New Age Islam
Fri Mar 01 2024, 07:31 AM

Islamic World News ( 26 March 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Comment | Comment

British-Pakistani Murdered By Fellow Muslim for Posting Easter Message

New Age Islam News Bureau

26 March 2016

Nahdlatul Ulema (NU) chairman Said Agil Siradj (right) sits next to NU rais am (supreme leader) Ma'ruf Amien at the muktamar (national congress) on August 5, 2015 where they were elected as the new leaders of the country's largest Muslim organization


 Nahdat ul Ulema to Gather Global Islamic Figures to End Misinterpretation of Jihad

 ISIS' Attempt to Topple US Economy 'Failing' As Reliance on American Dollars Increases



 British-Pakistani Murdered By Fellow Muslim for Posting Easter Message

Scotland Imam Praises Taseer's Killer

 Russia-Turkey rift temporary, Moscow official says


Southeast Asia

 NU to Gather Global Islamic Figures to End Misinterpretation of Jihad

 Islamic State A Growing Threat To East Asia, Including Japan: Defence Review


Arab World

 ISIS' Attempt to Topple US Economy 'Failing' As Reliance on American Dollars Increases

 At Least 32 Killed As ISIL Suicide Bomber Hits Football Game in Iraq

 Syrian Army Wins Back Key Area in Palmyra

 Iraqi Forces Repel ISIL's Suicide Attacks on Key Military Base in Anbar Province

 Iraqi Forces Close to Winning Back Key Village in Mosul

 Syrian Army Cuts Terrorists' Quaryatayn-Palmyra Supply Route

 FSA Drives out Rival Terrorists from Key Region in Dara'a Province

 ISIL's Recapture of Palmyra's Ancient Castle Rejected

 Homs: Syrian Army Wins Back Key Villages, Buildings

 Deir Ezzur: ISIL's Military Positions Razed Down by Syrian Army, Air Force

 In Lebanon, Ban prasies country's generosity towards Syrian refugees


North America

 Why There Are Muslim Ghettos In Belgium, But Not In The US

 Military Officials Pushing For Increase In US Troops In Iraq

 A Real Strategy for Fighting the Islamic State

 Trump rounds on Muslims in the US and Europe



 Anti-Daesh Strategy Failing, Senior Turkish Aide Says

 Over 300 soldiers killed, 10 times more PKK militants killed: Erdoğan

 Turkey Slams Greek Cyprus over New Hydrocarbon Bid

 Turkish President Erdoğan: Belgium should account for intelligence failures

 Turkish President Erdoğan slams foreign envoys at journalists' trial

 Israeli rights group releases Palestinian execution video

 Russia's propaganda war against Turkey

 Dubai chief: Palestine should be a bi-national state

 Rouhani: Iran Committed to Meeting Pakistan’s Energy Needs

 Iran, Pakistan Taking Annual Trade to $5bln

 Rouhani Calls for Unity to Resolve Regional Issues

 Iran Denies Cyber Attacks on US Banks



 Pak's Claim of Arresting RAW Operative ‘Nonsense’: Tarek Fatah

 Kerala Nurse and Son Killed in Shell Attack in Libya’s Sabratha City

 In an ‘Airlift’ Like Operation, Jet Airways Helps Evacuate 242 Indian Passengers from Brussels


South Asia

 Russian Envoy Estimates Isis Has 10,000 Loyalists In Afghanistan

 15 Taliban Insurgents Arrested For Planning Suicide Attacks In Kandahar

 20 Afghan military students sent to US for aviation trainings

 One wounded as heavy explosion rocks Kabul city



 Gen Raheel Discusses RAW's Involvement in Balochistan with Rouhani

 Pakistan stands by victims of terror attacks across the globe’



 Ugandan Muslims Condemn Hostility to Interest-Free Banking

 15,000 Muslims gather in South Africa for Ijtema


Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




British-Pakistani Murdered By Fellow Muslim for Posting Easter Message

By News Desk

March 26, 2016

A British-Pakistani shopkeeper in Glasgow succumbed to his wounds after being stabbed by a fellow Muslim on Thursday for posting social media messages wishing his customers a happy Easter.

Asad Shah, 40, was stabbed 30 times by a Muslim man wearing a long religious robe, according to Daily Mail. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital after being found seriously injured in Minard Road, Shawlands.

Former imam found ‘murdered’ in London

“Good Friday and very happy Easter, especially to my beloved Christian nation x!” the 40-year-old had posted from an account that appears to be his.

A 32-year-old Muslim man suspected of being behind the attack has been arrested. The police are treating it as a “religiously prejudiced” attack.

People have been taking part in a silent vigil in memory of Shah photo: BBC

Tributes poured in for Shah, with flowers being placed at the scene as people took part in a silent vigil in memory of the shopkeeper.

Residents expressed shock and sadness at Shah’s death, describing him as a ‘gentleman’. Brothers Qaiser and Omar Khan said they knew Shah well and had repaired his cars in the past. They described him as “a humble, sweet person.”

London ‘more Islamic’ than Muslim world: Pakistan-born Islamic scholar

Messages and flowers were placed at the scene of the vigil PHOTO: BBC

“I’ve known him since I was a wee boy so this is shocking news. He was a very straight-forward, humble person who was very good with his customers. He cared about his family a lot,” Omar said.

Another local, Isabella Graham, 64, said Shah employed her daughter at the shop when she was younger. “He was an amazing, wonderful man, he couldn’t do enough for you. He wouldn’t hurt anybody. Nobody in Shawlands would have a bad word to say about him. I can’t believe he’s gone.”

Several people from all faiths took to Twitter to pay tribute to Shah using the hashtag  #thisisnotwhoweare:



Nahdlat Ul Ulema to Gather Global Islamic Figures to End Misinterpretation of Jihad

Sat, March 26 2016

 Nahdlat ul Ulema (NU) chairman Said Agil Siradj (right) sits next to NU rais am (supreme leader) at the Muktamar (national congress) on August 5, 2015 where they were elected as the new leaders of the country's largest Muslim organization.

Nahdatul Ulema (NU) chairman Said Agil Siradj (right) sits next to NU rais am (supreme leader) Ma'ruf Amien at the Muktamar (national congress) on August 5, 2015 where they were elected as the new leaders of the country's largest Muslim organization.

Indonesia’s Nahdatul Ulema (NU), the largest Islamic organization in the most populated country in South East Asia, is set to hold an international summit of moderate Islamic leaders to establish the contextual interpretation of jihad in the 21st century.

Scheduled for May 9 to 11 in Jakarta, it will be the first international summit initiated by NU, in an attempt to disseminate tolerant teachings of Islam to counter the rise of extreme ideologies disguised as Islamic teaching.

"The moderate Ulema are all against that [radical interpretation of Islam]. Therefore, we want to make a covenant on the interpretation of jihad that, hopefully, will prevent more misinterpretations in the future," said Masduki Baidlowi, a steering committee member, on Wednesday evening.

The urgency to address the issue, he underlined, was because some extremist groups had misinterpreted the definition of jihad. They went outside the context of Islamic teaching and put a whole different context to support their groups’ causes.

The interpretation made by the Islamic State (IS) movement, combined with its Takfiri doctrine had harmed Islam and even resulted in Islamophobia around the world, Baidlowi said. Takfiri is a radical Wahhabi dogma that views non-adherents, including Muslims, as infidels and liable to be killed.

Islam Nusantara, the tolerant concept of Islam with an Indonesian spirit, according to Baidlowi, was the interpretation of moderate Islam that would function as the medicine to eradicate radicalism and terrorism.

NU first introduced the concept of Islam Nusantara in 2015 through a campaign in Jombang, Central Java, aimed at creating a unique and genuine identity for Indonesian moderate Muslims that is different from Muslim societies in the Middle East.

Maksum Mahfoedz, NU's deputy chairman who will serve as the summit's chairman, said there were people who interpreted jihad as killing the infidels and based their argument on the fact that Prophet Muhammad used to go to war.

"Jihad means we give all of our lives to our spiritual journey. That does not correlate with killing people," he told

Ideally, people should interpret the word jihad in accordance with prevailing conditions and in fact, relating jihad to war in this era is wrong since the situation today, socially and politically, is different from the era of Prophet Muhammad, Mahfoedz said.

According to him, the current misunderstanding of jihad that involved a bloodbath to establish a caliphate contravened the main spirit of Islam as Rahmatan lil alamin (a blessing for the universe).

Therefore the outcome of the summit, called the Jakarta Declaration, would articulate the real interpretation of jihad in today's life, where the definition would be settled without involving any political desires, Mahfoedz said.

With about 300 active participants, the summit has invited not only ulema from 40 Islamic countries, but also a number of government officials such as Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, and the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) chief Insp. Gen. Tito Karnavian.

The summit has also invited experts from all around the world namely IS expert Nico Proca from the University of Vienna, the former Grand Mufti of Egypt Sheikh Ali Gomaa, Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus from Bangladesh, and the presidential envoy to the Middle East and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Alwi Shihab. (ags)


ISIS' Attempt to Topple US Economy 'Failing' As Reliance on American Dollars Increases

Lizzie Dearden

Mar 26, 2016

ISIS' attempt to end "America's capitalist financial system of enslavery" with its own currency appears to have failed as the terrorist group relies increasingly on US dollars.

Activists living in its Syrian stronghold of Raqqa report that jihadists are now demanding fines handed out for everything from repairing televisions to smoking are paid in the American currency, rather than the Syrian pound or its own "dinar".

Militants hailed impending "world domination" last year as they claimed to launch gold, silver and copper coins, with staged propaganda videos showing them exchanged between fighters and shopkeepers.

The footage, which called the global economy "satanic", claimed the currency would spread to break "America's capitalist financial system of enslavery" and "purify the earth of the corruption that tainted it".

But the so-called Islamic State was already known to pay its recruits in dollars, sells oil and looted antiques for dollars, and accepts extorted taxation and hostage money in dollars.

Now, the anti-Isis group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently reports it is demanding the American currency from civilians for petty fines.

An undercover activist writing under the name Abu Mohammed drew up the following list of punishments:

Repairing televisions/satellite receivers $50 (£35) and 80 lashes

Smoking, per cigarette $25 (£18)

Traffic violations $25 (£18)

Violation of women's dress code $20 (£15)

Violation of male's dress code$20 (£15)

Failing to attend prayers $20 (£15)

Mr Mohammed said fined civilians are often punished phystically and forced to attend "re-education" courses.

His report quoted a young Raqqa resident named as Said Ali saying: "There are so many rules that you cannot escape - if it's not clothing, smoking or even fashion they will find questions to ask."

The man claimed that traffic police were given targets to hit for revenue, making them hand out fines regardless of whether they were deserved, and said the Al-Khansaa Brigade, Isis' all-women religious police force, was becoming ever harsher.

Mr Mohammed dismissed supposed dinar as a "mere lie and propaganda".

"Daesh (Isis) promoted the idea that it was hitting the US economy by issuing its own currency but the organisation on the ground is doing exactly the opposite, having built a financial system entirely dependent on the US dollar," he wrote.

The developments come as the international coalition bombing its territories in Iraq and Syria continues efforts to cut off the group's extensive revenue sources, which previously saw it hailed as the richest ever terrorist group.

Earlier this year Isis was reported to be cutting pay, bonuses, food rations perks and previously abundant treats for its fighters as the strategy appeared to start paying off.

A decree from its treasury, the "Bayt Mal al-Muslimeen" halved salaries for militants because of "exceptional circumstances" in January.

As the US-led coalition continues bombing oilfields, money stores and infrastructure, the penny-pinching appeared to have intensified the following month.

The Associated Press reported that Isis was trying to generate funds by offering to release prisoners for a price of $500 (£350) per head, as well as demanding that civilians living under its control in Raqqa pay their utility bills in dollars.

