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Islamic World News ( 5 Feb 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Asri’s ‘IS Hand Gesture’ With Indonesian Salafist Raises Questions

New Age Islam News Bureau

5 Feb 2018 

DOMESTIC THREAT: Specially trained UK anti-terror police



 Asri’s ‘IS Hand Gesture’ With Indonesian Salafist Raises Questions

 Welcome to JIHAD BRITAIN: More Islamic State Nuts Here Than Brits Fighting ISIS

 Israeli Settlers Storm Al-Aqsa Mosque under Military Protection

 Shocking Video Shows Children in Libya Mimicking Group Executions

 Iraq Publishes List of 60 Most-Wanted Militants, Ba’ath Loyalists

 Chunk of NIA Evidence in J&K Terror Funding Case from Websites, YouTube, WhatsApp


Southeast Asia

 Asri’s ‘IS Hand Gesture’ With Indonesian Salafist Raises Questions

 Hadi's Brilliant System A New Form of Apartheid for Malaysia

 It's When, Not If: Singapore Worries, and Prepares, For Terrorist Attack

 Maldives govt warns top court against impeaching president

 Do not dispute Jakim’s role, says Ulema Association

 Hadi’s two-cabinet idea unIslamic and discriminatory, observers say



 Welcome to JIHAD BRITAIN: More Islamic State Nuts Here Than Brits Fighting ISIS

 Path Of IS Cell Survivor Shows Intersection of Crime, Terror

 What should Europe do with the children of returning ISIS militants?

 Liberal senator Jim Molan shared anti-Muslim videos from far-right group



 Israeli Settlers Storm Al-Aqsa Mosque under Military Protection

 Israel to Build Full-Fledged Settlement In Place Of Hilltop Outpost in West Bank

 Outside Yemen’s rebel-held capital, stalemated war rages on

 Israel begins distributing deportation notices to Africans, legalizes West Bank settlement

 Palestinian shot dead by Israeli army during West Bank raid

 New graveyards created by Houthis in Yemen expose their great losses

 Turkey's Erdogan rejects option of EU partnership, urges full membership



 Shocking Video Shows Children in Libya Mimicking Group Executions

 Nigeria Claims Complete Victory over Boko Haram

 Libyan forces clash with ISIS fighters near Dhara oilfield

 4 civilians killed in militant attack in Mali


Arab World

 Iraq Publishes List of 60 Most-Wanted Militants, Ba’ath Loyalists

 Islamic State Reverts To Guerrilla Warfare Tactics in Quest to Reclaim, Expand Territory

 Thousands of ISIS Fighters Flee in Syria, Many to Fight another Day

 Israel helps Egypt fight the Islamic State

 Syria's Afrin urges Russia to oppose Turkish assault

 Southern Syria: FSA Arrests Sochi Peace Talks Participant

 Syrian Army Cuts off Key Supply Line to Al-Nusra-Held Town in Idlib

 Raghad Saddam Hussein responds after being named on Iraq’s most-wanted list

 Saudi air force downs Houthi ballistic missile targeting Khamis Mushait



 Chunk of NIA Evidence in J&K Terror Funding Case from Websites, YouTube, WhatsApp

 Kerala Sex Slave Case: NIA Arrests Main Accused Riyaz

 Mohammad Kaif Says Ankit’s Killers ‘Need to Change Mindset’

 Captain among 4 soldiers killed as Pakistan pounds J&K's Rajouri sector

 Ludhiana Civic Polls: Give us 12 tickets, Muslims urge Congress



 Pakistan Prime Minister Says Country Put On Right Track, Progress Linked With Democracy

 Strong Pak-China Ties Essential for Regional Peace, Stability: Siraj

 Chinese bidders fight over Quetta safe city project

 Eight killed in clash between two tribes in Chagai district

 Pak-Afghan border management key to check terror: Asif

 Despite MMA revival, JI, JUI-F to contest Senate polls separately


South Asia

 Taliban Leader In Charge Of Recruitment Arrested With another Insurgent

 Maldives President Declares War on SC, Court Seeks India Help

 Clash among Lashkar-e-Islam and ISIS leaves 9 dead in Nangarhar

 Bangladeshi loses legs as mine explodes on Myanmar border

 Ex-Afghan intelligence chief banned from leaving country: Mehwar

 Taliban’s shadow district chief Mullah Zabiullah killed in Faryab

 UN: Rohingya crisis could endanger regional security


North America

 Trump Nominee for UN Migration Post Called Out Over Tweets on Islam

 Why No Mention of Radical Islam in the State of the Union?

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Asri’s ‘IS hand gesture’ with Indonesian Salafist raises questions

February 5, 2018

PETALING JAYA: A photograph of Perlis mufti Muhd Asri Zainul Abidin posing with followers of a hardline Indonesian Salafist scholar while showing a hand gesture that has come to be associated with the Islamic State (IS) militant group has drawn criticism. “I can’t help myself to jerk!” tweeted prominent Malay novelist Faisal Tehrani.

The photo, taken during Asri’s recent visit to Indonesia, was also posted on the Perlis mufti’s Facebook page.

It showed him with Farid Ahmad Oqbah, a vocal Indonesian Salafist cleric who has been at the forefront of a campaign against Shia Muslims, including in Indonesia where the religious minority has faced attacks from local Islamist groups.

The single raised index finger has come to be associated with IS.

While the sign refers to Islam’s doctrine of tawhid or the oneness of God, and is also used in the five daily prayers to affirm the Islamic declaration of shahadah, it has in recent years come to be used by IS militants, including in their online promotional materials.

“For followers of Isis, a single raised index finger has become a sign of their cause, and it is increasingly common in photographs of militants.

“Some have even gone so far as to call the symbol ‘the jihadi equivalent of a gang sign’,” wrote US-based analyst Nathaniel Zelinsky in an article in Foreign Affairs magazine in 2014.

Asri’s appearance with Farid came days after he labelled Shia Muslims as dangerous to Malaysia’s national security.

His statement was criticised by academics and rights activists, who said those arrested for terrorism were not followers of Shia Islam, but supporters of IS, whose doctrine is an offshoot of the Wahhabi ideology followed by Saudi Arabia.

Asri’s attack on Shia Islam followed a statement by the wife of missing Perlis activist Amri Che Mat, who said she suspected the Perlis fatwa office under Asri as having played a role in her husband’s disappearance.

Asri has denied having anything to do with Amri’s disappearance, but admitted questioning him for leaning towards Shia Islam.

IS has made no secret of its killings of Shia Muslims in the Middle East and other countries.

Shia Islam is the second-largest branch of Islam, and is predominant in Iraq, Iran, Kuwait and Bahrain, with pockets of minorities in Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Pakistan.

Islamic authorities in Malaysia regard Shia Muslims as “heretics”, through a 1996 ruling by the National Fatwa Council.

When asked to elaborate on his tweet, Faisal, who was accused in the past of promoting Shia Islam through his novels, said he still wanted to give Asri the benefit of doubt.

“It can also be the 1Malaysia sign, the Shahadah, or Abu Bakr Baghdadi’s salutation,” he said, referring to the IS leader.



Welcome to JIHAD BRITAIN: More Islamic State Nuts Here Than Brits Fighting ISIS

4th February 2018

Senior MI5 spies fear hardened fighters have returned to the UK intent on recruiting more fanatics to carry out attacks on our shores.

Intelligence chiefs believe hundreds of Brits have returned to the UK and are now living in areas with the highest concentrations of Muslims.

The source told the Daily Star Sunday that up to 300 people who have returned from Syria after fighting for Isis are believed to be living in the London borough of Tower Hamlets, using innocent Muslims as cover.

He added that hundreds more are living in Birmingham, Leicester and Luton.

The source added: "The best place to hide a tree is in a forest - and this is what those who have fought for Isis are doing. They have basically relocated their HQ from Syria to the UK. The fear is they will begin recruiting and will wage terror on British soil.

"Those returning include both men and women, mainly under the age of 25, who are skilled in guerrilla warfare and bomb-making. The threat is very real."

Tower Hamlets has more than 40 mosques and Muslims outnumber Christians in the London borough.

Islamic State-style flags have flown in parts of the borough which was also home to three British schoolgirls who left the UK to join Isis in February 2015.

The threat from Islamist terrorism in the UK has never been so great and the police and MI5 are foiling attacks almost monthly.

Intelligence chiefs believe it is just a matter of time before Britain faces another major atrocity.

Islamic State leaders have called on followers to join the Army and police to carry out attacks.

One terrorist manual claimed that attacks carried out in the Middle East are part of a wider strategy that includes plans to bring mayhem to the UK.

The handbook - the Management of Savagery - also claimed infiltration operations have been going on for years, meaning that a sleeper cell may already have got inside the MoD or a police force.

Written by jihadi Abu Bakr Naji, inset, the guide has been carefully studied by terrorist commanders in Syria and Iraq, who he tells: "Our battle is long and still in its beginning. However, its length provides an opportunity for infiltrating the adversaries.

"We should infiltrate police forces, armies, private security companies, and civil institutions."



Israeli Settlers Storm Al-Aqsa Mosque under Military Protection

Feb 4, 2018

Dozens of Israeli settlers have stormed the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Israeli-occupied Old City of East Jerusalem al-Quds amid frequent acts of violence committed by Israeli forces and settlers against the Palestinian people.

Media coordinator at the Islamic Endowment Department Firas al-Dabs told Arabic-language Safa news agency that a total of 52 settlers forced their way into the holy site through the Bab al-Magharibah under tight protection of several groups of Israeli soldiers.

The settlers performed acts deemed provocative by Palestinians in the mosque courtyard, were given explanations about Solomon's Temple – also known as the First Temple. 

The Israeli settlers and extremists then converged near the Golden Gate, also known as the Gate of Mercy, on the eastern flank of the mosque and read Talmud verses out loud.

The occupied Palestinian territories have witnessed new tensions ever since US President Donald Trump announced his decision on December 6 last year to recognize Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s capital and relocate the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the occupied city.

The dramatic shift in Washington’s policy vis-à-vis the city triggered demonstrations in the occupied Palestinian territories, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Morocco and other Muslim countries.

On December 21, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly voted in favor of a resolution that calls on the US to withdraw its controversial recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israeli “capital.”

In an attempt to avert the resolution, Trump had warned that “we’re watching,” threatening reprisals against countries that backed the measure, which had earlier faced a US veto at the UN Security Council.

Israel, however, rejected the world body’s resolution while thanking Trump for his decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem al-Quds.

On January 18, the United States reneged on a pledge to contribute $45 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which supports more than 5 million registered Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

The announcement to cut aid to Palestinian refugees came after the US president made a threat to cut off aid to the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency.

In a series of tweets on January 2, Trump said that the US paid “the Palestinians hundreds of millions of dollars a year” and yet gets “no appreciation or respect.”

“But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?” he asked.



Shocking video shows children in Libya mimicking group executions

3 February 2018

A video posted on social media has gone viral after it showed children in Benghazi, Libya, mimicking group executions.

The children are all under the age of nine.

In the video a young boy can be seen taking on the role of Libyan army leader Mahmoud Ourfali, whom recently executed a group killing of ISIS militant prisoners, and held a toy gun in his hand.

Six other children sat in a row with their hands behind their heads, posing as prisoners.

Each of them played their role: the leader pulling the trigger of the toy gun, while the prisoners fell flat to their “death.”

Before commencing the “execution”,  the boy uttered the following words: “We must kill those dogs and tyrants.”

Innocence being robbed

The video sparked controversy across the country. Social media activists even referred to the extent media is affecting the innocence of children with impressionable minds. Others warned about the growing fascination children have with violence and executions.

They also warned about the newly emerging moral of extracting revenge from enemies by executing them.

“The innocence of childhood is being stolen and maimed today in Libya because of the repeated scenes of public bloodshed in the streets every day,” said activist Faraj Farkash said. “It will instill fear, aggression and violence in the generation that has grown up witnessing these events,” he added.

However, blogger Ahmed Altwaijri did not appear to be surprised by the children’s actions. He said: “What do you expect from children who grew up in a society of bloodshed and violation of freedoms? Dear Libyans, look forward to another generation of terrorists.”



Iraq publishes list of 60 most-wanted militants, Ba’ath loyalists

Feb 4, 2018

Iraqi security services have published the names of 60 people wanted on suspicion of affiliation to Daesh and al-Qaeda Takfiri terrorist groups as well as the banned Ba'ath Party of slain dictator Saddam Hussein.

The list includes the name of Saddam’s eldest daughter, Raghad, who lives in Jordan under the protection of King Abdullah II, but her whereabouts remain unknown.

In August 2007, the International Criminal Police Organization, more commonly known as Interpol, circulated an arrest warrant for Raghad, on suspicions that she and her aides had been assisting militancy and terrorist attacks in Iraq.

German-language news website Spiegel Online published an article in August 2014, stating that she is using her multi-million-dollar wealth to support Daesh, hoping to return to power in Baghdad.

The list also features 28 suspected Daesh Takfiris, 12 al-Qaeda militants and 20 Ba’athists, giving details of their roles in their outfits as well as the acts of terror they have perpetrated.

This is while the name of the elusive leader of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group, Ibrahim al-Samarrai aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is not on the list.

“These are the terrorists most wanted by the judicial authorities and the security services,” a senior security official said on condition of anonymity.

He added, “This is the first time we publish these names which, until now were secret.”

On December 9, 2017, Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared the end of military operations against the Daesh terrorist group in the Arab country.

“Our forces are in complete control of the Iraqi-Syrian border and I therefore announce the end of the war against Daesh,” Abadi told a conference in Baghdad then.

On October 5, Abadi said Iraqi armed forces had liberated Hawijah, driving Daesh Takfiris out of their last bastion in the oil-rich northern province of Kirkuk.

The Iraqi prime minister said on August 31 that the northwestern city of Tal Afar, located 200 kilometers northwest of Kirkuk, and the entire Nineveh Province had been purged of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.

The recapture of Tal Afar was made possible with the help of the Iraqi army, Federal Police, Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) units, Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters and the Interior Ministry's elite rapid response forces, the Iraqi prime minister stated.

On July 10, Abadi formally declared victory over Daesh extremists in Mosul, which served as the terrorists’ main urban stronghold in the conflict-ridden Arab country.

In the run-up to Mosul's liberation, Iraqi army soldiers and volunteer Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters had made sweeping gains against Daesh.

The Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January 2017 after 100 days of fighting, and launched the battle in the west on February 19 last year.

Daesh began a terror campaign in Iraq in 2014, overrunning vast swathes in lightning attacks.



Chunk of NIA evidence in J&K terror funding case from websites, YouTube, WhatsApp

By Abhishek Angad , Deeptiman Tiwary

February 5, 2018

Six months ago, when the National Investigation Agency (NIA) registered a case of alleged terror funding against 12 accused, including Kashmiri separatists, it claimed that they were receiving funds from Pakistan-based outfits such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen. And, it claimed, they had close links with LeT chief Hafiz Saeed and Hizb leader Syed Salahuddin.

