New Age Islam
Tue Aug 11 2020, 11:06 PM

Islamic World News ( 2 Feb 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Coronavirus: President Quotes Hadith on Why Pakistan Is Not Evacuating Citizens from China







• 'How Can You Question Someone's Patriotism?’ IHC Grants Bail To 23 Protesters Held For Sedition

• No Palestinian Recognition If Mideast Peace Plan Goals Unmet: Kushner

• EU Slams US Mideast Peace Plan, Urges 2-State Solution

• Punjab: Nearly 20,000 Farmers, Women Take to Malerkotla Streets against CAA, an ‘Invitation March’ Under the Banner of The Bharatiya Kisan Union

• Rohingya Muslims: ‘The Hague Court Verdict Means So Much To Us’

• Saudi Arabia Blocks Iran from OIC Meeting

• Trump Mideast 'Peace Plan' On Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Violates UN Resolutions: Russia

 

Pakistan

• Coronavirus: President Quotes Hadith on Why Pakistan Is Not Evacuating Citizens from China

• 'How Can You Question Someone's Patriotism?’ IHC Grants Bail To 23 Protesters Held For Sedition

• Fazl warns govt against changing seminaries’ curriculum

• Pakistan’s Pashtun Rights Movement is Alive and Kicking

• PML-Q refuses to be fed on mere words anymore

• Why Hazara province movement has resumed from Karachi

• Senate chairman asks MQM-P convener to consider returning to federal cabinet

• PML-Q refuses to hold talks with new PTI team

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North America

• No Palestinian Recognition If Mideast Peace Plan Goals Unmet: Kushner

• US Elections: The Arab and Muslim Vote May Be Decisive In Iowa

• 'US expanding Ain al-Assad facilities, beefing up base defenses: Report

• Muslim Delegation Participates in Interfaith Dialogue at YU

• US officials sceptical as Al Qaeda in Yemen claim Florida airbase shooting

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Europe

• EU Slams US Mideast Peace Plan, Urges 2-State Solution

• Hate Case Dropped Against Teen Who Criticised Islam and Got Death Threats

• London's burning: Terror attacks in Britain since 2005

• U.K. Police Kill Man in a ‘Terrorist Related’ Incident

• France to send 600 more troops to battle terrorism in the sub-Sahara

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India

• Punjab: Nearly 20,000 Farmers, Women Take to Malerkotla Streets against CAA, an ‘Invitation March’ Under the Banner of The Bharatiya Kisan Union

• Protests organised against CAA and NRC in Ludhiana, Holding Placards with Messages Like “No CAA, No NRC, NO NPR”

• Maharashtra Village sans Muslim Population Passes Resolution For ‘Non-Cooperation’ With ‘CAA-NRC-NPR’

• ‘CAA has not opened gates for all Hindus or non-Muslims to enter India’

• Delhi: In the Third Shooting Incident Gunshots around 11.40 PM at Jamia Millia Islamia Again

• Delhi Police not found any bullet shells near Jamia Millia Islamia University

• Bought pistol seven years ago, Shaheen Bagh shooter tells cops

• Arrested terrorist ferried Jaish terrorists in December 2019 too: Officials

• J&K DSP case: NIA raids multiple places in south Kashmir

• Delhi’s Muslim voters say the provocation is real but won’t fall for BJP game-plan

• Delhi Police start probe into Sunday’s shooting near Jamia University

• ISI used same set of social media IDs to trap sailors, finds NIA investigation

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South Asia

• Rohingya Muslims: ‘The Hague Court Verdict Means So Much To Us’

• Abdullah signs decree to stop Ghani’s recent reform order

• What has Khalilzad discussed with the Afghan politicians?

• US envoy discusses peace deal progresses with Afghan leaders

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Arab World

• Saudi Arabia Blocks Iran from OIC Meeting

• Iraqi Protesters Dig in Their Heels, Reject PM-Designate

• Six injured in protests in front of US Embassy in Lebanon

• Iraqi cleric Sadr tells followers to clear sit-ins after PM appointed

• Large Turkish military convoys enter Syria as Ankara-Moscow tensions rise

• Egypt begins evacuation of 300 students out of China's coronavirus epicenter

• Protest held near US embassy in Lebanon against Trump Mideast plan

• Syrian troops liberate more towns, villages in Idlib, Aleppo

• Armed men blow up Israel-Egypt gas pipeline in Northern Sinai

• Syrian shelling kills four Turkish soldiers in Idlib

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Mideast

• Trump Mideast 'Peace Plan' On Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Violates UN Resolutions: Russia

• No place for Israel to be established on Palestinian lands: Top Hezbollah official

• Japan destroyer heads to Middle East as Iran-US tension lingers

• Shameful ‘deal of century’ doomed to fail like its predecessors: IRGC cmdr

• Palestinians in Gaza hold conference against Trump Mideast plan

• Iranians must have ‘right to choose’ at polls: Rouhani

• Tourist lashed 80 times in Iran for drinking alcohol: Report

• Iran welcomes election of new Iraqi prime minister: Iran Foreign Ministry

• Armed Israeli settlers attack, injured Palestinian family in West Bank

• Turkey dispatches large military convoy to Syria’s Idlib province: Observatory

• Sudanese promised jobs in UAE but taken to war in Libya, Yemen

• Israel launches strikes on Gaza after rockets fired

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Africa

• Sudanese Promised Jobs in UAE But Taken To War In Libya, Yemen

• New U.S. Travel Ban Shuts Door on Africa’s Biggest Economy, Nigeria

• Algeria to give Tunisia $150 mln deposit loan

• Burkina Faso: Suspected Takfiri militants raid village, kill nearly 20 civilians

• Gunmen kill 20 civilians in Burkina Faso

• Head of Sudan's sovereign council invited to visit Washington

• 8 soldiers killed in al-Shabaab attack in Somalia

• Nigeria: Why Banning Okada, Keke, Others, When Boko Haram Is Recruiting - Reno to Sanwo-Olu

• Army rewards 37 anti-Boko Haram soldiers for bravery

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Southeast Asia

• PAS Prepares Refreshments outside Its HQ for Thaipusam

• Travel agency says Nur Sajat’s ‘umrah’ well-prepared, as Muslims online pile on backlash

• I don’t know if govt guarantees for SRC loans tabled in Parliament, Najib tells court

• After skipping KL Summit, Imran Khan begins Malaysia visit

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: https://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/coronavirus--president-quotes-hadith-on-why-pakistan-is-not-evacuating-citizens-from-china/d/120966

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Coronavirus: President Quotes Hadith on Why Pakistan Is Not Evacuating Citizens from China

February 2, 2020

Pakistan maintained that they will not be evacuating citizens from China as of now.