Propaganda encouraging potential recruits to travel to its territories in Iraq and Syria has previously focused on the quality of life, offering decent salaries, baby bonuses, homes and other benefits to new arrivals.

The group's increasing financial difficulties come as military operations intensify against its strongholds, including the ancient city of Palmyra, leading analysts to suggest that the Brussels attacks may signal Isis "lashing out".

The US-led coalition has been bombing the terrorist group's oil fields, supply lines and cash stores since October as part of Operation Tidal Wave II, and the treasury document released last month appeared to show it working.

American officials claimed that operations were already "putting significant damage on Isil's ability to fund itself" in November and vowed to "step up the attack".

When British planes extended operations from Iraq into Syria in December, Isis' Omar oilfields were the first target and Tornadoes and drones have returned to destroy attempted repairs.

A "cash distribution centre" reportedly used to pay fighters was also hit by US planes on 11 January near its Iraqi stronghold of Mosul, with footage showing clouds of money blown into the air.

General Lloyd Austin, head of the US Central Command, toldCNN it deprived the group of "millions of dollars".

"We are seeing our efforts having some effect on their financial flows." Lisa Monaco, President Barack Obama's counterterrorism adviser, told the AP.

"It's difficult to get a handle on just how much because of the different illicit ways in which they are handling their finances but you've seen the efforts that our military has taken to take out cash storage sites, and I think it is our hope and expectation that that will have demonstrable effects."



Southeast Asia


Islamic State a Growing Threat to East Asia, Including Japan: Defence Review


Fri Mar 25 2016

The Islamic State group is becoming a growing threat to East Asia, including Japan, highlighted by the kidnapping and killing of Japanese nationals, according to a defense review released Friday.

“The ISIL is threatening the security of East Asia, including Japan, by targeting the Asian people and Asian embassies in the Middle East, showing its ambition for territorial expansion, as well as recruiting foreign fighters from Asian countries,” the 2016 East Asia Strategic Review by the National Institute for Defense Studies Japan said, referring to the militant group’s previously known name, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Previous reviews mentioned the 2011 Arab Spring, but this is the first time the review, which has been published annually by the Defense Ministry’s core research arm since 1996, has allocated a chapter to IS, underscoring Japan’s increased interest in the terrorist group’s influence in Asia.

The report was released three days after Turkey detained a 23-year-old Japanese man suspected of trying to cross the border into Syria to join IS, in a rare case involving a Japanese national. The man was subsequently deported and arrived back in Japan Thursday night.

And it comes after a hostage video of Japanese journalist Jumpei Yasuda, who went missing after entering Syria last July, emerged earlier this month, although it is not clear who captured Yasuda.

An increasing number of Japanese are being targeted by IS.

Last year, the militant group executed two Japanese nationals — journalist Kenji Goto and private security contractor Haruna Yukawa — after a $2 million ransom demand was rejected. IS has also warned of attacks on Japanese embassies in Indonesia, Malaysia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The report noted that a Japanese college student planned a trip to Syria with intentions of joining IS in 2014.

The review also highlighted the group’s expansion into China by noting that its territorial claims seem to include the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region — a fact highlighted by Xinjiang’s Communist Party Secretary Zhang Chunxian who said last year that IS has been recruiting Uighurs.

Even though China has so far expressed no intention of joining the fight against IS, the report said that the extremist group posed a grave threat to China.

Meanwhile, the review also mentioned China’s rising military presence in the South China Sea, where it has been building massive man-made islands and deployed military assets such as surface-to-air missile launchers and radar.

The review noted that the issue there had evolved from territorial disputes between a number of ASEAN countries and China to a more pronounced standoff between the United States and Beijing.

The U.S., which has viewed China’s military presence in the waters as a potential threat to its national security, has conducted freedom of navigation operations through what China is claiming as its territorial waters within 12 nautical miles (22 km) of the man-made islands to keep China in check.

Yet the rise of IS and Russia’s increasing military intervention could potentially limit Washington’s focus on Asia, despite the U.S. emphasis on a pivot to the region.

The review said the U.S. has become more nervous about Russia, which annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, as well as Russia’s intervention in Syria.

The newly emerged Russian threat was also highlighted in the Quadrennial Defense Review in 2014, which said that “Russia’s multidimensional defense modernization and actions that violate the sovereignty of its neighbors present risks.”

The latest review emphasized that the situation surrounding IS and Russia’s intervention has escalated since the quadrennial report was published, implying that those changes could potentially affect the U.S. military posture, including in Asia.

Shinji Hyodo, editor-in-chief of the review, said that the U.S. might not be able to focus on Asia in as much detail when it has to face ongoing turmoil in the Middle East and Europe.

“It seems that the mutual strategic interest between the U.S. allies are not necessarily shared,” he said.





Scotland Imam Praises Taseer's Killer

March 26, 2016

GLASGOW: The imam of Scotland's biggest mosque glorified the actions of Mumtaz Qadri in messages sent out to the local Muslim community. according to a report by the BBC.

Imam Maulana Habib Ur Rehman wrote in messages, which were seen by BBC, that he is "disturbed" and "upset" at the news of Qadri's execution. He also wrote "rahmatullahi alaih" (may Allah's mercy be upon him), with the name of the convicted terrorist.

The cleric further said, "I cannot hide my pain today. A true Muslim was punished for doing which [sic] the collective will of the nation failed to carry out."

Mumtaz Qadri, an Elite Force commando was convicted of the 2011 murder of former Punjab governor Salman Taseer, and executed at the Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi on Feb 29 this year.

Qadri shot Taseer 28 times in broad daylight in Islamabad’s Kohsar Market on January 4, 2011. He was sentenced to death for assassinating Taseer on Oct 1 the same year.

Qadri said he killed Taseer over what he called the politician's vocal opposition to blasphemy laws of the country.

The cleric also drew comparison between Qadri's actions and the actions of the French resistance against Nazi occupation in World War II.

"Just when France was occupied by Nazies [sic], French did all they had to in order to protect their nation," he writes. "They were national heroes. Hanging Mumtaz Qadri has raised serious questions about Pakistan's independence. The issue is not of an individual. The issue is of national identity and Islamic spirit."

Rehman continued to raise questions about the way the Pakistani state dealt with Qadri's case.

"The fact that the nation chose to settle the issue of Reymond Davis [sic] by forcing his relatives to accept the blood money, and sending Mumtaz bhai [brother] to gallows is a source of grief and immense pain."

Central Intelligence Agency contractor Raymond Davis had shot dead two Pakistani men in Lahore in January 2011.

Davis was arrested over the killings, but set free after $2 million was paid in blood money to the families of his victims. His release was widely condemned within Pakistan.

The imam also refers to Qadri as "brother" and says that, by killing his employer whom he was paid to protect, Qadri was "carrying out the collective responsibility of the ummat," the Muslim nation as a whole and that his execution "is a collective failure of Pakistani Muslims".

Other members in the group questioned why the imam is speaking about a convicted murderer in such glowing terms, said the BBC, while another argued that Qadri took the law into his own hands and that he should not be made a hero for doing so.

The imam later clarified his messages had been taken out of context and that he was expressing his opposition to capital punishment, according to the BBC report.

Imam Maulana Habib Ur Rehman told the BBC, "The assassination of Salman Taseer is widely condemned. Whether I agree or disagree with the views he expressed, as an Imam and as a human being I express abhorrence at the manner in which he [Qadri] was executed."

"The execution was not in accordance with Islamic teachings and principles."

Rehman's remarks are the latest controversy to hit Glasglow's Central Mosque, which is the largest place of worship of any religion in Scotland, the report says.

The mosque's charity made a £50,000 donation to the Tablighi Jamaat considered by many as a controversial organisation and seven members members of its ruling committee have resigned after claims of intimidation and differences of opinion about the inclusion of female and non-Pakistani Muslims in the mosque's management.

The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) is investigating claims of financial irregularities at the charity which runs the mosque and what it calls an "unusual" bifurcated management structure, an executive committee which manages the charity and property trustees which manage the mosque building.



Russia-Turkey rift temporary, Moscow official says

March 26, 2016

MOSCOW – The breakdown in relations between Turkey and Russia is temporary, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said late Friday.

In a radio interview, Maria Zakharova was asked if the row between Moscow and Ankara was temporary. “Certainly,” she replied.

Russia imposed economic sanctions on Turkey following the shooting down of a Russian warplane over the Turkey-Syria border in November.



Arab World


At Least 32 Killed As ISIL Suicide Bomber Hits Football Game in Iraq

Sat Mar 26, 2016

The village of Al-Asriya, south of Baghdad, prepared on March 26 to bury its sons, killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up after a football tournament.

The attacker, who himself looks like a teenager on a photo distributed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) that claimed the attack, cut through the crowd when trophies were being presented.

"There are 32 dead and also 84 wounded, 12 of whom are in critical condition," an official in Babil province health directorate told AFP.

"Seventeen of those killed are boys aged between 10 and 16," the official said.

The village of Al-Asriya lies near Iskandariyah, a town about 40 kilometers south of the capital.

The bomber detonated his suicide vest late afternoon on March 25 as local officials were handing trophies to the players after a local tournament.

A video posted on social media shows a local official speaking in front of a table covered with trophies and calling out the name of a player before a huge blast.

The footage cuts off with a big flash of yellow light.

"The suicide bomber cut through the crowd to approach the center of the gathering and blew himself up as the mayor was presenting awards to the players," Ali Nashmi, an 18-year-old eyewitness, told AFP.

The mayor, Ahmed Shaker, was among the dead, as was one of his bodyguards and at least five members of the security forces.

Pictures posted on social media of the blast site showed mangled goal posts smeared with blood.

The United States state department extended its condolences to the bereaved in a statement, as did the United Nations special envoy to Iraq.

"Pictures posted on social media of the blast site showed mangled goal posts smeared with blood," Jan Kubis said in a statement.

ISIL has been losing territory steadily in Iraq for almost a year.

In the most recent operations, Iraqi forces have been gaining ground in the western province of Anbar and have just begun their reconquest of the province of Nineveh.

Observers have warned that, as their self-proclaimed "caliphate" shrinks towards extinction, ISIL fighters are likely to revert to their old guerrilla tactics and ramp up suicide attacks on civilian targets



Syrian Army Wins Back Key Area in Palmyra

Sat Mar 26, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army and popular forces seized back a strategic region in the ancient city of Palmyra (Tadmur) in Homs province on Saturday.

The army units and popular forces took full control of al-Amiriya district in the Northern part of Palmyra city.

Scores of ISIL militants were killed and wounded in tough battle with the Syrian government troops today.

Meantime, other Syrian army units thwarted an ISIL's attempt to penetrate into Jabal Ghasion (Ghasion Mountain) near Palmyra city.

Palmyra has been under ISIL control since May 2015. The terrorist group has since destroyed part of the city, which is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site.

A brigadier-general told Sputnik on Wednesday that the Syrian army had recaptured a historic part of the city from the militants.

In a relevant development on Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed hope for the Syrian army's operation to retake Palmyra with Russian air support to conclude shortly.

"We count on the operation that is currently being conducted by the Syrian army with Russian air support on liberating Palmyra to successfully conclude within the shortest time period," Lavrov told reporters after holding talks with his Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni.

"Our common stance is that fulfilling the UN Security Council-approved measures on comprehensive Syrian crisis settlement should not mean reducing attention devoted to the fight against terrorism," he added.



Iraqi Forces Repel ISIL's Suicide Attacks on Key Military Base in Anbar province

Sat Mar 26, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Iraqi joint forces repelled attempts by the ISIL terrorists to attack a strategic military base in Anbar province.

The Iraqi army and popular forces foiled ISIL's four potential suicide attacks to penetrate into Ain al-Assad military base in Anbar province, Arab media outlets reported.