However, its 1,200-page chargesheet shows the agency has relied heavily on “open source” information on the accused, which is generally available in the public domain, to press its charges: participation in funerals, a letter written by the Pakistan prime minister, their history of militancy, raising of Pakistan flags and ISIS posters during protests, calls for financial help to families of slain terrorists, and pictures with members of proscribed organisations.

On Friday, a special court took cognizance of the chargesheet. Among the key evidence in it are:

* Under the title ‘Hurriyat conspiracy and secessionist agenda’, the chargesheet cites as evidence the website, which speaks about “Freedom Struggle” and that “People of J&K have been fighting against Indian Occupation”. The website describes Syed Ali Shah Geelani as the chairman of APHC and Tehreek-e-Hurriyat. It reads: “…On October 27, 1947, Indian troops landed in Kashmir and ever since people of J&K have been fighting against Indian Occupation”.

The chargesheet says: “This kind of content clearly shows the secessionist agenda of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat and its leaders and cadres. The main aim and object is to succeed in breaking Jammu and Kashmir away from Union of India. All their activities and programmes are aimed at inciting and instigating people against the government of India and the security forces in order to achieve the so called ‘freedom from the Indian occupation’.”

* A WhatsApp appeal sent by accused Ayaz Akbar Khanday to Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq. It states: “Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik on Sunday in a joint statement asked all political and militant organisations to follow freedom struggle with vision and wisdom. Appealing to maintain unity, the leaders said that it is time to remain united and follow cherished goal with spirit of persistence and unity among all concerned factions…”

* A video allegedly retrieved from the mobile phone of accused Altaf Ahmad Shah Funtoosh, of a speech delivered by his father-in-law Syed Ali Shah Geelani: “…Jehad could also be done through words, by writing, by helping Mujahiddin, by fulfilling every needs of Mujahiddin. The life of every muslims should be like Mujahiddin life. Even though he may not pick weapons its ok, but if he fighting against rule or part of struggle he may consider as doing jehad.”

* Facebook posts of accused Bashir Ahmad Bhat alias Peer Shaifullah. The chargesheet states: “It reveals that he has uploaded a photo of Afzal Guru, the terrorist convicted in Parliament attack case, as his profile picture.” The chargesheet refers to a Facebook post on December 5, 2013, when Bhat shared a statement from Geelani to the effect that all of India’s wealth cannot compensate for the death of a “shaheed”. “This clearly shows that Geelani and Bhat were inciting anti-India sentiments among the masses through such inflammatory posts…,” it states.

* Under the title ‘Hurriyat-Terror Nexus’, the NIA claimed their investigation has revealed many “open source” videos establishing that the accused are part of a “gang of conspirators” waging a war against the government to achieve secession. Describing one of the videos, which it claimed was published on YouTube on April 17, 2015, the NIA states: “Hafiz Saeed addresses and informs a gathering that Masarat Alam was raising pro-Pakistan slogans and waving Pakistani flag in Srinagar where thousands of people had gathered…”

* Details of another video, presented as a conversation between slain Hizbul operative Burhan Wani and Hafiz Saeed where the two discuss financial assistance to LeT cadres in Kashmir and the idea of fighting the “enemy” together. There is no explanation on the connection between the video and the accused — or how they are linked to Saeed.

* The NIA states the Hurriyat leaders attend funerals of slain terrorists. They “hail them as ‘shaheed or martyrs’ and support their families. They issue directives to the people to block all access to their localities to protect their youth from security forces…SAS Geelani hails killed militants as ‘martyrs’ and exhorts the public at large not to let the blood of martyrs go waste”, it states.

* The chargesheet states that Geelani makes appeals for “financial support to the families of killed and jailed terrorists”. It cites an appeal by Geelani on the Hurriyat website: “Help the families of martyrs and prisoners… people should come forward for donations in the month of Ramadan as the number of people affected by this movement is large.”

* The chargesheet seeks to link accused Nayeem Khan with terrorist organisations, and states: “…a video downloaded from open source shows Nayeem Khan visiting the area where three terrorists were killed on 11.07.2017 at Budgam, Srinagar. This video shows him with the supporters of ISIS… This clearly shows that terrorist organisations and Hurriyat leaders are acting in unison.”

* A photograph of accused Aftab Ahmad Shah alias Shahid-ul-Islam with Hizb chief Salahuddin.

Apart from this, the chargesheet describes in detail how stone-pelting is allegedly organised in the Valley through WhatsApp groups and protest calendars, which also ask people “to celebrate Pakistan Day”.

It alleges that the evidence shows Hurriyat leaders instigating youth to join Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and that their strike calls received support from LeT. “…there are email chats retrieved from the phone of accused… Altaf Ahmad Shah Fantoosh wherein the accused receives a mail from Abdullah Ghaznavi, LeT spokesperson, extending Lashkar-e-Toiba’s support to the strike call given by SAS Geelani (01.11.2015).”

The agency filed the chargesheet against 12 Kashmiris, including Altaf Shah, Hafiz Muhammed Saeed, Syed Salahuddin, Nayeem Khan, Shahidul Islam, Zahoor Ahmed Watali and photo journalist Kamran Yusuf among others.

As reported in The Indian Express, the agency claimed to have found suspicious transactions running into crores linked to the case, but were yet to establish the chain of finances or the source. According to the agency, details of these funds were allegedly found in handwritten entries in account books maintained by Watali, a Kashmiri businessman.

The books allegedly contain the names of Saeed and Geelani written against payments, details of remittances received over a non-existent plot of land, details of websites run by Tehreek-e-Hurriyat and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen hosted by the same firm in Pakistan; and the alleged role of a Pakistan High Commission official in the funding.



Southeast Asia


Hadi's brilliant system a new form of apartheid for Malaysia

Feb 5, 2018

PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang's idea of two separate systems of governance in the country is nothing short of an introduction of a religious apartheid system in the country. While the world has moved away from the dreaded forms of racial apartheid, however, there are new forms of apartheid emerging, taking religious and other forms.

Hadi should be given the rare credit of introducing an idea of political governance based on Islam, where Muslims will be represented in the cabinet, and cabinet decisions will be implemented by agencies that will have non-Muslim representation.

This distinction alone suffices to illuminate the "progressive" views of Hadi. The very idea of a two-tiered system - one for Muslims and the other for non-Muslims - tells us much about the pernicious nature of that which Hadi is at pains to call "Islamic".

Yes, it is separate but not equal. Most civilised nations in the world would strike down policies if they fail to meet the litmus test of equality. I don't know how Hadi would be able to define his two-tiered system of governance; it is separate but not equal.

Whatever happened to all his talk about Islamic laws being universal, fair and based on justice? Can he defend his latest proposal as being Islamic, fair and just to non-Muslims?

This is nothing short of a religious form of apartheid that will have far-reaching implications for Malaysia as a multiracial and multi-religious nation. In those days, when there was a system of apartheid in South Africa based on white supremacy, Malaysia was one of the countries that strongly opposed to the system.

I wonder what our Prime Minister, Najib Razak, would have to say about this "brilliant" proposal of his "good friend" Hadi. Will Najib defend this proposal or keep a distance?

Aiding polarisation

This system of a separate and unequal role for Muslims and non-Muslims will mean that the non-Muslim community's role will be drastically reduced in importance. They will end up in a situation where major decisions affecting their lives, the way they live, the right to religious freedom and the freedom to have their vernacular system of education would all be determined by Muslims in important decision-making apparatuses.

In short, Malaysia under PAS would become increasingly hostile and belligerent towards religions other than Islam. If this system operates, it is possible non-Muslims could find it difficult to practise their own religions.

It is not about the reduced role of non-Muslims, but also about the nature and practice of Islam in the country. The greatest strength of most religions in the world is their universalism and appeal to communities that have been discriminated and marginalised. Islam is no exception.

However, if Hadi's two-tier concept is introduced, Malaysia would the first country in the Muslim world to have a system that goes against the very principle of Islamic universalism. PAS calls itself an Islamic party, but it appears it merely uses religion to gain political power.

Never before in its political history has the party reduced Islam to the role of dividing and further polarising the two communities, Muslims and non-Muslims, to the extent where it is prepared to abandon all the things it preached about Islam and the Islamic way of life.

Hadi's concept of a two-tiered system for the two communities is nothing but a cheap and crude stunt to further demean and demoralise the non-Muslims in the country.

While caste systems in some countries have emanated from the identification of groups with economic function, Hadi would have the rare distinction of introducing a different sort of caste system, where the distinction would be based on religious affiliation.



It's when, not if: Singapore worries, and prepares, for terrorist attack

Feb 4, 2018

SINGAPORE: Armed officers patrol a train station where television screens and giant posters warn of the threat from terrorists. Nearby, fake gunmen storm a shopping mall in one of many recent terror attack simulations.

But this is not some war-ravaged country. It is one of the safest in the world, Singapore.

The wealthy island-state has a near-perfect record of keeping its shores free from terror, but as it prepares to host defence ministers from around Southeast Asia this week, it appears to have good reason to have prioritised stopping the spread of militancy in the region.

The cosmopolitan financial hub, which was second only to Tokyo in The Economist Intelligence Unit's Safe Cities Index in 2017, says it has been the target of terrorist plots for years, some stemming from its Muslim-majority neighbours, and that it's a matter of 'when' and not 'if' terrorists will strike.

"Singapore continues to face a serious security threat from both homegrown radicalised individuals and foreign terrorists who continue to see Singapore as a prized target," Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said in response to e-mailed questions from Reuters.

Singapore authorities say they have been a target of Islamic extremism since the 1990s, but efforts to deter terrorism have stepped up markedly in recent years with more frequent attacks on Western countries and after Islamic State (IS) terrorists briefly took over a town in the southern Philippines last year.

Raising further concerns about the threat to the island, a Singaporean soldier has featured on a number of Islamic State promotional videos, most recently in December where he was filmed executing men alongside other terrorists.

In its inaugural Terrorism Threat Assessment Report released last year, the MHA said Islamic State has demonstrated that Singapore is "very much on its radar" and that the threat to the country remains "the highest in recent years" - claims that are backed up by security experts.

"Singapore, being known as safe and secure, makes it such a risk target," said Dan Bould, Asia director of crisis management at professional services firm Aon and a former captain in the British army.

"If there's an attack in the Philippines, it may get half an hour in a 24-hour news cycle. An attack in Singapore with all the multicultural individuals operating here, will be within the narrative for a few days at least."

In early 2017, Aon lifted Singapore in the terrorism and political violence category of its annual risk map from negligible to low risk.


The reality is that Singapore has so far escaped the attacks seen in other major world cities like New York, London and Berlin in recent years. That's why it is at the bottom of the 2017 Global Terror Index, with no reported terror-related attacks post 9/11.

But three in four Singaporeans believe that it's only a matter of time before the country experiences a terror attack, a poll by the local newspaper Sunday Times last year showed.

Singapore authorities certainly do not want their citizens to be complacent. Everyone, including school children, is encouraged to download a mobile app that alerts them to emergency situations and allows them to send in videos and photos of suspicious events.

The MHA said that as of the end of last year, more than 1.3 million devices were equipped with the SGSecure app, a large chunk of the population of around 5.6 million.

Simulations of terror attacks - including one just over a week ago where masked gunman stormed a children's activity centre on the resort island of Sentosa - are regular. Last month, Singapore's military undertook its biggest mobilisation exercise in more than three decades, including an inter-agency response to the simulation of a gunman at its national stadium.

Authorities said last year there was reliable information that IS militants were considering carrying out an attack in Singapore in the first half of 2016, a threat which they said was countered.

In August 2016, neighbouring Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population, arrested six suspects with links to IS who were accused of plotting rocket attacks on Singapore's iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel.

Malaysia, Singapore's northern neighbour which also has a Muslim-majority, and Indonesia say thousands of their citizens sympathize with IS and hundreds are believed to have travelled to Syria to join the group. Regional security officials say many are returning home after reverses in the Middle East.


Singapore takes a hardline approach to suspected radicals and Bilveer Singh, an adjunct senior fellow at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies, says it is one of the reasons behind its success so far.

The most controversial measure at its disposal is its colonial-era Internal Security Act which allows for suspects to be held for lengthy periods without trial.

The MHA said it currently has 20 people detained under the Act for "terrorism-related" activities, and since 2002 has held close to 90 for such activities.

"ISA is a fantastic deterrent, and so far it has worked," Singh said.

Full report at:



Maldives govt warns top court against impeaching president

February 05, 2018

MALE - The beleaguered Maldives government Sunday ordered police and troops to resist any move by the Supreme Court to arrest or impeach President Abdulla Yameen over his refusal to release political prisoners.

Police detained two opposition lawmakers as they returned to the country Sunday, as the political crisis in the Indian Ocean archipelago nation deepened with its top court pitted against the president. The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said its MPs tried to stage a meeting in defiance of a weekend order suspending parliament, but they were pushed back by armed troops.

Security forces have been deployed inside the national parliament -- known as the People's Majlis -- since March last year when Yameen ordered them to evict dissident lawmakers. The president's crackdown on dissent has tarnished the Maldives ' image as an upmarket holiday paradise and sparked calls from the United Nations and several countries to restore the rule of law in the fledgling democracy.

The Supreme Court on Thursday night ordered the authorities to release nine political dissidents and restore the seats of 12 legislators who had been sacked for defecting from Yameen's party, ruling the cases were politically motivated.

But the Yameen government has so far refused to comply with the shock ruling, resisting international pressure to respect the decision.

In a national television address on Sunday, Attorney General Mohamed Anil remained defiant. "Any Supreme Court order to arrest the president would be unconstitutional and illegal," Anil said. "So I have asked the police and the army not to implement any unconstitutional order."

The Supreme Court 's reinstatement of the dozen legislators gave the opposition a majority in the 85-member assembly, and it can now potentially impeach Yameen. But authorities shut parliament indefinitely on Saturday to prevent such a move. Yameen also sacked two police chiefs after the court 's decision.

Atul Keshap, the US ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives , has led international criticism of the Yameen government's refusal to respect court orders.

 "What security risk prevents the #Maldives #Majlis from meeting tomorrow? Why are MPs pepper sprayed in the streets and arrested on arrival at airport?" he tweeted Sunday.

Former president and current opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed described the government's refusal to obey the Supreme Court as a "coup". Nasheed, who was controversially convicted of a terrorism charge and jailed for 13 years in 2015, urged police and troops to uphold the constitution.

"Statements made today by AG Anil... to disobey SC orders is tantamount to a coup. They, and President Yameen must resign immediately," he tweeted on Sunday. "Security services must uphold the constitution and serve the Maldivian people."

Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected leader, was toppled in 2012. He was barred from contesting elections after his 2015 terrorism conviction, which was internationally criticised as politically motivated.  He has been in exile since 2016, when he left on prison leave for medical treatment. He is currently in Colombo, meeting Maldivian dissidents based in Sri Lanka.

