunday.

The FC personnel were on routine patrol when an IED targeting their vehicle exploded, sources within the political administration told DawnNews.

According to Inter-Services Public Relations, the IED exploded as an FC bomb disposal team was undertaking a routine search and clearance operation in the area.

The martyred FC soldiers were identified by ISPR as NaikInayatullahKhattak, SepoyMohsin Ali Turi and SepoySifatullah.

According to the sources, a curfew was announced in the Ghulam Khan area — which is near the Pak-Afghan border — as a result of the explosion.

Security forces have started a search for the perpetrators of the explosion.

Uptick in IED attacks

On December 5, six people were killed and eight others injured after an IED went off near an army vehicle in the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan.

In a similar incident on Dec 1, five people, including the head of a peace committee, were killed and two others were injured in an IED blast in South Waziristan Agency.

According to officials, peace committee commander Wali Jan Mehsud was on his way to attend a jirga along with his brother Ahmad Jan and tribal elders when an IED device had gone off near his vehicle in Spinkai.

dawn.com/news/1378576/3-fc-personnel-martyred-in-ied-explosion-in-north-waziristan

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Pakistan, Iran agree on joint aerial border monitoring

SaleemShahidUpdated December 24, 2017

QUETTA: Pakistan and Iran on Saturday agreed on joint aerial monitoring of their border to cope with any possible danger and avoid an untoward situation.

Senior security officials of the two countries met at the Pakistani border town of Taftan, official sources said.

The two sides discussed the security situation at the border and decided to launch joint patrolling. The meeting decided that helicopters would be used for the purpose on both sides of the borders.

“The decision to start joint patrolling through helicopters is taken for ensuring the protection of the border belt of both the countries from possible danger,” said a senior official of the Taftan administration.

It was also decided that Pakistan would monitor the border belt from pole No 72 to 131.

dawn.com/news/1378471/pakistan-iran-agree-on-joint-aerial-border-monitoring

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Australia

Sydney Conference throws light on Islam in Practice

December 23, 2017

The ‘Islam in Practice’ Conference held on Sunday, December 10, 2017 at Club Punchbowl in Sydney was attended by almost 500 people from a diverse background listening to a variety of speakers from all over Australia as well as from overseas.

The Conference focused on contemporary issues in Law, Finance, Leadership and Activism; reviewing issues of concern to Australian Muslims and importantly, exploring strategies on how better to deal with these concerns putting Islam into practice.

The attendees included men, women and youth, mostly from Sydney but also from other states of Australia from a diverse linguistic, cultural and ethnic background engaged by speakers and performers including a couple of panel discussions from 1 pm to 8 pm in a well organised programme with breaks for refreshments.

Organisers and Sponsors

This was an inaugural conference organised by CAMO, Collaboration of Australian Muslim Organisations, a platform established for cooperation and coordination of activities between four Australia-wide major Islamic organisations.

The hosting organisations included Australian Islamic Mission (AIM), Islamic Forum for Australian Muslims (IFAM), Islamic Practice and Dawah Circle (IPDC) and IQRO Foundation.

The Conference was sponsored by Human Appeal Australia, Muslim Community Cooperative Australian (MCCA), Charity Australia International, Human Initiative, Monessa, Cordial Homes with the Australasian Muslim Times as the Media Partner.

Speakers and Scholars

The conference featured a wide range of international and local speakers and performers including Shaikh Abdool Rahman Khan, Imam of Northern Virginia Mosque, USA; Dr Abdus Salam Azadi, Director of Swansea Islamic Academy and Mosque, United Kingdom; AlmirColan, Director of Australian Centre for Islamic Finance, Melbourne; ShaikhaBasmah Abdul Qader, Scholar and Counsellor, Life Matters Academy, Sydney;

Farouk Abdullah Alwyni, Founder-President and Director of Alwyni International Capital, Indonesia; Kamal Saleh, Spoken Word Poet, Creative production OnePath Network, Sydney; Safeea Ali, Spoken Word Poet, Student Bachelor of Social Science Western Sydney University; TasnimSammak, Researcher Islamophobia Media Watch, Freelance Writer and Editor, Melbourne; Shaikh Shady Alsuleiman, President, National Imams Council, Sydney; Imam Yahya Ibrahim, A/Principal, Langford Islamic College, Perth; Dr Zachariah Matthews, Director, Deen Academy, Sydney.