Scores of the ISIL terrorists were killed and wounded in the Iraqi army's counteroffensive against them near Ain al-Assad military base.

The Northern and Western parts of Iraq have been plagued by violence ever since the ISIL terrorists began an offensive through the Iraqi territory in June 2014.

Iraqi army soldiers and popular forces are now seeking to win back these occupied regions in joint operations.

On Tuesday, Nineveh Province Operations Commander Brigadier General Najm al-Jabouri announced that the ISIL positions in Mosul were under the army's heavy fire, underlining that his forces were waiting for an order to launch the final battle.

"The Central and Southern parts of Mosul which host the ISIL commanders' strongholds are under artillery fire and airstrikes," Jabouri told FNA on Tuesday.

He said that the Iraqi army and popular forces were all prepared for their commanders' order to launch a decisive battle against the ISIL in Mosul.

A source in Iraq's Ministry of Interior announced last Friday that the Iraqi Air Force's planes dropped thousands of leaflets on the city of Mosul (405 km North of Baghdad), calling on the residents to be prepared for the liberation operation of the city by the Iraqi army.

The source said in a statement that “today the Iraqi Air Force planes dropped thousands of leaflets on Tahrir neighbourhood, as well as different parts in the left side of Mosul".

The source, who asked anonymity, added, “The leaflets called the citizens to be prepared for the expulsion of ISIL terrorist members.”



Iraqi Forces Close to Winning Back Key Village in Mosul

Sat Mar 26, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Iraqi army and volunteer forces (Hashd al-Shaabi) continued their advances near the city of Mosul in Nineveh province, and seized back a strategic village there.

The Iraqi government troops are engaged in heavy fighting with the ISIL terrorists at the entrance of Mahana village in Makhmour region of Nineveh province.

The Iraqi army is now very close to take full control of Mahana village.

Meantime, the Iraqi air force pounded and destroyed the ISIL's military positions in al-Bashir region in the Southern part of Kirkuk.

The Iraqi fighter jets carried out targeted attacks on the ISIL's gathering centers in Al-Ban region in Nineveh province.

The Iraqi Army and popular forces have begun military operations to retake the Northern province of Nineveh from ISIL since Thursday.

In a relevant development on Thursday, the Iraqi army seized back four other villages in Makhmour region of Nineveh province.

Also on Friday, the Iraqi army and volunteer forces made considerable advances against the ISIL Takfiri terrorists in Nineveh province.

The Iraqi army along with popular forces have pushed the ISIL Takfiri terrorist group back in their offensive on Mosul and much of the occupied Nineveh province, an informed source said.

"The Takfiri terrorists are suffering heavy losses in Nineveh province, and are forced to retreat after crushing defeats in battles against the Iraqi army and popular forces. Militants are also suffering huge losses in the battle against the Iraqi armed forces that are approaching ISIL's main stronghold city of Mosul," the source added.

"The army of Iraq and the militias composed of Nineveh province residents have already liberated the villages of Munantar, Tel-Shair, al-Nasr, Qarmadi al-Salahia, al-Hitab an Qudila," press secretary of the National Mobilization Forces Mahmoud al-Surji announced.



Syrian Army Cuts Terrorists' Quaryatayn-Palmyra Supply Route

Sat Mar 26, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army and popular forces managed to take full control over the important supply line to the West and Southwest of the ancient city of Palmyra (Tadmur) in Homs province.

The army units took full control of ISIL's Quaryatayn-Palmyra supply route in a bid to prevent flow of supplies to the ISIL terrorists in the Western and Southwestern parts of Palmyra.

The ISIL's logistic and supply routes from the West and Southwestern parts of Palmyra are disconnected now.

The Syrian army also managed to disconnect Quaryatayn and Palmyra from each other by taking full control over the Quaryatayn-Palmyra highway.

The Syrian army's special troops known as Tiger Forces are engaged in heavy fighting with the ISIL Takfiri terrorists in the streets of the ancient city of Palmyra (Tadmur) in the Eastern part of Homs province.

The ISIL terrorists are trying hard to prevent the Syrian army from making further advances in Palmyra city as the street battle between the two sides is intensifying.

The ISIL militants have sustained heavy casualties and losses in fierce clashes with the Syrian army in recent days.

The Syrian army has made considerable advances in the areas near Palmyra city and taken full control of a strategic ancient castle near the Palmyra city.

On Friday, the Syrian government forces and Desert Falcons fighters gained control over a strategically important height near Palmyra.

The Syrian Army and Desert Falcons on Friday won another battle in Eastern Homs after hours of fierce clashes with the ISIL Takfiri terrorists.

The Syrian soldiers and their allies have pushed back the Takfiri terrorists in the region near the ancient city of Palmyra, and captured the Qalaat Fakhr ad-Din al-Maani Castle, known as the "Palmyra Castle".

The Syrian army soldiers and their allies have kept on marching on militant-held regions in Eastern Homs province in recent days to capture the strategic city of Palmyra which has been under the control of the ISIL since May 2015.



FSA Drives out Rival Terrorists from Key Region in Dara'a Province

Sat Mar 26, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Free Syrian Army (FSA) militants took control of an important region from a terrorist group affiliated to the ISIL in the Western part of Dara'a province.

The FSA drove out Al-Mosana Movement terrorists from Tal al-Saman (al-Saman Hill) in Western Dara'a.

Scores of militants from both sides were killed and wounded in the battle over control of Tal al-Saman.

In a relevant development on Thursday, field sources in the Western parts of Syria's Dara'a province revealed intense infighting between a-Nusra Front terrorists and the ISIL-affiliated Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade group in the area.

During the clashes that have been underway all throughout the last week in the town Ain al-Zekr, both groups sustained significant casualties.

Also in another development in Dara'a, heavy clashes were reported between the two groups of the Free Syrian Army and Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade in Zizun and Tal Shahab.

In another development in Dara'a province, Jeish al-Islam terrorist group claimed on its pages in the social media that it has killed 40 ISIL militants during the clashes in al-Midrib West of Dara'a province.



ISIL's Recapture of Palmyra's Ancient Castle Rejected

Sat Mar 26, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Informed military sources rejected certain media reports that the ISIL Takfiri terrorist group has seized back the ancient castle near the city of Palmyra (Tadmur) in the Eastern part of Homs province.

"The news disseminated by some satellite networks and news websites that the ISIL militants have taken control of Palmyra's ancient citadel is not correct," informed sources announced on Saturday.

The news on ISIL's retaking the strategic castle in the vicinity of Palmyra came just one day after the Syrian army took control of the citadel from the Takfiri terrorists.

On Friday, the Syrian government forces and Desert Falcons fighters gained control over a strategically important height near Palmyra.

The Syrian Army and Desert Falcons on Friday won another battle in Eastern Homs after hours of fierce clashes with the ISIL Takfiri terrorists.

The Syrian soldiers and their allies have pushed back the Takfiri terrorists in the region near the ancient city of Palmyra, and captured the Qalaat Fakhr ad-Din al-Maani Castle, known as the "Palmyra Castle".

The Syrian army soldiers and their allies have kept on marching on militant-held regions in Eastern Homs province in recent days to capture the strategic city of Palmyra which has been under the control of the ISIL since May 2015.

Government forces in cooperation with the National Defense Forces (NDF), Hezbollah fighters and Syrian and Russian air forces have purged the ISIL Takfiri terrorists from 110 square kilometers of lands near the ancient city of Palmyra (Tadmur) in the Eastern parts of Homs province in the past 48 hours.

Several units of the Syrian army and their allies entered Palmyra through its Western gate on Wednesday and are still battling to free the city. As more army units are advancing towards the city from other directions, several battlefield reports said ISIL terrorists have been escaping the city and retreating to Raqqa, some 50km to the East of Palmyra.

Also on Friday, the Syrian army and its allies won control over a key hill near Palmyra.

"The Syrian army and NDF continued pounding ISIL positions near Palmyra, and established full control over Syriatel hill near Palmyra Castle," an army source said.

Battlefield reports from Homs province said terrorists have sustained heavy casualties in the Syrian army and popular forces' continued and large-scale operations against ISIL's concentration centers on Friday.

Meantime, the Russian Defense Ministry said the country's bombers hit 146 terrorist targets around Palmyra from March 20 to March 23, and killed more than 300 terrorists during the operations.

"From March 20 to March 23 Russian Air and Space Forces conducted 41 sorties around Palmyra, Homs province, hitting 146 military terrorist targets. Six command centers, 320 terrorists, five tanks, six artillery systems, two ammunition depots and 15 vehicles were destroyed," defense ministry said.

The Syrian army soldiers and their allies have kept on marching on militant-held regions in Eastern Homs province in recent days to capture the strategic city of Palmyra which has been under the control of the ISIL since May 2015.

The pro-government forces imposed full control over the Western slopes of Jabal (Mount) Al-Tar after a violent battle with the ISIL terrorists near Palmyra on Thursday.

According to a military source in Homs province, the Syrian Army forces and Hezbollah fighters broke ISIL’s defense lines on the Western slopes of Jabal al-Tar, forcing them to retreat to the Eastern parts of the strategic mountain-top, West of Palmyra. In addition to the liberation of the Western slopes of Jabal Al-Tar, the Syrian Army and Hezbollah also captured a fuel station in the Southwestern suburbs of Palmyra.



Homs: Syrian Army Wins Back Key Villages, Buildings

Sat Mar 26, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army and popular forces seized back several strategic regions in Homs province in fierce clashes with the ISIL Takfiri terrorists.

The army units are now in full control of several villages and strategic buildings in the Western countryside of the ancient city of Palmyra (Tadmur) in the Eastern part of Homs province.

Scores of the ISIL terrorists were killed and wounded in tough battle with the Syrian army and popular forces.

In a relevant development on Friday, the Syrian government forces and Desert Falcons fighters gained control over a strategically important height near Palmyra city.

The Syrian Army and Desert Falcons on Friday won another battle in Eastern Homs after hours of fierce clashes with the ISIL Takfiri terrorists.

The Syrian soldiers and their allies have pushed back the Takfiri terrorists in the region near the ancient city of Palmyra, and captured the Qalaat Fakhr ad-Din al-Maani Castle, known as the "Palmyra Castle".

The Syrian army soldiers and their allies have kept on marching on militant-held regions in Eastern Homs province in recent days to capture the strategic city of Palmyra which has been under the control of the ISIL since May 2015.

Government forces in cooperation with the National Defense Forces (NDF), Hezbollah fighters and Syrian and Russian air forces have purged the ISIL Takfiri terrorists from 110 square kilometers of lands near Palmyra in the past 48 hours.

Several units of the Syrian army and their allies entered Palmyra through its Western gate on Wednesday and are still battling to free the city. As more army units are advancing towards the city from other directions, several battlefield reports said ISIL terrorists have been escaping the city and retreating to Raqqa, some 50km to the East of Palmyra.



Deir Ezzur: ISIL's Military Positions Razed Down by Syrian Army, Air Force

Sat Mar 26, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army hit hard and destroyed the ISIL's military positions in the Eastern part of Deir Ezzur as the country's air force continued pounding the Takfiri terrorist group's gathering centers in strategic farms and villages across the province.

The Syrian air force pounded the ISIL's military positions in al-Mura'yeh farms and Jafreh village.

Meantime, the Syrian army destroyed the ISIL's positions in Mura'yeh and al-Huweija fronts in the Eastern part of Deir Ezzur province.

Scores of terrorists were killed and wounded in tough battle with the Syrian army and also in Syrian fighter jets' strikes.

In a relevant development on Thursday, the Syrian Air Force launched several airstrikes on ISIL positions in the city of Deir Ezzur's Eastern Suburbs.

