New Age Islam
Thu Aug 13 2020, 12:31 PM

Islamic World News ( 5 Feb 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Cannabis Coffee: Indonesia's Sharia Stronghold Sidesteps Drug Ban







• Mosque on Wheels Rolls In To Help Muslims Pray At Tokyo Games

• Waqf Board's Decision on Ayodhya Land Not Opinion Of All Muslims: AIMPLB

• Seattle City Council Becomes First US Legislative Body to Pass Anti-CAA, NRC Resolution; Says Law 'Meant To Disenfranchise Muslims'

• Sweden’s Largest Church Supports Jewish and Muslim Circumcision

• Khadim Rizvi says Zindagi Tamasha will release ‘over his dead body’

• Libya's Warlord Uses Gangs-For-Hire, Rogue Mercenaries

• Bangladeshi Militant Chief Escapes Counter-Terror Dragnet in India

• Lebanese Cabinet to Discuss, Likely Adopt Draft Policy Statement

• Palestinian President Abbas to Push UN Resolution on Trump Peace Plan

 

Southeast Asia

• Cannabis Coffee: Indonesia's Sharia Stronghold Sidesteps Drug Ban

• Mosque on Wheels Rolls In To Help Muslims Pray At Tokyo Games

• Put Stop to Female Circumcision, SIS Urges Govt

• Love for the Motherland: Homesick Palestinians Extol Indonesian Support

• Good Governance Is the Way Out Of Poverty And Corruption

• Indonesian Sentenced to Life in Prison in Bomb Plots

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India

• Waqf Board's Decision on Ayodhya Land Not Opinion Of All Muslims: AIMPLB

• International Day Of Zero Tolerance Against FGM: 27 Short Films Break Silence Around Khatna Through Personal Stories

• Why I Converted To Islam and Buried My Hindu Identity: Dalit Camera Founder

• Shaheen Bagh becoming breeding ground for suicide bombers: Union minister Giriraj Singh

• CAA protests: UP police arrest 19 for sedition in Azamgarh

• Inspired by Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh protest: Day six of protest in Vadodara: We don’t trust the government, say protesters

• No pre-arrest bail for woman who ‘shouted slogan’ in support of Sharjeel Imam

• ‘Mughal Raj not far away’: BJP MP’s jibe at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh protesters

• Yogi Adityanath: 'Muslims did no favour to India by staying here'

• 5-acre land offer draws sharp reactions from Muslim side

• UP govt allots 5 acres for mosque in Ayodhya, 25km from temple site & near Lucknow highway

• Muslim outfits slam UP govt for granting mosque land away from Ayodhya

• After Article 370 move, J&K sees 73% drop in security forces’ deaths

• Sajjad Lone put under house arrest soon after release

• Arrested Jaish OGW used mobile internet to make WhatsApp call to Pak: J&K police chief

• Babri will remain mosque forever; no one can accept alternative: Jamiat

• Jammu and Kashmir: Two militants, one CRPF man killed in encounter outside Srinagar

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North America

• Seattle City Council Becomes First US Legislative Body to Pass Anti-CAA, NRC Resolution; • Says Law 'Meant To Disenfranchise Muslims'

• Tunisia: Demonstration against Trump plan for Middle East

• US condoles with Turkey over avalanches, plane accident

• Canada demands Iran surrender airplane’s black box

• Trump touts killings of ISIS leader, Iranian general in State of the Union

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Europe

• Sweden’s Largest Church Supports Jewish and Muslim Circumcision

• Golders Green Mosque Welcomes Jews And Muslims For Interfaith Blood Drive

• Far-right 'hate factory' still active on Facebook despite pledge to stop it

• Man Shot Dead by British Police Wanted Girlfriend to Behead Her Parents

• Extremism: More than 250 people in Wales flagged over concerns

• French police attacker inspired by ISIS made pre-attack call to pledge allegiance

• Brother of suicide bomber foiled in attempt to buy acid for explosive, court hears

• Tories in rush to pass emergency terror legislation

• Turkey slams European Parliament over PKK event

• Bosnia marks 26 years since Sarajevo market bombing

• 'Turkey to respond to EU's adverse steps in E. Med’

• UK to carry on with Ankara Agreement visa until 2021

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Pakistan

• Khadim Rizvi says Zindagi Tamasha will release ‘over his dead body’

• Saudi Arabia Unwilling To Back OIC Ministers’ Meeting On Kashmir

• Chewing gum in court ‘ridicules dignity, lowers police morale’: judge

• Imran, Mahathir agree to take strategic partnership to new level

• Five Pakistani students have coronavirus, confirms Chinese envoy

• Nawaz’s treatment delayed twice due to Maryam’s absence, Shehbaz claims

• CPEC to generate more employment in Pakistan: Bajwa

• Shahbaz wants Maryam with Nawaz during heart procedure

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Africa

• Libya's Warlord Uses Gangs-For-Hire, Rogue Mercenaries

• Al Shabaab 'Fires Two Members of Executive Council' After They Pushed To Stop Attacks On Civilians

• Museum shows Moroccan Jewish-Muslim relations

• Sudan gives Israel initial okay for overflights, says official

• HRW urges Morocco to release prisoners of conscience

• Sudan leader says stance on Palestine will not change amid anger over Netanyahu meeting

• Top Algerian diplomat in Libya to meet Haftar

• Turkey Deploys Extremists to Libya, Local Militias Say

• One al-Shabab terrorist killed, two compounds destroyed in Somalia week-long operations

• More soldiers won't help Mali, talks with jihadists might: U.N.

• Two killed, 20 homes torched in Cameroon Boko Haram attack

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South Asia

• Bangladeshi Militant Chief Escapes Counter-Terror Dragnet in India

• Taliban kidnaps a US contractor in southeastern Afghanistan

• Ghani orders merge of state-owned enterprises to establish a development corporation

• About 11,000 Afghan civilians killed or wounded in 2019

• Afghan poll results delayed with call for special audit

• Taliban accuses U.S. of delaying peace process after call for violence reduction

• 4 militants killed in Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar

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Arab World

• Lebanese Cabinet to Discuss, Likely Adopt Draft Policy Statement

• Clashes In Iraq’s Najaf Kill Seven After Al-Sadr’s Followers Storm Protest Camp

• Baghdad wants to minimize reliance on US: Iraqi officials

• Aid groups push for immediate ceasefire in northwest Syria

• UN Security Council to hold emergency session on Syria

• Iraq PM-designate meets anti-government protesters

• Iraq’s new prime minister pledges to release detained protesters

• DIA says ISIS took advantage of Turkish invasion of northern Syria, Baghdadi death did not degrade jihadi group

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Mideast

• Palestinian President Abbas to Push UN Resolution on Trump Peace Plan

• Israeli forces shoot dead Palestinian teen boy in occupied West Bank

• Israeli soldiers injured in car-ramming attack in Jerusalem

• Two avalanches leave over 30 dead in Turkey

• Erdogan threatens Syria over attacks on Turkish observation posts in Idlib

• Iran-linked hackers pose as journalists in email scam

• 'Iran initiative best choice to resolve Israeli-Palestinian conflict'

• Yemeni forces, allies shoot down Saudi-led reconnaissance drone in Hudaydah

• Palestinian killed in clashes as tensions rise over US plan

• Gaza farmers return to their lands along volatile Israeli border

• Assad snubs Erdogan’s demand to halt attack

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/cannabis-coffee--indonesia-s-sharia-stronghold-sidesteps-drug-ban/d/120997

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Cannabis coffee: Indonesia's sharia stronghold sidesteps drug ban

Haeril Halim

February 5, 2020

Agus plunges a wooden paddle into his coffee and marijuana-filled wok, taking care to roast just the right mix of ingredients -- and stay one step ahead of police in Indonesia's Aceh province.

His contraband brew is a hit with locals and buyers in other parts of the Southeast Asian archipelago, who pay 1.0 million rupiah ($75) for a kilo of it.

But this is risky business in Aceh, where even drinking alcohol or kissing in public can earn you a painful whipping under its strict Islamic law.

Agus, not his real name, is part of a clandestine economy in the region at the tip of Sumatra which, despite its no-nonsense reputation, is Indonesia's top weed-producer with fields covering an area nearly seven times the size of Singapore, according to official estimates.

Pot was once so common in Aceh that locals grew it in their backyards and marijuana was sold to the public.

But it was outlawed in the Seventies and Muslim majority Indonesia has since adopted some of the world's strictest drug laws, including the death penalty for traffickers.

The nation has declared itself in the midst of a drug "emergency" because of soaring methamphetamine use.

But the situation is Aceh is muddled.

Police hunt weed farmers, imprison users and torch mountains of confiscated marijuana -- more than 100 tons last year alone.

Yet just last week a lawmaker from the province proposed in Parliament that the drug should be legalized, so the country could export it for pharmaceutical purposes.

He was quickly reprimanded by his Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), while the national narcotics agency slammed the proposal claiming it would discourage Aceh ganja farmers from adopting its suggestions to switch to vegetables and other crops.

Despite the risks, Agus, claims he has little fear of going to jail.

"How can you ban something that's everywhere?" he said, adding: "It's all over Aceh. This huge crackdown just makes it rarer to see in public but people still use it."

Most days, his biggest concern is hitting the perfect ratio for his java --  70 percent coffee and 30 percent marijuana.

"If you put more than 30 percent ganja in there then you lose the coffee taste," he explained.

For two decades Agus was a white collar professional but he swapped his prestigious career for a more lucrative trade in order to better support his family.

"I wanted to focus on coffee because this is my area of expertise," he added.

Agus insists his recipe offers a pleasant, less intense high than smoking it or eating popular dodol ganja.

The local specialty mixes marijuana with a fudgy sweet made from glutinous rice, palm sugar and coconut milk.

"That stuff can really make you hallucinate," Agus said.

How marijuana became a thing in Aceh is a matter of debate.

Some say it was brought by Dutch colonists hundreds of years ago as a gift for a sultan in the jungle-clad region.

But local historian Tarmizi Abdul Hamid counters that marijuana use -- for everything from medicine and cooking to repelling pests from crops and preserving food -- can be found in manuscripts that pre-date the Dutch arrival.

"It shows that ganja can be used to cure baldness or high blood pressure," he said of one text.

"Ganja was also used for cooking and medicine. Smoking, however, is not mentioned in the ancient scriptures," he added.

Centuries later, marijuana was on the front lines -- literally -- of a separatist insurgency in Aceh.

Former weed farmer Fauzan remembers harvesting his crop when bullets started flying across his field in a shootout between government soldiers and rebels back in 2002, three years before a peace deal ended the bloody conflict.

Fauzan estimates that some 80 percent of the people in his hometown Lamteuba, about 50 kilometers from provincial capital Banda Aceh, were once ganja farmers.

Locals in the one-time rebel stronghold created secret pathways to their lucrative crops and even built hiding places to stash their weed harvest in a cat-and-mouse game with authorities.

"This village is like heaven. Whatever you plant here it'll grow," Fauzan said.

"Throw a ganja seed on the ground, leave it and then come back for the harvest."

But, fearing arrest, he later quit the trade.

Fauzan, who now grows chilies to support his family, works with the government to convince farmers to switch to vegetables and other crops.

That's a hard sell in an impoverished village with few job opportunities.

"If the government doesn't take care of people and supply assistance, they're likely to go back to their old routine," Fauzan acknowledged.

For pot enthusiast Iqbal -- not his real name -- the only thing prohibition has done is make locals better at hiding pot in a cup of coffee or plate of noodles.

He mused: "It's impossible to get rid of ganja in Aceh. Cracking down on meth by destroying a lab is easier. But when police destroy a ganja plantation, it'll just grow somewhere else."

https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/02/05/cannabis-coffee-indonesias-sharia-stronghold-sidesteps-drug-ban.html

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Mosque on wheels rolls in to help Muslims pray at Tokyo Games

Feb 5, 2020

By Jack Tarrant

TOKYO (Reuters) - For the thousands of Muslim athletes, officials and supporters arriving in Tokyo for the Olympic Games later this year, it may be a struggle for them to find an appropriate place to pray.

The answer might just be found roaming the streets of Tokyo on the back of a truck.

By the time the Games start in July, there will be prayer rooms available at the currently under-construction athlete's village. However, some venues may not have a designated space.

There is also a dearth of prayer spaces in hotels and public areas across the Japanese capital.

This is where the Mobile Mosque, a fully-equipped 48-square-metre prayer room that opens up on the back of a parked truck, comes in.

The back of the modified truck can be widened in seconds and the vehicle also includes Arabic signage and outdoor water taps for pre-worship cleaning.

The Yasu Project, the organization behind the enterprise, plan on pitching up outside venues during the Olympics, which run from July 24 - Aug. 9.

The organization's CEO Yasuharu Inoue hopes athletes and supporters alike will use the truck.

"I want athletes to compete with their utmost motivation and for the audience to cheer on with their utmost motivation as well. That is why I made this," said Inoue, pointing to the white truck parked next to Tokyo Tower on Wednesday.

"I hope it brings awareness that there are many different people in this world and to promote a non-discriminatory, peaceful Olympics and Paralympics."

Tokyo 2020 said on Wednesday that they were looking at various avenues to provide appropriate facilities for all religious groups.

"The Organising Committee is preparing a list of religious or faiths centers that could be contacted or visited if requested by residents of the Villages during the Games," Tokyo 2020 told Reuters in an email.

"In the Games' venues, multi-faith prayer spaces for athletes and spectators are under consideration in venue operations planning."

According to a investigation by Waseda University, there were 105 mosques in Japan at the end of 2018. But with these spread across the country and many of them small and on the outskirts of Tokyo, it may be difficult for Muslims who need to pray five times a day.

Inoue said he has already spoken to several Olympic committees, including most recently Indonesia, about helping their athletes.

Topan Rizki Utraden, an Indonesian who has lived in Japan for 12 years, came to the Mobile Mosque for the first time with his daughter.

He said it can be challenging to find a quiet place to pray in Japan, particularly outside Tokyo.

"It is really difficult to find mosques near your place," said Utraden.

"If you are in the city there is no problem but if you take a road trip outside Tokyo it is difficult.

"Sometimes I pray in a park but sometimes the Japanese look at me like 'what are you doing?'"

https://sports.yahoo.com/unique-solution-rolls-help-muslims-103513624.html

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Seattle City Council becomes first US legislative body to pass anti-CAA, NRC resolution; says law 'meant to disenfranchise Muslims'

Feb 04, 2020

Seattle: A coalition of Seattle-area South Asians celebrated the passage of Seattle City Council Resolution 31926 on 3 February, opposing India’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) and Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), after hundreds of people rallied and attended a midday City Council vote to express their support. The resolution, introduced by Council member Kshama Sawant, affirmed Seattle as a welcoming city, and expressed City Council’s solidarity with Seattle’s South Asian community regardless of religion and caste.

“We welcome the Seattle City Council’s resolution denouncing the divisive and draconian CAA and NRC. These acts are unconstitutional and designed to disenfranchise several million Muslim, Dalits and other minorities in order to create a fascist state.” said Javed Sikander, spokesperson for the Seattle chapter of the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC).

Seattle City Council became the first legislative body in the United States to take a stance on India’s CAA and NRC, which have created turmoil in India since the CAA passed in December 2019. The CAA imposes a religious criterion to fast-track Indian citizenship for Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Parsi, and Christian immigrants, notably leaving out Muslims. When paired with the NRC, the CAA could lead to hundreds of millions of people in India being stripped of their citizenship and rights. The NRC requires extensive documentation to prove an individual’s citizenship and has already left out millions of residents when applied in the state of Assam.

“Seattle is leading the moral consensus in the global outcry against the CAA. When genocidal campaigns begin, one important intervention is international condemnation, and the Seattle community feels a deep sense of solidarity with their elected, as the time to stand against the Indian government's Islamophobic policies is now,” said Thenmozhi Soundarajan, Executive Director of Equality Labs. “These genocidal projects happen in the shadows and this resolution highlights the significance of Seattle City Council standing up for South Asian minorities, Muslims, and caste oppressed communities.”

In Seattle, hundreds from the South Asian community and allied organisations have spoken out against the CAA and NRC, including over 400 people who rallied in Bellevue on 26 January. Local organisations API Chaya, Tasveer, IAMC Seattle, Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Washington, Seattle South Asians Building Accountability and Healing (SABAH), Khalsa Gurmat Center Federal Way, Gurudwara of Renton, Gurudwara of Auburn, Gurudwara of Kent, Gurudwara of Bothell, and the Seattle LGBTQ Commission joined national organisations Equality Labs, Amnesty International USA, and the Ambedkar King Study Circle in calling for the passage of the resolution. Seattle-area residents recognise that international condemnation will apply pressure on the Indian government to account for the discrimination and violence perpetuated by the CAA and NRC.

“As South Asians in Seattle, SABAH confirms that the CAA is not an internal issue to India, and that Seattle must take a stand against it,” said Veena Roy of SABAH. “There are thousands here in Seattle who are intimately connected to the minority experience in India, some have needed to migrate here after similar violence in the past, and many who have family in India who directly experience the violence that the Indian government clamors to keep hidden. We know that Kshama Sawant’s resolution is much more than a symbolic gesture. It has created ripples in the Greater Seattle Area, even in India. As a community of Seattle, a sanctuary city that fights for equality and safety for the undocumented, we applaud the passing of this resolution,” she added.

Javed Sikander, Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), Seattle welcomed the resolution. “These acts are unconstitutional and designed to disenfranchise several million Muslim, Dalits and other minorities in order to create a fascist state. The prime minister of India and his party BJP has to be stopped from further damaging India and its secularism,” he said.

Tyna Ek, of the Seattle Indivisible, said, "The NRC/CAA, in combination, threatens to make millions of Indian Muslims stateless. Seattle Indivisible stands against religious persecution here and abroad; and we are proud that our City Council does as well."

https://www.firstpost.com/world/seattle-city-council-becomes-first-us-legislative-body-to-pass-anti-caa-nrc-resolution-says-law-meant-to-disenfranchise-muslims-7998541.html

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Sweden’s largest church supports Jewish and Muslim circumcision

By CNAAN LIPHSHIZ

FEBRUARY 6, 2020

The Swedish Church in a document titled “view on male circumcision” asserted that the practice, which is performed by Jews, Muslims and some Christians, “does not in itself contravene the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child” and “is a significant identity creation act from a religious, ethnic and cultural perspective” enshrined by religious freedoms.

The subject of non-medical circumcision of boys, or milah, is controversial in Europe, and especially in Scandinavia, where it is under attack both by liberals citing children’s welfare issues and anti-immigration activists who oppose it as a foreign import.

A similar debate is being conducted about the Jewish and Muslim ways of slaughtering animals for food. Across Europe, Christian organizations have backed Muslim and Jewish advocacy of those practices.

Against this background, a prominent rabbi, Moshe David HaCohen of Malmo, called the church’s position paper from December “an extremely important statement.”

“It is very good to see that they [the Swedish Church] understand how beyond religious freedom, not allowing this would be subtracting from a child’s identity both in Judaism and Islam,” he wrote Tuesday on Facebook.

Kosher and halal slaughter is not allowed in most of Belgium and Norway, as well as parts of Austria and Switzerland, among other places.

Non-medical circumcision is legal across Europe.

https://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/Swedens-largest-church-supports-Jewish-and-Muslim-circumcision-616685

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Khadim Rizvi says Zindagi Tamasha will release ‘over his dead body’

February 6, 2020

LAHORE: Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi on Wednesday said that he would not let film Zindagi Tamasha release no matter what anyone does.

He was addressing party workers and supporters at Faisal Chowk here on the occasion of Kashmir Day.

“We will not let the film Zindagi Tamasha release and will do whatever it takes to make sure it does not see the light of day,” he said, adding ‘jo karna hai kar lo’ (do whatever you can).

Earlier on January 28, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) had set up a four-member committee that would review the film Zindagi Tamasha and submit a report to CII Chairman Dr Qibla Ayaz.

The members of this committee include Ghulam Majid, Abdul Rasheed, Taaj Muhammad and Muhammad Ashfaq, all of whom are said to be experts in the concepts of Shariah.

“All the members are competent and hold qualifications in Islam and social sciences. They belong to CII’s research wing and were selected for this task after going through an interview process. We have shown them the CBFC letter and advised them on how to review the film, keeping religious sentiments in mind,” CII’s Media Coordinator Rana Zahid had said.

“The Council’s supreme body will further take a decision regarding the film after viewing the report,” he said.

He further told that the CII has sent a letter notifying the CBFC of its plan of action in the first phase and is expecting a reply soon.

According to another anonymous member of the CII, the four member bench will also question the viewpoint of CBFC members over objectionable dialogues.

“How were these dialogues and scenes that hurt the sentiments of the public even cleared if they (CBFC) watched the film? The reply of the CBFC members will also be a part of the report. We are just concerned over the objectionable dialogues that hurt the public. We have no concern otherwise. No scene or dialogue that hurts religious sentiments, would be allowed to pass,” said the member.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/02/05/khadim-rizvi-says-zindagi-tamasha-will-release-over-his-dead-body/

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Libya's warlord uses gangs-for-hire, rogue mercenaries

Mustafa Dalaa and Enes Canli  

05.02.2020

Libya's putschist commander Khalifa Haftar has dragged the country into a spiral of violence with his spiteful intention to capture the capital Tripoli.

He makes up for lack of fighters by recruiting members from radical militias and criminal mercenaries in the region in the 10-month-long war that has marred the country.

These forces include groups led by military commanders who are sought by arrest warrants from the International Criminal Court, militias who have been accused of genocide, and rogue mercenaries.

Haftar gradually expanded the area under his occupation every year following the coup attempt in 2014, taking advantage of the political vacuum in the country.

After the southern regions that Haftar captured at the beginning of the year, only the capital Tripoli remained safe from his advances.

Standing out as the most crucial piece of land in Libya, the Tripoli region hosts two-thirds of the country's population and this is where diplomatic representations and independent government institutions are located.

Haftar's militia unit 'Libyan National Army'

Haftar calls the group he leads as the "Libyan National Army" and wants to be treated like an official army. In fact, Haftar's armed force works like a "dealership" and tries to gather militias under one roof.

A large number of militias from Libyan tribes in the east and west have joined the ranks. Others who have joined the putschist commander include members from the public committees established by former ruler Muammar Gaddafi, the extremist Madkhali Salafists, Janjaweed militias of Sudan -- who have a very controversial history in Sudan -- the rebels in Chad, Russian mercenaries, and military officers from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and France.