Following are the personal notes and highlights prepared by Dr Zachariah Matthews:

Family Dynamics

Imam Yahya Ibrahim (Perth): Family leadership dynamics. In the family structure first, assess yourself and your contribution (positive and negative) before pointing the finger at others and their shortcomings.

Be present in the home (emotionally, psychologically, spiritually) – fully engaged and committed to the wellbeing of the family and its functioning. Social media is making it more difficult to remain engaged and committed.

Islamic Law Perception

ShaikhaBasmah Abdul Qader (Sydney): Islamic Law and Perception

The Prophet lived for 53 years in a non-Muslim environment; we should, therefore, take a lesson from this and understand the key features of this period in his mission.

The Prophet taught his followers first how to believe (to have faith in Allah and connect with Him – Imaan) and then how to follow the rules of Allah’s Way (Makkah, then Madinah); the two phases of this process is important for us today; focusing exclusively on the law without establishing faith is bound to end in failure.

The Sharia Law

Shaikh Abdool Rahman Khan (US): Understanding Islamic Law

Why is Shariah (Divine Law) being demonised today? Is it perhaps that we have not clearly explained the real purpose of Sharia?

Are we getting lost in the details rather than focusing on the higher objectives (Maqaasid)?

The Shariah’s main purpose is to protect the human being and to enhance coexistence of different people in pluralist societies.

The Shariah is also to protect the rights of human beings (as defined by the Divine).

Fame and Solo-Activism

TasnimSammak (Melbourne): Fame and Solo-Activism

Individuality has affected and is undermining the community structure (features of this are – isolation, liquidity, usurping power, commodification).

Solo activism: Consuming the cause for self-gratification and status enhancement (e.g., judged by the number of likes on social media). One status update or like or retweet is not what is required to advance a cause.

Hijab is being packaged for white consumption with particular imagery that is being used (in the process, brown Muslims are still being marginalised).

Activism which does not really challenge the status quo power is limited.

Crypto-Currencies

AlmirColan (Melbourne): Cryptocurrencies

The electricity usage with Bitcoin mining is astronomical: e.g., Visa uses only 2% of what Bitcoin consumes.

Why has Bitcoin flourished? Mainly due to speculators; producing an unsustainable bubble. Bitcoin is preferred for illegal activities: Scams; 1/3 has disappeared (hacks).

Cryptocurrencies are unregulated at the moment: We would not accept to have healthcare, or education for example unregulated. So why accept cryptocurrencies to be unregulated by authorities?

Islamic Principle: Money should not be under private control or regulation (must be regulated by authorities).

Islamic Finance

Farouk Alwyni (Indonesia): Islamic finance future

Islamic Finance needs to move beyond adaptation to the next stage of promoting ethical finance; that is also socially equitable.

Profitability should not be the only imperative: Ethics and justice are just as important (the Maqaasid of Finance).

Political Engagement

Shaikh Shady Alsuleiman (Sydney): Political engagement

The Prophet was not only a spiritual and religious leader, but was also the greatest politician and statesmen; the signing of the Treaty of Hudaybiya stands out as an excellent case study in his ability to advance political ideals.

Islam is not only in the Mosque, Muslims should and must be involved within the societies they live; on all levels based on their values and principles.

The Great Prophet

Dr Zachariah Matthews (Sydney): The Prophet’s incorruptibility

Muslims should strive to be like the Prophet– incorruptible. Quraish could not entice him to compromise on the fundamental principles of his cause.

Muslims must fight corruption just like he did. He provided clear anti-corruption standards – no bribery, no inducement gifts, honesty, accountability.

Muslim Contribution

Dr Abdul Salam Azadi (UK): Muslim Contribution

Muslims must learn Islam to correctly assess prevailing culture, not the other way around. And to work out which practices have been misappropriated as ‘Islamic;’

Islam’s universal values and principles should be used to judge culture throughout time.

Muslim’s practice of Islam has unfortunately become ritualistic, without spirit (resulting in spiritual impoverishment).

