New Age Islam
Fri Aug 14 2020, 07:38 AM

Islamic World News ( 16 March 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Al Qaeda Insider Returns To Twitter, Discusses Group’s Global Leadership

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: Haunted by the smell of apples: 28 years on, Kurds weep over Halabja massacre

 

Haunted by the smell of apples: 28 years on, Kurds weep over Halabja massacre

Iran Just Passed an Innocuous Law That's Actually a Big Step towards Gender Equality

Two Years of ‘Children, Not Soldiers’ Campaign Brings Tangible Progress in Afghanistan

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Arab World

Haunted by the smell of apples: 28 years on, Kurds weep over Halabja massacre

Bahrainis Rally against Al Khalifa Regime Crackdown

Army, Allies Inflict Heavy Toll on ISIL Commanders in Damascus

50% of ISIL-Controlled Territory in Iraq Liberated

Major combat in Yemen coming to an end, says Saudi-led coalition

Russia to finish Syria pullout in ‘2-3 days’: General

Envoy: Iran Willing to Increase Trade Exchanges with China

Syrian Army Destroys Tunnel in Deir Ezzur, Kills Terrorists Inside

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Mideast

Iran Just Passed an Innocuous Law That's Actually a Big Step towards Gender Equality

29 People Were Detained In the Terrorist Operation in Istanbul 

Van thousand police operation against the PKK 

Terror group TAK says it is behind Ankara bombing

German embassy, consulate in Turkey closed over threat of possible attack

Tough bargain awaits Turkey at EU summit

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South Asia

Two Years of ‘Children, Not Soldiers’ Campaign Brings Tangible Progress in Afghanistan

54 Taliban Militants Killed Amid Surging Violence in Helmand Province

7 ISIS Loyalists, 3 Public Uprising Forces Killed In Nangarhar Clash

Afghan intelligence thwart suicide attack plot in Jalalabad city

Key Taliban leader involved in major attacks arrested in Ghazni

Noor says he has no intentions to prevent narcotics cultivation in Balkh

Unidentified gunmen kidnap 3 civilians in Nooristan

Construction of separate training facility for policewomen starts in Nangarhar

Key Taliban Leader Arrested in South-eastern Afghanistan

Palestinian Officials Condemn Israel's New Seizure of Lands

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Africa

30 Shabaab Jihadist Killed In 2 Clashes in Somalia

Western Sahara Referendum Key to Peace

Deputy FM Declares Iran's 5-Year Plan to Bolster Trade Ties with Africa

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India

In Mumbai, ISIS Tag Used On Muslims to Settle Scores

Govt Wants To Treat Terror Attacks as War

Sartaj Aziz and Swaraj chat over breakfast in Nepal, formal meeting expected later today

Ghulam Ali set to sing ghazals in Gujarat

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Pakistan

'Daesh Commander' Confessed To List of Crimes before Death in Encounter, Police Says

Two Troops, Three Suspected Militants Killed In Chilas Gunfight

There are no Chinese troops in POK, says Foreign Office

Pakistan invites Modi to 19th Saarc summit

Musharraf’s guarantors summoned in murder case

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Southeast Asia

Police Halt Gay Wedding Ceremony in Central Java

Top cop is Indonesia's new anti-terror chief

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Europe

Court Ruling on Teenager Who Did Not Want To Live With Family Because 'They Were Not Strict Enough Muslims'

Turkey-EU migration deal under threat as Brussels admits 'catalogue of issues' remains - latest

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North America

US Opposes Possible Kurdish Federal System in Syria Now, But Leaves Door Ajar

No decision by Obama administration on US troops level in Afghanistan: Pentagon

UN Demands Inquiry into Saudi Bombing of Yemeni Market

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/al-qaeda-insider-returns-to-twitter,-discusses-group’s-global-leadership/d/106682 

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Al Qaeda insider returns to Twitter, discusses group’s global leadership

March 16, 2016

An al Qaeda media operative known as Shaybat al Hukama returned to Twitter on Feb. 15. Hukama’s account has been shuttered several times, only to reappear under a new handle after each suspension. Hukama has used his social media accounts to provide new information about al Qaeda’s operations in the past. And this occasion has been no different.

Hukama has tweeted clues concerning the whereabouts of Saif al Adel, a senior al Qaeda leader who has long been wanted by the US government for his alleged role in the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

On Feb. 25, Hukama wrote that Al Adel (seen on the right) will be one of the reasons why Russia is defeated, just as Khattab helped cause the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Khattab is a legendary Saudi jihadist who was backed by al Qaeda and organized Chechen jihadists to commit attacks in Russia.

Hukama did not explicitly say that Al Adel is in Syria, but that may be the implication of his tweet. Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, is battling Bashar al Assad’s regime, which is backed by Russian forces. President Vladimir Putin deployed Russian soldiers to Syria last year and he recently announced that they will begin to withdraw.

Al Qaeda has sent a number of veteran figures to Syria to help lead Al Nusrah in its fight against Assad. If Hukama’s tweet means Al Adel has relocated to Syria, then the Egyptian jihadist is one of them. Other published reports have similarly placed Al Adel in Syria.

Al Adel and four other al Qaeda leaders were reportedly released from custody in Iran last year. The details are murky, but press accounts indicated that the five jihadists were exchanged for an Iranian diplomat who had been kidnapped in Yemen. [See LWJ report, Senior al Qaeda leaders reportedly released from custody in Iran.]

Al Qaeda released several publications by Al Adel last year. The writings were apparently intended to reintroduce Al Adel to al Qaeda’s rank and file. One of the works that was posted online deals with guerrilla warfare and revolutions. Al Adel has a reputation in jihadist circles as a sharp military strategist, and the release of the pamphlet was likely intended to expose his thinking to a wider audience.

Unlike the Islamic State, al Qaeda has pooled its resources with other rebel groups in the fight against Assad’s regime. Early last year, Al Nusrah and another al Qaeda-linked group, Ahrar al Sham, cofounded the Jaysh al Fath (“Army of Conquest”) alliance, which quickly overran the northwestern Idlib province. It is possible that Al Adel is now helping to guide Al Nusrah’s guerrilla warfare strategy, including al Qaeda’s relations with other Syrian rebel organizations.

In late August 2015, Al Adel’s eulogy of Abu Khalid al Suri, an al Qaeda veteran who served as both a senior figure in Ahrar al Sham and as Ayman al Zawahiri’s representative in Syria, was also released. Al Suri was killed in February 2014 by fighters dispatched by the Islamic State, al Qaeda’s jihadist rival. Al Suri was assigned by Zawahiri to broker a truce between Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s organization and Al Nusrah Front, but his efforts failed. Al Suri was one of the Islamic State’s harshest critics at the time of his demise.

In his eulogy, Al Adel described al Suri as the “lion of Jihad Wahl,” a training camp in pre-9/11 Afghanistan. Al Adel remembered al Suri’s time training the “youths,” helping them to “build their bodies” and “teaching them target practice.” Al Adel also reminisced about al Suri’s time yelling at the new recruits with his peculiar voice. Years later, al Suri would serve the same role in Ahrar al Sham, training the organization’s new members. A video released by Ahrar al Sham in July 2015 included a short snippet of al Suri instructing Ahrar’s recruits. And Ahrar al Sham’s own eulogy in 2014 confirmed that al Suri “supervised” its “training camps.”

Al Adel’s eulogy contained an implicit criticism of the Islamic State, as he wondered who could possibly dare “to kill a sheikh among the sheikhs of the mujahideen,” meaning al Suri. Al Adel described al Suri’s killers as having “twisted” and “perverted” thoughts.

Other leadership details

Shaybat al Hukama is a nom de guerre meaning “the eldest of the wise.” The alias is likely a tribute to Ayman al Zawahiri, as al Qaeda’s overall leader is often referred to as the “wise man” of the Muslim nation. The pseudonym is also intended to convey the jihadist’s familiarity with al Qaeda’s thinking at the highest levels. [For more on Shaybat al Hukama see LWJ report, Well-connected jihadist tweets, then deletes, explanation of al Qaeda’s oath to Mullah Omar.]

Indeed, Hukama has tweeted statements attributed to Zawahiri. On Feb. 21, for instance, he posted a letter by Zawahiri discussing the appointment of Abu Ubaydah Ahmad Umar as the emir of Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa. Abu Ubaydah became Shabaab’s emir in September 2014. Hukama said the letter included the “recommendations of the wise man,” meaning Zawahiri, to “the mujahideen’s emir in Somalia” (Abu Ubaydah).

In the letter, Zawahiri approved of Abu Ubaydah’s appointment, saying he is now “in charge of preaching and jihad” in East Africa. Zawahiri urged Ubaydah “to establish the sharia court system and enforce its rule over all” and to “use shura [consultation] as the basis and foundation of his work.”

Contrary to the widespread belief that al Qaeda doesn’t seek to conquer territory, Zawahiri referred to Ubaydah’s duties as a ruler in East Africa.

Ubaydah “should exercise patience and forgiveness, since both are great supports to the emir and wali [governor] in their respective territories,” Zawahiri wrote. The al Qaeda leader also enumerated Abu Ubaydah’s duties, explaining that he should “strive” to provide for the “mujahideen brothers…and their families,” care for the “widows and orphans of martyrs and prisoners,” ensure that the schools are strongholds for the jihadist ideology, and make certain that the “preachers and scholars” have “decent” lives so they can focus on proselytizing.

In other posts, Hukama has underscored the close relationship between Taliban emir Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour and al Qaeda’s senior leaders. For example, one of his tweets included a passage in which Mansour praised Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the founder of al Qaeda in Iraq, for their opposition to the West.

Hukama has also explained that al Qaeda’s leadership is no longer confined to South Asia, as the group now has senior operatives in the Khorasan (meaning Afghanistan and Pakistan), Yemen and Syria. Zawahiri’s man noted that this makes it more difficult for the US to hunt them down, a fact he was all too happy to trumpet on social media.

longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/03/al-qaeda-insider-returns-to-twitter-discusses-groups-global-leadership.php

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Haunted by the smell of apples: 28 years on, Kurds weep over Halabja massacre

March 18, 2016

Kurdish history is full of oppression, suffering and tragedies. But the gas attack at Halabja, 28 years ago this week, must surely be the most egregious.

In 1988, during the closing days of the Iran-Iraq war, Saddam Hussein’s army attacked the Kurdish province near the Iranian border with chemical gas, including mustard gas, sarin, cyanide and tabun. Survivors from Halabja say the gas smelled sweet like apples and instantly killed people who were exposed.

These attacks were part of a larger genocidal campaign mainly against the Kurdish people. Called al-Anfal, it cost 50,000 to 100,000 lives and destroyed 4,000 villages between February and September 1988. Al-Anfal referenced the eighth “sura” of the Koran, “The Spoils of War”, which described the campaign of extermination of non-believers by Muslim troops in 624CE under Ali Hassan al-Majid.

In Halabja, nearly 5,000 civilians were killed on the spot. A further 10,000 were left with serious injuries that affect their lives to this day. It was reported that more than 75% of the victims were women, the elderly and children. The attacks completely destroyed residential areas. Many of those who fled were never to return.

The legacy of the attack is an increased risk of cancer, miscarriage, infertility, birth defects – and a lingering trauma that is being transmitted from one generation to another.

Shocking images taken by journalists were to become global symbols of Halabja – and proofs of the depth of human cruelty. After these genocidal campaigns, many Kurds fled the country and became asylum seekers or refugees in Europe and elsewhere. Today, combined with Kurds from other countries, they constitute the largest stateless diaspora in the world.

Many Kurds believe that the rest of the world turned a blind eye to the massacres. Despite a handful of European politicians who are considered “the friends of Kurds” and who constantly raised the issue in their parliaments, such as the French politician Bernard Kouchner, the outside world did nothing to prevent these crimes and in many case still doesn’t acknowledge them for what they were – genocidal acts.

Once the main perpetrator of these crimes – Saddam Hussein – had been toppled from power, Iraq’s High Tribunal and Supreme Court recognised the al-Anfal campaign as genocide – although Halabja was not one of the crimes for which the late dictator was hanged. For many, the issue is not resolved and Kurds do not think that justice has been done. They want to see the campaign recognised as genocide across Europe.

‘Chemical’ Ali Hassan al Majid faced questions about Halabja during his trial in 2004.  US Air Force photo

Talk to people in the Kurdish diaspora, as I have for ten years now, and they’ll explain why recognition of the al-Anfal campaign as genocide across Europe is so important to them. They will tell you that various European companies supplied Saddam’s regime with the poisonous gas that murdered so many Iraqi Kurds – and should be held accountable.

They’ll point out that many of the perpetrators of these atrocities, including some of the pilots who dropped the bombs and the soldiers who directed the execution of Kurds on a systematic basis, fled to Europe as asylum seekers after the fall of Saddam. They demand that these people should be found and tried for committing crimes against humanity.

International silence

Many Kurds believe that their suffering has not been sufficiently acknowledged by the international community. Under pressure from attacks by Islamic State they are frightened at the possibility of massacres to come – and believe that international recognition would prevent these genocidal acts from happening again.

They also believe that recognition of these massacres will bring more visibility to the Kurds and to the plight of the Kurdish people in general. It would counter the consistent denial of their ethic identity and existence as a people.