It is claimed that the force comprises 25,000-30,000 militias, including trained military personnel of 7,000. The Brigade 106, the largest and best armed among them, is commanded by Saddam Haftar, his son.

The rallying cry for the brigade is Khamis, the name of one of the son's of Gaddafi.

Other troops of Haftar's amalgam of militias are as follows:

1- Madkhali Salafists

Madkhali Salafists have extreme opinions but advocate the view that the rulers should be obeyed. They consider Saudi Arabia as their ruler so the fight for Haftar, who is backed by Riyadh.

Emrah Kekili, a researcher, told Anadolu Agency: "Madkhali Salafists are a bigger threat to Libya than Daesh due to their belief, organization and command center."

Nidaa Battalion

Nida Battalion, the most prominent among Salafist movements, is commanded by Mahmoud al-Wirfalli who is wanted by the International Criminal Court over committing war crimes. Haftar announced in July that he promoted Wirfalli from the so-called major to lieutenant colonel.

Wirfalli is accused of executing 10 blindfolded people in Benghazi capturing the entire act on video footage.

Salafist Tawheed Union

Salafist Tawheed Union is headed by Ashraf al-Miyar who participated in the uprising against Gaddafi.

They are of the view that those who oppose Haftar are "heretics and it is permissible to shed their blood".

Sabil al-Salam units

Sabil al-Salam units operate in the south-east of the country and are commanded by Abdel-Rahman al-Kilani.

Al-Qaniyat units

Al-Qaniyat units, located in Tarhuna city, 90 kilometers (56 miles) from south-east of the capital, are under the control of Qani brothers. The vast majority of the Al-Qaniyat units are former soldiers of Gaddafi's army.

These units perviously worked for Libya's UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, but they were cast aside due to their links to Haftar.

They leaked information to Haftar's forces and made the occupation of some neighborhoods south of the capital possible.

Gaddafi’s regime troops

After the fall of Gaddafi regime in 2011, Haftar struggled to gather the troops. Fighters from Muhammad al-Muqri, Khamis brigade, 32. Brigade joined Haftar with advanced ammunition.

Among them, a prominent unit is Mohammed bin Nail, which is located in the south-west Brak al-Shati military base, where the Al Muqaraha tribe lived. Haftar gave the control of Sabha and strategic Jufra airbase to this group.

Abdul-Salam al-Hassi, who came from the Hasse tribe in the east, was appointed as the commander of the operation at the beginning of the Tripoli operation by Haftar. However, after the strategic city of Garyan was lost in June, it was reported that Hassi was recalled by Haftar.

Mabrouk al-Sabhan, who was assigned to take back the city of Garyan, is believed to be from the Al Muqaraha tribe and is a Gaddafi supporter.

Al Muaqaraha and Qadhadhfa tribes were the most privileged tribes in the army during the Gaddafi era.

Brigade Tarhuna 22 includes elite troops especially from the Gaddafi army. Haftar was united with Terhune 7th Brigade at the beginning of Tripoli attack and named the 9th Brigade under the command of Abdul Wahab al-Maqri. Maqri, Abdelaziz and Mohsen Qani brothers lost their lives in an attack by Libya's GNA forces.

Sahwa units consist of an armed structure organized in the form of public committees during the Gaddafi era.

The Sahwa units -- supporting the putschist general inside the city -- changed the balance with a surprise move, while The Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries surrounded Benina airbase and Al rajma military airbase.

Tribal fighters

Some tribes in the east of the country are cooperating with Haftar. Other supporters include the Haftar tribe whose members are in Sirte in the north, Tarhune in the west and Ajdabiya in the east.

Another prominent tribe is the Obeidat tribe which supports Haftar. Aguila Saleh, the speaker of the pro-Haftar House of Representatives in the eastern city of Tobruk, belongs to this tribe.

Haftar militias inflict cruel punishments on tribes who oppose them. The black Toubou tribe, located from the south of Libya to Chad, was subjected to extrajudicial executions by Haftar militias. At least 45 people died as a result of the Haftar's airstrike on a Toubou tribal meeting in Murzuk in August 2019.

Mercenaries

As Haftar expanded his occupation in eastern Libya, he needed manpower to control these lands. This need reached critical levels with his attack on Tripoli and therefore he brokered agreements with different mercenaries, with financial support from his allies.

Also, reportedly the military officials from Egypt, the UAE and France provided tactical advice to the Haftar troops on the ground. The prominent foreign mercenaries in the ranks of Haftar are listed as follows:

- According to the reports of the UN, approximately 700 members of the Chad rebel armed groups serve Haftar in Libya.

- Sudan Liberation Army: About 500 militias from two separate groups operating in Darfur in the west of Sudan are in the ranks of Haftar.

- Sudanese Janjaweed militias: Nearly 1,000 of the Janjaweed militias, armed by the Rapid Support Force, led by Muhammad Hamdan Duklu, protect the critical Al Jufra Airbase in the attacks against the capital, according to UN reports. Some leaders of Janjaweed militias are wanted by International Criminal Court for their activities in Darfur. According to international media reports, the number of Sudanese militias fighting in the ranks of Haftar has recently increased to 3,000.

- Russia’s Wagner Group is one of the most controversial groups among the mercenaries. It is owned by to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman with close links to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

According to Bloomberg, it was reported that the Wagner Group, where approximately 1,400 militias came to Libya, brought 25 Russian pilots who carried out training activities for the Haftar troops, and Russian Sukhoi-22 type war planes are seen in Libyan skies.

Mercenaries who previously had field experience in Ukraine, are fighting on the frontline in Libya, according to Euronews.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/libyas-warlord-uses-gangs-for-hire-rogue-mercenaries/1725301

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Bangladeshi Militant Chief Escapes Counter-Terror Dragnet in India

2020-02-05

Indian authorities have narrowly missed capturing the chief of the Bangladeshi militant group JMB after tracking his movements in recent weeks to communities near the Bangladesh border in West Bengal state, a ranking Indian security official said Wednesday.

Salahuddin Salehin is wanted for murder in Bangladesh and for a bomb blast at an Indian temple in 2018. He fled to India after escaping from a prison van in 2014 when militants mounted a daring daylight rescue that killed a police officer and wounded two others.

“We raided three places. … He fled at the last moment,” an official with the Indian National Intelligence Agency (NIA) told BenarNews on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Salehin remains at large, he said.

“Salehin has been hiding in the districts bordering Bangladesh,” the official said, adding that Indian counter-terrorist agents had pursued his trail in the districts of Cochbihar, North Dinajpur, Maldah, Murshidabad and Nadia, where they believe he took on a new alias.

Bangladeshi police have offered a 500,000 taka ($5,900) reward for Salehin’s capture, while the website of New Delhi-based NIA includes him on its Most Wanted list, providing details about his extremist activities and showing his photographs.

“It is assumed that Salehin, along with fellow militant leader Zahidul Islam (alias Boma Mizan) opened a newer faction of the JMB, naming it Jama’atul Mujahideen India or JMI,” the NIA website said.

Suspected members of the militant group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) stunned Bangladeshi authorities on Feb. 23, 2014 when they attacked a police van transporting Salehin, his fellow death-row inmate Rakib Hasan and Zahidul Islam, who was serving a life sentence.

The van was transporting the three men from a high-security jail to their court hearing in Mymensingh, about 120 km (75 miles) north of Dhaka, when the attackers blocked its path using a van, lobbed explosives and opened fire with rifles.

Hasan was re-captured but local media quoted police as saying that he was killed in a gunbattle on the same day. A government inquiry concluded that police officers were involved in helping the three prisoners escape.

A high-ranking official of the Kolkata police’s special task force corroborated the NIA official’s accounts to BenarNews, saying suspected associates of Salehin during interrogation had recenlty confirmed that the Bangladeshi militant was operating in southern India.

Salehin (alias Hafizur Rahman Sheikh or Mahin) had hideouts in the south Indian states of Kerala, Karnataka and Chennai, said the official, who did not want to be identified for security reasons.

“There, he [Salehin] has been involved in preparing a module for the JMB,” he said.

Bangladesh officials also told BenarNews on Wednesday that Salehin was hiding in India.

“We are also aware of Salahuddin Salehin’s activities in India,” said Saiful Islam, the Bangladeshi police’s deputy commissioner for counter-terrorism and transnational crimes.

“We have information that Salehin has been active in spreading the activities of the militant outfit in India. Here in Bangladesh, he has some followers who maintain links with him,” Islam said.

“After escaping from Bangladesh, Salehin tried to make the JMB as a regional militant outfit named Jama’atul Mujahideen India or JMI,” he said.

In July 2017, a propaganda publication for JMI, Saham Al Hind, published an interview with Salehin, who bragged that he was capable of organizing a militant group in India.

Bangladeshi police say Salehin faces at least 40 charges across the county. He was convicted and sentenced to death in 2013 for the killing of a Christian named Hridoy Roy in 2005 in Jamalpur district.

Militant group claims responsibility

JMB claimed responsibility for a nationwide wave of near-simultaneous bombings on Aug. 17, 2005 in Bangladesh. The bombs, mostly detonators or without explosive charges, killed two people, forcing the government to admit the presence of militants in the South Asian nation.

Kamruzzaman, an assistant inspector-general at the Dhaka police headquarters, told BenarNews on Wednesday that Salehin was one of the 700 people suspected of involvement in the explosions.

Before those blasts, the government of then-Prime Minister Khaleda Zia repeatedly accused the media of publishing “cooked and fabricated” stories about the presence of extremists in the country.

But the bombings catapulted JMB onto the national consciousness. Despite attempts to crush the group, it recently gave rise to a new faction, Neo-JMB, whose members align themselves with the Islamic State.

Neo-JMB was involved in Bangladesh’s deadliest terror attack at a Dhaka café in 2016. Authorities said Salehim had no links to that siege that left 29 people dead, most of them foreigners.

Indian authorities, however, had filed charges against Salehin, accusing him of participating in the 2014 explosion that killed two people at a rented two-story house in the Burdwan district of West Bengal state.

Counter-terror officials in New Delhi also believe Salehim and JMB members were involved in low-intensity explosion at a Buddhist pilgrimage site in India’s northeastern Bihar state on Jan. 19, 2018, when Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, was visiting the area.

No casualties were reported in the explosion and West Bengal police said they arrested two suspected JMB members. Police said they could not confirm whether the bombs were intended to target the Dalai Lama.

https://www.benarnews.org/english/news/bengali/bangladesh-militants-02052020182923.html

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Lebanese cabinet to discuss, likely adopt draft policy statement

6 February 2020

The Lebanese Cabinet is set to meet Thursday, and it will discuss and likely approve the policy statement draft that sets out the new government’s plan to address the worsening economic and financial situation in the country.

The draft plan, which was obtained by Al Arabiya English ahead of the vote, says “the steps and treatment tools that we will propose will be painful,” but adds that “people will know or may one day recall that it was necessary.”

The plan does not specify what the “painful steps” would entail, but called for reducing interest rates on loan and deposits and reducing the cost of debt as part of any economic bailout plan.

Experts have criticized the draft plan, as it is vague and has few concrete suggestions to pull the country out of its current downward economic spiral. It is set to be passed by the new government led by

Prime Minister Hassan Diab and follows shortly after the new government adopted the unpopular 2020 state budget.

Anti-government protests have been ongoing since mid-October in Lebanon. Demonstrators have demanded better accountability and more transparency from the traditional ruling class.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/06/Lebanese-cabinet-to-discuss-likely-adopt-draft-policy-statement.html

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Palestinian president Abbas to push UN resolution on Trump peace plan

5 February 2020

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will travel to the United Nations next week to push for a Security Council resolution condemning US President Donald Trump’s peace proposals, Palestinian officials said Wednesday.

The resolution will almost certainly be vetoed by the United States.

“The draft resolution that will be voted on in the Security Council will include the rejection of the Trump-Netanyahu deal,” Saleh Rafat, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, told AFP, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He called Trump’s plan, which Netanyahu enthusiastically supports, “the opposite of the UN Security Council resolutions on the Palestinian conflict.”

If vetoed at the Security Council, the issue will be taken to the UN General Assembly, Rafat added.

The Permanent Representative of Palestine to the UN, Riyad Mansour, told the official Voice of Palestine radio that Abbas will arrive in New York on Monday and address the Security Council on Tuesday.

Trump released his long-delayed peace proposals last week but they were immediately rejected by the Palestinians, who have boycotted his administration over its pro-Israel stance.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/05/Palestinian-president-Abbas-to-push-UN-resolution-on-Trump-peace-plan-.html

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Southeast Asia

 

Put stop to female circumcision, SIS urges govt

Robin Augustin

February 6, 2020

PETALING JAYA: Sisters In Islam (SIS) has voiced disappointment over Putrajaya’s continued support for female circumcision despite the fact the practice is not mentioned in the Quran.

In an email interview with FMT in conjunction with International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), the NGO referred to the government’s reiteration that FGM, which includes female circumcision, is part of Malaysian culure.

This, it said, was mentioned in Malaysia’s reporting of the Universal Periodic Review in November 2018.

FGM is a procedure of cutting or removing some or all of the external female genitalia. SIS says two of the four types of FGM classified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) are practised in Malaysia.

Type 1, it said, involved the partial or total removal of the clitoris and or the fold of skin surrounding it, while Type 4 involves harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes.

This includes pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterisation.

“FGM is done out of religious belief and cultural obligation. Islam did not introduce circumcision of girls as a practice for Muslims, and female circumcision can be traced back to pre-Islamic traditions,” it said.

It said that Dar al-Ifta al Misriyyah, which is among the pillars of the religious foundations in Egypt, alongside Al-Azhar Al-Sharif, Al-Azhar University and the country’s religious endowments ministry, even declared all forms of FGM to be religiously forbidden in May 2018.

“It further said that banning FGM should be a religious duty of all Muslim countries due to its harmful effects on the body,” it said.

SIS said many Muslim majority countries did not practise FGM, including Saudi Arabia and Morocco.

A stumbling block to its eradication here, it said, was the understanding of many Muslims on female circumcision who believe that it is “wajib” (mandatory) and part of culture.

“What is more concerning is the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) 2009 fatwa stating that female circumcision (FC) is mandatory.

“Even though this fatwa was not gazetted, the reality is that in general, fatwas have a strong influence over individuals and communities in their personal decision-making,” it said.

The Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy meanwhile said that from a health perspective, there is no scientific data or medical evidence which justifies the need or benefits of FGM.

Its CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib said FGM was unlike male circumcision which has “clear, demonstrable benefits”, including improved hygiene and in preventing sexually transmitted diseases.

“If there is no medical benefit, no religious obligation or any benefit whatsoever to performing female circumcision, then why do it?”

He said there was a health ministry circular which prohibits female circumcision in all public facilities.

“The ministry should extend that prohibition to all healthcare facilities, private and public.

“We should prohibit and criminalise the act of female circumcision to protect our infant daughters and girls from harm,” Azrul said.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/02/06/put-stop-to-female-circumcision-sis-urges-govt/

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Love for the motherland: Homesick Palestinians extol Indonesian support

Dian Septiari

February 6, 2020 

Thirty-two-year-old Palestinian migrant Mahmoud Omar can say unabashedly that he has learned to love Indonesia like he would his own wife, but that it would never measure up to his love for his homeland. Having come to Indonesia a little over a year ago, and now living comfortably as a teacher at the Al-Masyhad Islamic boarding school in Sukabumi, West Java, Omar said he felt the Indonesian people had welcomed him with open arms. He also felt the extent of Indonesia’s support for Palestinian statehood, which comes almost naturally for a country with the world’s largest Muslim population. Omar said he believed in the prophetic hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) that a group of Muslim peoples would stand firm in preserving the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, a sacred site for the major Abrahamic faiths and one of the flashpoints of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. ...

Full report at:

https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/02/06/love-for-the-motherland-homesick-palestinians-extol-indonesian-support.html

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Good governance is the way out of poverty and corruption

Jamari Mohtar and Alissa Azizi

February 5, 2020

The latest findings of the Islamicity Indices in 2018 show that Malaysia, despite being a Muslim-majority country, is ranked 47th.

Topping the list are the non-Muslim countries with New Zealand as the crème de la crème, followed by Sweden, Netherlands and Iceland.

The Islamicity Indices are indicators that measure how “Islamic” a nation is on its governance and economic practices, according to the Quran and the Hadith.

The research was primarily conducted with the aim to discover whether the “Islamic” nations (countries with large Muslims populations) truly use the Quranic principles on governance, economics, human and political rights, and international relations.

Unfortunately, the report found that they do not.

By comparison, New Zealand, with Muslims comprising only 1% of the general population, had the highest overall index score of 9.2 out of 10, with its economic practices closely mirroring the Quranic principles that had a score of 9.0, human and political rights at 9.29 and law and governance at 9.58.

Emran El-Badawi, founding director of International Quranic Studies Association (IQSA) in the US and director of the Middle Eastern studies programme at the University of Houston, in reconciling these rather contradictory findings said that this is due to the liberal commitments of freedom and strong egalitarianism embedded in Western countries’ governance dynamics, which is in line with the Quran’s central theme — justice.

The Quran orders Muslims to deliver justice in all areas, “O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So, follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, acquainted. (Q 4:135)

The highest-ranking Islamic country in the indices is the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at 45th, scoring an overall index of 6.18. Whereas, Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, scored an overall index score of 5.05 at 64th.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, historically viewed as a leader of the Islamic world, is at the 85th position with an overall index score of 4.42, a score of 3.63 for its human and political rights and 4.96 for its legal framework and governance.

Yemen, an Arab country on the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula that has 98% of the population practising the religion, was the worst performer with an overall index score of 0.97, followed by Sudan with an overall index score of 1.25.

What does this survey tell us about Malaysia?

As stated before, Malaysia was in the 47th place on the list with an overall index score of 6.02, with the lowest score of 4.66 for its human and political rights, 6.05 for its international relations and 6.39 for its legal framework and governance. The highest score is for the economy – 6.99.

Malaysia has been a pioneer in the global sukuk market development. This has resulted in the country becoming a global leading sukuk market, with US$157.8 billion (RM650 billion) sukuk issued in 2019, compared with US$60 million back in 2002. The country is also strong for its policies in alleviating poverty.

Among the Islamic nations, Malaysia scored third place in the list, after UAE (45th) and Albania (46th).

Nonetheless, the key issues for Malaysia being in the middle of the pack, rather than at the top of the Islamicity Indices, are corruption and human rights.

As such, the long-running allegations of corruption were noted to be incredibly distressing during the time period for the study (which was around 2018). This resulted in regime change during the nation’s 14th general election (GE14).

Hence, as a country with Islam as the state religion, what can we do?

First things first. We have to combat the key issues identified in the Islamicity Indices — corruption and human rights.

According to the latest study revealed by Transparency International (TI), an international anti-corruption watchdog, under the Corruption Perception Index (CPI), Malaysia has improved in the rankings, with corruption no longer a major issue in the country.

Interestingly, the index reflects a relation between corruption and justice such that more corruption leads to less respect for justice and the rule of law, such that New Zealand and Denmark topped first in the list with a score of 87 out of 100 (with zero being highly corrupt and 100 being very clean from corruption), followed by Finland (86/100), Singapore (85/100) and Sweden (85/100).

In the Islamicity Indices, Sweden is in second position with an overall index score of 8.98, while Denmark is in the seventh position with 8.82.

At the bottom of the CPI list was Somalia (an Islamic country) with a score of 9/100, followed by South Sudan (12/100), Syria (also an Islamic country with a score of 13/100), and Yemen (15/100).

Therefore, this shows how paramount it is for countries to stay away from corruption due to its bad aftermath of inefficiencies over the allocation of resources. This affects the whole spectrum of society and results in stagnation of overall economic development.

With the improvement in our CPI, the government can now focus on the “perut economy” (bread and butter issues), which is the main highlight of PH’s manifesto during the run-up to GE14.

According to EMIR Research Inaugural Poll, conducted late last year, the top five major issues of worry for the people were:

Mitigating the cost of basic needs;

Enhancing the quality of living;

Creating credible jobs;

Ensuring affordable homes; and,

Enabling affordable healthcare.

However, this does not mean a total hands-off on monitoring the issue of corruption and abuse of power.

As stated by Sri Mulyani Indrawati, former managing director and COO of the World Bank, the way out of poverty and corruption is paved with good governance. It is in line with Quranic teachings to stand firmly behind justice and fight corruption and bribery.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2020/02/05/good-governance-is-the-way-out-of-poverty-and-corruption/

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Indonesian Sentenced to Life in Prison in Bomb Plots

Feb. 5, 2020

JAKARTA, Indonesia — An Indonesian court sentenced an Islamic State group sympathizer to life imprisonment on Wednesday after finding him guilty of plotting bomb attacks against police and Christians.

Asmar Husin, who also uses the name Abu Hamzah, was arrested last March in North Sumatra province's Sibolga district. His indictment said the interrogation of another militant, Rinto Sugiharto, uncovered plans for several bomb attacks by a 10-member radical cell led by Husin.

It said the 10 pledged allegiance to Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and promised to carry out suicide bombings in Jakarta and Lampung, a city in southern Sumatra.

Prosecutors had sought a 15-year prison sentence for Husin. Presiding Judge Kadwanto in East Jakarta District Court said there was no reason for leniency because of the defendant's lack of remorse and his extreme ideology that could threaten religious harmony and peace.

"He is very dangerous if left out of prison," said Kadwanto, who uses one name.

Husin's wife detonated a bomb during a siege of their home, killing herself and their 2-year-old child. She is believed to have blown herself up hours after throwing a homemade bomb that injured an officer as police tried to search the house.

In separate trials, a panel of three judges at the same court sentenced the nine co-conspirators, including Rinto Sugiharto, to prison terms ranging from six to 20 years.

The defendants refused to appeal or accept the verdict, saying they only believe in Islamic law.

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation, has been battling militants since bombings on the resort island of Bali in 2002 killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists. Attacks aimed at foreigners have been largely replaced in recent years by smaller strikes targeting the government, mainly police and anti-terrorism forces, and local "infidels."

Full report at:

https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2020/02/05/world/asia/ap-as-indonesia-militants-sentenced.html

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India

 

International Day Of Zero Tolerance Against FGM: 27 Short Films Break Silence Around Khatna Through Personal Stories

by Benita Fernando

February 6, 2020

As a six-year-old, Fakhera was taken to an old building in Bhendi Bazaar by her mother. In a dark room, two strangers asked her to remove her undergarment. “I was a meek child and my mother was an autocratic person. I did as I was told. I don’t remember anything after that. I blacked out,” Fakhera recalled. Later, when Fakhera had to urinate, a sharp pain hit her. She started screaming but her mother hushed up the incident, dismissing her daughter’s pain.