Folowing the letter and spirit of the Holy Quran will bring happiness. This is Allah’s guarantee.

Muslims in the West must be active contributors, not just takers of safety/security and money.

indiannewslink.co.nz/sydney-conference-throws-light-on-islam-in-practice/

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North America

US $50,000 Reward for Iraqi Anti-Terror Leader Revealed

Sun Dec 24, 2017 2:49

The office of Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba in Tehran said Sheikh Akram al-Kaabi fought against Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi dictator, and after his fall he fought against the US occupying forces in Iraq.

The picture revealed belongs to the time he had escaped from US custody in Iraq, after which he was listed a wanted by the occupiers of Iraq, he said.

In the 10 years, the US Army and security organizations had offered $50,000 for any help that result in his detention.

He is now the leader of Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba that defends the Iraqis and Syrians.

The US congress is now trying to impose sanctions on the group.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961003001190

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US to Resume Aid for YPG in 2018 as Trump Approves $393mln Syria Weapons List

Sun Dec 24, 2017 2:46

The US President signed the list prepared by Pentagon in May on Dec. 12, 18 days after his phone conversation with President RecepTayyipErdoğan during which he was quoted as "openly instructing his generals to no longer give weapons to the YPG, Daily Sabah reported.

"He openly said that this absurdity should have ended much earlier," Turkish Foreign Minister MevlütÇavuşoğlu had told reporters after the phone call.

The list included a total of 12,000 AK-47 Kalashnikov rifles worth $6.3 million, 60,000 Kalashnikov clips worth $420,000 and 6,000 machineguns worth $20.3 million.

The weapons list did not give any direct reference to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) or its dominating group YPG but instead mentioned the Vetted Syrian Opposition (VSO).

Ankara considers the YPG a terror organization because of its organic links with the PKK terror organization.

Accordingly, sophisticated weapons will continue to be sent to Syria in 2018, including thousands of anti-tank rocket launchers, heat seeking missiles and rocket launchers.

In addition, some $1.2 billion budget was reserved for Iraq and another $500 million was reserved for Syria as a part of the train-equip fund in 2018, according to the list.

The Pentagon's Syria strategy for 2018 also outlined an increase in the number of Arab elements within the SDF.

According to the budget list, there are a total of 25,000 opposition forces supported as a part of the train and equip program in Syria. That number is planned to be increased to 30,000 in 2018.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961003001176

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US court lifts Trump measures barring some refugees

December 24, 2017

A United States (US) federal judge on Saturday lifted Trump administration restrictions that barred some refugees from the country, the latest in a series of immigration-related legal setbacks for the president.

The US said in October that it would resume accepting refugees after a 120-day ban ordered by President Donald Trump expired, but some including those from 11 "high-risk" countries, most of which are Muslim majority were still barred from entering.

In his ruling on Saturday, Judge James Robart ordered American authorities to resume processing and admitting so-called "follow-to-join" refugees, which would once again allow the spouse and unmarried children of a refugee already in the country to be admitted.

And he also ordered that "follow-to-join" refugees and "other refugees with a bona fide relationship to a person or entity within the United States" from the 11 "high-risk" countries be processed and admitted as well.

The ruling is in response to motions for preliminary injunctions filed in two separate cases.

"Plaintiffs in both cases are refugees, who find themselves in dire circumstances, their family members who yearn to be reunited with them, and humanitarian organisations whose fundamental mission is to help these vulnerable refugees resettle in the United States," Robart wrote in his ruling.

"Plaintiffs in both cases present compelling circumstances of irreparable harm inflicted by the federal agencies' action at issue here."

Trump's attempts at banning travellers from several mainly Muslim nations have been met with successive legal challenges this year.

Critics say the president's measures target Muslims, while the Trump administration has sought to cast the restrictions as being aimed at shoring up security.

dawn.com/news/1378578/us-court-lifts-trump-measures-barring-some-refugees

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South Asia

Civilians suffer heavy casualties in Helmand roadside bombing

By Khaama Press - Sun Dec 24 2017, 1:29 pm

At least seven civilians were killed after their vehicle struck a roadside mine in southern Helmand province of Afghanistan, the local officials said.