Full report at:



Do not dispute Jakim’s role, says Ulama Association

February 4, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 4 — The Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) is an important entity, particularly for the coordination of Islamic affairs in the country, said the Malaysian Ulama Association (PUM).

Its president Datuk Sheikh Abdul Halim Abd Kadir said the actions of certain parties who questioned the necessity to have Jakim was merely aimed at hindering the development of Islam in the country.

Urging people to not be easily influenced by the actions of those who questioned Jakim’s role, he said everyone should first study the history of the management of Islamic affairs in Malaysia and look at its contribution to the country and Muslim community.

“In whatever situation, do not be in cahoots with those who hamper the development and spread of Islam. Jakim’s presence in Malaysia is relevant and must be upheld and empowered to protect the sovereignty of the country,” he said in a statement here today.

Syeikh Abdul Halim said Jakim had begun as a unit in the Prime Minister’s Department for protecting the purity of Islam and had succeeded in curbing the spread of deviant teachings as well as empower the religion based on the Wasatiyyah concept (moderation concept).

“Jakim’s role is significant in assisting the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s role as the Head of Islam for the federal territories, working together with Sultans of other states who are heads of Islam in their states to uphold Islam through fair and just rule.

“Jakim, as a department at the federal level has a good track record, particularly in strengthening the bond between the State Islamic Religious Councils and the State Islamic Religious Departments for the coordination of Islamic affairs. It has also succeeded in harmonising Islamic affairs in Islamic education, halal certification, the development of policies and the preaching of Islamic teachings as well as other fields related to the well-being of Muslims,” he said.

Syeikh Abdul Halim added that Jakim had also succeeded in promoting the country at the international level through the hosting of the Al-Quran Recital Assembly and the establishment of its Darul Quran institution.

Full report at:



Hadi’s two-cabinet idea unIslamic and discriminatory, observers say

4 Feb 2018

PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang’s idea of a political division of labour is basically a religious caste system, analyst Wong Chin Huat said.

The Penang Institute social and political analyst said the proposal, if PAS were to form the federal government, did not reflect Islam as "rahmatan lil alamin" (blessing to the universe), and as a civilisational basis for a religiously inclusive world.

“Instead, Islam becomes the theological basis of Muslim supremacy and discrimination against non-Muslims. Racism in the name of faith, if you like.

“Muslims are portrayed as the dominant caste with the exclusive right to make policy, and non-Muslims as the subordinate caste who may be incorporated as the executors,”   he said.

Wong was commenting on Hadi’s proposed cabinet structure under a PAS government, where he said people of different faiths would have different roles. Muslims would be in a cabinet that made policy while non-Muslims would be appointed to another cabinet to carry out the policies.

Wong said Muslims must decide if Muslim supremacy was in line with true Islam.

“If Muslims are similarly marginalised as minorities, would Muslims not find it outrageous? If they would, they should expect non-Muslims to feel the same.”

Wong said a view like Hadi’s had its basis in the ancient world, where most states did not believe in religious freedom and Muslims often could only practice their faith under a Muslim power.

Law professor Azmi Sharom also touched on the discrimination inherent in Hadi’s proposal, saying it would create “a two-tiered community where one is superior to the other”.

“He is making a distinction in government based on faith. In a plural society, a person’s religion should not be a factor. Only his or her capability,” said the Universiti Malaya lecturer, adding that he agreed such a proposal would cause strife between Muslims and non-Muslims.

Politicians, meanwhile, said Hadi’s idea was out of line with Malaysia’s identity as a multicultural nation.

Former PAS leader Mujahid Yusof Rawa said Hadi had an “obsession” with the “Muslim versus non-Muslim framework”.

"Why (do we need to have) this Muslim, non-Muslim dichotomy in a nation dictated by democracy and merits, and not religion? 

"His thinking of Muslim versus Non(-Muslims) is against the nature of this nation that is made up of equal citizenship and equal partnership.

"A cabinet is one of the branches of government, others being the judiciary and the legislative. Members of cabinet are (appointed) out of consensus between the parties in power.

“There is no demarcation line between implementing and making policies," the Amanah vice-president said.

Mujahid said Malaysians who accepted Hadi's ideas must understand they were putting the country at risk to a dogmatic and theocratic Muslim mentality.

"Malaysia has always worked hard to ensure the nation upholds democracy and equal citizenship rights based on justice and equality," he added.

DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said a two-tiered cabinet segregated by religion went against the federal constitution.

"What he said – putting Muslims as bosses, and non-Muslims as the workers – is not relevant to Malaysians, namely non-Muslims. It is like imposing first- and second-class citizenship on the people,” said Lim, who is also Penang chief minister.

Hadi’s mindset

Wong of the Penang Institute said Hadi's obsession to see the world as a zero-sum game between Muslims and non-Muslims had a long history.

“In his famous Amanat Hadi in 1981, he condemned BN for preserving ‘the colonial constitution, the infidel laws, the pre-Islamic law’.

“He basically denounced the Malaysian state as an illegitimate colonial imposition that needs to be replaced with the restoration of the imagined pre-colonial order based on shariah.

“His restorationist idea spread widely in the past three decades. So, one should not think that Hadi is indulging in his fantasy.”

PAS was once in alliance with DAP and PKR in the now defunct opposition bloc, Pakatan Rakyat, but broke off citing ideological differences. It is now with a third bloc of smaller parties called Gagasan Sejahtera and is expected to cause three-cornered fights in the 14th general election.

The party has grown more conservative under Hadi, who previously said that only Muslims could form the cabinet under a PAS government.

Constitutional law expert Abdul Aziz Bari, however, said Hadi appeared to be doing damage control after offending non-Muslims with his proposal for a Muslim-only cabinet.

“I think it’s just damage control. His earlier statement that cabinet members can only be Muslims is planted deep in the minds of people, especially non-Muslims. His statement is just in line with his other statements where he has slammed DAP, and more.

Aziz said PAS had yet to prove its strength by winning enough seats in order to talk about forming the government and cabinet.

Full report at:





Path of IS cell survivor shows intersection of crime, terror

By Lori Hinnant

February 4, 2018

PARIS — He is the silent survivor of the 10-man Islamic State cell that terrorized Paris in November 2015, refusing all pleas to shed light on the attack that killed 130 people in the French capital or the one in Belgium four days after his arrest.

After spending nearly three years jailed in isolation, Salah Abdeslam is set to go on trial Monday in his hometown of Brussels for a police shootout that he himself fled. The man who covered for his getaway with a spray of automatic gunfire died. Abdeslam’s escape was short-lived — he was captured on March 18, 2016, in the same neighborhood where he and many of his Islamic State fighter colleagues grew up.

Four days later, Islamic State suicide attackers struck again, this time at the Brussels airport and subway. In all, that sprawling network of IS fighters killed 162 people in the two European capitals. Most of the extremists were French speakers, raised in one of the cities they struck. The plot’s execution depended upon Islamic State’s success in wedding crime and religion.

Abdeslam, who along with his brother was suspected of dealing drugs from the bar they ran, is the starkest example of that convergence. But in Paris, the trial of three men accused of giving safe haven to the attackers also provides a revealing look at the intersection that made possible two of the deadliest terror attacks in Europe since World War II.

The operational commander of the cell was Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a petty criminal who used his home neighborhood of Molenbeek in Brussels as a fertile recruiting ground for IS. Abaaoud even recruited his 14-year-old brother.

But many of the young men who followed him into IS were small-time criminals themselves, part of the extremist organization’s deliberate attempt to make use of “skills” that include accessing black market weapons, forging documents and handling covert logistics .

When the night of carnage in Paris — Nov. 13, 2015 — was finally over, seven attackers were dead and three were on the run: Abdeslam, Abaaoud and another Molenbeek native named Chakib Akrouh. Abdeslam called friends in Brussels to drive through the night and pick him up.

Abaaoud also called his cousin, Hasna Ait Belkacem, who lived in a suburb of Paris and vacillated between hard-line Islam and even harder drug use. She was happy to help. She called her dealer. He called another dealer.

It took a few days of sleeping under bushes, but for 150 euros ($187) wired from Belgium, they secured a room in the Paris neighborhood of Saint-Denis, near the national stadium they had attacked on Nov. 13.

In the pre-dawn hours of Nov. 18, frantic French investigators tipped off by a friend of Ait Belkacem tracked them to the building and sealed off the neighborhood.

Abaaoud, Ait Belkacem and Akrouh all died when Akrouh detonated a suicide vest.

Just before his building crumbled to the ground, one of the drug dealers, Jawad Bendaoud, showed up to find out what was happening and explained on live television that he was just “doing a service” by renting out his room. With the cameras still rolling , Bendaoud was taken into custody.

At their trial, fellow dealer Mohammed Soumah explained how he framed the world: Good citizens, delinquents, rapists, and terrorists.

“Me, I don’t fit in the terrorist box. I’m a thug, a scumbag,” Soumah told the judge. But there he was sitting in the box for terrorism defendants in central Paris alongside Bendaoud.

As for why neither man made the connection between the two Belgians desperate for a hideout amid a massive police manhunt and an outpouring of grief for France’s 130 victims, Soumah had another explanation.

“The criminal life goes on,” he said.

But the lines between terrorists and criminals are less clear now than ever , said Peter Neumann, director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation.

“ISIS is perhaps the first jihadist group that has explicitly targeted this demographic, and they’ve done it very consciously and especially in Europe,” Neumann said. “If you go to Sweden, Norway, Holland, Germany, they will all tell you that 50 percent-plus of the people who have turned up traveling to Syria or involved in domestic plots have previous criminal convictions, often for petty crime.”

The attacks often are interwoven as well. On Friday, a Belgian career criminal was transferred into French custody over allegations that he housed the jihadi who attacked the Thalys high-speed train between Brussels and Paris in August 2015.

The suspect, Youssef Siraj, is also believed to have put up some of the Brussels attackers, according to the Belgian news site DH. The same group allegedly is linked to a raid in the Belgian town of Verviers, where authorities say a jihadi cell was on the verge of a coordinated attack against police.

“We are coming to realize that Verviers, Thalys, Nov. 13, the attacks of March 22, it’s a large and perhaps single operation of Daesh,” Belgian federal prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw said, using another term for IS. All were bound by ties of crime and extremism.

The jihadi who wired the money to pay Bendaoud and Soumah was himself a petty criminal in Sweden before joining the Islamic State group, a thief who picked up firearms skills during his time in Syria named Mohamed Belkaid. It was also Belkaid who opened fire on Belgian police as they raided Abdeslam’s Brussels hideout. He was shot dead in the March 15, 2016, raid.

Abdeslam escaped through a window over the rooftops.

He was traced to a cousin’s apartment on March 18, 2016, near his Molenbeek home. Still more members of the cross-border Islamic State cell struck Brussels on March 22, 2016, including the bomb-maker for both attacks. Thirty-two people were killed in Brussels, along with three suicide attackers.

Abdeslam has been imprisoned ever since. His trial will be the first time he is seen in public since his capture.

According to the French network France Inter, Abdeslam stored a message in his computer similar to the farewells written by other jihadis before suicide attacks.

In it, France Inter reported , he explained that his suicide belt malfunctioned in Paris and that, although he dreamed of going to Syria “upon reflection, I concluded that the best thing would be to finish the job with the brothers.”



What should Europe do with the children of returning ISIS militants?

4 February 2018

Everyone remembers the footage of a little boy who was told by his parents to decapitate his teddy bear in Syria. Some pictures of these children of ISIS holding guns are circulating on social media.

These children, as ISIS collapsed, will pose a challenge to European society when they will return from Syria and Iraq.

Since the beginning of the war in Syria more than 5,000 Europeans joined extremist groups in Syria and Iraq. With the defeat of ISIS, the question of the return of militants has slowly become very worrying for European countries.

The wave of returns is especially worrisome given the issue relating to militants’ children.

Until now the answer to this new issue is not clear for European countries. EU member states recently started to think about the way to tackle the problem. Europen experience on working with child returnees is limited. At the moment it’s hard to estimate how many children are in Syria and Iraq right.

“First and foremost it’s a human drama. There is no simple answer to such a complex problem,” said Bart Somers, mayor of the Belgian city of Mechelen.

“These children are victims of the extremist ideology of their parents, of the choices of their parents. We cannot ignore the fact that all these children had some engagement with this extremist ideology and we cannot ignore the impact of such an ideology on their thinking and engagement with others,” said Hilde Vautmans, a Belgian MEP of the EU Parliament who hosted a High Level Seminar on the issue of child returnees.

‘Witnessing atrocities’

Some of these children have traveled with their parents from Europe to Syria and Iraq. Others were born in these conflict zones.

“We are speaking about hundreds of children for all EU member states,” said Julian King, EU Commissioner for the Security Union. “These children may be at the risk. They have been used to violence, they witnessed acts of torture and executions. Some of them have been trained and were obliged to use violence,” he added.

It will be easier to reintegrate child returnees than the adults. EU Commissioner Julian King recommended that EU member states should adopt a ‘case by case’ approach to treat the problem of child returnees. “We need a specific tailor-made approach by taking into account the general interest of the society,” Julian King stressed.

He underlined the importance to recognize these children otherwise they could become stateless. Their reintegration in Western society will be very difficult. They will have to go back on school benches.

These children suffered trauma in the conflict zones. Once in Europe they could be stigmatized for facts they didn’t choose to commit. “They can’t be taken responsible for the crimes committed by their parents” said Omar Ramadan, Head of the Radicalization Awareness Network (RAN).

The Radicalization Awareness Network distinguishes three groups among the European children in Syria and Iraq. First, the teenagers between 10 and 17-year-old. They have been formed to combat and most of them committed violent acts. In this first category, there is a sub-group of teenagers between 15-17-year-old who joined ISIS alone. Second, the children between 4 and 9-year-old. They are indoctrinated but didn’t commit violent acts yet. The third group is the largest one, the young children below 4-year-old. They suffered important traumas and violence. Part of them are born in Syria and Iraq from European parents.

Potential risks?

Are these children a risk or a potential threat for the European countries? “Everything depends on the category they are part of. Teenagers are definitely a threat, young people from the second group less and the third one absolutely not,” according to Omar Ramadan.

Many of these children are for the moment in detention centers or refugee camps. A lot them have lost their fathers and are left alone with their mothers. Those families in the camps can’t leave because they have to prove their citizenship. Often they don’t have any documents. Due to their former affiliation to terrorist groups those in the camps in Turkey are often arrested when they want to go to their national embassies to prove their citizenship.

“There is a need to facilitate the access to the embassies” said Omar Ramadan. “Syria and Iraq have a role to play. We must ensure a monitoring now instead of waiting years before these children come back without advance warning” he added.

Ramadan underlined the importance of the legal perspective. These children are EU citizens and so they are entitled to return. They can’t be stopped from returning. Even when passports are not available anymore, borders can’t be closed. The withdrawal of their EU citizenship will be replaced only if their citizenship has been replaced by another one. Child care services have a legal duty towards EU children also for these who are abroad.

One of the main challenge for the European children in Syria and Iraq is the resocialization.