Fakhera, 54, has shared her story for a short film series, ‘Voices to End FGM/C’, which will be released on February 6, observed as the International Day of Zero Tolerance towards Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C). The day marks the movement against a human rights violation that is practised across the world, in which a woman’s external genital organs are cut, pierced or removed for cultural or non-medical reasons. Globally, 3.9 million girls are at risk of being cut every year.

In India, it is known as khatna in the Dawoodi Bohra community, where female circumcision is practised through the complete or partial removal of the clitoral hood. Fakhera, a Bandra resident, said, “Khatna is a hush-hush affair in the community.”

The video stories are produced and released by Sahiyo and StoryCenter. Sahiyo, started in 2015, campaigns against khatna as well as other forms of FGM/C. In order to bring survivor stories to the fore, Sahiyo partnered with Berkeley-based StoryCenter, a platform that helps people use storytelling for education and social change, in 2018. Together, they launched the first edition of “Voices to End FGM/C” in 2018, in which the women who had had undergone FGM/C when they were girls took part in workshops that enabled them to share and produce their video stories.

Last year, Sahiyo put out a public call for storytellers for the second edition. Mariya Taher, one of the co-founders of Sahiyo, said, “Not all the storytellers are from the Bohra community and we did have one male participant who spoke about what it was like to learn that it happens to his sister and how it impacted his relationship with her.”

The stories are narrated in the first person by women from India, the UK, Tanzania, Singapore, Bahrain, Sweden and the US. The three Indian participants in the series are Fakhera, Dr Zenab Banu from Udaipur, and Mumbai-based journalist Aarefa Johari, a FGM/C survivor and Sahiyo co founder. In many accounts, survivors didn’t undergo FGM/C in their home country, but while abroad.

The series also touches upon a form of FGM/C that is not really discussed — labia elongation. Some storytellers were paired with illustrators and designers. Fakhera’s story, for instance, has been illustrated by architect and urban researcher Maitri Dore. “You don’t have to have prior writing or video experience. We teach the storytellers how to create a story, they write up their scripts, and then we teach them how to create a storyboard. For our in-person workshops, the storytellers learn how to edit the videos themselves. Some women choose to have a combination of their personal photos and artist images while others choose not to have any photos. The idea behind the workshops is really to empower the storyteller and let them have agency over their story,” Taher said.

The short films can be viewed on Sahiyo’s YouTube page. Fakhera and others like her are curious to see what the response will be like. “There is a lot of resistance from the Dawoodi Bohra community to stop the practice. They believe it is part of sharia and to oppose it means to oppose the high priest. They don’t see it as opposing FGM/C. Dissent is not expected and you are depicted as a cruel, insensitive mother for wanting to put an end to this practice,” she said.

https://indianexpress.com/section/lifestyle/

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Why I converted to Islam and buried my Hindu identity: Dalit Camera founder

RAEES MOHAMMED

5 February, 2020

Ilearned one thing in my eight years’ experience with the Dalit movement through Dalit Camera assignments, and my research on caste for the last 14 years. Babasaheb Ambedkar was right when he said that leaving Hinduism is the only way to fight caste.

Dalit Camera is a digital platform that documents voices of Dalits, Adivasis, Bahujans, and minorities through a website and a YouTube channel by the same name.

Following his footsteps, I chose to leave Hinduism and embrace Islam on 30 January 2020 in Kodungallur, a historical town in Kerala’s Thrissur district. Kodungallur is where the first Indian mosque was built. I am now Raees Mohammed.

The date is significant. It is the day when the first Hindutva terrorist Nathuram Godse assassinated Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. It is also the day when our beloved brother Rohith Vemula, who fought against caste discrimination in Hinduism, was born.

A religion for emancipation

In my childhood, as a devotee of Lord Ayyappa, I had been to Kodungallur six times. It is also where CPI-ML (undivided) Kerala state secretary Najmal Babu embraced Islam in 2015. Rationalist Thanthai Periyar (father) had said that if one wanted to annihilate caste in 15 minutes and live with self-respect, then Islam is the only solution. Periyar had also suggested to Babasaheb Ambedkar to choose Islam as a religion for emancipation.

In my years of research, I too found Islam to be the only religion in India with the strength to annihilate the caste system.

The anti-caste movement has been the longest ongoing socio-cultural movement in India. The main demand is to consider ‘untouchables’ as equal citizens in Hindu society, and to be located under the ambit of the Constitution rather than Hindu religion. But I was curious why this easy solution to annihilate caste via Islam has never been even a reference point in Dalit movement and Dalit literature.

Also read: Dear media, stop Chandrashekhar Azad vs Mayawati tales. Dalits can have more than one leader

Fight for equality

In January, I was invited to Kodungallur to address a gathering on the dangers of fascism, and against the proposed National Register of Citizens, the National Population Register, and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019.

Muslims are battling for their citizenship rights in Narendra Modi’s India today. But theirs is a battle different from the struggle of Dalits. The former is for justice and citizenship. The latter is for something as basic as self-respect, to be treated as an equal human being. In that sense, Dalits have it much worse.

This is when I embraced Islam and buried my Hindu identity as Ravichandran Bathran. I do not want to refer to my Hindu name because if you dive deep, all Hindu names only indirectly refer to caste, and I don’t want this Raees Mohammed to carry the old baggage. The name is not the real problem. After all, my parents named me with so much love. But the problem comes when the Hindu society attaches that name to a caste and instils a stereotype of the hereditary occupation of scavenging. My father was treated badly because the Hindu society said he did a job that was considered filthy. This is hypocrisy of the highest order. First, you enforce a traditional occupation on some groups, treat their members badly, and then blame the people rather than the caste system.

My parents chose a Sanskrit name, an unusual practice among my relatives, who always chose names that are easily identified with Chakkiliyars or untouchables. But like my parents, I too experienced unequal treatment.

My education and earnings did not change my identity, and never will. But we are fed with this lie by none other than the Dalit movements.

My father worked as a sanitary worker and my mother was a sweeper in a local school. For the last 15 years, I worked to address the discrimination and untouchability faced by my parents and tens of thousands like them because of their work — sanitation workers/sweepers/scavengers.

We belong to Chakkiliyar/Arunthathiyar caste in Tamil Nadu, who are called, especially by fellow untouchables, as migrants or outsiders. The reason being that Arunthathiyars’ first language is close to Telugu. During my research in undivided Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Kashmir, and Karnataka, I found that in all these states, the sanitation workers were addressed as outsiders. It doesn’t matter whether they had migrated from other states. Interestingly, in all south Indian states, except in undivided Andhra Pradesh, sanitation workers speak Telugu. In Andhra Pradesh, they speak Hindi and a dialect closer to Odiya.

Scavengers and sweepers are not allowed inside the homes of upper-caste Hindus. Even the toilets are constructed outside the homes. Indian sociologists and anthropologists have a problematic understanding of caste and Indian homes, where Dalits have a separate entrance (as is visible from most buildings). Things are changing slowly in rural areas.

On the contrary, mosques have toilets within their premises. A toilet is not considered unholy. This is where I fell in love with mosques. I do not find any good reason why Dalits should continue to carry Hinduism on their shoulders.

Who’s a Dalit?

Many people request me to drop the word ‘Dalit’ form Dalit Camera. Dalit is not a term to refer to the physical body of untouchables, it’s a revolutionary concept that Dalit Panthers conceived of. Now, I don’t have a caste. But being part of Dalit Camera is a sign of solidarity I show to Dalit Panthers, and to my beloved Muslim brothers and sisters.

For us, Babasaheb Ambedkar’s image itself is enough. It conveys his ideology and idea of justice.

Full report at:

https://theprint.in/opinion/why-i-converted-to-islam-and-buried-my-hindu-identity-dalit-camera-founder/359849/

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Shaheen Bagh becoming breeding ground for suicide bombers: Union minister Giriraj Singh

February 6, 2020

Union minister Giriraj Singh has joined the list of BJP leaders to point guns at anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protesters at Shaheen Bagh in New Delhi. Sharing a purported video from the protest on his Twitter handle, Singh said the site is becoming a breeding ground for “suicide bombers”.

“This Shaheen Bagh is no longer a place for agitation. It is being made a breeding ground for suicide bombers. Conspiracy against the country is being hatched in the national capital,” he tweeted.

Shandilya Giriraj Singh

@girirajsinghbjp

यह शाहीन बाग़ अब सिर्फ आंदोलन नही रह गया है ..यहाँ सूइसाइड बॉम्बर का जत्था बनाया जा रहा है।

देश की राजधानी में देश के खिलाफ साजिश हो रही है।

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In the video shared by him, a few niqab-clad women are seen on a stage and could be heard urging the people to join the fight against the contentious Act on the lines of Imam Hussain’s Karbala struggle. The authenticity of the video could not be verified. Later defending his tweet, the minister told ANI, “Shaheen Bagh mein ek mahila ka bachcha thand mein mar jaata hain aur vo mahila kehti hain ki mera beta shaheed hua hain. Ye suicide bomb nahi hai to kya hai? Agar Bharat ko bachana hai to ye suicide bomb, Khilafat Andolan-2 se desh ko sajak karna hoga (A woman’s child in Shaheen Bagh dies due to cold and she says that her child has been martyred. If this is not suicide bomb then what? We will have to aware the country if we have to save us from this suicide bomb and Khilafat Movement-II).”

The minister’s tweet comes two days before the national capital goes to polls. Other BJP leaders such as Home Minister Amit Shah, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, BJP national secretary Parvesh Verma, and MoS Finance Anurag Thakur had led a volatile campaign in Delhi, targetting Shaheen Bagh and calling the protests politically motivated before the Delhi polls.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/shaheen-bagh-becoming-camp-for-suicide-bombers-bjp-giriraj-singh-6253805/

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CAA protests: UP police arrest 19 for sedition in Azamgarh

by Asad Rehman

February 6, 2020

UP POLICE Wednesday arrested 19 protesters on charges of sedition and fired tear gas shells to disperse a protest against the CAA and the proposed nationwide NRC at a park in Azamgarh.

Those arrested were among 35 persons named in the FIR, police said, including a woman identified as Munni Bano who was released “as she is a heart patient”. All those arrested were sent to jail, police said.

The protesters, including a number of women, alleged that they were pelted with stones by police who also launched a lathi-charge at the site. The police denied they had conducted a lathi-charge but acknowledged that tear gas was used against protesters at Jauhar Ali Park in the Kasimganj area.

Bilariyaganj Station Officer, Manoj Kumar Singh, said “six-seven tear gas shells were used on Wednesday morning”. “There was no lathi-charge…The rioters started pelting police with stones and also women sitting inside the park. Then, tear gas shells were used. The women got hurt because of stone-pelting by people who had gathered near the park,” Singh claimed.

The protesters, who had gathered on Tuesday afternoon, claimed that police “surrounded the park from all sides” at around 4 am Wednesday, and beat the “boys and men who were standing nearby”.

They claimed that when the women questioned the police action, they were pelted with stones. “Then, the men and boys were caught and arrested. After that, we were lathicharged. Some women have sustained injuries,” claimed a 45-year-old woman protester.

“All through this, police used communal slurs and all kinds of abuses,” claimed the woman, who refused to be identified fearing a “backlash”.

The protesters also alleged that “after the women vacated the park, police flooded” the site with water to prevent them from gathering there again.

In a statement, however, district police claimed that the presence of women and children, who were “put at the front and were holding stones and lathis”, was “part of a conspiracy”.

“They were raising slogans against the government, nation… They were saying they will snatch azadi and will get azadi anyhow. They were making hateful announcements against the Hindu religion. They were abusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi and also Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath,” the statement claimed.

At least one woman — Sarwari Bano (65) — was seriously injured in the incident. “My mother sustained an injury to her head and was operated upon today. Doctors say her brain has been damaged. We live next to the park and when there was chaos, she went out to check and was injured. I don’t know who threw the stone that hit her,” said Bano’s son Bilal.

“Doctors have said that she is out of danger,” he said.

An FIR was lodged at Bilariyaganj police station under various IPC sections, including 124-A (sedition), 147 (rioting), 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups), 504 (insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 307 (attempt to murder), 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and under sections of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act and CLA Act.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/citizenship-amendment-act-caa-protests-azamgarh-police-arrest-19-for-sedition-6253262/

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Inspired by Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh protest: Day six of protest in Vadodara: We don’t trust the government, say protesters

February 6, 2020

Inspired by Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh protest, a non-violent sit-in spearheaded by women from Tandalja in Vadodara against the new citizenship law, has entered its sixth day. The area is dominated by the minority community.

The site of the protest is marked by a national flag pinned on the top of a trampoline in a makeshift tent, photographs of Mahatma Gandhi, BR Ambedkar and Ashfaqulla Khan, along with banners reading “Muslim lives matter”, “Don’t Fear” and a copy of the Constitution.

Numbers at the protest taking place at the open plot of Saudagarbaug have risen from mere 50 on January 31 to over 500 as of late Wednesday.

Women, young and old, along with children gather in huge numbers as they discuss the law, raise slogans, recite verses from the Quran and end the day by singing the national anthem.

“We don’t trust the government. The Prime Minster and the Home Minister have different versions about the law and enacting it. We want an assurance that there should be nothing like NRC in our country. First of all, they implemented it in Assam and spent so much taxpayers’ money. They will spend a huge part of the taxpayers’ money again in its nationwide implementation. Secondly, the documents are being asked (for)…our houses were burnt during the Modi regime here (2002 riots), many people have lost their documents. Back then, people only wanted to save their lives, how do you expect that they will have their documents?” asked Sumaiya Patel (21), a student.

Zohra (60) reiterated the sentiment and said, “We were wronged then (2002), we are being wronged now. Our houses were burnt in the riots and many people lost their documents — how do you expect them to furnish those? We are tired of proving ourselves. Our patience is being tested time and again. Why does this government always comes up with such selective policies against one community?”

The women said they believed that the government is trying to divide and rule through such laws. “Our Constitution gives us equality, but the government is trying to divide the nation in the name of religion. They should also understand that these protests are not on religious lines, we are protesting to save the Constitution. Nobody raised a hue and cry when the Ayodhya verdict came, or when the Triple Talaq Bill was talked about. Now, it’s a matter of our Constitution and basic rights and we don’t believe it is right for us to stay silent,” said Saima, another student protester.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/day-six-of-protest-in-vadodara-we-dont-trust-the-government-say-protesters/

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No pre-arrest bail for woman who ‘shouted slogan’ in support of Sharjeel Imam

February 5, 2020

A court here on Wednesday rejected anticipatory bail plea of Urvashi Chudawala, a 22-year-old student who is facing a sedition case for ‘shouting slogan’ in support of JNU student Sharjeel Imam at an LGBTQ event.

Additional sessions judge Prashant Rajvaidya rejected Chudawala’s application for pre-arrest bail. The court also refused to grant her interim protection from arrest to enable her to move the high court.

Prosecution, while opposing relief for her, had claimed that Chudawala was “supporting a person who is officially enemy of state”.

Chudawala is a student of the prestigious Tata Institute of Social Sciences in the city.

According to the police, during a rally of the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Queer community at Azad Maidan in south Mumbai last week, Chudawala shouted the slogan “Sharjeel Tere Sapno Ko Hum Manzil Tak Pahuchaege” (Sharjeel, we will realise your dreams).

Her lawyer Vijay Hiremath had argued that an innocuous slogan was taken out of context to allege that she wanted to create hatred against a community.

“There was only one line, which was said only once…has it done any harm? It was not aimed at public servant or government machinery…it is not sedition at all….It does not create hatred towards government, community or anyone,” he said.

“We may not agree with her statement but that does not amount to sedition,” the lawyer added.

Chudawala was a student, her examinations were nearing, and her career will be destroyed for a “two-second video”, advocate Hiremath argued.

“I (Chudawala) am being made an example as various protests are going on and they want to show they are taking it seriously. The state is not so fragile that a two-second video becomes sedition,” he added.

Chief Public Prosecutor Jaisingh Desai argued that Chudawala had shared a post in support of Imam on social media a day before the rally, which she deleted later.

Referring to the controversial speech by Sharjeel Imam, Desai said he had spoken against the country.

“You are supporting a person who is officially enemy of state,” he said.

When the police contacted her, she did not turn up before police to make clear her stand, the prosecution alleged.

Police could not carry out further probe without arresting her, Desai contended.

The court, while rejecting her plea, observed that Chudawala’s statement in Imam’s support “prima facie attracts the ingredients of the charges of sedition under section 124 (a) of Indian Penal Code, which attracts life imprisonment.”

“The case is of serious nature…custodial interrogation is required to reach the roots of the matter,” the court said.

Azad Maidan Police registered the case after a video showing Chudawala raising slogans in support of Imam went viral after the LGBTQ rally on February 1.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/no-pre-arrest-bail-for-woman-who-shouted-slogan-in-support-of-sharjeel-imam-6253082/

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‘Mughal Raj not far away’: BJP MP’s jibe at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh protesters

Feb 06, 2020

BJP MP Tejasvi Surya went back into history to impress upon the “majority community” to remain vigilant or the “Mughal rule” will return to the country as he took aim at anti-citzenship law protesters at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh.

“What is happening today in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh is a stark reminder that if the majority of this country is not vigilant, the patriotic Indians do not stand up to this, the days of Mughal Raj coming back to Delhi are not far away,” said Tejasvi Surya, participating in the debate on Motion of Thanks on the President’s Address in Lok Sabha.

His remarks evoked sharp reaction from the Opposition members.

The MP credited Prime Minister Modi for resolving critical issues which had been pending for several decades.

The CAA, he said, was aimed at resolving the issues emanating from Partition and added, “The new India cannot to built without healing the wounds of the past.” He said that the CAA was about giving citizenship to persecuted minorities in Pakistan, Bangaladesh and Afghanistan and not for taking away anyone’s citizenship.

Hundreds of people, mostly women and children, have been protesting since December 15 at Shaheen Bagh against the CAA and possibility of NRC.

Under the leadership of Modi, Surya said, several issues of the past have seen closure. These include abrogation of Article 370, construction of Ram temple, Bodo problems and abolition of Triple Talaq.

Protests have erupted across the country against CAA under which illegal migrants, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who entered India on or before 2015 will be eligible for Indian citizenship.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/mughal-raj-not-far-away-bjp-mp-s-jibe-at-delhi-s-shaheen-bagh-protesters/story-d6OR0dASU7oPvhQUZjJyVM.html

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Yogi Adityanath: 'Muslims did no favour to India by staying here'

5 February 2020

Muslims who chose to stay in India when it was partitioned following independence from Britain did the country "no favours", Yogi Adityanath, one of India's most controversial right-wing politicians, has said.

"They should have opposed partition, which led to the formation of Pakistan," he told BBC Hindi's Nitin Srivastava in an exclusive interview.

Mr Adityanath is the chief minister of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state and home to nearly a quarter of India's 200 million Muslims. He is also a top leader in the governing Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

His government has recently been accused of using excessive force against protesters, especially Muslims, opposing a contentious new citizenship law. But Mr Adityanath has denied these widespread allegations, even though they have been backed by compelling evidence.

The 47-year-old, saffron-robed, head priest of an influential Hindu temple is no stranger to controversy - he has made headlines for his hardline rhetoric, often directed against Muslims.

His comments appear to have intensified amid anti-government protests spurred by the citizenship law, known as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

It offers amnesty to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. It has been criticised for targeting Muslims, but Mr Modi's government insists it does no such thing, and only seeks to indentify unauthorised immigrants.

But the law sparked massive protests in December, including large sit-in demonstrations, some of which are still continuing. The most notable of these is in Delhi's Shaheen Bagh, where hundreds of Muslim women have been camped out in protest for more than a month now.

In a veiled reference to the protesters in Shaheen Bagh, the chief minister told the BBC: "Men of a particular community, who are cowards, are sitting in their quilts and sending women and children out of their homes to protest against this law."

While accepting that "everyone has the right to peacefully protest in India", he claimed that the protest in Shaheen Bagh was "not peaceful, and was causing trouble to commuters and residents".

The protest has been peaceful, but its location on one of Delhi's biggest roads has led to traffic snarls, although demonstrators allow emergency vehicles to pass through.

But this is not the first time Mr Adiyanath has spoken out against the protests in Shaheen Bagh.

During the interview, he repeated an accusation he has levelled against Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of the national capital, Delhi: that he "feeds hundreds of protesting women and children biryani", a popular rice-based dish that's associated with Muslim cuisine.

This is a claim he has made while campaigning for this Saturday's state election in Delhi, where he has invoked "Hindu nationalistic pride", while ridiculing neighbouring Pakistan.

Mr Kejrwal, a fierce critic of the BJP and Mr Modi, is up for re-election. His party won an emphatic victory in 2015, defeating all opposition, including the BJP.

"We aren't the biryani-eating people", Mr Adityanath has said on the campaign trail, adding that after becoming PM, Mr Modi has been "shooting terrorists with bullets rather than giving them biryani."

He told the BBC he stood by this statement.

The protests against the CAA saw hundreds injured, and many even died amid violent clashes with police. And protesters often accused the police of using excessive force against them.

Nowhere have the allegations been more serious than in Mr Adityanath's Uttar Pradesh, where at least 19 people died in the protests.

There have been numerous of reports of intimidation and threats against Muslims - videos from Kanpur city show policemen allegedly vandalising cars and homes in Muslim-populated areas. Thousands, mostly Muslim men, were detained across the state. The BBC reported on similar incidents in other cities.

Mr Adityanath justified the firing against "violent protesters", while denying allegations of police using force against peaceful protesters. He said, "armed, rampaging mobs were dealt with by the police when they started damaging public property".

Asked if he would order action against protesters again, he said, "Yes, if they damage public property in the garb of opposing a law, which is non-discriminatory."

Full report at:

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-51382414

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5-acre land offer draws sharp reactions from Muslim side

Feb 6, 2020

LUCKNOW/DELHI: The UP Sunni Central Waqf Board on Wednesday withheld an official response to the Yogi Adityanath cabinet's offer of a 5-acre plot for the construction of a mosque till at least February 24, but its counsel and Babri Masjid Action Committee convener Zafaryab Jilani made no secret of his disappointment at the government choosing a location 25km away from the Ram Janmabhoomi site.