The KRG has had some success with its lobbying over the years: the Norwegian, Swedish and UK parliaments have all recognised the al-Anfal campaign against the Kurds as genocide. In all these cases, MPs of Kurdish origin played a vital role in arguing their case. For instance, in the UK, Nadhim Zahawi – the first Kurdish-origin British MP – was the one who put forward the motion that prompted the British parliament to recognise the Kurdish genocide (a motion supported by, among others, Jeremy Corbyn).

Meanwhile diasporas in European cities have done what they can to keep this issue on the agenda. There have also been local diaspora initiatives, including one that convinced the Hague City Council to build a Halabja memorial to commemorate the victims.

This is all well and good. But while the atrocities visited upon the Kurds remain unrecognised as genocide by most of the world – and while murderous groups still bombard and attack defenceless people in their region, the people of Kurdistan still live in fear.

theconversation.com/haunted-by-the-smell-of-apples-28-years-on-kurds-weep-over-halabja-massacre-55979

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Iran just passed an innocuous law that's actually a big step towards gender equality

March 17, 2016

A piece of seemingly innocuous insurance legislation could be a step towards gender equality in Iran.

The top legislative body of the strictly conservative Shia Islamic state has ratified a bill which will rule that female victims of car accidents should receive the same compensation as male victims.

The Guardian Council, a 12-member committee which ensures legislation conforms to Sharia law, gave the green light to the Third Party Insurance Bill.

In Iranian Sharia law, insurance is covered by the concept of ‘blood money’. This is a form of compensation which is paid to the victim of a crime or accident, or to their family in the case of death.

The amount paid varies from case to case depending on the circumstances and extent of injuries caused.

Muslim women are usually only entitled to half of what a Muslim man would get for the same case.

The decision to change this could signal initial groundwork for further gender equality in Iran, according to Dr Ziba Mir-Hosseini, a, Iranian legal anthropologist working at SOAS.

"Once they accept that men and women are equa in terms of blood money when there is a car accident, that means they have accepted the principle, so that can set a precedent,” she said.

The law has already been passed in the Iranian parliament, known as the Maljis.

The legislation aims to ensure the financial well-being of the family members who have a senior female member who is hurt in an accident.

Rahim Zare, spokesman for the Majlis Economic Committee said: “Our justification for equality of blood money for men and women was based on the fact that some women are the heads of their households,” Iranian media outlet Press TV reported.

However, women will remain unequal in other cases, such as murder, assault or property damage, where blood money may be used.

Blood money rates for non-Muslims vary from 1/16th to half of that of a Muslim for an equivalent case.

Atheists and other sects such as Bahais, unrecognised as religious minorities by the Iranian government, are not entitled to blood money payments.

independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/iran-womens-rights-law-a6934416.html

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Two years of ‘Children, Not Soldiers’ campaign brings tangible progress in Afghanistan

Mar 17 2016

Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

A few days before I was scheduled to travel to Afghanistan, I read about the death of Wasil Ahmad. You may remember him. Wasil was an 11-year-old Afghan boy, described as a hero by some in his community for helping fight the Taliban.

According to the news reports, he took up arms last summer, reportedly after a member of his family was killed. Earlier this year, he was gunned down on his way to school in an act of revenge by the Taliban.

Wasil’s death is in many ways emblematic of the challenges we face to protect children affected by conflict in Afghanistan.

Last year, the UN recorded the highest number of civilian casualties since 2009, when it began its systematic monitoring. One in four civilian casualties was a child – an average of 54 children killed or injured ever week. Over 730 boys and girls died and close to 2,100 children were injured in ground battles, airstrikes, by improvised explosive devices or in suicide attacks.

Child recruitment and use is another serious concern in Afghanistan, and the number of cases verified by the UN in 2015 also increased dramatically. Most cases are attributed to the Taliban and other armed groups, but the UN also continues to document the recruitment and use of boys by the Afghan Local and National Police – both listed by the Secretary-General for the recruitment and use of children. Cases by the Afghan National Army have also been documented.

Afghanistan has been a country of concern on my agenda ever since the children and armed conflict mandate was created. In the first report produced by my office and presented to the UN General Assembly in 1998, poverty was identified as a key driver of child recruitment. My predecessor highlighted the importance of mobilizing domestic and international efforts to protect child soldiers and children affected by war and recommended working to improve access to education, health services, and the creation of employment opportunities.

Nearly twenty years later, sadly, this assessment is still valid. But Afghanistan has also moved forward to protect children from recruitment and use and the country is fully engaged in the campaign ‘Children, Not Soldiers’, which aims to end and prevent the recruitment and use of child soldiers in national security forces in conflict.

In 2011, the Government signed an Action Plan with the United Nations to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children in the Afghan national security forces.

Last month, in my exchanges with President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and other members of the Government, it was clear that Afghan national security forces are not recruiting children as a matter of policy.

In the past year alone, the Government has made substantial progress to implement its Action Plan. A presidential decree banning the recruitment of children in the Afghan national security forces entered into force in February 2015, and national age assessment guidelines were endorsed in December 2015 – an essential tool to protect children in a country where not everyone has been registered at birth.

During my visit, I went to a child protection unit located at the National Police recruitment centre in Herat. There, the staff told me about the importance of having people trained not only to identify and turn away underage recruits, but also to sensitize their colleagues and the population on the importance of protecting children.

There are currently six child protection units in provincial police recruitment centres in Afghanistan. The first one was established in 2011 and, by all accounts, they have kept hundreds of children away from the national security forces. The Government wants to set up these units to serve the country’s 34 provinces. This will contribute to the success of the Action Plan and I encourage the international community to support this initiative.

“Teenagers often come to the recruitment centre because they are desperate to find a job,” one of the women working at the Herat child protection unit told me. She said some of them have lost their parents and have to support their brothers and sisters. She hopes one day she will be able to propose alternatives to these boys. Promoting reintegration programmes as well as educational and economic opportunities will be key to turn the page on the recruitment and use of children in impoverished communities.

While in Herat, I also visited a juvenile rehabilitation centre where I met children – boys and girls – held in detention.  The detention of children on national security-related charges, including for association with armed groups, is an issue of concern – particularly where these children are not held in juvenile facilities and dealt with by the juvenile justice system.

There are currently over 160 detainees who were arrested as children, including over 50 who are still minors, being held on national security-related charges in Parwan, a high-security facility for adults. This is a serious issue that I raised with the Government during my visit. These children should benefit from the protections guaranteed by international law, in particular the safeguards required by juvenile justice standards.

Strengthening the rule of law and accountability are central to the success of the Action Plan, and to improve the protection of children in general. The Government has criminalized the recruitment of children in its national security forces. I strongly encourage authorities to enact in national law a general prohibition of child recruitment and use.

The momentum generated by ‘Children, Not Soldiers’ has led to tangible progress in Afghanistan. In the campaign’s last year, I invite all of those who can make a difference to join forces to support the Government’s commitment to fully implement its Action Plan to end and prevent the recruitment of children in its national security forces.

Putting in place the measures and mechanisms to protect children is hard work. Changing attitudes about the recruitment and use of child soldiers is even harder. We have come a long way.  But until children like Wasil Ahmad can grow up protected from conflict, our work won’t be done.

khaama.com/two-years-of-children-not-soldiers-campaign-brings-tangible-progress-in-afghanistan-0362

 

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Arab World

Al Qaeda insider returns to Twitter, discusses group’s global leadership

March 16, 2016

An al Qaeda media operative known as Shaybat al Hukama returned to Twitter on Feb. 15. Hukama’s account has been shuttered several times, only to reappear under a new handle after each suspension. Hukama has used his social media accounts to provide new information about al Qaeda’s operations in the past. And this occasion has been no different.

Hukama has tweeted clues concerning the whereabouts of Saif al Adel, a senior al Qaeda leader who has long been wanted by the US government for his alleged role in the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

On Feb. 25, Hukama wrote that Al Adel (seen on the right) will be one of the reasons why Russia is defeated, just as Khattab helped cause the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Khattab is a legendary Saudi jihadist who was backed by al Qaeda and organized Chechen jihadists to commit attacks in Russia.

Hukama did not explicitly say that Al Adel is in Syria, but that may be the implication of his tweet. Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, is battling Bashar al Assad’s regime, which is backed by Russian forces. President Vladimir Putin deployed Russian soldiers to Syria last year and he recently announced that they will begin to withdraw.

Al Qaeda has sent a number of veteran figures to Syria to help lead Al Nusrah in its fight against Assad. If Hukama’s tweet means Al Adel has relocated to Syria, then the Egyptian jihadist is one of them. Other published reports have similarly placed Al Adel in Syria.

Al Adel and four other al Qaeda leaders were reportedly released from custody in Iran last year. The details are murky, but press accounts indicated that the five jihadists were exchanged for an Iranian diplomat who had been kidnapped in Yemen. [See LWJ report, Senior al Qaeda leaders reportedly released from custody in Iran.]

Al Qaeda released several publications by Al Adel last year. The writings were apparently intended to reintroduce Al Adel to al Qaeda’s rank and file. One of the works that was posted online deals with guerrilla warfare and revolutions. Al Adel has a reputation in jihadist circles as a sharp military strategist, and the release of the pamphlet was likely intended to expose his thinking to a wider audience.

Unlike the Islamic State, al Qaeda has pooled its resources with other rebel groups in the fight against Assad’s regime. Early last year, Al Nusrah and another al Qaeda-linked group, Ahrar al Sham, cofounded the Jaysh al Fath (“Army of Conquest”) alliance, which quickly overran the northwestern Idlib province. It is possible that Al Adel is now helping to guide Al Nusrah’s guerrilla warfare strategy, including al Qaeda’s relations with other Syrian rebel organizations.

In late August 2015, Al Adel’s eulogy of Abu Khalid al Suri, an al Qaeda veteran who served as both a senior figure in Ahrar al Sham and as Ayman al Zawahiri’s representative in Syria, was also released. Al Suri was killed in February 2014 by fighters dispatched by the Islamic State, al Qaeda’s jihadist rival. Al Suri was assigned by Zawahiri to broker a truce between Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s organization and Al Nusrah Front, but his efforts failed. Al Suri was one of the Islamic State’s harshest critics at the time of his demise.

In his eulogy, Al Adel described al Suri as the “lion of Jihad Wahl,” a training camp in pre-9/11 Afghanistan. Al Adel remembered al Suri’s time training the “youths,” helping them to “build their bodies” and “teaching them target practice.” Al Adel also reminisced about al Suri’s time yelling at the new recruits with his peculiar voice. Years later, al Suri would serve the same role in Ahrar al Sham, training the organization’s new members. A video released by Ahrar al Sham in July 2015 included a short snippet of al Suri instructing Ahrar’s recruits. And Ahrar al Sham’s own eulogy in 2014 confirmed that al Suri “supervised” its “training camps.”

Al Adel’s eulogy contained an implicit criticism of the Islamic State, as he wondered who could possibly dare “to kill a sheikh among the sheikhs of the mujahideen,” meaning al Suri. Al Adel described al Suri’s killers as having “twisted” and “perverted” thoughts.

Other leadership details

Shaybat al Hukama is a nom de guerre meaning “the eldest of the wise.” The alias is likely a tribute to Ayman al Zawahiri, as al Qaeda’s overall leader is often referred to as the “wise man” of the Muslim nation. The pseudonym is also intended to convey the jihadist’s familiarity with al Qaeda’s thinking at the highest levels. [For more on Shaybat al Hukama see LWJ report, Well-connected jihadist tweets, then deletes, explanation of al Qaeda’s oath to Mullah Omar.]

Indeed, Hukama has tweeted statements attributed to Zawahiri. On Feb. 21, for instance, he posted a letter by Zawahiri discussing the appointment of Abu Ubaydah Ahmad Umar as the emir of Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa. Abu Ubaydah became Shabaab’s emir in September 2014. Hukama said the letter included the “recommendations of the wise man,” meaning Zawahiri, to “the mujahideen’s emir in Somalia” (Abu Ubaydah).

In the letter, Zawahiri approved of Abu Ubaydah’s appointment, saying he is now “in charge of preaching and jihad” in East Africa. Zawahiri urged Ubaydah “to establish the sharia court system and enforce its rule over all” and to “use shura [consultation] as the basis and foundation of his work.”

Contrary to the widespread belief that al Qaeda doesn’t seek to conquer territory, Zawahiri referred to Ubaydah’s duties as a ruler in East Africa.

Ubaydah “should exercise patience and forgiveness, since both are great supports to the emir and wali [governor] in their respective territories,” Zawahiri wrote. The al Qaeda leader also enumerated Abu Ubaydah’s duties, explaining that he should “strive” to provide for the “mujahideen brothers…and their families,” care for the “widows and orphans of martyrs and prisoners,” ensure that the schools are strongholds for the jihadist ideology, and make certain that the “preachers and scholars” have “decent” lives so they can focus on proselytizing.

In other posts, Hukama has underscored the close relationship between Taliban emir Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour and al Qaeda’s senior leaders. For example, one of his tweets included a passage in which Mansour praised Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the founder of al Qaeda in Iraq, for their opposition to the West.