“It is a major challenge,” Ramadan stressed. “It will be easier to re-socialize younger children. If the children stay in the camps for a long time the children could develop a feeling of bitterness and hostility that could ease the radicalization” he underlined.

Belgium was the country with the most extremists per capita. More than 413 Belgian citizens left Belgium to fight in Syria and Iraq. A third of them are dead and another third returned. 125 of the returnees returned in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

According to Paul Van Tigchelt, Head of the Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis in Belgium, there are for the moment around 140 Belgian children in Syria and Iraq. 75% of them are younger than 6-year-old. “8 children returned in 2017. They were very young. Some of them are born while their family was in Adana in Turkey on the way back to Europe” said Paul Van Tigchelt. “For those who are still in Syria and Iraq, we have no idea where they are” he added.

The grandparents know they have a role to play but are facing a legal uncertainty. When they support the return of their grandchildren they might be concerned whether this is seen as providing aid to a terrorist organization. Many of them took high risks and traveled to Turkey, Syria and Iraq to bring back their grandchildren. Often their children died in fights against the Syrian regime or under the bombs of the Coalition.

Very few of the children returned until now. “The exchange of information is very limited once the children are back in Europe” said Omar Ramadan. He explained the case of a Belgian woman who returned with her 3 children. They were formed to combat operations. Their school was not aware of their cases due to a lack of information.

Full report at:



Liberal senator Jim Molan shared anti-Muslim videos from far-right group

5 Feb 2018

The new Liberal senator Jim Molan has shared anti-Muslim videos on social media from Britain First, the far-right group that Donald Trump has been criticised for promoting.

Molan’s swearing-in on Monday was overshadowed by a report in Fairfax Media, confirmed by Guardian Australia, that he shared two racially inflammatory videos on his public Facebook page in 2017.

The first video, reposted by Molan on 12 March, depicts two incidents: one in which a young woman has her skirt pulled up and is slapped on the backside; another in which a young woman is punched and pushed to the ground by one youth and then kicked on the ground by another.

The video is tagged “Muslim thugs beat girl in Holland” by Britain First, although there is no evidence to suggest the violent incidents were motivated by religion and Dutch news sites have reported the latter altercation was actually about a scooter collision.

One commenter noted that the video was a fake, citing a fact check on the Snopes website, and asked for the video to be removed. But several others called for the people depicted in the video to be deported.

“Charming. And we’re meant to be tolerant, accepting and welcoming of this ‘breed’ in our country,” one commenter said, to which Molan replied “unbeleivable” (sic).

The second video, reposted by Molan on 27 March, depicts youths kicking, punching and throwing objects at police cars and is tagged “French police enter Muslim no go area” by Britain First.

The video contains no hint as to the cause of the altercation or verifiable source. Two cries of “Allahu Akbar” are audible in the 37-second long clip.

Molan told the ABC that the videos he reposted were not racist.

“I’ve put my life on the line for Islamic countries ... for people to say this is racist I find deeply offensive,” he said.

A spokesman for Molan defended the posts by saying that he “often posts material in order to generate debate”, Fairfax reported.

“The sharing of any post does not indicate endorsement,” he reportedly said.

Molan, a retired general and one of the architects of the Coalition’s Operation Sovereign Borders policy, replaced the Nationals senator Fiona Nash, who was found ineligible by the high court due to her dual citizenship.

Before the revelations about the far-right videos, the former prime minister Tony Abbott praised Molan as a “wonderful man” and “great servant for our country in uniform and now out of uniform”.

“It’s wonderful that serendipity has got him into the Senate,” Abbott told 2GB Radio. “The [Liberal party] faction – the leftwing faction – did their damnedest to keep him out and, I guess, a happy side effect of the citizenship saga has been getting Jim Molan into the Senate.”

Last year Trump sparked global uproar when he shared three video tweets by Britain First’s deputy leader, Jayda Fransen. The British prime minister, Theresa May, said the president’s actions were “the wrong thing to do”.

Full report at:





Israel to build full-fledged settlement in place of hilltop outpost in West Bank

Feb 4, 2018

Israel has decided to begin the provocative process of turning a small outpost in the occupied West Bank into a full-fledged settlement in open defiance of a growing international outcry against the Tel Aviv regime’s settlement expansion policies in Palestinian lands.

The cabinet of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday unanimously voted to significantly enlarge the 15-year-old Havat Gilad outpost, which is located southeast of Nablus and houses 50 settler families, into a “new community.”

On January 9, Israeli rabbi Raziel Shevah, 35, was killed by shots fired from a passing vehicle near the outpost. The following week, Israeli troops, searching for the attackers, shot dead what they claimed to be a Palestinian suspect in the West Bank city of Jenin, some 35 kilometers north of Havat Gilad.

At the start of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu said the cabinet’s move to retroactively authorize the outpost was meant to “allow the continuation of normal life there”, referring to the wildcat settlement.

The Israeli minister for military affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, had announced earlier in the week that the normalization of the Samaria community of Havat Gilad would be approved at the upcoming cabinet meeting.

Settlement watchdog Peace Now, while lambasting the contentious move, said that retroactively granting legal status to Havat Gilad, built without submitting development plans or obtaining construction permits, was “cynical exploitation” of Shevah’s death. 

Palestinian officials also denounced the regime’s move.

“Netanyahu is trying to make facts on ground. All settlements in the West Bank, including in Jerusalem al-Quds, are illegal,” said Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee.

About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built illegally since the 1967 occupation of the Palestinian territories.

The continued expansion of Israeli settlements is one of the major obstacles to the establishment of peace in the Middle East.

In recent months, Tel Aviv has stepped up its settlement construction activities in the occupied Palestinian lands in a blatant violation of international law and in defiance of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334.

European nations and the United Nations, among others, maintain their strong opposition to settlement building in the Palestinian territories.

Israel expels African migrants

Meanwhile, Israeli authorities began distributing deportation notices to thousands of African migrants residing in the occupied territories.

In letters distributed on Sunday, the regime gave the migrants a 60-day ultimatum to accept the offer to leave for an undisclosed African destination in return for $3,500 and a plane ticket. Those who reject the offer until April 1 will be incarcerated indefinitely, Israeli authorities warned.

Figures show that around 40,000 migrants, nearly all from Eritrea and Sudan, who fled danger and poverty back home, are currently living in the occupied territories. Many of these migrants have already expressed fear of being sent to Rwanda, their likely destination.



Outside Yemen’s rebel-held capital, stalemated war rages on

February 04, 2018

ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF SANAA, Yemen : In the rocky highlands outside of Yemen’s rebel-held capital, it quickly becomes clear how the Arab world’s poorest country remains mired in a stalemated civil war .

Soldiers and militiamen loyal to Yemen’s internationally recognized government describe having a tantalizing view on a clear day of Sanaa’s international airport from the moonscape mountains. The price is a steady barrage of incoming fire on the exposed hillside from Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, that makes any further advance treacherous, even with the aid of Saudi-led airstrikes.

The nearly three-year civil war , pitting the Saudi-led coalition against the rebels, has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced 2 million and helped spawn a devastating cholera epidemic — and yet the front lines have hardly moved.

“In mountainous areas like this it’s difficult. The American Army struggled with that in Afghanistan,” Yemeni Maj. Gen. Nasser Ali al-Daibany told Associated Press reporters who were granted access to the front lines on a tour organized by the Saudi-led coalition. “But for us this won’t slow us down ... because our boys, our fighters, were trained in these mountains, so they are the sons of this area.”

The comparison to Afghanistan, where the U.S. war is now 16 years old, feels apt.

Yemen has also seen decades of conflict, first with the 1960s civil war that ended North Yemen’s monarchy. Fighting between Marxist South Yemen and the north followed. Yemen unified in 1990, but resentment persisted under 22 years of kleptocratic rule by Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Yemen’s 2011 Arab Spring protests ultimately forced Saleh to resign, but he continued to wield power behind the scenes and maintained the loyalty of many armed forces commanders. In 2014 he formed an alliance with the Houthis — who he had gone to war with in the past — and helped them capture the capital, Sanaa.

Saudi Arabia entered the conflict the following year, at the head of an Arab coalition heavily supported by the United Arab Emirates. They have sought to restore the internationally recognized government, led by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who is based in Saudi Arabia and whose rule is largely confined to the southern port city of Aden.

Riyadh views the Houthis as an Iranian proxy, and both Saudi Arabia and the United States say Tehran has provided the long-range missiles the rebels have fired into the kingdom. While Tehran supports the Houthis, it denies arming them.

The Saudi-led coalition has waged a devastating air campaign, repeatedly striking markets, medical facilities and civilian targets. The U.N. has attributed over half of reported child civilian casualties in the conflict to the coalition, and calls Yemen the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

As the war has dragged on, it has become more muddled, with internal conflicts erupting on both sides. Saleh broke with the Houthis last year and appeared to switch sides, only to be gunned down by the rebels. In recent days, southern separatists backed by the UAE have clashed with forces loyal to Hadi in Aden. Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, long seen as one of the most sophisticated offshoots of the global terror network, has exploited the chaos to regroup.

“Yemen has become in many senses a ‘chaos state,’ a place where the central government has either collapsed or lost control of large segments of the territory,” Chatham House expert Peter Salisbury recently wrote. “Yet ‘chaos’ is a relative term. Although Yemen indeed appears to be chaotic from the outside . it contains its own internal logic, economies and political” powers.

All that can be seen in Marib, a province bordering Saudi Arabia and the northeastern highlands held by the Houthis. Nearly every man and some boys have Kalashnikov assault rifles slung over their shoulders, making it difficult to tell civilians from combatants at first glance. Many drivers don’t bother with license plates.

Saudi Arabia backs Marib’s local governor, Sultan al-Aradah. He holds power with tribal militias and fighters from Islah, Yemen’s main Sunni Islamist political party with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, of which the UAE remains wary. Irregular forces man checkpoints across the province, and gunfire echoes day and night in the provincial capital.

AP reporters were taken to a peak 48 kilometers (30 miles) from Sanaa International Airport, just inside Sanaa province, where the front lines have changed little since 2015.

Here in the mountains, militiamen and soldiers point to crevices and man-made caves used by rebels fighters before they were driven back two months ago. They say they retook the area, called “Sniper’s Mountain,” after heavy losses from gunfire and land mines. Spent mortar rounds and bullet casings litter the ground. The corpse of a Houthi fighter rotted nearby.

Apache attack helicopters could help, the soldiers said. Al-Daibany, the general, said authorities have a plan to slowly squeeze Sanaa while trying to allow civilians free passage from the capital.

But for now, the war continues, one whistling shell at a time. Col. Yahya al-Hatimi, who has lost three brothers to the fighting, gestured to his village, across the front lines and visible from the mountain top. His family still lives in the area, something that caused him to pause for a moment, overcome by emotion.

Full report at:



Israel begins distributing deportation notices to Africans, legalizes West Bank settlement

4 February 2018

Israeli authorities have begun distributing deportation notices to thousands of African migrants.

In letters delivered Sunday, Israel says the migrants have 60 days to accept the offer to leave the country for an unnamed African destination in exchange for $3,500 and a plane ticket. Those who don’t by April 1 will be incarcerated indefinitely.

Some 40,000 migrants, nearly all from Eritrea and Sudan, fled danger for the safety and opportunities of Israel in recent years. Many have expressed fear of being sent to Rwanda, their likely destination.

The deportation plan has sparked outrage in Israel, where groups of pilots, doctors, writers, rabbis and Holocaust survivors have appealed to have it halted. They say the deportations are unethical and would damage Israel’s image as a refuge for Jewish migrants.

Meanwhile, Israel’s prime minister says it will legalize an isolated West Bank outpost in response to the murder of one of its residents.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday that those who try to “break our spirit and weaken us made a grave mistake.” He says his government will legalize Havat Gilad to “allow the continuing of normal life there.”

Earlier this month, Havat Gilad resident Rabbi Raziel Shevah, a 35-year-old father of six, was shot dead from a passing vehicle as he drove near his home in the unauthorized settlement outpost near Nablus.

The community of a few hundred Israelis is located deep inside the West Bank.

Full report at:



Palestinian shot dead by Israeli army during West Bank raid

4 February 2018

A Palestinian man was shot dead in clashes with the Israeli army on Saturday during a raid in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry said.

The man was shot in the head after fighting broke out during an Israeli army incursion into the village of Burqin in the northern West Bank, it said.

The health ministry identified the dead man as Ahmad Abu Obeid, 19.

The army did not comment on the death, but said in a statement it had entered the village, near the city of Nablus, in an attempt to find suspects in the shooting dead of an Israeli rabbi in January.

Raziel Shevah, a 35-year-old rabbi, was shot dead near Havat Gilad, a wildcat Jewish settlement outpost in the Nablus area, on January 9.

The army has been since launched multiple violent raids to search for the suspected killer, 22-year-old Ahmed Jarrar.

Jarrar is the son of Nasser Jarrar, a member of Islamist militant movement Hamas who was killed while fighting Israeli forces during the second Palestinian intifada.

Full report at:



New graveyards created by Houthis in Yemen expose their great losses

4 February 2018

The Houthi Movement celebrated their killed members by inaugurating new graveyards, decorating their tombs and holding a photo exhibition in Sanaa and other strongholds thus revealing their great losses.

The exhibitions actually showed that the Houthis lost thousands of their fighters. Although the Houthi Movement refuses to acknowledge these losses, unofficial sources estimated that 50,000 Houthis were killed or injured last year.

The Arab coalition spokesperson had said that the Houthis lost around 11,000 members in just three months last year during confrontations with the army and as a result of the coalition’s airstrikes.

According to media sources, the Houthis allocated 50 billion Yemen rials for establishing new graveyards and photo exhibitions during their annual celebration The Martyr’s Week.

Full report at:



Turkey's Erdogan rejects option of EU partnership, urges full membership

Feb 4, 2018

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country opposes proposals of a partnership with the European Union, emphasizing that Turkey's full membership of the bloc is the only option.

Erdogan made the comments in an interview with Italy's Stampa newspaper before his departure for Rome on Sunday evening for a day-long visit where he is scheduled to meet his Italian counterpart Sergio Mattarella.

"The EU is blocking access to negotiations and suggests that lack of progress is because of us. It's unfair. Just like it is that other countries are pushing for options other than membership," he said.

The Turkish president urged the EU to "keep its promises" to Ankara and said, "We want full membership. Other options are not satisfactory."

During a joint press conference with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in Paris on January 5, Erdogan said he is “seriously tired” of waiting for the European Union to decide whether to accept his country as a member of the bloc.

“One cannot permanently implore and wait to be finally included,” he said, warning that frustration might tempt Turkey to turn its back on Europe.

The French leader further suggested that Ankara should renounce its ambition to join the EU, adding that the bloc needs to "rethink" the accession process and focus on a possible "partnership” or "cooperation" with Turkey.

Further in his interview with the Italian paper, Erdogan said Ankara has played an "important" role in stemming the flow of migrants to Europe which promoted "security and stability" across the continent.