Jilani claimed the location of the 5 acres allotted at Dhannipur village in Ayodhya’s Sohawal tehsil does not conform to what the Supreme Court mandated in its November 9 ruling in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit.

"In all court documents that were part of the title suit, Ayodhya was a small town — a qasbah of Faizabad. This Ayodhya cannot be equated with the new district created by the government," Jilani said. "Merely renaming a town and extending its municipal limits does not prove that the land offered is still in Ayodhya."

Iqbal Ansari, whose father Hashim Ansari was one of the original litigants, said the land that the government had offered for the mosque should be used to build a dharamshala for devotees coming to Ayodhya, "with the facility of free boarding and lodging".

Sunni waqf board chairperson Zufar Faruqi, who is currently abroad, was unavailable for comment. The board’s CEO, Syed Mohammad Shoeb, told TOI that the members would decide on a response and an action plan at a meeting on February 24.

"A meeting of the Sunni waqf board is scheduled for February 24, where issues pertaining to waqf properties and legal matters were to be discussed. Ayodhya was not on the agenda, but given the recent events, the issue of land allotment might also be discussed in the meeting," Shoeb said. "The board might also convene an emergency meeting before February 24 once the chairperson returns to the city."

On November 26 last year, a meeting of eight members of the Sunni waqf board decided not to file a review petition against the Ayodhya verdict.

In Delhi, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board termed the UP government's offer "unnecessary", saying that accepting the 5-acre plot to build a shrine there in lieu of the Babri Masjid would be like "rubbing salt on our wounds".

Maulana Arshad Madani, president of the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, said the site where the Babri Masjid existed "is a mosque as per Shariah and it would remain a mosque till the day of resurrection, no matter what form and name it is given, because no individual and party has the right to withdraw his claim from any mosque to any alternative".

"Accepting land in the name of a mosque is against the principles of Islam laid out in the Shariah. So, this allotment of land by the UP government is unacceptable. Though the Sunni waqf board is free to take its decisions, in our opinion it should not take the offer. This is unacceptable," Madani added.

Muslim personal law board secretary Saifullah Rahmani said that "as law-abiding citizens", the Muslim side had chosen "silence" after the Supreme Court verdict rejecting its claim to the disputed site. "However, on the issue of an alternative plot, we have always maintained that the Sunni waqf board should not accept it as this case was never about an alternative mosque".

Rahmani confirmed this to be the "official position" of the Muslim personal law board.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/5-acre-land-offer-draws-sharp-reactions-from-muslim-side/articleshow/73971837.cms

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UP govt allots 5 acres for mosque in Ayodhya, 25km from temple site & near Lucknow highway

Feb 6, 2020

LUCKNOW: Hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the formation of a 15-member trust to oversee the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya, the UP cabinet on Wednesday cleared a proposal to give the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board a five-acre plot located 25km from the Ram Janmabhoomi site to build a mosque.

“As advised by the Supreme Court in its verdict on November 9, 2019, five acres of land have been allotted for the mosque at a place 18km from Faizabad district HQ,” government spokesperson Shrikant Sharma said. “Located at Dhannipur village in Ayodhya’s Sohawal tehsil, the plot is barely 200m from the Lucknow-Gorakhpur highway, which will ensure easy access to a mosque. The proposal has received the cabinet’s nod.”

Ayodhya2

Faizabad district was officially renamed Ayodhya on November 13, 2018, although many people continue to refer to it by its old name. The adjoining city of Faizabad officially retains its original name.

UP government spokesperson Shrikant Sharma said three options had been presented to the state cabinet by district authorities. “The government forwarded a shortlist of plots near highways passing through Ayodhya to the Centre, which picked the one at Dhannipur village on Lucknow-Gorakhpur highway.”

According to the official, the proximity of the plot to a highway and a police station (Raunahi) swung the decision in its favour. “Proximity to the highway means pilgrims can reach the mosque easily. A police station in the vicinity makes it an even better choice since maintaining communal harmony and law and order is also a priority,” he said.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/up-govt-allots-5-acres-for-mosque-in-ayodhya-25km-from-temple-site-near-lucknow-highway/articleshow/73971357.cms

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5-acre land offer draws sharp reactions from Muslim side

Feb 6, 2020

LUCKNOW/DELHI: The UP Sunni Central Waqf Board on Wednesday withheld an official response to the Yogi Adityanath cabinet's offer of a 5-acre plot for the construction of a mosque till at least February 24, but its counsel and Babri Masjid Action Committee convener Zafaryab Jilani made no secret of his disappointment at the government choosing a location 25km away from the Ram Janmabhoomi site.

Jilani claimed the location of the 5 acres allotted at Dhannipur village in Ayodhya’s Sohawal tehsil does not conform to what the Supreme Court mandated in its November 9 ruling in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit.

"In all court documents that were part of the title suit, Ayodhya was a small town — a qasbah of Faizabad. This Ayodhya cannot be equated with the new district created by the government," Jilani said. "Merely renaming a town and extending its municipal limits does not prove that the land offered is still in Ayodhya."

Iqbal Ansari, whose father Hashim Ansari was one of the original litigants, said the land that the government had offered for the mosque should be used to build a dharamshala for devotees coming to Ayodhya, "with the facility of free boarding and lodging".

Sunni waqf board chairperson Zufar Faruqi, who is currently abroad, was unavailable for comment. The board’s CEO, Syed Mohammad Shoeb, told TOI that the members would decide on a response and an action plan at a meeting on February 24.

"A meeting of the Sunni waqf board is scheduled for February 24, where issues pertaining to waqf properties and legal matters were to be discussed. Ayodhya was not on the agenda, but given the recent events, the issue of land allotment might also be discussed in the meeting," Shoeb said. "The board might also convene an emergency meeting before February 24 once the chairperson returns to the city."

On November 26 last year, a meeting of eight members of the Sunni waqf board decided not to file a review petition against the Ayodhya verdict.

In Delhi, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board termed the UP government's offer "unnecessary", saying that accepting the 5-acre plot to build a shrine there in lieu of the Babri Masjid would be like "rubbing salt on our wounds".

Maulana Arshad Madani, president of the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, said the site where the Babri Masjid existed "is a mosque as per Shariah and it would remain a mosque till the day of resurrection, no matter what form and name it is given, because no individual and party has the right to withdraw his claim from any mosque to any alternative".

"Accepting land in the name of a mosque is against the principles of Islam laid out in the Shariah. So, this allotment of land by the UP government is unacceptable. Though the Sunni waqf board is free to take its decisions, in our opinion it should not take the offer. This is unacceptable," Madani added.

Muslim personal law board secretary Saifullah Rahmani said that "as law-abiding citizens", the Muslim side had chosen "silence" after the Supreme Court verdict rejecting its claim to the disputed site. "However, on the issue of an alternative plot, we have always maintained that the Sunni waqf board should not accept it as this case was never about an alternative mosque".

Rahmani confirmed this to be the "official position" of the Muslim personal law board.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/5-acre-land-offer-draws-sharp-reactions-from-muslim-side/articleshow/73971837.cms

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After Article 370 move, J&K sees 73% drop in security forces’ deaths

Feb 6, 2020

NEW DELHI: There has been a 73% decline in incidents of security forces killed in J&K after the nullification of Article 370 in August, the home ministry informed the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.

It added that detention orders were issued against 444 persons under J&K Public Safety Act since August 2019, and that 389 were still in detention under the J&K Public Safety Act.

Replying to a question, minister of state for home G Kishan Reddy said that 22 security personnel lost their lives in the 173-day period between August 5, 2019 and Ja nuary 24, 2020, as against 82 during the corresponding 173 days from February 13, 2019 to August 4, 2019. In a written reply to another related question, Reddy said the J&K government had reported that 32 terrorists were killed since August 5, 2019, 10 terrorists arrested and 19 civilians killed in terrorist attacks or during actions against terrorist.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/after-article-370-move-73-drop-in-jk-securitymen-deaths/articleshow/73971922.cms

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Sajjad Lone put under house arrest soon after release

Feb 5, 2020

SRINAGAR: Former J&K minister and People's Conference chairman Sajjad Gani Lone and PDP's youth wing president Waheed Para briefly tasted freedom on Wednesday after six months of preventive detention, only to find themselves under house arrest in their respective Srinagar residences in less than an hour.

When Lone and Para were being escorted out of the makeshift detention centre at the MLA Hostel here in the afternoon, the buzz was that other top functionaries of mainstream political parties would also be freed in a day or two. The optimism dissipated somewhat after it turned out that the move was only a change of address for the duo as of now.

Officials maintained that the plan to release detained activists and political functionaries in batches remains unchanged, pointing out that two prominent names — former PDP legislator Aijaz Ahmad Mir and trade unionist-cum-businessman Shakeel Ahmad Qalander — had been freed just a day earlier.

More than a dozen mid-level political functionaries have so far been released from the MLA Hostel, to which all of them had been shifted from various makeshift jails at the beginning of winter. However, there is still no official word on when the three detained former CMs — Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti — would be released.

The J&K administration had invoked the Public Safety Act to put Farooq under house arrest at his private residence on Gupkar Road in August. National Conference vice-president Omar has been detained at Hari Niwas Palace since the night of August 4, hours before the central government moved Parliament to nullify Articles 370 and 35A and revoke J&K's special status.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/sajjad-lone-put-under-house-arrest-soon-after-release/articleshow/73968565.cms

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Arrested Jaish OGW used mobile internet to make WhatsApp call to Pak: J&K police chief

Feb 5, 2020

SRINAGAR: Arrested truck driver Sameer Dar, who is an over-ground worker (OGW) of terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad, had used VPN (virtual private network) on his mobile phone to make WhatsApp calls to communicate with Pakistani terrorists, J&K director general of police (DGP) Dilbagh Singh said on Wednesday.

The J&K administration had allowed 2G internet on mobile phones in Kashmir Valley on January 25.

Sameer was arrested by J&K police along with two other Jaish OGWs — Asif Ahmed Malik and Sartaj Ahmad Mantu — at Ban toll plaza near Nagrota on January 31 when they were ferrying three Pakistani Jaish terrorists. The three Pakistani terrorists were killed by police. The OGWs were ferrying the terrorists to south Kashmir from Dayala Chak in Kathua district where the trio had infiltrated into India through the International Border (IB) the night before.

Singh admitted that ever since 2G services were restored on mobile phones in Kashmir, terrorists and OGWs had been using WhatsApp via VPN.

“The truck driver, Sameer, had made a WhatsApp call to Pakistan with the help of VPN. And when the truck was intercepted and firing was going on, he clicked photographs of the encounter and even sent the same across with a text that they were intercepted,” the DGP said at a press conference here.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/arrested-jaish-ogw-used-mobile-internet-to-make-whatsapp-call-to-pak-jk-police-chief/articleshow/73968551.cms

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Babri will remain mosque forever; no one can accept alternative: Jamiat

Feb 5, 2020

NEW DELHI: As the Centre constituted a trust to oversee the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya, prominent Muslim body Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind on Wednesday said the Babri Masjid would remain a mosque forever and no one has the right to accept another alternative site.

The announcement of a "broad scheme" for developing a Ram temple and formation of the Trust named 'Shri Ram Janambhoomi Teertha Kshetra' was made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, shortly after a meeting of the Union Cabinet presided by him gave its approval.

The prime minister also said that on the directions of the Supreme Court, the Centre has requested the Uttar Pradesh Government to allocate 5 acres of land to the Sunni Waqf board, and it has acceded to the request.

Reacting to the development, Jamiat President Maulana Arshad Madani said the Babri Masjid was a mosque in view of law and justice, and in light of the Shariah.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/babri-will-remain-mosque-forever-no-one-can-accept-alternative-jamiat/articleshow/73966917.cms

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Jammu and Kashmir: Two militants, one CRPF man killed in encounter outside Srinagar

by Adil Akhzer

February 6, 2020

Two militants and a CRPF man were killed after a shootout on the outskirts of Srinagar on Wednesday morning. While security officials said that another “terrorist” was injured in the shootout, the family member of the injured said he was a “civilian”.

On Wednesday morning, a special checkpoint was set up by J&K Police and CRPF at Lawaypora area on Srinagar-Baramulla highway following intelligence inputs, said officials.

Addressing a press conference in Srinagar, J&K DGP Dilbag Singh said the militants fired at the deployment which was retaliated. “Terrorists fired on a special checkpoint of CPRF and police on the city outskirts, on Srinagar- Baramulla road. They were on a two-wheeler, and in the retaliation, two terrorists were killed and one got injured. He is currently undergoing treatment,” Singh said.

CRPF Special DG (J&K Zone) Zulfiqar Hasan, who was also at the conference, said the forces had stopped the two-wheeler as three people were on it and none were wearing helmets. “The last pillion rider got down and immediately from his pheran he took out his pistol and attacked and started firing. One of the CRPF men was hit on the head; however, despite this, he fired back,” Hasan said.

The slain CRPF man has been identified as Constable Ramesh Rajan of the CRPF’s 73 battalion.

“They (security party) retaliated resulting in the death of two militants on spot. The third militant was also shot. He is alive and under arrest and has been shifted to the hospital,” Hasan said, adding that significant recoveries were made from the three militants.

Kashmir IGP Vijay Kumar identified the two slain militants as Zia ur Rehman from Budgam who was with affiliated with LeT, and Khateeb who was affiliated with Hizbul Mujahideen. “The third militant, Ayaz Umar, is affiliated with ISJK,” he said.

At SMHS hospital in Srinagar where Umar is admitted, his family members told the media he was “a civilian” and not a “terrorist”, as claimed by the police.

“The claim made by the Police saying that he is a militant is not true at all,” Umar’s cousin Asif Ahmad told The Indian Express outside the hospital. “He is a shopkeeper.”

His family members said Umar runs a small shop and lives close to the shoot-out site. “The shop at Lawaypora, was run by his father. Since he is unwell today, I helped him to setup the shop. After I helped him at the shop, I went inside to check on the cow, I heard some gun shots… I saw Umar ducking and making his way towards the house. He told me ‘I am hit by a bullet’. Me, my son, and a neighbour took him to the hospital after stopping a car. As soon we reached Shalteng, we were stopped by security forces. We pleaded with them and were allowed to go after some time. A security vehicle escorted us to JVC hospital,” said Umar’s aunt Hameeda Begum.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/jammu-and-kashmir-two-militants-one-crpf-man-killed-in-encounter-6253388/

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North America

 

Tunisia: Demonstration against Trump plan for Middle East

05 February 2020

Hundreds of people march in the centre of Tunis against the "agreement of shame", in reference to the plan for the Middle East unveiled at the end of January by US President Donald Trump. The protesters also call for a boycott of American products.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/05/617982/Tunisia:-Demonstration-against-the-Trump-Plan-for-Middle-East

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US condoles with Turkey over avalanches, plane accident

Servet Günerigök  

06.02.2020

WASHINGTON

The U.S. offered its condolences Wednesday over recent deadly incidents in Turkey.

"The United States sends its heartfelt condolences to the people of #Turkey, who are mourning two tragedies today: the avalanches in Van and the plane crash in #Istanbul," the State Department said on Twitter.

At least 33 emergency workers were killed after a huge avalanche slammed into a mountain road in Van province in eastern Turkey. They were working to rescue two missing people who were trapped by an initial avalanche on Tuesday evening that killed five people.

In addition, a plane belonging to a private airline company skidded off the runway at Sabiha Gokcen Airport in Istanbul, killing three people and wounding more than 190 others.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-condoles-with-turkey-over-avalanches-plane-accident/1725859

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Canada demands Iran surrender airplane’s black box

05.02.2020

TRENTON, Canada

Canada said Wednesday it will seek international help to pressure Iran into surrendering the black box from a downed Ukrainian airliner.

Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said he and Transportation Minister Marc Garneau met with officials from the International Civil Aviation Organization and enlisted their aid to get the black boxes.

Canada wants the data recordings to be given to France for analysis, but Iran has asked other countries for technical equipment it lacks so it can decode the box. Officials are skeptical that scenario might not lead to an unmasking of the truth of what happened.

Iran inadvertently shot down the airliner Jan. 8, killing all 176 on board, including 57 Canadians.

“Obviously, we are standing up for the families – we’ll always do that,” Champagne said. “Not only we’re standing up as Canada, but I think now the whole world is watching and saying, ‘Hold on a minute, there’s an international convention to which Iran is a party to, and now they have to abide by that.’”

The foreign minister said he would speak by telephone with his Iranian counterpart, Wednesday.

“We are going to be talking about the black box,” Champagne said. “Obviously, we are going to be talking about the investigation, we are going to be talking about compensation.”

Canada wants Iran to compensate financially those who lost family when the plane was shot down by Iranian air defense missiles.

Iran said it believed the plane was an enemy attacking in retaliation for a missile strike Iran made against American and coalition forces a few hours prior.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/canada-demands-iran-surrender-airplane-s-black-box/1725692

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Trump touts killings of ISIS leader, Iranian general in State of the Union

FEB 4 2020

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump recognized the parents of Kayla Mueller, an American humanitarian aid worker who was kidnapped and imprisoned by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Tuesday during the State of the Union address.

“In 2013, while caring for suffering civilians in Syria, Kayla was kidnapped, tortured, and enslaved by ISIS, and kept as a prisoner of Al-Baghdadi himself. After more than 500 horrifying days of captivity, Al-Baghdadi murdered young Kayla,” Trump said after recognizing Carl and Marsha Mueller.

“She was just 26 years old,” he said.

The president then recounted the night that U.S. Special Forces carried out the mission that led to Al-Baghdadi’s life.

“The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, received a call in the Situation Room. He was told that the brave men of the elite Special Forces team, that so perfectly carried out the operation, had given their mission a name,” Trump explained.

“Task Force 8-14, it was a reference to a special day: August 14th, Kayla’s birthday,” he said, telling Kayla’s parents that, “America’s warriors never forgot Kayla and neither will we.”

Trump also said in his remarks that the more than 20,000 square miles of ISIS-held territory had been “100% destroyed.”

The president also recognized the widow and child of U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Christopher Hake, who was killed in Iraq on Easter Sunday in 2008.

“The terrorist responsible for killing Sergeant Hake was Qasem Soleimani, who provided the deadly roadside bomb that took Chris’s life. Soleimani was the Iranian Regime’s most ruthless butcher, a monster who murdered or wounded thousands of American service members in Iraq,” Trump said.

“That is why, last month, at my direction, the United States military executed a flawless precision strike that killed Soleimani and terminated his evil reign of terror forever,” he said of the January 2 strike.

Soleimani, who led a special forces unit of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, had been a key figure of Iranian and Middle East politics.

His death exacerbated already-high tensions between Iran and the United States and triggered concerns of retaliation from Iranian forces.

On the heels of the attacks, Iran launched at least a dozen missiles from its territory on January 7 at two military bases in Iraq that house U.S. military and coalition forces.

A day later from the White House, Trump said that Iran appeared “to be standing down” after firing a barrage of missiles at American targets in Iraq.

“Because of our powerful sanctions, the Iranian economy is doing very poorly. We can help them make it very good in a short period of time, but perhaps they are too proud or too foolish to ask for that help. We are here. Let’s see which road they choose. It is totally up to them,” he said, referring to Washington’s maximum pressure campaign.

Full report at:

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/02/04/trump-touts-killings-of-isis-leader-iranian-general-in-state-of-the-union.html

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Europe

 

Golders Green Mosque welcomes Jews and Muslims for interfaith blood drive

Rosa Doherty

December 31, 2019

A mosque in Golders Green hosted an interfaith blood donation drive where Jews Muslims and people of all faiths and none were invited to donate blood.

The event which took place on Sunday was attended by 100 people.

Faiths Forum, who organised the event, said it was pleased to welcome people from the local community to the Golders Green Mosque for an open door event for the first time.

The Forum, which encourages religious communities to work together, said giving blood within the faiths of Islam and Judaism is encouraged as it is an act of charity.

“There is a verse in the Qur’an which states ‘whoever saves one life, it is as if he has saved the whole of mankind’," a Faiths Forum spokesperson said.

“Similarly, in Jewish scripture ‘therefore, Adam [from whom all humanity descended] was created singly, to teach us that whoever destroys a single life’ is considered by Scripture to have destroyed the whole world and whoever saves a single life is considered by Scripture to have saved the whole world.”

Rabbi Natan Levy was one of the faith leaders to take part in the event.

He said he went to “meet my neighbours and give blood at the Markaz Hippodrome because there are people right here in Golders Green who feel that this generous and open-hearted community does not belong here.”

His comments refer to opposition to the mosque when it was first due to open in 2017.

The Grade ll-listed Golders Green Hippodrome was bought for £5.25million by the Centre for Islamic Enlightening.

Opponents at the time cited concerns about congestion and noise, but some referred to possible tensions between Muslim worshippers and local Jews.

A petition against the plan posted on Barnet Council’s website attracted almost 4,000 signatures, with a further 186 objections lodged on the site, and only 93 comments in support.

Rabbi Levy said: “Not only do they most certainly belong, but their warmth, their charity, and their willingness to work with people of other faiths like me is inspirational.

"And I, my family, and my community are each deeply enriched by sharing Golders Green with a thriving Muslim faith centre in our midst.”

https://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/golders-green-mosque-welcomes-jews-and-muslims-for-interfaith-blood-drive-1.494802?fbclid=IwAR2tm7d2WLC7MctXmx38_UvHCBzVsF3RBmqcDLrjQ1ozc8zxk5FaMEdqRvU

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Far-right 'hate factory' still active on Facebook despite pledge to stop it

4 Feb 2020

Facebook has failed to stop a coordinated far-right operation profiting from disinformation and anti-Islamic hate almost two months after it was publicly exposed.

The Guardian revealed in December that a network of Facebook’s largest far-right pages were part of a coordinated commercial enterprise that for years had been harvesting Islamophobic hate for profit, prompting promises from the social media giant that it would crack down on the network.

Facebook soon removed several pages and accounts which it said “appeared to be financially motivated” and said it had updated its inauthentic behaviour policy to “further improve our ability to counter new tactics”.

“These pages and accounts violated our policy against spam and fake accounts by posting clickbait content to drive people to off-platform sites,” a Facebook spokesperson said at the time.

“Our investigations are continuing and, as always, we’ll take action if we find any violations.”

But two months after Facebook was made aware of the scheme, an analysis by the Guardian has confirmed that a number of the pages are still feeding off anti-Islamic content to drive readers to the same for-profit, third-party websites.

