New Age Islam
Wed Aug 12 2020, 08:27 PM

Islamic World News ( 14 Feb 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

An Old Fatwa Banning Muslim Children Born out Of Wedlock from Carrying Their Father’s Name Should Be Revised, Says Penang Mufti







• Muslim Community Helps Rebuild Catholic Church In Pakistan

• Sri Lanka’s Muslims Offer Prayers for Virus Victims

• Over 400 Dalits Converted to Islam Since Collapse of 'Caste Wall' Claimed 17 Lives, Says Tamil Nadu Outfit

• With You on Kashmir: Turkish President Erdogan to Pakistan Parliament

• More Lies on Iran: The White House Just Can’t Help Itself As New Facts Emerge

• Attacks, Threats against Mosques Raise Concern As Parliament Discusses Islam In Germany

 

Southeast Asia

• An Old Fatwa Banning Muslim Children Born out Of Wedlock from Carrying Their Father’s Name Should Be Revised, Says Penang Mufti

• Where's the love? Indonesia says no to Valentine's Day

• Kazakh violence makes Chinese Muslim minority ponder future

• Change in political winds restoring faith in Malaysia's judiciary, says former appeals court judge

• Don't forget the Uighur amid the Coronavirus crisis

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Pakistan

• Muslim Community Helps Rebuild Catholic Church In Pakistan

• Strong reaction in NA to PM’s call for treason case against Fazl

• Erdogan meets rousing welcome in Pakistani parliament

• Religious leaders laud Erdogan’s stance on Kashmir

• Sanjrani asks govt for FIA probe report on sugar, flour crises

• Ministry asked to appoint focal person for students in China

• Pakistan, Turkey to transform ties into economic partnership

• Nawaz again exempted from appearance

• Turkey ready to join CPEC projects, Erdogan says

• Hafiz Saeed: Will Pakistan's 'Terror Cleric' Stay In Jail?

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South Asia

• Sri Lanka’s Muslims Offer Prayers for Virus Victims

• US, Taliban Reach Violence Reduction Pact

• Amnesty International urges govt to release Shariyat Boyati

• Pakistanis arrested as Afghan Special Forces seized a large cache of explosives in Ghazni

• U.S.-Taliban peace deal singing tentatively set for 29th of February: Report

• Taliban, Afghan forces clash despite talk of breakthrough in peace deal

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India

• Over 400 Dalits Converted to Islam Since Collapse of 'Caste Wall' Claimed 17 Lives, Says Tamil Nadu Outfit

• Article 370: Don't Interfere In Our 'Internal Affairs', India Tells Turkey

• Pulwama attack anniversary: ‘Justice done, Jaish decimated,’ says Spl DG CRPF

• NIA arrests Pulwama cross-LoC traders’ body chief

• Former terrorist arrested for killing ex-chief of Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen

• SC directs Centre, Assam govt to file status report on Bangladeshi migrants in detention centres

• NIA's painstaking Pulwama probe almost reaches dead end

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Mideast

• With You on Kashmir: Turkish President Erdogan to Pakistan Parliament

• Soleimani Describes Iran’s Khamenei As ‘Oppressed’, ‘Alone’ In Published Will

• Israeli delegation visits Saudi Arabia for first time

• Iran may reverse nuclear breaches if Europe provides ‘meaningful’ benefits: Zarif

• Israeli mayor orders Palestinian ‘surrender’ billboards removed in Tel Aviv

• Houthis reverse threat to tax aid: UN Official

• IRGC general says regional cooperation needed to expel US troops

• Yemeni missile shoots down Saudi-led fighter jet in Jawf

• Israeli forces attack anti-Trump demo, dozens of Palestinians injured

• Yemen’s Houthis drop ‘tax’ threat that jeopardised aid: UN official

• Leftist folk musicians go on trial in Turkey on 'trumped up' terror charges

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North America

• More Lies on Iran: The White House Just Can’t Help Itself As New Facts Emerge

• US Official Says Washington, Taliban Reach Afghan Truce Agreement

• Pompeo, Esper meet Afghan President Ghani on cusp of Taliban deal

• Israel meddling in US elections, not Russians: Philip Giraldi

• Ahmadi Muslims mark 100 years in US with day of service

• US Senators Call For Assessment of Rights Situation in Held Kashmir

• White House memo says strike on Qassem Soleimani responded to past attacks

• Gen. Soleimani assassinated to sabotage Iran's talks with Saudis, UAE following Israeli briefing: NYT

• Trump’s illegal measures against Iran directed by Israel lobby: Analyst

• US seizes Iranian weapons cache in Arabian Sea

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Europe

• Attacks, Threats against Mosques Raise Concern As Parliament Discusses Islam In Germany

• Far-right suspects in Germany planned to attack Muslims, refugees

• As Sajid Javid departs, the Tory Islamophobia scandal reaches a new low

• Plot to attack politicians, Muslims unearthed in Germany

• Germany busts ‘terrorist organization’ that planned attacks on Muslims, refugees

• Germany: Homes of suspected far-right extremists raided

• Northern Ireland excluded from UK emergency terror bill

• Jihadis jailed for spreading speeches by hate preacher who inspired terrorists including London Bridge attacker

• German president calls for country to stand up to extremism, nationalism on 75th anniversary of Dresden bombing

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Arab World

• Hariri: Aoun Settlement Over, Will Not Deal with ‘Shadow President’

• Syrian to be tried for plotting attack on U.S. embassy in Lebanon: agency

• ISIS attack on religious minority in disputed Khanaqin leaves 2 dead, 10 injured

• Lebanon’s ex-PM Hariri blames political rivals for crisis

• Thousands of al-Sadr supporters hold counter-protests in Iraq

• Two pilots killed after Syrian regime helicopter downed: Monitor

• Egypt confirms first novel coronavirus case, says affected person is foreigner

• Saudi Arabia pledges full support to help combat coronavirus in China

• NATO decides to expand presence in Iraq

• Aleppo stepping toward full liberation thanks to Syria army gains

• In nationwide move, protesters mark 9th anniversary of Bahrain uprising

• Turkish-backed rebels down Syrian helicopter in Idlib

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Africa

• Sudan ‘Islamists’ Distance Themselves from Bashir’s Regime

• Jordanians outside Grand Mosque slam Trump's deal of century

• South Sudan’s Kiir says no compromise to end peace deal deadlock

• Officials: Eastern forces bomb Tripoli neighborhoods, 1 dead

• Nigeria's military razed villages in war on Islamist insurgents: Amnesty International

• Military Failures Mount in Borno Against Boko Haram

• Sudan seeks to end terror designation in USS Cole settlement

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/an-old-fatwa-banning-muslim-children-born-out-of-wedlock-from-carrying-their-father’s-name-should-be-revised,-says-penang-mufti/d/121074

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An Old Fatwa Banning Muslim Children Born out Of Wedlock from Carrying Their Father’s Name Should Be Revised, Says Penang Mufti

Predeep Nambiar

February 14, 2020

GEORGE TOWN: Penang mufti Wan Salim Wan Mohd Noor today said it was “probably time” to revise an old fatwa banning Muslim children born out of wedlock from carrying their father’s name.

He said while yesterday’s Federal Court ruling upholding the fatwa was in the spirit of the Shafi’i school of thought, natural justice should prevail.

The majority of Muslims in Malaysia follow the Shafi’i school of thought, one of the four major schools of Islamic law in Sunni Islam.

“Ancient ulama decreed that it is a must for a child to be connected to their father’s nasab or lineage.

“It is in my opinion that this fatwa should be revised and changed if the need arises. After all, Islamic teachings are based on justice, wisdom, honour and goodwill.

“And in meting out justice in this issue, the innocent children born out of wedlock should not bear their parents’ sins.

“There needs to be some wisdom on this matter, to also look at the psychological aspects of the child’s future, which should not be ruined for not having a ‘bin’ or ‘binti’ in their names,” he told FMT.

Wan Salim said a 1981 fatwa set by the National Fatwa Committee had decreed that children born less than six months and two seconds from the nikah (marriage) of the parents cannot carry the father’s name.

Hence, a child born out of wedlock cannot inherit any property of the father or even be recognised as a sibling to other children born after their parents’ marriage.

“Looking at the views of the old fatwa, we have seen that it may not be in agreeance with other ulama, or not in consensus with others,” he said.

Yesterday, a seven-member Federal Court panel unanimously ordered the National Registration Department (JPN) director-general to remove the words “bin Abdullah” from the birth certificate of a Muslim boy from Johor born out of wedlock.

The court also ruled that the boy cannot use his biological father’s name.

The couple had applied to JPN to register the father’s name on the birth certificate under Section 13 of the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1957 (BDRA) but it carried “bin Abdullah” instead.

JPN refused to substitute it with the father’s name, despite an application made to remove the “bin Abdullah”, on the grounds the child was illegitimate.

This resulted in the parents filing an application for a judicial review in the High Court in 2016.

The couple lost their case in the High Court but the Court of Appeal in 2017 reversed the decision.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/02/14/fatwa-on-bin-abdullah-should-be-revised-says-penang-mufti/

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Muslim community helps rebuild Catholic church in Pakistan

February 14, 2020

In a rare display of interfaith harmony, Muslim villagers are helping Christians rebuild a Catholic church in the eastern Pakistani city of Gujranwala.

The foundation stone of St. Mary’s Church, which is being rebuilt to accommodate more worshipers, was laid by Father Samran Anwar, parish priest of St. Joseph’s Parish, in the Butranwali district of Gujranwala in November last year.

The city is approximately 80 kilometers north of Lahore, the capital of Punjab province.

Around 50 Christian families are estimated to be living in the Muslim-majority community where the church is being rebuilt.

“It is an example of true love and brotherhood that Muslim people have opened their hearts and are financing the construction work,” Father Samran said.   

“A church is the physical body of Christ on earth and we are the living parts of that one body because of the spirit of God. It is the physical representation of Heaven itself and the Holy Mass is celebrated in a church.

“We are glad that not only the local Christian community but also our Muslim brothers are supporting the construction work, which is a true sign of brotherhood and peace.

“The contribution coming from our Muslim neighbors for this holy cause will never be forgotten.”

Nazir Masih, a local teacher in charge of the renovation work, said St. Joseph’s Parish is one of 27 parishes in Lahore Archdiocese.

“It is one of the oldest mission stations in the archdiocese, founded in 1953 by Capuchin missionaries from Belgium. This rebuilt church will be a visible sign of our identity and a shelter for the faithful. We need financial support to complete the construction work without any further delay.”

Local Muslims said they were helping in order to maintain a long community tradition of living in peace with one another.

A Muslim resident who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue said he had contributed 60,000 rupees (about US$400) to the cause.

“My small contribution for the House of God has filled my heart with joy which cannot be expressed in words. We [Muslims and Christians] live side by side in peace and harmony. Our community is a shining example for others,” he said.

https://www.ucanews.com/news/muslim-community-helps-rebuild-catholic-church-in-pakistan/87229

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Sri Lanka’s Muslims offer prayers for virus victims

MOHAMMED RASOOLDEEN

February 15, 2020

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s Muslim community offered Friday prayers in solidarity with victims of the global coronavirus outbreak that has already killed nearly  1,400 people, mainly in China.

More than 2,000 worshippers gathered at the 19th-century Dewatagaha Mosque near Colombo’s Town Hall for prayers that were also attended by Muslim parliamentarian S. M. Marikar, Colombo Deputy Mayor Mohamed Iqbal and Chinese diplomats.

Speaking on behalf of Ambassador Cheng Xueyuan, the Chinese mission’s Cultural Counselor Liu Dong expressed gratitude for the move and offered an assurance that business activity between the two countries will resume soon.

“China is overwhelmed by the moral support given by the Muslims of Sri Lanka during this crisis. We will soon overcome this problem and business will be restored as usual,” Liu said, referring to a recent slump in trade due to the virus outbreak.

Marikar, who coordinated the prayer meeting, said that “China has lost lives, while Sri Lanka is largely affected due to the absence of Chinese tourists, who topped the list of foreign visitors to the island.”

The special prayers were requested by Xueyuan, whose hometown has a large Muslim population, the mosque’s trustee, Reyyaz Salley, told Arab News.

Last week, Chinese diplomats requested prayers at Gangaramaya Temple, one of the most important Buddhist sites in Colombo.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1627901/world

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Over 400 Dalits Converted to Islam Since Collapse of 'Caste Wall' Claimed 17 Lives, Says Tamil Nadu Outfit

February 14, 2020

Around 400 Dalits from Coimbatore district of Tamil Nadu have converted to Islam, claimed a Dalit outfit named Tamil Puligal Katchi. The outfit said that since January 5 around 40 families have converted and that the process is still going on.

Referring to an incident of wall collapse in Mettupalayam on December 2, Ilavenil, State Secretary of Tamil Puligal Katchi said, "The death of 17 people in Mettupalayam is the reason behind the conversions. These people like the religion and perform their prayers regularly. They also visit the mosques regularly."

The sudden spate of conversions of Dalits to Islam has been attributed to the wall collapse incident, where 17 people lost their lives. The structure, which was also referred to as the 'caste wall', was seen as a barrier between the Dalit community and the others. The Dalits villagers have claimed that the wall was built to decimate the people of their community.

Those who converted produced affidavits stating that their conversions were by their own free will and not under anyone's influence.

"For the past three years, I was inspired by Islam and I decided to follow the religion because of its religious laws and doctrines. This decision wasn't taken with any guidance," one of the affidavits accessed by CNN-News18 said.

The affidavits have mentioned that they are accepting Islam wholeheartedlly and are willingly adopting Mulsim names.

Banu, previously Poongudi, who converted to Islam said, "Freedom from this religion (Hinduism) is the only way to overcome caste discrimination and untouchability. Muslims are the only people who don't see any differences and see us as equal beings and this is why we embrace the religion."

Alleging threat by police, a recent convert Raiz, previously Ravichandran, said, "Those who are converting legally are being threatened by the police. As a result, there are people who can't talk about the conversion openly." There are some people who shy away from their conversions fearing authorities. But the youth of the area seem to be more vocal and don't pay heed to still being called by their caste names."

Members of the Tamil Puligal Katchi stated that they are constantly discriminated, hurt and disrespected. They are considered as untouchables and are not allowed to enter temples and have tea in shops along with the others. This had led to their announcement in December last year that 3,000 people from neighbouring districts will be converting to Islam starting Janurary 2020.

However, this move by the Dalit outfit has angered a section of the villagers. They claim that only a handful of them, belonging to the Dalit outfit, have converted and are spreading rumours that thousands are converting.

Eashwaran, a resident of Mettupalayam said, “They have linked the 17 deaths to Islam conversion. They said 3000 will convert. Residents of this particular locality are like one big family. We are not planning to convert to another religion. They (Tamil Puligal Katchi outfit) are spreading wrong news.

“We believe in Lord Vishnu. We will never convert to any religion. All people here are like my family. No one here will convert,” added Kannama, another resident.

https://www.news18.com/news/india/over-400-dalits-converted-to-islam-since-caste-wall-claimed-17-lives-says-tamil-nadu-outfit-2501325.html

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With you on Kashmir: Turkish President Erdogan to Pakistan parliament

Feb 14, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday reiterated his country’s support to Pakistan on Kashmir, telling a joint session of Pakistan parliament here that India's decision to revoke the erstwhile state's special status had "exacerbated the troubles of our Kashmiri brothers and sisters".

“They have suffered for decades," Erdogan, who is on a two-day trip to Pakistan, said in a speech aired live by all state-run and private TV stations in Pakistan. "It was Canakkale (a reference to the Gallipoli campaign during the First World War) yesterday and it is Kashmir today, there is no difference.”

Harking back to what Pakistan once did for Turkey, Erdogan said: “We have never forgotten, and will never forget the help that the Pakistani people extended by sharing their bread during our War of Independence. Now, Kashmir is and will be the same for us.”

The Turkish president said the "Kashmir issue" could be resolved "through justice and fairness" rather than conflict. “Such a solution will be in the interest of all parties. Turkey will continue to stand by justice, peace and dialogue.”

Besides joining hands on Kashmir, Erdogan extended Turkey's support to Pakistan against the application of political pressure by the inter-governmental Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF). “We are fully cognizant of the problems faced by Pakistan and we will continue to extend cooperation to it to cope with these. Despite all the pressure, I assure you Turkey’s unflinching support at the FATF,” he said. “Our friendship is based on love and respect. Pakistan’s pain is our pain.”

Referring to other conflict zones, Erdogan said it was Turkey's "responsibility to provide assistance to Muslims, no matter where they are".

“Turkey has played a leading role in Libya, Yemen, Syria and Palestine. We have been on the frontline of the battle to liberate innocent Muslims across the region. With this understanding, Turkey endeavours to eliminate the differences between the Ummah to find a solution to the disputes, and to claim our righteous causes, especially Palestine, Cyprus and Kashmir.”

Erdogan's endorsement of Pakistan's stance on J&K has been a sore point in its relations with India. In September, Indian PM Narendra Modi met leaders of some of Turkey's rivals, including the president of Cyprus, which Turkey had invaded in 1974. During his meeting with Nicos Anastasiades, PM Modi reiterated "India's consistent support for the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of the Republic of Cyprus".

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/with-you-on-kashmir-turkish-prez-to-pak-parliament/articleshow/74142145.cms

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More lies on Iran: The White House just can’t help itself as new facts emerge

14 February 2020

By Philip Giraldi

Admittedly the news cycle in the United States seldom runs longer than twenty-four hours, but that should not serve as an excuse when a major story that contradicts what the Trump administration has been claiming appears and suddenly dies. The public that actually follows the news might recall a little more than one month ago the United States assassinated a senior Iranian official Qassem Soleimani. Openly killing someone in the government of a country with which one is not at war is, to say the least, unusual, particularly when the crime is carried out in yet another country with which both the perpetrator and the victim have friendly relations. The justification provided by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking for the administration, was that Soleimani was in Iraq planning an “imminent” mass killing of Americans, for which no additional evidence was provided at that time or since.

It soon emerged that the Iranian general was in fact in Baghdad to discuss with the Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi a plan that might lead to the de-escalation of the ongoing conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran, a meeting that the White House apparently knew about may even have approved. If that is so, events as they unfolded suggest that the US government might have encouraged Soleimani to make his trip so he could be set up and killed. Donald Trump later dismissed the lack of any corroboration of the tale of “imminent threat” being peddled by Pompeo, stating that it didn’t really matter as Soleimani was a terrorist who deserved to die.

The incident that started the killing cycle that eventually included Soleimani consisted of a December 27th attack on a US base in Iraq in which four American soldiers and two Iraqis were wounded while one US contractor, an Iraqi-born translator, was killed. The United States immediately blamed Iran, claiming that it had been carried out by an Iranian supported Shi’ite militia called Kata’ib Hezbollah. It provided no evidence for that claim and retaliated by striking a Kata’ib base, killing 25 Iraqis who were in the field fighting the remnants of Daesh. The militiamen had been incorporated into the Iraqi Army and this disproportionate response led to riots outside the US Embassy in Baghdad, which were also blamed on Iran by the US. There then followed the assassinations of Soleimani and nine senior Iraqi militia officers. Iran retaliated when it fired missiles at American forces, injuring more than one hundred soldiers, and then mistakenly shot down a passenger jet, killing an additional 176 people. As a consequence due to the killing by the US of 34 Iraqis in the two incidents, the Iraqi Parliament also voted to expel all American troops.

It now appears that the original death of the American contractor that sparked the tit-for-tat conflict was not carried out by Kata’ib Hezbollah at all. An Iraqi Army investigative team has gathered convincing evidence that it was an attack staged by Daesh. In fact, the Iraqi government has demonstrated that Kata’ib Hezbollah has had no presence in Kirkuk province, where the attack took place, since 2014. It is a heavily Sunni area where Shi’ite are not welcome and is instead relatively hospitable to all-Sunni Daesh. It was, in fact, one of the original breeding grounds for what was to become Daesh.

This new development was reported in the New York Times in an article that was headlined “Was US Wrong About Attack That Nearly Started a War With Iran? Iraqi military and intelligence officials have raised doubts about who fired the rockets that started a dangerous spiral of events.” In spite of the sensational nature of the report it generally was ignored in television news and in other mainstream media outlets, letting the Trump administration get away with yet another big lie, one that could easily have led to a war with Iran.

Iraqi investigators found and identified the abandoned white Kia pickup with an improvised Katyusha rocket launcher in the vehicle’s bed that was used to stage the attack. It was discovered down a desert road within range of the K-1 joint Iraqi-American base that was hit by at least ten missiles in December, most of which struck the American area.

There is no direct evidence tying the attack to any particular party and the improvised KIA truck is used by all sides in the regional fighting, but the Iraqi officials point to the undisputed fact that it was Daesh that had carried out three separate attacks near the base over the 10 days preceding December 27th. And there are reports that Daesh has been increasingly active in Kirkuk Province during the past year, carrying out near daily attacks with improvised roadside bombs and ambushes using small arms. There had, in fact, been reports from Iraqi intelligence that were shared with the American command warning that there might be a Daesh attack on K-1 itself, which is an Iraqi air base in that is shared with US forces.

The intelligence on the attack has been shared with American investigators, who have also examined the pick-up truck. The Times reports that the US command in Iraq continue to insist that the attack was carried out by Kata’ib based on information, including claimed communications intercepts, that it refuses to make public. The US forces may not have shared the intelligence they have with the Iraqis due to concerns that it would be leaked to Iran, but senior Iraqi military officers are nevertheless perplexed by the reticence to confide in an ally.