"The Syrian Air Force also destroyed as many as a dozen pick-up trucks and armored vehicles of ISIL in the al-Uthmaniyah district," a military source said.

In addition to the destruction of the terrorist group’s vehicles, the Syrian air force jets destroyed an ISIL warehouse during the aerial operation over the region, the source added.

In a recent development, ISIL's top field commander in Deir Ezzur province was killed by the Syrian Army when his unit launched a large-scale offensive to seize the provincial capital, a source reported on Wednesday.

According to a source from the Syrian Army’s Airborne Brigade of the Republican Guard, the ISIL commander was identified as “Salahiddeen Al-Beljiki”, a veteran terrorist from Belgium.

One day after Al-Beljiki's death, the Syrian Armed Forces also reported the death of another ISILL field command “Sayaf Al-Baqawi”, nom de guerre “Sayaf Al-Mughrabi.

Al-Baqawi’s was a Moroccan national that led ISIL’s “Al-Bitar Battalions” in the battle for Deir Ezzur province and his death was reported to the Moroccan authorities after his identification.



In Lebanon, Ban praises country's generosity towards Syrian refugees

UN Friday 25th March, 2016

24 March 2016 -- Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived this morning in Lebanon, starting with a visit to the Headquarters of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, in Naqoura and then holding a joint press conference where he praised the generosity the country and Lebanese people have shown towards Syrian refugees.

According to Mr. Ban's spokesperson, the UN chief met the Speaker of the Parliament of Lebanon, Nabih Berri, with whom he discussed the current political situation in the country alongside the President of the World Bank Group, Jim Yong Kim and the President of the Islamic Development Bank, Ahmad Mohamed Ali Al-Madani.

The three of them then met with the President of the Council of Ministers of Lebanon, Tammam Salam. During a joint press conference just now, the Secretary-General said that few countries have demonstrated the generosity that the Government and people of Lebanon have shown towards Syrian refugees.

The UN chief explained that this visit with the World Bank and the Islamic Development Bank aimed to find ways to improve conditions for refugees, to support the communities hosting them, and to help mitigate the impact on Lebanon's economy.

Mr. Ban added that the political situation in Lebanon continued to be a source of concern, contributing to an atmosphere of uncertainty. It is vital that the vacuum in the presidency is filled as soon as possible, in order for Lebanon to be whole again, he said.

The officials are also expected to visit communities hosting Syrian and Palestinian refugees to reiterate their long-term support to the country and discuss new approaches to building resilience and assisting national systems.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is greeted by Sigrid Kaag, UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, on arrival in Beirut.

Visiting the United Nations peacekeeping mission in south Lebanon, the Secretary-General stressed that the area has seen one of the quietest periods in nearly four decades and the UN presence must be effectively used to prevent hostilities and de-escalate tension there.

The UN chief stressed, in particular, the need to make the continued use of the tripartite forum 8211 comprising Lebanon, Israel and UNIFIL 8211 to resolve any differences between the parties and towards the full implementation of UN

Security Council resolution 1701 (2006).

"Prevalence of a stable security environment in south Lebanon, continued commitment of the parties to the cessation of hostilities, increasing ability of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) to ensure security of the country 8211 these are the key elements for the successful implementation of the [UNIFIL] mandate," Mr. Ban said at the Force's headquarters in Naqoura.

He also underlined the need for a strong cooperation between LAF and UNIFIL in south Lebanon, including through the Strategic Dialogue process, and efforts that are underway to ensure the implementation of the resolution.

Luciano Portolano, Head of UNIFIL, said that the UN mission has been providing a "strong deterrent" to the resumption of hostilities.

Trips to Jordan, Tunisia

On Sunday, they will travel to Jordan to meet with King Abdullah II, as well as other members of the Government, and visit the Zaatari refugee camp. They will also participate jointly in an open discussion with Jordanian youth.

On Monday, they will visit Tunisia to meet with President B"ji Ca"d Essebsi and other senior officials, and pay respect to the victims of terrorism. Mr. Ban will attend a national conference on employment, hosted by the President.

Mr. Ban will be in Geneva on Wednesday to open the high-level meeting on Global Responsibility Sharing for Syrian Refugees.



North America


Why There Are Muslim Ghettos in Belgium, But Not In the US

MARCH 26, 2016

LONG BEFORE TUESDAY’S terror attacks in Brussels, it was clear that Belgium had become a breeding ground for Islamist extremists. Hundreds of Belgian Muslims — as many as 500, according to one estimate — have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight for ISIS, making Belgium by far Europe’s leading supplier of foreign jihadists. Last November’s horrific slaughter in Paris was masterminded by a Belgian radical, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, and at least four of the men who carried out those attacks were from the Brussels district of Molenbeek. One of them was Salah Abdeslam, who was captured in Molenbeek, after an intense manhunt, on March 19.

For Islamist imams and terrorist ringleaders, such neighborhoods — heavily Muslim, densely populated, with high unemployment and crime rates — have proved fertile territory for recruiting violent jihadists. “There is almost always a link with Molenbeek. That’s a gigantic problem, of course,” Belgium’s prime minister said after the Paris atrocities.

But it’s only recently that the country’s security officials began confronting that “gigantic problem” with an appropriate sense of urgency. The New York Times reported last fall that weeks before the Paris attacks, Molenbeek’s mayor, Françoise Schepmans, was given a list of more than 80 Islamist terror suspects living in her district. She took no action and was unapologetic even after three of the men on the list took part in the Paris massacre.

“What was I supposed to do about them?” Schepmans told the Times. “It is not my job to track possible terrorists.”

That jaw-dropping complacency helps explain how an ISIS fifth column has been able to operate with such brazenness in Western Europe. But incompetent policing doesn’t explain why Muslims living in neighbourhoods like Molenbeek, or in the banlieues outside Paris that have experienced violent riots, should be susceptible to Islamist radicalization in the first place.

Molenbeek has sent more residents to fight in Syria and Iraq than any other place in Europe, relative to its size.

 Six people detained in probe into Brussels attacks

Muslim communities are not inherently predisposed to violence. The presence of a sizable Muslim population in a non-Muslim-majority country does not inevitably presage jihadist bloodshed or demands for the imposition of sharia. It is true that some 650,000 Muslims live in Belgium, but five times as many — 3.3 million — live in the United States. Why hasn’t America become a hotbed of Islamic extremism? Why aren’t American Muslims by the thousands flocking to fight for ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other terrorist organizations? Why, despite the efforts of Islamist pressure groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations — a Muslim supremacist operation that masquerades as an advocate for civil rights — are most American Muslims intent on adopting America’s customs and way of life?

The United States has been far more successful at assimilating and integrating Muslim immigrants into American society and culture than has Western Europe. There are no Muslim ghettoes here like those in Molenbeek or the Paris suburbs, where authorities turn a blind eye to antisocial behavior and aggressive incitement by radicals preaching jihad. Of course there have been some heinous exceptions, such as the Tsarnaev brothers, the Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hassan, or the killers in San Bernardino. And mosques in American cities have often been built with funding from Saudi Arabia, which promotes a harsh and puritanical version of Islam.

Nevertheless, at the grass-roots level, Muslims in the United States, like other cultural and religious minorities, have had no problem acclimating to mainstream norms. In a detailed 2011 survey, the Pew Research Center found that Muslim Americans are “highly assimilated into American society and . . . largely content with their lives.” More than 80 percent of US Muslims expressed satisfaction with life in America, and 63 percent said they felt no conflict “between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society.” The rates at which they participate in various everyday American activities — from following local sports teams to watching entertainment TV — are similar to those of the American public generally. Half of all Muslim immigrants display the US flag at home, in the office, or on their car.

Given America’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the bloody battles with Islamic regimes and insurgents, and the threat to homeland security from “lone wolf” terror attacks, it might seem surprising that Muslims in Detroit or Brooklyn aren’t at least as alienated as those in Molenbeek. But they aren’t. For despite the rise of identity politics and the balkanizing pressures of multicultural correctness, America’s melting pot still works. Generations of Muslim immigrants have come to America to escape repression, poverty, or war in their homelands. The life they have made for themselves here has been freer, safer, more prosperous, and more embracing than the existence they left behind. There are tensions, but not enough to keep most Muslims from fitting themselves comfortably into the American mosaic.

At a time when populist demagogues are doing so much damage to our social fabric, it is well to remember why Molenbeek is a European phenomenon, and not an American one. At the core of the American experience is a conviction that immigrants who come to America can and should become Americans. Patriotic assimilation turns profoundly dissimilar foreigners into proud and happy Americans. “Muslims in the United States,” Pew found, “reject extremism by much larger margins than most Muslim publics” around the world.

Americanization — E Pluribus Unum — is not only a key ingredient in the American Dream. It also keeps us safe.



Military Officials Pushing For Increase In US Troops In Iraq

March 26, 2016 

WASHINGTON –  The Pentagon is moving to increase the number of American troops in Iraq amid strikes that have killed the Islamic State's finance minister and other senior leaders. Still, top U.S. defense officials say the deaths won't "break the back" of the extremist group, which is in a fierce fight for an ancient city in Syria and claim responsibility for bombing a soccer stadium in Iraq.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Friday the U.S. progress in eliminating members of the IS "cabinet" was hampering its ability to conduct and inspire attacks against the West. The announcement came as the battle to retake the Syrian city of Palmyra entered its third day and Iraqi forces continued their march to recapture Mosul. A suicide bombing in a soccer stadium south of Baghdad, killing nearly 30 people, underscored the difficult fight ahead.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Pentagon reporters that recommendations on ways to increase U.S. support for Iraq's ground fight against IS will be discussed with President Barack Obama soon.

"The secretary and I both believe that there will be an increase in U.S. forces in Iraq in coming weeks, but that decision hasn't been made," Dunford said. He did not say how big that increase might be.

He and Carter said accelerating the campaign against the Islamic State will include more assistance like the artillery fire and targeting help that U.S. Marines provided earlier this week to Iraqi forces advancing on Mosul. But they said American forces remain well behind the front lines.

"I think there are a lot of reasons for us to be optimistic about the next several months," Dunford said. "But by no means would I say that we're about to break the back of ISIL or that the fight is over."

Using an acronym for the militant group, Carter said the U.S. is "systematically eliminating ISIL's cabinet," killing several key members in strikes this week.

Carter would not provide details about the strikes, but a senior U.S. official said the group's financial minister was killed along with two associates in a U.S. raid in Syria. The official was not authorized to discuss the operations so spoke on condition of anonymity.

Carter said the finance minister, who is known by several names, including Abdul-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli and Haji Imam, was a "well-known terrorist" who had a hand in terrorist plots outside of Iraq and Syria.

He said al-Qaduli has been associated with IS dating back to its earliest iteration as al-Qaida in Iraq. He said he had worked under Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as a liaison for operations in Pakistan and was "responsible for some external affairs and plots." Carter said he was not aware of any link between al-Qaduli and this week's terrorist attacks in Brussels.

In a separate operation, a U.S. airstrike in Mosul killed another top IS leader, the official said. Carter identified the man as Abu Sarah and said he was one of the leaders charged with paying militant fighters in northern Iraq.

The successful attacks are part of a string of recent strikes targeting the leadership of the group, which has lost territory in both Iraq and Syria. Earlier this month the Pentagon said it killed Omar al-Shishani, described as the Islamic State's "minister of war," in an airstrike in Syria. In November, the Pentagon said an airstrike in Libya killed Abu Nabil, another top IS leader.

Earlier this week, U.S. military officials confirmed the creation of a Marine outpost, dubbed Fire Base Bell, in Iraq. U.S. Marines operating from the small base provided targeting assistance and artillery fire to support Iraqi troops retaking several villages in the initial stages of their march to Mosul. It's the first such base established by the U.S. since it returned forces to Iraq in 2014.