The incident took place in the vicinity of the restive Marjah district after a civilian vehicle crossing the area struck with an improvised explosive device planted by the militants.

A security official said at least seven civilians were and three others were wounded in the explosion.

Helmand is among the relatively volatile provinces in south of Afghanistan where the anti-government armed militant groups actively operate in its various districts.

However, no individual or group has so far claimed responsibility behind the incident.

The anti-government armed militant groups frequently use explosives materials for the roadside bombings and car bombings to target the government staff and security personnel.

However, in majority of such incidents the ordinary civilians are targeted besides such bombings incur casualties to the security personnel.

In some cases the tactic also prove deadly for the militants as occasionally reports emerge regarding the premature explosions among the Taliban militants and other insurgents who are attempting to manufacture or plant IEDS on the roadsides.

khaama.com/civilians-suffer-heavy-casualties-in-helmand-roadside-bombing-04110

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ISIS military commission chief killed in US drone strike in Afghanistan

By Khaama Press - Sun Dec 24 2017, 11:15 am

The military commission chief of the ISIS terrorist group loyalists in Afghanistan has been killed in an airstrike conducted by the US forces in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

The provincial government media office in a statement said at least two foreign ISIS militants were killed in an airstrike conducted in Nazian district late on Friday night.

The statement further added that the airstrike by the unmanned aerial vehicles was carried out in Lal Mandawi area, leaving three Pakistani nationals dead, including the military commission of ISIS group.

According to the Nangarhar government, the slain ISIS leader has been identified as Syd Waliandhe was a resident of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa of Pakistan.

The anti-government armed militant groups including the ISIS terrorists have not commented regarding the report so far.

Nangarhar is among the relatively calm provinces in East of Afghanistan but the security situation of the province has started to deteriorate during the recent years.

At least three Taliban insurgents were killed in a similar airstrike conducted on Thursday evening, the local officials said Friday.

According to the officials, the latest airstrikes were carried out late on Thursday evening in the vicinity of Ghani Khel district that left three Taliban insurgents dead while their weapons, ammunition, and explosives were also destroyed.

khaama.com/isis-military-commission-chief-killed-in-us-drone-strike-in-afghanistan-04107

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Ismail Khan endorses Noor’s recent stance against the govt and Abdullah

By Khaama Press - Sun Dec 24 2017, 2:42 pm

A former prominent Jihadi leader and ex-governor of the western Herat province Mohammad Islami Khan endorsed Ata Mohammad Noor’s latest stance against the government of national unity and the chief executive Abdullah Abdullah.

Speaking during a press conference Khan said Noor should continue to his work as the governor of the northern Balkh province.

He endorsed Noor for his harsh remarks against the chief executive of the unity government and said Abdullah has failed to fulfill the demands of Jamiat-e-Islami party.

Khan further added that the recent decision by the government to sideline Noor from the Balkh government leadership was not a wise decision and urged Noor to continue to his work.

This comes as Noor said Saturday that none one can dismiss him as the governor of Balkh province by issuing a decree, insisting that the political party he is representing is one of the main sides which played a key role in the formation of the government of national unity.

He said the presidential elections in 2014 was one of the worst elections the country and was marred massively by fraud by it was the Jamiat-e-Islami which gave a legitimacy to the process.

According to Noor, he entered into negotiations with the government representing the strong stance of the Jamiat-e-Islami and not as an ordinary governor representing the Balkh province.

He said the Jamiat party is the main piller of the unity government and no one can sideline him as an ordinary government employee, emphasizing that he will continue to his work as the governor of the Balkh province in a bid to prevent the spread of the Taliban and ISIS in Balkh.

khaama.com/ismail-khan-endorses-noors-recent-stance-against-the-govt-and-abdullah-04111

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Africa

Christian Youths of Nigeria Calls for Arrest of Islamic Leader

December 24, 2017 Tai Anyanwu

The youth wing of the Christian Association of Nigeria, has called on the Director-General of the Department State Services (DSS), to immediate arrest of the Secretary of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Prof.SalihuShehu, over what the group described as unguided comments about Christians.

Rising from an emergency meeting of its North-East leaders, the group, in a statement signed by its National President, Mr. David Kadzai, derided the NSCIA Secretary saying it is unbecoming of leader of his status to make inciting comments on the Christians and tagging Christians as militia group.