Since December, at least six pages connected to the network have continued posting coordinated content spreading Islamophobic disinformation and attempting to influence political beliefs.

Coordinated posts have falsely claimed the German chancellor Angela Merkel is “paying terrorists to kill Jews” and that Australian police had “refused to arrest Muslims who waved terror flags against Jews in Melbourne”.

The posts were allowed despite Facebook’s repeated promises to crack down on coordinated inauthentic behaviour in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica and Russian interference scandals.

Facebook is considering the new evidence provided by the Guardian. The company has defined policies on coordinated inauthentic behaviour and inauthentic behaviour, which it generally describes as “groups of pages or people who work together to mislead others about who they are or what they’re doing”. This can be either ideologically or financially motivated.

Coordinated inauthentic behaviour generally involves the use of fake accounts, and Facebook will generally take action on such networks over their deceptive conduct, rather than over the content of the posts themselves.

In this case, the investigation is complicated by the fact that the Facebook pages spreading the disinformation have genuine, authentic administrators in Australia.

Facebook is separately considering whether the individual posts detected by the Guardian breach any of its community standards, which include restrictions on hate speech.

But Prof Axel Bruns, of the Queensland University of Technology’s digital media research centre, said there was simply no excuse for the company not to have done more to stop the network.

“This is really obviously a clear-cut demonstrated case of coordinated posting activity across a number of pages, you’d expect Facebook to actually take steps against that, because it is the term that they’re using – coordinated inauthentic behaviour – it matches that description perfectly,” Bruns told Guardian Australia.

“What happens with Facebook is that they tend to only act when something blows up big enough for them to be concerned with their public standing.”

Driven by a single Israel-based administrator, the network previously revealed by the Guardian operated by churning out thousands of coordinated fake news posts to more than 1 million followers across the globe each week, funnelling audiences to a cluster of 10 ad-heavy websites and milking the traffic for profit.

The posts stoked anti-Islamic sentiment across the western world and influenced politics in Australia, Canada, the UK and the US by amplifying far-right parties such as Australia’s One Nation and vilifying Muslim politicians such as the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, the US congresswoman Ilhan Omar and Australian senator Mehreen Faruqi.

A spokesman for the Australian Imam’s Council said anti-Islamic sentiment and Islamophobia “has significantly increased in recent times” and that the content identified by the Guardian helped to “provoke and fuel hatred and abuse directed at Australian Muslims”.

“The 2019 Islamophobia in Australia Report, produced by Charles Sturt University, found more than 70% of the 350 incidents considered involved abuse directed at Muslim women and girls,” the spokesman said.

“Such conduct is facilitated and provoked by anti-Islamic content. The content which has been identified presents a significant threat and risk to the wellbeing of Australian Muslims. It not only exacerbates anti-Islamic sentiment and the associated risks, but provides an environment which enables and encourages hatred and abuse directed at Australian Muslims.”

It criticised social media platforms such as Facebook as being “necessarily reactive”, and said they helped “give rise to a risk to the wellbeing and safety of people and in turn cause division and hatred within our broader society, thereby threatening to tear it apart”.

At the time, a number of the group’s targets criticised Facebook for allowing the network to operate under its nose. Faruqi told the Guardian the network represented a “new level of far-right organisation and coordination”, and accused Facebook of “profiteering from the proliferation of hate speech and abuse”.

“Facebook could do much more and shut these pages down but so long as they continue to profit from the reach and engagement, they don’t seem to be interested in decisive action,” she said.

Similarly, Omar labelled the company “a threat to our democracy”.

“It has become clear that they do not take seriously the degree to which they provide a platform for white nationalist hate and dangerous misinformation in this country and around the world,” she said.

Full report at:

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/feb/05/far-right-hate-factory-still-active-on-facebook-despite-pledge-to-stop-it

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Man Shot Dead by British Police Wanted Girlfriend to Behead Her Parents

Feb. 4, 2020

LONDON — The man shot dead by police after wounding two people in a stabbing spree on a busy London street had been jailed for promoting violent Islamist material and had encouraged his girlfriend to behead her parents.

He had also once written a list of "goals in life" which included the desire to die as a martyr.

Police have named Sudesh Amman, 20, as the attacker. He was killed on a street in the south London district of Streatham on Sunday afternoon by armed officers who had been carrying out surveillance on him.

In November 2018, Amman had pleaded guilty to 13 offences of possession of terrorist documents and disseminating terrorist publications and the following month he was sentenced to more than three years in prison. He was released last month having served half the sentence.

Amman was 17 and living at home in Harrow, north London, with his mother and four younger siblings when he first began committing terrorism offences, according to authorities. Police became aware of his activities in April 2018 and he was arrested in a north London street a month later.

When officers examined his computers and phone, they found he had downloaded material about making explosives and carrying out terrorist attacks, court documents show.

Amongst the material found were documents titled "How to make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom" and "U.S. Army Knife Fighting Manual techniques" and "Bloody Brazilian Knife Fightin’ Techniques".

Messages showed that he had discussed with his family, friends and girlfriend his extreme views and desire to carry out an attack, often focused on using a knife.

"In online chat you tell your girlfriend that you have declared a pledge to Islamic State and that you wish to purge society and carry out acid attacks," Judge Mark Lucraft said when he sentenced him to prison.

"You speak about preferring a knife attack to the use of bombs and ask about having a knife delivered to her address."

In December 2017 Amman posted a picture of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was killed during a U.S. raid in Syria in October.

He also described Yazidi women as slaves and said the Koran made it permissible to rape them. In another message he encouraged his girlfriend to behead her parents.

Police said he had shared an online al-Qaeda magazine with his family and while in a discussion about school with a sibling he wrote he would "rather blow myself up".

Amman's mother told Sky News her son was a "nice, polite boy" who had been radacalized by watching extremists Islamist material online and became more religious while in prison.

Full report at:

https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2020/02/04/world/europe/03reuters-britain-security-amman.html

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Extremism: More than 250 people in Wales flagged over concerns

5 February 2020

More than 250 people in Wales were flagged up to police and councils over concerns about extremism, it has emerged.

Just under half were aged 20 or younger, Home Office figures show.

Right-wing extremism accounts for 24% of all referrals, while 15% are related to Islamist extremism.

An education watchdog warned that some schools could miss early opportunities to address extremism because they do not think it is relevant.

Estyn wants it acknowledged that radicalisation and extremism are "real risks" to pupils in all schools.

Schools are required to protect pupils from radicalisation and the Welsh Government said Wales' new curriculum will teach youngsters to "critically evaluate" information they are exposed to.

Last year 258 people in Wales were flagged up to police and councils over concerns about extremism.

The figures are highlighted in a report by the education and schools inspectorate says most schools do not do enough within their curriculum to build pupils' resilience against extremist influences.

It said leaders in most schools had an understanding of their role and responsibilities with regard to radicalisation and extremism.

But "in a minority of schools, leaders do not perceive radicalisation and extremism as relevant to their school or surrounding area", and that meant "staff in these schools may miss an opportunity to identify and address early concerns about a pupil".

It also said:

Schools should record and report all incidents of racist language and racial bullying properly, and offer suitable support and challenge to victims and perpetrators

Most schools have policies on staying safe online but only a minority mention the risks from radical and extremist materials

School 'lockdown' procedures are currently in development across Wales as part of a requirement to have an emergency plan.

Jassa Scott, strategic director at Estyn, said schools played a key part in safeguarding some young people from radicalisation.

"Radicalisation to violent extremism can happen in the most unexpected places," she said.

"Schools should be tuned into bullying, in particular the use of racist language and inter-racial conflict between pupils which can indicate radical or extremist views."

What can schools do?

Schools can refer to 'channel' panels, set up under the UK government's anti-terrorism Prevent strategy.

They are chaired by the council and include health and education bodies, and the police.

Home Office figures show 258 people in Wales were referred to them over concerns about extremism between April 2018 and March 2019.

Thirteen of these were discussed by the panel and 12 went on to receive support.

These rates were amongst the lowest when compared with English regions.

In Wales, just under half of referrals are for people aged 20 and under and education is the highest source for referrals.

Right-wing extremism accounts for 24% of all referrals, while 15% are related to Islamist extremism.

The report said there had been an "increase in individuals attracted to violence where the specific ideology driving the behaviour is less clear", accounting for 49% of referrals.

This was often referred to as the 'Columbine effect', Estyn said, named after the 1999 school shootings at Columbine High School.

What sort of things are flagged up?

They have included extremist comments in class or course work, sharing extremist material on social media or pupils refusing to be friends with other pupils due to race or religion.

In one school, a pupil's answer in a mock examination raised concerns along with a separate comment in a religious education lesson.

Another example saw a change of attitude in a pupil who was increasingly critical of anyone from a non-white background.

They discovered that a close family member who was radicalised had recently been released from prison.

Through Personal and Social Education (PSE) and subjects such as religious education and history, all schools cover other cultures and religions and the impact of oppressive political regimes.

But Estyn said it can be superficial if schools avoid more difficult issues.

The report said a minority of schools do not teach about Islam, sometimes due to pupils not wanting to learn about it, parental objections or teachers not wanting to teach the subject.

It said in one school, half the parents objected to their children visiting a local mosque due to their views about Islam.

Jonathan Keohane, head teacher of Roath Park Primary School, welcomed the Estyn report and said since 2016 it has worked with two other Cardiff schools and others in Germany and the Czech Republic to develop a challenging extremism project.

He said schools were more than the standard subjects they teach and it was about taking on contentious issues, which come up on social media or in the news, and might have been brushed aside in the past.

"Our children need to have that safe space to talk and our staff need to be skilled to have that difficult conversation with children when they arise," he said.

"It's about being proactive and giving our children the skills and knowledge to live in an ever-changing world."

What does the Welsh Government say?

It said Wales' new curriculum would focus on providing pupils with skills to "critically evaluate the information they are exposed to, including online".

A spokesman said: "We have provided funding to the Welsh Extremism and Counter Terrorism Unit and partners to develop resources to prevent radicalisation, to be delivered in schools by school beat officers.

Full report at:

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-51375490

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French police attacker inspired by ISIS made pre-attack call to pledge allegiance

Jamie Prentis

Feb 4, 2020

A knife attack at a French police barracks was carried out by a trainee soldier who stabbed officers having reportedly made a phone call to say he was inspired by ISIS.

It follows a recent spate of knife attacks across Europe by extremists seemingly motivated or claimed by terror groups.

There are fears that recent statements by ISIS and Al Qaeda could be causing such attacks with the latter releasing a video on Sunday calling for stabbings with household knives in message seemingly directed at Western Muslims.

Elisabeth Kendall

@Dr_E_Kendall

#StreathamTerrorAttack: As #jihad groups get squeezed, we'll see this more. New #alQaeda video out yday urged "stabbing with household knife" if bigger acts impossible. Footage of 5 inspirational street stabbings. US is top target but "British Muslims" addressed directly at 12:55

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The knifeman, who is in hospital, wounded one officer in Dieuze, eastern France in the hand before being shot.

Shortly before the attack, a call was placed to the police from someone saying he was in the armed forces and was preparing an attack in Dieuze in the name of ISIS, local media reported.

Prosecutor Christian Mercuri said the attacker had declared he was a member of ISIS and that there was going to be “carnage” at a gendarmerie barracks in Dieuze.

"It's been confirmed that the attacker was a young soldier, two months into initial training and currently in his probationary period," Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly wrote on Twitter.

"He was not on duty at the time of the incident.”

Monday's attack at the barracks is likely to again raise questions about how France can guard against radicalised individuals entering its security services.

In October last year, Mickael Harpon, an information technology assistant at police headquarters in central Paris, went on a knife rampage inside the building, killing four people before being shot dead.

A convert to Islam, Harpon had shown signs of possible radicalisation before the attack but no formal investigation was launched and he kept his job.

The attack in Dieuze came only a day after a convicted terrorist stabbed two people in a street in south London despite having only being released days before. The attack by Sudesh Amman, who was shot dead by plain clothed officers, was claimed by ISIS on Monday.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/french-police-attacker-inspired-by-isis-made-pre-attack-call-to-pledge-allegiance-1.974047

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Brother of suicide bomber foiled in attempt to buy acid for explosive, court hears

Feb 5, 2020

The brother of a suicide bomber who attacked a pop concert in Manchester failed in an attempt to buy acid because of concerns that it could be used to make explosives, a court heard.

Hashem Abedi is accused of helping to prepare a deadly nail bomb detonated by his older brother Salman, 22, at a 21,000-seat venue in the English city in May 2017, killing 22 people who were leaving a concert by US singer Ariana Grande.

Mr Abedi faces 22 counts of murder after prosecutors said he was as guilty as his brother after obtaining key parts for the bomb including nails, chemicals and metal food containers that were linked to the attack at the Manchester Arena.

Two months before the bombing, Mr Abedi asked a friend from within the city’s Libyan community to help him buy some acid, an essential part of the homemade explosive TATP, London’s Old Bailey was told.

The court heard that the friend tried to buy £76 of acid using his Amazon online shopping account but was declined because of a lack of funds.

The friend then spoke to his own father for help but he refused, telling him that “acid could be used to manufacture explosives”.

The court has heard that before the failed buy, another acquaintance bought 5 litres of acid on behalf of Hashem Abedi.

Jurors have heard that Mr Abedi explained that he needed the acid for a generator in Libya where his parents had returned in 2016 after bringing the family to live in the UK.

The brothers lived in the former family home for months before the attack.

Prosecutor Duncan Penny told the court that one witness claimed Salman urged him to study “chemistry so you can build a bomb”.

The conversation took place in the presence of Hashem who later said he “believed that his brother required the acid for family reasons rather than terrorist ones”, the court heard.

Mr Abedi, 22, from Manchester, denies murdering 22 people aged between 8 and 51, and one count of attempted murder of the hundreds who were injured.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/brother-of-suicide-bomber-foiled-in-attempt-to-buy-acid-for-explosive-court-hears-1.974506

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Tories in rush to pass emergency terror legislation

05 February 2020

Boris Johnson’s government is planning to pass emergency anti-terror legislation by February 27 with a view to halting the automatic release of terror offenders.

The government’s sense of urgency is reportedly informed by the fact that a convicted terror offender is set to be released on February 28, with a further five expected to be let out in March.

The renewed urgency comes on the heels of a declaration by the Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland, on February 03 that emergency legislation was needed to ensure terror offenders serve at least two thirds of their sentences before they are considered for release by the parole board.

There are believed to be 224 convicted terrorists in British prisons, with as many as 50 set for release this year alone.

The Tories rush to pass emergency legislation is unfolding against the backdrop of unanswered questions about the terror attack in south London on February 02.

The terrorist, Sudesh Amman, had been released from prison on January 23,  just ten days before the attack on Streatham High Road. The timing is very odd as it was only eight days before Brexit day, where emotions were running high.

Furthermore, Amman – who was only 20 years old – was under round-the-clock armed police surveillance and yet the police team following him failed to stop the terror attack.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/05/617970/UK-Terror-Attack-Emergency-Legislation

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Turkey slams European Parliament over PKK event

Erdoğan Çağatay Zontur,Faruk Zorlu  

06.02.2020

Turkey condemned the European Parliament on Wednesday for holding an event attended by some of the ringleaders of the PKK terror group and its supporters.

Turkey strongly condemned the "unofficial event, which also ignores the principle of fighting terrorist organizations without discrimination," the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

In the scandalous event organized by the European Parliament, terrorist propaganda was spread by ringleaders of the PKK terror group and its supporters and heinous threats were made against Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the statement said.

Allowing some of the terrorist organization’s ringleaders -- who are also on the European Union's list of terrorist organizations -- to participate in an event in the European Parliament and spread terrorist propaganda means openly supporting terrorism, it added.

"We invite EU institutions and EU member states to stand firm against terrorist organizations and no longer take terrorists under its wing," it said.

Meanwhile, Turkey's presidential spokesman said early Thursday on Twitter that “it is an embarrassing scandal that a blind eye was turned to the open spreading of terrorist propaganda and Turkey and President Erdogan were insulted at a conference organized by the European Parliament.”

By "opening its doors to the PKK, which the European Union has recognized as a terrorist organization, the European Parliament openly supports terrorism and commits an offense," Kalin underlined.

"We strongly condemn this scandal. Those who ensure that blood-shedding terrorists hold talks under the roof of the European Parliament became part of the offence" he added.

The conference, titled "The European Union, Turkey, the Middle East and the Kurds," was held by the European Parliament in Brussels.

Some ringleaders of the terrorist organization in Europe -- Adem Uzun, Remzi Kartal and Zubeyir Aydar, who are in the red category of Turkey’s wanted terrorist list -- attended the conference.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/turkey-slams-european-parliament-over-pkk-event/1725799

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Bosnia marks 26 years since Sarajevo market bombing

Mustafa Talha Öztürk  

05.02.2020

BELGRADE, Serbia 

Bosnians gathered Tuesday to commemorate the 26th anniversary of a massacre which took the lives of 68 people and injured nearly 150.

The 1994 Markale marketplace shelling was one of the biggest massacres committed during the siege of Sarajevo from April 1992 to December 1995.

Family members, victims, as well as survivors paid tribute, laid wreaths and prayed for the dead.

The ceremony was also attended by Croat chairman of the Council of Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Zeljko Komsic.

Komsic at the ceremony stressed the importance of bringing children to such commemoration ceremonies, and said the children should know about what happened 26 years ago.

Hasan Banda, a survivor of the massacre, said the screams he heard that day are still in his ears and he can never forget what he saw.

Bulka Suljkic, who lost his cousin in the massacre, said not only the relatives of the victims but all Sarajevo people should attend the commemoration ceremonies.

Meanwhile, Senida Karovic, president of the Association of Civil Victims of the War, pointed out that the criminals and victims have been brought to an equal position each day.

"Serbs living in our country refute the massacres, do not accept the decisions made by the court in The Hague. The real truth is we witnessed what happened," said Karovic.

Another commemoration program was organized at the National Theater to honor the victims.

On Aug. 28, 1995, a second mortar exploded in the main market square, killing 43 people and wounding 75.

War crimes

The shelling is among the crimes former Serbian leader Radovan Karadzic was found guilty of committing during his trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

The UN court in The Hague also sentenced former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic to life in prison for his part in spreading terror among civilians in the capital of Sarajevo and in other parts of Bosnia, in an attempt to clear non-Serbs from certain territories.

He was also found to have had "significant responsibility" for the 1995 genocide of over 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/bosnia-marks-26-years-since-sarajevo-market-bombing/1725553

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'Turkey to respond to EU's adverse steps in E. Med’

Zuhal Demirci, Nazli Yuzbasioglu  

05.02.2020

Turkey will respond to European Union’s adverse steps in the Eastern Mediterranean if Turkish Cypriots’ rights to hydrocarbon resources are ignored, Turkey's foreign minister said Wednesday.

Speaking at a meeting with ambassadors of EU member countries in the capital Ankara, Mevlut Cavusoglu underlined that there is a negative atmosphere in the EU against Turkey, saying the anti-Turkey discourse in Europe is on the rise.

Cavusoglu lamented that no action has been taken as yet on equal sharing of natural resources in Cyprus and on the Turkish Cypriots’ rights.

“You also saw the saddening incident in the European Parliament [EP]. We are pleased with the attitude of Greek administration and European Parliament, but essentially we need to understand very well that racism has begun to shake the EP and the values of Europe, we must take precautions,” the foreign minister said, referring to the tearing of a Turkish flag by a Greek parliamentarian late last month.

Speaking about EU-Turkey relations, Cavusoglu said the EU’s stance on Turkey’s activities in the Mediterranean Sea and Libya, and anti-terror Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria has caused tensions in their relations.

“We need to increase our communication even further on these issues,” Cavusoglu maintained.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/turkey-to-respond-to-eus-adverse-steps-in-e-med-/1725226

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UK to carry on with Ankara Agreement visa until 2021

Ahmet Gurhan Kartal  

05.02.2020

LONDON

A special visa by the U.K. government to Turkish businesspeople and their families will continue as normal until the end of the transition period which has kicked on with Brexit, according to Turkey’s London ambassador.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Umit Yalcin said those citizens living in the U.K. on a business document linked to the September 1963 Ankara Agreement would not see a change in their status while the U.K. – EU transition period runs until the end of the year.

"The U.K. has left the EU as of Jan. 31, 2020. However, it will abide by the EU rules until the period called the transition period until the end of this year. Therefore, the effect of constant regulations regarding the Ankara Agreement will remain as they are until the end of Dec. 31, 2020,” Yalcin said.

Yalcin said after the transition period, the U.K. is expected to put in place a new point-based immigration system that would encourage talented and qualified migrants to come to the country from the beginning of 2021 and “our citizens will be able to apply for visas within the requirements of the new system".

The visa scheme is based on the 1963 Ankara Agreement between Turkey and the European Economic Community, a predecessor to the EU. The scheme has been in use by Turks who came to the U.K. to establish new businesses.

Yalcin explained that nearly 30,000 Turkish businesspeople entered the U.K. on the Ankara Agreement visa (ECCA businesspersons visa) since 2000 and more than 3,000 Turks benefited from it in the first half of 2019.

“We are dealing with our citizens’ rights in detail with a working group with the U.K. authorities,” Yalcin said, giving hope for the post-transition period.

He also thinks Brexit would bear new mutual opportunities for Turkey and the U.K. in trade.

“We aim to continue our cooperation with the U.K., which is already a very significant trade partner for our country, without interruption and problem-free way and strengthen it in the post-Brexit era,” he said.

Yalcin said Turkey would watch closely the trade deal negotiations between the U.K. and the EU during 2020.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/uk-to-carry-on-with-ankara-agreement-visa-until-2021/1724860

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Pakistan

 

Saudi Arabia unwilling to back OIC ministers’ meeting on Kashmir

Baqir Sajjad Syed

February 06, 2020

ISLAMABAD: As the Senior Officials Meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation starts in Jeddah on Feb 9 (Sunday) to make preparations for the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers, a diplomatic source said on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia has shown reluctance to accept Pakistan’s request for an immediate meeting of the CFM on Kashmir.

Islamabad’s feeling of unease with the OIC on its failure to get the CFM’s meeting appears to be growing.

Prime Minister Imran Khan voiced frustration over the OIC’s silence on Kashmir while speaking at a think-tank during his visit to Malaysia.