Carter has also said the U.S. is looking at a number of options to "accelerate" the fight against IS. Those options have not yet officially been submitted to the White House for approval. They could include sending additional U.S. forces to Iraq, using Apache helicopters for combat missions, deploying more U.S. special operations forces or using American military advisers in Iraqi units closer to the front lines.

In Iraq on Friday, IS claimed responsibility after a suicide bomber blew himself up during a match in the small soccer stadium in the city of Iskanderiyah, 30 miles from Baghdad. The attack killed at least 29 people and wounded 60, security officials said.

In Syria, government forces recaptured a Mamluk-era citadel in Palmyra from IS, Syrian state media and monitoring groups said. Syrian and Russian warplanes struck at least 56 targets inside IS-held areas of the city and pro-government militias supported the army's advance, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group.

Palmyra has been controlled by the extremist group since May, and the militants have destroyed some of its best known Roman-era archaeological relics. Recapturing it would be a significant victory for Syrian government troops, who have been supported by Russian airstrikes in their advances.

Government forces also cut the road between Palmyra and another IS bastion, the town of Qaryatayn, weakening the group's hold over its two central Syrian outposts.



A Real Strategy for Fighting the Islamic State

Two Republicans have put forward a plan that Washington should rally around after the Brussels attacks.

March 25, 2016

The Brussels bombing has brought home once again the problem of global terror.

All credit to the Belgians for their candor. They’ve admitted they were less than adequately prepared for the possibility of an attack and that tougher measures are necessary to prevent any from happening in the future.

The catalog of mistakes is legion. According to press reports, one of the alleged bombers was already on a watch list but no one was apparently watching. Others may have escaped Paris after its most recent attack only to reemerge as significant players in the Brussels plot.

If only the politicians in America were equally as candid about the threats we face. President Barack Obama remains committed to closing the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba even though many of those who have been released from it have found their way back onto the battlefield. We don’t know, nor should we, about the attacks that have been foiled on our shores. We do know that the Islamic State group and other terror groups remain active here and are, one must presume, ready to strike.

The lack of discussion by the various presidential candidates about terror is astounding. It’s the single biggest international threat to our domestic security, yet most all of them would prefer to talk about almost anything else. Even the president, it seems, would rather tango in Argentina while Europe burns than change course and talk about terror with the intensity and focus events require.

It may be that none of them have any solutions or safeguards to propose, which would be a useful thing to know before the balloting goes on any further. If they do have a strategy, then they should be talking about it while the networks give us one more debate each for the Democrats and the Republicans solely devoted to national security issues.

New York real estate developer Donald Trump is perhaps the exception. He’s confronted the issue head on but in a short-term, scattershot way and, as is the case with his proposal to ban any Muslim immigrants from coming into the United States, in a way that raises concerns about our traditions of civil liberties and religious tolerance.

All those things can be addressed. Securing tighter borders, establishing better tracking systems to monitor the whereabouts of immigrants here legally and using the military to strike at terror camps around the world are all part of what America must do. Where Trump and the others who would be president have fallen down is in their failure to propose or even discuss at great length the need for a 10, 50, 100 year strategy vision for dealing with the intractable reality of international terrorism around which a national consensus can be built. And time, as they say, is a-wasting.

Fortunately there are bright and serious minds taking on the issue. Two of them, Montana GOP Rep. Ryan Zinke and Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger, both of whom are veterans of the Iraq War, have introduced legislation to force Obama and his successor to submit reports to Congress on a biannual basis explaining America’s “strategy to destroy ISIS and its affiliates around the world.”

“The horrific attacks in Brussels remind us all how very real the threat of ISIS continues to be on our safety and freedoms. As a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I believe national security is our paramount concern,” Kinzinger, who served in the United States Air Force, said.

Their Comprehensive Strategy to Destroy ISIL Act of 2016 is a much needed step in the right direction. America cannot respond to the terrorists in the same manner they attack, at random moments in various locations around the world. America’s strategy must be clear, consistent, ongoing, and must eventually lead the world in a united front against those who would destroy the institutions of the West.

“The continual terrorist attacks around the globe will not stop until the United States gets serious about defeating and destroying ISIS, and that requires a detailed strategy. Any plan the president delivers must give our troops the right rules of engagement to win, and win decisively on the field of battle. The president has ignored ISIS since day one. If we don’t get serious about the threats we face, it’s only a matter of time before they attack America again,” Zinke said.

If anyone understands what’s at stake it may be Zinke. He spent 23 years as a U.S. Navy SEAL, rising to the rank of commander, was awarded two Bronze Stars, and served for a time as the acting commander of Joint Special Forces in Iraq. The presidential candidates don’t see things from the same altitude as those who were on the ground and in the fight.

The Zinke-Kinzinger legislation requires the White House, no matter who is in it, to do what it ought to be doing anyway. Wars are not won overnight. Wars that involve deception, stealth, secrecy and terror as primary tactics take even longer. What their bill calls for – a focus on the progress of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, a plan outlining under what circumstances and manner U.S. assets might be deployed to counter Islamic State group fighters and strengthen the capacity of regional allies, and an assessment of U.S. government efforts to use social media and other communication technologies to counter the group’s propaganda and recruitment of foreign fighters – are exactly the steps that should be taken to bring the Islamic State group and other terror groups to their knees.

The presidential candidates would be smart to get out in front on this, not only by adopting the Zinke-Kinzinger approach as their own but by building upon it to add in their own ideas. It could be the cornerstone of the foreign policy consensus that carries this nation safely through the rest of the century.



Trump rounds on Muslims in the US and Europe

 26 Mar 2016

Donald Trump moved to mend fences with British public opinion last night while remaining unrepentant over his comments about Muslims in the US and Europe.

He used a television interview to flatter the United Kingdom, proclaiming his love for Britain and predicting the UK will back Brexit, while maintaining his attacks on Muslims whom he said had not integrated into European or American society.

The billionaire businessman’s remarks calling for a ban on Muslims entering the US in the wake of December’s shootings in San Bernardino caused widespread anger in Britain, with more than 500,000 people signing a petition calling for him to be excluded from the UK.

Republican US presidential hopeful Donald Trump addresses the 2016 American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference at the Verizon Centre in Washington, DC.

Donald Trump addresses the 2016 American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference at the Verizon Centre in Washington, DC.   Photo: AFP

But interviewed by Piers Morgan on ITV, the Republican front-runner refused to give ground, even though his remarks were condemned by David Cameron and Boris Johnson.

With Europe reeling from the latest terrorist outrage, which has claimed at least 31 lives in Brussels, Mr Trump accused Muslim communities of failing to warn the authorities of impending attacks.

“There is no assimilation,” Mr Trump said. “They want to go by their own laws.”

Reflecting on the past week’s events, he condemned Muslims in Brussels for failing to turn in Salah Abdeslam, one of the Paris bombers, who was able to establish a bolt-hole in the Belgian capital.

“Many people knew he was there. Look, he was the number one fugitive in the world and nobody turned him in.”

World's most wanted man Salah Abdeslam (inset) 'arrested and wounded' in police shootout in Brussels

But at the same time Mr Trump insisted he had “great respect” for Muslims and had a number of Muslim friends.

"I'm not racist," he said. "I'm speaking my mind and it's just common sense."

Mr Trump said he had received widespread support from Britain after his broadside against Muslims in December. “People were incensed about my being attacked for speaking the truth.”

Mr Trump also gave no ground on calls for gun control in the US, even though his interviewer is an outspoken advocate for fresh curbs.

Had European gun laws been in line with those in the US, the terrorists may not have succeeded in bringing carnage to the streets, he said.

“At least you would have seen bullets going in the other direction.”

Piers Morgan has returned from the US to continue his TV career

As ebullient as ever, Mr Trump could not be accused of showing any humility during the interview.

“I am a normal person,” he said. “I happen to be a very intelligent person who just wants to see things run properly.”

Asked about the UK’s relationship with the US should he win the presidency, Mr Trump, whose mother was born in Scotland, was effusive.

“I love the UK, I love the people. If I become president, we are going to have a fantastic relationship.”




Anti-Daesh Strategy Failing, Senior Turkish Aide Says

March 26, 2016

ANKARA – Turkey’s presidential spokesman on Saturday called for a review of the anti-Daesh strategy in Syria and Iraq to prevent the spread of terrorism.

In his weekly column in the English-language Daily Sabah, Ibrahim Kalin said there were lessons to be learned from the “latest act of cowardice and inhumanity” in Brussels, where terrorists killed 31 and wounded hundreds in attacks on an airport and metro station.

Tuesday’s bombings followed recent bomb attacks in Istanbul and Ankara.

“First of all, the anti-Daesh strategy needs to be revised,” Kalin said. “There is no doubt that this menace must be destroyed. Muslim and Western countries have to work together to eliminate Daesh, al-Qaida and similar terrorist organizations whether in Syria, Iraq, Somalia, France or Belgium.

“But the current strategy, which has focused primarily on airstrikes on Daesh targets in Syria and Iraq, has failed to stop Daesh from striking in Syria, Turkey, Europe and the U.S. The war in Syria continues to feed the Daesh monster. The longer we let this war continue, the deadlier Daesh terrorism will become.”

Kalin, an aide to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said the conflict in Syria and “deep security and political problems” in Iraq had allowed Daesh to grow.

Referring to attacks in Ankara on Feb. 17 and March 13 in which PKK terrorists used car bombs to kill dozens, Kalin said it was “neither logical nor moral to treat Daesh as a terrorist organization that struck in Paris and Brussels but not the PKK that struck in Ankara twice over the last two months.”

Both the PKK and Daesh are “united in their terrorism directed at Turkey,” he added.

Kalin also called for greater intelligence-sharing and cooperation – pointing to Belgium’s failure to act on intelligence provided by Turkey about Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, who was deported from Turkey in June but went on to carry out the metro station attack in Brussels.

Turkey has deported more than 3,000 people and put another 37,000 on a no-entry list for suspected ties to terrorism over the last three years, Kalin said.

He also used his column to condemn Islamophobic responses in the West to terror attacks.

“The European and American Islamophobes wasted no time in using the recent attacks to manipulate the anti-Muslim sentiment for their political goals,” he said. “Homogenizing discourses about Islam and Muslims hurts the fight against radicalization and violent extremism.

“Daesh does not recruit solely on theology, as it manipulates political facts and recruits petty criminals, adventurers and misfits from all walks of life.”

Calling for a “consistent and efficient” approach, Kalin said: “Blaming the victims and manipulating public outrage for political opportunism serves no common good.”



Over 300 soldiers killed, 10 times more PKK militants killed: Erdoğan



Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on March 25 that the number of killed soldiers across Turkey during operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the country’s southeast was over 300 while, noting that this number was 10 times more in PKK.

“Since July [2015] the number of martyrs across the country during the fight against terror has exceeded 300. Of course, the losses of terrorists inside the country and abroad are at least 10 times more than that,” Erdoğan said, adding that those who want to divide the nation would not prevail.

Recently, Turkey has been hit by its worst violence in years, after a fragile peace process shattered in July 2015 following a two-and-a-half-year de facto cease-fire between security forces and PKK militants.

Three Turkish soldiers were killed late on March 24 in an outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) car bomb attack in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, the Turkish General Staff has announced.

PKK militants attacked the Mermer Gendarmerie Post on the Diyarbakır Lice motorway at around 9:10 p.m. by detonating a bomb-laden car, killing three soldiers and wounding another 24, the General Staff said in a statement.

The wounded soldiers were immediately taken to hospital where their treatment is continuing, the statement added.

Security forces killed 24 PKK militants on March 24 in the towns of Nusaybin, Şırnak and Yüksekova in southeast Turkey, near the borders with Syria, Iraq and Iran, the military said.