If the Iraqi investigation of the facts around the December attack on K-1 is reliable, the Trump administration’s reckless actions in Iraq in late December and early January cannot be justified. Worse still, it would appear that the White House was looking for an excuse to attack and kill a senior Iranian official to send some kind of message, a provocation that could easily have resulted in a war that would benefit no one. To be sure, the Trump administration has lied about developments in the Middle East so many times that it can no longer be trusted. Unfortunately, demanding any accountability from the Trump team would require a Congress that is willing to shoulder its responsibility for truth in government backed up by a media that is willing to take on an administration that regularly punishes anyone or any entity that dares to challenge it. That is the unfortunate reality in America today.

Philip M. Giraldi (pictured above) is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer who served nineteen years overseas in Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Spain. He was the CIA Chief of Base for the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and was one of the first Americans to enter Afghanistan in December 2001.

The article was originally published by Strategic Culture Foundation on February 13, 2020.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/14/618676/More-White-House-lies-on-Iran:-New-facts-emerge

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Attacks, threats against mosques raise concern as parliament discusses Islam in Germany

14.02.2020

The recent increase in hateful attacks and threats against mosques and djemevis (Alevi places of worship) in Germany have sparked concern among the targeted communities while the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party asked the parliament to take precautions against the "spread of Islam" in Germany and to research the alleged link between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DİTİB).

According to the German Deutsche Welle, there have been five bomb threats against mosques in the last two days. The police have announced that an investigation was launched into the calls.

Aiman Mazyek, chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, in his announcement on the issue Thursday urged for higher security precautions. "We witness such incidents almost every week," he said, adding that such incidents could encourage potential attackers.

The Alevi Federation Germany in Marl province, on the other hand, protested the attack against the Bektashi Cultural Center on Feb. 11.

Every other day throughout the course of 2019, a mosque, a Muslim institution or a religious representative in Germany was targeted in anti-Muslim attacks, an inquiry by Germany's Left Party (Die Linke) showed recently.

The figure was collated by the German Interior Ministry under the scope of the new "Attack Catalogue," listing anti-Muslim attacks on cultural associations, cemeteries, mosques, religious institutions, representatives, symbols and other places of worship since January 2019. The catalog only contains a portion of all the crimes against Islam but has a broader scope than only listing the attacks on mosques, the German daily pointed out.

According to the report, there have been 184 anti-Muslim attacks in 2019, including hate speech, threats, assault, vandalism and property damage. The number of attacks could increase due to the late reporting of cases.

Furthermore, the resolution submitted by the AfD which demands that precautions be taken against the "spread of Islam" in Germany was discussed Thursday in the parliament. The resolution also underlined that institutions linked to the Muslim Brotherhood had to be watched closely. The resolution has drawn heavy criticism from the coalition and other parties.

Hamburg deputy Christoph de Vries called the proposal a "two-faced application," while he highlighted that the AfD was deliberately trying to show all Muslims as extremists. De Vries further stressed that the 4.5 million Muslims in Germany were living in peace and friendship.

Ulla Jelpke of Germany's Left Party also criticized the AfD by saying that Germany's alleged "Islamicization threat" was the party's favorite illusion.

Struggle to crack down on far-right extremists continues

German authorities raided sites linked to five people suspected of forming a "right-wing terrorist organization" and planning to carry out attacks against politicians and minorities. Federal prosecutors say the raids took place Friday at 13 locations in six states. Prosecutors said the five suspects are alleged to have formed an organization in September 2019 with the aim of overthrowing the state and social order in Germany. They allege that the suspects wanted to achieve their goal "with as yet unspecified attacks against politicians, asylum-seekers and Muslims to provoke a civil war-like situation." Eight other people are being investigated on suspicion of pledging to financially support the group, procure weapons or participate in future attacks.

The move came after the country announced last month it would ban the neo-Nazi group Combat 18 Deutschland in what the country's top security official said was a "clear message" against far-right extremism and anti-Semitism. The group is an offshoot of Combat 18, which was founded in Britain in the early 1990s as a militant wing of the British National Party. The number 18 stands for the first and eighth letters of the alphabet, AH, which are the initials of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

The Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) announced last month that the number of far-right extremists who are classified as "dangerous" in Germany has increased. German police are currently classifying 53 of the 12,700 far-right extremists as "dangerous," as reported by Deutsche Welle. In 2012, only 22 far-right extremists were considered dangerous. The "dangerous" classification is used for people who are thought to be able to commit severe violent crimes.

Facing growing far-right extremism, Germany has been shaken by more than 100 bomb and death threats sent to lawyers, politicians and institutions last year, apparently by German neo-Nazi groups, local media reported, revealing the threat of a growing neo-Nazi presence in the country.

Twelve detained in anti-terrorism raids

Twelve people targeted in raids against an alleged right-wing terrorist group in Germany on Friday have been detained, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said they had firmed up the accusations against the suspects following the raids.

The 12 - all German men - are expected to be brought before a judge on Friday or Saturday, who will decide whether they should be remanded in custody or released. Thirteen people in total had been targeted in the raids.

https://www.dailysabah.com/politics/2020/02/14/attacks-threats-against-mosques-raise-concern-as-parliament-discusses-islam-in-germany

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Southeast Asia

 

Where's the love? Indonesia says no to Valentine's Day

February 14, 2020

Indonesia wasn't feeling the love for Valentine's Day on Friday as authorities arrested couples in one city, scolded stores over condom displays and warned students they would be reprimanded for amorous activities.

Makassar on Sulawesi island doled out some tough love with raids at hotels and guest houses Thursday evening which netted about two dozen unmarried offenders, including a German national.

"We caught the German with his Indonesian partner in a motel and they weren't husband and wife so that's why we arrested them," Iman Hud, head of the local public order office, told AFP.

The unlucky lovers were quickly released after a lecture about the evils of pre-marital sex, but five sex workers caught in the dragnet would be sent to a rehabilitation centre, he added.

"These social illnesses must be prevented. We need to remind the public to uphold our culture and ethics," Hud said.

Valentine's Day is controversial in parts of the majority Muslim nation, with many Islamic clerics and conservative Indonesians criticising its Western roots and what they say is its promotion of pre-marital sex.

Still, many others practise a moderate form of Islam and celebrate the day with chocolates and flowers for their loved ones, and displays were set up at malls and cafes in the capital Jakarta.

Back in Makassar, however, authorities were checking to see if shops had complied with an earlier warning not to sell condoms openly and check identification cards to make sure buyers weren't underaged.

"Condoms are for married adults," public order chief Hud said.

"They're not supposed to be displayed and sold openly, particularly near snacks for kids like chocolate."

Makassar's acting mayor Muhammad Iqbal Samad Suhae insisted the measures were necessary to prevent his city from being paralysed by rampant sex and drug use.

"Festivities like Valentine's Day usually attract youth," he added.

"That's when they are out of control and doing things which violate our norms and traditions, like consuming drugs and engaging in free sex.

"We want to prevent that here."

In Depok city near Jakarta, administrators warned students against any Valentine's romance under threat of unspecified sanctions for violators.

Across the archipelago in conservative Aceh, the only region in Indonesia that imposes Islamic law, a government circular called for residents not to celebrate the romantic day and to report any violations.

The document also told restaurants, cafes and hotels not to provide space for celebrations and asked clerics to deliver speeches on the danger of Valentine's Day.

The latest crackdown comes after the national government last year backed off a bill that would have made pre-marital sex illegal.

https://www.theweek.in/news/world/2020/02/14/wheres-the-love-indonesia-says-no-to-valentines-day.html

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Kazakh violence makes Chinese Muslim minority ponder future

February 15, 2020

MASANCHI, Kazakhstan: As Khusei Daurov lay dazed after being caught up in inter-ethnic clashes near his home in southern Kazakhstan, he felt the cold steel of a pistol against his forehead.

Violence had broken out among local Kazakhs and a group of ethnic Chinese Muslims called Dungans, who number more than 150,000 across Central Asia.

Daurov, a Dungan community leader, was trying to calm tensions when a Kazakh man put the gun to his head. Another Kazakh intervened, convincing the man to let Daurov go.

His eyes glazed with tears as he recalled the incident a few days later, a sling supporting an arm that was broken in the assault.

But Daurov was still reluctant to condemn his Muslim Kazakh “brothers” for the violence.

“It wasn’t Kazakhs who did this to our people,” he said. “These people were bandits and extremists.”

The Feb 7 rampage, which resulted in 11 deaths, saw hundreds of ethnic Kazakh assailants descend on the Dungan village of Masanchi, setting fire to homes, shops and livestock.

In the worst such violence in nearly three decades of independence, at least nine of the dead were Dungans, while one was a Kazakh, officials said. One body has not yet been identified.

The bloody clashes have highlighted underlying tensions in a region where many ethnic groups live side by side, and have left many in the Dungan community wondering what their future holds.

Life in Central Asia for the Dungans has proven quiet compared to the brutal repressions they fled in imperial China in the 19th century.

Straddling the border between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, the people who claim Chinese and Arab heritage mostly work in agriculture or run small businesses.

The Mandarin dialect that Dungans speak, which is infused with Farsi and Arabic loanwords, sets them apart in a region where Turkic tongues dominate.

Yet this has not prevented Dungans forming close bonds with other groups in ex-Soviet Central Asia, even if intermarriage is the exception rather than the rule.

For Batyrbek Toreyev, a civil servant who lives in the majority-Kazakh village of Karakemer, the sudden raid of nearby Masanchi was “unthinkable.”

“Our families are friends with their families. We stop by each others’ houses. What happened has happened now. We need to get on with our lives,” he said, carrying a shopping bag with two bricks of white bread.

Many Dungans of Central Asia have family ties to China, especially western China, where they are known as Hui.

Beijing has targeted the group of some 10 million as part of a crackdown on Muslims that has also swept up Turkic groups like Uighurs, Kazakhs and Kyrgyz in the western Xinjiang region.

Some Kyrgyz and Kazakhs argue that Dungans have leveraged their linguistic and cultural heritage to benefit unfairly from trade with China, which floods the region with imports.

In 2013, dozens of ethnic Dungan truckers were reportedly beaten by Kyrgyz drivers at a border crossing with China where truckers compete for cargo bound for the country’s bazaars.

Earlier, Kyrgyz and Dungans were involved in a village conflict that saw Dungan homes burned and some families flee to Kazakhstan to join relatives there.

But after the most recent clashes, it was Kyrgyzstan that became a safety net for thousands of mainly women and children seeking refuge from the fighting.

Daurov said that all ethnic groups in Kyrgyzstan were due “enormous thanks” for providing food, aid and shelter to his fleeing compatriots, many of whom have since returned home.

In Masanchi, where charred buildings have marred a once-tidy central strip, Kazakh state officials have set about restoring a sense of normality.

Oil-rich Kazakhstan’s authoritarian leadership prides itself on guaranteeing inter-ethnic harmony in a country where the foreign ministry says “over 100 ethnic groups are living in peace.”

At one of several mosques, Dungan elders sat down for steaming bowls of rice and mutton pilau with Kazakh police, whose heavy presence in the village was a welcome reassurance, residents said.

Elsewhere,

a team employed by the regional administration was removing burned debris from the shell of what used to be Masanchi’s largest supermarket.

But even among these workers, there were signs of resentment towards the minority.

“The Dungans beat up one of our old men,” said one man, Ermek Saparov, who called the conflict a “misunderstanding.”

Saparov said that the altercation two days before the Feb 7 clashes had prompted calls across online messengers for attacks against Dungan communities.

His co-worker Ulan Ashirbek admitted he was tempted to respond to the calls but was busy at work.

“You see, this was a Dungan shop, but it is Kazakhs who are doing all the clearing up,” Ashirbek complained.

Both Kazakhs and Dungans agree that the conflict, which drew in Kazakhs living hundreds of kilometres away, would not have erupted without online messengers that allowed information – and disinformation – to spread rapidly through communities.

One complaint about Dungans that circulated on messaging services – seen by AFP – was that the group disrespects the Kazakh language by instead speaking their own or Russian, whose use is controversial throughout ex-Soviet republics.

But Malik Yasyrov, a Dungan man who died from a gunshot wound in the Masanchi attacks, was a Kazakh language teacher at a nearby middle school.

“He was a patriot. He went to Masanchi to defend his fellow citizens,” his mother Aishe Gadir said at a feast held for the neighbours and relatives who helped bury the 24-year-old.

Yasyrov had kept in touch with his mother throughout the night, narrating scenes of murder and pillaging.

As he described homes and cars ablaze, he begged her to take his two children to Kyrgyzstan.

After 1.00am, his phone went dead. Later that morning, Gadir learned her son had been killed.

Full report at:

https://www.nst.com.my/world/world/2020/02/565772/kazakh-violence-makes-chinese-muslim-minority-ponder-future

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Change in political winds restoring faith in Malaysia's judiciary, says former appeals court judge

14 Feb 2020

SHAH ALAM, Feb 14 — Malaysians are regaining their faith in the nation’s judicial system since the change in the political landscape, says Datuk Mah Weng Kwai.

The former Court of Appeal judge said restoring the people’s faith in the judiciary took a long time, but with less political interference over the past few years, the judiciary is now showing more independent thought.

“I think we have come some way since 1988 and the Tun Salleh Abbas case. For a good 20 years, the judiciary was seen through a negative lens after that incident.

“But I think things are beginning to improve, and quite quickly too,” said Mah when met at Concorde Hotel after giving a class on “pleadings” to around 200 law practitioners at the Selangor Bar Council’s inaugural Civil Law conference today.

The 1988 Malaysian constitutional crisis (also known as the 1988 judicial crisis) was a series of events that began with Umno party elections in 1987 and ended with the suspension and eventual removal of the lord president of the Supreme Court, Tun Salleh Abas, from his seat.

The Supreme Court in the years leading up to 1988 had been increasingly independent of other branches of the government.

Matters then came to a head when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who believed in the supremacy of the executive and legislative branches, became prime minister.

Many saw his eventual sacking of Salleh Abas and two other Supreme Court judges as the end of judicial independence in Malaysia.

Since 1988, there have been regular calls for an official review of the government’s actions throughout the crisis. In 2008, newly appointed de facto law minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim said the government should issue an open apology to the sacked judges, calling the government’s actions during the crisis “inappropriate”.

Not long after that, then prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi called the crisis one which the nation had never recovered from, and announced ex-gratia compensation for the sacked and suspended judges.

Fast forward to today, as a barometer to justify his remarks, Mah said all one needs to do is take a look at the applications for appointments as judicial commissioners.

Mah is a member of the nine-member Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC), a commission tasked to carry out functions such as receiving applications from qualified persons seeking to join the judiciary, and selecting suitable candidates to be recommended to the prime minister for appointment as judges.

Mah said that lately there has been a surge in applicants from the Malaysian Bar seeking to join the judiciary as judicial commissioners, whereas in the past, the applicants were predominantly from the judicial and legal service.

“Many asked these applicants why they were applying to be judicial commissioners and their answer was they would like to join the bench, they felt they would be looked upon positively, good things are happening especially on the independence of the judiciary, which are all good indicators the judiciary is on the right track,” he said.

Those from the Malaysian Bar are lawyers in private practice, while the judicial and legal service refers to court officials and legal officers who are in the public service.

Those who are appointed as judicial commissioners exercise the functions of a judge in the High Court. The judicial commissioner position is not a permanent post, and those appointed to this post stand a chance to later be appointed as a judge based on their performance.

When asked if the change of government had helped to restore faith in Malaysia’s judiciary, Mah said this was a possibility, but the signs of improvement had been building up for several years.

The situation, he said, is amplified now because we have a good chief justice (CJ) and more independence.

“I would say it didn’t happen suddenly, but with the change of government, there’s a breath of fresh air.

“There’s a feeling of a little more independence, a little more space for independent thought,” said Mah.

“Our CJ is very empathic about quality of work and independence. Obviously, now and again, there are allegations of corruption. But if you hear such things, please let us know so we can investigate.”

“Also, if you compare the situation now to before, there is definitely less political interference like we had years and years ago,” Mah explained.

In order to further improve matters at the appellate court, Mah said when judges agree and come to a unanimous decision, only one written judgment will be presented.

He suggested where there are dissenting decisions, the judges should write their dissenting judgments.

“This is so we get to know what made the judge dissent. To know the grounds. This is the same for the Federal Court,” he said.

“In fact, it happened yesterday with the ‘bin Abdullah’ case. There were written dissenting judgements, so you can see both sides, and as you notice, this is being taken seriously.”

Yesterday, the Federal Court in a majority ruling ordered the government to remove the words “bin Abdullah” from a Johor-born illegitimate Muslim child’s name from his birth certificate, but also reversed a previous ruling that allowed the father’s name to be part of the boy’s name.

This was the majority decision by four of the seven judges on the Federal Court panel in this case, where the National Registration Department was appealing against the Court of Appeal’s 2017 decision that had favoured the Muslim child.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/02/14/change-in-political-winds-restoring-faith-in-local-judiciary-says-former-ap/1837544

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Don't forget the Uighur amid the Coronavirus crisis

By Omar Suleiman

When a people are subjected to the most unimaginable forms of cruelty at the hands of a brutal regime and prominent world powers are unwilling to take any meaningful steps to stop that cruelty, where and what do they then turn to? When a tragedy strikes the government that abused them, could they be excused for believing it to be divine intervention?

The largest mass atrocity occurring in the world today, unfortunately, speaks to this sad reality.

The Uighurs and other mostly-Muslim Turkic minorities in China are being subjected to the most brutal forms of oppression and the Chinese government's so-called "re-education camps" are holding over a million of them out of sight.

To counter any criticism of its treatment of the Uighurs, China has employed a language of "de-radicalisation" that has been normalised throughout the world by repressive governments to mask their own policies of death and destruction.

While other groups that suffer under inhumane policies either at the hands of their own governments or others often find themselves championed by a competing force and score some gains while being used as a political football, the Uighurs do not seem to qualify even for that. 

Last month, US President Donald Trump signed a new trade deal with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, bringing the two-year trade war between the two superpowers to an end and making his administration less willing than usual to even mention the gross human rights violations committed by the Asian giant.

While most Muslim minorities oppressed by non-Muslim nations have at times, though decreasingly, receive support, charity or at least some lip service from Muslim majority countries, the Uighurs did not get any of that either.

Days after a group of 22 nations signed a letter addressed to the president of the UN Human Rights Council and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights calling on China to close down its internment camps in Xinjiang, a group of 37 countries, many with overwhelmingly Muslim populations, submitted a similar letter in defence of China's policies. In the second letter, the signatories expressed their opposition to "politicising human rights" and reiterated China's defence of what it calls "vocation education and training centers".

The greatest explanation for this behaviour, aside from the general decline in all forms of Muslim solidarity, is China's economic chokehold on the Muslim world. Most Muslim governments who depend politically on the United States for protection, depend on China for their economic survival. Given that Beijing is known for not taking criticism of its human rights record laying down, censoring China over its treatment of Uighurs simply comes at too high an economic cost for most Muslim nations.

As a result of all this, the world largely remains mute on the plight of Uighurs, with their suffering only being mentioned in occasional news reports by a few media organisations.

In December, as the world continued to turn a blind eye to the plight of the Uighur community, a coronavirus outbreak began in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. In a few months, the deadly virus infected tens of thousands of people in mainland China, killing more than 1,000 people.

As the epidemic grabbed headlines across the World, and the international community made the outbreak its utmost priority, a debate sparked among Muslims and especially Uighurs: could the outbreak be God's punishment for China and the world's horrific treatment of Uighur Muslims?

Before I write another sentence, I need to emphasise that this article is not an attempt at whataboutery. I am not trying to minimise the deaths of more than 1,000 people or the threat the virus poses to the world.  I'm simply attempting to explain why a growing number of Muslims, and especially Uighurs, are asking whether the outbreak is divine intervention.

While many have been exposed to this debate solely through social media, I actually had a chance to speak to Uighurs themselves about it. They told me how their family members and loved ones disappeared into China's internment camps. They told me how they felt utterly abandoned by world powers, especially the Muslim ones. And they admitted to me that when the epidemic started, they felt deep down that it may be divine aid for them. They said they couldn't help but feel that way even though they know making such a determination is theologically flawed.

In Islam, God determines what, who, and how he punishes in a way that is only known by him, and to opine on divine intent is to claim access to God's unique knowledge, which no one can. We also hold that what may be a punishment to some, could be a reward to others.

Some told me that they feel sorry for the Muslims, and innocent people of other religions, suffering in Wuhan, but hope that China would economically and politically collapse for its crimes. And every single Uighur I've spoken to have agreed that apathy to tragedy, which they have suffered the most as a result of, is not only un-Islamic but merciless.

But as we emphasise the un-Islamic nature of such claims and feelings, we should not ignore the injustices that sparked these sentiments in the first place. 

Why are the Uighurs wasting away in internment camps not receiving the same level of support people infected with the coronavirus do? Why does the suffering of the Uighurs receive only a fraction of the media coverage the victims of the epidemic are receiving? Is it only because the virus has the potential to spread across the world and infect others, or is there a more sinister reason why the world does not seem to care about the Uighurs?

So much of what common Chinese people are now experiencing as a result of the outbreak is similar to what the Uighurs have long been experiencing at the hands of the Chinese government. 

Before anyone was quarantined for coronavirus, the Uighurs were quarantined by the Chinese government - first in their homes and neighbourhoods, then in literal concentration camps.

Before Chinese people were forced to cover their faces with masks due to the virus, hijabs and niqabs were being pulled off the heads and faces of Uighur women.

Before the coronavirus spread throughout China, putting the freedom, health and wellbeing of millions of innocent people at risk, millions of innocent Uighurs were already being imprisoned, tortured and killed because they had the "virus" of Islam.

And long before the Chinese government was suspected of covering up the number of deaths and confirmed infections to carefully control the narrative about coronavirus, it was covering up its systematic abuse of the Uighur people.