Hukama has also explained that al Qaeda’s leadership is no longer confined to South Asia, as the group now has senior operatives in the Khorasan (meaning Afghanistan and Pakistan), Yemen and Syria. Zawahiri’s man noted that this makes it more difficult for the US to hunt them down, a fact he was all too happy to trumpet on social media.

longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/03/al-qaeda-insider-returns-to-twitter-discusses-groups-global-leadership.php

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Haunted by the smell of apples: 28 years on, Kurds weep over Halabja massacre

March 18, 2016

Kurdish history is full of oppression, suffering and tragedies. But the gas attack at Halabja, 28 years ago this week, must surely be the most egregious.

In 1988, during the closing days of the Iran-Iraq war, Saddam Hussein’s army attacked the Kurdish province near the Iranian border with chemical gas, including mustard gas, sarin, cyanide and tabun. Survivors from Halabja say the gas smelled sweet like apples and instantly killed people who were exposed.

These attacks were part of a larger genocidal campaign mainly against the Kurdish people. Called al-Anfal, it cost 50,000 to 100,000 lives and destroyed 4,000 villages between February and September 1988. Al-Anfal referenced the eighth “sura” of the Koran, “The Spoils of War”, which described the campaign of extermination of non-believers by Muslim troops in 624CE under Ali Hassan al-Majid.

In Halabja, nearly 5,000 civilians were killed on the spot. A further 10,000 were left with serious injuries that affect their lives to this day. It was reported that more than 75% of the victims were women, the elderly and children. The attacks completely destroyed residential areas. Many of those who fled were never to return.

The legacy of the attack is an increased risk of cancer, miscarriage, infertility, birth defects – and a lingering trauma that is being transmitted from one generation to another.

Shocking images taken by journalists were to become global symbols of Halabja – and proofs of the depth of human cruelty. After these genocidal campaigns, many Kurds fled the country and became asylum seekers or refugees in Europe and elsewhere. Today, combined with Kurds from other countries, they constitute the largest stateless diaspora in the world.

Many Kurds believe that the rest of the world turned a blind eye to the massacres. Despite a handful of European politicians who are considered “the friends of Kurds” and who constantly raised the issue in their parliaments, such as the French politician Bernard Kouchner, the outside world did nothing to prevent these crimes and in many case still doesn’t acknowledge them for what they were – genocidal acts.

Once the main perpetrator of these crimes – Saddam Hussein – had been toppled from power, Iraq’s High Tribunal and Supreme Court recognised the al-Anfal campaign as genocide – although Halabja was not one of the crimes for which the late dictator was hanged. For many, the issue is not resolved and Kurds do not think that justice has been done. They want to see the campaign recognised as genocide across Europe.

‘Chemical’ Ali Hassan al Majid faced questions about Halabja during his trial in 2004.  US Air Force photo

Talk to people in the Kurdish diaspora, as I have for ten years now, and they’ll explain why recognition of the al-Anfal campaign as genocide across Europe is so important to them. They will tell you that various European companies supplied Saddam’s regime with the poisonous gas that murdered so many Iraqi Kurds – and should be held accountable.

They’ll point out that many of the perpetrators of these atrocities, including some of the pilots who dropped the bombs and the soldiers who directed the execution of Kurds on a systematic basis, fled to Europe as asylum seekers after the fall of Saddam. They demand that these people should be found and tried for committing crimes against humanity.

International silence

Many Kurds believe that their suffering has not been sufficiently acknowledged by the international community. Under pressure from attacks by Islamic State they are frightened at the possibility of massacres to come – and believe that international recognition would prevent these genocidal acts from happening again.

They also believe that recognition of these massacres will bring more visibility to the Kurds and to the plight of the Kurdish people in general. It would counter the consistent denial of their ethic identity and existence as a people.

The KRG has had some success with its lobbying over the years: the Norwegian, Swedish and UK parliaments have all recognised the al-Anfal campaign against the Kurds as genocide. In all these cases, MPs of Kurdish origin played a vital role in arguing their case. For instance, in the UK, Nadhim Zahawi – the first Kurdish-origin British MP – was the one who put forward the motion that prompted the British parliament to recognise the Kurdish genocide (a motion supported by, among others, Jeremy Corbyn).

Meanwhile diasporas in European cities have done what they can to keep this issue on the agenda. There have also been local diaspora initiatives, including one that convinced the Hague City Council to build a Halabja memorial to commemorate the victims.

This is all well and good. But while the atrocities visited upon the Kurds remain unrecognised as genocide by most of the world – and while murderous groups still bombard and attack defenceless people in their region, the people of Kurdistan still live in fear.

http://theconversation.com/haunted-by-the-smell-of-apples-28-years-on-kurds-weep-over-halabja-massacre-55979

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Bahrainis Rally against Al Khalifa Regime Crackdown

March 17, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Hundreds of protesters have taken to the streets in several areas across Bahrain to show their anger at the ruling Al Khalifa regime’s crackdown and attacks against political dissidents.

On Wednesday evening, demonstrators staged a rally in the town of A'ali, about three kilometers (1.8 miles) southeast of the capital, Manama, shouting anti-regime slogans and demanding the downfall of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Press TV reported.

Elsewhere in the northwestern village of Diraz, 12 kilometers (7 miles) southeast of Manama, demonstrators stressed that they would continue with peaceful protests for the fulfillment of their democratic demands.

Protesters also marched along streets in the village of Abu Saiba, west of the capital, holding portraits of Sheikh Ali Salman, who heads Bahrain’s main opposition bloc, al-Wefaq National Islamic Society. They denounced Saudi Arabia's military presence in Bahrain and chanted slogans against the Saudi regime.

A similar anti-regime demonstration was held in the village of Muqaba, where protesters condemned the regime’s heavy-handed crackdown against dissidents. They also demanded the immediate release of all political prisoners.

Since February 14, 2011, thousands of anti-regime protesters have held numerous rallies on an almost daily basis in Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa family to relinquish power.

In March that year, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to the country to assist the Bahraini government in its crackdown on peaceful protests.

Scores of people have been killed and hundreds of others injured or arrested in the crackdowns.

Amnesty and many other international rights organizations have frequently censured the Bahraini regime over the “rampant” human rights abuses against opposition activists and anti-regime protesters.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941227000334

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Army, Allies Inflict Heavy Toll on ISIL Commanders in Damascus

March 17, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Scores of ISIL terrorists, including their ringleaders, were killed and many more were wounded after their gathering centers in the Northwestern part of Damascus were attacked by the Syrian army and popular forces.

The Syrian artillery units, supported by their allies, opened heavy fire at the ISIL concentration centers in Jaroud Flitah in the Western Qalamoun, which claimed the lives of many terrorists, including their leaders.

Also, the ISIL positions in the two passages of al-Zamarani and al-Qasira in the same region were shelled with artillery fire and rockets which destroyed the militants' weapons and equipment.

In another development in Dariya, the terrorists violated the ceasefire which received the response of the Syrian army.

A top militant commander was killed on Tuesday as the vehicle carrying him was tracked and targeted by Syrian army on a road in Eastern Qalamoun in Damascus province, an informed source said.

"One of the top leaders of Ahrar al-Sham terrorist group, Yamen Kan'an also known as Abu Hifs, was killed in the car carrying him along with some of his comrades on a road near the city of al-Nasiriya in Eastern Qalamoun," the military source on the ground said.

Ahrar al-Sham is an al-Qaeda linked group fighting against the Syrian government and is considered as a terrorist group active in the country.

Also on Monday, in Damascus province, terrorists of another Al-Qaeda affiliated group, the al-Nusra Front, conducted attacks on the Syrian Army’s defenses at Jabal Waqa’at near the strategic town of Al-Tal in the last couple of days, resulting in a violent confrontation with pro-government troops, army sources said.

The Syrian Armed Forces repelled the al-Nusra attack, killing Eight militants before the group retreated towards the village of ‘Ayn Mineen in the western parts of Damascus province, the sources reported.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941227000205

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50% of ISIL-Controlled Territory in Iraq Liberated

March 17, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- US military spokesperson in Iraq announced the liberation of about 50% of the territory controlled by the ISIL terrorist group in the country, emphasizing that the ISIL has not made any progress since last May.

The Pentagon spokesperson, Steve Warren said during a press conference that “24,000 square kilometers of the Iraqi land were liberated in Tikrit, Baiji, Ramadi, Heet and some other cities,” Iraqi News reported.

He noted that, “The liberated territories represent nearly 50% of the areas that were controlled by ISIL.”

Warren added, “ISIL did not achieve any victory or progress since last May.”

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941227000280

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Major combat in Yemen coming to an end, says Saudi-led coalition

March 17th, 2016

CAIRO: A spokesman for the Saudi-led military coalition says that major combat operations in Yemen are coming to an end, after which the coalition will work on "long-term" plans to bring stability to the country.

Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asiri told The Associated Press on Thursday that the coalition will continue to provide air support to Yemeni forces battling Houthi rebels and militants on the ground.

The year long air campaign and ground assault was intended to roll back the Houthis, who seized the capital, Sanaa, in 2014 and still control it.

Al-Asiri says the coalition is investigating reports of mass killings in northern Yemen after two Saudi-led airstrikes hit a market on Tuesday.

The Houthi-controlled state news agency, SABA, said at least 65 people were killed and 55 wounded.

dawn.com/news/1246284/major-combat-in-yemen-coming-to-an-end-says-saudi-led-coalition

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Russia to finish Syria pullout in ‘2-3 days’: General

March 17 2016

Russia will complete the withdrawal of the bulk of its forces from Syria before the end of the week, a top Russian general suggested in an interview published on March 17.

“I think this will be over very quickly. Within the timeframe determined by [the president] and the defense minister. Today or tomorrow... within two-three days we will complete the task,” Viktor Bondarev, the commander of the Russian Air Force, told Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.

The interview was published in the newspaper March 17 but put online late March 16. It was not clear precisely when the general made his remarks.

Russian planes have been flying back home from Syria since March 15 after Russian President Vladimir Putin gave the surprise order to pull out most of Moscow’s forces in the war-torn country.

Russia is set to keep its air base near Latakia in Syria and the Tartus naval facility and it remains unclear what sort of presence exactly Moscow will leave behind.

Bondarev said that along with warplanes, Russia will pull out helicopters by loading them onto cargo planes.

Russia had been carrying out a campaign to bomb “terrorist” targets in Syria since Sept. 30, 2015 in a campaign Western powers said mainly went after rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces to bolster his regime.

Bondarev said that between 500 and 700 people who participated in Moscow’s airstrike campaign in Syria are set to receive medals.

Putin was set to decorate pilots and personnel who returned from Syria in the Kremlin later March 17.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military said March 16 that it has seen no significant reduction in Russia’s combat power in Syria despite Putin’s surprise announcement.

Colonel Steve Warren, a U.S. military spokesman in the region, said Russian intentions remain unclear.

“We have not seen a significant reduction, frankly, in their combat power. Particularly the ground combat power remain static, the air combat power has been slightly reduced, but that’s it,” he said.

Warren said there were some indications of small units packing up, and eight to 10 Russian aircraft have left the country.

The first warplanes arrived back in Russia on March 15 to a hero’s welcome.

But Warren said the US military remains uncertain about Moscow’s plans.

“There is a long list of possibilities and rather than getting into each one of them, we’re going to continue to focus on fighting ISIL [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant],” he said.

The White House, however, said March 15 that Moscow appeared to be moving forward on its commitment to withdraw forces and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he will travel to Russia next week for a meeting with Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

On March 16, Kerry told Lavrov that the need for progress toward political transition in Syria was urgent, and he emphasized the importance of maintaining the cessation of hostilities, the U.S. State Department said.

Kerry’s phone call with Lavrov followed a call between President Barack Obama and Putin and came ahead of Kerry’s trip to Moscow next week, the department said in a statement.

hurriyetdailynews.com/russia-to-finish-syria-pullout-in-2-3-days-general-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=96563&NewsCatID=352

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Envoy: Iran Willing to Increase Trade Exchanges with China

March 17, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iran's Ambassador to Beijing Ali Asqar Khaji stressed the country's preparedness to further boost economic cooperation and trade exchanges with Beijing.

"We need to further broaden our trade relations," Khaji said on Wednesday, addressing the annual meeting of Beijing-based Iranian Expatriates' Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.

He underscored Iran's readiness to remove obstacles preventing implementation of approvals of Iran-China Joint Commission, and said, "Iran is willing to increase the volume of its trade transactions with Beijing."

In relevant remarks in January, Iranian Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mahmoud Vaezi underlined that Tehran and Beijing are determined to further broaden their mutual cooperation after the recent implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

"Using the letter of credit (LC) and transfer of technology will the main cores of our bilateral relations," Vaezi said in a meeting with Chinese Minister of Industry and Information in Tehran.

He pointed to the vast potentials for Iran-China cooperation, and said, "The Chinese companies can cooperate with Iran in transfer of technology and know-how."

Vaezi pointed to the formation of Iran-China joint cooperation commission, and said, "This commission will follow up the agreements signed between the two sides until the phase of implementation."

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941227000117

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Syrian Army Destroys Tunnel in Deir Ezzur, Kills Terrorists Inside

March 17, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army units in the Eastern province of Deir Ezzur blew up a tunnel dug by terrorist groups, killing all militants stationed in the tunnel and other nearby positions.

The 33-meter-long tunnel was dug in al-Jabilah district in the Southwestern parts of Ferdous mosque whose detonation led to the destruction of a two-story base and a house occupied by the terrorists.

All militants inside the base, house and tunnel were killed as a result of the blast.