Pakistani President Dr Arif Alvi took to social media to share a saying of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as Pakistan gets flak for not evacuating its citizens from coronavirus-hit China.

As the outbreak continues to infect thousands across China and a few individuals in other parts of the world, nations have taken emergency measures to evacuate their citizens from China's Wuhan and other areas - except for Pakistan.

As of Saturday, the outbreak has claimed 304 lives.

Despite strong criticism from the opposition, the Pakistan government has decided to stay firm on its earlier decision against the repatriation of Pakistanis stuck in virus-hit China, a top official said.

Addressing the media on Saturday, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health, Zafar Mirza said: "It (coronavirus) is now being transferred from human to human. It means that a person affected with the virus can also become a source for the transfer of the virus.

To allay concerns in the Muslim-majority country, President Dr Alvi tweeted a saying/tradition (Hadith) of the Prophet (PBUH) that addresses disease outbreaks and how Muslims should deal with it.

The Hadith says:

"If you hear of an outbreak of plague in a land, do not enter it, but if the plague breaks out in a place while you are in it, do not leave that place" (Sahih Bukhari and Muslim)

Dr. Arif Alvi

@ArifAlvi

The Pakistani students in China have to be helped in every way and brought back to Pakistan fulfilling all international health requirements ensuring their health  and safety. https://twitter.com/ArifAlvi/status/1223233085954719744 …

Dr. Arif Alvi

@ArifAlvi

Prophet's directions regarding disease outbreaks are a good guide even 2day “If you hear of an outbreak of plague in a land, do not enter it, but if the plague breaks out in a place while you are in it, do not leave that place” (Bukhari & Muslim) Let us help those stuck there.

1,018

6:52 PM - Jan 31, 2020

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The sayings of the Prophet (PBUH) is a source of religious guidance that Muslims are supposed to follow in their daily lives.

However, the president followed the tweet saying that Pakistani students stranded in China have to be helped in every way and brought back meeting international guidelines.

"The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the situation an emergency of international concern. Being a responsible nation, Pakistan wants to take steps that ensure the safety of maximum people," Mirza added.

He said that the decision was finalised after a meeting between Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, where the latter assured that taking care of Pakistani citizens was a priority for China's government, Dawn news reported.

Commenting on the health status of the few infected cases (students), Mirza said that they had recovered as the disease was diagnosed at an early stage.

https://www.khaleejtimes.com/coronavirus-outbreak/coronavirus-president-quotes-hadith-on-why-pakistan-is-not-evacuating-citizens-from-china

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'How Can You Question Someone's Patriotism?’ IHC Grants Bail To 23 Protesters Held For Sedition

Tahir Naseer

February 03, 2020

The Islamabad High Court on Monday granted post-arrest bail to activists who had been detained for protesting against the arrest of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) leader Manzoor Pashteen.

IHC Chief Justice Ahar Minallah heard the plea and granted bail to 23 activists belonging to PTM and Awami Workers Part (AWP).

In today's hearing, Justice Minallah expressed his displeasure at the Islamabad police chief's absence from the court.

"We did not expect this of your government. You are the representative of the state here, it is the state's job to protect its people," Justice Minallah said to the deputy commissioner while adding that the government should admit if they are in the wrong.

"We will get to the bottom of this case. How could you question someone's patriotism? Do you think constitutional courts will shut their eyes on a matter like this?" the chief justice remarked while giving the deputy commissioner a week's time to consult the Islamabad IGP and come up with a report on the incident.

The chief justice had, on Saturday, sought an explanation from the capital police and the district administration for invoking the offence of sedition against these protesters.

The court had also ordered the Islamabad deputy commissioner and the police chief to produce the complete record related to the arrest of the activists on Feb 3 (today).

The counsel for the petitioners — Ammar Rashid and others — had contended before the chief justice that “the case has been registered against the petitioners on the basis of mala fide”.

He also questioned the order issued by the additional district and sessions court dismissing the post-arrest bail petitions of the detained activists, saying it was “arbitrary and not in consonance with the settled principles of law”. Terming the district court's decision a serious miscarriage of justice, the counsel also said invoking offence of sedition against unarmed peaceful citizens was misuse of authority.

The hearing was adjourned until January 10.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1532233/how-can-you-question-someones-patriotism-ihc-grants-bail-to-23-protesters-held-for-sedition

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No Palestinian recognition if Mideast peace plan goals unmet: Kushner

3 February 2020

US presidential adviser Jared Kushner said on Sunday that if Palestinians are unable to meet the conditions of the new Middle East peace plan he crafted, Israel should not take “the risk to recognize them as a state.”

The plan laid out by Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, and unveiled Tuesday was warmly embraced by Israel but curtly dismissed by the Palestinian Authority along with others in the region, including the Arab League.

Kushner was challenged by CNN host Fareed Zakaria in a program aired Sunday to explain why demands made of the Palestinians before they are given a state – a free press, free elections, religious freedom, an independent judiciary, and a reliable financial system – did not amount to “a killer amendment.”

“There is no Arab country that would meet these criteria, certainly not Saudi Arabia, Egypt” or other countries Kushner has worked with closely, Zakaria said.

Kushner replied that the Palestinian territories amount to “a police state... not exactly a thriving democracy.”

“For the Palestinians, if they want their people to live better lives, we now have a framework to do it,” he said.

“If they don’t think they can uphold these standards, then I don’t think we can get Israel to take the risk to recognize them as a state.”

Kushner added: “The only thing more dangerous than what we have now is a failed state.”