Nevertheless, the same international community that swiftly came together to work to bring an end to the devastation caused by the virus and ease the suffering of its victims, did almost nothing to stop the suffering of the Uighurs. 

The coronavirus epidemic is undoubtedly a horrible tragedy that has caused more than 1,000 deaths in China, and it may cause even more devastation elsewhere in the future. It is no small deal, and our hearts should go out to the families of those left behind as well as people still living with the fear that they or their loved ones may soon catch the virus. We should do everything we can to contain the virus and encourage our leaders to take action to end this crisis as soon as possible.

But we should also understand the feelings of the Uighurs who are now forced to watch the outpouring of  support, in part, towards the government that abused them. They are simply trying to come to terms with a reality in which their tragedy is ignored but the tragedy of their oppressors remains in the headlines.

While it is wrong to definitively speak of God's will in any matter, let alone a devastating disease outbreak indiscriminately affecting millions of people, we can certainly try to understand why Uighurs cannot help but feel that way.

Full report at:

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/don-forget-uighur-coronavirus-crisis-200214134600562.html

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Pakistan

 

Strong reaction in NA to PM’s call for treason case against Fazl

February 15, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Friday echoed with a strong reaction from the opposition members to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s remarks that a treason case should be made against Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman for an attempt to “topple” the government.

The opposition unanimously raised voice against any such move of the government against Maulana Fazl and challenged the government “to do it if it could”.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said it would be unfair with Maulana Fazl and Khawaja Asif if a treason case was made against them. “Here most wanted terrorist Ehsanullah Ehsan escapes but cases are made only against political leadership,” he added.

He said the government should explain under what charges and reasons treason cases were being made against politicians.

Khawaja Asif of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) said they [politicians] have no need to get a patriotism certificate from Imran Khan as they have given every sacrifice for the democracy. “Here ex-SSP Karachi Rao Anwar and TTP leader Ehsanullah Eshan move freely while cases are made against politicians. Do not open such paths as they are dangerous,” he added.

He said the ruler were talking about making of treason cases against him and Maulana Fazl only to divert attention from the unprecedented price hike in the country. “A treason case should be made against them [PTI leaders] who had attacked PTV headquarters,” he added.

Maulana Asad Mehmood, son of Maulana Fazl, said on the floor of the house that Article 6 of the Constitution should not be applied on the Maulana, but on what he called the selected prime minister. “I challenge you [the prime minister] to make cases against us. We will not do what they [the government] want,” he added.

At this, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan said the government had no intention to target anyone, but Maulana Fazlhad to tell the nation who had assured him of ousting the government.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1534578/strong-reaction-in-na-to-pms-call-for-treason-case-against-fazl

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Erdogan meets rousing welcome in Pakistani parliament

Islamuddin Sajid and Aamir Latif  

14.02.2020

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI, Pakistan

The desk beatings reverberated the packed Pakistani parliament on Friday as the parliamentarians got to their feet to greet the visiting Turkish president, in a rare show of honor.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, key opposition leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, and other senior Cabinet members, stood up on their first row seats, as Recep Tayyip Erdogan entered the parliament.

They beat the desks in unison to greet Erdogan, who later addressed the joint session of the parliament for the record fourth time.

Earlier, PM Khan, Sadiq Sanjrani, chairman of Senate -- the upper house of Pakistan’s parliament -- and Asad Qaisar, speaker of National Assembly -- the lower house --, welcomed the visiting president outside the parliament.

He was the 21st foreign dignitary visiting the Pakistani parliament, and the only one among them who addressed the joint sitting record four times. His address was broadcast live by all the state-run and private TV channels.

Guests, including the chiefs of the three armed forces, sitting in the visitors’ galleries also got to their feet and clapped to welcome Erdogan.

All the four provincial governors, chief ministers, Cabinet members, chiefs of the armed forces, President of Pakistani-administered Kashmir Masood Khan and its Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider, foreign diplomats, and other dignitaries also attended the special session, which began with a Quran recitation.

National anthems of the two countries were played before Erdogan’s address.

'Historic speech'

In his welcoming address, Speaker Qaisar touched on several matters of mutual interest, and historical relations between the two nations.

"It is an honor for me to introduce to you [parliamentarians] a personality who is not only an old and true friend of Pakistan but the true leader of Muslim ummah," Qaisar said.

"This elected house, which represents 220 million people of Pakistan, welcomes you from the core of heart," he said adding: "Your visit is happening at a time when the Muslims around the world are facing serious challenges, including the growing trend of Islamophobia. We are eager to hear from you, especially how to tackle the changing world."

Tracing the history of Pakistan-Turkey relations, the speaker said: "Our forefathers [the Muslims of the sub-continent] vigorously supported Turkey’s freedom war following the World War I. They gathered under the Khilafat Movement [1919 to 1924] to defend the interests of Turkey."

He also commented on Ankara’s support for Islamabad after New Delhi scrapped the longstanding special status of disputed Jammu and Kashmir in last August.

"There is only one [foreign] leader who has truly represented the feelings of Kashmiris in the world, and that’s you," Qaisar said.

Senator Faisal Javed Khan from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party also praised Turkish leader’s address at the joint session of parliament and thanked for his support to their country over the Kashmir issue.

"I think it was a historic speech which he made to the parliament, the whole Muslim world is proud of him. The kind of speech he made today, we absolutely happy and we appreciate the words, the feelings for the people of Pakistan and for the people of Kashmir," Khan told Anadolu Agency.

Parliamentarians from all political parties attended the joint session and they warmly welcomed the Turkish president on his arrival at the parliament.

"That was the best speech and we felt his love for us. Turkey always stood behind us and today President Erdogan reaffirmed his support for Pakistan," said Senator Sitara Ayaz from the Awami National Party.

"President Erdogan made a tremendous speech who not only talked about the Muslim's issues but also give a guideline to the Muslim world in his speech and announced that his country would stand with the Muslims across the world," Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan from Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan remarked.

Erdogan has the ability to lead the Muslim world and other Muslim leaders should join hands and follow him, he added.

"I have never listen such a good speech, it was the best speech by any head of the state, he very briefly supported all the national interest of Pakistan," Senator Pervaiz Rashid from the Pakistan Muslim League said.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/erdogan-meets-rousing-welcome-in-pakistani-parliament/1734026

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Religious leaders laud Erdogan’s stance on Kashmir

Asim Hussain

February 15, 2020

LAHORE: Religious leaders have praised the courageous stance of Turkish president Teyyip Erdogan for supporting the just cause of freedom for the oppressed Kashmiri Muslims and said he had earned himself the most prominent place among Muslim leaders of the world.

Jamaat-e-Islami ameer Senator Sirajul Haq, while lauding Tayyip Erdogan’s brave stance on Kashmir and Palestine issues during his address to the joint session of the parliament, said Erdogan proved himself the bravest leader and true representative of Muslim Ummah.

In a statement from Mansoora on Friday, the JI leader demanded the other rulers of Islamic world take the similar stance on the issues facing the Muslim world and display unity in their ranks to address them. Sirajul Haq praised Turkish president for helping Islamabad on diplomatic front besides trying to strengthen the fragile economy of Pakistan which was proved by the arrival of group of investors with him, and this cooperation would cement the longstanding friendship between the two countries. He said Turkey had always remembered the sacrifices rendered by the Muslims of this region during the restoration of Khilafat Movement. He said President Erdogan’s stance on Kashmir not only won the hearts of Pakistanis but also won love of the people of AJK and Indian-Held Kashmir.

Sirajul Haq, however, regretted that the government again displayed its narrow mindedness by not allowing the national leadership to meet the respected guest after his address to the parliament, which was a violation of the noble national tradition.

Full report at:

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/614209-religious-leaders-laud-erdogan-s-stance-on-kashmir

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Sanjrani asks govt for FIA probe report on sugar, flour crises

February 15, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani asked the government on Friday to place the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA)’s report on sugar and flour crisis before the house on Monday after Leader of Opposition Raja Zafarul Haq said according to his information, the report had been submitted by the FIA to the government.

The controversy over Prime Minister Imran Khan’s remarks suggesting trial of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Fazl) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman for alleged treason also echoed in the house as the treasury and opposition members traded barbs over price hike, gas shortage and sugar and wheat flour scam.

PML-N parliamentary leader in the house Mushahidullah Khan alleged that the FIA report on sugar and flour shortages was not being made public as people sitting in government were behind the shortages. He said wheat had been exported and then imported by the same man.

Zafarul Haq said negative tactics were being employed to push the opposition to the wall. He expressed concern over the prime minister’s remarks about Maulana Fazl’s trial under Article 6 of the Constitution and the curbs on social media under a set of rules framed by the government.

Mushahidullah Khan said the JUI-F chief’s speech was political in nature and regretted the talk of his trial under Article 6 of the Constitution. “If he is to be tried in high treason case for his remarks, how many will be guilty of the offence for making such remarks in 2014, which were more severe in nature,” he asked.

He recalled that in 2014 call had been made for civil disobedience, utility bills had been torn apart, overseas Pakistanis had been asked to send remittances through illegal means, PTV headquarter had been captured and warnings had been given that the ‘umpire’ was about to raise his finger.

“We neither initiated a treason case against you nor we put anyone of you behind the bars,” the PML-N leader said and asked the government not to set negative traditions that might haunt it in future.

He said the government had made fabricated cases against political opponents who had then been put in solitary confinement. “Do you know for how many days you are in power? What if somebody puts you in solitary confinement tomorrow,” he asked.

Javed Abbasi of the PML-N asked the chairman to immediately take up an adjournment motion submitted by him and seeking a discussion on the reports that the IMF team had asked Pakistan to reduce trade and economic reliance on China.

He said the adviser to the prime minister on finance should come to the house to explain what assurances had been given to the IMF.

Some other members of the Senate feared that efforts were afoot to roll back the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Nauman Wazir of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) held the previous PML-N government responsible for the energy and economic crisis. He said the independent power producers, which were supposed to get a profit of 15 to 17 per cent under the agreements signed during the PML-N’s days in power, had earned 45pc to 70pc profit.

He said the then finance minister Ishaq Dar threw $38 billion in the market to artificially keep the dollar exchange rate at Rs105.

He said appointments were made in the Pakistan International Airlines and the Pakistan Steel Mills on political basis. Without naming anybody, he said the leader of sugar mafia must be the one who owned as many as 18 mills.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1534583/sanjrani-asks-govt-for-fia-probe-report-on-sugar-flour-crises

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Ministry asked to appoint focal person for students in China

Malik Asad

February 15, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Isla­mabad High Court (IHC) on Friday directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to appoint a focal person for Pakistani students stra­nded in China because of coronavirus and evolve a mechanism for direct interaction of parents with their children in the virus-hit country.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah resumed the hearing of a petition seeking evacuation of Pakistani students and citizens from China.

The national health services (NHS) secretary, along with director general (China) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, appeared before the court.

The IHC chief justice pointed out that some stranded students had directly approached the court through email. He said these students were suffering from mental agony.

The NHS secretary informed the court that Pakistan, in collaboration with the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs, had formed a joint working group for redressal of individual complaints.

Justice Minallah wondered why unlike other countries, the Pakistan government was not bringing back those citizens who were not affected by coronavirus, saying the students who sent emails to the IHC were not among the virus-affected people.

He asked the NHS secretary whether Pakistan did not have the required capacity to deal with the virus.

The DG of foreign affairs, Muddassir Tipur, claimed that the Chinese government had issued an advice that pulling out of the people was not safe.

Justice Minallah obse­rved that being a constitutional court, the IHC would prefer not to interfere in the executive’s domain, but the court expected the government to console with the affected families.

Mr Tipu informed the court that the government was aware of the gravity of the matter and two diplomats had been assigned to visit the coronavirus-hit Wuhan city.

Parents of the stranded students also attended the proceedings and informed the court that their respective universities had allowed the students to leave the country. They said that the Chinese government had informed them that the Pakistan government was not willing to bring the students back to Pakistan.

The court directed the foreign ministry to arrange meetings of the parents with Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Overseas Pakistanis Zulfi Bukhari and SAPM on Health Zafar Mirza.

The foreign ministry official assured the court of arranging meetings of the parents with relevant government officials at Foreign Office on a daily basis.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1534580/ministry-asked-to-appoint-focal-person-for-students-in-china

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Pakistan, Turkey to transform ties into economic partnership

Baqir Sajjad Syed

February 15, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Turkey on Friday agreed to transform their ties into a strategic economic partnership.

The two sides, which signed 13 memorandums of understandings (MoUs) inc­luding a joint declaration after the sixth meeting of the High-Level Strategic Co­operation Council (HLSCC), importantly app­roved a Strategic Economic Framework (SEF) and an accompanying elaborate plan of action to implement the new vision for the ties.

The SEF aims at realising the target of enhancing bilateral trade to $5 billion by 2023 from the current $800 million.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while speaking at a press conference with Prime Minister Imran Khan after the signing ceremony, described the SEF and the 71-point plan of action, as the “roadmap for deepening economic cooperation”.

Mr Erdogan, who was on a two-day visit to Pakistan for co-chairing the HLSCC meeting, vowed to extend all help in Pakistan’s socio-economic development.

He said: “Turkey is ready to provide all support in transport, energy, tourism, healthcare, education, and law-enforcement, which will help in socio-economic development of Pakistan.”

The MoUs signed by the two governments relate to fields of standardisation, con­formity assessment, met­­ro­logy and training; dia­spora policy; media; development and facilita­tion of tourism; halal acc­re­ditation; trade facilita­tion and customs coope­ration matters; railways; postal services; military training; and hydrocarbons.

These agreements were the outcome of discussions at the HLSCC, which steers the bilateral relationship and its working groups.

In another development the two sides agreed to expand the scope of the HLCC, which previously had seven joint working groups focusing on political coordi­nation; trade and invest­ment; energy; banking and finance; transport and communications; culture and tourism; and education. HLCC has now got two new groups on defence industry cooperation and water and agriculture.

Mr Erdogan said that the defence cooperation was the “most dynamic element” of the bilateral cooperation.

Underscoring the importance of investments for job creation, improving productivity and competitiveness of Pakistan, he hoped that Prime Minister Imran Khan would improve the business climate in Pakistan.

Mr Erdogan reaffirmed his support for Kashmir. He said Turkey was in “deep solidarity” with the people of Kashmir suffering Indian oppression. He noted that the situation in occupied Kashmir had deteriorated because of India’s “unilateral action” of annexing the region in August 2019 and called for peaceful settlement of the dispute through dialogue.

The Turkish president offered Islamabad his help for improving ties with Kabul. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan, he said, were Turkey’s brotherly countries and he would like to see them enhance their relations.

He thanked Pakistan government for supporting Turkey’s military operation in Idlib (Syria) and helping in taking control of Pak-Turk schools that were previously run by his opponent Fethullah Gülen.

PM Khan, on this occasion, said that Pakistan was in particular looking forward to benefitting from Turkish expertise in tourism, construction of low-cost housing, and economic revival.

“Turkey was in a situation similar to what confronting Pakistan today when Mr Erdogan came to power with circular debt and IMF loan hurting their economy. We want to learn from their turn around,” Mr Khan said.

He said that Pakistan and Turkey were opening a new chapter in their ties in which timelines had been set for progress. “Both countries would benefit from cooperation, but Pakistan would be the bigger beneficiary,” he said.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, in a presser at the Foreign Office after Mr Erdogan’s departure, said that the visit had shown that historical ties bet­ween Pakistan and Tur­key were growing in stre­ngth and they had remained unaffected by Pakistan’s decision not to attend the Kuala Lumpur Summit.

Defence ties discussed

Turkish Defence Minister retired Gen Hulusi Akar called on Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Bajwa at the General Headquarters to discuss defence ties.

“During the meeting, matters of mutual interest, regional security and measures to further enhance bilateral defence collaboration were discussed,” says an ISPR statement issued here.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1534568/pakistan-turkey-to-transform-ties-into-economic-partnership

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Nawaz again exempted from appearance

February 15, 2020

LAHORE: An accountability court on Friday allowed for another time exemption from personal appearance to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif as a counsel submitted his fresh medical reports saying doctors in London had not allowed him air travel so far.

Counsel Advocate Amjad Pervez told the court that Mr Sharif was likely to undergo coronary angiography on Feb 24. He said the medical reports suggested that Mr Sharif required continuous monitoring by the doctors in London.

He asked the court to extend exemption to Mr Sharif from personal appearance in proceedings against him in Chaudhry Sugar Mills case.

The court allowed the application and adjourned hearing till Feb 28.

Mr Sharif’s nephew Yousaf Abbas, a co-suspect, was brought to the court from jail to attend the proceedings while PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz, who was on bail, had been exempted from personal appearance till the filing of a reference by the NAB.

Another accountability court adjourned till Feb 28 hearing of money laundering/illegal assets case against Hamza Shahbaz.

Hamza was brought to the court from jail amid tight security.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1534528/nawaz-again-exempted-from-appearance

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Turkey ready to join CPEC projects, Erdogan says

February 15, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday said that his country is ready to work on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects, adding that the initiative should be “better explained to Turkish entrepreneurs”.

Speaking at the Pakistan-Turkey Business and Investment Forum alongside Prime Minister Imran Khan, Erdogan, seemingly referring to CPEC, said: “Turkey is not given the same opportunities that are offered to some other countries.”

The Turkish president began his speech by thanking Pakistan for being “wonderful hosts” on his two-day trip. Recounting his official engagements, Erdogan said that on Thursday he had met President Arif Alvi and, today, also had the opportunity to address a joint session of Parliament.

“Hopefully we’ll open the door for new businesses. We wish to raise the level of Pakistan and Turkey’s business relations to the level of our political relations,” he said.

“Currently, our trade is only $800 million which is not acceptable for us. Our mutual population is over 300 million. Therefore, we have to bring our trade to the level we deserve,” he maintained, adding that we cannot allow protectionism to hinder bilateral trade.

“So we should quickly increase our bilateral trade to $1 billion, and then bring it up to $5 billion. We cannot obtain these objectives only through good will, we have to take determined, clear, and strong steps towards our common objectives.”

In Turkey we have 158 companies with Pakistani capital […] we would like to see more such companies, he said. Currently, we have a model in place for offering Turkish citizenship to investors under certain conditions, he added.

“I invite my Pakistani brethren to have confidence in the Turkish economy, we are among the world’s top 20 economies.

“Turkey had a public debt of 72 per cent which we brought down to 30pc. Despite all the attacks, the economic espionage and the regional situation we continued to grow,” he said, stressing on the country’s banking sector and tourism industry.

“We see that Pakistan is taking important steps in facilitating businesses and providing a conducive environment [for them] under the leadership of my brother Imran. We are aware that Pakistan offers a lot of opportunities.

“We have companies of international renown in the fields of defence, transportation, housing, healthcare, and construction,” he stated.

Talking about Turkish serials and dramas which are popular in the country, he said: “Turkish serials that are followed by millions of people abroad are being followed by Pakistanis too, so we should also venture into filmmaking.”

“I have heard that Pakistanis trust western healthcare more, we have to change that.” Turkey is far more advanced than other western countries, with the latest medical advancements and healthcare, he said.

“With our support, and with the efforts of the business community, our economic-social relations will receive the respect it deserves.”

‘PAKISTAN TO SUPPORT TURKISH BUSINESSES’:

Commenting on Turkish president’s address at the joint session of Parliament earlier in the day, the prime minister said that he [Erdogan] can win the next election in Pakistan.

“I saw the treasury benches thumping their desks as well as the opposition benches,” he said, stressing that the current government will do everything to boost business between the two countries.

In order to achieve this, we need the support of the business community in Pakistan, he added.

“Pakistan can learn a lot from Turkey’s tourism industry. Pakistan has untapped potential in terms of tourism but we lack the necessary infrastructure,” he said, adding that Pakistan has been recognised as an ideal tourist destination by several publications.

Inviting Turkey to invest in the country, the premier stated that, under his leadership, Pakistan jumped 28 spots on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index. He also assured to fully facilitate the Turkish business community in their joint ventures with Pakistani companies.

Kicking off the meeting, Adviser to Prime Minister for Commerce, Textile, Industries, Production and Investment Abdul Razzak Dawood welcomed the Turkish visitors to the country.

“The two leaders of the countries have agreed an inclusive agreement including trade, tourism. We have people from construction, engineers, and people from all professions, God willing we will take [this business relationship] forward,” he said.

“The two countries had meetings in Davos and we have now reached an understanding. As a final followup, we have signed an understanding on the way forward. Both sides will do a study on what is each other’s relative strength. This study will be completed by March and then we will take it forward in April.”

He added that a textile delegation will go to Turkey and to look at how to further the business. We have a great opportunity to work together, we do compete but like good brothers there is no harm in […] taking things forward, he added.

“We are now capable of becoming an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) country and we will be the closest Asean country to Turkey,” he said, adding that this visit will eventually lead to more trade between the two countries.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/02/14/turkey-ready-to-join-cpec-projects-erdogan-says/

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Hafiz Saeed: Will Pakistan's 'terror cleric' stay in jail?

13 February 2020

By M Ilyas Khan

An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan has sentenced hardline Islamist cleric Hafiz Mohammad Saeed to 11 years in jail for financing terrorist operations.

The man accused of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that killed 161 people is to serve two five-and-a-half prison terms concurrently.

Saeed has been wanted by India for years, and is designated as a global terrorist by both the UN and the US, which has a $10m bounty on his head. He's the founder of one of Pakistan's largest militant groups, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

So why has it taken so long to put him behind bars - and will he stay there? The answer is complicated, not least by the fact that Saeed is widely known to have close links with the Pakistani military.

Why punish him now?

The answer may lie in Pakistan's growing international isolation since the mid-2000s, its worsening economic woes and more recently a threat of being blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the international terror financing and money laundering watchdog.