He said: “The reason is that we have no voice and there is a total division amongst [us]. We can’t even come together as a whole on the OIC meeting on Kashmir.”

Pakistan has been pushing for the foreign ministers’ meeting of the 57-member bloc of Muslim countries, which is the second largest intergovernmental body after the UN, since India annexed occupied Kashmir last August.

Although since then there has been a meeting of the contact group on Kashmir on the sidelines of UN General Assembly session in New York and a report by the OIC’s Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission on the rights abuses in India-held Kashmir, no progress could be made towards the CFM’s meeting.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, while underscoring the importance of CFM for Pakistan at a recent presser, said it was needed to send a clear message from Ummah on the Kashmir issue.

Support from Riyadh is considered a must for any move at the OIC, which is dominated by Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries from the Gulf.

The kingdom made several proposals to Pakistan to avoid the CFM including holding of a parliamentary forum or speakers’ conference from Muslim countries and, according to one source, a joint meeting on Palestine and Kashmir issues. Pakistan has persisted with its proposal so far.

Islamabad’s position has been that speakers’ meeting is not commensurate with the seriousness of the situation in occupied Kashmir. Secondly, some in Islamabad were worried that the speakers forum could be used by Riyadh for Iran bashing because the speaker of Saudi Shura Dr Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Ibrahim Al Sheikh had undertaken some lobbying in that regard with some of his counterparts.

It should be recalled that it were Turkey, Malaysia and Iran that have unequivocally rejected India’s annexation of Kashmir and voiced serious concerns on atrocities committed by Indian security forces on Kashmiris in the occupied valley.

Moreover, there were apprehensions that clubbing the Kashmir dispute with Palestine at a meeting would effectively put the Kashmir issue on the backburner.

Riyadh had, however, soon after Pakistan’s absence at the Kuala Lumpur summit shown flexibility on the proposal for CFM. Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan indicated that in meetings with Mr Qureshi and PM Khan during his visit to Islamabad in December, when the two sought Saudi support for the proposed meeting.

The Saudi FM was then here to thank Pakistani leadership for staying away from the Malaysia summit because of his country’s reservations. But, then Islamabad missed the bus, fearing that convening of a CFM at this stage would appear as a quid pro quo for shunning Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad’s initiative.

The Saudi flexibility too was short-lived and soon Riyadh reverted to its position on the CFM on Kashmir.

FM Qureshi reiterated Islamabad’s desire for the meeting during his visit to Saudi Arabia for defusing tensions in the Persian Gulf after the assassination of Iranian Commander Gen Qassem Soleimani. However, he has not received a positive response as yet. Mr Qureshi recently said he hoped that the Saudis would “not disappoint us”.

Senior Officials Meeting for making preparations for the routine 47th CFM is being held in Jeddah from Sunday. It is expected that the usual resolutions on Kashmir would be included in the agenda of the foreign ministers’ meeting scheduled to be held in Niger in April, but still no special focus on the plight of Kashmiris, who have been enduring lockdown that is now in its 185th day since abrogation of Article 370.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1532746/saudi-arabia-unwilling-to-back-oic-ministers-meeting-on-kashmir

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Chewing gum in court ‘ridicules dignity, lowers police morale’: judge

Malik Asad

February 06, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Chewing gum in court ridicules the dignity of the court and lowers police morale, Additional District and Sessions Judge Mohammad Adnan has claimed in a report submitted to the Islamabad High Court (IHC).

Judge Adnan on Jan 31 dismissed a pre-arrest bail petition by Yasir Arafat under section 498 of the Criminal Procedure Code because Mr Arafat was chewing gum inside the courtroom.

On Feb 3, an IHC member inspection team (MIH) sought a report from Judge Adnan in his matter.

In a written report submitted to the court, the judge said that it was not within the norms and practices of the court to allow an accused to chew gum inside the courtroom.

“Such acts of interruptions are bound to ridicule the authority of court and lower the morale of police authorities to investigate him,” the judge said.

According to the judge: “For seeking a bail before arrest, an accused voluntarily/unconditionally (without conditions to his habits etc.) surrenders himself being extra ordinary concession as he is involved in some cognizable offence in which police has right to arrest him without warrants.”

Judge went on to state that “when accused was admitted to ad-interim bail the conditions include: applicant shall also join the investigation as and when required by the police and shall attend this court, regularly till the final disposal of the case.”

Explaining the Jan 31 incident, he said: “On the first call, accused was absent, meaning thereby that despite having knowledge of date he did not attend the court nor any intimation was there on his behalf. Yet, out of just grace shown in the interest of justice, his matter was kept aside.

“On second call when he appeared, while his case was in progress, he was chewing the chewing-gum in a way that caught attention and interrupted the undersigned while performing the judicial functions.”

He said the situation could either have been handled by issuing the accused a show-cause notice or by dismissing his bail plea. He said the dismissal of bail before arrest on such grounds did not curtail the liberty of an accused but gave the opportunity to seek relief from the appropriate forum.

He said in the report that the accused could not be allowed to chew gum or indulge in any other habit inside the courtroom “at the cost of interruption of judicial proceedings”.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1532715/chewing-gum-in-court-ridicules-dignity-lowers-police-morale-judge

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Imran, Mahathir agree to take strategic partnership to new level

February 06, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has expressed his gratitude for Malaysia’s support on the issue of Kashmir and reaffirmed Islamabad’s commitment to fostering bilateral ties with Kuala Lumpur.

According to a statement issued on the conclusion of Prime Minister Khan’s two-day official visit to Malaysia on Wednesday, Prime Minister Khan and his Malaysian counterpart Mahathir Mohamad reaffirmed their shared desire to maintain regular high-level contact and expand bilateral economic, trade and investment ties in diversified fields.

During their one-on-one meeting and subsequent bilateral delegation meetings, Malaysia and Pakistan firmly stressed that the question of Palestine the situation in India-held Kashmir, and the Rohingya issue should be resolved on the basis of the relevant United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and General Assembly (UNGA) resolutions.

Prime Minister Khan briefed his counterpart on the Indian government’s illegal and unilateral actions of Aug 5, 2019 and the ensuing lockdown, communications blockade, media blackout and illegal detentions in held Kashmir that brought immense suffering to the Kashmiri people.

He appreciated the efforts of Prime Minister Mahathir for raising awareness about the situation and underscoring the imperative of peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

The Malaysian prime minister recognised the essential role of Prime Minister Khan in ensuring peace and security in the South Asian and West Asian regions through his goodwill diplomatic efforts towards the maintenance of international peace and security. Both leaders agreed that Malaysia and Pakistan, together with Turkey, would pursue initiatives of strategic cooperation under the Joint Committee Meeting (JCM) to complement the efforts by the community of the Muslim world aimed at uplifting the socio-political and socio-economic condition of the Ummah and promoting the true values of Islam, while being mindful of the centrality of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in this regard.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1532753/imran-mahathir-agree-to-take-strategic-partnership-to-new-level

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Five Pakistani students have coronavirus, confirms Chinese envoy

February 6, 2020

China has shifted five Pakistani students to a hospital after they were diagnosed with coronavirus, said Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing on Wednesday.

“There are not four… five have been confirmed,” the Chinese ambassador told Independent Urdu. The sick students were studying in Guangzhou.

“But before this illness, they visited Wuhan, the birth of coronavirus, where they contracted the disease,” Ambassador Jing said. The Chinese ambassador said that the Pakistani students were immediately isolated and shifted to a hospital after they showed symptoms of coronavirus.

“The information I got yesterday is that their situation is improved… their health is progressing,” he said. “So don’t worry there won’t be any kind of bigger problem for them.”

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/02/05/five-pakistani-students-have-coronavirus-confirms-chinese-envoy/

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Nawaz’s treatment delayed twice due to Maryam’s absence, Shehbaz claims

February 6, 2020

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday said that cardiologists treating former prime minister Nawaz Sharif have changed the pre-decided date for his treatment twice because his daughter Maryam Nawaz has not been allowed to travel to London to be with him.

In a statement, the National Assembly opposition leader said it was very unfortunate that Maryam was not being granted permission to take care of her father.

Maryam should be permitted to be with her father on humanitarian grounds, the PML-N president said.

The PML-N supremo is currently in London for medical treatment. While Maryam had sought permission to fly abroad to be with her father, the federal cabinet in December last year decided not to remove her name from the exit control list (ECL) in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills reference. On January 14, the federal cabinet placed her name on the ECL for the second time in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case.

“As Nawaz’s health is concerning, the margin for medical action is reducing as more time passes,” Shehbaz said, adding that cardiologists had to twice change the earlier decided date for his brother’s cardiac catheterisation as Maryam was not with him.

Further, Shehbaz said that Kulsoom Nawaz’s death had a “severe negative effect” on Nawaz’s health. He added that Maryam had been a source of comfort, ease and strength for her father during this time.

Meanwhile, Nawaz’s personal physician Dr Adnan Khan said that the former prime minister, after intensive investigations, was found to have “complex multi-vessel coronary artery disease and substantial ischemic and threatened myocardium”.

In a tweet on Wednesday, he highlighted that Nawaz was scheduled to undergo a procedure last week. However, the procedure was delayed as Maryam was not allowed to travel.

Dr. Adnan Khan

@Dr_Khan

 • 21h

Former PM #NawazSharif after extensive cardiac evaluation & investigations at Royal Brompton Hospital is found to have complex multi vessel coronary artery disease & substantial ischemic & threatened myocardium. He was planned for a Coronary Intervention last Thursday (30/1).

1/3

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Dr. Adnan Khan

@Dr_Khan

Mr. Sharif requested it to be rescheduled for this Thursday (6/2) as his daughter #MaryamNawaz @MaryamNSharif wanted to be with him at the time of procedure & was not allowed to travel.

Now, once again, the procedure is being postponed for a later date for the same reason.

2/3

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

206

14:22 - 5 Feb 2020

Twitter Ads information and privacy

144 people are talking about this

“Now, once again, the procedure is being postponed for a later date for the same reason.”

He stressed that “any undue delay is taxing on [Nawaz’s] health and could have adverse consequences”. “Maryam must be with her father at the time of this complicated, high risk cardiac intervention,” he added.

On December 23, 2019, Nawaz sought an extension in his stay abroad on the expiry of the four-week period granted by the Lahore High Court. Following his request, the Punjab government constituted a four-member committee to decide on it and sought fresh medical reports to make an “informed decision”.

Earlier this month, a picture of Nawaz at a London restaurant along with some members of his family had surfaced on social media, raising questions about the condition of the former premier’s health. Following this, on January 15, the Punjab government had rejected Nawaz’s medical reports which had been submitted on December 23.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/02/05/nawazs-treatment-delayed-twice-due-to-maryams-absence-shehbaz-claims/

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CPEC to generate more employment in Pakistan: Bajwa

Feb 5, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The second phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will generate massive employment opportunities and help cash-strapped Pakistan to upgrade its key industrial and agricultural sectors, CPEC Authority Chairman Lt-Gen (retd) Asim Bajwa has said.

Bajwa, the former Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations, the military's media wing, was appointed as the first chairman of the newly-established CPEC Authority in November last year.

The $60 billion CPEC is a planned network of roads, railways and energy projects linking China's resource-rich Xinjiang province with Pakistan's strategic Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea. Pakistan, China's all-weather ally, has also raised special forces to protect infrastructure projects as well as Chinese nationals working on CPEC-linked ventures.

Bajwa, tweeting from his new Twitter handle for the first time on Tuesday, said the CPEC project with across the board acceptability, is already bringing relief in energy and infrastructure sectors.

"Time to gear up for phase-II which is envisioned to generate mass employment through more projects, mass industrialisation, agricultural and socio-economic uplift," Bajwa, who has also served as the commander of the Southern Command, tweeted.

His tweets came a week after Prime Minister Imran Khan directed all concerned ministries to set goals for schemes and ensure inter-governmental coordination for early conclusion of the phase II of the multibillion-dollar project.

The CPEC Authority was established through a presidential ordinance in October for coordination, monitoring and evaluation to ensure implementation of CPEC-related activities.

Commenting on progress made so far in the project, Bajwa said nine projects have already been completed, producing 5,320MW electricity with the investment of USD 7.9 billion. The energy generating projects, he said, have provided jobs to 5,000 Pakistani citizens.

The CPECA chairman added that eight more similar projects are being constructed to generate 4,470MW electricity with an investment of another USD 9.55 billion and would provide employment to over 15,000 Pakistanis.

The United States has been critical of the CPEC projects in Pakistan.

Senior US diplomat Alice Wells recently said there was no transparency in the projects undertaken under the CPEC in Pakistan and the firms blacklisted by the World Bank have got contracts under the USD 60 billion project, which will increase the cash-strapped country's debt burden.

Wells, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia who was on a four-day visit to Pakistan said that there was no transparency in the CPEC projects and Pakistan's debt burden was growing due to the Chinese financing.

While reiterating the allegations against the CPEC, Wells said that companies blacklisted by the World Bank had got contracts in the CPEC.

Commenting on her remarks, the Chinese embassy in Islamabad rejected the "negative propaganda" by the senior US diplomat against the CPEC.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/cpec-to-generate-more-employment-in-pakistan-bajwa/articleshow/73966549.cms

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Shahbaz wants Maryam with Nawaz during heart procedure

Amir Wasim

February 06, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Terming the health condition of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif “seriously unstable” and “fragile”, his brother and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shahbaz Sharif on Wednesday expressed concern over the government’s refusal to allow Maryam Nawaz to travel to London to join her father who has been suggested another heart procedure by the doctors.

“Mian Sahib was investigated comprehensively at Royal Brompton Hospital, London, for the present cardiac status and to determine the need for intervention. The investigations revealed significant ischemic burden affecting major areas of heart and impaired function as well,” Shahbaz Sharif said in a statement issued from London and released to Pakistani media by PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb.

“In view of the unstable state of health of Mian Sahib, Maryam Nawaz should be allowed to join her father. The more time is passing, the less is the space for intervention,” he added.

Responding to Shahbaz Sharif’s statement, federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry once again opposed lifting the ban on Maryam Nawaz’s travel, stating such a move “will be the last nail in the coffin of the PTI’s narrative of accountability”.

He was of the view that Maryam Nawaz can only be allowed to travel after a plea bargain.

Shahbaz Sharif stated that the cardiologist twice planned the procedure called cardiac catheterisation, but it had to be rescheduled since Maryam Nawaz could not join her father.

“The health condition of Nawaz Sharif remains seriously unstable. He has had to get his procedure rescheduled twice because his daughter, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, who wanted to be with him, was not allowed to leave Pakistan,” said Shahbaz Sharif, who has been living with his brother in London for more than one month.

Shahbaz Sharif, who is the also opposition leader in the National Assembly, said his brother’s health condition had been fragile due to complexity of various life-threatening diseases as he was suffering from significant heart disease, for which he had undergone multiple procedures earlier, besides two open heart surgeries.

The PML-N president said that Kulsoom Nawaz had passed away at a time when Nawaz Sharif was imprisoned with his daughter. He said the pain of losing his life-long partner and companion had adversely impacted Nawaz Sharif’s health.

During the most difficult time of his life, he said, Maryam Nawaz had been a sheet-anchor and a source of strength for Nawaz Sharif. “It is indeed deplorable that she is not being allowed to proceed to look after her father.”

Shahbaz Sharif his brother had been elected prime minister of Pakistan thrice and his contribution to national economy and defence had been incredible. He said that Nawaz Sharif in compliance with the accountability court’s decision had flown to Pakistan from the UK with his daughter to be jailed despite having reservations on the original court verdict against him.

“His right to appropriate medical treatment needs to be respected,” he said.

Dr Adnan Khan, the personal physician of Nawaz Sharif, stated that the former prime minister was scheduled to undergo a coronary intervention on Jan 30 and then on Feb 6 (today), but the procedure had once again been delayed to a later date.

“Mr Sharif requested it to be rescheduled for this Thursday as his daughter Maryam Nawaz wanted to be with him at the time of the procedure and was not allowed to travel. Now, once again, the procedure is being postponed for a later date for the same reason,” Dr Khan said in a series of tweets.

He said the procedure was vital for the life and good health of the former premier.

Dr Adnan added: “Cardiac Catheterization/Coronary Intervention is of utmost importance for former PM’s health and life. Any undue delay is taxing his health and could have adverse consequences. Maryam Nawaz must be with her father at the time of this complicated high risk cardiac intervention.”

He said purely on humanitarian grounds, Maryam Nawaz, who is also PML-N vice president, should be permitted to be with her father.

Nawaz Sharif is currently in London for medical treatment. While Maryam Nawaz had sought permission to go abroad to be with her father, the federal cabinet in December last year decided not to remove her name from the Exit Control List (ECL) in the Al Azizia Steel Mills reference.

On Jan 14, the federal cabinet placed her name on the ECL for the second time in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case.

On Dec 23, 2019, Nawaz Sharif sought an extension in his stay abroad on the expiry of the four-week period granted by the Lahore High Court.

Following his request, the Punjab government constituted a four-member committee to decide on it and sought fresh medical reports to make an informed decision.

Earlier this month, a picture of Nawaz Sharif at a London restaurant with some members of his family had surfaced on social media, raising questions about his health condition.

On Jan 15, the Punjab government rejected Nawaz Sharif’s medical reports which had been submitted on Dec 23.

The Punjab government has now asked Nawaz Sharif to submit fresh medical reports so that a decision on his request seeking more time abroad could be made.

Minister’s response

Federal Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry, through his official account on Twitter, said the departure of Nawaz Sharif from the country, weak prosecution by the National Accountability Bureau and reliefs provided by courts had damaged the narrative of accountability.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1532738/shahbaz-wants-maryam-with-nawaz-during-heart-procedure

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Africa

 

Al Shabaab 'fires two members of executive council' after they pushed to stop attacks on civilians

By Anna Pujol-Mazzini

4 February 2020

Somali jihadist group Al-Shabaab has expelled top members of its executive council after they expressed concern over attacks against civilians, according to Somalia’s intelligence agency.

Attacks on civilians have intensified in the past year in the East African country, and the group are thought to have struck nearly 800 times in 2019.

Al-Shabaab’s leader Ahmed Diriye fired senior members Mahad Karate and Bashir Qorgab after the two asked him to stop targeting civilians in the capital Mogadishu, the National Intelligence and Security Agency, said on Twitter.

Last month, the terror group killed at least 90 people in Mogadishu in its deadliest strike in years, prompting an unprecedented show of anger from residents. It later issued a rare apology after hundreds of people took to the streets in protest over the car blast....

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/02/04/al-shabaab-fires-two-members-executive-council-pushed-stop-attacks/

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Museum shows Moroccan Jewish-Muslim relations

January 28, 2020

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has visited the country’s newly-opened ‘House of Memory’, showcasing historic Jewish-Muslim relations and coexistence in the coastal city of Essaouira.

The Jewish community in Essaouira was once so numerous that there were 37 synagogues, with many families having arrived after their mass expulsion from Spain by the Catholic king in 1492. The new museum is housed in one such synagogue, built with carved woodwork by a wealthy merchant, adjoining his house, and details the life of Moroccan Jews.

It includes the families and descendants such as Lord Belisha, Britain’s minister of transport, finance and war during the 1930s and 40s, whose appointment to the post of minister of information was blocked for antisemitic reasons. His name is  now known for the amber ‘Belisha beacons’ at pedestrian crossings. Bayt Dakira “testifies to a period when Islam and Judaism had closeness,” said the king’s adviser.

https://jewishnews.timesofisrael.com/museum-shows-moroccan-jewish-muslim-relations/?fbclid=IwAR13x6Pbom9hKqKfrnGVAb6Vb-wCnscPva-17lN0ANu7XCQOigW7Qtsz9t4

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Sudan gives Israel initial okay for overflights, says official

6 February 2020

Sudan has agreed to allow flights heading to Israel to cross its airspace, a military spokesman said on Wednesday, two days after Sudan’s military head of state held a surprise meeting with Israel’s prime minister.

The meeting in Uganda between Sudan’s Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu stirred controversy in Sudan after Israeli officials said it would lead to normalizing relations between the two former foes.

Tensions have risen between the military and civilian groups sharing power after last year’s overthrow of former president Omar al-Bashir.

The cabinet has held two emergency meetings over the Uganda trip, about which it says it was not informed.

Sudan’s military responded with a rare political statement on Wednesday, describing Burhan’s trip to meet Netanyahu as being in “the highest interests of national security and of Sudan.”

Netanyahu had previously said opening Sudanese airspace to Israeli civilian planes would cut hours off flights to South America, Israel’s fourth-most important travel destination.

That African air corridor would also include Egypt and Chad, with which Israel renewed long-severed relations in 2018.

“With Sudan we are now establishing cooperative relations,” Netanyahu said in a campaign speech on Wednesday. “We will overfly Sudan.”

This week’s meeting in Uganda coincided with an announcement that Burhan had been invited to visit Washington later this year. It also came a week after Netanyahu, who faces an election on March 2, travelled to Washington for the unveiling of US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan.

Sudan is striving to rebuild links with the outside world after decades of isolation under Bashir, and to be removed from a US list of countries considered state sponsors of terrorism.

Israeli commentators have suggested the rapprochement with Khartoum might enable the repatriation of thousands of Sudanese who make up around a fifth of illegal migrants and asylum-seekers in Israel.

A senior Israeli official on Tuesday played this prospect down.

“No one consulted with me before the trip (by Netanyahu to Ug

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/06/Sudan-gives-Israel-initial-okay-for-overflights-says-official.html

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HRW urges Morocco to release prisoners of conscience

05 February 2020

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged Morocco to release at least 10 people who have been arrested and prosecuted in recent months as the "did nothing but peacefully express critical opinions".

Human Rights Watch and the Moroccan Association for Human Rights said in a joint statement on Wednesday those arrested over the past five months include students, artists, citizen journalists and social media commentators and are facing such charges as showing a "lack of due respect for the king", "defaming state institutions" and "offending public officials".

According to the statement, some of those detained "have targeted the wealth and lifestyle of King Mohammed VI, contrasting it with what they perceive as the state's failure to guarantee basic rights and economic opportunities for young Moroccans".

"Others encouraged people to participate in protests against socio-economic injustice," the rights groups added.

The rights groups said prosecutions were being conducted under the criminal law rather than the four-year-old Press and Publications Law so the courts can hand down jail terms where they saw fit.

Ahmed Benchemsi, HRW’s Middle East and North Africa communications director, noted that a growing number of Moroccans “are taking to social media to express bold political opinions, including about the king, as is their right."