The country, a small portion of which rests on the Balkan Peninsula in Southeast Europe, took its early efforts to join Europe in the early 1960s and applied for EU membership in 1987. However, the official negotiations of accession to the union began in 2005. The 12-year-long accession talks were effectively halted after Turkey began a massive crackdown on suspects allegedly involved in a July 2016 failed coup against Erdogan.

The EU reacted strongly to Ankara’s purging of thousands of people from state organizations and institutions over alleged links to the botched putsch, putting Ankara on a bumpier road.

Furthermore, the EU heavyweight member Germany and some other European countries have been involved in diplomatic brawls with Turkey on several issues, including the country's human rights record, in recent months.

To obtain membership, Turkey has to effectively conclude negotiations on 35 policy chapters that involve reforms and the adoption of European standards. The EU has opened 16 out of the required 35 chapters, but only one of them has so far been concluded.

Turkish Minister for EU Affairs Omer Celik said on January 19 that Ankara would reject any offer of partnership with the EU that falls short of membership, warning that the current situation gave Turkey no reason to maintain its refugee deal with the bloc.

"A privileged partnership or similar approaches, we don't take any of these seriously. Turkey cannot be offered such a thing," Celik told Reuters in an interview.

Erdogan defends Turkey's "Olive Branch" operation in Syria's Afrin

The Turkish president also defended his country's recently-launched military operation in Syria’s northwestern region of Afrin.

"The Turkish armed forces are not in Afrin to fight armed Kurdish groups. We don't have problems with the Kurdish Syrians, we are only fighting terrorists, and we have the right to do it," Erdogan said.

The Turkish leader emphasized that Ankara was not seeking territorial gains.

Ankara has been pressing ahead with the so-called Olive Branch operation against militants from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Afrin since January 20.

Ankara considers the US-backed YPG to be a terrorist group and an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is fighting for independence in Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast since 1984.

The Turkish incursion in Afrin started after the United States said it sought to set up a thousand-strong force in Syria near the Turkish border comprising the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is led by the YPG.

Syrian Foreign and Expatriates Ministry said on Thursday that Damascus has complained to the UN about Turkey's military campaign in Afrin, denouncing the operation as "an assault and occupation" of the Syrian territory.

Full report at:





Nigeria claims complete victory over Boko Haram

February 4, 2018

The Nigerian Army has completely defeated the Boko Haram insurgents in the restive northeast parts of the country, said Maj Gen Rogers Nicholas, head of a military operation.

Nicholas, the Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, said this late on Saturday during the inauguration of the Nigeria-Cameroon Military Joint Mission in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, Xinhua news agency reported.

He said the collaboration between the two militaries was critical to the successful completion of the counter-insurgency campaign.

“We share information and intelligence to enable us to map out strategies to fight Boko Haram insurgents in our common borders,” he said.

Troops under the operation DEEP PUNCH II had on Friday dislodged and occupied the insurgents’ tactical ground “Camp Zairo,” the military chief said, adding that hundreds of insurgents had surrendered and several others fled their enclave while over 100 civilians were rescued.

“My soldiers are in the heart of Boko Haram enclave that is ‘Camp Zairo,’ the gallant troops have taken total control of Sambisa Forest.

“We have broken the heart and soul of Shekau’s group, taking over the camp and its environs.

“They are on the run and we are pursuing them to wherever they go. This time around there is no place for escape anywhere,” the commander said.

The military chief called on the insurgents and abducted persons in the bush to come out and surrender to the troops, stressing that they would not be harmed or killed.

He revealed that the troops had destroyed the insurgents’ hideouts, vehicles and ammunition, while hundreds of insurgents surrendered and over 100 civilians were rescued.

According to him, the command would profile the rescued persons for rehabilitation and de-radicalisation for reintegration into society.

While handing over 82 rescued persons to the Borno State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) in Maiduguri, the military chief called on persons in Boko Haram captivity to submit themselves to the troops.

“People need to be vigilant in their localities, if you see any suspected persons, report to the military or security agents.

“As I speak to you now many of them have surrendered and many more will surrender to the troops. The most important thing is that we are treating these people very humanely because they are Nigerians,” the military chief told his audience.

Meanwhile, Rabi Abu-Yasir, wife of Boko Haram’s chief physician, on Saturday surrendered to the troops of Operation Lafiya Dole in the ongoing clearance operation to rout out the remnants of the insurgents.

Rabi told newsmen that her husband was the medical doctor to the insurgents’ leader, Abubakar Shekau.

She said she was rescued on Friday after the troops dislodged the insurgents’ enclaves in Sambisa Forest.

Recounting her ordeal, Rabi said unlike her peers, she enjoyed preferential treatment and privileges in view of her position as a wife to the physician.

Rabi lauded the military for the rescue operation and called on the abducted persons still in the bush to come out and surrender to the troops.



Libyan forces clash with ISIS fighters near Dhara oilfield

3 February 2018

Libyan forces fought suspected ISIS fighters, killing three of them near an oilfield run by Waha Oil in the southeast of the country, a local official said on Saturday.

One soldier was killed and five wounded during two days of clashes, one of which took place near the Dhahra oilfield on Saturday, said Umar al-Faqeh, head of the Maradah administration to which the area belongs. There had been fighting already in another area on Friday, he added.

The field is operated by Waha, a joint-venture between Libya’s state National Oil Company and US firms Hess, Marathon and ConocoPhillips.

The oil protection force guarding the Waha operations is allied to country’s eastern government. The UN-backed administration sits in the capital Tripoli in western Libya.

The North African country has been mired in conflict since the toppling of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011 and in December armed men blew up a Waha pipeline pumping crude to Es Sider port, temporarily cutting Libyan output by around 100,000 barrels per day. Officials blamed “terrorists”, without giving details.

Full report at:



4 civilians killed in militant attack in Mali

Feb 4, 2018

At least four civilians have been killed in a suspected militant attack in northern Mali over the weekend, local officials said Sunday.

An unknown number of the attackers were also killed in fighting as the "suspected militants killed at least four civilians around Talataye," a northeastern town of around 14,000 people, regional officials told AFP.

Mali's deteriorating security situation is of growing concern as al-Qaeda-linked groups mount increasingly deadly attacks on domestic and foreign forces.

In the Talataye area the militants often target an Azawad group, the traditionally nomadic Tuareg people of the desert, who they consider too close to a pro-governmental armed group, another elected local official said.

Civilians considered too close to the Azawad group are, in turn, considered legitimate targets, he added.

According to a Mali security source, the assailants took hostages during Friday's attacks, and killed at least one of them on Saturday.

On Sunday tension remained high in and around Talataye, a foreign security source told AFP.

Friday's attack came after Mali's army decided to ban the use of scooters and pick-up trucks in some areas to boost their fight against armed militant groups.

Such vehicles are often used by extremist fighters, in the north and the center of the country.

The ban applies to a dozen "circles" in the central regions of Segou and Mopti and northwest Timbuktu region.

"Humanitarian convoys, and all other convoys, must receive authorization from the local military command in order to receive an escort," the army said, adding that anyone failing to do so would be considered a "military target".

In late January, 14 soldiers were killed and 18 more wounded in an attack on their camp in Mali's restive north.

That attack in Soumpi, in the Timbuktu region, came two days after 26 civilians including mothers and babies were killed when their vehicle ran over a landmine in Boni, central Mali, according to a UN death toll.

Extremists linked to al-Qaeda took control of the desert north of Mali in early 2012, but were largely driven out in a French-led military operation launched in January 2013.

In June 2015, Mali's government signed a peace agreement with coalitions of non-militant armed groups. But extremist insurgents remain active, and large tracts of the country are lawless.

Full report at:



Arab World


Islamic State reverts to guerrilla warfare tactics in quest to reclaim, expand territory

January 21, 2018

Islamic State is far from defeated in Iraq and Syria, actively sending out messages to its extremists to revert to the terrorist group’s tactics of assassinations, bombs and ambushes.

The Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which monitors jihadi chatter, reports that the orders have gone out in online publications and social media for a new way of fighting after the loss of the territory that protected the caliphate.

Other analysts are saying that, while the Iraqi government declared full liberation of all territories last month, Islamic remains adaptable and deadly.

“The end of the physical caliphate does not equal an end of the war or an end to their strategic goals,” retired Army Lt. Gen. James M. Dubik, who led troops in Iraq, told The Washington Times.

Islamic State is the remnant of a semiconventional army of over 40,000 terrorists who rose up in Syria and invaded Iraq in 2014. But the organization still claims hundreds of fiercely committed fighters and thousands of loyalists in those two countries.

As evidence of its continued lethality, two suicide bombers on Jan. 15 simultaneously detonated explosive belts that killed over 35 people at a Baghdad square where day laborers gathered.

“ISIS has demonstrated its desire to return to its terrorist roots, with the bombings and attacks that have killed innocent civilians in Ramadi, Nasiriyah, Baghdad and elsewhere over the past several weeks,” Marine Corps Brig. Gen. James F. Glynn, deputy commander of special operations forces in the theater, told reporters a day after the Baghdad carnage.

Islamic State has been evicted by U.S.-backed forces from virtually all conquered territory in Iraq and Syria that it once controlled. Its new orders to its fighters hark back to the mid-2000s, when its predecessor, the Sunni Muslim al Qaeda in Iraq, unleashed a violent insurgency to topple the Shiite-dominated federal government in Baghdad.

“Now, in many ways, they’re just returning to their previous MO,” said Gen. Dubik, a scholar at the Institute for the Study of War. “They’ve adapted, and they’ll be able to use their networks to try to reconstitute, rebuild leadership, recruit, retrain, resupply, replenish equipment and fund, just as they did in 2010-14.”

Islamic State has adopted brutal insurgency tactics as it seeks new territory in Libya, Egypt’s Sinai, Somalia, Yemen and Afghanistan, among other countries.

Changing tactics

MEMRI’s new report is titled “Official ISIS Sources: We Are Temporarily Changing Tactics, Opting for Guerrilla Warfare Such as Raids and Targeted Assassinations.”

“In light of the defeats suffered by the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq over the past year, there has been a change in its military doctrine on the battlefield,” MEMRI analysts said. “In recent weeks, the organization has been using tactics characteristic of guerrilla warfare and temporarily abandoning the doctrine of conquering and holding large areas.”

The orders are contained in publications such as al-Naba, Islamic State’s weekly official magazine.

According to al-Naba, “ISIS fighters must perpetrate ambush-style killing campaigns in areas where there are concentrations of ‘idol-worshipping’ forces [Shiite militia] and ‘apostasy force’ [Iraq].”

Al-Naba, according to MEMRI, tells Islamic State commanders that they can count on a diminished number of U.S. and coalition aircraft, which played a crucial role in destroying Islamic State compounds, vehicles and fighter positions.

The magazine said that “lions” — its fighters -— “can now track them freely, kill them, or take them prisoner.”

This strategy, the publication said, is already in practice in the northern Iraqi cities of Kirkuk and Mosul, as well as Diyala province, which includes Baghdad. Al-Naba called these three areas part of a “Death Triangle.”

A second article in al-Naba predicts that Islamic State will place more emphasis on organized raids in addition to car bombs and sniper fire.

As an instruction for these new orders to followers in Iraq and Syria, Islamic State released a photo that it said shows a fighter assassinating a local security officer in Yemen with a shot to the back of the head.

One day, the articles say, the mayhem will lead to Islamic State reclaiming the land it has lost.

“This is the perseverance of the soldiers of the caliphate,” according to MEMRI translation. “They only leave territory after they have hurt the apostates. And if they are forced to evacuate, then they return immediately to wear them down doubly.”

Al-Hayat daily, a pan-Arab newspaper, reports that this Islamic State strategy has produced an increase in assassination attempts against Shiite militia and tribal chiefs loyal to Baghdad.

Said Gen. Dubik, “Their goals remain the same, but realities of the U.S. campaign have forced a change of ways and means. They remain dangerous and still are a threat to the region and to us.”

Gen. Glynn said he would not describe Islamic State today as constituting a terrorist network or insurgency at this point.

“There are still remnants of ISIS who reside in a cellular structure who seek to bring instability to local areas, in particular population centers,” he said. “And that remains as it has for some time the focus of the Iraqi Security Forces and their counterterrorism forces specifically.

“This did not allow those elements to form into a network or something that could look like an insurgency …,” he added. “There’s no indicator of any coordination.”



Thousands of ISIS Fighters Flee in Syria, Many to Fight Another Day


FEB. 4, 2018

WASHINGTON — Thousands of Islamic State foreign fighters and family members have escaped the American-led military campaign in eastern Syria, according to new classified American and other Western military and intelligence assessments, a flow that threatens to tarnish American declarations that the militant group has been largely defeated.

As many of the fighters flee unfettered to the south and west through Syrian Army lines, some have gone into hiding near Damascus, the Syrian capital, and in the country’s northwest, awaiting orders sent by insurgent leaders on encrypted communications channels.

Other battle-hardened militants, some with training in chemical weapons, are defecting to Al Qaeda’s branch in Syria. Others are paying smugglers tens of thousands of dollars to spirit them across the border to Turkey, with an eventual goal of returning home to European countries.

The sobering assessments come despite a concerted effort to encircle and “annihilate” — as Defense Secretary Jim Mattis put it — Islamic State fighters in Raqqa, the group’s self-proclaimed capital, which fell in the fall, and pursue other insurgents who fled south into the Euphrates River Valley toward the border with Iraq.

“ISIS fighters are fleeing Syria and Iraq,” the homeland security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, said in remarks in Washington last week. “Jihadists are going underground, dispersing to other safe havens, including on the internet, and returning to their home countries.”

Gen. Paul J. Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters last week that the remaining Islamic State leadership, even while on the run, still had “fairly robust” communications with its shadowy network of fighters now on the lam.

While President Trump highlighted the liberation of almost all of the Islamic State’s territory in Iraq and Syria in his State of the Union address last week, American military and intelligence officials say the group is still able to inspire and enable followers to carry out attacks. Mr. Trump seemed to acknowledged this in his speech, noting, “There is much more work to be done.”

Analysts say they are also seeing signs that Islamic State fighters are adopting guerrilla tactics to terrorize civilians.

“The group is transitioning into an underground organization that places more weight on asymmetric tactics, like suicide bombings against soft targets in government-secured areas like Baghdad,” said Otso Iho, a senior analyst at Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center at IHS Markit in London.

Mr. Iho cited an attack by two suicide bombers in Baghdad last month that killed three dozen people and injured 90 more. The attack took place in a busy Baghdad square where day laborers gather to look for work.

Estimates of how many fighters may have escaped into the deserts of Syria or Iraq and beyond are difficult to pin down, but American and other Western intelligence and counterterrorism analysts with access to classified assessments put the number in the low thousands. Many are traveling with spouses and children who are likely to have been radicalized during more than three years of Islamic State control of the region and could pose security risks as well, analysts say.