Significantly, Saeed's conviction comes a week before the Paris-based FATF discusses Pakistan's progress in curbing terror financing.

Pakistan, which has long denied supporting militants to further its foreign policy goals, is already in financial dire straits.

Mostly ruled by its military, whether directly or indirectly, since its independence in 1947, the country has heavily depended on American and Middle Eastern aid to sustain itself as a viable state.

Experts believe that if Pakistan continues to fail to satisfy the FATF and is downgraded to its blacklist, there could be serious financial and diplomatic implications, including an impact on a bailout it's getting from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

India is watching events closely. The US State Department called the conviction of Saeed a "step forward".

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What has Pakistan been doing to curb militants?

In June 2018, FATF moved Pakistan to its "grey" list of countries - those that are found to be non-compliant on money laundering and terror financing standards.

Over the subsequent months, in order to avoid international sanctions, Pakistan moved to arrest scores of terror suspects and sealed or took over hundreds of properties linked to banned groups.

But many saw these actions as just meant for optics, with no serious action visible against major militant groups such as Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).

The pressure kept rising, and in April 2019, the government proscribed half a dozen organisations linked to the JuD and another group, the Markaz Dawa-wal-Irshad (MDwI).

Hafiz Saeed's conviction was for owning properties linked to banned organisations such as JuD and MDwI.

He was arrested last July, three months before FATF's scheduled review of whether Pakistan was complying with its action plan.

In that review, held in October, Pakistan was found lacking on several counts, but a decision on whether to downgrade it was put off until the next review, which is expected next week.

Saeed was indicted in December, and the trial concluded in less than two months, which must be a record of sorts for Pakistan.

But given his close links with the Pakistani security establishment, many question if he will be really abandoned by the Pakistani establishment, made to serve a full sentence and condemned to the life of a convicted criminal.

Is this the first time he has been arrested?

No.

Pakistan has arrested him several times since the 9/11 attacks in the US, but it never charged him with specific offences and always set him free in the end.

He was put under house arrest on a number of occasions, first when the Indian government blamed him for masterminding the December 2001 attack on its parliament, and then after the Mumbai train bombings of 2006.

He was also put under house arrest several times between 2008 and 2009 following accusations that the LeT had carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

On each of these occasions, the Pakistani government did not frame charges against him. Instead, it continued to file for extensions of his house arrest which the courts would ultimately refuse, setting him free.

Whether this time will be different, or if it is enough to satisfy the FATF remains to be seen.

What is Saeed's background?

He set up MDwI jointly with a Pakistan-based Saudi Salafist leader Abdullah Uzzam in 1987, when the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan was nearing its end.

The group spawned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), allegedly with help from Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency, to move a major portion of Islamist jihadis from Afghanistan to fight against Indian rule in disputed Kashmir.

It is widely believed the LeT was instrumental in neutralising the secular, pro-independence rhetoric of the Kashmiri leadership which had shaped the region's first popular uprising against Indian rule in 1988, and turned it into a pro-Pakistan Islamist campaign.

Full report at:

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51486346

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South Asia

 

US, Taliban reach violence reduction pact

Feb 15, 2020

MUNICH/WASHINGTON: The United States has reached agreement with the Taliban on a weeklong reduction of violence that could lead to a US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, a senior administration official said on Friday, while cautioning that the insurgents must honor commitments for the accord to stick.

The deal was struck in protracted negotiations in the Qatari capital Doha and was announced after a meeting between US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, defense secretary Mark Esper and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on the sidelines of the Munich security conference.

The accord - if it holds - could pave the way for an agreement by the end of the month on a US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, a long-sought objective for US President Donald Trump, who has vowed to stop the "endless wars" as he seeks re-election in November.

"It was violence that derailed the signing of the agreement in September. Now we have an agreement on the reduction of violence. And, should the Talibs implement what they've committed to doing, we will move forward with the agreement," the senior administration official told reporters in Munich.

The seven-day period has not yet started, but will go into effect soon, the official said.

There were no immediate comments from Ghani's government or the Taliban.

There remains a long way to go to a peace settlement and end to the nearly two-decade-old US military presence that began shortly after the 9/11 attacks by al-Qaida. US officials have been clear that the 13,000 US troops will be cut to about 8,600 this year, with or without a withdrawal deal.

The reduction in violence agreement "is a good step on a very long road," said Ronald Neumann, a former US ambassador to Afghanistan.

Long path to peace deal

A US withdrawal agreement would be followed by negotiations on a political settlement between the Taliban and an Afghan delegation that would include government officials. One of the first issues would be a nationwide ceasefire.

The so-called intra-Afghan dialogue, however, is likely to be difficult and protracted. The Taliban have refused to speak directly to the government, which they denounce as a US puppet. Kabul's negotiating team has yet to be named, and there has been long wrangling over its composition.

It also remained to be seen if the Taliban leadership has full control over all its fighters.

The senior US official made clear that a full US withdrawal will depend on the Taliban fulfilling commitments to end their close ties with al-Qaida and other extremist groups.

"Our commitment, in terms of reduction of forces which is both conditions-based and in phases, is very much tied to delivery on the commitments that they have made, and will be," said the official. "There will be no hosting, no training, no recruitment, no fund-raising."

The official, however, noted that provision covered only Taliban-controlled territory, meaning it does not apply to Taliban sanctuaries in neighboring Pakistan, which US officials accuse of supporting the insurgents. Islamabad denies the allegation.

The official said the reduction in violence agreement was very specific and covered all Afghan forces. The US military would monitor violence levels to verify whether the Taliban were honoring it.

US and Taliban negotiators have been meeting in Doha since 2018 even as fighting has raged and hundreds of civilians and combatants have been killed as the insurgents have expanded their territorial control.

Last month the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, a US government agency, assessed that there were a record-high number of attacks by the Taliban and other anti-government forces in the last three months of 2019.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/us-taliban-reach-violence-reduction-pact/articleshow/74144920.cms

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Amnesty International urges govt to release Shariyat Boyati

February 14th, 2020

It also urges amending the Digital Security Act promptly

The human rights organization Amnesty International (AI) has urged the government to release folk singer Shariyat Sarkar alias Shariyat Boyati, who is under arrest on charges of hurting religious sentiments.

On Friday, Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action for the folk singer, who has been sued under the Digital Security Act "for stating that music is not forbidden in the Quran."

In the Urgent Action, the rights organization urged the government to immediately and unconditionally release Shariyat Boyati and drop all charges against him along with all those implicated solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression.

It also urged a prompt amendment to the Digital Security Act that complies with international human rights laws, including the ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights), to which Bangladesh is a party.

Amnesty International's South Asia Campaigner Saad Hammadi said: "The arrest and subsequent detention of Shariat Boyati is a clear example of how the Digital Security Act violates Bangladesh's international obligations. Shariat's words may have been offensive, but to arrest him on a vaguely defined provision such as hurting religious sentiments is a violation of the right to freedom of expression. 

"Such arrests create a chilling effect, stopping journalists and anyone who expresses dissent to fear the Digital Security Act will be arbitrarily used against them. Shariat Boyati was not attacking Islam or the Muslim community, just a section of Islamic scholars. Defending music is not a crime.

"We hope the Bangladesh authorities will deliver on their commitment to revise the law in consultation with journalists and civil society members to ensure that it is consistent with international human rights laws, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," he added.

'HC: Why should Shariyat Boyati not get bail?'

Shariyat Boyati was accused of making hurtful comments on Islam during a show in Dhaka's Dhamrai on December 24, 2019.

Later the video of the program went viral via YouTube and other social media networks, triggering outrage among locals and pro-Islamic groups, who staged protests and demonstrations in Tangail demanding punishment for the singer.

A case was filed against him with Tangail's Mirzapur police station under the Digital Security Act by Mawlana Faridul Islam, an imam of a local mosque, on January 9.

On January 11, police arrested the folk musician, who later was placed on a three-day remand.

On January 22, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in the parliament, categorically said the folk singer was arrested either because of his involvement in a crime or he was arrested as a crime was committed.

Citing there was no fault in Baul songs, she advised Baul singers not to do anything that put Baul songs, which take a place in the world heritage, under question.

On February 12, the High Court issued a rule asking the government to explain within two weeks why Shariyat Boyati should not be granted bail.

In November 2018, Amnesty International released a report outlining sections within the Digital Security Act which were inconsistent with international human rights law.

At least 14 offences under the act, including the charges against Shariyat Boyati, are non-bailable. The human rights body observed that harassment, including arrest, trial, detention and imprisonment for reasons of opinion a person may hold, constituted a violation of Article 19 of ICCPR.

Full report at:

https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/dhaka/2020/02/14/amnesty-international-urges-govt-to-release-shariyat-boyati

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Pakistanis arrested as Afghan Special Forces seized a large cache of explosives in Ghazni

15 Feb 2020

The Afghan Special Forces arrested a Pakistani family during an operation in Ghazni province during which they seized a large cache of explosives belonging to Taliban.

The Special Operations Corps in a statement said the Special Forces discovered and seized the cache during a raid in Geru district.

The statement further added that the Special Forces confiscated 200 sacks of explosives, 4 motorcycles and a vehicle during the raid.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/pakistanis-arrested-as-afghan-special-forces-seized-a-large-cache-of-explosives-in-ghazni-04452/

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U.S.-Taliban peace deal singing tentatively set for 29th of February: Report

15 Feb 2020

Washington is expected to sign a peace deal with the Taliban group on 29th of February, provided that the group uphold their commitments regarding a seven-day reduction in violence.

An American official, privy of the development has told The Associated Press that the U.S. and Taliban have agreed to a temporary truce which would likely open the way for a deal for the withdrawal of the American forces.

The official further added that the agreement for a seven-day “reduction in violence” is “very specific” and covers the entire country, including Afghan government forces.

The Taliban had committed to a halt in roadside and suicide bombings as well as rocket attacks, the official said, adding that If the Taliban uphold their commitments, a U.S.-Taliban peace agreement would be signed within 10 days.

Meanwhile, a Taliban official has said the signing had been tentatively set for Feb. 29, with the start of the Afghan talks planned for March 10.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, further added that Germany and Norway have offered to host the talks but there has been no decision on the venue.

That Taliban official also added that the agreement would provide for the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners before the start of the negotiations.

This comes as the Afghan and American officials had earlier said the U.S. President Donald Trump has conditionally approved the peace deal with the Taliban group.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/u-s-taliban-peace-deal-singing-tentatively-set-for-29th-of-february-report-04451/

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Taliban, Afghan forces clash despite talk of breakthrough in peace deal

FEBRUARY 14, 2020

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan government forces and Taliban insurgents waged war against each other in the past 24 hours despite U.S. officials saying there had been a breakthrough in recent days in peace talks to end the 18-year-old conflict.

While negotiators from the warring sides pressed on with meetings in Doha, Qatar, the Taliban and the Afghan government both reported fighting on the ground.

The Afghan defense ministry said an air strike had killed a senior Taliban commander in northern Balkh province on Thursday evening.

“As result of a targeted air strike by Afghan air forces, Mawlavi Sardar Mohammad, a key member of the Taliban military commission was killed along with eight others,” the ministry said in a statement.

The Taliban did not confirm the air strike.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said the insurgents had killed six Afghan soldiers, including two officers, in an attack on a checkpoint in northern Kunduz province.

Afghan, Taliban and U.S. sources said a peace deal could be signed this month, allowing a withdrawal of some of 13,000 U.S. troops and thousands of other NATO personnel that remain in Afghanistan following the U.S. intervention to oust the Taliban in 2001.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday there was a “good chance” of reaching an agreement with the Taliban on a reduction of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said an important breakthrough had been made in peace talks with the Taliban in recent days, and Defence Secretary Mark Esper said they had negotiated a proposal for a week-long reduction in violence.

Details about when that was set to begin were not immediately clear but a Taliban official said it would be this week.

Full report at:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-afghanistan-talks/taliban-afghan-forces-clash-despite-talk-of-breakthrough-in-peace-deal-idUSKBN2080Y9

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India

 

Article 370: Don't interfere in our 'internal affairs', India tells Turkey

Feb 15, 2020

NEW DELHI: Reacting strongly to Recep Tayyip Erdogan's comments on Jammu and Kashmir, India on Saturday said that it rejected all the references made and called upon the Turkish leadership to "not interfere" in India's internal affairs.

Turkish President Erdogan had on Friday reiterated his country’s support to Pakistan on Kashmir, telling a joint session of Pakistan parliament that India's decision to revoke the erstwhile state's special status had "exacerbated the troubles of our Kashmiri brothers and sisters".

In response to queries regarding the references to Jammu & Kashmir by the Turkish President and the Turkey-Pakistan Joint Declaration, ministry of external affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, "India rejects all references to Jammu & Kashmir, which is an integral and inalienable part of India. We call upon the Turkish leadership to not interfere in India's internal affairs and develop proper understanding of the facts, including the grave threat posed by terrorism emanating from Pakistan to India and the region."

Erdogan is on a two-day trip to Pakistan.

Addressing a joint session of Pakistan parliament, Erdogan said: “We have never forgotten, and will never forget the help that the Pakistani people extended by sharing their bread during our War of Independence. Now, Kashmir is and will be the same for us.”

The Turkish president said the "Kashmir issue" could be resolved "through justice and fairness" rather than conflict. “Such a solution will be in the interest of all parties. Turkey will continue to stand by justice, peace and dialogue.”

Besides joining hands on Kashmir, Erdogan extended Turkey's support to Pakistan against the application of political pressure by the inter-governmental Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF). “We are fully cognizant of the problems faced by Pakistan and we will continue to extend cooperation to it to cope with these. Despite all the pressure, I assure you Turkey’s unflinching support at the FATF,” he said. “Our friendship is based on love and respect. Pakistan’s pain is our pain.”

Referring to other conflict zones, Erdogan said it was Turkey's "responsibility to provide assistance to Muslims, no matter where they are".

Erdogan's endorsement of Pakistan's stance on J&K has been a sore point in its relations with India. In September, PM Narendra Modi met leaders of some of Turkey's rivals, including the President of Cyprus, which Turkey had invaded in 1974. During his meeting with Nicos Anastasiades, PM Modi reiterated "India's consistent support for the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of the Republic of Cyprus".

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/dont-interfere-in-our-internal-affairs-india-to-turkey/articleshow/74144834.cms

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Pulwama attack anniversary: ‘Justice done, Jaish decimated,’ says Spl DG CRPF

Feb 14, 2020

SRINAGAR: With the proscribed Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) outfit wiped off the face of Kashmir, justice has been done to the sacrifice of the 40 CRPF jawans who were killed in a fidayeen attack in Pulwama’s Lethpora area on February 14 last year, J&K special DG (CRPF) Zulfikar Hassan said on Friday.

Hassan was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a wreath-laying ceremony at CRPF Battalion headquarters in Lethpora to commemorate the first year of the martyrs’ sacrifice. As per official figures, 36 JeM terrorists — including all nine commanders of the outfit — involved in the terror strike have been killed. “We killed all the Jaish men involved in the attack. Today, the outfit stands decimated. Justice stands done,” Hassan said, adding that the entire force stands with the families of the “fallen heroes”.

Professor Umesh Gopinath Jadhav — who travelled 61,000km across India to collect soil from outside the homes of the Pulwama martyrs as a tribute to their memory — was the special guest at the wreath-laying ceremony. “Today, I presented the urn containing soil from the residences of the 40 brave hearts to the special DGP (CRPF) and requested him to add it to the memorial constructed in honour of the slain soldiers. This little contribution makes me proud,” said Jadhav, who runs an NGO in Maharastra.

On February 14, 2019, JeM suicide bomber Adil Dar rammed his explosive-laden car into a CRPF convoy at Lethpora area. At least 40 CRPF jawans lost their lives in the attack while several others were injured. “Today, not just JeM, but all other terror outfits are on the back foot,” the special DGP said. Responding to a query about the compensation provided to the families of the slain soldiers, he said the force has a structured system and the concerns of the families of the martyrs are being taken care of. Only 6 terrorists remain active in Pulwama’s Tral, officials say

Tral in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district, which was considered to be a hotbed of terrorism in the Valley till 2017, now remains with only six odd active terrorists belonging to four different outfits, officials said on Friday.

Once home to top commanders of terror outfits like Burhan Wani, Zakir Moosa and Hamad Khan, Tral was a concern for security agencies given the 30 active terrorists operating in the area. These terrorists mostly belonged to Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, said a senior police officer. The killing of Qari Yasir, Hamad Khan and Hameed Lelhari in anti-insurgency operations has halted the recruitment process in Tral. “There has been a considerable decline in the local terrorist recruitment process over the past year,” the officer said.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pulwama-attack-anniversary-justice-done-jaish-decimated-says-spl-dg-crpf/articleshow/74142093.cms

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NIA arrests Pulwama cross-LoC traders’ body chief

Feb 14, 2020

SRINAGAR: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested the president of cross-LOC Traders’ Association, Tanveer Ahmad Wani, in New Delhi after disclosures by arrested DSP, Davinder Singh.

Tanveer is the sixth person to be arrested in the case after Davinder Singh was arrested last month on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway while escorting two Hizb terrorists.

The NIA also questioned Abdul Rashid Sheikh, former MLA (independent) from Langate, over terror funding. The NIA had raided the residences Tanveer Wani and another trader, Ghulam Ahmad Wani, in Pulwama district in July 2019, but let off both after questioning.

Tanveer is alleged to have funded Naveed Babu, operational commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, who was arrested along with Davinder Singh and three others in the DSP’s car on January 11, on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway near Qazigund.

Tanveer is believed to be involved in hawala transactions under the garb of cross-LOC trade and NIA suspects he was funding the Hizb outfit for carrying out terrorist activities in Jammu & Kashmir.

Official sources said Tanveer was summoned to Delhi from Pulwama and arrested there. Apart from Davinder Singh, Naveed Babu, Rafi Ahmad Rather, Irfan Shafi Mir, and Syed Irfan are in the NIA custody.

The government of India started cross-LoC trade in 2006, but the traders were mostly found involved in hawala transactions, which helped terror activities in J&K.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/nia-arrests-pulwama-cross-loc-traders-body-chief/articleshow/74142076.cms

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Former terrorist arrested for killing ex-chief of Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen

Feb 14, 2020

SRINAGAR: Police on Friday arrested a former terrorist from the city’s Karanagar area for allegedly murdering former Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen (TuM) chief Abdul Gani Dar (80), a day after the cleric was found dead inside a mosque in Srinagar’s Maisuma area.

After the octogenarian’s murder, cops examined CCTV footage from the area and zeroed in on the accused. A massive search was launched and he was finally arrested from Karanagar. “The accused has been identified as Ghulam Mohiuddin Dar, a resident of Dalgate area in Srinagar. He is a former terrorist,” a police officer said.

An initial investigation revealed that the murder was a fallout of a financial dispute. “The accused is being questioned. Things will be clear in a couple of days,” the officer said. Maisuma Police have charged the accused under IPC Section 302 (murder).

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/former-terrorist-arrested-for-killing-ex-chief-of-tehreek-ul-mujahideen/articleshow/74142058.cms

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SC directs Centre, Assam govt to file status report on Bangladeshi migrants in detention centres

Feb 14, 2020

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Friday directed the Centre and the Assam government to file a fresh report with regard to the status of release of Bangladeshi migrants in detention centres as per its earlier order.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde was appraised by advocate Prashant Bhushan that over 300 people were in detention for over three years, while more than 700 had been detained for over one year.

The apex court posted the matter for hearing in the third week of March after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta sought time.

The top court in May last year had ordered that illegal foreigners in Assam who have completed more than three years in detention may be released after they provide biometric details in a secured database.

It had also directed them to furnish a bond of Rs 1 lakh with two Indian sureties and give details of address of stay after release.

The top court had also agreed that the Assam government should be given some more time to indicate the progress made on the diplomatic level, among others, with regard to deportation of declared foreigners and setting up of additional foreigners' tribunals.

It had also directed the state government to place on record a detailed scheme, in consultation with the Gauhati High Court (on the administrative side), with regard to the constitution of foreigners' tribunals, including the appointment of members, staff, etc.

The said details shall be placed on record as soon as possible and if required, the state will be at liberty to make a mention of the matter before the vacation bench, the apex court had said.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/sc-directs-centre-assam-govt-to-file-status-report-on-bangladeshi-migrants-in-detention-centres/articleshow/74139583.cms

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NIA's painstaking Pulwama probe almost reaches dead end

Feb 14, 2020

SRINAGAR: The probe into last year's Pulwama terror strike that left 40 CRPF personnel dead has virtually reached a dead end with five persons, who were either conspirators or executers of the ghastly attack, being eliminated by security forces in various encounters. However, the case threw unique challenges for the NIA, the anti-terror probe agency formed in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror strikes in 2008, as it there is no solid information about the perpetrators or the mastermind behind the attack.

"It was a blind case for us. There were lot of murmurs but everything needs to be established beyond doubt in the court of law," a senior official, who is part of the probe, said here.

The first challenge was to establish the owner of the car used by suicide bomber Adil Ahmed Dar. There was nothing available from the vehicle which carried a cocktail of explosives like Ammonium Nitrate, Nitro Glycerine and RDX, the official said.

But with the help of forensic methods and painstaking investigations, the serial number of the car that was blown into pieces beyond recognition was extracted and within no time the ownership of the vehicle was established -- from the first to the last owner.

However, the last owner of the car, Sajjad Bhat of Bijbehara in Anantnag district, had disappeared hours before the February 14 attack and joined Jaish-e-Mohammed terror outfit. He was subsequently killed in an encounter in June last year.

"While it was clear that the suicide attacker was Adil Ahmed Dar but the same had to be established with evidence. After picking up human remains from various spots, it was sent for DNA profiling.