He added that the authorities have stepped in to frantically try to reinstate the red lines as self-censorship erodes. 

Asked about the prosecutions last month, Hassan Abyaba, a spokesman for the government, insisted "the human rights situation in Morocco is not regressing", adding there was a distinction between "those who express themselves freely and those who commit crimes punishable by law".

The US-based HRW said that in partnership with the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, it was launching a list of free speech cases that it would keep regularly updated.

The operators of popular YouTube channels "Moul Kaskita" and "We Love You, Morocco", who got four- and three-year jail term, respectively, for showing disrespect to the king, are among those inscribed on the list.

Another name on the list is Omar Radi, a journalist who faces up to a year in prison for slamming judge Lahcen Tolfi in a tweet in April 2019 after he upheld sentences of up to 20 years in prison against leaders of a protest movement that hit the country in 2016 and 2017.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/05/617950/HRW-Morocco-prisoners

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Sudan leader says stance on Palestine will not change amid anger over Netanyahu meeting

05 February 2020

Sudan’s ruling council chief says Khartoum’s stance on the issue of Palestine will “remain firm,” and that his secret talks with the Israeli premier were meant to “protect national security,” amid anger at home against what is largely seen as a radical change in the African state’s longtime anti-occupation foreign policy.

Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the chairman of Sudan’s ruling council, made the remarks in a brief statement released on Tuesday after he met the body and top ministers.

“I took this step from the standpoint of my responsibility... to protect the national security of Sudan and achieve the supreme interests of the Sudanese people,” he said.

Burhan sat down for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Uganda in a meeting reportedly arranged by the United Arab Emirates.

It was only made public when the Israeli premier took to Twitter to claim that an agreement had been reached with Sudan to “begin cooperation that will lead to the normalization of relations.”

However, the Sovereign Council of Sudan — a joint civilian-military cabinet running state affairs since September 2019 — said the cabinet had not been informed in advance about the meeting and only learned of it through media reports.

Elsewhere in his statement, Burhan cast doubt on any rapid normalization of Sudan’s ties with Israel, emphasizing that “concerned institutions” were responsible for the matter, apparently referring to Sudan’s civilian cabinet.

“I stress that examining and developing relations between Sudan and Israel is the responsibility of the concerned institutions, as according to (Sudan’s) constitutional declaration,” he said.

The Sudanese leader further claimed that Khartoum’s position towards the Palestine issue remains unchanged.

“I also confirm that Sudan’s principled stance on the Palestinian issue and the right of its people to an independent state is and will remain firm, in keeping with Arab consensus and Arab League resolutions,” he said.

Israel has no formal diplomatic relations with Sudan, where public and government support for the Palestinian cause runs strong. The Khartoum-Tel Aviv relationship has historically been hostile.

‘A dagger in the heart of Sudan’

On Tuesday, protesters gathered outside the government headquarters in Khartoum to denounce the Netanyahu-Burhan meeting and the idea of normalization of ties.

“The betrayal that was represented in the meeting with the head of the Zionist entity, is a dagger in the heart of the Sudanese people,” said Tarek Babakr, one of the demonstrators.

Additionally, Abdullahi Yousif, an influential religious man and politician, stressed that Burhan is not allowed to meet with Netanyahu without authorization from other officials.

The Sudanese Communist Party (SCP) also criticized the Uganda meeting as “a stab in the back” of the nation.

“What happened at the meeting between Burhan and Netanyahu is a stab in the back of Sudanese people’s struggle against imperialists and also their continuous position in supporting the Palestinians,” SCP spokesman Fathi Fadoul said in a video posted on the party’s Facebook page.

“We also condemn the statement from the cabinet. The cabinet has to say directly what its position is about the meeting rather than saying it was not notified about it,” he added.

Similarly, the Forces for Freedom and Change (FCC), an alliance that fronted protests that toppled Sudan’s long-time president Omar al-Bashir last year, accused Burhan of making “a major breach” of the country’s constitutional declaration.

Moreover, the Sudanese Journalists’ Union said the meeting marked “a black day” for the African country and was “the deepest stab in the back and heart of the Sudanese people, who have always been supportive of the Palestinian cause.”

“We, the Sudanese journalists, will be at the forefront of those who reject this failed and defeated normalization step of treachery,” it said in a statement.

Sudanese political analyst Alfatih Mahmoud also said Netanyahu and Burhan are pursuing their own agendas.

“Netanyahu is promoting the ‘deal of the century’ in Africa generally and the Muslim community specifically,” said Mahmoud, referring to an anti-Palestine Middle East schemed drawn up by the US and unveiled last month.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/05/617925/Israel-Sudan-Abdel-Fattah-Burhan-Benjamin-Netanyahu

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Top Algerian diplomat in Libya to meet Haftar

05.02.2020

BENGHAZI, Libya

Algerian Foreign Minister Sabri Boukadoum arrived in Benghazi, Libya on Wednesday to hold talks with renegade Gen. Khalifa Haftar, according to sources familiar with the development.

In a statement, the so-called Foreign Ministry of Libya's eastern government confirmed that Abdel-Hadi Al-Hawij received his Algerian counterpart Boukadoum. It, however, did not provide any further details regarding the purpose of the visit.

But an official in the "Foreign Ministry", on the condition of anonymity, told Anadolu Agency that it was expected that Boukadoum would hold talks with Haftar in the Rajma village near Benghazi.

"Algeria has recently been heavily involved in the Libyan issue, and since it has influence and weightage, all forces in Libya are seeking to win Algeria on its side," the official added.

Boukadoum's visit, the sources said, was aimed at ending the crisis in Libya through political dialogue and mediation.

Meanwhile, the ِLibyan Address, a newspaper affiliated with Haftar, also reported that Al-Hawij received Boukadoum at the airport. It printed the story with a photo of the Algerian minister's arrival in the conflict-ridden country.

In a separate post on its Facebook account, the paper added that Haftar met the Algerian foreign minister in his office in Rajma, east of Tripoli.

Since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: one in eastern Libya supported mainly by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and the other in Tripoli, which enjoys UN and international recognition.

Libya’s legitimate government has been under attack by Haftar’s forces since last April, claiming the lives of more than 1,000 people.

On Jan. 12, the conflicting parties in Libya announced a cease-fire in response to a joint call by Turkey and Russia’s leaders. But talks for a permanent cease-fire ended without an agreement after Haftar left Moscow on Jan. 14 without signing the deal.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/top-algerian-diplomat-in-libya-to-meet-haftar/1725578

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Turkey Deploys Extremists to Libya, Local Militias Say

Feb. 5, 2020

CAIRO — Syrian militants affiliated with groups such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State group are currently being sent by Turkey to fight on behalf of the U.N.-supported government in Libya, according to two Libyan militia leaders and a Syrian war monitor. Both sides in Libya's civil war receive equipment and backing from foreign countries. But Turkey, which has long trained and funded opposition fighters in Syria and relaxed its borders so foreign fighters joined IS, has in recent months been airlifting hundreds of them over to a new theater of war in Libya.

The U.N.-supported government controls only a shrinking area of western Libya, including the capital, Tripoli. It's facing a months-long offensive by forces loyal to Gen. Khalifa Hifter who is allied with a rival government based in Libya's east. The United Nations recognizes the government in Tripoli, led by Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, as Libya's legitimate government because it was born out of U.N.-mediated talks in 2015.

Sarraj is backed by Turkey, and to a lesser degree, Qatar and Italy. Hifter receives backing from the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as France and Russia. Libya has the ninth largest known oil reserves in the world, and many of these countries are apparently jockeying for influence in order to control Libya's resources.

Libyan militia leaders in Tripoli told The Associated Press that Turkey has brought more than 4,000 foreign fighters into Tripoli, and that “dozens” of them are extremist-affiliated. The two commanders spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.

The commanders also highlighted differing opinions within the Libyan militias about accepting Syrian extremists into their ranks. One said the fighters' backgrounds aren't important, as long as they've come to help defend the capital. The other said some commanders fear the fighters will “tarnish” the image of the Tripoli-based government.

Turkey-backed militias in northern Syria have been known to include fighters that previously fought with al-Qaida, IS and other militant groups, and have committed atrocities against Syrian Kurdish groups and civilians.

The U.N. has repeatedly condemned the flow of weapons and foreign fighters into Libya. But the organization has not directly responded to reports and accusations by Hifter's side that Sarraj's government and Turkey are apparently using IS- and al-Qaida-linked extremists as mercenaries.

Turkey has not confirmed or denied reports of Syrian fighters being sent to Libya to support Sarraj, and the Turkish military did not respond to requests for comment.

However, in a televised interview last month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: "As a combat force, we will have a different team there. They won't be from within our soldiers. Those different teams and the combat forces will work together. But our high-ranking soldiers will coordinate." He did not elaborate.

Rumors of Turkey-backed Syrian fighters in Libya have swirled for weeks. Foreign leaders and commentators have pointed to videos circulated online that appear to show Syrians in Tripoli. In one video, a man with a Syrian accent films the dormitories where he and other fighters are living, saying “Thank God, we arrived safely in Libya.” Another clip shows a plane full of fighters, some wearing fatigues and speaking with Syrian accents.

Turkey's Libyan allies and Syrian opposition leaders have denied any organized efforts to send combatants to Libya. But in January, Sarraj told the BBC that his government “would not hesitate to cooperate with any party to defeat this aggression" by Hifter's forces.

Rami Abdurrahman, the director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told the AP that his war-monitoring network has determined there are at least 130 former Islamic State or al-Qaida fighters among the approximately 4,700 Turkey-backed Syrian mercenaries sent to fight for Sarraj.

He said the IS militants had joined the so-called Syrian National Army, a patchwork alliance formed by Turkey from different factions who battled the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Most of the groups are loyal to Turkey, and the SNA was used as shock troops last year in Turkey’s offensive against U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in northern Syria.

In theory, a cease-fire brokered by Russia and Turkey remains in place around Tripoli but Libya's warring sides have traded accusations of violations, and the shaky truce is threatened by clashes. Representatives from Sarraj and Hifter began meetings in Geneva on Tuesday to work toward a more permanent cease-fire.

The Observatory also quoted a Syrian fighter from Idlib province who applied to go to Libya as saying he was motivated by the financial benefits offered by Turkey.

Elizabeth Tsurkov, a fellow at the U.S.-based Foreign Policy Research Institute who closely follows Syria's armed groups, said the promise of payment, Turkish citizenship or the prospect of fleeing to Europe were the main motives of Syrian fighters sent to Libya.

“None of them are committed to the fight in Libya due to personal conviction or ideology,” she said.

A Libyan official at the prime minister's office said Syrian fighters have been in Libya since early August. At first, he said they were only facilitating the work of Turkish military experts. But as the fighting escalated in mid-December, the number of Syrian fighters arriving in Libya increased. These fighters now immediately deploy to the front lines, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to talk to reporters on the subject.

The Tripoli authorities and U.S. officials have also accused Hifter of relying on hundreds of Russian mercenaries. Sudanese armed groups from the Darfur region recently joined the fighting on both sides, according to a report by U.N. experts.

The influx of Syrian, Russian and Sudanese mercenaries has threatened to prolong the war and cripple international efforts to establish a long-term cease-fire. Last month, a summit in Berlin brought together the major international stakeholders in Libya, but with few concrete results.

Nicholas Heras, a Syria expert at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, said Turkey is focusing on Libya to establish a sphere of influence in the Mediterranean.

Full report at:

https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2020/02/05/world/middleeast/ap-ml-libya-syria-extremists.html

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One al-Shabab terrorist killed, two compounds destroyed in Somalia week-long operations

2020-02-04

MOGADISHU, Feb. 4 (Xinhua) -- Somali and U.S. security forces have killed an al-Shabab terrorist and destroyed two compounds of the militant group in southern Somalia in week-long operations, the United States Africa Command (Africom) said Monday.

The results were recorded during the airstrikes on various targets in the Jan. 23-29 operations in order to disrupt and disable the al-Shabab expansion beyond Somalia, into Kenya recently for example.

"We assess these compounds were used by al-Shabab militants to organize and plan violent terrorist actions against innocent Somali citizens," Gregory Hadfield, Africom's deputy director for intelligence, said in a statement.

Hadfield said the two al-Shabab compounds were located in the Jamame and in Jilib areas. "We currently assess no civilians were injured or killed as a result of these airstrikes," he added.

Full report at:

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-02/04/c_138755344.htm

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More soldiers won't help Mali, talks with jihadists might: U.N.

FEBRUARY 4, 2020

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations’ top humanitarian official in Mali urged more engagement with armed groups including jihadists, and more aid and development funding, saying on Monday that extra troops would not help to stabilize the country.

Islamist groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State operate across northern and central Mali despite constant efforts to drive them back. More than 200,000 people are displaced and many communities have no local government or means of defense.

The former colonial power, France, on Sunday pledged another 600 soldiers to the 4,500 it has tackling armed groups in the Sahel or with a 14,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission in the region.

Ute Kollies, head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Mali, told journalists in Geneva that the country was at a watershed, and complained of a lack of international support.

The funds received by OCHA in Mali last year amounted to just 5% percent of the $3 billion spent by armies there.

“I do not believe that more military would help,” Kollies said. “What we need is more engagement on the political front.”

She mentioned a decision by the Malian government to send emissaries to speak with representatives of two Islamist militant groups in central Mali, and said such contacts should not be confined to a hitherto stumbling peace process.

“We need different pressure on the different sides,” she said.

OCHA says that about 4.3 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Mali, 1.1 million more than last year. Yet risks for aid workers are growing, and Kollies said access to some areas was “extremely difficult”.

Full report at:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mali-security-un/more-soldiers-wont-help-mali-talks-with-jihadists-might-un-idUSKBN1ZX2NH

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4 militants killed in Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar

2020-02-04

JALALABAD, Afghanistan, Feb. 4 (Xinhua) -- Four militants have been confirmed dead as the government forces' fighting planes struck the armed group's hideout in Haska Mina district of the eastern Nangarhar province on Monday, said an army statement released here Tuesday.

Acting on tip off, the fighting planes targeted the Taliban hideout in Kozkalai area of the restive district on Monday afternoon, killing four insurgents including the shadow district chief, Ziarat Gul, on the spot.

No security personnel or civilians were harmed during the raids, the statement added.

Full report at:

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-02/04/c_138755554.htm

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Arab World

 

Clashes In Iraq’s Najaf Kill Seven After Al-Sadr’s Followers Storm Protest Camp

5 February 2020

At least seven people were killed and 53 others injured in clashes in Iraq’s southern city of Najaf on Wednesday after supporters of populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr stormed an anti-government protest camp, medical and security sources said.

All the dead suffered bullet wounds to the head or chest, the medics said.

On Tuesday, anti-government demonstrators faced off against followers of al-Sadr in protest squares across Iraq, a day after one demonstrator was killed in a clash between the two sides.

Al-Sadr, an enigmatic militiaman-turned-politician, backed the anti-government rallies when they erupted in October but has split with other demonstrators over the nomination of Mohammad Allawi as prime minister.

The cleric endorsed Allawi while other protesters rejected him, saying he was too close to the ruling elite they had been demonstrating against for four months.

Allawi took to Twitter to comment on the bloodshed, saying: “The painful events taking place now push me to ask my brothers in the current government to fullfil their tasks by protecting the protesters.”

He has until March 2 to form his own cabinet, which will be subject to a vote of confidence by parliament.

On Wednesday, Allawi has met with dozens of representatives of the protest movement rocking the capital and Shiite-majority south since October.

The protesters have been demanding an overhaul of the ruling elite and have rejected Allawi as a product of the political class they have been protesting against for months.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/05/Clashes-in-Iraq-s-Najaf-kill-six-after-al-Sadr-s-followers-storm-protest-camp-.html

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Baghdad wants to minimize reliance on US: Iraqi officials

6 February 2020

The Iraqi government has told its military not to seek assistance from the US-led coalition in operations against ISIS, two senior Iraqi military officials said, amid a crisis of mistrust between Washington and Baghdad after an American strike killed a top Iranian general and an Iraqi militia commander.

The step shows that while the Iraqi leadership’s demands for an immediate removal of American forces have cooled, they are serious about rethinking the strategic relationship, and this is directly affecting military cooperation.

Officially, Iraqis have been unclear on the status of joint operations. The Iraqi military announced on January 30 that they had resumed after a three-week halt, but that statement was later removed and a military spokesperson rescinded the claim in remarks to state television. It was not followed up with a clarification.

The halt had been called amid soaring tensions following the January 3 US drone strike ordered by President Donald Trump that killed Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani and senior Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes in Baghdad.

On at least two occasions in January, US officials said they expected the pause would be lifted imminently. But in practice, Iraqis are seeking to minimize cooperation with the anti-ISIS coalition, based on government orders, two Iraqi military officials and one militia official said this week.

“After the killing of Soleimani, the Iraqi government decided to inform us formally not to cooperate and not to seek assistance from the US-led international coalition in any operation,” a senior military intelligence official told The Associated Press.

“Until now, we have not asked the Americans to provide assistance, we rely on our capabilities to pursue ISIS elements. The presence of the Americans in the joint operations is only formal,” the official said.

The three officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.

The coalition paused its mission to fight ISIS in Iraq on January 5 after the strike. That same day, Shiite lawmakers, irate over what they called a flagrant violation of sovereignty, passed a nonbinding resolution requesting the government cancel legal agreements that provide the basis for the US troop presence in Iraq.

Outgoing Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi has stated publicly that US troops must go, but he has stepped back from unilaterally canceling existing agreements, saying the matter was up to the next prime minister to decide. Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Allawi has not made his policy known toward the troop presence.

About 5,200 US soldiers are stationed in Iraqi bases to support local troops fighting ISIS militants. They are part of a larger international coalition invited by the Iraqi government in 2014.

One of the officials, a commander in Iraq’s elite US-trained Counter-Terrorism Services in western Anbar province, said some training continues, but “as for military operations and carrying out operations, there is no support.”

“We have knowledge that the American support to the Iraqi forces has stopped,” said the commander of an Iranian-backed militia group.

No coalition airstrikes have been carried out against ISIS since the killing of Soleimani, said coalition spokesman Myles Caggins. In contrast, 45 strikes were conducted in Iraq in October and November.

“The Iraqis have not requested assistance with airstrikes in recent weeks, while our operations are paused. All coalition airstrikes have been coordinated with the Iraqi Security Forces for years,” he said.

Iraqi military personnel who have benefited from coalition training are making appeals in private, knowing firsthand Iraq’s reliance on US military technologies and aircraft.

“We have no alternative now,” said the senior CTS official. “The battle against ISIS is technological, and we don’t own any of these technologies, only the Americans do.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/06/Baghdad-wants-to-minimize-reliance-on-US-Iraqi-officials-.html

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Aid groups push for immediate ceasefire in northwest Syria

5 February 2020

Eight humanitarian aid organizations on Wednesday called for an immediate ceasefire in northwestern Syria, where hostilities have displaced half a million people in the past two months.

Russia-backed forces of the Syrian regime have upped their deadly bombardment of the last major rebel bastion in the northwest since December, chipping away at its southern edge.

The violence in the extremist-ruled region of Idlib has forced 520,000 people out of their homes since the start of December, in one of the biggest upheavals in the nine-year civil war.

The aid groups -- including the Norwegian Refugee Council, Save the Children, Care and the International Rescue Committee -- labelled the situation a “humanitarian catastrophe.”

They called for “an immediate cessation of hostilities in addition to immediate access to safety for the millions of civilians currently under fire.”

The latest wave of people fleeing follows 400,000 others who were displaced by an earlier round of fighting in Idlib last year.

Many have fled north towards the border with Turkey, where camps are overcrowded and thousands more have instead set up haphazard tents in olive groves.

Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council, warned that the newly arrived were running out of options as to where to go.

“Camps are hosting five times their intended occupancy and rental prices have skyrocketed in towns in the northwest,” he said.

“We are calling on Turkey to let these terrified families seek safety either across the border or in areas Turkey controls in Syria.”

Andrew Morley, the head of World Vision International, said children were sleeping in flooded fields, and some families were even burning their clothes to stay warm.

“The exodus of people is staggering, and tens of thousands more are joining them every day,” he said.

The recent of violence has killed around 300 civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor says.

The World Health Organization said on Monday that the violence had forced 53 medical facilities in northwest Syria to close in January and warned of “critical health threats” to fleeing civilians.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/05/Aid-groups-push-for-immediate-ceasefire-in-northwest-Syria.html

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UN Security Council to hold emergency session on Syria

5 February 2020

The UN Security Council will meet Thursday for an emergency session on Syria following clashes between the Turkish and Syrian military, diplomats said Wednesday.

They said the meeting was requested by the United States, France and Britain. UN envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen is expected to report on the situation in Idlib, the northwestern Syrian province where the two armies clashed on Monday, the diplomats said.

More than 20 people were killed in the exchanges of fire, threatening to further destabilize the Idlib region, already suffering a humanitarian crisis.

An offensive by the Damascus regime, backed by Russian air power, against the last stronghold of extremist and rebel opponents has drawn strong warnings from Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“If the regime does not pull back, Turkey will be obliged to take matters into its own hands,” Erdogan said in Ankara Wednesday.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/05/UN-Security-Council-to-hold-urgent-session-on-Syria-Diplomats.html

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Iraq PM-designate meets anti-government protesters

5 February 2020

Iraq’s premier-designate Mohammed Allawi has met with dozens of representatives of the protest movement rocking the capital and Shiite-majority south since October, a participant in the meetings said Wednesday.

The protesters have been demanding an overhaul of the ruling elite and have rejected Allawi as a product of the political class they have been protesting against for months.

When he announced his designation on February 1, Allawi extended a hand to the protesters and urged them to keep up their demonstrations.

“Since the beginning of the week, Mohammad Allawi has held a string of meetings with several dozen representatives of protesters from the eight provinces taking part in the uprising,” said Hisham al-Hashemi, an Iraqi security expert present at the meetings.

According to Hashemi, Allawi pledged to release Iraqis detained for demonstrating, compensate the families of those killed in protest-related violence and work with the United Nations to implement the demonstrators’ demands.

Allawi, 65, served as communications minister twice since the US-led invasion of 2003 but stepped down both times, citing corruption in the government.

Rooting out graft in Iraq – the 16th most corrupt country in the world according to Transparency International – has been a key demand of protesters.