In December, Col. Ryan Dillon, the chief spokesman for the American-led military campaign in Iraq and Syria, said in a briefing with Pentagon reporters: “Syrian regime commanders in eastern Syria suggest that ISIS fighters” from the Middle Euphrates River Valley “may have slipped through porous Syrian and Russian defenses to arrive in areas near Damascus.”

Asked late last month by The New York Times about indications that as many as 1,000 fighters and family members had fled the Euphrates River area just in recent days, Colonel Dillon’s command replied in a statement: “We know that the Syrian regime has given ISIS the leeway to travel through their area of operations, but we cannot confirm any alleged incidents or operations that are taking place outside our area of operations.”

The United States military is concerned that a Turkish offensive against the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces in Afrin, in northern Syria, has worsened the problem. The S.D.F. has been working with the Americans in former Islamic State-held areas to interdict fleeing jihadists, but those efforts have been greatly reduced as the Kurds have shifted resources to reinforce Afrin.

Mustafa Balli, a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces headquarters, blamed the Turkish assault on Afrin for what he said was the Islamic State’s resurgence.

“Since this invasion of Afrin by Turkey, ISIS is getting stronger in the south,” he said. “The battle against ISIS in the south, and the Turks in Afrin, is the same battle. The Turks want to give another chance to ISIS to grow again. Before the Turkish invasion, we were very close to finishing ISIS.”

Some 40,000 fighters from more than 120 countries poured into the battles in Syria and Iraq over the past four years, American and other Western officials say. While thousands died on the battlefield, officials say many thousands more probably survived to slip away to conflicts in Libya, Yemen or the Philippines, or have gone into hiding in countries like Turkey. About 295 Americans are believed to have traveled to Iraq or Syria, or tried to, American officials said.

Of more than 5,000 Europeans who joined those ranks, as many as 1,500 have returned home, including many women and children, and most of the rest are dead or still fighting, according to Gilles de Kerchove, the European Union’s top counterterrorism official.

“The thought that these foreign fighters who have participated in this fight now for over two years will quietly leave Syria and return to their jobs as shopkeepers in Paris, in Brussels, in Copenhagen, is ludicrous,” said General Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs. “That’s a very compelling problem.”

Still, the number of Islamic State fighters returning home to Europe and North Africa has been much smaller than anticipated, counterterrorism officials say. That is in part because the Trump administration intensified its focus on preventing fighters from seeping out of Raqqa and Mosul, their former stronghold in Iraq, and more militants fought to the death than expected. Hundreds also surrendered in Raqqa.

Hundreds of others have been captured and are being held by American-backed Kurdish militias in northern Syria, raising fears among United States military officials of potentially creating a breeding ground for extremists — repeating a key security mistake of the Iraq war.

But the new assessments, bolstered by reports from analysts and smugglers in the region, suggest that Islamic State fighters are fleeing to more hospitable parts of Syria and Iraq, or to third countries where they can lie low.

Beyond the recent suicide bombings in Baghdad, a major American airstrike last month demonstrates the Islamic State’s continued resiliency and threat, military officials said.

Armed Reaper drones and Navy F/A-18 fighters from the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt carried out a strike on Jan. 20 in Al Shafah, Syria, in the Euphrates River Valley, that killed about 150 fighters, the American military said. The strike, one of the largest single aerial assaults against the Islamic State in three years, was based on intelligence collected over about a week. The strike hit two large buildings that were used as a command headquarters and a media distribution center, military officials said.

The size and concentration of fighters took American officials by surprise. “The ISIS headquarters contained a heavy concentration of ISIS fighters who appear to have been massing for movement,” Maj. Gen. James B. Jarrard, commanding general for Special Operations forces in Iraq and Syria, said in a statement.

“ISIS continues to demonstrate the ability to mass large numbers in its attempt to retain a stronghold in Syria,” the American-led command in Iraq said in the same statement.

Ahmad Ramadan, the head of the Euphrates Center Against Violence and Terrorism in Istanbul, said that the Islamic State was still present in many villages east of the Euphrates River — the informal demarcation line between Russian-backed Syrian troops to the west and American-backed Syrian militias to the east. “ISIS nowadays are spreading all over Syria,” he said via Facebook chat.

Government and independent analysts in Syria and in Washington, including the Institute for the Study of War, said there was a thriving trade in smuggling Islamic State fighters across the border into Turkey, where intelligence officials believe they are linking with clandestine cells.

According to the independent British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, senior Islamic State operatives from Raqqa and Deir al-Zour, in the Euphrates River Valley, have paid bribes of $20,000 to $30,000 for safe passage into Turkey.

“I smuggled about 50 ISIS fighters into Turkey,” said Abu Omar, a smuggler between Syria and Turkey, adding that they were a mix of Syrian and foreign fighters, often disguised in women’s clothes to help elude Turkish border patrols.

Abu Omar added that the number of fleeing Islamic State fighters and senior leaders, including many foreigners, increased over the summer when the American-backed offensive against Raqqa began.

Full report at:



Israel helps Egypt fight the Islamic State

Feb 5, 2018

WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – Israel is involved in a “secret alliance” with Egypt to fight the Islamic State (IS) in the Sinai Peninsula, the New York Times reported Saturday.

“For more than two years, unmarked Israeli drones, helicopters, and jets have carried out a covert air campaign,” the Times explained, “conducting more than 100 airstrikes inside Egypt, frequently more than once a week” against the terrorist organization. The Times portrayed this quiet collaboration as part of a broader evolution in relations between Israel and several Arab countries.

This is “the most dramatic evidence” of what it called “a quiet reconfiguration of the politics of the region.”

“Shared enemies like [IS], Iran, and political Islam have quietly brought the leaders of several Arab states into growing alignment with Israel,” the paper noted.

This coordination is occurring “even as their officials and news media continue to vilify the Jewish state in public,” it continued.

Israeli support for Egypt’s campaign against IS began following the downing of a Russian airliner in October 2015, killing 212 people.

It was a particularly deadly time, as an IS attack on Paris shortly thereafter killed 130 people—the deadliest terrorist assault in Europe since 2004, when al-Qaeda in Iraq bombed four commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people, which was, in turn, the most lethal terrorist attack in Spanish history.

Such are the sensitivities of many Arab populations toward Israel that Egyptian officials were quick to deny the Times’ report, despite the country’s 40-year-long peace treaty with its northern neighbor.

A spokesman for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi asserted, “The claims of coordination between the Egyptian and Israeli sides in this matter are totally lacking in truth and go against sense and logic.”

However, there is a long history of Arab states using Israel against their Arab rivals.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the ideology of Arab nationalism had an appeal similar to that of Islamic extremism today. The main exponent of Arab nationalism was Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser.

In May 1967, after 11 years of quiet between Egypt and Israel, Nasser began to threaten another war.

With hindsight, historians generally consider that Nasser was bluffing—merely trying to improve his standing within the Arab political scene. Of course, the Israelis could not know that, and they felt mortally threatened.

Israel responded by launching a pre-emptive strike, seizing the Sinai, the Golan Heights, and the West Bank in six days! It is hard to imagine a bigger miscalculation than Nasser’s, and he died of a heart attack three years later, at the age of 52.

Following the Six-Day War, Egypt was now in desperate need of Arab support, including financial aid.

The fiasco caused Nasser to withdraw Egyptian troops from Yemen, where they had been fighting since 1962 in a civil war, as Nasser tried to establish a foothold on the Arabian Peninsula from where he could threaten Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi ruler, the wily and experienced King Faysal, made any Saudi aid to Egypt contingent on its continuing to fight Israel to recover its territory and not accepting Israel’s peace overtures.

Anwar Sadat, who became president of Egypt following Nasser’s death, had an entirely different outlook. Nasser’s wars had cost Egypt dearly, and Sadat resolved to end them and turn from Russia to the West.

Once Sadat became president, Faysal no longer made aid to Egypt contingent on continuing the conflict with Israel. He had used Egypt’s conflict with Israel to keep Nasser from threatening his own country!

Similarly, in 1970, Israel was instrumental in saving Jordan’s King Hussein from a combination of radical Palestinians within Jordan and the Ba’athist regime in Syria.

Palestinian groups, strengthened in the wake of the 1967 war, sought to overthrow Hussein and take over the country. In September, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) hijacked five civilian airliners, forcing them to land in Jordan.

Hussein mobilized the Jordanian army to end the crisis, but there was no guarantee he would prevail, as forces in Syria mobilized to support the PFLP and attack Jordan from the north.

With a green light from Washington, Israel mobilized its own forces. Threatened by the Israeli mobilization, the forces in Syria backed down, and Hussein prevailed.

The event—known as Black September—had consequence for internal politics in Syria, as well. Soon after that, Gen. Hafiz al-Assad launched a coup against the radical Ba’athists governing the country, becoming president himself and resulting in a more calculated policy in Damascus.

Full report at:



Syria's Afrin urges Russia to oppose Turkish assault

February 05, 2018

AFRIN - Local authorities in Syria 's Afrin called on Sunday for world powers to intervene to halt a Turkish-led assault on their region, accusing Russia of complicity in civilian deaths there. Ankara and allied rebels launched operation "Olive Branch" on January 20 against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey has blacklisted as "terrorists".

Afrin 's local administration -- the semi-autonomous government in place since 2013 -- shot back the accusation on Sunday and urged Moscow to take a firm stand. "We ask the Russian federation in particular to rescind its support for the Turkish state's terrorism against the people of Afrin ," it said in a statement. "It bears responsibility for the massacres the fascist Turkish state is carrying out against innocent civilians." Russia , which intervened militarily in Syria 's war in 2015, had troops positioned in Afrin but withdrew them as Turkey launched the assault. The YPG and Afrin officials say that withdrawal amounted to tacit approval of the Turkish offensive.

Officials on Sunday also called for the United States, European Union, United Nations Security Council and the US-led coalition fighting jihadists to "immediately intervene to stop Turkey's aggression".

Ankara says it launched the operation to protect its southern border and insists that it is doing everything it can to avoid civilian casualties. But the campaign has sparked mass protests, including in Afrin on Sunday. Thousands of people marched in downtown Afrin with YPG flags and posters of Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Turkey is vehemently opposed to the YPG because of its ties to the PKK, which has waged a three-decade insurgency against Turkish forces. "We're holding the whole world responsible because we fought terrorism on behalf of everyone, but today the world agreed to kill Syrians," said Ali Mahmoud, 45.

Other demonstrators clutched olive branches, a symbol of Afrin which is known for its abundant olive groves but also now associated with the name Turkey gave its offensive. "They named their attack 'Olive Branch'. It's a thorn in their hand, but in our hands, it's a gun," said Fikrat Afdal, 33.

Full report at:



Southern Syria: FSA Arrests Sochi Peace Talks Participant

Feb 04, 2018

The websites reported that the FSA-affiliated Shahid Mohammad al-Shar'a Battalion deployed in the town of Da'el in Southern Dara'a arrested Khalid al-Shar'a that had participated in the Congress of the Syrian National Dialogue in Russia's Sochi.

Al-Shar'a was arrested while entering Dara'a from Da'el passageway.

The FSA-affiliated battalion announced in a statement that they sent al-Shar'a to jail, and summoned all those in terrorist-held regions in Dara'a that had taken part in Sochi talks.

Relevant reports said on Wednesday that he terrorist groups stationed in Eastern Ghouta of Damascus attacked the plane carrying the Syrian delegation upon its return from the Russian city of Sochi where they took part in the Congress of the Syrian National Dialogue.

The Arabic-language al-Hadath news reported on Wednesday that the terrorists launched several missiles at the Damascus international airport as soon as the plane carrying participants in Sochi conference landed in the Syrian capital.

Full report at:



Syrian Army Cuts off Key Supply Line to Al-Nusra-Held Town in Idlib

Feb 04, 2018

The sources said that the artillery and missile units and the army aircraft pounded the positions of Al-Nusra in Saraqib and its outskirts in Eastern Idlib, inflicting major losses on the terrorists.

The sources went on to say that the warplanes conducted heavy bombardment against a convoy of Al-Nusra, including several tanks and military vehicles, East of Saraqib on Aleppo-Idlib road, destroying most of the vehicles and tanks.

They added that the army has now cut off a key supply road to Saraqib that pushed the terrorist front in Eastern Idlib towards full collapse.

Field sources said on Saturday that the Al-Nusra Front started pulling its forces back from the outskirts of the Shiite towns of Fua'a and Kafraya North-East of Idlib city amid the rapid advances of the Syrian Army in the region.

The sources reported that Al-Nusra abandoned five positions in the Northern and Eastern directions of Fua'a and Kafraya as the army men were rapidly advancing towards the town of Saraqib in their push Northward to lift the siege on the towns.

Full report at:



Raghad Saddam Hussein responds after being named on Iraq’s most-wanted list

5 February 2018

Saddam Hussein’s daughter, Raghad, has vowed to confront all those who “insult her” by suing them back.

Her comments came during a telephone interview with Al Arabiya in response to the inclusion of her name in the list of the most wanted Iraqis.

Iraqi security services on Sunday published the names of 60 people wanted on suspicion of belonging to ISIS, al-Qaeda or the Baath Party of late dictator Saddam Hussein.

Raghad revealed during the phone call that she does not currently reside in Jordan as previously believed by media outlets.

As for her inclusion on Iraq’s most wanted list, Raghad said she knew of this since 2006 given that Jordan had confirmed to her “more than once that I was being viewed under the microscope, and that all my going ones were being known to all”.

The daughter of Iraq’s late dictator criticized Baghdad for focusing on her and said they “have no other work but Raghad, at a time when their country is suffering from occupation”.

Full report at:



Saudi air force downs Houthi ballistic missile targeting Khamis Mushait

5 February 2018

UBAI: Saudi Arabia’s air force downed a ballistic missile fired by Houthi terrorists targeting the city of Khamis Mushait in Asir province on Monday.

This comes as Saudi forces continue their military operations on the border to counter Houthi infiltration attempts into the Kingdom.

In the past two days, 50 air raids have been carried out on Houthi positions in the provinces of Saada, Hajjah, Hodeidah and Taiz - resulting in the destruction of weapons’ caches and military vehicles.





Kerala sex slave case: NIA arrests main accused Riyaz

February 5, 2018

The National Investigation Agency has made a crucial arrest in connection with the Kerala sex slave case. It arrested one Muhammad Riyaz, the prime accused from the Chennai International Airport.

It may be recalled that the NIA had registered a case against nine persons following a complaint by a Gujarat based lady. She had alleged that she was forcibly converted to Islam and an attempt was made to sell her off to the Islamic State in Syria as a sex slave. The case was originally registered by the Kerala Police on December 13 2017 against nine accused persons and their unknown associates, based on a complaint received by the SP, Ernakulam Rural from the victim, who is a native of Pathanamthitta district, Kerala but presently residing in Gujarat state.