“We are stating here without fear of intimidation, harassment by anybody or agency that if within seven days, security agents charged with the constitutional responsibility of maintaining law and order fails to take action on the abusive comments of Prof.Shehu on Christians in Nigeria, we will react by issuing the same comments that may not be good for the peace of this country.

newtelegraphonline.com/2017/12/christian-youths-calls-arrest-islamic-leader/

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Gunmen kill three at cafe south of Egypt capital

AFP | Updated: Dec 24, 2017, 16:29 IST

CAIRO: Masked gunmen opened fire on a cafe south of the Egyptian capital, killing three people, security officials said Sunday.

The attack, which took place overnight in the village of al-Ayat about 50 kilometres (31 miles) from Cairo, left at least five others wounded, they said.

While the motivation was unclear officials suspect it was a criminal incident rather than terrorism.

State-run newspaper Akhbar al-Youm, citing witnesses, said two attackers arrived on a motorcycle and opened fire on people in the cafe before fleeing.

Security officials arrived at the scene and also interviewed injured people in hospital to try to identify and arrest the attackers, the newspaper reported

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/gunmen-kill-three-at-cafe-south-of-egypt-capital/articleshow/62231025.cms

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Southeast Asia

Myanmar Invited to US-Thailand Military Drills DespiteRohingya Issue

Sun Dec 24, 2017 11:38

"Thailand has invited Burma to observer the humanitarian assistance disaster relief portion of the exercise," Logan told Sputnik.

Asked why Thailand decided to invite Myanmar despite concerns over the crackdown against the Rohingya and whether this issue was part of their deliberations, a senior officer at the Directorate of Joint Intelligence of the Royal Thai Armed Forces was cited in the report as saying “That never came up in the discussions. We separated that issue. We focus on training, on education, on military cooperation. That is our wish, to have Myanmar involved."

“That is politics. We are soldiers. This is a military exercise,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added.

This is while Pentagon also refused to comment when asked whether the US military had tried to apply pressure on Thailand not to invite Myanmar due to the international condemnation of its brutal crackdown on the Rohingya.

In late November, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called the situation with the Rohingya people in Myanmar "ethnic cleansing" and added that the United States continued to support an independent investigation in order to hold those responsible for the ethnic cleansing accountable.

Prior to that, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also did not rule out that "ethnic cleansing" was taking place in Myanmar.

Arrangement signed by Myanmar and Bangladesh in November to start repatriating refugees within two months is viewed with deep suspicion and dread by Rohingya still traumatised by the violent expulsion from their homeland.

The Red Cross said the returns must be voluntary and safe, but rights groups added that the conditions are not in place to ensure safe, voluntary and dignified returns, and Rohingya sense danger lurking behind Myanmar’s assurances.

Aid groups have also warned Myanmar they would boycott any new camps for Rohingya returnees, saying refugees must be allowed to settle in their own homes and not forced into ghetto-like conditions.

More than 620,000 of Myanmar's Muslim minority have fled across the border to Bangladesh since late August when the Myanmar army launched a sweeping crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in Northern Rakhine state.

The Red Cross, the only international aid organisation with broad access on the ground in Rakhine, estimates that only about 300,000 Rohingya remain in the entire state.

The International Committee of the Red Cross announced that life has stopped in Rakhine state due to the fear of violence, months after a new wave of crackdown by the government erupted against the persecuted Rohingya Muslims.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) announced that at least 6,700 Rohingya Muslims were killed in the first month of a Myanmar army crackdown in Rakhine state that began in late August.

The revelation was made as Myanmar’s army has so far denied widespread accounts of violence against the Muslim Rohingya minority and has said that only 400 people died in the first few weeks of a new wave of “security operations”.

All along, government troops and the Buddhist mobs have been killing, raping, and arbitrarily arresting members of the Muslim community. They have also been setting the houses of the Muslims on fire in hundreds of predominantly-Rohingya villages in the Northern parts of Rakhine, where nearly all the Rohingya reside.

Myanmar’s government denies full citizenship to the Rohingya, branding them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Dhaka, in turn, regards the desperate refugees as Myanmarese. The Rohingya, however, track their ancestors many generations back in Myanmar.