Trump unveiled the plan in a White House event attended by a smiling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who applauded it as “a great plan for Israel... (and) a great plan for peace.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/03/No-Palestinian-recognition-if-Mideast-peace-plan-goals-unmet-Kushner.html

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EU slams US Mideast peace plan, urges 2-state solution

Dilara Hamit  

03.02.2020

The European Union’s foreign policy chief slammed the U.S.’s so-called Middle East peace plan Sunday during a visit to Jordan's capital.

“The U.S. plan challenges many of the internationally agreed parameters: the 1967 border, as agreed by both parties, with a state of Israel and an independent, viable state of Palestine, living side-by-side in peace, security and mutual recognition,” said Josep Borrell, who met with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and King Abdullah in Amman to discuss bilateral relations and regional developments.

"In Jordan and the European Union, we are very much aware that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the longest, most painful and complex conflicts in our history.

“The experience over the past 50 years has shown that without agreement among all sides, no peace plan has the chance to succeed. To find a sustainable way forward, both parties need to come back to the table,” Borrell said later in a statement to Jordanian television.

Borrell also commented on Twitter.

"Had a frank discussion with @AymanHsafadi on the Middle East Peace Process #MEPP.

"The EU and Jordan share the commitment to a two-state solution and respect for international law. We need solutions that can be accepted by both parties in this long-lasting conflict.”

On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump announced his so-called peace plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during a press conference at the White House alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. No Palestinian representatives were present.

During the event, Trump referred to Jerusalem as "Israel's undivided capital."

The so-called "Deal of the Century" unilaterally annuls previous UN resolutions on the Palestinian issue and suggests giving Israel almost everything they have been demanding.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/eu-slams-us-mideast-peace-plan-urges-2-state-solution/1722162

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Punjab: Nearly 20,000 Farmers, Women Take to Malerkotla Streets against CAA, an ‘Invitation March’ Under the Banner of The Bharatiya Kisan Union

February 3, 2020

New Delhi: February 1 saw nearly 20,000 protesters – most of them farmers and Muslim women – take to the streets at Malerkotla in Punjab, against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

The rally was an “invitation march,” designed to raise awareness on the Act and inform people of a bigger protest rally in the town on February 16.

The rally was held under the banner of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta) Ugrahan group and saw participation by several Muslim organisations like the Jamat-e-Islami Hind and Zarka Zaafri.

The women wore yellow clothing to symbolise oneness and chanted slogans that went, “Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Isai, saaray kirtee bhai bhai“.

The rally was addressed at several points across town by local women leaders Harinder Kaur Bindu, Harpreet Kaur Jethuke, Baljeet Kaur, Parmjit Kaur Pitho and Paramjit Kaur Kotra.

A press release sent out by the group said the women leaders stressed on the importance of rising above religious differences. One of the slogans chanted at the rally was “Bhai nal bhai larren nee dena, sun santaali banan nee dena.” Translated, it means, “We cannot let brothers fight each other, we cannot let it be 1947 again.”

While strongly condemning the brutal repression of peaceful protesters across the country, the leaders decried the government’s alleged efforts to establish a ‘Hindu rashtra’ and expressed solidarity with students of Jawaharlal Nehru University and Jamia Millia Islamia.

On January 17, the Punjab state assembly passed a resolution demanding that the CAA be scrapped. State minister Brahm Mohindra had moved the resolution against the CAA on the second day of the two-day special assembly session.

https://thewire.in/rights/malerkotla-punjab-caa-rally

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Rohingya Muslims: ‘The Hague court verdict means so much to us’

February 03, 2020

DHAKA, Bangladesh: The UN’s top court has ordered Myanmar to do all it can to prevent genocide against the country’s ethnic Muslim Rohingya minority.

A 17-judge panel at the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) said its order for so-called provisional measures meant to protect the Rohingya was binding “and creates international legal obligations” on Myanmar.

Yasmin Ullah, a Rohingya activist who was in the court on Jan. 23, described the ruling, which warns that genocidal actions could recur, as historic.

“Today, having the judges unanimously agree on the protection of Rohingya means so much to us because we’re now allowed to exist and it’s legally binding,” she said, adding that she did not think Myanmar would comply with the order.

Indeed, Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the order presented a “distorted picture of the situation.”

Yasmin Ullah was born in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state, and her family fled the country after the massacres of Rohingya Muslims in the 1990s.

After arriving in Thailand in 1995, the Ullahs lived there without any legal protection and basic rights for 16 years.

She is now based in Canada where she is pursuing a degree in political science. In addition, she serves as the President of the Rohingya Human Rights Network (RHRN) and works as a coordinator at the Free Rohingya Coalition.

In an email interview with Arab News, she described the current human-rights situation in Myanmar as “strange.”

Human rights violations are still rampant, and disproportionately instigated by the members of government authority, military, and law enforcement against innocent civilians, she said.

“This is especially true in the area populated by ethnic nationalities, including Rakhine state from where I come.”

On the other hand, she pointed out, Myanmar was still perceived as the country of Nobel Peace Prize winner and a human rights icon Aung San Suu Kyi, the current civilian ruler (state counsellor).

The ICJ ruling came despite appeals last month by her for the judges to drop the case, and denials by Aung San Suu Kyi that the armed forces, which once held her under house arrest for 15 years, had committed genocide.

“Internationally, Myanmar was very promising to investors as a country transforming into a liberal democracy primed for the free market, and thus, human rights violations that have been taking place are often dismissed in favor of the big picture,” Yasmin Ullah said.

“Structurally, the country is made of a small percentage that controls most of the country’s resources, a very small sliver of the middle class and the vast majority living under the poverty line as wage workers, farmers and other low-paying positions.

“The years of propaganda by the military regime has carved Myanmar into an intolerant society and emphasized the idea of one acceptable monolithic identity.

“Hence, any departure from the Buddhist identity or what is accepted as a good Burmese is almost frowned upon.”

According to Yasmin Ullah: “Expressing any dissenting views of the government or the military’s policies will at least get those who speak up monitored, profiled, and at times, kidnapped and disappeared.”