The case was originally registered by the Kerala Police on December 13 2017 against nine accused persons and their unknown associates, based on a complaint received by the SP, Ernakulam Rural from the victim, who is a native of Pathanamthitta district, Kerala but presently residing in Gujarat state. The victim has stated in the complaint that Muhammed Riyaz, pursuant to the criminal conspiracy hatched with co- accused and their unknown associates had lured her, raped her, recorded her objectionable videos, threatened her, forcefully converted her to Islam and married her by creating forged documents. She has also alleged that she was taken to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia by the accused persons with the intention of further transporting her to Syria. Riyaz was detained at Chennai International Airport on his arrival from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Consequently, NIA investigators at Chennai had verified his identity and seized two mobile phones besides one pen drive from the accused, before summoning him to Kochi, for further examination. The accused reported to NIA Branch Office, Kochi and was examined in detail regarding the incriminating facts appearing against him, before he was arrested.



Mohammad Kaif says Ankit’s killers ‘need to change mindset’

Feb 5, 2018

NEW DELHI. Former Indian cricketer Mohammad Kaif today said those who killed Delhi boy Ankit Saxena, allegedly because he was in relationship with a Muslim girl "need to change their mindset".

Kaif tweeted asking what is wrong with loving and marrying someone of one's choice and expressed shock that a murder like this is happening in an urban area like Delhi and in this day and age. He said that killers of Ankit are anything but "peaceful".

"Peaceful ka P bhi nahi raha" (They are not even P of Peaceful) read a tweet posted by Kaif on Monday.

He said the killers must be brought to justice.

Full report at:



Captain among 4 soldiers killed as Pakistan pounds J&K's Rajouri sector

Feb 5, 2018

SRINAGAR: An Army officer was among four soldiers killed in cross-border shelling by Pakistani troops in Rajouri district of Jammu region on Sunday evening. Two others were injured. Captain Kapil Kundu was the second Army officer to have died in Pakistani fire in the last 40 days.

Pakistani forces also violated the ceasefire in the Sunderbani area, injuring a BSF assistant sub-inspector. Firing was on at both places when reports last came in.

Earlier in the day, two teenagers and a jawan were injured in the Shahpur sector of Poonch district in shelling from across the border.

Rajouri deputy commissioner Shahid Iqbal Choudary ordered closure of all 84 schools close to the border, from Sunderbani to Manjakote, for the next three days. Deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh said the administration had already evacuated people to safety. "There is heavy firing and shelling going on along the LoC in my Nowshera assembly constituency," he said.

Apart from Kundu, others who died were identified as riflemen Ram Avtar and Shubam Singh, and havaldar Roshan Lal. Another soldier, Niak Iqbal Ahmed, is being treated for his injuries in hospital.

Official sources said the Pakistani army opened unprovoked fire on the Army's 15 J&K Light Infantry posts in the Bhimber Gali sector on Sunday. "The Indian Army retaliated strongly and effectively, and heavy damage has been inflicted on Pakistani posts," an Army spokesperson said, vowing "a befitting response".

Officer was 6 days short of 23rd b'day

Captain Kapil Kundu, who was killed in Pakistani shelling along the LoC on Sunday, was six days short of his 23rd birthday, a senior Army official said. Captain Kundu was from Ransika village in Gurgaon district.

Full report at:



Ludhiana Civic Polls: Give us 12 tickets, Muslims urge Congress

February 5, 2018

MEMBERS OF the Muslim community Sunday raised a demand of at least 12 tickets from the Congress for the Ludhiana Municipal Corporation polls scheduled for February 24. Addressing a pres conference at Jama Masjid in Ludhiana, Shahi Imam Punjab Maulana Habib-ur-Rahman said Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh and Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu should ensure that at least 12 tickets from six urban constituencies of Ludhiana (two each from north, central, east, west, south and Atam Nagar) are given to them. He added that the Muslim community had supported the Congress for long and now they should be given representation by the party to contest the Ludhiana civic polls. He added that their demand for tickets in 12 of 95 wards was “genuine”. “We have written to the CM in this regard,” he added.





Pakistan prime minister says country put on right track, progress linked with democracy

February 4, 2018

CHITRAL: Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Sunday said the country had been put on right track and the journey of development would go on if the democratic system continued.

Addressing the inauguration ceremony of the first power unit of Gollen Gol Hydropower Project here, the prime minister said the power and gas crises had been resolved and the erstwhile falling ratio of economic growth was now on surge.

“Pakistan has been put on right track. Now you have again to decide in July (elections). This (development) process would continue if you make a right decision. You have the powers to make these decisions. This is the democracy. This is the representation. This is the course of country’s development,” he remarked after unveiling the plaque of the project.

The prime minister was accompanied by MNA from Chitral Shahzada Iftikharuddin and senior officials as he unveiled the project.

The total installed generation capacity of the project is 108MW with three generating units — each of them having a capacity of 36MW. The first unit has been completed, while the second and the third unit would be commissioned in March and May 2018 respectively. This quantum of electricity is three times more than the present requirements of Chitral, and will also cater for the surge in electricity demand in future.

The prime minister assured the people that the project would first meet the needs of the whole of Chitral area and only the surplus electricity would be supplied to other areas.

He said no doubt, Chitral would now become load-shedding free area as the project would be capable to meet Chitral’s needs even during the drought season.

Abbasi, who wore Pakol, a traditional Chitrali cap, said the Pakistan Muslim League-N had carried out record development works in Chitral such as the development of Lowari Tunnel, Gollen Gol power project and inclusion of the area in China Pakistan Economic Corridor.

He said it was the PML-N government that spent Rs28 billion to complete the Lowari Tunnel project that had been lingering for the last 42 years after Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto launched it in 1973.

“This is the difference between the government which delivers and the ones merely making tall claims, unveiling plaques or making false commitments,” he added.

He said after construction of road from Gilgit to Chitral under CPEC, the travel duration from here to Islamabad would reduce to half — from 12 to 6 hours.

He said the government was striving to supply electricity even to the hilly areas and told the gathering that work on gas supply project to Chitral had also been initiated.

He said Chitral remained deprived of government funds in the past but the incumbent government proved its words by making up the deficiencies. The people’s decision to elect Nawaz Sharif as prime minister proved beneficial for them, he added.

The prime minister said Chitral had immense potential to generate around 12000MW but it would take time to exploit it.

Seeking public support for completion of the power project, the prime minister also assured the local MNA Shahzada Iftikharuddin to provide maximum funds to overhaul the power transmission system in the area. He also thanked the Chairman WAPDA, Chinese workers and Saudi Fund for the successful completion of the project.

Gollen Gol project would provide 436 million units of electricity to the national grid every year. Benefits of the project have been estimated at Rs3.7 billion per annum.

The approved PC-I cost of the project amounts to Rs29 billion. In addition to WAPDA’s own sources, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Saudi Fund for Development, Kuwait Development Fund and Opec Fund for International Development had also been providing financial assistance for completion of the project.



Strong Pak-China ties essential for regional peace, stability: Siraj

Feb 5, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing called on Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Pakistan chief Senator Sirajul Haq in the federal capital on Sunday and exchanged views with him on Pakistan-China relations, the Kashmir issue, and the current situation in Afghanistan.

At the over two hours meeting, the Chinese envoy extended an invitation to the JI chief to visit his country. The two leaders also had lunch together.

JI deputy chief Mian Muhammad Aslam, Deputy Secretary General Muhammad Asghar and JI Foreign Wing chief Abdul Ghaffar Aziz was also present on the occasion.

Welcoming the Chinese ambassador, the JI chief said that strong Pak-China ties were essential not only for the people of the two countries but for the peace and stability of the region.

He said that long-term Chinese plans like the CPEC could give a positive direction to the whole world. He assured the envoy that all conspiracies against the CPEC would be foiled through the mutual trust and the cooperation of the people of the two countries.

Senator Sirajul Haq said that as Muslims, the JI desired the goodwill of every human being as Islam had a message of peace for every individual. He said that certain world powers were trying to disfigure Islam’s beautiful face and message based on justice and, unfortunately, some of the Muslims were also misled by such conspiracies. However, he was confident that all conspiracies and baseless propaganda against Islam would fail.

The JI chief said that the Kashmiri Muslims had been facing Indian atrocities for the last seventy years. India had used every form of repression but had failed to crush the Kashmiris’ love for freedom and their demand for the right of self-determination. He appealed to the Chinese envoy to endeavour for the solution of the Kashmir issue with the support of the world community and other world powers.

Full report at:



Chinese bidders fight over Quetta safe city project

Khaleeq Kiani

February 05, 2018

ISLAMABAD: A much delayed Rs3 billion strategic project to secure the Balochistan capital from terrorism and smuggling appears to have become a turf war between two Chinese contractors and their influential supporters.

Sources said the former chief minister Sanaullah Zehri had approved the award of the contract to the ‘lowest evaluated bidder’ — Huawei consortium — on the expert advice of the procurement regulatory authority.

The provincial bureaucracy sat on the approval for around two weeks and is reported to have persuaded new Chief Minister, Abdul Quddus Bizenjo, to overturn the decision and has issued a letter of intent (LoI) to the ‘bidder with lowest price’ — ZTE consortium.

Both the chief ministers took their respective decisions on the same summary. “The ongoing saga of the award of contract for the execution of Quetta Safe City Project is setting a new standard in terms of influence peddling and stretching of procurement rules,” according to an official who has been part of the selection process spread over 18 months.

The project envisaged about 1,400 security cameras, three scanners on main city entrances, 300km fibre optic cable, 260 poles and integrated security control rooms with hardware and screens.

The two parties, vested interests, bureaucracy and political leadership have been fighting over the project since 2016, causing an inordinate delay and a series of security incidents in Quetta over the last year.

The terms of reference (ToR) for Quetta Safe City were issued in September 2016 to selected public sector entities and their international technical partners as required under the Balochistan Public Procure­ment Regulatory Authority (BPRA) Rules. The parties included ZTE with SCO, National Electronic Complex (Necop), National Tele­communication Company (NTC), Huawei with National Radio Transmission Company (NRTC) and HKH and Army Welfare Trust (AWT).

Necop and NTC decided not to participate. The remaining bids were submitted on Sept 30, 2016. The Balochistan government appointed Nespak as the principal consultant that utilised the specialised services of a UK-based consulting firm — Red Tag. After four months of evaluation, AWT’s bid was disqualified on technical grounds.

Based on technical qualification, the financial bids of Huawei and ZTE consortiums were opened and the scores were collated and finalised on the basis of ‘Quality and Cost-Based Selection Method” as required under terms of reference of the BPRA rules. This required quality as the prime consideration and cost as secondary consideration and the firm with the highest combined / evaluated weighted score has to be declared winner.

The TOR laid out the scoring and evaluation criteria in accordance with Rule 34 (evaluation criteria) of the BPRA Rules, accorded 80 per cent weightage to technical and 20pc to the financial bid. On the basis of combined scores of 86.48, Huawei-NRTC consortium scored the highest marks while the ZTE-SCO achieved the second position by scoring 76.80.

As the lobbying intensified, the results were not announced as ZTE group supported the lowest financial bid while Huawei group claimed combined best scores on the basis of the bidding criteria.

Instead of adhering to the procurement rules that prohibit further negotiations and seek declaration of the winner on the basis of the competitive bidding process, the Balochistan government directed the two consortiums to submit revised financial bids. Yet again, based on the revised bids, the Huawei consortium achieved the highest evaluated score.

Because of intense debate, the provincial government approached BPRA for certain clarifications. The BPRA clarified that since the basis of the bidding was clearly laid out to be quality, the party scoring the highest aggregate marks (technical and financial) was the winner. It also said the selection criteria couldn’t be changed after submission of the bids and during the evaluation process.

Accordingly, the winner is the party achieving the highest score in compliance with the laid out scoring criteria and not necessarily the party with the lowest bid price, the BPRA noted on quoting the evaluation criteria and other terms and conditions set forth in the bidding document.

Notwithstanding unambiguous clarification by the BPRA, the Balochistan chief secretary proposed two options to the former chief minister. One, the project should be awarded to Huawei-NRTC on the basis of overall high score of 84.01 but with higher bid price of Rs2.96bn. Second, the project be given to ZTE-SCO with a low price of Rs2.28bn, but a lower evaluated score.

In view of legal clarifications by the BPRA, the former chief minister approved the Huawei-NRTC for contract award on November 3 last year, although it was financially expensive but technically stronger.

The bureaucracy did not issue the LoI for two months to the approved bidder.

Full report at:



Eight killed in clash between two tribes in Chagai district

Saleem Shahid

February 05, 2018

QUETTA: Eight people were killed and two others injured in a clash between members of two tribes in Barabcha area, close to Pak-Afghan border and some 80km west of Dalbandin town of Chagai district, on Sunday.

Among the dead included six Afghan refugees belonging to Noorzai tribe of Afghanistan.

Official sources said that the clash was the outcome of a dispute between Muhammad Hasni and Noorzai tribes over the ownership of a piece of land in the area.

“The two tribes had a dispute over the ownership of a piece of land in Barabcha, a locality near the Pak-Afghan border,” Dalbandin Assistant Commissioner Habibullah Musakhail said.

He said elders of the two tribes exchanged hot words during a jirga convened a day earlier for resolving the issue.

Sources said that during the jirga armed Afghan refugees belonging to Noorzai tribe opened fire on the people of Muhammad Hasni tribe, leaving two of them injured.

On Sunday morning, armed men of the two tribes attacked each other’s positions with sophisticated weapons, the sources said, adding that the exchange of fire continued for about an hour.

“Six Afghan refugees of Noorzai tribe and two tribesmen of Muhammad Hasni tribe were killed in the firing,” confirmed Chagai Deputy Commissioner Imran Ibrahim.

“Heavy weapons were used by both sides during the exchange of fire,” a Levies official said.

He said after receiving information about the clash Levies and Frontier Corps personnel cordoned off the area. They shifted the bodies and the injured to the district hospital in Dalbadin.

“We have received eight bodies and two injured,” officials of the King Fahad hospital said, adding that the deceased had received multiple bullet wounds.

Though the opposing tribesmen stopped attacking each other’s opposition after the security personnel had cordoned off the area, they were present in their bunkers.

The Chagai deputy commissioner said that efforts were under way to get the bunkers vacated by the armed tribesmen.

The deceased were identified as Haji Abdul Baqi Mohammad Hasni, his son Abdul Wali, Muhammad Nabi Noorzai, Haji Toor Noorzai, Abdul Bari Noorzai, Sardar Sher Agha, Mohammad Ashraf and Obaidullah Noorzai.

Full report at:



Pak-Afghan border management key to check terror: Asif

February 05, 2018

ISLAMABAD - Minister for Foreign Affairs Khawaja Muhammad Asif Sunday said Pakistan and Afghanistan border management was very essential for controlling terrorism in two countries.

Talking to a private news channel, the minister said circumstances were totally changed now and Pakistan could not open its border with Afghanistan like 40 years before. Both the countries should cooperate with each other and work together for eradicating terrorism, he added.

He pointed out that almost 70 percent area of Afghanistan was not under the control of its government and terrorist organisations and Taliban were moving freely there. The foreign minister maintained that Afghanistan and international community should play their role for returning the Afghan refugees to their homeland from Pakistan.