The UN has already described the Rohingya as the most persecuted community in the world, calling the situation in Rakhine similar to “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

The Myanmarese government, however, denies committing atrocities against the Rohingya people and has even rejected UN criticism for its “politicization and partiality.”

Myanmar continued to destroy Rohingya villages just days after signing a refugee resettlement deal, according to a rights group.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) announced that the number of completely or partially destroyed Rohingya villages since Myanmar began its campaign targeting the largely Muslim ethnic group now stood at 354.

Meanwhile, United Nations human rights chief announced that genocide charges could be brought against Myanmar following the country’s campaign against the country's Rohingya Muslims.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights ZeidRa‘ad al-Hussein stressed that attacks on the Rohingya had been “well thought out and planned” and he had asked Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi to do more to stop the military atrocities.

Humanitarian agencies have also warned that thousands of children are at risk of contracting diphtheria in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, as since the first cases of diphtheria were detected in early November, some 1,326 suspected cases have been detected in the refugee camps.

“Diphtheria usually appears among vulnerable populations that have not received routine vaccinations, such as the Rohingyas,” Unicef Representative to Bangladesh Edouard Beigbeder said, adding that “The outbreak shows a steep rise in cases, an indicator of the extreme vulnerability of children in the Rohingya camps and settlements.”

“Children, who are 55 percent of the Rohingya refugee population, are particularly vulnerable. So are women, and they represent more than half of all refugees in Bangladesh,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Spokesman Babar Baloch said.

“An estimated 10 percent are either disabled, have serious medical conditions, or are older persons at risk," he added.

The United Nations said on Friday that a quarter of Rohingya children under the age of five who fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar suffer from potentially life-threatening levels of malnutrition.

The UN children's agency said that three health and nutrition surveys conducted between October 22 and November 27 showed up to 25 percent of the young children crammed into Bangladeshi refugee camps have acute malnutrition, among other maladies, The New Arab reported.

"Nearly half the children surveyed have anaemia, up to 40 percent have diarrhoea, and up to 60 percent have acute respiratory infections," UNICEF Spokesman Christophe Boulierac told reporters in Geneva.

Bangladesh's UNICEF head Edouard Beigbeder also announced that "our worst fears have been confirmed".

"Refugee children who have already endured unimaginable suffering in fleeing their homes are now facing a public health crisis," Beigbeder said in a statement.

UNICEF had warned that 7.5 percent of the children in one of the camps in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar district were at risk of dying from acute malnutrition.

New surveys at the Kutupalong and Nayapara refugee camps, as well as other make-shift settlements, that included more than 1,700 children highlighted the worsening situation.

"Less than 16 percent of children are consuming a minimal acceptable diet," UNICEF said.

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Rohingya: 500,000 Unlikely to Receive Schooling in 2018

Sun Dec 24, 2017 2:11

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) said unless interventions are "urgently funded", the humanitarian needs of children will only increase, Al-Jazeera reported.

"Education in emergencies is a life-saving and life-changing intervention - helping children recover and cope with the continuing adversity they face," Sarah Smith, the IRC's senior director for education, said.

"This is incredibly urgent for Rohingya children; no one is paying attention to their needs, and they face some of the highest levels of trauma the IRC has ever seen. Until children's rights to education in the Rohingya crisis are realised, we face the threat of a lost generation of what is already one of the world's most vulnerable populations," Smith added.

Less than two percent of humanitarian funding goes towards education, the most underfunded sector in response to the Rohingya plight, the IRC reported.

Evan Schuurman, part of the Save the Children's emergency response team in Cox's Bazar, announced in October that schooling was particularly important for traumatised refugee children.

"School isn't just about learning," he wrote, adding that "It provides routine and a sense of normality, a place where children can make friends, play and remember what it's like to be children.

"It's also a critical form of protection from exploitation and abuse, such as trafficking," he added.

More than 620,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since late August in fear of abuses by Myanmarese soldiers, which the United States and UN described as "ethnic cleansing".

The ongoing crisis has been described as the biggest forced exodus of 2017.

Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a deal last month for the return of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees, but little is known of its details.

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