She said many minority groups within the country decided long ago to take up arms and fight back.

The majority of those living in ethnic states are innocent civilians, but they are often the ones to bear the brunt of the battles between the military and the ethnic armed groups, Yasmin Ullah said.

“Women frequently suffer the worst of it all due to the military strategic plans to incite fear of the ethnic communities by way of mass rape as well as sexual and gender-based violence,” she said.

“Once the community is fearful enough, the people often leave their homes and lands, and comply with the even worse living conditions enforced by the military, such as internment camps that can be found in various areas in Shan, Rakhine and other states.” A common denominator in all of this is that Myanmar’s authorities have enjoyed impunity for the last several decades.

Thousands of Rohingya perished and more than 700,000 fled to Bangladesh during an army crackdown in 2017.

Since the so-called clearance operation, the military has not stopped dismissing the fact that it has murdered, tortured and raped large members of Rohingya, she said.

“To this day, the remaining Rohingya in Rakhine are restricted in their freedom of movement, from speaking up against the military as well as Myanmar’s government in general, and from accessing the very basics needed to sustain themselves.”

Although there is a mounting pressure internationally, the country remains defiant over any investigation or international probe triggered by the various UN conventions.

In July 2019, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and the International Cyber Policy Centre released a report outlining the reality on the ground since 2017.

“The satellite images show that there has been no effort by the Myanmar government in reconstructing any houses razed to the ground in over 300 Rohingya villages,” Yasmin Ullah said.

“In addition, there are six military bases expanded or newly built on our previous homes, 45 internment camps newly built for any returnees or displaced people, and more homes and settlements destroyed since 2018.

“My family still live in Rakhine state. They can attest to the harsh reality of living conditions imposed by the oppressive and unjustified laws against Rohingya.

“Military raids and demolition of Rohingya villages in many areas of Rakhine continues even under the international community’s close watch.”

Moreover, as the fight between the military and the largest insurgent group in Rakhine state, the Arakan Army, intensifies, Rohingya and other ethnic groups are caught in the crossfire.

“More of our people become displaced — and left with no means of sustaining themselves and their families,” Yasmin Ullah said.

“Hundreds of Rohingya, including children, have been incarcerated for traveling without a travel permit which is a rule that is disproportionately imposed upon Rohingya and it is directly tied to the stripping of our legal status as Myanmar citizen back in 1982.

“Rohingya in Myanmar are still subjected to no less persecution, arbitrary arrests and restrictive living conditions and frequent human rights violations than before August 2017.”

Asked about the idea of engagement with the government to lift the restrictions on access to Rakhine, Yasmin Ullah said negotiation only works when there is a balance in the power dynamic.

“In our case, Rohingya are branded as illegal aliens; therefore, our voices or our complaints don’t really matter. That’s the justification that the military has successfully sold the Myanmar public,” she said.

“More of us are now living in exile and only 600,000 of us are left in the very volatile situation in Rakhine state. The military managed to drive out over 740,000 of us in the last two years, and there is a clear message in all of this.”

She said even as pressure builds at the international level on the government, it continues to oppress Rohingya and other ethnic minorities in pursuit of economic development that only benefits the military and its cronies.

The measures imposed by the ICJ are binding and not subject to appeal. Although the court has no way of enforcing them, Ullah said there is anxiety in Myanmar over the case, as reflected in the arrangements for a delegation to meet Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh in December 2019.

“The state counsellor (Aung San Suu Kyi) mentioned in front of the judges that Myanmar is trying to pursue justice within its own judicial system,” she said.

“Although she whitewashed and dismissed most of the allegations of genocide, she acknowledged there were wrongdoings.

“This will, and already has, created room for activists and good Samaritans to put the emphasis on accountability and the need to scrutinize absolute power.”

As recently as after the hearing in the Hague, youth activists in Myanmar from groups Youth for a New Society and Doa-A-Yae, organized a solidarity campaign standing up against the Rohingya genocide, according to Yasmin Ullah.

“These brave young people realize that Myanmar will not change unless they keep resisting — and demand a free and fair society.”

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1621991/world

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Saudi Arabia blocks Iran from OIC meeting

February 03, 2020

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia has barred an Iranian delegation from an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meeting in Jeddah on Monday where US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan will be discussed, the Iranian foreign ministry said.

Saudi authorities have not issued visas for the Iranian participants, ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said.

“The government of Saudi Arabia has prevented the participation of the Iranian delegation in the meeting to examine the ‘deal of the century’ plan at the headquarters of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation,” Mousavi said, the Fars news agency reported.

Mousavi said Iran has filed a complaint with the OIC and accused Saudi Arabia of misusing its position as the host for the organisation’s headquarters. There was no immediate comment from Saudi officials.

Iranian officials have condemned Trump’s plan for resolving the conflict between Israel and Palestine as a non-starter after it was officially announced last week. The Palestinian leadership has rejected the plan, saying it heavily favours Israel and will deny them a viable independent state.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are locked in a proxy war as they vie for influence across the Middle East. They support opposite sides in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1532193/saudi-arabia-blocks-iran-from-oic-meeting

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Trump Mideast 'peace plan' on Israeli-Palestinian conflict violates UN resolutions: Russia

02 February 2020

Russia has expressed serious doubts over the viability of the US-devised Mideast plan, known as the so-called deal of the century, on Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying it contravenes several UN Security Council’s resolutions on the issue.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “It's plain enough that some of this plan's provisions do not fully correspond to the relevant resolutions by the UN Security Council.”

Peskov questioned the plan’s feasibility as it drew strong negative reaction from the Arab world, saying, “We see the reaction from the Palestinians, we see the reaction of a wide range of Arab states, which have sided with the Palestinians in rejecting the plan. This, obviously, makes one think about its feasibility.”

His comments, made in an interview with Rossiya-1 channel on Sunday, appear to be the Kremlin's first official response to the contentious US proposal.

US President Donald Trump unveiled his self-proclaimed “deal of the century” during an event at the White House alongside Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in Washington on Tuesday.