"The suicide attacker was identified and confirmed by matching the DNA extracted from the meagre car fragments with that of the DNA of his father," the official, who requested anonymity, said.

The role of other conspirators which included Mudasir Ahmed Khan, Qari Mufti Yasser and Kamran came to light but all of them were killed in different encounters with security forces.

Khan was killed on March 10, Kamran on March 29, Sajjad Bhat on June 18 of last year while Qari yasser was shot in an encounter on January 25, this year.

After JeM spokesperson Mohd Hassan in a video claimed that his group was responsible for the attack, it was sent for forensic examination and the Internet Protocol address was traced to a computer based in Pakistan.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/nias-painstaking-pulwama-probe-almost-reaches-dead-end/articleshow/74138928.cms

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Mideast

 

Soleimani describes Iran’s Khamenei as ‘oppressed’, ‘alone’ in published will

15 February 2020

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is “oppressed” and “alone,” reads part of slain military commander Qassem Soleimani’s will, published on Thursday.

“I find Ayatollah Khamenei very oppressed and alone. He needs your cooperation and assistance and together you should lead society,” Soleimani said in part of his will, addressing clerics and religious authorities in Iran.

Soleimani was killed in a US airstrike on Baghdad’s international airport on January 3, to which Iran retaliated by launching several ballistic missiles on Iraqi bases housing US troops a few days later.

In his will, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force – the overseas arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – called on religious authorities in Iran to support Khamenei and the Islamic Republic “without any reservation.”

He also called on political factions in Iran – namely the Conservatives and the Reformists – to follow Khamenei, “listen to his advice,” and “act on his recommendations.”

Soleimani described the Islamic Republic as the center of Islam and Shi’ism, adding that it is currently experiencing its “most glorious period.”

“You should know that the Islamic Republic is a sanctuary … if the enemy destroys this sanctuary, no sanctuary – neither the sanctuaries belonging to Ibrahim nor Muhammad – will remain,” he said, likening the regime to a holy religious site.

The former head of the Quds Force is referring to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and the Green Dome in the Islamic holy city of Medina.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/15/Soleimani-describes-Iran-s-Khamenei-as-oppressed-alone-in-published-will-.html

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Israeli delegation visits Saudi Arabia for first time

14 February 2020

A high-ranking Israeli delegation from an umbrella US Jewish group has visited Saudi Arabia this week, a sign of increasing warmness between Tel Aviv and Riyadh as the two sides look to forge closer informal ties and expedite normalization efforts.

Israel’s English-language broadsheet newspaper The Jerusalem Post reported on Friday that members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations visited Saudi Arabia this week, a move believed to be the first official visit to the kingdom by an American Jewish organization since the Oslo peace process in 1993.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency said the visit, which took place from Monday to Thursday, included meetings with senior Saudi officials as well as with Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdul Karim bin Abdulaziz al-Issa, the secretary general of the Muslim World League.

Issa is regarded as a close associate of Saudi Crown, Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The New York-based news agency said the focus of the talks between the Conference constituents and Saudi officials was on countering terrorism and the instability in the Middle East region.

The Conference’s leadership, executive vice president Malcolm Hoenlein, and CEO William Daroff, are expected to have been present during the visit.

Saudi Arabia has expanded secret ties with Israel under the crown prince, the son of King Salman, who is viewed by many as the Kingdom’s de facto ruler. The young prince has made it clear that he and the Israelis stand on the same front to counter Iran and its growing influence in the Middle East.

Back in 2018, Saudi Arabia opened its airspace for a commercial flight to Israel with the start of a new Air India route between India and Israel, although El Al Israel Airlines might not use Saudi airspace for eastward flights.

Critics say Saudi Arabia’s flirtation with Israel would undermine global efforts to isolate Tel Aviv and affect the Palestinian cause in general. They say Riyadh has gone too far in its cooperation with the Israelis as a way of deterring Iran as an influential player in the region.

Israel has full diplomatic relations with only two Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, but the latest reports suggest the regime is working behind the scenes to establish formal contacts with Persian Gulf Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

In another sign of warming ties between the regimes of Israel and Saudi Arabia, last month Tel Aviv officially allowed Israelis to travel to Saudi Arabia for the first time.

The move comes against the backdrop of a so-called peace plan unveiled by US President, Donald Trump, that supposedly aims to resolve the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Trump unveiled the scheme’s outlines on January 28. The plan features the recognition of Jerusalem, al-Quds, as Israel’s “capital,” although Palestinians want the city’s eastern part as the capital of their future state.

The US president also said that under the plan, Israel would be annexing the settlements that it has been building in the West Bank since occupying the Palestinian territory in 1967.

This is while all previous foreign-mediated draft agreements between the Palestinians and Israelis as well as repeated United Nations resolutions have mandated Tel Aviv to withdraw behind the 1967 borders.

Palestinian leaders, who severed all ties with Washington in late 2017 after Trump controversially, recognized Jerusalem, al-Quds, as the capital of the Israeli regime, immediately rejected the plan, with President Mahmoud Abbas saying it “belongs to the dustbin of history.”

Palestinian leaders also said the deal is a colonial plan to unilaterally control historic Palestine in its entirety and remove Palestinians from their homeland, adding that it heavily favors Israel and would deny them a viable independent state.

Meanwhile, senior Arab diplomatic sources said last week that the Saudi crown prince might meet Netanyahu on the sidelines of a potential summit in Cairo as the Israeli premier was seeking talks.

Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, however, asserted on Thursday that there are no plans for a meeting between Salman and Netanyahu.

Speaking to al-Arabiya English, he also claimed that Saudi Arabia's policy toward Palestine remained "firm."

This is while Riyadh has welcomed Trump’s plan, saying "the Kingdom appreciates the efforts made by President Trump’s administration to develop a comprehensive Palestinian-Israeli peace plan."

It has urged "direct peace negotiations between the sides under US sponsorship, in which any dispute regarding details of the plan will be settled."

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/14/618626/Israeli-delegation-umbrella-US-Jewish-group-Saudi-Arabia

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Iran may reverse nuclear breaches if Europe provides ‘meaningful’ benefits: Zarif

15 February 2020

Iran would be willing to move back towards the 2015 nuclear deal if Europe provides “meaningful” economic benefits, the country’s foreign minister said Friday.

The European parties to the Iran nuclear deal — Britain, France and Germany — have been battling to save it since US President Donald Trump withdrew from it and reimposed tough sanctions on Tehran.

Iran has responded to the US pullout with a series of steps back from its own commitments under the deal, including by increasing uranium enrichment.

But Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the Islamic republic could be willing to move back towards compliance — under certain circumstances.

“We have said that we are prepared to slow down or reverse these measures commensurate with what Europe does,” Zarif told reporters at the Munich Security Conference.

“We will decide whether what Europe does is sufficient to slow down or to reverse some steps — we have not even ruled out reversing some of the steps that we have taken.”

Europe has set up a special trading mechanism called Instex to try to enable legitimate humanitarian trade with Iran to offset some of the effects of US sanctions.

But it has yet to complete any transactions and the Iranian side does not think it is sufficient.

“We’re not talking about charity. We’re talking about Iranian rights and the rights of the Iranian people to receive the economic benefits,” Zarif said.

“We have received irreversible harm or irreparable harm because of US sanctions, but nevertheless we will reverse the steps that we have taken provided that Europe takes steps that are meaningful.”

The EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell met Zarif in Tehran earlier this month to try to lower tensions after Britain, France and Germany triggered a complaint mechanism under the deal to try to press Tehran to return to full implementation.

Washington accuses Tehran of seeking a nuclear weapon, which Iran has always denied.

The renewed US sanctions have almost entirely isolated Iran from the international financial system, driven away oil buyers and plunged the country into a severe recession.

Borrell has also been in consultation with the other countries still in the deal — Russia and China — who like their European counterparts want to save the accord.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/15/Iran-may-reverse-nuclear-breaches-if-Europe-provides-meaningful-benefits-Zarif.html

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Israeli mayor orders Palestinian ‘surrender’ billboards removed in Tel Aviv

15 February 2020

The mayor of Tel Aviv ordered the removal on Friday of highway billboards that appeared to call for the surrender at gunpoint of Palestinian leaders for the sake of peace.

“Peace is made ONLY with defeated enemies,” said the billboards, which showed photo-shopped images of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh, blindfolded and supplicating in a war-zone as helicopters hover.

Israel’s stand-off with the Palestinians has grown newly tense since last month’s unveiling of US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, which they rejected as biased.

It was not immediately clear who sponsored the billboards around Tel Aviv, Israel’s commercial capital, or if the campaign was meant to help rightist parties in a March 2 national election.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/15/Israeli-mayor-orders-Palestinian-surrender-billboards-removed-in-Tel-Aviv.html

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Houthis reverse threat to tax aid: UN Official

14 February 2020

The Iran-backed Houthi militia has dropped a threat to tax aid, a UN official told AFP Friday, in a significant step towards resolving a crisis that has jeopardized the world’s biggest humanitarian operation.

United Nations leaders and humanitarian groups held crunch talks in Brussels on Thursday to address obstruction by the Houthis that has threatened to sever the lifeline to millions at risk of starvation.

They heard that vital supplies could be cut off, after humanitarian agencies complained of a deteriorating situation in the Houthi-controlled north where aid workers face arrest and intimidation.

But a UN official in Sanaa said the Houthis had backed away from a proposed 2.0 percent levy on NGOs pushed by the Houthi aid body SCMCHA, criticized for hobbling aid with interference and layers of bureaucracy.

The miltia’s administration “in its meeting on 12 February, has decided to cancel the 2.0 percent that was included in SCMCHA regulations,” said the official, who asked not to be named.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/02/14/Houthis-reverse-threat-to-tax-aid-UN-Official-.html

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IRGC general says regional cooperation needed to expel US troops

14 February 2020

A senior Iranian commander has called for regional cooperation to expel American forces from the Middle East and confront Israel.

Brigadier General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh, the commander of the Aerospace Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), told Yemen’s al-Masirah TV that all US terrorist forces must be expelled from the Middle East.

“All countries of the Axis of Resistance are united, and we must join hands to kick American troops out of the region and annihilate the Zionist regime,” he said.

The top general said the Axis of Resistance today is not limited to Iran. “Rather, the scope of the Axis of Resistance extends from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean and from Yemen’s Ansarullah Movement to Lebanon’s Hezbollah.”

Calls for the expulsion of American forces have gained momentum since January 3, 2020, when Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi PMU commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were assassinated along with some of their comrades in a US drone strike.

Following the incident, Iraqi lawmakers unanimously approved a bill demanding the withdrawal of American troops.

The parliament resolution also urged the Baghdad government to drop a request for assistance from a US-led coalition of foreign troops purportedly operating against Daesh remnants in Iraq.

Later on January 9, former Iraqi prime minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi called on the United States to dispatch a delegation to Baghdad tasked with formulating a mechanism for the move.

In later January, thousands of Iraqi people rallied in Baghdad call for an end to US military presence. The protesters were seen carrying banners and chanting slogans calling for the expulsion of US forces.

US President Donald Trump has threatened to sanction Iraq “like they’ve never seen before ever” if Baghdad tried to expel US troops.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/14/618647/Iran-IRGC-Hajizadeh-axis-resistance-US-troops

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Yemeni missile shoots down Saudi-led fighter jet in Jawf

14 February 2020

Yemeni army forces have shot down a fighter jet belonging to the Saudi-led military coalition in retaliation for the alliance’s military aggression against their conflict-stricken country.

Yemen’s Arabic-language al-Masirah television network, citing an unnamed source in the Yemeni missile defense units, reported that the country’s air defense units managed to target and shoot down a fighter jet of Tornado type in the skies of Yemen’s northern province of Jawf  late on Friday night.

It also quoted spokesman for Yemen’s Armed Forces Brigadier General Yahya Saree as saying that the multi-role combat aircraft had been shot down with an advanced surface-to-air missile.

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Back in January 2018, the Yemeni missile units managed to shoot down a Tornado fighter jet and an F-15 warplane. Furthermore, the Yemeni forces have so far shot down numerous Saudi-led combat or surveillance drones as well as a number of helicopters.

The Yemeni army has devised and manufactured its own ballistic missiles and combat drones, which has changed power balance against the failing Saudi-led coalition.

In March 2015, Saudi Arabia, with the help of a number of its allies, particularly the United Arab Emirates (UAE), launched a brutal military campaign against impoverished Yemen, whose former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi had fled to Riyadh a few months earlier after stepping down the previous year.

The Saudi-led campaign, code-named Operation Decisive Storm, was launched to achieve two main objectives: bringing Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh, back to power, and crushing the Houthi Ansarullah movement, whose fighters have proved to be of significant help to the Yemeni army in defending the Arab country against the invaders since the onset of the imposed war.

However, despite spending millions of dollars and employing foreign mercenaries, particularly from Sudan, the Saudi regime has deeply bogged down in Yemen and has practically failed in achieving both of its objectives.

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

The Saudi-led coalition has put Yemen under a tight naval blockade as it also imposed a crippling blockade on the capital’s international airport, one of the lifelines of the county for the past three years or so.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/14/618681/Yemen-Saudi-Arabia-Tornado-fighter-jet-Jawf-missile-Houthis

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Israeli forces attack anti-Trump demo, dozens of Palestinians injured

14 February 2020

Palestinian protesters have been injured as Israeli forces attacked rallies held in several areas across the occupied West Bank to condemn US President Donald Trump’s plan for the Middle East.

Palestinian media reported that clashes erupted between the Israeli troops and Palestinian protesters in several areas across the West Bank province of Ramallah and al-Bireh on Friday.

According to the reports, the Israeli forces used tear gas, rubber bullets and live fire to disperse the demonstrators, leaving a number of people injured.

Some of the injured were hit by rubber bullets while the others suffered suffocation due to the inhalation of the tear gas.

Dozens of Palestinians also suffered suffocation in the town of Beit Ummar, northwest of the city of al-Khalil (Hebron), due to the tear gas fired by the Israelis.

In Kafr Qaddum, Israeli forces also fired tear gas to disperse weekly anti-settlements protests, leaving a number of people, including children, suffering from suffocation. They also used rubber bullets and sound bombs against the protesters.

Head of Popular Struggle Coordination Committee in Kafr Qaddum Murad Eshtewi noted that the Israeli troops also targeted the journalists in order to hinder them from covering the suppression of the residents of the village who are opposing Trump’s plan which is described as “the deal of the century”.

Dozens of protesters also suffered suffocation during the violent clashes that took place on Friday afternoon in the city of Qalqilya and the town of Azzun.

Meanwhile, Palestinians took to the streets of the besieged Gaza Strip to reiterate their rejection to Trump’s plan.

Trump unveiled the plan alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on January 28.

The so-called deal would have, among other contentious things, enshrined Jerusalem al-Quds as “Israel’s undivided capital” and allow the regime to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank and the Jordan Valley.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/14/618670/Israeli-forces-attack-protesters

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Yemen’s Houthis drop ‘tax’ threat that jeopardised aid: UN official

February 14, 2020

DUBAI: Yemen’s Houthi militia have dropped a threat to tax aid, a UN official told AFP Friday, in a significant step towards resolving a crisis that has jeopardised the world’s biggest humanitarian operation.

United Nations leaders and humanitarian groups held crunch talks in Brussels on Thursday to address obstruction by the Iran-backed militia that has threatened to sever the lifeline to millions at risk of starvation.

They heard that vital supplies could be cut off, after humanitarian agencies complained of a deteriorating situation in the Houthi-controlled north where aid workers face arrest and intimidation.

But a UN official in Sanaa said the Houthis had backed away from a proposed 2.0 percent levy on NGOs pushed by the Houthi aid body SCMCHA, criticised for hobbling aid with interference and layers of bureaucracy.

The Houthi administration “in its meeting on 12 February, has decided to cancel the 2.0 percent that was included in SCMCHA regulations,” said the official, who asked not to be named.

“The cancellation of the tax is a positive development for sure,” he said, noting that other issues that still need to be dealt with relate to “access and bureaucratic impediments.”

The outcome of the Brussels meeting has not been released.

But before the talks, the European commissioner for crisis management, Janez Lenarcic, demanded that all parties in the Yemen conflict “uphold international humanitarian law and guarantee safe and unimpeded access to humanitarian organisations.”

The Brussels meeting heard that, while both sides have made trouble for humanitarian and UN agencies, the Houthi attempts to tax shipments triggered the latest crisis.

“It cannot continue, the biggest lifeline on earth is at stake. There are 20 million people in need in Yemen,” Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council, told AFP on Thursday.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1627646/middle-east

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Leftist folk musicians go on trial in Turkey on 'trumped up' terror charges

14.02.2020

Elmas Topcu

Since the 1980s, the left-wing band Grup Yorum have accumulated a large fan base with their folk-rock music and political lyrics. At the same time, they've attracted the ire of the authorities and police. Several albums have been banned or censored and there have been frequent raids on Istanbul's Idil Cultural Center, where the band like to perform. Many of the 30-odd members have been jailed at one time or other.

Last March, eight members were detained during a raid on the cultural center and accused of belonging to the DHKP-C, a militant Marxist group, which the Turkish government considers a terrorist organization, as does Germany.

Some of them embarked on an indefinite hunger strike to protest against their detention. After 200 days, Ibrahim Gokcek, who is perilously close to dying, transformed his strike into a "death fast", as did Helin Bolek, who was released from jail in November but is still refusing to eat.

Their intention is to fast until all charges against the band are dropped and all members released from jail. They also want the ban on Grup Yorum concerts to be lifted and an end to raids on the Idil Cultural Center.

200 days is a critical point

The musicians' lawyer Didem Baydar Unsal recently said her clients were in a very concerning state: "They are very weak. The consequences of the fast are grave. They have the sensation that their feet are burning, their bodies have swollen up, they are finding it difficult to walk and sleep, they have cramps and headaches, they are tired and their whole body feels numb."

The forensic physician and human rights activist Sebnem Korur Fincanci is also worried. She said that hunger strikes usually reach a critical point after 200 days. "People can still survive, even if there is heavy loss of weight but the body needs vitamins, especially B1, liquids, salt, carbonate and sugar. "If somebody was not healthy before beginning the hunger strike, such a form of protest can lead to death."

Are death fasts a Turkish phenomenon?

Between 1996 and 2000, many hunger strikes in Turkey did lead to death and this period is still remembered by large parts of the population.

Korur Fincanci, who won the Hessian Peace Prize in 2018, attributed this form of protest to the fact that many people are detained without a hearing. "They put their lives in danger because they do not have the right to a fair trial or to life."

Political prisoners treated as enemies

The composer Zulfu Livaneli, who acted as a mediator during the hunger strikes of those years, pointed out that Turkish prisoners are not protected by the state. Many of them do not receive fair trials, even if this means that international human rights laws are violated. He said they were treated as enemies by the government and the legal system. "The state does not consider them as its citizens and would prefer it if they were forgotten."

The lawyer Gulizar Tuncer agreed that the Turkish state sees "political prisoners" as enemies. "This is also clear from the court records," she said, citing the example of the tragedy of December 19, 2000 when 30 prisoners were killed in raids on prisons. Security forces stormed some 20 jails where almost 1000 inmates had embarked on a hunger strike against newly constructed high-security jails, so-called F-type prisons, which enable the authorities to detain people more easily in solitary confinement.

Full report at:

https://www.dw.com/en/leftist-folk-musicians-go-on-trial-in-turkey-on-trumped-up-terror-charges/a-52374791

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North America

 

US official says Washington, Taliban reach Afghan truce agreement

14 February 2020

A senior US official said on Friday the United States and the Taliban have reached a truce agreement that will take effect “very soon” and could lead to withdrawals of American troops from Afghanistan.

The official said the agreement for a seven-day “reduction in violence” to be followed by the start of all-Afghan peace talks within 10 days is “very specific” and covers the entire country including Afghan forces.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss details ahead of an official announcement.

The developments come as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper met Friday in Munich with Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani. They spoke on the sidelines of an international security forum in Munich.

A truce had been widely anticipated, and President Donald Trump has agreed in principle to the deal, which could lead to the start of significant US troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, according to US officials.

The final details were hammered out in recent days by US special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar. Khalilzad was in Munich and attended Pompeo and Esper’s meeting as did Gen. Scott Miller, the commander of the US-led international force in Afghanistan.

People familiar with the plan’s outlines say it calls for the successful conclusion of the weeklong truce to be followed within 10 days by the start of all-Afghan negotiations to set the road map for the country’s political future.

US officials have brushed aside claims that a Taliban ultimatum forced their hand. And they noted that, despite Trump’s campaign pledge to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan and elsewhere, the Republican president has nixed previous deals that appeared close in response to attacks on US forces.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/02/14/US-official-says-Washington-Taliban-reach-Afghan-truce-agreement.html

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Pompeo, Esper meet Afghan President Ghani on cusp of Taliban deal

14 February 2020

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper met on Friday with Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani amid signs that a truce between the United States and the Taliban is imminent.

Pompeo and Esper met Ghani on the sidelines of an international security forum in Munich as officials said a “reduction in violence” agreement is on the table and could be announced as early as the weekend.

President Donald Trump has agreed in principle to the deal, which could lead to the start of significant US troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, according to US officials.

The final details were hammered out in recent days by US special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar. Khalilzad was in Munich and attended Pompeo and Esper’s meeting as did Gen. Scott Miller, the commander of the US-led international force in Afghanistan.

People familiar with the plan’s outlines say it calls for the successful conclusion of the weeklong truce to be followed within 10 days by the start of all-Afghan negotiations to set the road map for the country’s political future.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/02/14/Pompeo-Esper-meet-Afghan-President-Ghani-on-cusp-of-Taliban-deal.html

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Israel meddling in US elections, not Russians: Philip Giraldi

14 February 2020

A former American counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer of the CIA says Israel has for long been interfering in American politics and elections but US officials prefer to remain silent and incriminate Russia.