Turkish warplanes struck PKK targets in northern Iraq on March 24. In the latest in a series of air strikes in northern Iraq, Turkish F-16 and F-4 jets destroyed PKK ammunition depots and shelters in the Avasin and Basyan areas on March 24 in the afternoon, the military said.

A curfew was declared on March 25 in the Silvan district of the southeastern province of Diyarbakır ahead of operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the district governor’s office has announced.

The curfew was declared in 18 neighborhoods and villages of Silvan on March 25 at 11 a.m. until further notice, District Gov. Murat Kütük said in a statement.

According to the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV), this is the seventh curfew imposed in Silvan since August 2015, with the longest previous instance lasting between Nov. 3 and 14, 2015.



Turkey slams Greek Cyprus over new hydrocarbon bid



Turkey rebuked Greek Cypriot administration on March 25 over its announcing a tender for new hydrocarbon exploration offshore the long-divided Mediterranean island.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the Greek Cypriot administration was challenging the right of Turks on the island at a time when the two sides are negotiating over a possible reunification.    

“The Greek administration's decision to open a tender on the one hand disregards the Turkish Cypriot side's equal rights and interests on the island's natural resources and on the other hand violates our country's continental shelf rights in the region,” the statement said.     

The ministry said that Turkey would not allow foreign companies to explore for hydrocarbons.     

Earlier this year at Davos, the island's two leaders – Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı and Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades – stated that both communities should cooperate on energy matters.     

Akıncı said newly found hydrocarbon resources in the Eastern Mediterranean would act as “a source of peace, stability and cooperation rather than conflict and tension.”     

Anastasiades said that the discovery of hydrocarbon in the region opened up new possibilities for cooperation and synergy.     

The eastern Mediterranean island was divided into a Turkish Cypriot state in the north and a Greek Cypriot administration in the south after a 1974 military coup by Greece was followed by a military intervention of Turkey as a guarantor power.     

Long-stalled negotiations to find a way to settle the conflict resumed last year following Akıncı’s election in April. The talks restarted last May are focused on establishing a federal model.



Turkish President Erdoğan: Belgium should account for intelligence failures



Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the Belgian authorities on March 25 of being soft on terror groups and said they should account for intelligence failures in the run-up to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) suicide bombings in Brussels.

Erdoğan said European authorities had shown themselves "incapable" after Turkey deported one of the Brussels attackers last July but he was subsequently released.

The president has repeatedly equated the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) with ISIL, saying both are terrorist organizations and accusing Europe of failing to adequately condemn the PKK.

"They (the Belgians) are allowing members of the separatist terrorist organization to set up tents right next to the European Council, they allow pictures of terrorists to be displayed, they let their flags fly there," Erdoğan said.

"So, what happened? What happened, just two days later?," he went on, before condemning European authorities for releasing Ibrahim El Bakraoui, one of two brothers named by Belgium as responsible for March 22's attacks in Brussels, following his deportation from Turkey.

"Such incapable governments ... We detained this guy in Gaziantep, we deported him, sent him back. Those gentlemen didn't do what was necessary and released the terrorist," Erdoğan said in a speech in the central Turkish town of Sorgun.

"My brothers, terrorism is not the problem of a single country, it's the whole world's problem. God willing they'll understand that," he said.

Erdoğan said on March 23 that Belgium had ignored a warning that Bakraoui was a militant.

But Bakraoui was deported to the Netherlands, which said it did not realize he was a dangerous suspect as Turkey had “failed to follow normal procedures” when expelling him.

Dutch authorities on March 24 released a copy of a note from the Turkish foreign ministry, dated July 14, 2015, informing them of Bakraoui's deportation and flight details, but making no mention of the reasons for his expulsion or of his suspected links to militants.

Belgium's interior and justice ministers offered to resign on March 24 over the failure to track Bakraoui, but Prime Minister Charles Michel asked them to stay on.



Turkish President Erdoğan slams foreign envoys at journalists' trial



Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has severely criticized a group of Western diplomats who attended the trial of two daily Cumhuriyet journalists on March 25.

“Yesterday there was a hearing of a known journalist,” Erdoğan said in a speech on March 26 in Istanbul, referring to Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar. Dündar was on trial on spying charges on March 25 along with his Ankara bureau chief, Erdem Gül.

“The situation ıf those who attended this hearing is very important,” said Erdoğan. “The consuls general in Istanbul come to the courthouse. Who are you, what are you doing there?”

The president said there should be “diplomatic propriety.”

"This is not your country, this is Turkey," Erdoğan said, adding that diplomats can operate within the boundaries of missions and adding:  "Elsewhere is subject to permission."

Journalists and diplomats from several countries attended the hearing including Leigh Turner, the British Consul-General in Istanbul who shared images from outside court and messages of support for the journalists on Twitter.

Erdoğan accused foreign envoys of making a "show of strength."

“We all see who those always talk about democracy, human rights, freedom side with when officials elected with public support face off with coup plotters,” he added.

Dündar and Gül, who were released pending trial on Feb. 26 after a decision by the Constitutional Court, are charged with espionage and threatening state security in stories published in Cumhuriyet about National Intelligence Agency (MİT) trucks allegedly transporting weapons to rebel groups in Syria.

The court said the journalists’ 92-day imprisonment over charges of terrorism was a “violation of rights.”

President Erdoğan and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have harshly criticized the top court, which they claim “exceeded its jurisdiction.”

Erdoğan said earlier that he “did not respect the Constitutional Court ruling.”

The court on March 25 accepted the president and Turkey's intelligence agency as civil plaintiffs in the case.

Within two hours of the start of the proceedings the judge ordered the trial to be held behind closed doors, granting a request by the prosecution which cited "national security" concerns.

The decision was met with cries of dismay inside the court. Several opposition lawmakers refused to leave, prompting the judge to adjourn the trial until April 1.



Israeli rights group releases Palestinian execution video

Israeli human rights group documents extrajudicial killing of young Palestinian man by Israeli soldier


An Israeli human rights group on Thursday documented the extrajudicial killing of a young Palestinian man by an Israeli soldier in the occupied West Bank.

According to a video filmed by the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights, Abdel-Fattah al-Sharif, 21, was lying on the ground after being shot by the Israeli army in Hebron.

The group, commonly known as B'tselem, said al-Sharif was seen lying on the ground with none of the soldiers or medics present giving him first aid. The medical staff, however, provided assistance to the injured soldier although his condition was less serious, according to the group.

The video then shows an Israeli soldier, among a group of other soldiers and medics, shooting al-Sharif directly in the head from close range.

The Israeli army said in a statement that it has launched an investigation into the incident, noting that the soldier was suspended from duty until the end of the probe.



Russia's propaganda war against Turkey

World Bulletin / News Desk


With the downng of a Russian fighter jet by the Turkish military in November 2015, Turkey became suddenly the target of a new information war waged by RT, SPUTNIK, and other Kremlin controlled media outlets.

“All media platforms, directly or indirectly controlled by the state, were used in the construction of an image of a new enemy,” Ekaterina Buchneva, a journalist at Reuters TV, wrote in her Index on Censorship article published last December. “After weeks under information attack, on 3 December, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu dismissed the allegations by Russian media that Turkey was buying oil from ISIL as ‘lies of this Soviet-style propaganda machine‘.”

Russia in its bid to avenge for the downing of the jet, has continued to accuse Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his family of taking advantage of the the illegal smuggling of oil, an allegation also rejected as propaganda by the Turkish Prime Minister.

“In the Cold War period, there was a Soviet propaganda machine. Every day it created different lies. Firstly, they would believe them and then expect the world to believe them. These were remembered as Pravda lies and nonsense,” Ahmet Davutoglu said.

The latest target now in the Kremlin’s propaganda offensive against Turkey is the alleged massive mistreatment of more than 2 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey.

Illegal Oil Trade and Mistreatment of Refugees

There also seems to be meeting point between some Voice of America and Russia’s RT news reports on Turkey, both in December 2015 when the RT begain its accusations against Turkey over alleged illegal oil trade with ISIL, and in March 2016 when RT started to blast Turkey over alleged mistreatment of refugees. The number of news reports in which actions of the Turkish government are presented in an unfavorable light has increased recently not only on RT, but also on the Voice of America English news website.

An RT headline from March 18, 2016 says in part: “EU outsourcing human rights obligations to brutal Turkish regime.”A VOA headline from March 21, 2016 says: “Refugees: Turkish Coast Guard Becoming More Violent.”

An RT headline from December 2, 2015 says: “Russia presents proof of Turkey’s role in ISIS oil trade.” A VOA headline from December 4, 2015 says in part: “Western Powers Reportedly Buying IS Oil.”



Dubai chief: Palestine should be a bi-national state

World Bulletin / News Desk

26 March 2016

Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan Tamim,deputy head of Dubai Police and General Security, has broken an Arab taboo by stating that Palestinians should abandon their hopes for an independent state and merge with Israeli Jews in a united, bi-national state instead.

In a series of comments made on his Twitter account Monday afternoon, Tamim made effort to gather support, claiming that a Palestinian state led by Arabs would  only by another name on a list  of failed states in the Arab world. 

According to Tamim, the dream of such a state will never come true, since "Israel will only recognize Palestine if Palestinians become part of it."

Tamim controversially stated: "I suggest relinquishing the idea of a Palestinian state and being satisfied with an Israeli state that would include both Israelis and Palestinians and join the Arab League."

"Today, the Jews are heading the world's economy, without the Jews you Arabs would not have known how to deposit your money in the bank," Tamim continued.

In light of what he described as Arab incompetence in running a state and the economic talents of Jews, Tamim claimed that a joint Jewish-Palestinian state will only prosper under Israeli leadership.

However, according to his thesis, this bi-national state would ultimately become an Arab state, where Jews will be a minority, as Jewish citizens in the Arab world are.

"Seventy years after the bi-national state would be established, the Arab minority would become the majority and rule the state, just like it happened in South Africa," Tamim tweeted.

In another controversial tweet, the Dubai security chief wrote: "We should not treat Jews as our enemies. We should treat them as cousins with whom we have a controversy over land inheritance. "



Rouhani: Iran Committed to Meeting Pakistan’s Energy Needs

Sat Mar 26, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- President Hassan Rouhani said Iran is committed to meeting Pakistan’s energy needs in oil, gas and electricity.

Speaking at the Joint Iran-Pakistan Economic Commission meeting in Islamabad, President Rouhani said on Saturday, “The people of Pakistan can be rest assured that Iran takes full responsibility to meet their energy needs. Tehran is a strategic partner and will always meet your oil, gas and electricity needs.”

“We have always fulfilled our undertakings in transferring electricity and gas to Pakistan. We have also built a pipeline to suppy Pakistan with natural gas. We are fully prepared to expand and cement our bilateral ties... However, it is also important for the private sectors of the two neighbors to join hands and help us in this respect,” he added.

The joint commission talks came after Iran and Pakistan signed 6 agreements to expand cooperation in health, commerce, finance and foreign services.

President Rouhani and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif witnessed the signing ceremony after the delegation level talks in Islamabad.

Rouhani and Sharif led their delegations at the talks. The two countries signed MoUs for cooperation between Pakistan’s Foreign Service Academy and Iran’s School of International Relations.

Adviser to Pakistani Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif represented their countries.

Iran and Pakistan inked MoUs for cooperation and information exchange between the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan and the Central Insurance of Iran. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Iran’s Interior Minister and Head of Joint Economic Commission Abdul Reza Rahmani Fazli signed the MoU.

The two countries also signed an MoU on Five Year Strategic Trade Cooperation Plan. The two neighbors inked another MoU for cooperation on health research, training, medicine and medical technology.

They signed another MoU to extend cooperation between the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture of Iran.