Replying to a question, he said evidences provided by the Afghan government regarding Swat incident were not credible, adding that peace had established in Swat for many years and people of the area were moving there without any fear.

He said some people were not in favour of establishing durable peace in Pakistan and Afghanistan and wanted to create confrontations between both the countries. He said a peaceful Afghanistan was in favour of Pakistan, adding his country wanted peaceful resolution of Afghanistan issue.

SWA journalists visit ISPR

Journalists from South Wazirstan Agency (SWA) on Sunday visited Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) in Rawalpindi and interacted with Director General ISPR, Major General Asif Ghafoor.

According to a statement issued by ISPR, the journalists shared their feedback on security situation in SWA and development work undertaken by the Pakistan army. The DG ISPR briefed them about on the ground situation followed by an interactive session.

Full report at:



Despite MMA revival, JI, JUI-F to contest Senate polls separately

February 05, 2018

ISLAMABAD -  Despite revival of Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal, the key component parties of the alliance, Jamaat-i-Islami and Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam (Fazl) would not be joining hands in the upcoming Senate elections as both the parties are separately engaged in negotiations with the main stakeholders.

Sources in both the JUI-F and the JI informed The Nation that it was not made binding on the MMA component parties to support each other in the upcoming Senate elections so they were all weighing their options separately.

These sources, however, said that soon after the Senate elections the component parties of the MMA would quit their other political alliances such as the JUI-F would part ways with the ruling PML-N, while the JI would quit the alliance with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

JI Central Secretary General Liaquat Baloch informed The Nation that there was no compulsion on the MMA component parties to join hands in the upcoming Senate elections but if some parties considered joining hands with each other they could contest these elections jointly.

Baloch said that both the JUI-F and the JI were weighing their options for the upcoming Senate elections separately but so far there was no decision to jointly contest these elections, especially from the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

The JUI-F, currently holding the Leader of Opposition slot in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, has a strength of 16 in the house of 124, while the JI sitting in coalition government with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has seven MPAs.

The JUI-F is right now engaged in talks on the upcoming Senate elections with the Pakistan People’s Party-Parliamentarians and other main opposition party, Qaumi Watan Party, but its chances to engage the JI in alliance could not be ruled out.

On the other hand, the JI has yet to decide to land in the upcoming Senate elections with the PTI or would carve out some fresh arrangement with the JUI-F or some other opposition party.

Parliamentary sources said that in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa all the stakeholders in the provincial assembly were also engaged in back-channel contact to devise some strategy to evolve mutually acceptable mechanism for the Senate elections to avoid much-expected horse-trading.

Previously too, the PPPP with just six MPAs in the house had managed to secure a seat in these elections obviously by managing the votes from some other parties through some underhand deal, as for securing a general seat in these elections the party require at least 17 votes.

In the past too, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz had evolved a strategy in alliance with the ruling PTI to check horse-trading and to a great extend they had managed it and avoid massive trading of money in these elections.

Parliamentary sources said that almost all the main political parties had annoyed MPs in their ranks, for whom, defection from the party line at this stage would be quite easy as the mandated terms of government would be expiring in a few months following the Senate elections.

Full report at:



South Asia


Taliban leader in charge of recruitment arrested with another insurgent

Feb 05 2018

A Taliban local leader who was in charge of the recruitment of fighters has been arrested along with another militant in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

The governor’s office in Nangarhar in a statement said the two Taliban group members were arrested during the separate operations of the Afghan intelligence operatives.

The statement further added that Taliban’s recruitment chief Mawlavi Rafiullah was arrested from the vicinity of the 4th police district of Jalalabad city.

According to the provincial government, Mawlavi Rafiullah is originally a resident of Khogyani district of Nangarhar.

In another operation conducted in Shirzad district, a member of the Taliban group identified as Mullah Sabir was arrested by the security forces.

Mullah Sabir was actively involved in destructive activities in Shirzad district, the statement said, adding that the two detainees have confessed to their crimes.

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

This comes as operations are underway in various parts of Nangarhar province to suppress the anti-government armed militant groups.

The 201st Silab Corps said Saturday that nine insurgents affiliated with the Islamic State terror group were killed during the air and ground operations in Achin district.



Maldives president declares war on SC, court seeks India help

Sachin Parashar

Feb 5, 2018

NEW DELHI: The Maldives was teetering on the brink of military rule on Sunday with the Abdulla Yameen government looking to stifle the country's supreme court.

Highly placed sources in the Maldivian apex court, even as they beseeched India and other democratic countries for help+ , told TOI that Yameen was looking to sack SC judges, including chief justice Abdulla Saeed, by filing false cases against them.

"The chief of judicial administration, Hasan Saeed, had his home raided on bribery charges and judges are being intimidated. We need India to take tough measures to ensure that rule of law is implemented in the Maldives," a top source in the SC told TOI.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was closely involved with the SC ruling which ordered the release of all political prisoners+ , including Mohammed Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected president. The Indian mission in Male, according to sources in New Delhi, was in touch with "all relevant agencies" involved in the crisis.

Things took a turn for the worse in the morning as the country's police chief and the Maldives National Defence Force announced they were going to take orders from attorney general Mohamed Anil and not the SC.

But later in the evening, the SC dealt another blow to Yameen, asking him to comply with its order to release political prisoners and reinstate dissident lawmakers because their trials were "politically motivated and flawed".

'Yameen fooling international community'

The attorney general accused the SC of preparing to impeach Yameen and said such a move would not just be illegal but also be resisted by the government.

Anil said Yameen's removal from office by the court would plunge the country into a "national security crisis". The top court had last week ordered the release of all political prisoners.

However, even three days after the ruling, Yameen has not moved to free the prisoners. The ruling had also reinstated 12 MPs, giving the joint opposition led by Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party a clear majority in parliament.

A top SC official told TOI that an attempt was being made by the government to overhaul the judiciary. He said the SC was troubled by the manner in which the Yameen government had been misleading the international community for the past 3-4 years.

"The foreign minister, Mohamed Asim, has been telling world leaders that the Yameen government only implements orders from the judiciary. He is only fooling them by saying these things.

The fact is that all cases against the jailed leaders were found politically motivated and the ruling makes that point very clearly," the official said.

Full report at:



Clash among Lashkar-e-Islam and ISIS leaves 9 dead in Nangarhar

Feb 05 2018

A clash has taken place between the Lashkar-e-Islami militants and loyalists of the Islamic State terrorist group in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

The 201st Silab Corps said the incident took place in the vicinity of Mamand Dara area of Achin district leaving nine militants dead from both sides.

The Silab Corps in a statement said at least three Lashkar-e-Islami and six ISIS militants were among those killed.

The statement further added that three Lashkar-e-Islam and four ISIS militants have also sustained injuries during the clash.

The ISIS loyalists have not commented regarding the clash with the Lashkar-e-Islam militants so far.

The latest clash takes place amid ongoing counter-terrorism operations against ISIS and militants affiliated with the other insurgent and terrorist groups.

Nangarhar has been among the relatively calm provinces since the fall of the Taliban regime but the militant and terrorist groups have been attempting to expand their foothold during the recent years.

Full report at:



Bangladeshi loses legs as mine explodes on Myanmar border

Feb. 04, 2018

DHAKA: A Bangladeshi farmer lost both legs when he stepped on a landmine reportedly planted by Myanmar security forces in a buffer zone between the two countries, officials said Sunday.

The incident happened near the southern Bangladesh border town of Naikhongchari Saturday when Badiur Rahman crossed into the zone.

"His cow strayed inside the Myanmar border in no-man's land. He accidently stepped on a mine when he went there to fetch the cow," Sarwar Kamal said, a local government administrator.

The 45-year-old was rushed to a local clinic and later moved to hospital in the southern port city of Chittagong.

"His condition is very critical," Marjia Khatun said, a nurse.

Bangladesh border officials accuse Myanmar security forces of planting mines along border areas.

Border Guard Bangladesh Commander Anwarul Azim said the area where Saturday's incident happened was unfenced and grazing cows very often strayed across.

"The Myanmar army planted those mines a while ago. Rahman accidentally stepped on one of those and lost both his legs," he told AFP.

Myanmar troops have been accused of waging an ethnic cleansing campaign against the country's Rohingya Muslim minority, nearly 700,000 of whom have fled to Bangladesh since last August.

Rights activists say the mines are aimed at preventing the refugees from returning to their villages.

"By planting these mines, the Myanmar army is trying to ensure that the Rohingya refugees would never try to return home," said Bangladeshi rights activist Nur Khan Liton.

"They don't care whether they are breaching international law," Liton said, adding that such acts were "crimes against humanity".

Full report at:



Ex-Afghan intelligence chief banned from leaving country: Mehwar

Feb 04 2018

The Mehwar Peoples Party of Afghanistan has claimed that the government has banned one of the members of the leadership council of the party and the ex-intelligence chief Rahmatullah from leaving the country.

The party in a statement said the government of national unity has issued an order putting a ban on Mr. Nabil from leaving the country.

The statement further adds that the order has been released at a time when Mr. Nabil is based outside the country and is scheduled to return back to Afghanistan in the near future.

The Mehwar Peoples Party in statement added that Nabil will return to Afghanistan to continue to continue to his campaign for the realization of the rule of law in the country.

According to the party, the recent decision by the government against Nabil has links with his steps and remarks against the military intelligence of the Pakistani military and the current government.

The party in its statement also adds that Mr. Nabil had in the past released several documents proving the interference of Pakistani military and intelligence interference in Afghanistan as well as the systematic interference of the leaders of the current government in the 2014 presidential elections.

Full report at:



Taliban’s shadow district chief Mullah Zabiullah killed in Faryab

Feb 04 2018

The shadow district governor of the Taliban group for Khwajah Namosi district Mullah Zabiullah has been killed during the operations of the Afghan national defense and security forces in northern Faryab province.

The 209th Shaheen Corps in the North said at least 13 insurgents including Zabiullah were killed during the ongoing Naveed-8 operations.

According to the Shaheen Corp, the operations were conducted in Qura Sheikhi area and as a result at least nine insurgents were also wounded.

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

The Shaheen Corps on Saturday said at least eleven insurgents were killed in the airstrikes conducted by the Afghan Air Force (AAF) in northern Faryab province.

The 209th Shaheen Corps in the North said the airstrikes were carried out as part of the ongoing Naveed-8 operations in this province.

A statement by the Shaheen Corps said the militants were targeted in the vicinity of Khwajah Sabs district and as a result at least five militants were also wounded.

Full report at:



UN: Rohingya crisis could endanger regional security

5 February 2018

JAKARTA, Indonesia: The UN’s human rights chief has warned that Myanmar’s persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority has the potential to spark regional conflict.

Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein reiterated while in Indonesia on Monday that acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing may have occurred in the campaign of violence against Rohingya that sparked an exodus of nearly 1 million people to neighboring Bangladesh.

“Myanmar faces a very serious crisis with a potentially severe impact on the security of the region,” Zaid said in a speech to a rights conference at Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“It is sometimes said that today’s human rights violations will become tomorrow’s conflicts,” he said. “If the Rohingya crisis were to spark a broader conflict based on religious identities, the ensuing disputes could be a cause for great alarm.”

Zeid said the spasms of violence that began in August and sparked the refugee crisis were the culmination of five decades of discrimination and violence against Rohingya in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

The government of predominantly Buddhist Myanmar denies any atrocities have taken place and insists Rohingya are illegal immigrants.

Zeid also expressed concern about the deteriorating state of democracy in Asia even as countries in the region become wealthier.

On the pretext of protecting public security, numerous governments are cracking down on freedom of expression and attacking the independence of the court system and independence of the press, he said.

Full report at:



Why No Mention of Radical Islam in the State of the Union?

February 5, 2018

President Trump’s first State of the Union contained a lot of talk about “terrorism,” ISIS, and Guantanamo Bay, but not a word about radical Islamism.

“Radical Islamist ideology” was the language used less than six weeks earlier when his administration’s first national security strategy was unveiled. This strategy document boldly declares radical Islamism “evil” and “barbaric,” calling advocates for a global Islamist caliphate “totalitarian” and “fanatics.” It has an entire section entitled “Defeat Jihadist Terrorists.”

The discrepancy suggests there is some uncertainty, even within the Trump administration, about how much to emphasize ideology and how best to beat radical Islamists in the war of ideas.

It cannot be seriously denied that radical interpretations of Islam have driven America’s most pressing adversaries in recent years. From Al-Qaeda to Iran’s Islamic Republic and the Muslim Brotherhood (which explicitly declared America an enemy in January), Islamists see the fight with America and the West in ideological terms. Democracy is the enemy, Islamic theocracy in some form or another is the goal. Before his death, Osama bin Laden explicitly stated that his goal was to remove America from a position of leadership in the world.

Yet for the past 30 years, the ideological dimension of conflict between America and its rivals has been treated tepidly by policymakers.

This wasn’t always the case. Ronald Reagan built his political career on challenging communist ideology with the ideal of liberty. Communism, he said in his 1986 State of the Union address, “openly proclaims and practices an alleged right to command people’s lives and to export its ideology by force.” His 1987 National Security Strategy made clear that “Marxist-Leninist ideology” was among the “principle threats to U.S. interests” and was rife with discussion of the underlying ideological struggle, citing “fundamental differences in… beliefs” between America and its communist rivals.

But as the Cold War waned, so did America’s focus on the ideological dimension of conflict. By 1990, the first Bush administration was describing communism as a threat that was in the process of unraveling. By 1994, the Clinton administration was referring to communism as a relic of the past. Radical Islam was not yet seen as a serious problem.After 9/11, many in Washington appreciated that Islamism was a serious problem. However, fearing that challenging an ideology so closely entwined with the Islamic faith risked alienating the broader Muslim community at home and abroad, the second Bush administration cast the fight against Al-Qaeda and other violent jihadist groups as a “war on terror.” Ideology was discounted as a primary motivation off the “terrorists.”

The Obama administration doubled down on the view that radical Islam was not a problem worth mentioning if it offended anyone, going so far as to purge FBI training materials that might be disagreeable to some Muslims, such as those discussing jihad. In point of fact, it is demonstrably untrue that Muslims don’t share our concerns about radicals within their midst. Indeed, Muslims recognize the ideological conflict within Islam more than most. For example, Maajid Nawaz, a former radical who spent 6 years in prison, now works full-time to counter radical interpretations of Islam. Even President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt has called out extremist clerics in his own country for preaching radical versions of Islam. As Daniel Pipes puts it, “radical Islam is the problem, moderate Islam is the solution.”

This alternate approach has gained considerable currency, crystalized in the 2016 election, when then candidate Donald Trump, former Presidential candidate Ted Cruz, and even Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton discussed radical Islamism in much more explicit terms.

Trump subsequently became the first American president to recognize radical Islam as a paramount national security threat, though he has failed at times to emphasize meaningful distinctions between moderate Muslims and radicals.

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