Philip Giraldi made the remarks in a recent article, headlined Is Pete Buttigieg the Israel Lobby Choice? , where he looked into an allegedly cyber warfare that recently hit Iowa and delayed the voting results of the primary caucus in the Midwestern state.

The results were published nearly 21 hours after Iowans cast their ballots, with officials blaming inconsistencies related to a new mobile app used for vote counting.

“Israel has been involved in American politics before, even if it is predictably never held accountable, and it has been suggested that Russiagate was really Israelgate based on what actually took place when shortly after the 2016 election,” Giraldi said. “Israel may just turn out to be part of last week’s story of the astonishingly inept Democratic Party caucus in the state of Iowa,” he added. “The app that was developed to expedite Iowa’s voting …instead delayed the reporting of the results for nearly a week. It now appears that the app might be part of an operation being funded by Jewish billionaires with close ties to right wing Israeli settler groups who are opposed to Senator Bernie Sanders and supporting Mayor Peter Buttigieg.”

The former CIA official said the failed app that caused the problem was developed by a company called Shadow Inc., which was funded by billionaire Seth Klarman, who also is a major contributor to Pete Buttigieg’s campaign and also has been linked to former and current senior members of the intelligence community.

The Iowa Democratic Committee reported that the software that included the app was paid for by the Buttigieg campaign, “Pete for America Inc.”

Giraldi said the possible fraud or hack allowed Buttigieg to preemptively declare a predicted win on twitter even before any votes had been counted.

He further noted that the self-proclaimed victory had caused Buttigieg to abandon his commitment made last June that he would withhold aid from Israel if it were to seek to annex more of the occupied territories in West Bank.

“If Prime Minister Netanyahu makes good on his threat to annex West Bank settlements, he should know that a President Buttigieg would take steps to ensure that American taxpayers won’t help foot the bill,” Buttigieg said at the time.

Buttigieg took the lead among other rival candidates in Iowa's caucuses last week.

Buttigieg was officially awarded the most delegates from Iowa's caucuses after a recanvass of 55 precincts was completed, holding a 0.1% lead over Sanders in the state delegate equivalent count.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/14/618671/CIA-Philip-Giraldi-Israel-interference-US-politics-elections

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Ahmadi Muslims mark 100 years in US with day of service

February 14, 2020

Aysha Khan

BOSTON (RNS) — The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is marking the 100-year anniversary of the sect’s beginnings in the U.S. with a day of prayer and community service at its 62 chapters across the country.

This weekend, in mosques in Boston, Chicago, Silicon Valley, Miami, Phoenix, North Jersey and Los Angeles, Ahmadi Muslims plan to prepare meals to donate at food pantries and distribute at area shelters. In Portland, members will plant trees; Austin members will volunteer at a local farm; in Richmond, Virginia, members plan to clean a historic cemetery; and Willingboro, New Jersey, members are holding a coat drive alongside local emergency service departments.

All will begin the day by gathering at mosques to perform congregational tahajjud, a special night prayer, to pray for another century of progress for this nation, the organization’s leaders say.

“We have been here 100 years, deeply love this country, and have a track record of serving this nation and its people since the beginning,” Amjad Mahmood Khan, national director of public affairs for the organization, said in a statement. “We invite Americans to join us at this historic moment and collaborate to make this country the best it can be.”

The Ahmadiyya community was formally established in the U.S. shortly after Feb. 15, 1920, the day its first missionary arrived on the shores of the United States, making the persecuted sect the oldest organized Muslim movement in the country.

The pioneering missionary Mufti Muhammad Sadiq also established what is likely the country’s oldest mosque still in existence, Chicago’s Al-Sadiq Mosque, as the community’s U.S. headquarters in 1921 or 1922. From there, he published the country’s longest-running Islamic magazine, The Moslem Sunrise, and preached to Americans from New York City to Detroit.

Later this year on May 9, during Ramadan, the organization will hold a nationwide “Open Mosque” Centennial Iftar to invite locals to attend mosques around the country and meet their Muslim neighbors.

“Last year, Pew Research concluded that 54% of Americans don’t know a Muslim,” Khan said. “We are committed to changing that figure drastically and hope our fellow Americans will accept our invitation to meet us.”

Full report at:

https://religionnews.com/2020/02/14/ahmadi-muslim-sect-marks-100-years-in-us-with-day-of-service/

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US senators call for assessment of rights situation in held Kashmir

Anwar Iqbal

February 15, 2020

WASHINGTON: Four key US senators have sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting an assessment of human rights situation in India-held Kashmir and of the rights of religious minorities in India.

The letter was released to the media days before Donald Trump’s Feb 23-26 visit to India, his first as the US president.

The two countries plan to sign a $1.9 billion defence deal during this visit. The senators do not comment on the visit, but they do want the State Department to determine: “The number of individuals detained by the government for political purposes and the treatment of those individuals. Current restrictions on communications in Jammu and Kashmir. The current accessibility of Jammu and Kashmir. And restrictions on religious freedoms in Jammu and Kashmir.”

The signatories include Lindsey Graham, a senior Republican politician who is considered a key Trump ally in the US Senate.

He has headed several Senate committees in his long career and is also a former Republican presidential candidate.

Another signatory, Dick Durbin, has been the Senate Democratic Whip since 2005, which is the second-highest position in the Democratic leadership in the US Senate.

Senators Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, and Todd Young, an Indiana Republican, also signed the letter. They are members of several important Senate committees, including those on foreign relations and budget.

“We write as longtime friends of India regarding some of the troubling actions taken by the current government. More than six months after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government unilaterally revoked the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir, the government continues to block most internet in the region,” the senators wrote.

“India has now imposed the longest-ever internet shut down by a democracy, disrupting access to medical care, business, and education for seven million people. Hundreds of Kashmiris remain in ‘preventive detention’, including key political figures.”

The senators also highlighted recently passed provisions within the Fiscal Year 2020 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations report, urging the Indian government to address these issues.

In their letter the Senators also noted, “In addition, the Indian government has taken other troubling steps that threaten the rights of certain religious minorities and the secular character of the state. This includes the passage of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, which is being challenged in India’s Supreme Court.”

They reminded Secretary Pompeo that India’s actions in Kashmir “have severe consequences” and that is why, in the Fiscal Year 2020 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations report, Congress urged the Indian government to: “fully restore telecommunications and internet services, lift its lockdown and curfew and release individuals detained pursuant to the Indian government’s revocation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution.”

Noting that India’s controversial Citizenship Amendment Act is being challenged in the Indian Supreme Court, the Senators wrote: “We respectfully request an assessment of the following items within 30 days.

“The number of individuals detained by the Indian Government for political purposes due to India’s revocation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution with respect to Jammu and Kashmir, including an assessment, to the extent practicable, of whether detainees endure torture or other forms of mistreatment.

“The government of India’s restrictions on communications in Jammu and Kashmir, including access to the internet and cellular telephone services.

“The level of access to Jammu and Kashmir the Indian government grants to independent observers, foreign diplomats and consular agents, foreign journalists, international organisations, and representatives of nongovernmental organisations.

“Restrictions on religious freedom in Jammu and Kashmir.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1534564/us-senators-call-for-assessment-of-rights-situation-in-held-kashmir

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White House memo says strike on Qassem Soleimani responded to past attacks

15 February 2020

President Donald Trump ordered a drone strike that killed a top Iranian military commander last month in response to past attacks, the White House said in a memo released on Friday, despite previous administration assertions that it was due to an imminent threat.

As required by law, the administration sent Congress an unclassified justification for the strike on January 2 that killed Qassem Soleimani at the airport in Baghdad. The strike, and Iran’s retaliation, raised fears of wider war and frustrated some lawmakers who said Trump had given them shifting justifications for the attack.

“The President directed this action in response to an escalating series of attacks in preceding months by Iran and Iran-backed militias on US forces and interests in the Middle East region,” the report to Congress said.

The House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee released the memo a day after the US Senate, in a rebuke to Trump, passed legislation with rare bipartisan support to limit the president’s ability to wage war against Iran.

The report said the purposes of the action were to protect US personnel, deter Iran, degrade Iranian-backed militias’ ability to conduct attacks and “end Iran’s strategic escalation of attacks.”

It also said the US constitution gives the president the right to direct the use of force to protect the country from an attack or threat or imminent attack.

And it said an Authorization for the Use of Military Force that Congress passed in 2002, for the Iraq War, also applied.

Democratic Representative Eliot Engel, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said the memo contradicted Trump’s previous assertion that the strike prevented an imminent attack and said lawmakers needed more answers.

“This spurious, after-the-fact explanation won’t do. We need answers and testimony, so I look forward to Secretary (of State Mike) Pompeo testifying before the committee at an open Feb. 28 hearing on Iran and Iraq policy, including the Soleimani strike and war powers,” Engel said in a statement.

A committee aide confirmed that Pompeo had agreed to appear on Feb. 28. The White House and State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Engel announced in late January that Pompeo had agreed to participate in a public hearing at a date that had not been set.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2020/02/15/White-House-memo-says-strike-on-Qassem-Soleimani-responded-to-past-attacks.html

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Gen. Soleimani assassinated to sabotage Iran's talks with Saudis, UAE following Israeli briefing: NYT

14 February 2020

Washington ordered the assassination of top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani to sabotage de-escalation talks between Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates following a report by Israel's Mossad spy agency, according to the New York Times.

The paper reported on Thursday that General Soleimani had been arranging talks in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates in order to de-escalate tensions with Tehran.

The Times wrote that the talks happened after Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which are central to the Trump administration's so-called regional alliance seeking to pressure Iran, began to question the efficiency of Washington's anti-Iran campaign.

According to the report, one such meeting took place last September in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates where a plane carrying "senior Iranian officials" landed for talks.

News of the meeting, which reached Washington only after it was notified by reports from American spy agencies, "set off alarms inside the White House", according to the report.

The report added that a similar mediation attempt, also arranged by Gen. Soleimani, was underway between Tehran and Riyadh using Iraqi and Pakistani intermediaries.

The report wrote that the developments had greatly concerned Israel, which had been trying to push the Trump administration to exert more pressure on Tehran.

According to the Times, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Mossad chief Yossi Cohen on October during a trip to Israel where he was briefed on Iran's attempted de-escalation talks with Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Cohen warned Pompeo that Tehran was effectively on the verge of achieving its "primary goal" of breaking up the so-called "anti-Iran" alliance.

A few months later in early January, General Soleimani was assassinated by Washington’s order while on a formal visit to Baghdad.

According to former Iraqi prime minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, General Soleimani was due to formally meet the Iraqi premier during the trip and was carrying Tehran's response to a message from Riyadh regarding the de-escalation talks.

Following the attack, the Trump Administration claimed that the assassination had taken place after a reported rocket attack on a US base in Iraq killed a "US civilian contractor" and that Gen. Soleimani was an "imminent threat" to US citizens.

Many US political figures have rejected the claims and have questioned why the Trump administration has failed to provide any evidence backing its actions.

The New York Times' Thursday report, however, reveals that entirely different considerations, such as Israel's push to undermine Iran's attempts at peace with its regional neighbors, were behind the assassination.

'Months of miscalculations'

According to the report, the assassination marks yet another miscalculation by the Trump administration which has failed to bend Iran through its "maximum pressure" campaign.

Following its unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in 2018, the US imposed unilateral sanctions against Tehran in a bid to goad Tehran to accept new terms dictated by Washington.

The Times, however, reported that a recent analysis conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency  (CIA) shows that the sanctions have had little effect in fulfilling Washington's goals.

The US has also sought to pressure Iran militarily by deploying troops to the region and creating a regional anti-Iran alliance in the region as part of if its anti-Iran campaign.

Washington called for the formation of a naval coalition in the region following a string of suspicious attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf.

Iran has vehemently denied the accusations, saying the incidents appear to be false flag operations meant to frame the Islamic Republic and push US interests.

Citing instances such as the major Yemeni attack on Saudi oil facilities last September and Iran's downing of a US Global Hawk spy craft in June, the New York Times report said stepped-up US military presence also failed to achieve its objectives.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/14/618645/Soleimani-assassinated-to-sabotage-peace-talks

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Trump’s illegal measures against Iran directed by Israel lobby: Analyst

14 February 2020

US President Donald Trump’s illegal measures and threats of war against Iran is directed by the Israel lobby and highlights Trump’s ignorance of American and international laws, a former US Senate candidate says.

“I don’t think Donald Trump understands the Constitution of the United States; he certainly doesn’t understand international law, and he certainly does not understand the foreign policy of the Republican Party,” said Mark Dankof, who is also a broadcaster and pastor in San Antonio, Texas.

“Trump is doing what he is doing because of the power of the Israel lobby in the United States, he’s doing this because of all the rabid neoconservatives that surround him,” Dankof told Press TV on Thursday.

“Trump has chosen to undertake a course of action that is not only illegal, it is downright dangerous because Iran will defend itself and I think if he persists with this policy, the United States is likely to get into a wider war ,” he added.

The Senate approved a bipartisan measure Thursday aimed at limiting Trump’s authority to launch military operations against Iran, sharply rebuking his foreign policy.

The rebuke was the Senate’s first major vote since acquitting Trump on impeachment charges last week. Trump has waned he will veto the war powers resolution if it reaches his desk. There is not expected to be enough support to gather the two-thirds Senate majority to override a veto.

The measure, authored by Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia, says Trump must gain approval from Congress before engaging in further military action against Iran. “An offensive war requires a congressional debate and vote,″ Kaine said.

Trump warned the Senate on Wednesday against curbing his power to wage war against Iran, saying "it would allow Tehran to act with impunity."

Trump said the Senate measure "sends a very bad signal. The Democrats are only doing this (limiting his power) as an attempt to embarrass the Republican Party. Don’t let it happen!"

In January, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed its own version of the law after Trump’s order to assassinate top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Iraq.

The US drone strike that targeted Lt. Gen. Soleimani on January 3 prompted Iran’s retaliatory missile strike against US-occupied bases in Iraq, dramatically escalating tensions and raising fears of a war.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/14/618642/US-Trump-Senate-war-power-Mark-Dankof

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US seizes Iranian weapons cache in Arabian Sea

Michael Hernandez

14.02.2020

WASHINGTON

The U.S. said Thursday it seized a cache of suspected Iranian-origin anti-tank weapons and other munitions in the Arabian Sea.

The USS Normandy intercepted and boarded a dhow, a traditional sail boat used in the region, when it discovered the sizable cache, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

The weapons include 150 'Dehlavieh' anti-tank guided missiles, which are similar to Russia's Kornet anti-tank missiles, as well as three Iranian-designed and manufactured surface-to-air missiles, thermal weapons scopes and drone components. Various weapon parts and munitions were also seized

The command said the weapons are "identical" to a haul seized by the USS Forrest Sherman in November that it later claimed were bound for Yemen's Houthi rebels.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-seizes-iranian-weapons-cache-in-arabian-sea/1733541

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Europe

 

Far-right suspects in Germany planned to attack Muslims, refugees

February 15, 2020

German police have arrested 12 men suspected of setting up a far-right organisation with the goal of carrying out attacks against politicians, asylum seekers and Muslims, the Federal Prosecutor's Office (GBA) said.

Prosecutors said four of the suspects arrested on Friday had set up a "terrorist organisation" in September last year and regularly met and contacted each other by phone, on online forums and in chat groups.

The other eight men were arrested on suspicion of supporting the organisation with money and weapons, the GBA said.

The suspects wanted their attacks to create havoc and an atmosphere of fear that resembles a civil war, it added.

"The goal of the organisation was to shake and eventually destroy the democratic system and social cohesion of the federal republic," the GBA said.

"For the purpose of creating conditions that resemble a civil war, attacks that were not yet concrete against politicians, asylum seekers and members of the Muslim faith were planned."

The German government last year launched a crackdown on right-wing political violence in response to a rise in hate crimes.

New measures approved after the killing of a pro-immigration politician and a deadly attack on a synagogue and kebab shop in Halle by an anti-Semitic gunman include tougher rules gun ownership laws and stricter monitoring of hate speech online.

The government has said about 90 percent of the 1,800 incidents recorded against Jews last year were committed by individuals espousing far-right views.

Germany's domestic intelligence agency estimates there are about 24,100 "right-wing extremists" in Germany, about half of whom are potentially violent.

There are growing concerns about the far right's influence in Germany, following a recent political scandal that saw mainstream parties collaborate with the nationalist Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) in a local election - a move Chancellor Angela Merkel called "unforgivable".

According to the government, there were nearly 9,000 attacks by far-right groups and individuals in the first half of 2019 - an increase of nearly 1,000 compared with the same period the year before.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/02/suspects-germany-planned-attack-muslims-refugees-200214141816203.html

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As Sajid Javid departs, the Tory Islamophobia scandal reaches a new low

14 FEBRUARY 2020

The resignation of Sajid Javid, the Conservative Party’s highest-ranking Muslim cabinet minister, comes in a fortnight when the party has hit a new low in its handling of Islamophobia.

Let us not forget that the departing chancellor had promised to hold an inquiry into the party’s tolerance of Islamophobia after the Muslim Council of Britain and others documented mounting evidence of anti-Muslim racism.

We were told there would be zero-tolerance to all forms of racism, but there is still no specific inquiry on the cards.

Only last week, we learned that the Tory backbench MP Daniel Kawczynski chose to travel to Italy for a nationalist far-right conference, speaking alongside figures who famously voice Islamophobic and anti-Semitic views, including the Hungarian PM, Viktor Orbán.

Kawczynski was not there to challenge but to hear people who “represent serious ideas and concerns, some of which are shared by many citizens of the UK”.

His actions were met with public condemnation by religious groups and anti-racist allies. It was only then that the Conservative Party “formally warned” him that his attendance “was not acceptable” (plus, in the party’s words, “Kawczynski has accepted this and apologised”).

It seems CCHQ’s “zero-tolerance policy” on racism didn’t extend to suspending him, investigating how he was allowed to attend, or withdrawing the whip.

Another prominent Conservative politician, the former MEP Daniel Hannan, despite his at times commendable take on Muslims, spoke at the very same conference last year and even appeared at a Los Angeles conference organised by an “anti-Muslim” group and headlined by British far-right activist Katie Hopkins. He is being honoured by the Conservative Party.

From all this evidence, it is difficult not to form the conclusion that the party does not truly care about being tough on racism, as long as it can pretend to look tough on racism.

This tepid commitment to fighting bigotry was demonstrated in full force when, on Sunday, the government seemingly abandoned its own adviser on the Islamophobia definition, Imam Qari Asim after a non-story in the Sunday Times. Asim was reported as having explained how some Muslims may have different understandings of free speech. Let us not forget that he was appointed to the role after the government refused to endorse a definition of Islamophobia formulated by British Muslims at a grassroots level.

Following Asim’s observations of other people’s views (not his own), Trevor Phillips, former chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Conservative MP Bob Seely and ideological cheerleaders including the Henry Jackson Society, Policy Exchange, Civitas, Quilliam and the Heritage Foundation erupted in faux rage and called for his resignation.

Contrast this with the Imam’s support from the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and the Board of Deputies, which represents British Jews, who rallied around him – and yet the government refused to defend him (according to the Sunday Times report, “it is understood that officials in Downing Street think he should not remain in his post”).

These two cases are symptomatic of the wider approach we have seen the Conservatives take when it comes to Islamophobia: that is, letting its own representatives and members get away with legitimising or propagating racist views, while undermining Muslims.

It may not be traditional hatred, but it is a wider racism that is targeting the Muslim identity – or Muslimness. This is the very definition of Islamophobia that the government is refusing to accept, despite it being adopted by all other main national political parties, Muslim communities up and down the country and the top academics in the field.

While last week it was the failure to reprimand Kawczynski, in the past it has been defending Zac Goldsmith and his dogwhistle mayoral campaign, failing to suspend Tory MP Bob Blackman after a consistent stream of Islamophobia on social media, and not cracking down on Islamophobia among its ranks online – for example, quietly reinstating 15 councillors who were suspended over Islamophobic and racist online posts.

On Sunday, it was the failure to support Imam Qari Asim when his words were taken out of context. But in the past it has seen Conservative ex-MEP Sajjad Karim revealed last September that a minister made “clearly Islamophobic” remarks about him in conversation with another Tory MP within earshot  (he says he never heard back after his request to meet with party chairman James Cleverly about it), allowed Mohamed Sheikh, founder of the Conservative Muslim Forum, to be hounded with Islamophobic emails, and, crucially, failed three million British Muslims with a “general investigation” rather than the one all Tory leadership candidates pledged on Islamophobia.

The actions of this past week alone suggest that either the party openly gives the greenlight to racism, or it fundamentally fails to understand what Islamophobia actually is – that is, so much more than just anti-Muslim hatred.

Islamophobia is peddling conspiracy theories: Sajid Javid being part of “the Muslim brotherhood take over”. Islamophobia is playing into tropes: discussing “Muslim rape gangs” and the “Muslim invasion”. Islamophobia is not speaking out against structural discrimination, which leaves British Muslims earning £350 a month less than their non-Muslim counterparts.

Full report at:

https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2020/02/sajid-javid-departs-tory-islamophobia-scandal-reaches-new-low

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Plot to attack politicians, Muslims unearthed in Germany

February 15, 2020

BERLIN: Police in Germany arrested twelve men, including one of its own officers, in a nationwide probe into an extreme-right group suspected of planning attacks on politicians, asylum seekers and Muslims, state interior ministry sources and prosecutors said on Friday.

The arrests followed raids, some by heavily-armed special units, which hit 13 locations in six German states.