Pakistan and Iran also signed an MoU on cooperation between the Institute for Political and International Studies of Iran and Karachi Council on Foreign Relations of Pakistan.

Rouhani’s two-day visit to Islamabad on Friday, which is his first as the Iranian president, came at the official invitation of Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.



Iran, Pakistan Taking Annual Trade to $5bln

Sat Mar 26, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iran and Pakistan on Saturday agreed to take pragmatic steps under the Five-Year Strategic Trade Cooperation Plan in order to increase annual trade to $5 billion.

The five-year plan signed in Islamabad by the Iranian Minister for Industry, Mines and Trade Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh and Pakistan’s Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir came during the current visit of President Hassan Rouhani to Pakistan.

The document of strategic cooperation states in view of decline in bilateral trade over the past several years, it needs to be raised to $5 billion annually in five years and to further higher levels subsequently.

A large number of challenges have been identified that should be addressed to achieve the trade objective.

The two countries have agreed to establish a mechanism to cope with issues hampering bilateral trade such as non-tariff barriers, absence of a mutual recognition agreement, lack of banking facilities, infrastructure bottlenecks and trade through informal channels.

In addition to strengthening the existing institutional arrangements, a separate mechanism on expert and technical levels will be put in place to deal with such issues and oversee implementation of the plan.

The two sides also underlined that for giving a fresh boost to bilateral trade and opening up commerce and investment, they need to offer market access under formal agreements.

In this regard, in addition to the preferential trade agreement (PTA), which has been in force since September 2006 and is being reviewed for better performance in line with the changed scenario after the lifting of sanctions, the two countries agreed to enter into negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) including trade in goods, services and investments.

They agreed to move forward at a fast pace to conclude FTA negotiations, effectively implement the PTA, establish appropriate mechanisms for coordination in upcoming rounds of FTA talks, and periodically monitor the progress.

Prior to the first meeting of the joint working group that has already been established, Pakistan will share a draft framework of the FTA with Iran by the end of April this year and Tehran will give its response by the end of May.

The framework agreement will deal with trade in goods, trade facilitation, rules of origin and dispute settlement. Negotiations will conclude in one and a half years from June 2016 to December 2017 unless the two sides agree on an extension.

They will also try to open two more crossing points on the border, preferably by the end of 2016, potentially at Gabd and Mand on the Pakistan side and Reemdan and Pishin on the Iranian side.

The Trade Development Authority of Pakistan and the Iranian Trade Promotion Organization will also jointly draw up a comprehensive program of promotional activities including single-country exhibitions, sharing of commercial intelligence, and exchange of business delegations.

Under the five-year plan, the Pak-Iran Joint Business Council will be re-activated and a joint chamber of commerce and industry will be established. They will consider exempting bona fide businesspersons from seeking visa for commercial visits.



Rouhani Calls for Unity to Resolve Regional Issues

Sat Mar 26, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- President Hassan Rouhani said unity is the only way to resolve all the outstanding issues in the Muslim world.

In a meeting in Islamabad on Saturday with Pakistan’s PM Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, Rouhani said Tehran seeks all-out ties with Pakistan "as this is what the people of the two countries want."

He said the two neighbors share a common border which should be turned into the border of friendship and trade.

He then called on Tehran and Islamabad to work together at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to help restore peace and stability in Mideast.

Sartaj, for his part, said Islamabad is fully prepared to strengthen bilateral ties with Tehran is all spheres, adding that the two neighbors should immediately implement the cooperation agreements they signed in Islamabad on Friday.

On Friday, Iran and Pakistan signed six memoranda of understanding (MoUs) to strengthen cooperation in health, commerce, finance and foreign services.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Rouhani witnessed the signing ceremony at the PM House after the delegation level talks between the two countries. Sharif and Rouhani led their delegations at the talks.

The two countries signed MoUs for cooperation between Pakistan’s Foreign Service Academy and Iran’s School of International Relations. Adviser to PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif represented their countries.

They inked MoUs for cooperation and information exchange between the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan and the Central Insurance of Iran. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Iran’s Interior Minister and Head of Joint Economic Commission Abdul Reza Rahmani Fazli signed the MoU.

The two countries signed an MoU on Five Year Strategic Trade Cooperation Plan. The two neighbors inked another MoU for cooperation on health research, training, medicine and medical technology.

They signed another MoU in order to extend cooperation between the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture of Iran.

Pakistan and Iran also signed an MoU on cooperation between the Institute for Political and International Studies of Iran and Karachi Council on Foreign Relations of Pakistan.

Rouhani is visiting Pakistan on invitation of Prime Minister Sharif. A high-level delegation comprising of ministers, senior officials and businessmen are also accompanying him on his first visit to Pakistan.



Iran Denies Cyber Attacks on US Banks

Sat Mar 26, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari denied Iran’s involvement in the wave of relatively unsophisticated cyber attacks that struck glancing blows on websites for US financial institutions in 2013.

His official remarks on Saturday came after US authorities issued "wanted" notices allegedly for a group of Iranian hackers the US claims are behind a 2013 computer intrusion of a small New York dam and a series of cyber attacks on dozens of US banks.

Jaberi Ansari said, “The US government is not in a position to charge Iran or other nationals for the attacks without providing any evidence. The US government has in the past launched cyber attacks on Iran's civilian nuclear facilities, hence, putting at risk the environment and the lives of millions of civilians along the way.”

On Thursday, the US Justice Department made the announcement of a criminal indictment against seven Iranian nationals during a news conference.

"A federal grand jury in Manhattan found that these seven individuals conspired together and with others to conduct a series of cyber attacks against civilian targets in the United States financial service industry, that in total or in all, in sum cost the victims tens of millions of dollars," Lynch claimed.

After the announcement, the Iranian mission to the United Nations also in a statement said, "Unlike the United States, which has, per reports in the media, given itself the license to engage in illegal cyber-warfare against Iran, Iran respects the international law and refrains from targeting other nations' economic or financial institutions."





Pak's Claim of Arresting RAW Operative A 'Nonsense': Tarek Fatah

South East Asia Post (ANI) Saturday 26th March, 2016

Mumbai, Mar. 25 (ANI): Expert on Pakistan affairs and author, Tarek Fatah, on Friday said that the arrest of a former Indian Navy officer, whom the Pakistani agencies are claiming to be a Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) operative, from Quetta is an attempt by Islamabad to divert the attention from 'genocide' being committed by them in Balochistan.

Dubbing Pakistan's claim as 'absolute nonsense', the renowned author and columnist said that it would be 'overtly optimistic' to expect truth from Islamabad.

"They are committing genocide in Balochistan, and to distract from that they are saying that they have arrested a former Indian naval officer from Quetta. Even if you arrest a navy officer then you would nab him in Gwadar, how will they find him in Quetta," Fatah told ANI.

He further questioned India's silence over the 'genocide' being committed by Pakistan in Balochistan.

"Pakistan is fooling India and India loves being fooled. They enter your country and kill your people and your trade onions and tomatos with them. No self respecting nation would keep a relationship with country that attacks you," he added.

Pakistan security forces earlier arrested a man during a raid in Balochistan province who, according to them, is 'a serving officer in the Indian Navy and deputed to RAW.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) earlier today said that Indian Government has no link with the arrested individual, adding that New Delhi has no interest in interfering in internal matters of any country.

MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup said that the matter was raised today by Pakistan's Foreign Secretary with the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad.

"The said individual has no link with Government since his premature retirement from Indian Navy," Swarup said.

A Pakistan security official earlier told Dawn that the arrested individual had been shifted to Islamabad for interrogation, as he was suspected of involvement in various acts of terrorism and other dissident activities in Balochistan.

Confirming the arrest, Balochistan Home Minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti said, "the arrest has proved Indian involvement in Balochistan". (ANI)



Kerala Nurse and Son Killed in Shell Attack in Libya’s Sabratha City

The incident occurred on Friday night when the shell landed in their apartment complex.

Mar 26, 2016

Libya, Kerala nurse Libya, Kerala Nurse death Libya, Indians in Libya, Kerala death Libya, Libya shelling Kerala, Kerala Libya, Indians in Libya According to reports, the attack killed the two and a few others who resided in the same complex. (Source: Google Maps)

A Keralite nurse working in Libya and her one-and-half-year-old son have been killed in a bomb blast in the ongoing civil strife in that country, her family said on Saturday.

Sunu Sathyan and the toddler were sleeping in their house when it was rocked by an explosion, killing them yesterday, her father Sathyan Nair, hailing from Kondadu in Kottayam district, said.

The victim was working as a nurse in Zawia Medical centre AZ Zawiya, Libya. Her husband Vipin Kumar, who is a male nurse in Libya, was away on duty.

READ: Will do our best to bring others stuck in Libya: Kerala CM on Libya shell attack

Nair has sought government help to bring back the bodies.

“Yesterday I got information through phone that my daughter and her one-and-a-half-year-old baby died in a bomb blast at her residence while they were sleeping,” he said in his letter to the government.

He said he got only this much information from her fellow employees and relatives.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said she has sought details from Indian embassy in the violence-hit country.

“I have asked for a report reg (regarding) the death of an Indian nurse and her child from our Ambassador in Libya,” Swaraj tweeted.

Nair, in his letter through Kaduthuruthy MLA Mons Joseph, sought help to bring back the bodies of his daughter and grandson.

“I came to know that the blast occurred due to regular fights between the rival groups in Libya. So I humbly request your good self to make available the detailed informationabout the incident and help us bring back the dead body of my beloved daughter and her son, whom we have never seen.”

“I also request you to extend all help and protection to her husband, who is in a state of shock after the blast,” Nair said.

When contacted, Kerala Information and Public Relations Minister K C Joseph told PTI that the state government has informed the External Affairs Ministry about the matter.

Meanwhile, state Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala said eight to nine people are stranded in Libya and efforts are on to bring them back.

“Kerala government is alert on this issue. We are in touch with the External Affairs Ministry and the Embassy in Libya. We are trying to evacuate all the people who are stranded there,” Chennithala told PTI.



In an ‘Airlift’ Like Operation, Jet Airways Helps Evacuate 242 Indian Passengers from Brussels

 March 26, 2016 

Several passengers from India who were stranded in Brussels after multiple blasts in the city, were safely brought back to India.

A Jet Airways recovery flight, 9W 1229 from Amsterdam, carrying 242 Indians including 28 crew members, landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) at 5:00 am on Friday.

On Thursday, Jet Airways had announced that three fights, one each to Mumbai, Delhi and Toronto from Amsterdam, will fly its passengers back to safety. The Mumbai flight was later cancelled and combined with the Delhi flight.

The airline first evacuated all 800 stranded passengers from Brussels in 15 special coaches and transported them to Amsterdam by road. Jet had a large number of passengers stranded there as four 290-seater planes had landed in Brussels from Mumbai, Delhi, Toronto and New York’s Newark airport, just before the blasts. Hotel arrangements for overnight stay of passengers in Amsterdam were also made by the airline. Passengers’ luggage will now be identified and arrangements will be made to return them back.

“I was stranded at Brussels airport for a long time as I had a layover there for I was coming from New York. There was a lot of chaos at the airport. Nobody knew what to do or where to go,” one of the passengers told The Hindu.

On the morning of March 22, three blasts occurred in Brussels – two at Brussels Airport in Zaventem, and one at Maalbeek metro station. Over 30 people were killed and 300 were injured.

24-year-old Jaideep Karande was on his way to India from Newark and had a connecting flight at Brussels. He told The Indian Express that he saw a lot of commotion and soon the public announcement system started blaring the word “evacuate” constantly. He was rushed to a military camp set up by Belgium authorities.

Jet also flew the relatives of their two injured cabin crew members to Brussels. “The Brussels airport continues to be closed for operations and is out of bound for passengers following the unfortunate events of March 22. Jet has now made alternate arrangements to transfer its guests from Brussels,” said a statement by the airline.