All Palestinian groups have unanimously rejected the American president’s highly-provocative initiative that largely meets Israel’s demands in the decades-old conflict while creating a Palestinian state with limited control over its own security and borders.

It enshrines Jerusalem al-Quds as “Israel’s undivided capital” and allows the regime to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank and the Jordan Valley. The plan also denies the right of return of Palestinian refugees into their homeland, among other controversial terms.

On Saturday, the Palestinian Authority (PA), led by Mahmoud Abbas, cut all ties with Washington and Tel Aviv, including those relating to security, after strongly rejecting the so-called peace plan put forward by the US president.

Abbas announced the decision while in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, to address an emergency meeting of the Arab League, which also rejected the proposal, citing its unfairness to the Palestinian cause.

The controversial pro-Tel Aviv scheme also triggered waves of protest rallies across the Arab and Muslin world.

Palestinians had already stopped recognizing any intermediary role by Washington in late 2017, when Trump recognized the holy city of Jerusalem al-Quds in the Tel Aviv-occupied West Bank as the Israeli “capital.”

Washington’s move, which triggered countless of protest rallies in the West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip, came in the face of historic Palestinian demands that the city’s eastern part serve as the capital of their future state.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/02/617708/Russia-Palestine-US-Israel-deal-of-century-UNSC-Trump-Abbas-West-Bank

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Pakistan

 

Fazl warns govt against changing seminaries’ curriculum

February 03, 2020

PESHAWAR: Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman has said that any agreement between the government and boards of seminaries aimed at harming madressahs will not be acceptable to his party and its affiliated seminaries.

Addressing ulema and students at one-day ‘Tahafuz-i-Madaris convention’ here on Sunday, he alleged that the government was under pressure to change curriculum of seminaries, but warned that such agreement wouldn’t be accepted.

He said that government should not interfere in the affairs of madressahs in the name of reforms or bringing religious education institutions into mainstream. He said that international establishment had designed the so-called reforms agenda for seminaries.

The JUI-F chief said that his party had never accepted mandate of the “selected” government, which had no moral authority to impose its decisions on seminaries. He said that his party was closely watching negotiations between the government and seminaries’ boards.

He said that government was under pressure to change curriculum of madressahs and an agreement was likely to be signed with seminaries’ boards in that regard. “We will not accept any agreement, which harms religious education,” he warned, adding that ulema would start teaching under the shade of trees if the government sealed seminaries.

Mr Rehman said that 98 per cent of the seminaries had affiliation with JUI-F and they would resist any unilateral and arbitrary deal. He said that head of madressahs board had expressed reservations over the proposed deal.

He said that western countries fully supported jihad against former Soviet Union in Afghanistan and now they were blaming religion for extremism and terrorism. He denied that madressahs had played any role in extremism and terrorism.

The JUI-F chief said that seminaries were used in 1980s under international agenda. He added that previous governments of PPP and PML-N were also following foreign agenda to change curriculum of seminaries. He said that government should think about public sector education institutions.

Mr Rehman said that all school of thoughts and their affiliated boards had capacity to reform curriculum for seminaries if necessary. He said that JUI-F would not compromise on the future of seminaries. He added that bureaucracy was following the same policies, which it inherited from the British rulers.

The JUI-F chief said that British created an impression that the students of religious schools belonged to inferior class and did not enjoy any respect in society. The British also excluded Arabic, Fiqah, Hadith and Persian from the education system and tried to isolate religious class.

After these measures by the British government, ulema established Darul Uloom Deoband in 1866 to protect religious values of the Muslims in Sub-continent. He said that seminaries had been ignored after partition of Sub-continent and bureaucracy was towing the line of its British masters.

Mr Rehman criticised the government’s stance on the India-held Kashmir and alleged that the government had stuck deal on Kashmir. He supported decision of Arab League for rejecting Trump’s peace plan for Israel and Palestine. He said that President Trump had ignored 700 resolutions of the UN General Assembly and 100 resolutions of the Security Council by presenting a so-called peace deal.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1532151/fazl-warns-govt-against-changing-seminaries-curriculum

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Pakistan’s Pashtun Rights Movement is Alive and Kicking

Mohammad Taqi

February 3, 2020

“In February, Arman Luni, a PTM activist from Balochistan, died after being beaten by police officers following his participation in a peaceful protest in the Lorelai district”, records a just-released scathing report by the venerable Amnesty International, on human and civil rights abuses in Pakistan.

This February 2 marks the first anniversary of the PTM – Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement or Pashtun Defense League – stalwart Professor Arman Luni’s killing due to police brutality. Luni was a teacher, poet and political organiser, who along with his sister Wrranga, had joined the PTM ranks to protest the Pashtun lands east of the Durand Line being used by the Pakistani army establishment to harbour and launch its Taliban proxies against Afghanistan and the US and Coalition forces stationed there.

The PTM had been catapulted on to Pakistan’s political stage after its massive protest against another police brutality in January 2018 when Naqibullah Mehsud – a young Pashtun man from the former tribal district of South Waziristan – was killed extrajudicially, by a police officer named Rao Anwar in the provincial metropolis Karachi. The PTM’s immediate demand then was to seek justice for Naqibullah, which still remains elusive.

The movement also sought an end to the army’s impunity in the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), demanded that Pashtuns forcibly disappeared by the army in the so-called War Against Terrorism be produced before the courts, landmines removed from the ex-FATA, people displaced internally and externally due to military operation be repatriated to their homes and also be given reparations for destruction of their homes and businesses.

The PTM has, since, gone through the usual ups and downs that most similar movements undergo over the course of their evolution, with most important being the imprisonment of its two parliamentarians Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar last year on trumped-up charges of murder, and its charismatic figurehead Manzoor Pashteen earlier in the week.

Dawar – a cool-head lawyer – was arrested again last week, while leading a protest against the incarceration of Pashteen but was released the next day. Pashteen has been charged with sedition, conspiracy and a speech allegedly ‘subverting the constitution’.

The irony is that the army dictator General Pervez Musharraf, who has been convicted of high treason an sentenced to death by a special court, remains at large. Regardless, the spontaneous outpouring of support for the PTM leader within and outside Pakistan, and countrywide protests, indicate that the PTM, as well as its message and appeal, are alive and kicking, despite the Pakistan army’s dire warning that the movement’s “time is up”.