The four prime suspects planned to spark “a civil war-like situation... via as yet undefined attacks on politicians, asylum seekers and people of Muslim faith,” federal prosecutors said in a statement.

A further eight suspects were alleged to have agreed to “financially support the group, provide it with weapons or take part in future attacks”.

The twelve included a police officer previously suspended over suspicions he had links to the far-right, a source at the interior ministry in North-Rhine Westphalia state said, though it was not immediately clear if he was one of the prime suspects.

From its founding in September 2019, the group’s ultimate aim was “to shake the state and social order in Germany and in the end to overturn it”, investigators believe.

In order to plan their attacks, the group allegedly held regular meetings which were coordinated and organised by two of the main suspects, named only as Werner S. and Tony E.

The suspects, all of whom are German citizens, also communicated using messenger apps.

Investigators launched Friday’s raids to determine whether the suspects already had weapons or other supplies that could be used in an attack.

The twelve men are set to appear before a court soon to hear whether they will be imprisoned on remand.

German authorities have turned increased attention to the country’s underground extreme right scene since the murder of conservative local politician Walter Luebcke last June and an October attack on a synagogue in eastern city Halle.

Suspects arrested in both cases have ties to the extreme right.

According to Spiegel magazine, police discovered several weapons in Friday’s raids, including one self-made “slam gun” similar to the one used in the Halle attack.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer announced in December 600 new posts across the federal police and domestic security services to track far-right extremist threats, citing a growing danger.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1534566/plot-to-attack-politicians-muslims-unearthed-in-germany

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Germany busts ‘terrorist organization’ that planned attacks on Muslims, refugees

February 14, 2020

BERLIN: German police detained 12 men on Friday suspected of setting up a far-right organization with the goal of carrying out attacks against politicians, asylum seekers and Muslims, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office (GBA) said.

Prosecutors said four of the suspects had set up a “terrorist organization” in September 2019 and regularly met and contacted each other by phone and in online chart forums and chat groups. They had no immediate plan to carry out an attack.

The other eight men were detained on suspicion of supporting the organization with money and weapons, the GBA said.

The suspects wanted their attacks to create havoc and an atmosphere of fear that resembles a civil war, it added.

“The goal of the organization was to shake and eventually destroy the democratic system and social cohesion of the federal republic,” the GBA said. “For the purpose of creating an conditions that resemble a civil war, attacks that were not yet concrete against politicians, asylum seekers and members of the Muslim faith were planned.”

The German government last year launched a crackdown on right-wing political violence in response to a rise in hate crimes.

New measures approved after the killing of a pro-immigration politician and a deadly attack on a synagogue and kebab shop in Halle by an anti-Semitic gunman include tougher rules on gun ownership and stricter monitoring of hate speech online.

The government has said around 90% of the 1,800 incidents recorded against Jews last year were committed by individuals espousing far-right views.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1627696/world

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Germany: Homes of suspected far-right extremists raided

Erbil Basay  

14.02.2020

BERLIN

German police raided the homes of suspected far-right extremists in six provinces, federal prosecutors said on Friday.

The raids were held in Baden-Wurttemberg, Bavaria, Lower Saxony, North-Rheine Westphalia, Rheinland-Palatinate and Saxony Anhalt to arrest 13 people.

According to a written statement by the federal prosecutor’s office, an investigation was carried out into five people who were suspected for establishing a far-right terror group, and eight others, supporting it.

No arrests were made so far, it noted.

As part of the investigation, the five suspects were found to have established a terror group in September 2019 to undermine the state and social order.

The terror group aims to create a "civil-war like conditions" in the country by carrying out attacks against politicians, refugees and Muslims, the statement said.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/germany-homes-of-suspected-far-right-extremists-raided/1734097

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Northern Ireland excluded from UK emergency terror bill

Karim El-Bar 

14.02.2020

Emergency legislation introduced to the parliament by the British government to end the automatic early release of terrorist offenders will not extend to Northern Ireland, provoking criticism from unionist politicians.

The Belfast Telegraph speculated: “It may not have been considered for Northern Ireland as it could conflict with the early release provisions for paramilitary prisoners in legislation that followed the Good Friday Agreement.”

The 1998 agreement brought about an end to “The Troubles,” a 30-year low-intensity conflict between Northern Irish republican separatists on one hand and Northern Irish unionists and the British state on the other.

Doug Beattie, Ulster Unionist Party Justice spokesman in the Northern Irish legislature, said: “This part of the United Kingdom is not immune to global terrorist attack; in fact, we may find ourselves, being the frontier to the European Union, as the soft underbelly of the United Kingdom.”

“He added: “The same penalties should be available U.K.-wide for those who seek to attack our people and our way of life, in any part of our country.”

A terrorist attack in Belfast -- or anywhere else in Northern Ireland -- should be treated as seriously as a terrorist attack in Manchester or London.”

He said: “The same penalties should therefore be available U.K.-wide for those who seek to attack our people and our way of life, in any part of our country.”

Sudesh Amman, 20, stabbed two people earlier this month before being shot by police. He had previously been convicted of terror offenses and released from prison before completing his full sentence.

The emergency legislation will require convicted terrorists to undergo a risk assessment by a parole board before being released.

The government aims to pass the law by Feb. 27, the day before the next terrorist prisoner is due to be automatically released.

The law will affect current as well as future prisoners and as such will affect around 50 terrorist prisoners currently in prison.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/northern-ireland-excluded-from-uk-emergency-terror-bill/1733588

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Jihadis jailed for spreading speeches by hate preacher who inspired terrorists including London Bridge attacker

Lizzie Dearden

February 15, 2020

Two men have been jailed for spreading extremist propaganda that called on Muslims to wage violent jihad around the world.

Muhammad Abdur Raheem Kamali and Mohammed Abdul Ahad edited and uploaded speeches by hate preacher Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal to a website and social media pages.

Police said the material promoted terrorism and encouraged people to join Isis in Syria, but The Independent has confirmed that the website remains online.

The site claims that Muslims must “hate disbelievers” and “fight them,”, and urges followers to spread their beliefs and contact others of the same faith in British prisons.

Sheikh Faisal’s followers included two of the bombers in the 7 July 2005 attack in London, a terrorist jailed for conspiring with the 9/11 hijackers, and shoe bomber Richard Reid.

London Bridge attacker Usman Khan had his phone number when he was arrested over the London Stock Exchange bomb plot in 2010, and the Streatham attacker, Sudesh Amman, is believed to have followed his teachings, The Times reported.

Mohissunnath Chowdhury, who attacked police with a sword outside Buckingham Palace in 2017 and planned more attacks after being released from prison, also cited Sheikh Faisal as an inspiration.

The website contains speeches by Sheikh Faisal, as well as other extremist preachers who have inspired terrorist plots, and solicits donations for the extremist.

Police said that Kamali, 31, of Rochdale, and Ahad, 38, of London, were two of the website’s “main administrators and contributors”.

The Old Bailey heard that the pair recorded Sheikh Faisal’s speeches, then transcribed, edited and prepared them for uploading to the website.

“A significant number of these speeches glorified terrorist organisations including al-Qaeda and Isis, and encouraged support for acts of terrorism,” a spokesperson for Greater Manchester Police said.

Kamali and Ahad first came to police attention in 2016, when counter-terrorism police officers in northeast England were investigating a 20-year-old woman over the website and a linked Facebook page.

Investigators discovered that Kamali and Ahad were web managers for the project, and the pair were simultaneously arrested in March 2017.

Kamali, who police said had been the owner and lead administrator of the website since 2011, was convicted on four counts of disseminating terrorist publications and jailed for four and a half years.

Ahad was also sentenced to four and a half years in prison after being found guilty on four counts of disseminating terrorist publications and one of possessing a document useful for an attack.

Both men were handed an extended licence period and a court order requiring them to notify police of changes to their circumstances for 10 years after they are released from prison.

Commander Richard Smith, head of the Metropolitan Police Counter-Terrorism Command, called the pair “online publishers of toxic ideologies which promoted terrorism and encouraged its readership to join Isis in Syria”.

“We take the dissemination of this type of material incredibly seriously and we will prosecute anyone involved in such illegal activity,” he added.

Born Trevor William Forrest in Jamaica, Sheikh Faisal converted to Islam before moving to Saudi Arabia and then the UK.

He was the imam of Brixton Mosque in London in the early 1990s before being ejected for his extremism but continued to speak to audiences around the UK.

In 2003, the hate preacher was jailed for urging Muslims to kill Jews, Christians, Americans, Hindus and other “disbelievers”.

Dismissing an appeal against his conviction the following year, the Court of Appeal said speeches made to crowds of young Muslim men had been recorded on tapes, which were distributed in bookshops.

“In his speeches, the appellant encouraged his listeners to kill,” judges said. “He asserted that it was compulsory for all Muslims to undertake jihad and that the meaning of that word was the killing of those who did not believe in the Islamic faith.”

Full report at:

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/london-bridge-terror-attack-usman-khan-islamist-preacher-sheikh-faisal-a9333666.html

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German president calls for country to stand up to extremism, nationalism on 75th anniversary of Dresden bombing

February 15, 2020

Speaking at a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Dresden by Allied forces at the end of World War II, Germany’s president on Thursday said it’s time to stand up to rising extremism and nationalism.

Warning that hatred and a desire for strongman and patriarchal authoritarianism are on the rise again in Europe, including in his country, Frank-Walter Steinmeier said it was important to recall who had started the devastating global conflict.

The manmade firestorm, vividly captured by American author Kurt Vonnegut in his book “Slaughterhouse Five,” and the destruction of large parts of the baroque eastern German city have become a rallying point for those seeking to portray Germans as victims in the war.

“It was Germans who began this gruesome war,” Steinmeier said.

“We won’t forget the German guilt,” he added. “And we stand by the responsibility that remains.”

After his speech, Steinmeier joined the Duke of Kent, a cousin of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, and thousands of Dresdeners to form a human peace chain in a gesture of reconciliation and to commemorate the victims of Nazi atrocities and mass bombings by all sides during World War II.

Among those taking part as the chain formed in icy rain near the rebuilt Frauenkirche were Gisela Hahn and Gottfried Koehler.

“We’ve had 75 years of peace in Europe,” said Koehler, who recalled seeing Dresden burning from afar as a small child. “That’s why we’re here.”

Historians say the Feb. 13-15, 1945, bombardment of Dresden by American and British planes killed up to 25,000 people. That is comparable to the death toll in other large German cities.

Last November, the city of Dresden declared a “Nazi emergency” after allegedly experiencing a rise in anti-democratic and far-right extremist views and violence.

Council members in the city declared in a resolution that “right-wing extremist attitudes and actions … are occurring with increasing frequency" and called on residents to help victims of far-right violence, protect minorities and strengthen democracy.

The resolution calls on the city and civil society organizations to strengthen democratic culture and to focus on “the causes and consequences of anti-Semitism, racism and position of extreme right to restore trust in democratic institutions and the appreciation of diversity and respectful solidarity,” according to DW.

“'Nazinotstand’ means – similar to the climate emergency – that we have a serious problem. The open democratic society is threatened,” local councilor Max Aschenbach, whose left-leaning satirical party Die Partei sponsored the resolution, told the BBC. “The request was an attempt to change that. I also wanted to know what kind of people I’m sitting with in the city council of Dresden.”

German nationalists have for decades promoted the myth that as many as half a million civilians were killed in Dresden. Most recently the idea has been taken up by members of the nationalist Alternative for Germany party, which has grown into a significant force in German politics since its founding seven years ago.

The party, which goes by the German acronym AfD, has moved steadily to the right over the years.

Bjoern Hoecke, a regional AfD leader who once called for a “180-degree turn” in the way Germany commemorates its past, once was considered a fringe figure but now represents the party’s core.

AfD’s co-chairman, Tino Chrupalla, recently stated that the bombing of Dresden cost “about 100,000 lives.”

While such claims are dismissed by experts and condemned as revisionism by centrist parties, they reflect Alternative for Germany’s tactic of gaining attention by breaking taboos in post-Holocaust German politics.

Last week, the far-right party threw German politics into turmoil by unexpectedly backing a centrist candidate as governor in Thuringia state. The fumbled reaction to the situation by two other political parties — including Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats — triggered widespread outrage and numerous resignations, including that of Merkel’s heir apparent.

Steinmeier alluded to the incident in his Dresden speech, warning that “if elected lawmakers make the parliaments in which they sit look foolish and ridiculous, then that’s an attempt to destroy democracy from within.”

“It’s not enough for democrats to shudder and turn away in disgust,” he said. “We have to reject all forms of hatred and incitement, speak out against insults and counter prejudice.”

Full report at:

https://www.foxnews.com/world/german-president-calls-for-country-to-stand-up-to-extremism-nationalism-on-75th-anniversary-of-dresden-bombing

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Arab World

 

Hariri: Aoun settlement over, will not deal with ‘shadow president’

February 15, 2020

BEIRUT: In a speech on the 15th anniversary of the assassination of his father, Rafic Hariri, former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced that the settlement he had established with President Michel Aoun had come to an end. “The Hariri era has not ended, and I am staying in the country and in politics, and the Sunnis are staying,” he stated.

“Before the settlement, I tried to pave the way for my friend, Suleiman Franjieh, to become president, but his allies prevented him. The abolition mentality wants to abolish the Progressive Socialist Party, the Lebanese Forces and, now, Hariri,” he said.

Hariri lashed out at the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gebran Bassil, without naming him. “President Aoun knows how much I respect him, but I arrived at a point where I have begun to deal with two presidents — I have to deal with a shadow president to protect the original one,” he said.

He was also indirectly critical of Hezbollah. “How can we strengthen tourism without the Arabs and the citizens of the Arabian Gulf region, and how do we protect the interests of the Lebanese people, who are benefitting from employment opportunities in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries when there are those who stir up trouble with these countries?” he said.

“Iran’s money solves Hezbollah’s crisis; not the crisis of a country. Parties in the state do not operate separately and individually without actual financial policies.” 

Hariri strongly criticized the ongoing efforts to hold his father responsible for Lebanon’s economic collapse.

“What is most dangerous are suggestions that the countdown to the Taif Agreement has begun. People know how Lebanon was before Rafic Hariri and what he did for it. They did not offer the country anything of value. They did not even build a sewer. Instead, they fabricated files, dug graves, and made accusations. There is a political system that started discussing a non-Hariri era and holding Hariri responsible for ‘the deal of the century’ and the resettlement nightmare. We say that resettlement is not mentioned in the constitution,” he said.

“Seven years of impediment after (Rafic) Hariri’s assassination have been wasted on talks about the rights of minorities, who have been partners for 30 years and participated in all disturbances. The cost of electric power has amounted for 50 percent of public debt,” he added, highlighting that since the war ended, no Future Movement member of parliament had ever assumed the role of minister of energy.

“In the last two months, we have heard that the Future Movement has come to its end. We have also heard that Saudi Arabia, the US, China, and the world do not want Saad Hariri, but I assure you that the Future Movement, the movement of Arabism and moderation, is staying, and this house shall never close,” he added.

Thousands of supporters and popular delegations carrying the Future Movement’s blue flag as well as Lebanon’s flag flocked to Hariri’s house and the streets surrounding it. They also carried banners that read, “Your martyrdom is revolution.”

The speech was attended by a delegation from the Democratic Gathering, led by Taymour Jumblatt, a parliamentary and ministerial delegation from the Lebanese Forces, and delegations from the Armenian Tashnag Party and the Phalange Party. It was also attended by the Saudi Arabian and UAE ambassadors to Lebanon.

Walid, a young man from Iklim Al-Kharoub region, told Arab News: “People are with Saad Hariri, may God give him strength.”

Nabiha from Beirut said: “We are with Saad Hariri. His allies have deceived him despite everything he did. He shall return to power.”

Farouk, also from Beirut, said: “Rafic Hariri leveraged everyone, but they removed him from power and then assassinated him. They are now trying to do the same to his son, Saad Hariri, but he is staying and will return strong. He will not lose his popularity.”

Political, religious and diplomatic figures also visited the grave of Rafic Hariri on the anniversary of his death, including Russian Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin.

There was friction between Hariri’s supporters and protesters in Martyrs’ Square, opposite the site of Rafic Hariri’s grave.

During the commemoration of Rafic Hariri, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “The assassination of Prime Minister Rafic Hariri is a mass killing. Many individuals linked to Hezbollah have been charged with playing roles in this terrorist attack, and they must be brought to justice in the end.”

Pompeo added that Hezbollah had proven through its terrorist and illegal activities that it cared more about its interests and the interests of its sponsor, Iran, than about the best interests of the Lebanese people.

“The US continues to proudly stand with the Lebanese people in their peaceful calls for reform, transparency, and accountability,” he added.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1627906/middle-east

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Syrian to be tried for plotting attack on U.S. embassy in Lebanon: agency

FEBRUARY 13, 2020

BEIRUT (Reuters) - A Syrian man held on suspicion of plotting an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon was referred to trial on Thursday along with 20 other people, the Lebanese state news agency NNA said.

NNA said a Lebanese military judge had issued an indictment against the man on charges of belonging to the Islamic State militant group and planning the operation on its behalf.

It said the man was suspected of having prepared explosives and of seeking to buy a drone for the attack. The agency gave no further details and did not spell out the allegations against the 20 others.

Full report at:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-security-usa/syrian-to-be-tried-for-plotting-attack-on-us-embassy-in-lebanon-agency-idUSKBN2071RK

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ISIS attack on religious minority in disputed Khanaqin leaves 2 dead, 10 injured

February 13-2020

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – On late Wednesday night, the so-called Islamic State attacked a village of the Kurdish religious minority known as the Kakais in the disputed Khanaqin district, killing a father and a son, and injuring 10 others.

The attack targeted the “Bahary Taza” village, which falls on the outskirts of Khanaqin district in the Diyala governorate. The area is considered one of the disputed areas between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Iraq’s central government. 

A source in the area confirmed to Kurdistan 24 that “the attack led to the death of a father and son from the Kakai minority, while 10 individuals among civilians and Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) were injured.”

“The terrorist group also detonated a placed IED while the security forces were attempting to evacuate the injured individuals,” the source added.

Killings and other insurgent-style operations have continued with regularity, notably in disputed areas, over two years after the Islamic State lost all its territorial claims in Iraq, and Baghdad declared a final victory over the extremist organization.

In late January, a group of gunmen suspected to be an Islamic State sleeper cell set up a mock security checkpoint and abducted seven civilians to the west of Khanaqin and just south of the Kurdish run Garmiyan Administration. Two days later, militants kidnapped two more people in a similar incident near the same area, which is also considered disputed territory.

On Sunday, the Kurdistan Region’s Peshmerga and Kurdish security forces (Asayish) launched a massive military operation at dawn to pursue Islamic State sleeper cells in the region bordering the southern Garmiyan area.

Full report at:

https://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/3bb979bf-56a5-423e-93bb-8247ebdb4434

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Lebanon’s ex-PM Hariri blames political rivals for crisis

14 February 2020

Lebanon’s ex-Prime Minister Saad Hariri, in his first major address as an opposition figure after the formation of a new cabinet, charged his rivals with pushing the country to near-collapse and cast doubt on their ability to win foreign support.

The speech by Hariri, the country’s top Sunni Muslim politician, laid bare growing political divisions that could complicate Beirut’s push to enact painful reforms and recover from the worst economic crisis since its 1975-1990 war.

A cabinet formed last month by Iran-backed Hezbollah and its allies, the first since Hariri resigned in October in the face of protests, must contend with a severe liquidity crunch and fast-approaching debt payments, with a $1.2 billion Eurobond due on March 9.

The government clinched a parliamentary vote of confidence on Tuesday but several major parties, such as Hariri’s Future Movement, the Christian Lebanese Forces and Kataeb parties, and the Druze Progressive Socialist Party, all withheld support.

Speaking on the 15th anniversary of the assassination of his father, ex-premier Rafik Hariri, Saad Hariri lambasted his rivals, casting their obstruction of reforms as largely to blame for the depth of the current crisis.

“We organized the Cedar conference, and we got $11 billion dollars for the economy based on reforms we agreed to and promised to implement,” said Hariri, referring to a 2018 Paris donor conference. “But what can I do if someone does not keep to his word?” Hariri, an ally of Western and Gulf Arab states at odds with Iran, threw his most scathing jabs at former Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, the son-in-law of President Michel Aoun, who he called a “shadow” president who had subverted his work and helped push the country to collapse.

The remarks underscored the end of a fragile cross-sectarian alliance that had held between Hariri, Aoun’s Christian Free Patriotic Movement and Hezbollah, a coalition that formed the basis of two previous governments.

In his speech Hariri raised prickly questions about how the new cabinet, seen as dominated by Hezbollah, could win the badly needed support of countries at odds with Iran, another potential obstacle to its recovery bid.

“Can we establish tourism without Arab and Gulf citizens? Can we open markets for Lebanese goods without having Arab and Gulf markets in particular?” said Hariri.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/14/Lebanon-s-ex-PM-Hariri-blames-political-rivals-for-crisis.html

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Thousands of al-Sadr supporters hold counter-protests in Iraq

14 February 2020

Thousands of supporters of Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr protested on Friday to support the sanctity of “religious symbols,” a day after a march saw unprecedented public criticism of their leader.

“We are one tribe and our leader is Moqtada Sadr!” chanted a crowd of men on Friday in Tahrir Square, the main gathering place in Iraq’s capital for rival anti-government rallies.

Al-Sadr, who has a cult-like following across Iraq, first backed the popular protests when they erupted in October but has since split with them over the appointment of a new prime minister.

The cleric backs Mohammad Allawi, a premier-designate rejected by most demonstrators as too close to the ruling class they have railed against for months.