South Asia


Russian Envoy Estimates ISIS Has 10,000 Loyalists in Afghanistan

Sat Mar 26 2016

ISIS KhurasanThe Russian Presidential envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov has estimated the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group has 10,000 loyalists in Afghanistan.

Kabulov who is also director of the Second Asian Department at the Russian Foreign Ministry has said the terror group is expanding its military activity in Afghanistan.

“The IS activity has grown significantly in Afghanistan since summer 2014. The group numerical strength is estimated at 10,000 people,” Kabulov quoted by TASS news agency said.

He said “The figure can continue growing, as the IS slogans and high financing are attractive to Afghan youth.”

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

However, latest reports emerging from the eastern Kunar province suggests the group’s leader has shifted to this province after the terror group received major setbacks as a result of military operations during the recent months.

The Afghan security forces launched a major offensive against the terror group in Nangarhar province last month and cleared most parts of the districts under the control of the terror group.

Meanwhile, the US forces in Afghanistan increased air campaign against the loyalists of the terror group after the Obama administration granted new authorities to pound the militants affiliated with the terror group in Afghanistan.

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




15 Taliban Insurgents Arrested For Planning Suicide Attacks in Kandahar

Sat Mar 26 2016

At least 15 Taliban insurgents were arrested by the Afghan intelligence operatives for planning coordinated suicide attacks in southern Kandahar province.

The National Directorate of Security (NDS) said the Taliban insurgents were operating in three different groups and were involved in planning and coordinating suicide attacks in Kandahar province.

No further details were given regarding the possible target of the detained insurgents which comes as the Taliban militants have been attempting step up attacks in this province.

Kandahar is the birth place of the Taliban insurgents however the Afghan security forces have managed to maintain security and stability in this province during the past several months.

At least five incidents involving terrorist attacks have been reported in this province since the beginning of the month which involves two insider attacks and a coordinated attack that left a senior army general dead.

The deputy commander of 205th Atal Corps of the Afghan National Army General Khan Agha Achekzai was killed after a group of militants attacked him near a guesthouse late on Thursday night.

The Taliban militants group has not commented regarding the arrest of the group’s insurgents by NDS so far.



20 Afghan military students sent to US for aviation trainings

Sat Mar 26 2016

Amid efforts to boost the capabilities of the Afghan Air Force, 20 Afghan military students have been sent to United States for trainings in aviation sector.

“Over the last week, Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan’s Security Assistance Office-Afghanistan’s Training Branch has sent 21 military students from Afghanistan to training in the United States. One will be trained at the Ordnance Basic Officer Leadership Course, three will be trained as A-29 aviators for the Afghan Air Force, eight as A-29 mechanics and nine as C-130 mechanics,” according to an online statement by Resolute Support mission.

The statement further added “After English classes, students will go to their respective schools for training. The mechanics, for example, will learn general safety concepts dealing with aircraft, maintenance and the flight line. They will also receive training in technical orders, aircraft safe for maintenance and inspection systems. Additional areas of training focus on hand tools, aircraft hardware, common maintenance practices, aerospace ground support equipment, and foreign object damage.”

According to Resolute Support mission, this is the third group of A-29 mechanics and second group of C-130 mechanics to attend training in the United States.

“Currently this capability is being supplemented by U.S. military and contract mechanics, in 2019-2020, that responsibility is expected to be completely shifted over to Afghan mechanics,” the statement added.

The United States handed over the first batch of A-29 light attack aircraft to the Afghan Air Force in mid January this year.

The A-29 is a multi-role, fixed-wing aircraft that will provide the Afghan air force with an indigenous air-to-ground capability and aerial reconnaissance capabilities to support the country’s counterinsurgency operations.

Eight Afghan Air Force pilots completed their training late last year and graduated from a program hosted by the 81st Fighter Squadron at Moody Air Force Base in United States and will return to Afghanistan for combat.

The Afghan Air Force (AAF) officials are also optimistic to receive additional close-air support combat choppers and fixed-wing close-air support aircraft during the year.



One wounded as heavy explosion rocks Kabul city

Fri Mar 25 2016

A heavy explosion rocked capital Kabul earlier tonight after an improvised explosive device went off in the vicinity of Macroryan area.

The area was immediately cordoned off by the security forces following the explosions which was triggered by an IED planted in in a bike.

A security official confirmed that the blast took place close to a park located near block#21 in 3rd Macroryan. However, he said the target of the blast has not been ascertained so far but a number of the government officials are living in the area.

Fridoon Obaidi, head of the Criminal Investigation Department said one person was slightly injured in the incident.

No group including the Taliban militants has so far claimed responsibility behind the incident which comes as the security situation has improved during the recent weeks in Kabul city despite the militant groups have been trying to carry out terrorist activities.





Gen Raheel discusses RAW's involvement in Balochistan with Rouhani


Mar 26, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif on Saturday discussed the issue of Research and Analysis Wing's (RAW) involvement in Pakistan's internal affairs with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who is here on a two-day visit, said a statement issued by the military's media wing.

The army chief called on President Rouhani to discuss matters relating to regional security and Pakistan-Iran relations, said a Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement.

The army chief while highlighting the challenges being faced by Pakistan, discussed the alleged involvement of RAW in Pakistani affairs, especially in Balochistan, said the statement.

Matters relating to border security and regional connectivity also came under discussion.

According to the handout, President Rouhani "paid rich tributes to the professionalism of the Pakistan Army and its phenomenal achievements in operation Zarb-i-Azb", which entered its final phase last month in Shawal valley of North Waziristan.

The COAS has taken up the issue of RAW's involvement in Pakistan with President Rouhani two days after security forces announced the arrest of a RAW agent in Balochistan's Chaman area.

Identified as Kulbhushan Yadav, the man has been accused of being involved in subversive and terror related activities in Balochistan and Karachi.

Yadav is said to be originally from Indian Navy, where he served as a commissioned officer. In Pakistan, he operated under fake identities and was alleged to have been working with separatist and sectarian organisations.

The government has long accused Indian intelligence agency RAW of sponsoring terrorism in Karachi, Fata and Balochistan.

At a corps commanders meeting in May last year, military’s top brass had unprecedentedly pointed fingers directly at RAW for “whipping up terrorism in Pakistan”.

The arrest coincided with the visit of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to Islamabad.

The detained spy is claimed to have entered Pakistan via Iran and was also reportedly having valid Iranian visa.

Examine: India accepts ‘spy’ as former navy officer, denies having links

Pakistan has had reservations regarding India’s close ties with Iran, particularly the cooperation in regards to Chabahar Port.

Though, not many were paying attention to the timing of disclosure about Yadav’s arrest with President Rouhani’s trip, but the interior minister tipped about that possibility as well.

“We will ask Iran for assistance in probing the matter,” Chaudhry Nisar said.

A disclosure by a security official that the spy had been active in the area since 2013 and had been based in Chabahar left little doubt that the timing of the incident might have been used to underscore Pakistani concerns about Indian involvement in Chabahar port.



Pakistan stands by victims of terror attacks across the globe’

Mar 26, 2016

BOAO: Federal Minister for Planning, Reform and Development Ahsan Iqbal has said that Pakistan being a frontline state in war against terrorism is braving the challenge of countering terrorists and it stands by victims of terrorist attacks across the globe.

Speaking at a session on the rise of crowdfunding at the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2016 on Thursday, he said that Pakistan believed in equal opportunities of economic development for countries as a tool to combat terrorism and paving the way for peace.

He agreed with Asian leaders who had said that the current wave of terrorist attacks could not be attributed to a “clash of civilisations” but was triggered because of geo-politics.





Ugandan Muslims condemn hostility to interest-free banking

25 March 2016

Uganda’s Muslim leaders have condemned the “ignorance” of church leaders trying to block interest-free banking legislation in the majority-Christian nation.

Earlier this year, parliament amended a finance bill to introduce interest-free insurance. However, church leaders led by Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, head of the country’s Anglican church, has urged President Yoweri Museveni to reject the legislation.

In their petition - made public late Thursday - they claimed the introduction of interest-free banking “opens the door to the ultimate operationalization of full-fledged sharia law” and raised the specter of Islamic finance being used to fund terrorism.

“It should be remembered that the ultimate goal of jihad is to bring the whole world under sharia law and one religion in a global government known as the caliphate, which is what ISIL is trying to accomplish,” the church leaders’ petition claims.

“What criteria shows it’s a way for funding terrorism, this is a misconception of the Holy Quran,” Huda Oleru, a Muslim lawmaker for the National Resistance Movement, said.

She added: “Muslims in Uganda have been using secular banks because they had no option and this bill is a welcome move for those who do not want to pay interest levied by secular banks.”

Muslims make up 12 percent of Uganda’s population, with Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians accounting for around 84 percent.

Referring to the church petition, Oleru said the Quran “urges Muslims to help orphans, widows and the marginalized members of the society, that is the role of a responsible Muslim, they need to be educated more.”

Nsereko Mutumba, spokesman for the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council, said the church leaders were “just ignorant of the Quran, it has nothing to do with ISIL, Boko Haram or any other group claiming to kill non-Muslims. Even countries in the Western world are embracing Islamic banking.”

The Bank of Uganda is currently establishing a sharia advisory board to regulate and supervise the interest-free banking.

“This doesn’t mean having an automatic Muslim president,” Mutumba said. “We are the minority. Islam was the first religion to be introduced in Uganda [and] we have never forced anyone to convert to Islam.”

Commenting on the church leaders’ request for the president to send the bill back to parliament so passages relating to interest-free banking can be removed, Oleru said: “I will not support this amendment if it is returned to parliament.”



15,000 Muslims gather in South Africa for Ijitima

March 25, 2016

JOHANNESBURG – Thousands of Muslims from South Africa and abroad have gathered in Johannesburg to attend a three-day annual Islamic gathering known as the Ijitima organized by the international Sunni Jamaat Tablighi movement.

“The purpose of Ijitima is to bring Muslims together and remind them about the teachings of Islam and how they can live meaningful lives,’’ event organizer Mufti Bhoola told Anadolu Agency late Friday in Benoni, east of Johannesburg.

He said about 25,000 people attended Friday prayers at the venue of the event in Benoni, marking the start of the three-day spiritual gathering which ends Monday.

“Some of those who attended our Friday prayers have left and returned to their homes. Now we have 15,000 people registered to stay here with us for three days,” he said.

Organizers have also set up several huge tents on a playing field to accommodate the worshippers who have travelled from various parts of South Africa and neighboring countries.

“I came here to learn more about my religion with the aim of turning my life around and following the true path of Islam,’’ Johannesburg resident Rafick Essop told Anadolu Agency.

The annual gathering admits only Muslim males who attend lectures both during the day and at night.

Lectures are translated into different languages to accommodate the needs of the worshippers.

“I’m grateful to be here because I believe by the end of this event my spirituality will be revived,’’ Saidi Mawunde, who traveled by bus with a group of others from Malawi, told Anadolu Agency at the event.

Siraji Ali from the kingdom of Lesotho, who also attended last year’s event, said the gathering has taught him about the importance of Muslim brotherhood and unity.

“We sleep, eat, and pray together in these tents irrespective of our social status in society. This clearly shows that we are all brothers and should be united as one,” he said.

The Jamaat Tablighi, founded in India in the early 1920s, has since developed into an international movement in over 150 countries.

The movement organizes an annual gathering in Bangladesh, known as Bishwa Ijtima, which draws millions of Muslims from across the globe.

Their main objective is to do Dawah (propagate Islam), often reminding Muslims to follow the true path of Islam and live meaningful lives.

Members of the movement from community mosques often visit homes in communities to remind Muslims about the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad.

The gathering focuses on prayers and supplication.