In a relevant development in Deir Ezzur on Wednesday, the Syrian army hit hard ISIL's military positions and gathering centers, inflicting heavy losses on them.

The army units pounded the Takfiri terrorists' positions from four different directions in Deir Ezzur.

Scores of ISIL militants were killed and wounded in heavy clashes with the Syrian government troops.

Also yesterday, the Syrian army men stormed the ISIL positions in the neighborhood of al-Haweiqa, which ended in the killing or wounding of several terrorists and inflicted serious damage on their military vehicles and equipment.

Meantime, the Syrian Army troops opened heavy fire at a column of ISIL vehicles carrying fuel and foodstuff in the Southern part of Deir Ezzur city, inflicting major damage on the convoy.

The ISIL fuel tankers, supplying trucks guarded by several heavy machinegun-equipped vehicles came under the attack of Syrian Tank's shelling on a road connecting Haql al-Tim to al-Shouleh.

Most of the convoy's vehicles were destroyed and their guard were killed or wounded in the attacks.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941227000221

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Mideast

Iran just passed an innocuous law that's actually a big step towards gender equality

March 17, 2016

A piece of seemingly innocuous insurance legislation could be a step towards gender equality in Iran.

The top legislative body of the strictly conservative Shia Islamic state has ratified a bill which will rule that female victims of car accidents should receive the same compensation as male victims.

The Guardian Council, a 12-member committee which ensures legislation conforms to Sharia law, gave the green light to the Third Party Insurance Bill.

In Iranian Sharia law, insurance is covered by the concept of ‘blood money’. This is a form of compensation which is paid to the victim of a crime or accident, or to their family in the case of death.

The amount paid varies from case to case depending on the circumstances and extent of injuries caused.

Muslim women are usually only entitled to half of what a Muslim man would get for the same case.

The decision to change this could signal initial groundwork for further gender equality in Iran, according to Dr Ziba Mir-Hosseini, a, Iranian legal anthropologist working at SOAS.

"Once they accept that men and women are equa in terms of blood money when there is a car accident, that means they have accepted the principle, so that can set a precedent,” she said.

The law has already been passed in the Iranian parliament, known as the Maljis.

The legislation aims to ensure the financial well-being of the family members who have a senior female member who is hurt in an accident.

Rahim Zare, spokesman for the Majlis Economic Committee said: “Our justification for equality of blood money for men and women was based on the fact that some women are the heads of their households,” Iranian media outlet Press TV reported.

However, women will remain unequal in other cases, such as murder, assault or property damage, where blood money may be used.

Blood money rates for non-Muslims vary from 1/16th to half of that of a Muslim for an equivalent case.

Atheists and other sects such as Bahais, unrecognised as religious minorities by the Iranian government, are not entitled to blood money payments.

independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/iran-womens-rights-law-a6934416.html

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29 people were detained in the terrorist operation in Istanbul 

AGENDA,March 17, 2016

terrorist organization PKK in Istanbul detained in the operation against 9 of the 29 suspects were undergoing health checks.

Provincial Police Anti-Terror Branch teams, 32 addresses in Istanbul, 7 and 9 are in the city who had been detained in an operation to address a lawyer takes 20 procedures in 29 suspect's safety.

under the security measures of the suspects brought to Bayrampasa State Hospital, it passed through 9 checkup. The suspects were then taken back to the Provincial Police Headquarters in Vatan Street campus.

zaman.com.tr/istanbuldaki-teror-orgutu-operasyonunda-29-kisi-gozaltina-alindi/

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Van thousand police operation against the PKK 

AGENDA, March 17, 2016

Van, with the participation of thousands of police to address the simultaneous operation carried out 32, 19 people were taken into custody, including DBP Provincial Co-Chair of smoke and cava also found.

According to information received, the Public Prosecutor of Van terrorist organization PKK's youth organization for the city and the investigation carried out under the Provincial Security Directorate teams organized 32 addresses simultaneously in operation.

A thousand police participated in air support operations

Launched in the morning in the city and was searched 32 addresses in air support operations in which about a thousand police participated. DBP Provincial Co-Chair of the smoke and the cava was taken into custody 19 people, among them. 2 guns in the operation, two shotguns, Kalashnikov brand long-barreled weapons, 421 rounds of these weapons, 3 radios, 5 kitchen tube and organizational documents were seized.

zaman.com.tr/vanda-bin-polisle-pkk-operasyonu/

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Terror group TAK says it is behind Ankara bombing

ISTANBUL,March 17, 2016

The Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK), a terror group linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack that killed 37 people in the capital Ankara, according to a statement on its website on March 17.

The group described the car bombing, which occurred on March 13, as “vengeful action” for security operations in the southeast that have been underway since July.

TAK previously claimed responsibility for a separate car bombing in Ankara last month that killed 29 people. TAK says it split from the PKK. Experts who follow Kurdish militants say the groups retain ties.

The suicide bomber was identified as Seher Çagla Demir, who was a member of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) born in 1992, according to the Interior Ministry.

hurriyetdailynews.com/terror-group-tak-says-it-is-behind-ankara-bombing-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=96561&NewsCatID=509

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German embassy, consulate in Turkey closed over threat of possible attack

ANKARA, Mar 17 2016,

The German Federal Foreign Office announced on March 17 that the German embassy in Ankara has been closed over the threat of a possible attack.

German embassy officials in Ankara told Hürriyet Daily News the move was a “one-day precaution taken due to [an] unconfirmed indication of an attack.”

The German consulate in Istanbul and the Deutsche Schule Istanbul school have also been closed, the office added.

The Deutsche Schule announced the suspension of classes for one day due to security reasons.

The school management issued a message to parents and students saying the school would be closed for one day on March 17 following a warning from the German consulate in Istanbul.

hurriyetdailynews.com/german-embassy-consulate-in-turkey-closed-over-threat-of-possible-attack.aspx?pageID=238&nID=96560&NewsCatID=341

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Tough bargain awaits Turkey at EU summit

ANKARA,Mar 16 2016,

A tough bargain awaits Turkey at a European Union summit on March 17-18 over the Turkey-EU draft deal, which aims to curb the migrant influx into the European Union in exchange for visa liberalization for Turkish citizens and a boost in Turkey’s accession talks to the bloc.

The EU-Turkey deal is not offering Turkey “a free ride,” European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans said March 16.

Timmermans told a news conference that Turkey would, for example, need to carry out required measures by the end of April to allow Turkish citizens visa-free travel into the EU by the end of June, as Ankara has requested.

“We are certainly not giving Turkey a free ride,” he said.

He also said Turkish requests to open new “chapters” of its long-stalled negotiation on accession to the EU would be considered and said that would need the agreement of EU member states.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said March 16 that the planned deal offers the first “real chance” to end the migrant crisis that has occasioned the EU’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II but cautioned that the bloc would not seek an agreement at any cost.

Speaking on the eve of the crucial summit in Brussels, Merkel made clear the EU would stand firm on civil rights in Turkey and that Ankara’s bid to eventually join the 28-nation club was “not on the agenda now.”

Hours after holding a meeting with Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades on March 15, EU Council President Donald Tusk said there was still “hard work” to do to adjust the new refugee deal with Turkey so that it becomes “acceptable” to all members of the 28-member EU.

“My task for our summit on Thursday and Friday [March 17-18] is to put together the elements needed to make this proposal legally sound, in line with EU and international law, practically implementable, and of course acceptable to all 28 EU member states as well as to Turkey. That is why I am here in Ankara today,” Tusk said March 15 at a joint press conference following talks with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Ankara.

For his part, Davutoglu said the aim of the 6 billion-euro agreement with the EU on refugees was to reduce illegal migration and make passage to Europe safe.

In a summit with the European Union on March 7, Turkey asked for an extra 3 billion euros in aid in return for its cooperation in stemming the tide of refugees making their way to Europe.

That was on top of the 3 billion euros that the EU agreed to give Ankara in November last year to aid refugees on Turkish territory.

Turkey did not bargain over money and does not see the issue as a financial one but rather a humanitarian one, Davutoglu said.

Tusk has stressed in a note to EU leaders that a planned deal with Turkey to stem the flow of migrants to Greek islands will be a “temporary and extraordinary measure,” according to Reuters.

Under the plan hailed as a “game-changer,” Turkey would seek to stop refugees’ dangerous sea journeys and take back illegal migrants from Greece. For each Syrian Turkey accepts, it would send one to the EU in a more orderly redistribution program.

But the proposed deal – which would offer Turkey eased access to the visa-free Schengen zone and an acceleration of EU accession talks – has drawn heavy fire on several fronts.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said March 15 that he would tell Turkey at the Brussels summit that it wants more effective cooperation with Ankara on the migrant crisis, but will warn against any attempt at “blackmail.”

It is “essential” to work with Turkey, “but there must not be the slightest blackmail,” Valls told the French parliament.

On the same day, the Czech Republic alleged that Turkey was “blackmailing” the EU with demands for extra cash to curb the flow of refugees and migrants to member state Greece. 

“The EU’s original proposal to Turkey was for 3 billion euros, now Turkey is asking 6 billion euros and there is talk... of about up to 20 billion euros,” Czech President Milos Zeman said following talks with his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda in Prague.

“Impolite people like myself call that blackmail,” the 71-year-old veteran left-winger told reporters.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, told Reuters on March 15, that the EU risked compromising its human rights values if it failed to ensure Turkey offers proper protection to all refugees. He added that the U.N. needed to feel assured that Turkey gives full protection to those who merit it.

“We would rather see that full protections are provided,” he said. “There are many concerns we have about the human rights situation in [Turkey], we need to feel assured that the full protection is given to those who merit it.”

hurriyetdailynews.com/tough-bargain-awaits-turkey-at-eu-summit.aspx?pageID=238&nID=96549&NewsCatID=351

US opposes possible Kurdish federal system in Syria now, but leaves door ajar

WASHINGTON – Reuters,March 17, 2016

The United States said on March 16 that it opposed Syrian Kurds forming an autonomous region in northern Syria but could accept such an arrangement if the Syrians themselves ultimately agreed on it.

Syrian Kurds are considering combining three autonomous areas of northern Syria into a federal arrangement, a step that could pave the way to Syria’s breakup. Such a move, potentially could alarm Turkey, fearing their moves could stoke separatism among Turkish Kurds.

The United States has long taken the stance that it favors the unity and territorial integrity of Syria, which has been riven by a five-year civil war in which more than 250,000 people have died and millions have fled their homes.

“We won’t recognize any kind of ... self-ruled, semi-autonomous zones in Syria,” U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said at his daily briefing, referring to reports that the Syrian Kurds were considering a federal structure.

“We have been very clear about our belief in the territorial integrity and unity of Syria and we believe that the creation of these kinds of semi-autonomous zones now ... would frankly be a threat to that,” he added.

Pressed on whether the United States could accept a federal structure for Syria if that were ultimately the choice of the Syrian people themselves, the spokesman replied: “Yes.”

On-again, off-again U.N.-brokered peace talks on Syria resumed in Geneva this week.

Last week, diplomats said major powers close to the talks were discussing the possibility of a federal division of the war-torn country that would maintain its unity as a single state while granting broad autonomy to regional authorities.

Asked if the United States could accept an outcome where Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remained in charge of a rump Syria, Toner replied: “Our position on Assad has not changed. We believe he should go.”

But the spokesman noted the United States has been willing to engage in a diplomatic effort to resolve the war even while Assad’s fate has not been decided.

“We don’t believe that Assad can be part of any future for Syria,” he said. “But ... we have not let that be a ... 20-foot brick wall that allows us to make no progress because there are others who believe differently. So ultimately, that’s going to be a decision that we think will be resolved by the negotiating parties.”

hurriyetdailynews.com/us-opposes-possible-kurdish-federal-system-in-syria-now-but-leaves-door-ajar.aspx?pageID=238&nID=96562&NewsCatID=352

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South Asia

Two years of ‘Children, Not Soldiers’ campaign brings tangible progress in Afghanistan

Mar 17 2016

Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

A few days before I was scheduled to travel to Afghanistan, I read about the death of Wasil Ahmad. You may remember him. Wasil was an 11-year-old Afghan boy, described as a hero by some in his community for helping fight the Taliban.

According to the news reports, he took up arms last summer, reportedly after a member of his family was killed. Earlier this year, he was gunned down on his way to school in an act of revenge by the Taliban.

Wasil’s death is in many ways emblematic of the challenges we face to protect children affected by conflict in Afghanistan.

Last year, the UN recorded the highest number of civilian casualties since 2009, when it began its systematic monitoring. One in four civilian casualties was a child – an average of 54 children killed or injured ever week. Over 730 boys and girls died and close to 2,100 children were injured in ground battles, airstrikes, by improvised explosive devices or in suicide attacks.

Child recruitment and use is another serious concern in Afghanistan, and the number of cases verified by the UN in 2015 also increased dramatically. Most cases are attributed to the Taliban and other armed groups, but the UN also continues to document the recruitment and use of boys by the Afghan Local and National Police – both listed by the Secretary-General for the recruitment and use of children. Cases by the Afghan National Army have also been documented.

Afghanistan has been a country of concern on my agenda ever since the children and armed conflict mandate was created. In the first report produced by my office and presented to the UN General Assembly in 1998, poverty was identified as a key driver of child recruitment. My predecessor highlighted the importance of mobilizing domestic and international efforts to protect child soldiers and children affected by war and recommended working to improve access to education, health services, and the creation of employment opportunities.