Over the last two weeks, al-Sadr has sought to clamp down on the main movement and his followers have attacked rival demonstrators.

In another twist, the cleric published a series of guiding principles for protesters this week, including separation of the sexes and banning drugs or alcohol.

“We will not stay with arms crossed, silent in the face of insults against religion, morality and country,” al-Sadr said.

Many have long been afraid to criticism the militiaman-turned-politician because of his influence, but his comments on Twitter were met with outrage and mockery.

On Friday though, Sadrists held counter-protests in Baghdad, the southern port city of Basra and the shrine city of Najaf, rejecting criticism of their leader.

“We reject agitators who sneak in among the protesters, shattering the movement’s peaceful nature and insulting prophets and religious symbols,” one Sadrist told AFP.

There were no clashes between the al-Sadr supporters and the anti-government demonstrators, but previous clashes between the two have left eight activists dead.

Around 550 people have been killed since the rallies erupted four months ago and another 30,000 wounded.

Incoming premier Allawi has until March 2 to form his new cabinet, which would need a vote of confidence from Iraq’s divided parliament.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/14/Thousands-of-Iraq-al-Sadr-s-supporters-hold-counter-protests.html

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Two pilots killed after Syrian regime helicopter downed: Monitor

14 February 2020

A Syrian military helicopter was shot down over the last major opposition bastion in northwest Syria on Friday, killing two pilots, a war monitor said, in the second such incident this week.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the aircraft was downed over the western countryside of Aleppo province where government forces have scored major gains against opposition forces and extremists in recent weeks.

The Britain-based monitor blamed the attack on Turkey but there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/14/Two-pilots-killed-after-Syrian-regime-helicopter-downed-Monitor-.html

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Egypt confirms first novel coronavirus case, says affected person is foreigner

14 February 2020

Egypt confirmed on Friday its first coronavirus case and said the affected person was a foreigner who had been put into isolation at hospital.

The health ministry said in a statement that it had immediately informed the World Health Organization and had taken all necessary preventative measures.

Al Arabiya correspondent reported that the patient is a Chinese national.

A World Health Organization-led joint mission with China will start its outbreak investigation work this weekend and will focus on how the new coronavirus is spreading and the severity of the disease, the WHO’s director said on Friday.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/14/Egypt-confirms-first-novel-coronavirus-case-says-affected-person-is-foreigner.html

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NATO decides to expand presence in Iraq

Friday, 14 February 2020

Jerome Hughes

Press TV, Brussels

Anti-war groups are expressing disbelief that NATO defense ministers have agreed to actually increase military personnel numbers in Iraq. Last month, Iraq's parliament passed a resolution calling on the government to expel foreign troops from the country as Iran-US tensions escalated following the killing of a top Iranian military commander, Qassem Soleimani, and the Iraqi armed group leader in a US airstrike in Baghdad. Perhaps that's why the announcement to enhance NATO's military presence was made somewhat sheepishly.

Donald Trump is also calling the shots when it comes to NATO's military spending. The defense ministers signed off on their previous commitment to invest an additional 400 billion US dollars on arms by 2024. Most of the cash will come from European Union tax payers as 22 of the 29 NATO members are EU nations.

A number of campaign groups and many EU legislators describe the European Union's military spending as obscene given the economic hardship that so many of the bloc's citizens continue to endure.

The EU is currently in the process of developing its own army. In light of Brexit, major divisions inside NATO and the makeup of the current US administration, some claim it might not be a bad idea.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/14/618661/NATO-expand-presence-Iraq

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Aleppo stepping toward full liberation thanks to Syria army gains

14 February 2020

Syrian government forces, backed by allied fighters from popular defense groups, are apparently riding high following the liberation of more areas from the clutches of terrorists in the northwestern province of Aleppo.

Syria’s official news agency SANA reported on Friday that troops and their allies regained control over the village of Urum al-Sughra, which lies in Atarib district.

Operations also continued Friday for the liberation of the town of Urum al-Kubrah and its environs.

West of Aleppo in al-Rashideen 4 area, army bomb disposal units are working to spot and defuse hidden improvised explosive devices and landmines.

There, a network of underground tunnels and hideouts previously used by militants has been uncovered.

On Thursday, Syrian army units managed to wrest control over Kafar Joum village besides Mohandessin 1 and 2 areas in western Aleppo following clashes with members of the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham Takfiri terrorist group, formerly known as the al-Nusra Front.

Turkish-backed militants down Syrian Air Force helicopter in Idlib

Meanwhile, a Syrian military source told SANA that Turkish-backed terrorists had shot down a government helicopter west of Aleppo.

The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the aircraft was targeted by a hostile missile at around 13:40 local time (1140 GMT) on Friday, as it was flying in the skies over Urum al-Kubrah.

The source blamed the attack on Turkish-backed militants, noting that crew members on board the helicopter were killed.

On Wednesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey's military would strike Syrian army forces by air or ground anywhere in Syria if another Turkish soldier was hurt in Idlib.

The Turkish president said Ankara was determined to push Syrian government forces beyond Turkish observation posts in Idlib by the end of this month.

Later in the day, an official at the Syrian Foreign Ministry dismissed as hollow Erdogan’s threats of a military operation in Idlib, stressing that they have been made by someone detached from the realities on the ground.

The source said such statements are simply made by someone who does not understand the changing developments.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/14/618655/Syria-Aleppo-

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In nationwide move, protesters mark 9th anniversary of Bahrain uprising

Friday, 14 February 2020

Thousands of people have staged nationwide demonstrations across Bahrain on the eve of the ninth anniversary of the popular uprising against the ruling Al Khalifah dynasty.

Demonstrators took to the streets in the capital Manama as well as the village of Sanabis, which lies in the suburbs of Manama, the northwestern village of Diraz, located about 12 kilometers (seven miles) southeast of the capital, Bilad al-Qadeem suburb of Manama and the village of Tubli, west of the island of Sitra.

They called for the immediate release of the 54-year-old prominent Shia cleric and secretary general of the dissolved al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, Sheikh Ali Salman, and other political prisoners.

People carry a banner with the picture of prominent Bahraini Shia cleric Sheikh Ali Salman during an anti-regime demonstration in Manama, February 14, 2020. (Photo via Twitter)

On January 28, 2019, the Supreme Court of Bahrain upheld a life sentence against the Shia opposition leader over charges of spying for Qatar.

According to a statement released by the public prosecutor, the court confirmed the verdict against Salman and his aides Ali al-Aswad and Hassan Sultan for “spying for a foreign state in order to ... overthrow the government.”

The London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy condemned the ruling at the time.

Bahraini political activist Abdulwahab Hussain Ali Ahmed Esmael, center, participates in an anti-regime demonstration in Manama, February 14, 2020. (Photo via Twitter)

“This is political revenge and an insult to justice,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, the group's director of advocacy.

“Punishing peaceful dissidents for leading protests against the corrupt ruling family has nothing to do with justice. This verdict shames Bahrain's rulers and their allies …, namely the US and UK.”

The trio had been initially acquitted by the high criminal court, but the decision was later overturned by an appeals court on November 4, 2018.

People participate in an anti-regime demonstration in Manama, Bahrain, on the ninth anniversary of the popular uprising against the ruling Al Khalifah regime, February 14, 2020. (Photo via Twitter)

Demonstrations in Bahrain have been held on a regular basis ever since a popular uprising began in mid-February 2011.

The participants demand that the Al Khalifah regime relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established.

Manama, however, has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/14/618650/Bahrain-anniversary

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Turkish-backed rebels down Syrian helicopter in Idlib

February 14, 2020

ANKARA: A Syrian military helicopter was shot down over the last major opposition bastion in northwest Syria on Friday, the second such incident in a week of high tensions with Turkey. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said two pilots were killed. The Turkey-backed National Liberation Front rebel group claimed responsibility.

It came as Syrian and Russian forces pressed a deadly offensive against the shrinking pocket in the country’s northwest, claiming the lives of nine civilians on Friday.

The mangled remains of the chopper and the blood-stained fatigues of one of the pilots were seen at the crash site.

Three days earlier another Syrian regime helicopter was downed over Idlib province, killing at least three crew members.

Turkish media blamed that attack on rebels but the observatory said Ankara’s troops had fired rockets at the aircraft over the village of Qaminas, southeast of Idlib city. Turkey did not claim responsibility.

Separately, Israeli strikes on the Damascus airport killed seven fighters, the latest in a string of attacks targeting Iran’s military presence in Syria.

The observatory said the strikes launched late Thursday hit military targets in the area of the international airport. Rami Abdel Rahman, its director, said the dead were three regime soldiers and four members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

As Turkey is poised to send additional troops to Idlib, there is speculation of a large-scale war if the deadline given to Damascus to withdraw its forces by the end of the month is ignored. Turkey’s military continued on Friday to move armored vehicles and bulldozers to Idlib.

Seth J. Frantzman, executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis, said Turkey’s preference is to use the regime’s offensive as an excuse to exercise more control over Idlib and get rebel groups there to be more dependent on Ankara for support.

“Turkey benefits from US support in Idlib, but isn’t interested in the US prodding it into an offensive,” he told Arab News.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1627681/middle-east

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Africa

 

Sudan ‘Islamists’ Distance Themselves from Bashir’s Regime

13 February, 2020

About a year after the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule, which lasted for nearly 30 years, many Sudanese believe that the Islamist regime is still in place. They are accused of maintaining control through cadres who have positions in important and strategic institutions and of hindering these institutions’ ability to function.

Despite the recent decisions to dismantle the regime and to prosecute corrupt Islamist leaders and those who committed crimes against the Sudanese people, most of their leaders are still at large. Some go as holding them responsible for the crises that the country is going through, such as the fuel and bread crises, traffic congestion and rampant smuggling of strategic goods.

“The Islamists still exist and control the facets of power and money and even hope to a return to power," Salah Manna, a leader in Freedom and Change and spokesman for the Committee for Dismantling Ingaz (Salvation) Regime told Asharq Al-Awsat.

He explains "their attempts to thwart the transitional authority are constant. Not a single day has gone by without a conspiracy."

He referred to an incident where security authorities seized explosives in Khartoum. But Manna affirmed the government's ability to "eliminate them, undo their influence and restore the Sudanese state from them."

He believed that "the crimes they committed during their 30 years in power ended their prospects of a political future in Sudan forever, and the state will not allow for parties to be founded on religious grounds again."

The leaders of the Popular Congress Party, founded by Dr. Hassan al-Turabi, refute accusations that they are behind the crises. They say that it is "the natural result of the failures of the leftist government led by the Communists and the Baathists, and it has nothing to do with Islamists."

Bashir Adam Rahma, the party's designate general secretary, tells Asharq Al-Awsat: “We have nothing to do with what is happening. The policies of the ruling leftist groups are what caused the crises and led to the cessation of foreign aid, which they would have received had they pursued moderate policies”.

Regarding smuggling, Rahma says "smuggling to neighboring countries is an old problem and needs to be dealt with. If the government does not implement foreign agendas, it will not be supported."

He defended his party’s participation in ruling the country before the regime’s fall, noting that “we contributed to ... exposing financial corruption in the cabinet and parliament, which tarnished the image of the regime and encouraged the Sudanese take to the streets”.

Rahma admitted that the Salvation Front regime, which his party participated in during its early stages, was corrupt. "We have apologized for participating in the 1989 coup dozens of times.”

For his part, the defected Islamist and head of the Reform Now Movement, Ghazi Salah al-Din al-Atabani, is reluctant to hand over al-Bashir. And he says: “When I participated in the Doha negotiations, we reached an acceptable solution that was national and achieved justice... We reached a formula accepted by the international community (stipulating that) anyone who was harmed may submit his complaint against whoever is responsible, including the president. As for a national trial, but under international supervision, and I am committed to this agreement that brings justice, takes the suffering that was incurred into account and quells the fears of those who claim that this calls for international interference.”

With regard to their electoral prospects, al-Atabani expects that, if elections are held on time, they will receive 20% of the votes, from a bloc he called “hardcore Islamists”, “who represent between 20 and 25% of the population.”

Former analyst Abu Dhar Ali Al-Amin does not see an opportunity for the Islamists to come together. "Thirty years of rule have divided them, they now lack a unifying ideology, and there is no leader able to unite them.”

He explains that the future of political Islam movements “faces many hurdles in the short and long term."

"They still refuse to acknowledge that they lost a strong and coherent organized movement that had been uniting them, and that they lost power. For this reason, they continue to act arrogantly, use the same language and allow the same people to lead them.”

https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/2129886/sudan-%E2%80%98islamists%E2%80%99-distance-themselves-bashir%E2%80%99s-regime

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Jordanians outside Grand Mosque slam Trump's deal of century

14 February 2020

In Jordan, thousands of people have come to the streets of the capital for the third week to express their anger over US President Donald Trump's so-called deal of the century on the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Protesters converged outside Grand Husseini Mosque in Amman on Friday amid a heavy security presence, chanting slogans against the Israeli regime and the deal.

They carried Jordanian and Palestinian flags. Demonstrators rejected the government’s multi-billion-dollar agreement to import natural gas from the occupied Palestinian territories.

On January 28, Trump unveiled his deal, negotiated with Israel but without the Palestinians.

Palestinian leaders, who severed all ties with Washington in late 2017 after Trump controversially recognized Jerusalem al-Quds as the 'capital' of Israel, immediately rejected the plan, with President Mahmoud Abbas saying it “belongs to the dustbin of history.”

The leaders say the deal is a colonial plan to unilaterally control historic Palestine in its entirety and remove Palestinians from their homeland.

On September 26, 2016, Jordan’s National Electric Power Company signed a 10-billion-dollar deal with US-based Noble Energy and Israeli partners in order to tap the Leviathan natural gas field in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Israel for the supply of approximately 1.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas over a 15-year term.

On March 26 last year, members of Jordan’s parliament called for the cancellation of the gas deal with Israel during a parliamentary session closed to the public.

House Speaker Atef Tarawneh stated at the time that all sectors of the society and members of parliament utterly reject Jordanian electricity company's agreement to buy Israeli natural gas.

Lawmaker Saddah al-Habashneh said the deal was unconstitutional. He argued that members of parliament were not given access to read what he called the “secret” deal.

“Why are they hiding it? It’s a clue that there is something. It is totally rejected.”

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/14/618662/Jordan-Trump-deal-

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South Sudan’s Kiir says no compromise to end peace deal deadlock

February 14, 2020

JUBA: South Sudan President Salva Kiir on Friday dismissed international calls for compromise with his foes to break a deadlock that threatens a cease-fire in their six year war.

Kiir and rebel chief Riek Machar are under increasing pressure to resolve their differences by February 22 and form a unity government as part of a peace agreement.

The pair have already missed two previous deadlines to enshrine peace to end a war that has left at least 380,000 people dead and millions in dire poverty.

But with a week to go before the clock runs out, Kiir said he would not back down on the key sticking point of the deal — the number of regional states in the young nation.

“This thing cannot work, because we cannot solve problems with another problem,” Kiir said, as he addressed supporters at a rally in the capital Juba.

The number of states is contentious because the borders will determine the divisions of power in the country.

When it gained independence from Sudan in 2011, South Sudan had 10 states, as set out in the country’s constitution. Kiir increased that in 2015 to 28, and then later 32.

Critics said redrawing the state boundaries was a divide-and-rule plan to split opposition strongholds and ensure government loyalists dominated.

Kiir argues reducing the states would cause conflict, and dismissed Machar’s proposal to a return to the original 10.

“When Riek Machar said ‘let us return to 10 states,’ I told him, my brother... what will you do with the civil servants in the 32 states?” Kiir said on Friday.

Machar has said he cannot return to his old job as vice president if the status quo on states remains.

Envoys have called on both sides to stick to their cease-fire and to compromise.

“A credible unity government needs to be inclusive... and cannot be formed on the basis of unilateral action,” Britain, the United States and Norway said in a joint statement on Wednesday.

Kiir and Machar are old rivals who have fought and made up multiple times.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1627711/world

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Nigeria's military razed villages in war on Islamist insurgents: Amnesty International

FEBRUARY 14, 2020

ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigeria’s military burned down villages and forcibly displaced hundreds of people in its fight against Islamist insurgents in the country’s northeast, rights group Amnesty International alleged on Friday.

Nigeria’s military, which has frequently been accused of human rights abuses in its decade-long fight against Boko Haram and more recently Islamic State’s West African branch, said in a statement that Amnesty’s report had been falsified.

Three residents interviewed by Reuters confirmed Amnesty’s findings.

Previous allegations have sparked investigations by the International Criminal Court in the Hague and hampered Nigeria’s ability to purchase arms, a source of frustration for its military’s leaders. However, convictions of soldiers have been rare and the military has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.

In the latest allegations, Amnesty said Nigerian soldiers razed three villages after forcing hundreds of men and women to leave their homes in the northeastern state of Borno in January.

The human rights group said it interviewed 12 victims and reviewed satellite images that showed several large fires in the area and almost every structure razed.

Residents described soldiers going house to house and rounding people up, then making them walk to a main road and board trucks, it said.

“We saw our houses go into flames,” a woman of around 70 told Amnesty. “We all started crying.”

The trucks took more than 400 people to a camp for people displaced by the conflict in Maiduguri, the main city in the region.

“These brazen acts of razing entire villages, deliberately destroying civilian homes and forcibly displacing their inhabitants with no imperative military grounds, should be investigated as possible war crimes,” said Osai Ojigho, director for Amnesty International Nigeria, in Friday’s statement detailing the group’s investigation.

Soldiers also detained six men, beating some of them, and held them for almost a month before releasing them without charge on Jan. 30, Amnesty said.

It cited Nigerian Army statements from the time that said six Boko Haram suspects had been captured and hundreds of captives freed from the militants.

“They say they saved us from Boko Haram, but it’s a lie,” said one man aged roughly 65, according to Amnesty. “Boko Haram isn’t coming to our village.”

A military spokesman denied the allegations in a statement on Friday, saying Amnesty had launched “a campaign of calumny targeting the Nigerian military” and accused the group of supporting the insurgents, who it blamed for burning villages.

Civilians were evacuated from the line of fire during combat, the spokesman said.

Three residents from two of the affected villages, now living in Maiduguri, described to Reuters the same events as in the rights group’s report.

“The soldiers called us Boko Haram and set our houses ablaze, before evacuating all of us,” one of the residents said.

Amnesty’s report was published as the military struggles to contain the insurgencies, particularly Islamic State. Last July, troops began to withdraw to larger garrisons, dubbed “super camps”, from smaller bases that were frequently overrun with heavy loss of lives.

Full report at:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-nigeria-security-amnesty/nigerias-military-razed-villages-in-war-on-islamist-insurgents-amnesty-international-idUSKBN208009

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Military Failures Mount in Borno Against Boko Haram

by John Campbell

February 13, 2020

The security situation around Borno’s capital, Maiduguri, appears to be going from bad to worse. On February 9, The Boko Haram faction Islamic State in West African (ISWA) shot or burned alive some thirty people sleeping in their cars and trucks that night outside the town of Auno, some ten miles from Maiduguri. They also kidnapped others. The victims had arrived in Auno after curfew, the gates to the town were closed, and the military had departed, presumably for their supercamp in Maiduguri, according to media.

The Nigerian army is following its own version of the “fortified hamlets” strategy, employed by the United States and its allies in the wars in Vietnam and Afghanistan and generally regarded as a failure by counterterrorism experts. By consolidating their forces in highly fortified “super camps,” the Nigerian army reduces their own casualties, but in the evening, when soldiers withdraw back to these camps, ISWA appears to have close to free rein in the countryside and smaller towns. On February 12, ISWA killed five security personnel in three separate attacks near Maiduguri. That city, the capital of Borno state, has essentially been cut off from the rest of the country by ISWA and Boko Haram. The one remaining highway, to Damaturu, is subject to frequent attacks. The airport, however, remains open. The governor of Borno state is accusing the military of failing to protect civilians.

Full report at:

https://www.cfr.org/blog/military-failures-mount-borno-against-boko-haram

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Sudan seeks to end terror designation in USS Cole settlement

By Noha Elhennawy

Feb. 14, 2020

CAIRO — Sudan's transitional government said Thursday it has reached a settlement with families of the victims of the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, a key step in having the United States remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism so it can rejoin the international community after years of exclusion.

Copies of the agreements obtained by the Associated Press show that $70 million will be split among families of 17 people killed, as well as 15 sailors who were injured and two of their spouses. In the agreement, Sudan makes no admission of wrongdoing.

On Oct. 12, 2000, two suicide bombers in a boat detonated their explosives alongside the USS Cole as the Navy destroyer was refueling in the Yemeni port of Aden. In addition to the 17 killed, the blast wounded more than three dozen other crew members. Sudan was accused of providing support to al-Qaeda, which claimed responsibility for the attack. The country was designated by Washington as a “state sponsor of terror” for hosting the group’s leader, Osama bin Laden.

The United States has been looking at whether to remove Sudan’s terrorism designation “for quite some time,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters Thursday. He did not offer any indication about when such a change to its status could take place.

Sudan’s Justice Ministry said the agreement was signed with the victims’ families on Feb. 7.

Faisal Saleh, Sudan’s information minister and interim government spokesman, told the AP that settlement figures could not be disclosed, because the Sudanese government is still in negotiations to reach settlements with families of victims of the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

But Adam Hall, an attorney for the families of the victims, confirmed the contents of the settlement. The $70 million is on top of $14 million that was awarded in an earlier case.

Hall said the families have been pursuing the case for more than 15 years. “Sudan was finally of the view that it was willing to resolve these cases,” he said.

Full report at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/sudan-reaches-settlement-with-families-of-uss-cole-bombing-victims/2020/02/13/5524f8ea-4ea4-11ea-bf44-f5043eb3918a_story.html

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