Hashemi said Allawi promised the demonstrator delegations that he would take on embezzlement and the bloated public sector by changing up to 170 “acting” government officials and 450 directors-general in the ministries.

The PM-designate also said up to two ministers in his cabinet, which he has until March 2 to form, would be activists themselves and that demonstrators could have a say in up to five ministerial nominations.

It will be subject to a vote of confidence by parliament and if it passes, Allawi will formally take up his role as prime minister.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/05/Iraq-PM-designate-meets-anti-government-protesters-.html

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Iraq’s new prime minister pledges to release detained protesters

February 06, 2020

JEDDAH: Iraq’s new Prime Minister Mohammad Allawi has pledged to release people detained for protesting, compensate the families of those killed, and work with the UN to implement the protesters’ demands.

The pledges follow a series of meetings this week with leaders of the protests against government corruption and failed public services that have rocked Baghdad and southern provinces since October.

“Since the beginning of the week, Mohammad Allawi has held a string of meetings with several dozen representatives of protesters from the eight provinces taking part in the uprising,” Hisham Al-Hashemi, an Iraqi security expert present at the meetings, said on Wednesday.

Allawi, 65, has been communications minister twice since the US-led invasion of 2003, but stepped down both times because of corruption in the government.

Iraq is the 16th most corrupt country in the world, according to Transparency International, and rooting out corruption has been a key demand of protesters.

Hashemi said Allawi had promised the protest delegations that he would confront embezzlement and the bloated public sector by changing up to 170 “acting” government officials and 450 directors-general in ministries.

Allawi also said up to two ministers in his Cabinet, which he has until March 2 to form, would be activists themselves, and that protesters could have a say in up to five ministerial nominations.

The Cabinet will be subject to a vote of confidence by Parliament. If it passes, Allawi will formally take up his role as prime minister. Until then, he is not able to implement executive decisions, including many of the reforms he is pledging.

Meanwhile, the top US commander for the Middle East has made an unannounced visit to Iraq as the Trump administration works to salvage relations with Iraqi leaders and head off the government’s push for a US troop withdrawal.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1623781/middle-east

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DIA says ISIS took advantage of Turkish invasion of northern Syria, Baghdadi death did not degrade jihadi group

February 6, 2020

The Defense Intelligence Agency said that ISIS took advantage of Turkey’s October 2019 invasion of northern Syria and increased attacks by nearly 20 percent, according to an inspector general report.

Officials from Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, pushed back on that, saying that DIA based its information on propaganda. There is agreement, however, on one thing: The death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi did not degrade the jihadi group.

The DIA said in the IG report, that following Turkey’s military operation to rout out Kurdish militants in northern Syria, ISIS self-claimed actions rose from a monthly average of 55 attacks to 66 attacks.

The DIA detailed in the report that the figures of ISIS claimed attacks were pulled from the group’s online claims.

“This suggests ISIS continues to view the security environment in northeast Syria as more conducive to its operations,” the DIA said in the IG report.

Military officials with Operation Inherent Resolve and U.S. Central Command pushed back in the IG report on claims that the Turkish incursion has increased capabilities or attacks by the Islamic State.

OIR said in the report that ISIS’ claims of attacks were “most likely propaganda” and that OIR’s assessment that the Turkish military operations have not led to an ISIS comeback are based on “known facts.”

Full report at:

https://www.militarytimes.com/flashpoints/2020/02/04/dia-says-isis-took-advantage-of-turkish-invasion-of-northern-syria-baghdadi-death-did-not-degrade-jihadi-group/

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Mideast

 

Israeli forces shoot dead Palestinian teen boy in occupied West Bank

05 February 2020

Israeli military forces have shot and killed a Palestinian teenage boy as tensions continue in the occupied Palestinian territories as part of the aftermath of US President Donald Trump's announcement of his so-called deal of the century on the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Palestinian witnesses, requesting not to be named, said bitter clashes broke out on Wednesday evening between a group of Palestinian protesters and Israeli military forces in Bab al-Zawiyeh neighborhood of the southern West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron), situated 30 kilometers (19 miles) south of Jerusalem al-Quds.

Israeli soldiers fired live rounds, rubber-coated steel bullets as well as tear gas canisters in order to disperse the crowd.

The 17-year-old boy, identified as Mohammad Salman al-Haddad, was shot in the heart and taken to a nearby hospital to receive proper medical treatment.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health said in a statement Haddad was brought in critical condition to hospital and was pronounced dead shortly after.

The statement added he had been hit by a live bullet in the chest, which penetrated through his heart, killing him almost immediately.

On January 28, Trump unveiled his so-called deal of the century, negotiated with Israel but without the Palestinians.

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

Thousands of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip poured onto the street in immediate condemnation of the plan.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said "a thousand no's" to the plan.

"After the nonsense that we heard today, we say a thousand no's to the deal of the century," Abbas said at a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where the Palestinian Authority is headquartered.

He said the Palestinians remain committed to ending the Israeli occupation and establishing a state with its capital in east Jerusalem.

"We will not kneel and we will not surrender," Abbas said, adding that the Palestinians would resist the plan through "peaceful, popular means".

Lebanon’s resistance movement, Hezbollah, has called the plan a “deal of shame,” said it was a very dangerous step which would have negative consequences on the region's future.

It also said the proposal would not have happened without the “complicity and betrayal” of several Arab states.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/05/617962/Israeli-forces-shoot-dead-Palestinian-teen-boy-in-occupied-West-Bank

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Israeli soldiers injured in car-ramming attack in Jerusalem

6 February 2020

Israeli paramedics say 14 soldiers were injured in a car-ramming attack in Jerusalem overnight.

The attack happened early on Thursday. The police say the driver of the car targeted a group of soldiers walking in a busy commercial area of the city. The car then sped away and the police are searching for the perpetrator.

A member of the paramedics at the scene, Avi Katz, told Israel Army Radio that most of the soldiers were lightly wounded in the attack but that one was seriously hurt.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says it was a militant attack and that the police are investigating.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/06/Possible-car-attack-injures-14-people-in-Jerusalem-Medics-army.html

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Two avalanches leave over 30 dead in Turkey

05 February 2020

At least 33 people have died in an avalanche in eastern Turkey while they were working to rescue victims of an earlier, similar incident.

Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Authority (AFAD) said 33 people died in the eastern province of Van on Wednesday when the second avalanche hit while a search and rescue mission was underway for two more victims of the first snowslip, which killed five people late Tuesday.

Eight people had been rescued from the first avalanche.

In total, the two avalanches killed 38 people and injured 53 others, according to AFAD.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca warned the number of casualties could rise, with local media reports saying an unknown number of people could still be trapped.

Van governor Mehmet Emin Bilmez said earlier that rescue efforts were continuing despite the difficult winter conditions.

Osman Ucar, head of AFAD's Van office, was transferred to hospital after being caught in the avalanche. Ihlas News Agency quoted him as saying that some 200 people were taking part in the rescue operation but many were out of the immediate area when the second snowslip hit on Wednesday.

"I was halfway buried in snow," he said, adding "I got out by my own means."

AFAD and the defense ministry said a special military plane with 75 gendarmerie officers and other rescue officials were dispatched to the scene of the incidents from Ankara.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/05/617957/New-avalanche-eastern-Turkey

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Erdogan threatens Syria over attacks on Turkish observation posts in Idlib

5 February 2020

Turkey will retaliate against the Syrian regime if it attacks Turkish forces again, said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday.

Turkey is in a difficult position as its Syrian opposition allies come under attack by the Syrian regime, backed by Russian airpower, in Syria's northwestern Idlib province.

“Our response to the attack on our soldiers in northern Syria is the beginning of a new phase,” Erdogan said, according to state broadcaster TRT.

Agreements with Russia “ineffective”

Erdogan added that previous Turkish agreements with Russia about Idlib are ineffective. The two countries had agreed in the Sochi talks to establish a "safe zone" in Idlib, but this was being ignored, said Erdogan.

The Syria regime should withdraw its troops from its military observation posts in Idlib, or else Turkey would be forced to act, Erdogan threatened.

“At the moment, two of our 12 observation posts are behind the regime’s lines. We hope the regime will withdraw from our observation posts before the end of the month of February. If the regime does not pull back, Turkey will be obliged to take matters into its own hands.”

One million refugees and displaced people on the Turkish border is the result of what is happening in Idlib, according to Erdogan.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/05/Erdogan-urges-Syria-to-back-off-Turkish-observation-posts-.html

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Iran-linked hackers pose as journalists in email scam

5 February 2020

When Iranian-born German academic Erfan Kasraie received an email from The Wall Street Journal requesting an interview, he sensed something was amiss.

The Nov. 12 note purportedly came from Farnaz Fassihi, a veteran Iranian-American journalist who covers the Middle East. Yet it read more like a fan letter, asking Kasraie to share his “important achievements” to “motivate the youth of our beloved country.”

“This interview is a great honor for me,” the note gushed.

Another red flag: the follow-up email that instructed Kasraie to enter his Google password to see the interview questions.

The phony request was in reality an attempt to break into Kasraie’s email account. The incident is part of a wider effort to impersonate journalists in hacking attempts that three cybersecurity firms said they have tied to the Iranian government, which rejected the claim. The incidents come to light at a time when the US government has warned of Iranian cyber threats in the wake of the US air strike that killed Iran’s second most powerful official, Major-General Qassem Soleimani.

In a report published Wednesday, London-based cybersecurity company Certfa tied the impersonation of Fassihi to a hacking group nicknamed Charming Kitten, which has long been associated with Iran. Israeli firm ClearSky Cyber Security provided Reuters with documentation of similar impersonations of two media figures at CNN and Deutsche Welle, a German public broadcaster. ClearSky also linked the hacking attempts to Charming Kitten, describing the individuals targeted as Israeli academics or researchers who study Iran. ClearSky declined to give the specific number of people targeted or to name them, citing client confidentiality.

Iran denies operating or supporting any hacking operation. Alireza Miryousefi, the spokesman for the Islamic Republic’s mission to the United Nations, said that firms claiming otherwise “are merely participants in the disinformation campaign against Iran.”

Reuters uncovered similar hacking attempts on two other targets, which the two cybersecurity firms, along with a third firm, Atlanta-based Secureworks, said also appeared to be the work of Charming Kitten. Azadeh Shafiee, an anchor for London-based satellite broadcaster Iran International, was impersonated by hackers in attempts to break into the accounts of a relative of hers in London and Prague-based Iranian filmmaker Hassan Sarbakhshian.

Sarbakhshian - who fled the Islamic Republic amid a crackdown that saw the arrest of several fellow photojournalists in 2009 - was also targeted with an email that claimed to be from Fassihi. The message asked him to sign a contract to sell some of his pictures to The Wall Street Journal. Sarbakhshian said in an interview that he was suspicious of the message and didn’t respond.

Neither did the ruse fool Kasraie, an academic who frequently appears on television criticizing Iran’s government.

“I understood 100 percent that it was a trap,” he said in an interview.

That’s not surprising given the hackers’ sloppy tactics. For instance, they missed the fact that Fassihi had left the Journal last year for a new job at The New York Times.

The Journal declined to comment. Fassihi referred questions to The Times, which in a statement called the impersonation “a vivid example of the challenges journalists are facing around the globe.”

US officials and cybersecurity experts see Iran as a digital threat. Earlier this month, the US Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued alerts about the threat of Iranian cyberattacks following the controversial US attack that killed Soleimani. Microsoft, which tracks attempts to undermine election security, in October accused Charming Kitten of targeting a US presidential campaign; sources told Reuters at the time that the campaign was Donald Trump’s.

Homeland Security and FBI spokespeople declined to comment on the recent impersonations identified by Reuters. Certfa, ClearSky, and Secureworks said they could be tied to Charming Kitten through a study of the tactics, targets, and digital infrastructure involved - including servers, link shortening services, and domain registration patterns.

“This activity does align with prior Iranian cyber operations,” said Allison Wikoff, a Secureworks researcher who has tracked Charming Kitten for years.

In early 2019, the US indicted Behzad Mesri - who ClearSky has linked to Charming Kitten through emails and social media activity - on charges of recruiting a former US Air Force intelligence officer to spy on behalf of Iran. Mesri remains at large and could not be reached for comment.

Other impersonated journalists included CNN national security analyst Samantha Vinograd, whose identity was stolen in August and used in attempts to break into email accounts in Israel, ClearSky said. Another was Michael Hartlep, a Berlin-based videojournalist who has done freelance assignments for Deutsche Welle and Reuters. ClearSky found his name on an email inviting recipients to a bogus Deutsche Welle webinar on Iran’s role in the Middle East. The firm did not find evidence that the Reuters name was used in hacking attempts.

In another case, the hackers appear to have invented a journalist - “Keyarash Navidpour” - to send out a phony invitation on Jan. 4 to an online seminar that it claimed Deutsche Welle would hold about the killing of Soleimani the day before. No such journalist works for Deutsche Welle, said the news organization’s spokesman Christoph Jumpelt.

Vinograd referred questions to CNN, which did not return messages seeking comment. Hartlep told Reuters he worried such stunts might give sources second thoughts about answering a reporter’s queries.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2020/02/05/Iran-linked-hackers-pose-as-journalists-in-email-scam.html

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'Iran initiative best choice to resolve Israeli-Palestinian conflict'

05 February 2020

Syed Mohsin Abbas, journalist and political commentator, believes that the initiative of Iran’s Leader, which is one state for all, is the best choice to resolve the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/05/617964/Iran-leader-Israel-Palestine-dispute

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Yemeni forces, allies shoot down Saudi-led reconnaissance drone in Hudaydah

05 February 2020

Yemeni army forces, supported by allied fighters from Popular Committees, have intercepted and targeted an unmanned aerial vehicle belonging to the Saudi-led military coalition as it was flying in the skies over the country’s western coastal province of Hudaydah.

An unnamed Yemeni military official said Yemeni air defense forces and their allies shot down the drone with a surface-to-air missile as it was on a reconnaissance mission over Jabalya area in the al-Tuhayta district of the province, located around 230 kilometers west of the capital Sana'a, on Wednesday afternoon.

Yemeni army repels pro-Hadi militia attack in Hudaydah

Meanwhile, Yemeni soldiers and Popular Committees fighters thwarted an offensive by Saudi-sponsored militiamen loyal to Yemen's former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi on al-Jah area of the same Yemeni district.

A Yemeni security source, requesting not to be named, said scores of Saudi-paid militiamen were killed and their munitions destroyed during the battle.

Separately, a civilian lost his life when Saudi border guards opened indiscriminate fire on residential buildings at al-Raqou area in the Monabbih district of Yemen’s mountainous northwestern province of Sa’ada.

Elsewhere in the Razih district of the same Yemeni province, Saudi forces launched a barrage of mortar shells and artillery rounds at residential areas. There were no immediate reports about possible casualties and the extent of damage caused.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of Hadi back to power and crushing the Ansarullah movement.

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

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/05/617956/Yemeni-forces,-allies-shoot-down-Saudi-led-reconnaissance-drone-in-Hudaydah

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Palestinian killed in clashes as tensions rise over US plan

February 05, 2020

JERUSALEM: Israeli forces shot and killed a 17-year-old Palestinian during clashes with demonstrators in the West Bank on Wednesday, the first death since tensions rose following the release of President Donald Trump’s Mideast plan, according to Palestinian officials.

The shooting came hours after Israel struck Hamas targets in Gaza in response to rocket fire toward Israeli communities overnight.

The teenager was killed in Hebron, where a few hundred hard-line Jewish settlers live in a heavily guarded enclave in the heart of a Palestinian city. Violent protests have broken out across the occupied West Bank since the Trump plan was unveiled last week.

The Palestinian health ministry said Mohammed Al-Haddad was shot in the chest and succumbed to his wounds after being taken to a hospital. There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.

The Palestinians have roundly rejected Trump’s Mideast proposal, which offers them limited self-rule in scattered chunks of territory with a capital on the outskirts of Jerusalem while allowing Israel to annex large parts of the West Bank.

Protesters have burned US and Israeli flags as well as posters of Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Stones and firebombs have been hurled at Israeli troops, with one exploding and lightly wounding a soldier. The Israeli military has instructed troops to “contain” the protests and not respond forcefully, concerned that Palestinian casualties would set off further violence.

In Gaza, the military said it targeted a Hamas weapons manufacturing site. There were no reports of casualties. The exchange comes amid an uptick in cross-border rocket and “explosive balloon” launches from the Hamas-controlled territory.

The Gaza Strip has been relatively calm in recent months as part of an informal truce between its Hamas rulers and Israel, but tension has increased since President Donald Trump unveiled his plan, which heavily favors Israel, last week.

Under the plan, Israel would be allowed to annex all Jewish settlements in the West Bank, as well as the strategic Jordan Valley. The Palestinians were offered limited self-rule in Gaza, parts of the West Bank and some sparsely populated areas of Israel in return for meeting a long list of conditions. The Palestinians, as well as much of the international community, view the settlements in the West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem — territories seized by Israel in the 1967 war — as illegal and a major obstacle to peace.

Hamas had recently curbed rocket fire from Gaza and rolled back weekly protests along the frontier that had often turned violent. In return, Israel eased the blockade it imposed with Egypt on Gaza after they seized power from forces loyal to the Palestinian Authority in 2007.

Hamas rejected the Trump plan and vowed that “all options are open” in responding to the proposal, but the group is not believed to be seeking another war with Israel.

Following the latest rocket fire, the military said it viewed the incident with “great severity and is prepared for various scenarios.” It said the zone available for fishing off the coast of the Palestinian territory would be tightened from 15 nautical miles to 10 in response to the rocket fire and explosive balloons.

Meanwhile, the Western-backed Palestinian Authority based in the West Bank announced it has stopped importing Israeli vegetables, fruits, beverages and mineral water. That’s the latest step in a brewing trade war with Israel that began in September, when the Palestinians decided to stop importing beef from Israel.

The P.A. claimed most of the 120,000 head of cattle the Palestinians import monthly from Israel was itself imported and that they therefore prefer to import directly from abroad. The move appeared aimed at reducing the Palestinians’ economic dependence on Israel.

Shortly after the September announcement, Israeli cattle ranchers saw a drop in their market and pressured Israeli authorities to take action. Defense Minister Naftali Bennett retaliated with a ban on Palestinian beef and other products, triggering the Palestinians to expand their boycott.

The Palestinian minister of economy, Khaled Al-Osaily, said the latest decision was meant to pressure Israel into revoking its ban on importing vegetables. He said the P.A. annually imports from Israel some $300 million worth of fruits and vegetables while exporting only $55 million.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1623496/middle-east

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Gaza farmers return to their lands along volatile Israeli border

February 06, 2020

GAZA: Returning to his fields for the first time in 14 years, Palestinian farmer Naser Abu Isaeed surveyed the toll taken by conflict on formerly productive soil.

“I saw an empty area full of holes and dry weeds,” said Abu Isaeed, who once grew fruit on the tracts along Gaza’s volatile border with Israel.

He is one of about 600 Palestinian farmers who regained access to their fields along the border to cultivate crops under a project launched by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Citing security concerns, Israel has for years designated a 100 meter by 300 meter strip along its 40-km-long fence at the frontier as off-limits to Palestinians in Gaza, an enclave ruled by Hamas.

Palestinians say the policy has deprived them of large areas of farmland, cut into livelihoods and reduced the space available to the densely populated strip’s 2 million residents.

Under the ICRC project, launched in 2015, members of the Hamas-led Interior Ministry have cleared unexploded ordnance and other war material from 40 percent of the 2,500 acres that make up the borderlands in that tract.

Abu Isaeed was one of 90 farmers whose lands were being rehabilitated by ICRC in the project’s third phase which began last August and will end with the harvest in May. In all, the ICRC said some 580 farmers have regained access to their land.

Fields were plowed, fertilized and sown with wheat by ICRC-employed workers as part of the endeavor, organized in cooperation with Israeli authorities, Gaza’s Agriculture Ministry, local municipalities and farmers’ committees.

“We risk death every time we enter the land,” said Serhey Abu Mandeel, 71, noting its proximity to the border, which is closely monitored by the Israeli military. He and his family owned 12 acres planted with peas, soybeans, wheat and lentils.

Like other Palestinian farmers, Abu Mandeel complained that herbicides sprayed by cropdusters inside Israel were being carried by winds across the border into Gaza and harming fields there.

Farmers said the herbicides have killed their crops. Gaza’s Agriculture Ministry put their losses at $1.25 million since last December.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1623676/middle-east

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Assad snubs Erdogan’s demand to halt attack

February 05, 2020

JEDDAH: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued an ultimatum on Wednesday for Syrian leader Bashar Assad to halt his offensive in the northwestern province of Idlib by the end of this month.

“If the regime does not pull back, Turkey will be obliged to take matters into its own hands,” Erdogan said.

He said two of Turkey’s 12 observation posts, set up around a proposed de-escalation zone as part of a 2017 agreement with Russia and Iran, were now behind Syrian regime front lines.

“We hope that the process of the regime pulling back behind our observation posts is completed in the month of February,” he said. “If the regime does not pull back during this time, Turkey will have to do this job itself.”

He said the Turkish military would carry out air and ground operations in Idlib, when necessary.

The Assad regime’s response was to continue its offensive, which has killed 300 civilians since December and displaced 520,000 people in one of the biggest upheavals of the nine-year war.

Regime forces have seized more than 20 towns and villages from opposition forces and militants in the past 24 hours.

Russian airstrikes killed three members of the same civilian family near Idlib city on Wednesday, and regime rocket fire killed another civilian in the town of Anjara in the west of Aleppo province.

Earlier in the week, eight Turkish troops and civilians and at least 13 Assad regime troops were killed in the most violent clashes since Erdogan sent fighters to Syria in 2016.

Erdogan said the confrontations between his forces and those of the regime was a “new era” in Syria, and that any further attacks would be “responded to in kind.”

“The air and ground elements of the Turkish armed forces will freely move in the Idlib region and if needed will launch an operation,” he said.

Erdogan said the latest fighting had sent nearly 1 million civilians moving toward the Turkish border and Syrian territory under Turkish control. “No one has the right to place such a weight on our shoulders,” he said.

The mass displacement has also coincided with a biting winter, and humanitarian aid organizations called on Wednesday for an immediate cease-fire to avoid a humanitarian disaster.

Eight aid groups and charities including Save the Children, Care and the International Rescue Committee called for “an immediate cessation of hostilities in addition to immediate access to safety for the millions of civilians currently under fire.”

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1623536/middle-east

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