Nearly twenty years later, sadly, this assessment is still valid. But Afghanistan has also moved forward to protect children from recruitment and use and the country is fully engaged in the campaign ‘Children, Not Soldiers’, which aims to end and prevent the recruitment and use of child soldiers in national security forces in conflict.

In 2011, the Government signed an Action Plan with the United Nations to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children in the Afghan national security forces.

Last month, in my exchanges with President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and other members of the Government, it was clear that Afghan national security forces are not recruiting children as a matter of policy.

In the past year alone, the Government has made substantial progress to implement its Action Plan. A presidential decree banning the recruitment of children in the Afghan national security forces entered into force in February 2015, and national age assessment guidelines were endorsed in December 2015 – an essential tool to protect children in a country where not everyone has been registered at birth.

During my visit, I went to a child protection unit located at the National Police recruitment centre in Herat. There, the staff told me about the importance of having people trained not only to identify and turn away underage recruits, but also to sensitize their colleagues and the population on the importance of protecting children.

There are currently six child protection units in provincial police recruitment centres in Afghanistan. The first one was established in 2011 and, by all accounts, they have kept hundreds of children away from the national security forces. The Government wants to set up these units to serve the country’s 34 provinces. This will contribute to the success of the Action Plan and I encourage the international community to support this initiative.

“Teenagers often come to the recruitment centre because they are desperate to find a job,” one of the women working at the Herat child protection unit told me. She said some of them have lost their parents and have to support their brothers and sisters. She hopes one day she will be able to propose alternatives to these boys. Promoting reintegration programmes as well as educational and economic opportunities will be key to turn the page on the recruitment and use of children in impoverished communities.

While in Herat, I also visited a juvenile rehabilitation centre where I met children – boys and girls – held in detention.  The detention of children on national security-related charges, including for association with armed groups, is an issue of concern – particularly where these children are not held in juvenile facilities and dealt with by the juvenile justice system.

There are currently over 160 detainees who were arrested as children, including over 50 who are still minors, being held on national security-related charges in Parwan, a high-security facility for adults. This is a serious issue that I raised with the Government during my visit. These children should benefit from the protections guaranteed by international law, in particular the safeguards required by juvenile justice standards.

Strengthening the rule of law and accountability are central to the success of the Action Plan, and to improve the protection of children in general. The Government has criminalized the recruitment of children in its national security forces. I strongly encourage authorities to enact in national law a general prohibition of child recruitment and use.

The momentum generated by ‘Children, Not Soldiers’ has led to tangible progress in Afghanistan. In the campaign’s last year, I invite all of those who can make a difference to join forces to support the Government’s commitment to fully implement its Action Plan to end and prevent the recruitment of children in its national security forces.

Putting in place the measures and mechanisms to protect children is hard work. Changing attitudes about the recruitment and use of child soldiers is even harder. We have come a long way.  But until children like Wasil Ahmad can grow up protected from conflict, our work won’t be done.

khaama.com/two-years-of-children-not-soldiers-campaign-brings-tangible-progress-in-afghanistan-0362

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54 Taliban militants killed amid surging violence in Helmand province

By KHAAMA PRESS - Thu Mar 17 2016, 2:26 pm

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Afghan army artilleryAt least 54 Taliban militants were killed in the latest wave of violence in southern Helmand province of Afghanistan, the defense authorities said Wednesday.

The Ministry of Defense (MoD) said at least 3 militants were also wounded during the operations conducted in Khanshin and Nad-e-Ali districts.

According to an operational update by the Ministry of Defense (MoD), the Afghan army artillery and ground forces pounded the Taliban insurgents in the two districts during the past 24 hours.

This comes as reports emerged earlier this week that the Taliban militants have taken control of Khanshin district following a coordinated attack.

According to the local authorities, the Taliban militants have overrun some security posts which were providing security to the district administrative compound.

The official further added that clashes still continue between the Taliban militants and the security forces after the control of the security posts were lost.

Helmand is among the volatile provinces in southern Afghanistan where anti-government armed militant groups are actively operating in its various districts and frequently carry out insurgency activities.

The Taliban militants have repeatedly launched coordinated attacks to capture key districts in Helmand province during the past several months.

khaama.com/54-taliban-militants-killed-amid-surging-violence-in-helmand-province-0367

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7 ISIS loyalists, 3 public uprising forces killed in Nangarhar clash

By KHAAMA PRESS - Thu Mar 17 2016, 11:42 am

At least seven loyalists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group were killed during a clash with the public uprising forces in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

According to the local government officials, clashes between the two sides broke out after a group of ISIS militants launched an attack on security posts of the public uprising forces.

The officials further added that the incident took place in Achin district which was once a stronghold of the terror group in this province.

The district administrative chief Haji Ghalib said the militants affiliated with ISIS terror group launched the attack on security posts in Deh Sarak area around 11:00 pm local time.

He confirmed 7 ISIS loyalists were killed during the clashes and 3 members of the public uprising forces fighting the terror group lost their lives.

Militants affiliated with the ISIS terror group are occasionally conducting terror activities despite facing major setbacks during the recent months in Achin and Nazian districts of Nangarhar.

The provincial officials in Nangarhar province announced earlier this month that the counter-terrorism operations to suppress the activities of the terror group concluded after 21 days, leaving nearly 300 loyalists of the terror group were killed or wounded during the operations.

The operations were launched by the Afghan security forces amid concerns that the loyalists of the terror group are establishing a regional operational base as they were attempting to consolidate operations with the terror group in Syria and Iraq.

The coalition officials estimated around 1,000 to 3,000 Islamic State fighters are stationed in in eastern Afghanistan and are trying to establish a base of operations in the rugged mountains of Nangahar Province.

khaama.com/7-isis-loyalists-3-public-uprising-forces-killed-in-nangarhar-clash-0364

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Afghan intelligence thwart suicide attack plot in Jalalabad city

By KHAAMA PRESS - Thu Mar 17 2016, 9:51 am

suicide attack plot in Jalalabad cityThe Afghan intelligence operatives thwarted another terrorist attack plot in Jalalabad city, the provincial capital of eastern Nangarhar province which has witnessed some deadly attacks during the recent months.

According to a statement by the National Directorate of Security (NDS), two suspected militants were arrested and a rickshaw vehicle packed with explosives was seized in connection to the latest attack plot.

The statement further added that the two militants were arrested during an operation from Surkh Rod district of Nangarhar province.

NDS said the suspects have been identified as Najibullah son of Shafta Gul and Reyazullah son of Najibullah who were looking to carry out suicide attack using the explosives-laden rickshaw in Jalalabd city.

This comes as the Afghan intelligence detained 7 suspected militants in connection to a coordinated suicide attack plot in Jalalabd city last week.

Without disclosing further information regarding the potential target of the militants, NDS said the group was looking to launch the attack using assault rifles and rocket propelled grenade launcher.

The anti-government armed militants launched a coordinated attack on Indian consulate in Jalalabad city earlier this month, which left at least 3 dead and around 19 others wounded.

The militants also launched another attack in Jalalabad city back in January this year which left at least 13 dead and around 14 others wounded.

khaama.com/afghan-intelligence-thwart-suicide-attack-plot-in-jalalabad-city-0361

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Key Taliban Leader Arrested in Southeastern Afghanistan

Mar 17 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- A Key Taliban commander involved in major terrorist activities has been arrested in Southeastern Ghazni province of Afghanistan.

The Afghan Intelligence – National Directorate of Security (NDS) said Khalil-ur-Rehman was a senior Taliban commander was involved in organizing suicide attacks and other terrorist activities in Ghazni city.

NDS further added that Qari Rehman was arrested during a special military operation conducted by the intelligence operatives, Khaama Press repoted.

No further details were given regarding the exact location and timing of the operation that led to the arrest of the top Taliban operative.

The intelligence agency also added that Rehman was arrested in close cooperation with the local residents, preventing him to plan and coordinate further attacks in this province.

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

Ghazni is among the relatively volatile provinces in southeastern Afghanistan where anti-government armed militant groups including the Taliban insurgents are actively operating in its various parts.

The insurgents are mainly involved in carrying out explosions and target killings as well kidnappings in this province.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941227000427

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Key Taliban leader involved in major attacks arrested in Ghazni

By KHAAMA PRESS - Thu Mar 17 2016

A key Taliban leader arrested in GhazniA key Taliban commander involved in major terrorist activities has been arrested in southeastern Ghazni province of Afghanistan.

The Afghan Intelligence – National Directorate of Security (NDS) said Qari Khalil-ur-Rehman was a senior Taliban commander was involved in organizing suicide attacks and other terrorist activities in Ghazni city.

NDS further added that Qari Rehman was arrested during a special military operation conducted by the intelligence operatives.

No further details were given regarding the exact location and timing of the operation that led to the apprehension of Qari Rehman.

The intelligence agency also added that Qari Rehman was arrested in close cooperation with the local residents, preventing him to plan and coordinate further attacks in this province.

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

Ghazni is among the relatively volatile provinces in southeastern Afghanistan where anti-government armed militant groups including the Taliban insurgents are actively operating in its various parts.

The insurgents are mainly involved in carrying out explosions and target killings as well kidnappings in this province.

khaama.com/key-taliban-leader-involved-in-major-attacks-arrested-in-ghazni-0366

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Noor says he has no intentions to prevent narcotics cultivation in Balkh

By KHAAMA PRESS - Thu Mar 17 2016, 12:26 pm

The acting provincial governor of northern Balkh province Ata Mohammad Noor has said he has no intentions to prevent the cultivation and trade of opium in this province.

Noor who is leading Jamiat-e-Islami party, harshly criticized the way funds were spent on counter-narcotics campaigns in Afghanistan, saying he will not taken any actions in areas under his control.

He said the international community has spent over $7.8 billion to prevent the cultivation and smuggle of opium in the country over a period of ten years.

However, Noor claimed only $7 million of the grants have been spent in the country to destroy opium fields and prevent cultivation and smuggle of drugs.

“$7.8 billion has been spent and we should be clarified on how and where the funds have been allocated. What has been done for us? Annually, $7 million has been given which is equivalent to $7 million, taking into account the 7 years period. Nearly $8 billion has been allocated and it should be accounted for to ascertain in which parts of Afghanistan the funds have been spent,” Noor was quoted as saying in a report by Radio Free Europe.

Noor has also claimed that the remaining funds have fallen into the hands of the Mafia members who are expanding the cultivation and smuggle of opium in the country, insisting that the majority of the opium were cultivated in southern provinces where coalition forces were also stationed.

Noor also added that he was accused of having role in opium cultivation and smuggle after he tried to prevent smuggle of drugs from Kandahar airfield.

khaama.com/noor-says-he-has-no-intentions-to-prevent-narcotics-cultivation-in-balkh-0365

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Unidentified gunmen kidnap 3 civilians in Nooristan

By ZABIHULLAH MOOSAKHAIL - Thu Mar 17 2016, 10:32 am

gunmenA group of unknown armed men have kidnapped three civilians in eastern Nooristan province, an official said on Wednesday.

According to the official, the three men were dragged out of a vehicle in the outskirt of Paroun, the provincial capital of Nooristan, and taken to an undisclosed location.

They are originally from neighboring Kunar province but were going to Barg Matal district to work as day labors, the official said.

He added that there is no information about the where about of the hostages but local elders and administration is trying to locate them and set them free.

Motive behind the incident is unknown but militants often stop civilian vehicles in volatile parts of the country and kidnap passengers after accusing them as being government employee

khaama.com/unidentified-gunmen-kidnap-3-civilians-in-nooristan-4749

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Construction of separate training facility for policewomen starts in Nangarhar

By ZABIHULLAH MOOSAKHAIL - Thu Mar 17 2016, 9:53 am

ANP-womenThe foundation stone of a separate training facility for policewomen has been laid in the Regional Training Center of Police in eastern Nangarhar province.

The training facility which would be constructed in a period of 18 months is being financed by the US military with a total fund of $5 million.

When the facility is constructed, 300 policewomen would be able to receive training there, said Colonel Abdul Ghafar Qayel, commander of the Regional Training Center of Police.

The training center is hub for several provinces, particularly, Laghman, Kunar and Nooristan.

khaama.com/construction-of-separate-training-facility-for-policewomen-starts-in-nangarhar-4748

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Palestinian Officials Condemn Israel's New Seizure of Lands

Mar 17 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Senior Palestinian officials said that Israel's new round of land confiscation in the West Bank would undermine the two-state solution.

Jericho Governor Majid Fityani said that the Israel confiscated 2,340 dunum of land (about 568 acres) in southern Jericho, near the Dead Sea and claimed it "state land", Xinhua reported.

Fityani condemned the step as part of Israel's targeting of the Jordan Valleys area that is considered the food basket for the Palestinians.

He said that this shows "the real face of Israel that is not interested in the two-state solution."

Secretary General of Palestine Liberation organization's (PLO) Executive Committee Saeb Erekat said the move, which came when the French peace envoy arrived in the region, "is manifestation of Israel's culture of evading punishment granted to it by the international community, which is the main obstacle to ending the Israeli occupation."

Israeli rights group Peace Now said the confiscation order is one of the biggest in the past few years. The organization clarified that the confiscation is made for settlement purposes.