The PTM’s time is clearly not up. The tremendous support it generated across Pakistan, especially from the leftist Awami Workers Party (AWP), despite its ethno-national focus on Pashtuns, indicates that the PTM has room to grow and flourish.

That the AWP leaders and cadres came out in droves – and got arrested by the dozens – in support of the PTM, suggests that while the movement champions the Pashtun grievances, its message resonates across the national and class spectrum in Pakistan because of the common tormenter – the army.

The plight of the Okara’s Punjabi farmer, the toiling Baloch of Gwadar, the landless Sindhi peasant or a disappeared Urdu-speaking Shia Mohajir is the same as that of a Pashtun who has been squished under the army’s heavy boot. The ethno-national inequality and the class divide have always overlapped in multinational states like Pakistan and have posed the perennial conundrum for the progressive thinkers and activists, whether the national issue has to be addressed first or is it the class question that needs the immediate attention and remedy.

In Pakistan’s context it is an intertwined phenomenon where the army has acted not merely as the praetorian guard that has anointed itself to define the national interest but virtually as an economic class, as well. And it has done so with the help of collaborators across the ethno-national spectrum. The traditional political parties were forced to play ball with the army or face extinction.

On their part, the traditional or legacy political parties have remained under clan leaderships and derived electoral strength in large part from patronage politics rather than ideological and issued-based agenda. This, in turn, has led the mainstream political parties to remain beholden to the army that controls levers of patronage.

The two traditional Pashtun nationalist political parties viz. the Awami National Party (ANP) with its historical base in the present-day Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, and to a lesser extent the Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PMAP) that draws support from the Pashtun areas of the Balochistan province, have effectively remained Islamabad-oriented since at least 1988. They have been stakeholders in the federal and respective provincial governments, which inevitably entails remaining reticent about the army’s Afghanistan project, wherein the Pashtun areas contiguous to the Durand Line have been used as a bridgehead for harboring and launching the Afghan Taliban.

For example, one cannot think of a province-wide – let alone country-wide – protest by either the ANP or the PMAP demanding the Pakistani state and Deep State to stop meddling in Afghanistan. While the stalwarts of both parties have paid lip service to the issue, they have frequently governed their home provinces without ever practically trying to stop the Pakistan army’s intervention onto Afghanistan.

The ANP governed the KP province from 2008-2013 and the PMAP held the gubernatorial slot for Balochistan from 2013-2018. Not that there is anything wrong with coming to power through even a nominally democratic process, the problem was that neither of the signature Pashtun nationalist parties did anything material about the Pakistan army’s policy of using the erstwhile FATA as a sandbag against Afghanistan.

The army, on its part, never abandoned its pursuit of the so-called strategic depth in Afghanistan. For this purpose, the Afghan Taliban have remained the army’s tried and trusted proxies, who had to be homed and harboured in the ex-FATA and the Pashtun regions of Balochistan. This meant that the native Pashtuns of those areas had to suffer a double whammy i.e. face the brutality of the Taliban as well as the army, which went after the so-called Bad Taliban – the ones who disobeyed its command – and cosmetically, to placate international concerns, against the Good Taliban – the ones who have remained under its discipline. These were the circumstances, in which the PTM leaders and cadres came of age and realised that they have to fend for themselves.

Despite strong bonds of kinship and fraternity, the top leaders of the ANP and the PMAP have not visited any prominent population centre of the ex-FATA during almost two decades of war, death and destruction. The PTM rose from the ashes of this war and indignity at the hands of foes and abandonment by the friends. But could it make a difference?

In the grand scheme of things in Pakistan, the PTM is a breath of fresh air, yet a drop in the bucket. On its own, it can draw attention to the plight of the Pashtuns of ex-FATA, present their case nationally and worldwide, and serve as a roadblock of sorts, to the army’s decades-old policy of using the Pashtun regions straddling the Durand Line as a jumping board for its Taliban proxies. But, by itself, it may not be able to put an end to the policy and practice of the Pakistan army to seek hegemony over Afghanistan and to install its puppet regime there.

To this end the PTM will have to convert the mainstream Pashtun nationalist parties to its cause, which is a tall order. But even more difficult is to convince the three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s Punjab-based Pakistan Muslim League (PMLN) and the later former PM Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) to close ranks with the PTM and convince the army that its project of prosecuting foreign policy through jihadist proxies a la the Taliban, has a tremendously bloody domestic blowback.

While the PMLN supremo, Nawaz Sharif, had tried to confront and rein in the army, his ill health took a major toll on him and his campaign, and sidelined him for the foreseeable future. His party currently is toeing his younger brother Shahbaz Sharif’s line, which effectively is to plod along with the army in the hopes that the latter would ditch its blue-eyed boy Imran Khan and let the PMLN to return back to power. The PPP has almost been confined to Sindh, the home province of its founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and has no inclination to take on the army over any major issue let alone the ex-FATA and Afghanistan, which hardly resonate with its electoral base, if at all.

The Pakistan army under its chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who has a three-year extended tenure under his belt, is unlikely to change its tack vis-à-vis the PTM. It would continue to try to crush the movement by force. With the political parties tamed and the media cowed down into submission, the army has its reasons to believe that it can prevail. History, however, tells another story. Each time the Pakistan army has overplayed its hand and tried to conquer its own people, it has backfired, and it had to beat a military or a political retreat.

Full report at:

https://thewire.in/south-asia/pakistans-pashtun-rights-movement-is-alive-and-kicking

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PML-Q refuses to be fed on mere words anymore

FEBRUARY 3, 2020

The Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) has demanded the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led federal government to start implementation on the negotiated matters.

An emergency meeting of PML-Q leaders and the party’s lawmakers in the Punjab Assembly was chaired by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, which was also attended by PA Speaker Pervaiz Elahi, Moonis Elahi and others.

The Chaudhry brothers said that the round of talks will be held after the government starts implementation on the previously negotiated matters. While pointing out the talks held between the government and PML-Q with the second committee, they said that making changes creates distrust. They urged the federal government not to establish the tradition of changing stances.

Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain said that the PML-Q was coordinating with the PTI government keeping in view national interests, but some ministers were trying to create misunderstanding between them and Prime Minister Imran Khan. Pervaiz Elahi said that national interests and the rights of the nationals had more importance than the ministries. The PML-Q was standing on its principles by prioritising nationals and national interests, said Pervaiz Elahi, adding that they were not greedy of ministries.

Meanwhile, Punjab Governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar said the PTI also wanted to have coalition with the PML-Q in the local government polls as well as in the next general election.

Talking to the media after inaugurating a Handicraft Shop at the Governor’s House, he said that Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi had rightly said that end of coalition would be equally harmful for the PTI and the Q-League.

The governor said the Chaudhry brothers did not object to his name in the government committee, as he had old and good relations with them. Prime Minister Imran Khan had constituted a committee headed by him (governor) to hold dialogue with the Q-League, he said, and added, “We will soon make a formal contact with the PML-Q leadership and all their reservations will surely be removed. It is not Pakistan only, as world over the allied parties hold difference of opinions, which does not mean end of the government… lack of consensus does not mean infighting.”

The PML-Q, MQM, Balochistan Awami Party and all other allies were with the government and none of them was talking of toppling the government, he said, adding that difference of opinions was the beauty of politics and democracy.

Sarwar cited that Prime Minister Imran Khan had made him the governor, Sardar Usman Buzdar the chief minister and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi the speaker, and it was the responsibility of all the three to sit together to sort out issues and discuss development and prosperity of the province in accordance with the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

To a question, he said, “We have to set aside what happened in the past and now have to move ahead, and I am sure the matters between the Q-League and the government will be settled down. My acquaintance with the Chaudhry brothers is not since my politics in Pakistan or becoming governor but from the time I had been doing politics in London.”

He said Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi were well-aware of the situation and politics in Pakistan, therefore, the PML-Q and the government alliance was not in danger.

On the other hand, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani on Sunday said the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui should think about returning to the federal cabinet, adding that this would allow him to work more effectively for his people.

Addressing a press conference following a meeting between the Senate chairman and the MQM-P leadership in Karachi, Sanjrani said, “Khalid bhai is intelligent himself, he is leading his party. With regards to the well-being of Pakistan, I think he should certainly think about it (returning to the cabinet) and consult his party.”

Siddiqui had announced resigning from his post as minister for information technology on January 12 while emphasising that his party was not abandoning the ruling PTI government despite its reservations.

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/551412/pml-q-refuses-to-be-fed-on-mere-words-anymore/

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Why Hazara province movement has resumed from Karachi

Zia Ur Rehman

February 3, 2020

Political leaders and lawmakers from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Hazara region arrived in Karachi a fortnight ago to revive the dormant campaign for the Hazara province, mainly eyeing the significant population of the community in the city.

On January 19, hundreds of people attended a public gathering in Baldia Town’s Rasheedabad neighbourhood, where the Hazara division’s key politicians, including former federal minister Sardar Muhammad Yousaf, former National Assembly deputy speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl Senator Talha Mehmood, MNA Mohammad Sajjad Awan, former federal minister Syed Qasim Shah, former MPA Mian Zia Ur Rehman, and influential politicians Nawabzada Farid Salahuddin and Abdul Razzaq Abbasi, also spoke on the occasion.

A number of Karachi-based leaders, including Karachi Transport Ittehad chief Irshad Hussain Bukhari, Sardar Nazeer Ahmed, Haji Khursheed Hazarvi, Haji Saleheen Tanoli and Munsif Jan Advocate, also addressed the meeting.

They decided that the movement for carving out the Hazara province has formally been re-launched from Karachi and the next power show will be exhibited in Islamabad on April 12, the 10th anniversary of the Abbottabad incident in which seven people were killed during a protest against the renaming of the then North-West Frontier Province to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after the passage of the 18th amendment in 2010.

Leader of the Hazara province movement in Karachi said the city has been playing a key role in the campaign from the beginning. Karachi-based leader Haji Khurshid Hazarvi said that a significant population from KP living in the metropolitan city belongs to the Hazara division.

“In Karachi, you can find a resident of every village of Hazara who is now permanently living in the city since the 1960s,” Hazarvi told The News.

Hazarewal (people from the Hazara division) mainly live in Pashtun-populated neighbourhoods of Karachi, but in some parts of the city there are also some Hazarewal-majority areas, such as Kalapul, Hazara Colony, Qayyumabad, Keamari, Mansehra Colony, Rasheedabad, Patel Para and Sherpao Colony.

The Hazara division consists of six districts: Haripur, Abbottabad, Mansehra, Battagram, Kohistan and, since January 2011, Torghar. The dominant language of the inhabitants of Haripur, Abbottabad and half of Mansehra is Hindko. The people of Battagram and Torghar speak Pashto. Kohistan’s people speak their own Kohistani language.

Hazarvi said that the campaign for the Hazara province needs media attention and this is why leaders from the Hazara division have arrived in Karachi, as it is the hub of media organisations’ headquarters.

Political analyst Sartaj Khan said that the leaders of the Hazara province movement have in fact been eyeing the emerging middle class of the Hazarewal community in the city.

“In Karachi, the campaign has been seeking the support of the urban middle class emerging in the city in the past several decades,” Khan told The News. “The community has influential representation in professional bodies, such as transport, and religious circles, as well as has a significant population.”

The analyst also said that the participation of Karachi leaders from the Hazarewal community in the movement also makes them relevant to the city’s politics, especially in the local government elections.

Full report at:

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/608093-why-hazara-province-movement-has-resumed-from-karachi

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Senate chairman asks MQM-P convener to consider returning to federal cabinet

Imran Ahad

February 02, 2020

Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani on Sunday said Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P) convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui should think about returning to the federal cabinet, adding that this would allow him to work more effectively for his people.

Addressing a press conference following a meeting between the Senate chairman and the MQM-P leadership in Karachi, Sanjrani said: "Khalid bhai is intelligent himself, he is leading his party. With regards to the well-being of Pakistan, I think he should certainly think about it (returning to the cabinet) and consult his party."