Israeli Public Radio reported that UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon called on Israel to retract the step and said it would "impede the two-state solution."

According to the radio station, a US State Department spokesperson described in a statement the settlement activity in the West Bank as illegal.

The Jewish settlements in the West Bank are deemed illegal by many powers, including the United States, China and the European Union, and have contributed to the stalling of the peace process.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941227000275

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Africa

30 Shabaab Jihadist Killed In 2 Clashes in Somalia

2016-03-17

Nairobi - Thirty insurgents in Somalia's al-Qaeda-aligned Shabaab jihadist group were killed Wednesday in heavy clashes in the south and northeast of the country, Kenya's armed forces and local authorities said separately.

In the first incident, the Kenya Defence Force (KDF) said it had thwarted an assault on a military camp at Afmadhow in the Lower Juba area in southern Somalia, killing 19 rebels and seizing a haul of weapons.

Kenyan troops operating under the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) mission "foiled a planned attack" near the camp, operated by the Somali National Army (SNA) and AMISOM, the KDF said in a statement.

"The... terrorists had approached the camp at night with the intent to attack and cut off the SNA from the AMISOM KDF camp," it said.

"KDF soldiers on patrol identified the militants and engaged them in a fierce battle. The (Shebab) attempted to fight back, but were swiftly repulsed by the KDF soldiers on patrol and those at the camp," it said, quoting army spokesman David Obonyo.

"Following the incident, 19 (Shebab) militants were killed and one technical vehicle destroyed. Some of the arms and ammunition recovered include 10 AK 47 rifles and three rocket-propelled grenades."

Fighting in Puntland

In a separate incident on Wednesday, troops in Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region killed 11 Shebab in heavy fighting in villages on the northeastern coast, local authorities said.

The clashes came a day after around 100 insurgents sought to take control of the villages of Garmal and Suuj, near the port of Eyl, a pirate hotspot, local officials and residents said.

"Puntland forces have attacked elements of the Shebab group who have attacked coastal villages in the Puntland region in order to destabilise the area," Mohamud Hassan, the Puntland administration's information minister, said at a press conference.

"Eleven of the fighters were killed in the fighting and the rest are surrounded now," he said, adding that the clean-up operation was still ongoing.

It was not immediately possible to independently verify the information.

Residents in the Eyl district said the Shabaab arrived in the villages in fishing boats.

They seized Garmal late Tuesday and then took up positions in Suuj village where the fighting on Wednesday was "very heavy", said Ali Weli, a resident.

"The fighters are armed with heavy machine guns, mortars and RPGs, they don't have vehicles and heavy weaponry like the Puntland army but they are putting up fierce resistance," he added.

Several other residents confirmed the clashes but were unable to give details or casualty estimates.

The Shebab were ousted from the capital Mogadishu in August 2011 and today concentrate on carrying out attacks from the countryside.

The group has claimed responsiblity for a string of recent attacks in Somalia, including a twin bombing in the city of Baidoa on February 28 that killed at least 30 people.

On January 15, Shbaab fighters overran a military outpost in El-Adde, southern Somalia, manned by up to 200 Kenyan soldiers deployed under AMISOM.

Shabaab fighters are targeting AMISOM because in the absence of a functioning national army, the 22 000-strong force is the only protector of the internationally-backed government that the jihadists are committed to overthrowing.

Puntland set up its own government in 1998, but unlike neighbouring Somaliland, it has not declared full independence.

news24.com/Africa/News/30-shabaab-killed-in-2-clashes-in-somalia-20160317

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Western Sahara referendum key to peace

2016-03-17

Algiers - A referendum on the future of the disputed territory of Western Sahara holds the key to peace and stability in North Africa, the pro-independence Polisario Front said on Wednesday.

The former Spanish territory has been back in the spotlight after UN chief Ban Ki-moon angered Morocco by using the word "occupation" to describe its status.

"There will be no peace or stability in the region so long as the Sahrawi people are denied the right to self-determination," Mohamed Salem Ould Salek, a leader of the Algeria-backed Polisario Front, told a news conference in Algiers.

He said that Morocco "knows full well that the Sahrawi people will choose independence if a referendum is held".

"We are not Moroccans and we refuse to become Moroccans," he said.

The resources-rich Western Sahara is at the centre of a four-decade-old dispute.

Morocco considers the territory to be part of the kingdom and insists its sovereignty cannot be challenged.

The United Nations has been trying to broker a Western Sahara settlement since 1991 after a ceasefire was reached in a war between Rabat and the Polisario Front that broke out when Morocco deployed its military in the territory in 1975 after Spain's withdrawal.

A self-determination referendum was to have been held in 1992 but has been repeatedly called off.

news24.com/Africa/News/western-sahara-referendum-key-to-peace-20160317

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Deputy FM Declares Iran's 5-Year Plan to Bolster Trade Ties with Africa

Mar 17 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir Abdollahian underlined that Iran has compiled a five-year plan to increase trade interactions with countries in the black continent.

Addressing the Tehran-based African ambassadors on Wednesday, Amir Abdollahian said Iran's strategy for relations with African countries is being updated.

He said that Iran has set a new target for reaching a higher level in boosting trade relations with Africa over the next five years.

Relations with Africa are growing and reciprocal visits by the African and Iranian officials are on the agenda, Amir Abdollahian said.

In recent years, Iran has sought hard to boost ties and cooperation with Africa. Iran is an observing member of the African Union and has shown an active presence in previous AU summit meetings.

In relevant remarks in February, President Hassan Rouhani underlined that Iran is more than ever willing to broaden bilateral relations and cooperation with the African states.

"We attach special importance to the development of relations with the African countries, specially Ghana, and we are ready to cooperate with Accra in all fields of mutual interest," President Rouhani said in a joint press conference with his Ghanaian counterpart John Daramani Mahama in Tehran.

He underscored the need for regional and international cooperation in the fight against extremism and terrorism, adding that he has discussed the issue in meeting with his Ghanaian counterpart.

Mahama, for his part, appreciated Iran for leading the war on terrorism and extremism, and said, "Extremism and violence is a threat to the entire world and today, after the nuclear deal, Iran can play a significant role in settling these pressing issues."

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941227000309

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India

In Mumbai, ISIS tag used on Muslims to settle scores

Mateen Hafeez | TNN | Mar 17, 2016

These are among hundreds of episodes recorded over the past year that show how young Muslims have been branded IS recruiters, sympathisers or active members by people looking to settle personal scores. The state ATS, crime branch and city police in the last eight months have received around 300 such bogus complaints, including one against an 80-year-old imam of a Vikhroli mosque. None were arrested and all released after verification, but the incidents traumatized the families who had to suffer for weeks before they got a clean chit.

"We just do our job of questioning and have not arrested a single person against whom the complaint was found to be fake," said Deven Bharti, joint police commissioner, law and order. "At Kurla, a kabab-pav seller was said to have been in touch with IS people who allegedly would sit before his hand-cart for hours and 'plan' things. We questioned the person, didn't find anything. Soon, it emerged that his stall was a major obstacle for a grocery shop-owner, who was reportedly losing customers. The shop-owner was then summoned," added Bharti.

The IS came into the limelight in Maharashtra after four Kalyan youths went to Iraq to join the banned outfit. Later, counter-terror agencies zeroed in on several IS modules in the country and have arrested around 18 persons so far, many for planning to join the IS. Indian Muslims denounced the outfit and fatwas have been issued terming the IS as "against humanity and religion".

"Crying IS" is an emerging modus operandi, said cops. "If A has a problem with B, he sends a letter to the police and for some time, A faces problems and police inquiries. You can't blame the police since they are doing their job and release the people when they don't find anything suspicious," said DCP Dhananjay Kulkarni, spokesperson of the city police.

"After receiving so many 'tip-offs' we have now learnt to gauge the authenticity of information. But there cannot be any slip-ups, so we also follow up on complaints; we conduct discreet inquiries about a person, checking previous police records, call data records, bank transactions, number of times he has travelled outside the city, his friends, activities etc. In many cases, we do not even call a 'suspect' and close the inquiry on being satisfied," said an ATS officer.

A few months ago, an anonymous letter to the ATS said the imam of a Vikhroli mosque and his relatives were recruiting youths for IS. The police made discreet inquiries at the mosque and were shocked to find that the 80-year-old imam could barely hear and took time to respond due to old age. Investigators found the imam was with the mosque for 20 years and had a clean record. The allegations about his son and relatives also proved false. "In a dispute within the mosque's trust, one faction suspected the imam to be close to the rival faction. This enraged them and they made the allegations," said a senior ATS officer. The imam's visitors, relatives' call records and other details were scanned and corroborated before they were considered "clean".

In Khaleel Ahmed's case, when he did not stop meeting his lady colleague even after a warning from a rival for her affections, the latter called the ATS about Ahmed's "IS connections". After a month-long inquiry he was found "clean".

Similarly, Kamal's family initially accepted a marriage proposal from a Bengaluru-based girl but rejected it a few months later. "This enraged the girl's family who informed the Mumbai crime branch about Kamal's "IS connection" and that he was about to board a flight. Later, we found it was a bogus complaint," said a crime branch officer.

"Our department alone has received over 150 such complaints, mostly anonymous, but we worked on each of them to verify the details. We did our job, mostly discreet inquiries, and allowed people to walk free when nothing was found against them," said Niket Kaushik, inspector-general of ATS.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/In-Mumbai-ISIS-tag-used-on-Muslims-to-settle-scores/articleshow/51435735.cms

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Govt wants to treat terror attacks as war

TNN | Mar 17, 2016, 04.54 AM IST

NEW DELHI: India on Wednesday said the country wants to maintain good relations with all its neighbours, including Pakistan, but not at the cost of its "pride, dignity and self-respect" and that it would not compromise with its security at any cost.

Terming the terror attack on Pathankot airbase in January as a "part of asymmetric" war, India also said the country would ensure that its enemies cannot go scot-free and even small incidents of terrorism have to be "treated as war".

"We want good relations with all our neighbours. We want good relations with Pakistan too, but not at the cost of this country's pride, dignity and self-respect," said home minister Rajnath Singh while responding to a debate in Lok Sabha on the Pathankot attack.

Singh's remark came as the opposition questioned as to what Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Lahore stopover had achieved, noting that the terror strike had happened just a few days after the visit. Slamming the handling of the terror strike, the opposition dubbed as a "critical mistake" the decision to handover the operation to NSG.

Citing the latest forensic report, Rajnath Singh said burnt mass of human males have been found inside the building and both were terrorists. He, however, said it could not be possible to "establish identity of the burnt remains".

Contrary to the contention of NIA which is probing Pathankot attack that four terrorists were killed, defence minister Manohar Parrikar said six attackers were neutralised over two days. "Four terrorists were killed on the first day... Next day, the balance two terrorists were engaged and killed," he said, adding that lives of seven security personnel were lost.

Talking about Pathankot attack, Parrikar said it was "an accumulation of asymmetric war" and assured the members in the lower House that all the security gaps, had been filled and "we have already conducted security audits of all defence establishments".

"When they failed in conventional war, as they failed in 1965 and 1971, the enemy resorted to (policy of) thousands cuts, trying to bleed India. These are small attacks of weak forces on a stronger force ," he said. With regard to the opposition criticism over handling of the Pathankot attack, Parrikar said,"You cannot have a running commentary about such operations on television channels. This puts security forces in danger."

"We are in the process definitely to ensure that our enemies cannot go scot-free," Parrikar said, adding "the compromise made earlier was probably one of the reasons as to why we are suffering today". The home minister, however, said while different governments might have different action plans, nobody can say that their strategy is foolproof.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Govt-wants-to-treat-terror-attacks-as-war/articleshow/51434858.cms

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Sartaj Aziz and Swaraj chat over breakfast in Nepal, formal meeting expected later today

DAWN.COM

March 17, 2016 

ISLAMABAD: Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz met Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj at breakfast on the sidelines of the 37th Saarc Council of Ministers Meeting in Pokhara, Nepal, Hindustan Times reported.

The two leaders chatted while sitting next to each other at the breakfast hosted by Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister Kamal Thapa. They were also seen standing separately and talking informally for a few a minutes.

The two dignitaries will hold a one-to-one meeting on Thursday evening, the first after the Jan 2 terrorist attack on an Indian air base, and bilateral issues will be part of the discussion.

Aziz and Swaraj earlier exchanged pleasantries at a dinner hosted by Nepali Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli on Wednesday. The two were seated next to each other and talked at length.

Aziz arrived in the Nepalese tourist city of Pokhara on Wednesday, where the Saarc Council of Foreign Ministers is meeting for reviewing the progress made by the regional grouping over the past year and setting direction for the next year.

Upon his arrival in Nepal, Aziz said he is willing to discuss all issues, including the Pathankot attack, with his Indian counterpart.

On sidelines of the meeting, the adviser will extend invites for the Saarc summit being hosted by Pakistan this year.

There are speculations that the meeting between Aziz and Swaraj could help in scheduling the meeting of the foreign secretaries of the two countries that was agreed in December for deciding the timeline and modalities of the bilateral dialogue, but could not be held because of Pathankot attack.

Pakistan and India had agreed to resume their peace talks under the newly-coined phrase of Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue during Swaraj’s visit to Islamabad for attending the Heart of Asia Conference last year.

Diplomats in their private discussions with Dawn, however, cautioned against raising expectations and said that till now the agenda of Swaraj-Sartaj meeting is limited to delivering the summit invitation, but the two may speak about how to proceed further with the agreed dialogue by overcoming the impasse created by the Pathankot attack.

dawn.com/news/1246279/sartaj-aziz-and-swaraj-chat-over-breakfast-in-nepal-formal-meeting-expected-later-today

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Ghulam Ali set to sing ghazals in Gujarat

March 17th, 2016

The 75-year-old ghazal maestro has been invited to perform at a four-day cultural event in Gujarat's Bhavnagar district

Ghazal singer Ghulam Ali is poised to perform in India again, despite the recent cancellation of a number of his concerts and the music launch of his first film as actor.

The 75-year-old ghazal maestro has been invited to perform at a four-day cultural event, where awards will be given out to Ali and nine other famous artistes.

The event, which will run from March 19 to March 22 at Talgajarda village, has been organised by a trust run by religious leader Morari Bapu in the Bhavnagar district in Gujarat, reports Indian Express.

The awards will be presented by Shree Chitrakutdham Trust, run by Bapu, at Talgajarda village, said his close aide and event organiser Harishchandra Joshi.

“Ali along with five others will be given ‘Hanumant Award’ on the concluding day of the event (March 22). Ali will perform once during the four-day event. He had performed here in the past also,” said Joshi.

Four other recipients of Hanumant Award, being given for the last 10 years, include classical dancer and Lok Sabha MP Hema Malini and famous sitarist Debu Chaudhary, added Joshi.

“Film actor Dharmendra along with three other artists will be given ‘Natraj Award’ for their contribution in their chosen field, while Vadodara-based sculpture-maker Nagji Patel will be honoured with ‘Kailash Lalit Kala Award’ on March 22,” said Joshi.

Despite staunch opposition from the Shiv Sena, who made headlines due to their hostility towards Pakistani artistes working in India last year, Ghulam Ali has remained an advocate of Pak-India cultural exchange. His concert in Kolkata in January went off without a hitch and he is contributing to the soundtrack of Mahesh Bhatt's play Milne Do.

images.dawn.com/news/1175004/ghulam-ali-set-to-sing-ghazals-in-gujrat

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Pakistan

'Daesh commander' confessed to list of crimes before death in encounter, police says

IMTIAZ ALI

March 17, 2016

KARACHI: Police on Thursday claimed to have killed a 'commander' of the militant Islamic State (IS) group, Kamran Gujjar, in an encounter in Karachi's Manghopir area. The suspect is said to have confessed to his involvement in target killings, grenade attacks and bank robberies.

According to a press release issued by Sindh police, District West police and CIA personnel, acting on a tip-off, launched a search operation in Ittehad Town area where the raiding party came under fire. One of the attackers and two policemen were severely injured during the 'encounter'.

The attacker was identified as Kamran Aslam Gujjar, a 'trained Daesh commander' who had also worked for Al Qaeda in the subcontinent (AQIS) in the past and was carrying a bounty of Rs2.5 million on his head.

Kamran Gujjar was shifted to a hospital where he died during treatment.

Police claimed to have recovered a sub-machine gun, three hand grenades and explosive material from his possession.

Deathbed confessions

According to the police statement, the suspect confessed his involvement in killing a number of people including DSP Abdul Fatah Sangri who was shot dead along with his driver head constable Nazeer Ahmed and security guard constable Farooq Ahmed in Karachi's Malir district in May 2015.

Other high profile murders include MQM leader and KESC officer Farhan Khalil, whom the suspect allegedly confessed killing through a magnetic bomb in 2013.

Gujjar allegedly admitted to his involvement in a list of other criminal and terrorist activities, including grenade attacks and bank robberies, while he was being shifted to a hospital.

The suspect claimed that he had recently joined Daesh but could not carry out any major terrorist activity under the militant group's banner, according to the police statement.

The four-page statement further said that that Safoora carnage suspect Tahir Hussain Minhas alias Sain had told police about Kamran Gujjar and his involvement in a number of subversive activities.

dawn.com/news/1246258/daesh-commander-confessed-to-list-of-crimes-before-death-in-encounter-police-says

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Two troops, three suspected militants killed in Chilas gunfight

March 17th, 2016

PESHAWAR: Two soldiers and three suspected militants were killed in a gunfight in Chilas town of Gilgit-Baltistan region on Thursday.

According to Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), the militants were involved in attacks on tourists, civil transport and security forces.

Two security forces personnel were also killed during the clash. The area has been cordoned off and a search operation has been launched in the area.

The ISPR statement does not mention the identity of militants, their affiliation or any other details about the clash.

The exchange of fire comes two days after army chief General Raheel Sharif approved the death sentences of 13 'hardcore terrorists' who were convicted by military courts.

The convicts were involved in "committing heinous offences relating to terrorism, including killing of foreign tourists at Nanga Parbat, attack on Saidu Sharif Airport, destruction of schools, attacks on armed forces, law enforcement agencies and civilians," according to a statement issued by the ISPR.

Nine foreign tourists and one of their Pakistani guides were killed in a Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan-claimed attack at the 4,200-meter base camp of Nanga Parbat, the country’s second highest peak on June 23, 2013.

An army colonel, a captain and a senior superintendent of police (SSP), investigating the massacre were later killed in Chilas on August 6 2013.

dawn.com/news/1246280/two-troops-three-suspected-militants-killed-in-chilas-gunfight

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There are no Chinese troops in POK, says Foreign Office

March 17th, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Indian media reports regarding the presence of Chinese troops in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) are baseless, said Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria on Thursday.

Commenting on recent events and debates in New Delhi on the contentious Kashmir issue, the spokesman said "now the Indian intelligentsia and scholars are also questioning the Indian government over its position on Kashmir".

"The Kashmir issue is still mentioned in the UN Security Council resolutions list as an unsettled matter," Zakaria remarked, while addressing a weekly press briefing in the federal capital.

Pakistan disappointed over Indian govt's decision

The FO spokesman said Islamabad had conveyed its disappointment to the Indian deputy high commissioner in Islamabad over New Delhi's decision to bar Pakistani diplomats from travelling to Kolkata for the World T20 match between India and Pakistan.

"We were disappointed, but the matter will now be sorted out," Zakaria said.

When asked, the spokesman said "currently there is no proposal under consideration for a meeting between the Pakistani and Indian prime ministers on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington later this month."

But "such a meeting cannot be ruled out," he added.

Zakaria said Pakistan is pushing forward the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan, requesting stakeholders to avoid blame games on the issue.

The spokesman said no dates had been announced for the Iranian president's visit to Pakistan, but said Rouhani is "expected later this month."

dawn.com/news/1246287/there-are-no-chinese-troops-in-ajk-says-foreign-office

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Pakistan invites Modi to 19th Saarc summit

March 17th, 2016

POKHARA: Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Thursday formally extended an invitation to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attend the Pakistan-hosted 19th Saarc summit which is to be held later this year.

Sartaj handed the invitation over to Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj on the sidelines of the 37th Saarc Council of Ministers Meeting, ANI reported.

The two dignitaries will hold a one-to-one meeting this evening, the first after the Jan 2 terrorist attack on the Pathankot air base, and bilateral issues will be part of the discussion.

Earlier today, the two ministers met over breakfast on the sidelines of the ministers meeting, Hindustan Times reported.

Sartaj and Swaraj chatted while sitting next to each other at the breakfast hosted by Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister Kamal Thapa. They were also seen standing separately and talking informally for a few minutes.

On Wednesday night, the two dignitaries exchanged pleasantries at a dinner hosted by Nepali Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli. The two were seated next to each other and talked at length.

Aziz arrived in the Nepalese tourist city of Pokhara on Wednesday, where the Saarc Council of Foreign Ministers is meeting for reviewing the progress made by the regional grouping over the past year and setting direction for the next year.

Upon his arrival in Nepal, Aziz said he is willing to discuss all issues, including the Pathankot attack, with his Indian counterpart.

On sidelines of the meeting, the adviser will extend invites for the Saarc summit being hosted by Pakistan this year.

There are speculations that the meeting between Aziz and Swaraj could help in scheduling the meeting of the foreign secretaries of the two countries that was agreed in December for deciding the timeline and modalities of the bilateral dialogue, but could not be held because of Pathankot attack.

Pakistan and India had agreed to resume their peace talks under the newly-coined phrase of Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue during Swaraj’s visit to Islamabad for attending the Heart of Asia Conference last year.

Diplomats in their private discussions with Dawn, however, cautioned against raising expectations and said that till now the agenda of Swaraj-Sartaj meeting is limited to delivering the summit invitation, but the two may speak about how to proceed further with the agreed dialogue by overcoming the impasse created by the Pathankot attack.

dawn.com/news/1246279/pakistan-invites-modi-to-19th-saarc-summit

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Musharraf’s guarantors summoned in murder case

March 17th, 2016

ISLAMABAD: An additional district and sessions judge (ADSJ) on Wednesday summoned the guarantors of former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf, in the murder of Lal Masjid cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi.

ADSJ Pervaizul Qadir Memon directed Mr Musharraf’s guarantors to explain why the former president – who is accused in the murder case – failed to attend court proceedings.

Retired Capt Nazir Ahmed and Jan Mohammad had submitted personal sureties along with surety bonds before the court, and given undertakings that the accused would appear before the court on each date of the trial proceedings.

The complainant, Ghazi’s son Haroon Rashid, had nominated Mr Musharraf as the sole accused in the case. Mr Musharraf obtained bail in the murder case in November 2013.

Aabpara police, in September 2013, registered an FIR against Mr Musharraf under the direction of the Islamabad High Court (IHC), where Mr Rashid had filed a petition seeking legal action against the former military dictator for launching a military operation against Lal Masjid in 2007. His father and grandmother were among those killed in the operation.

The military operation against the Lal Masjid administration was launched in July 2007, after the civil administration failed to get the Children Library vacated from their possession.

Mr Musharraf has never attended the proceedings of the murder trial. However, his lawyers from time to time have moved several applications seeking the exemption of his personal attendance. In April 2015, the trial court rejected his plea for permanent exemption and issued non-bailable arrest warrants on June 19 and Jul 24, 2015.

ADSJ Memon issued non-bailable warrants for Mr Musharraf’s arrest for a third time on Feb 20, 2016 and observed that his absence from the proceedings was deliberate.

On Wednesday, the court resumed the trial and was informed that Mr Musharraf could not appear in court because he was unwell.

Aabpara police told the court that since Mr Musharraf is not available at his Chak Shahzad residence, his arrest warrants could not be executed.

Advocate Tariq Asad, the counsel for the complainant, said that Mr Musharraf is living in Karachi and his whereabouts are well known.

“This is not a civil proceeding, the former president is facing a criminal case and it is the responsibility of the police to arrest him and produce him before the trial court,” he said.

ADSJ Memon said the warrants against Mr Musharraf were still effective, summoned his guarantors on April 2 and adjourned the proceedings.

dawn.com/news/1246187/musharrafs-guarantors-summoned-in-murder-case

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Southeast Asia

Police halt gay wedding ceremony in Central Java

March 17 2016, 6:07 PM

Chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) Ma’ruf Amin (center), accompanied by MUI deputy secretary-general Amirsyah Tambunan (left) and representatives from Islamic mass organizations, displays a new edict during a press conference at the MUI office in Jakarta on Thursday.(JP/Wendra Ajistyatama)

Police have put a stop to a same-sex wedding ceremony between two local men from Kepil, Wonosobo regency, Central Java.

Andi Budi Sutrisno was set to marry Didik Suseno on Saturday when police officers stopped the wedding, arguing that such a ceremony violated the law and caused discomfort among local residents.

Locals had previously urged the police to cancel the planned wedding.

The police said the ceremony was stopped peacefully following a persuasive and friendly approach toward the couple.

Kepil Police chief Adj. Comr. Surakhman confirmed on Monday that they had received tip-offs regarding the marriage.

Andi, who is 27 years old, was already in his wedding attire when the police arrived on the scene, he said. Andi's parents had also announced the wedding to the Muslim assembly three days beforehand, the police added.

According to Surakhman, following a discussion with several influential figures and religious leaders, the couple and their respective parents came to a realization and subsequently felt discouraged to continue with the ceremony.

"To avoid a repeat of this incident, we ask the public to always care for each other and remind each other when there are activities that are contrary to the law," Surakhman said as quoted by tempo.co.

Same-sex marriage is not legally recognized in Indonesia. The government stipulates that a marriage is between a man and a woman as stated in the 1974 Marriage Law.

The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community has been dominating public debate recently with arguments in support of and against the minority group.

A number of prominent government officials and religious figures have condemned the community while urging for the limitation of LGBT-related activities. The MUI announced in February that it considered individuals identifying as LGBT to be haram.

Meanwhile, human rights groups have called for the protection of the minority group's basic rights, including equal access to education and job opportunities.

thejakartapost.com/news/2016/03/17/police-halt-gay-wedding-ceremony-central-java.html

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Top cop is Indonesia's new anti-terror chief

PUBLISHED MAR 17, 2016

Many say General Tito is best man for the job, with his extensive knowledge and experience

Francis Chan Indonesia Bureau Chief In Jakarta

Top cop Tito Karnavian was sworn in by Indonesian President Joko Widodo as the country's new counter-terrorism chief yesterday.

The two-star general takes over the Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Terorisme (BNPT), or national counter-terrorism agency, from veteran police officer Saud Nasution.

Inspector-General Tito's appointment to the three-star general post comes after Indonesian police were widely praised for their handling of the Jan 14 terror attack in Jakarta.

In contrast, the BNPT, which Mr Saud led from October 2014, had struggled to counter the spread of extremism in a country with the world's largest Muslim population.

Some had even criticised the agency and Mr Saud for failing to prevent the January attack by four Indonesian militants loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Gen Tito, 51, will have his work cut out for him, with Indonesia facing the fast-growing threat from thousands of its own citizens who have pledged allegiance to ISIS.

Researchers have also estimated that there may be as many as 24 militant cells in the country said to have ties to the terror group, while hundreds of Indonesians are suspected to have travelled to the Middle East to heed the call of the caliphate.

National police chief Badrodin Haiti, however, believes that as a former commander of the police's elite counter-terrorism unit Detachment 88 (Densus 88), Gen Tito is the best man to helm the BNPT.

"Tito is very experienced in dealing with terrorism cases and he was also head of Densus 88, so he is familiar with the entire terror network that exists in Indonesia and internationally," he added.

Regional security experts who have worked with the general, such as Ms Susan Sim, also expressed confidence that he is up to the task.

"General Tito not only has very detailed knowledge of the terrorist landscape in Indonesia and first- hand operational experience fighting the militants, he also understands how important it is for the government to work together with the community to counter extremism," said Ms Sim, who is vice-president at The Soufan Group, a security consultancy.

Gen Tito, who was Jakarta police chief during the January siege, had cut a steady figure as Indonesia dealt with its first major terror attack by domestic militants since 2009.

That year, Jemaah Islamiah (JI) militants bombed the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in the capital, leaving seven dead and 50 injured, including foreigners.

In January, eight people, including the four ISIS-linked militants, were killed, but the attack was swiftly resolved by the police within minutes of the first explosion set off by a suicide bomber.

Almost 40 suspects were rounded up by Densus 88 within days of the attack.

Gen Tito had previously led the unit on similar raids that took out the region's most wanted terrorists after the 2002 Bali bombings.

They included Azahari Husin and Noordin Mohammad Top, JI operatives from Malaysia who were behind the deadly attack that killed 202 people, including many foreigners.

The BNPT, however, has a very different mandate, Gen Tito acknowledged after his swearing-in at the presidential palace yesterday. He said he intends to retain the "core business" of the agency, which focuses on terrorism prevention and the rehabilitation of terrorists who have been apprehended.

"We will need more coordination because it takes the effort of all, not just one institution like BNPT, or just the government, but also the participation of civil society," he added. "That is our mission."

straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/top-cop-is-indonesias-new-anti-terror-chief

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Europe

Court ruling on teenager who did not want to live with family because 'they were not strict enough Muslims'

Wednesday 16 March 2016

A teenager who did not want to live with her family because "they were not strict enough Muslims" should have been provided with accommodation and support by the local authority, the High Court has said.

The 18-year-old girl, identified only as C, won a declaration that, from June 2015, she was a child in need and should now be regarded as a "former relevant child" who was entitled to a wide range of assistance until the age of 21.

The A-star student, who was born and brought up in the London Borough of Enfield, first came to the attention of the local authority in February 2014 when she travelled alone through Turkey to the Syrian border without her parents' consent.

When she returned to the UK, she said she wanted to live somewhere where she felt more "accepted" in an environment that was observant of stricter Islamic codes of behaviour.

In August 2014, the 16-year-old left home, alleging that her father had hit her during an argument, and stayed with relatives before travelling alone to Egypt, Greece and Bulgaria in September.

Returning two months later, she refused to go with her parents and presented as homeless.

In a ruling made public today, Mr Justice Hayden said that, in August, the girl's father had asked if a flat could be provided so she could be kept safe, but was told this was not something social care could provide.

The girl told social services that the difficulty with her parents was that "they were not strict enough Muslims".

In November 2014, Enfield Social Services concluded that C was not homeless as she was able to return to her parents.

The judge said: "On my reading of the documents, though C's parents have plainly struggled with their daughter, they have never refused to provide her with accommodation.

"Enfield appears to have taken a simplistic approach and concluded that as her parents were offering accommodation, ipso facto, she could not be homeless."

He said they compounded this "flawed reasoning" by extrapolating that as C was not homeless, she could not be 'in need' in the sense contemplated by the Children Act - and that was a position they held to.

Enfield accepted that C was vulnerable to radicalisation and was being monitored by counter-terrorism police but that had no impact on its decision that the family home was available to her.

It did not undertake any kind of structured assessment until June 2015 when it referred C to accommodation for which she was not considered suitable and, after that, it provided no further services or support.

C stayed with friends and relatives and, most probably, from time to time with her parents, and became "increasingly unsafe".

"It is perhaps important to emphasise that the nature of the risk to C from this chaotic lifestyle was of a different complexion to the risk of radicalisation. In this context, the risk was more generally to her physical, emotional and sexual security."

In November 2015, C was detained at Heathrow seeking to travel to Bulgaria and then dropped out of her A-levels before enrolling for a diploma in Islamic Studies.

Later that month, a judge ordered Enfield to provide accommodation and support pending determination of the court proceedings.

Sitting in London, Mr Justice Hayden rejected Enfield's claim that there was no basis for a review of its decision and that C's age rendered the case academic.

He considered Enfield's decision making "fundamentally flawed" and difficult to justify or defend - and could not foresee any circumstances where it would be fair to exclude C from consideration of the entire range of services open to her.

That was not to say that her entitlement should necessarily be regarded as automatic as it was inextricably linked to the identification of her welfare requirements.

"It is plainly desirable for C to be supported to take decisions for herself which are both better informed and rooted in a more reflective analysis. It is perhaps also important to note that there may very well be a significant benefit to wider society."

asianimage.co.uk/news/14348393.Court_ruling_on_teenager_who_did_not_want_to_live_with_family_because__they_were_not_strict_enough_Muslims_/?ref=ebln

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Turkey-EU migration deal under threat as Brussels admits 'catalogue of issues' remains - latest

European leaders will meet to discuss the Turkey-EU proposals put forward last week but some EU officials have watered down some of the plans

17 Mar 2016

Tense negotiations over a proposed migration deal will begin between EU leaders on Thursday at a Brussels summit hours after the European Council president admitted that a "catalogue of issues" remained over the plans.

Last week Ankara and Brussels met to discuss how to move forward and tackle the refugee crisis which saw more than 1.2 million migrants arrive in Europe last year in the worst crisis of its kind since the Second World War.

In a deal made between Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish prime minister, and presented to the summit last week, Ankara requested €3 billion (£2.3 billion) more funding until 2018. That would double the €3 billion already offered late last year by Brussels.

Just hours before leaders arrived, Donald Tusk, the European Council president, said he was "cautiously optimistic, but frankly speaking more cautious than optimistic".

"The agreement must be acceptable to all 28 member states, no matter big or small," Mr Tusk said at a news conference on Thursday.

The EU also provisionally agreed on a one-for-one plan in which Syrian refugees who arrived in Greece would be sent back to Turkey. In exchange, European countries would take one Syrian refugee.

It is believed that up to 72,000 places would be available as part of the proposals.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (C) is welcomed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker (L) and EU Council President Donald Tusk (R) at the EU Council in Brussels, Belgium, 17 March 2016.

The controversial plans were soon attacked by charities and migrant organisations who said it would go against refugee conventions to deport migrants from Greece back to Turkey.

The UN warned it was not consistent with European or international law.

"The collective expulsion of foreigners is prohibited under the European Convention of Human Rights," Vincent Cochetel, the UN refugee agency's Europe regional director, said.

"An agreement that would be tantamount to a blanket return of any foreigners to a third country, is not consistent with European law, is not consistent with international law."

Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, said he was confident an agreement would be reached with Turkey on Thursday or Friday.

"I'm pretty sure and confident that we will reach an agreement with Turkey today or tomorrow," Mr Juncker said, in comments translated by Reuters.

"I would like to say that the arrangements we have with Turkey, which are not complete at the moment, will respect European law and the Geneva Convention," he added.

The EU said it would also speed up the visa liberalisation process to allow 75 million Turks to visit the Schengen area visa-free by June.

Turkey has also asked for five chapters to be opened in its long-delayed EU accession negotiations which has not proved popular with Cyprus who wants access to Turkish ports and Ankara's recognition. '

.A Turkish woman wearing a headscarf walks past posters sporting a woman veiled by the European Union flag in central Istanbul, 02 July 2005. European Union (EU) and Turkey will start talks on October 3rd for Turkey's possible accession into the Union as part of an EU enlargement.

In the last few days, Mr Tusk visited Nicosia and Ankara to discuss the deal and Cyprus' worries.

According to the Financial Times, a draft of the pact with Turkey said it would "prepare for a decision" to restart negotiations rather than a cast-iron promise to open the chapters.

Mr Tusk admitted that there were many issues that needed to be resolved before a deal could be agreed.

The president will chair the first day of the summit with 28 EU leaders and said in his letter to leaders: "Work is progressing but there is still a lot to do."

He added: "The catalogue of issues to be resolved before we can conclude an agreement is long.

Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu will attend a breakfast meeting on Friday, the second day of the summit.

Angela Merkel on Wednesday told the German parliament that Turkey was needed to solve the migrant crisis and stop the flow of migrants but added that Ankara joining the EU was not on the agenda.

Days after a terror attack in Ankara which killed 37, the German foreign minister said it closed its embassy in the Turkish capital, its general consulate in Istanbul and German schools in the two cities after "security services received concrete leads".

"Yesterday evening, our security authorities received several concrete and very serious leads that terror attacks against our German representations in Turkey were being prepared," Walter Steinmeier said.

telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/eu/12196415/Refugee-crisis-Turkey-EU-migration-deal-under-threat-after-Cyprus-demands-weakened-promises-latest.html

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North America

No decision by Obama administration on US troops level in Afghanistan: Pentagon

By KHAAMA PRESS - Thu Mar 17 2016, 11:29 am

The Pentagon announced Tuesday that no decision has been taken by President Barack Obama’s administration to ramp up troops level in Afghanistan.

Peter Cook, the Pentagon spokesman, said the newly-appointed commander of the US forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson will evaluate the situation on the ground and will make proposals first.

He told reporters “Let’s give General Nicholson a chance to get on the ground, find out… whether or not there needs to be an adjustment.”

Gen. Nicholson assumed charge of the US forces and the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan earlier this month and replaced Gen. John Campbell.

In his testimony to the committee last month, Gen. Nicholson said he aims to review the current troops withdrawal plan from Afghanistan.

As the number of US troops is due to drop to 5,500 starting in January 2017 — down from 9,800 currently, Gen. Nicholson has vowed to make a proposal within 90 days of taking up the post.

This comes as the Taliban-led insurgency has been rampant during the recent months and since the coalition forces concluded their combat mission in Afghanistan.

The group has staged numerous deadly attacks across the country including capital Kabul despite ongoing efforts to end the violence in the country through peace process.

khaama.com/no-decision-by-obama-administration-on-us-troops-level-in-afghanistan-pentagon-0363

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UN Demands Inquiry into Saudi Bombing of Yemeni Market

Mar 17 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for an investigation into recent Saudi aerial attacks on a crowded marketplace in Yemen’s northwestern province of Hajjah, which claimed more than 100 lives.

“The secretary general condemns the airstrikes that hit al-Khamis market in Mastaba district in the Hajjah Province of Yemen yesterday,” Ban’s office said in a statement, Press TV reported.

“This incident is one of the deadliest -- reportedly killing and wounding scores of civilians, including women and children -- since the start of the conflict,” the UN chief complained.

“This is the second major incident of this kind in just over two weeks,” the statement added, stressing that attacks on civilian areas like markets are a flagrant violation of international law.

At least 107 people, including women and children, lost their lives and dozens more sustained injuries, when Saudi military aircraft bombarded the al-Khamis market, approximately 130 kilometers (80 miles) northwest of the Yemeni capital, Sana’a.

Meanwhile, medical aid organization Doctors without Borders announced in a statement that its physicians had treated more than 40 people injured in the market bombing, including two people who succumbed to their injuries on the way to hospital.

On Wednesday, Saudi warplanes struck Harib Bihan in Yemen’s west-central province of Ma'rib, destroying the main water reservoir in the town. No immediate report of casualties was available.

Saudi fighter jets also carried out separate airborne attacks against the Sirwah district in the same province as well as Yemen’s Red Sea port city of Mokha, situated about 346 kilometers (214 miles) south of Sana’a. There were no reports of possible casualties and the extent of the damage caused.

Yemen has been under military attacks by Saudi Arabia since late March last year. The Saudi military strikes were launched purportedly to undermine the Ansarullah movement and bring former Yemeni president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, back to power.

At least 8,400 people, among them 2,236 children, have reportedly been killed and 16,015 others injured, since March 2015. The strikes have also taken a heavy toll on the impoverished country’s facilities and infrastructure, destroying many hospitals, schools, and factories.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941227000348

 

URL: http://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/al-qaeda-insider-returns-to-twitter,-discusses-group’s-global-leadership/d/106682

 

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