Siddiqui had announced the decision to resign from his post as Minister for Information Technology on January 12 while emphasising that his party was not abandoning the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government despite its reservations.

Responding to a question regarding whether he had asked Siddiqui to return to the ministry, Sanjrani said: "Our suggestion is that he should join. He can work more effectively for his people. Khalid bhai can make his own decision."

He added that the two hadn't discussed the matter much during their meeting today.

Earlier, the Senate chairman was received at MQM-P's temporary headquarters in Bahadurabad, Karachi by various leaders including Maqbool, Amir Khan and Faisal Sabzwari.

Addressing a press conference following the meeting, Siddiqui thanked Sanjrani for his visit and said: "On the national level and at all forums, we will raise our voices together on their issues."

In turn, Sanjrani, who is a member of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), thanked MQM-P leaders for their warm welcome. He said that as he was the chairman of the Senate, he could not speak too much about politics, however, it was also his responsibility to play his role in resolving issues of different political parties or provinces.

"I want to thank Khalid bhai and all of the MQM-P leaders that they always stand by me," he said, adding that his party's president, Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Alyani, would also visit the MQM-P leadership.

Efforts to appease MQM-P

Following Siddiqui's announcement of his resignation from the federal cabinet, PTI leaders held numerous meetings with MQM-P but were unable to convince the party's convener to rejoin his post as Minister for Information Technology.

A day after he announced his resignation, a meeting between the two parties was held, giving rise to rumours that the MQM leader may take back his resignation. However, all such talk was rubbished by Siddiqui as well as Federal Minister for Planning, Development & Reforms Asad Umar, who had been part of the government delegation.

A second meeting also failed to make inroads.

Following the meeting, a press conference was held by PTI leaders Pervez Khattak and Jahangir Tareen alongside Siddiqui during which the defence minister said a "very positive discussion" was held, adding that they were close to finding a solution.

Additionally, the Prime Minister's Office on Thursday shared that Prime Minister Imran Khan had formed three committees comprising members of PTI in order for them to work in liaison with political allies.

A four-member committee has been constituted to work alongside PTI's Sindh allies — MQM-P and Grand Democratic Alliance. The committee comprises Planning Minister Asad Umar, who will be the convener, Sindh Governor Imran Ismail, Leader of the Opposition in Sindh Assembly Firdous Shamim Naqvi and PTI Sindh president Haleem Adil Sheikh.

Defence Minister Khattak will be the chairperson of all committees, the notification said.

Numbers game

The ruling party is facing troubles with nearly all its allies, who have complained that the PTI has failed to fulfil the promises it made when forming the government. Each ally is critical to the PTI since the party holds only a slender majority in the National Assembly.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1532073

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PML-Q refuses to hold talks with new PTI team

Zulqernain Tahir

February 03, 2020

LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain declared on Sunday that his party would not hold talks with the new committee constituted by Prime Minister Imran Khan to address reservations of disgruntled government allies till “all points agreed” with the Jahangir Tareen-led panel were implemented in letter and spirit.

On the other hand, Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar expressed the hope that the PML-Q would remain a coalition partner and said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) wanted to go into local bodies polls and next general elections along with it (PML-Q).

The gulf between the ruling PTI and its coalition partners widened after PM Khan stopped his confidant Jahangir Tareen from further holding talks with the PML-Q and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement reportedly on complaints from some PTI leaders that he was more inclined to protect the interest of the alienated partners than the government’s.

“Perhaps for the first time PM Khan listened to complaints against Mr Tareen on any issue and decided in favour of complainants without hearing the view point of his close friend,” an insider in the PTI told Dawn.

“PM Khan was told by some party leaders in Punjab that Mr Tareen had accepted most of the PML-Q’s demands and issued directives like a chief minister to implement them forthwith. The opponents of the Chaudhrys in the PTI camp managed to convince the premier that it was not in the party’s interest to be ‘so generous’ in giving in to the demands of the PML-Q straightaway. Since the Chaudhrys are smart politicians, the PTI should also play smart in dealing with them and linger on such matters,” he said.

Punjab governor sees no threat to alliance; PML-N predicts Q-League’s exit from coalition

Imran Khan was easily persuaded because of his “own distrust” in the allies, the PTI leader said. Similarly, he said, Mr Tareen’s style of offering “much” to the MQM was also not liked by some PTI leaders in Sindh after which PM Khan dissolved the panel headed by Mr Tareen and formed new committees to hold talks with the allies.

Mr Tareen is in London and could not be reached by Dawn for comments.

Last week PM Khan abruptly dissolved Tareen-led committee also comprising Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak that had been holding parleys with the PML-Q and the MQM for quite sometimes to placate their concerns.

The premier gave mandate to Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar, Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood to hold ‘fresh talks’ with the PML-Q and named Sindh Governor Imran Ismail, Opposition Leader in Sindh Assembly Firdaus Shamim Naqvi and MPA Haleem Adil Sheikh to hold a meeting with the MQM to listen to their grievances.

Tareen-led committee had agreed to empower the PML-Q’s ministers — two in Punjab and one at the Centre — besides giving the party a share in administrative powers in three districts — Gujrat, Chakwal and Bahawalpur — and as many tehsils — Malikwal, Phalia and Daska. The committee had also assured the PML-Q that it would talk to the PM about giving another federal ministry to the party, a point already agreed upon.

PML-Q meeting

Presiding over the party’s urgently called meeting here on Sunday to discuss the future of the coalition, Chaudhry Shujaat made it clear that there would be no talks with the government before it implemented “settled matters”.

The meeting was attended by Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, MNAs Moonis Elahi and Hussain Elahi, former senator Kamil Ali Agha and others.

According to PML-Q, all participants agreed that the PTI leadership should be told that when political matters were settled, frequent changes created mistrust. “We had a written agreement with the PTI prior to the 2018 general elections which has not been implemented so far. After forming the government a negotiation team was constituted but no decision of it was implemented either. After matters were settled with the second committee (led by Tareen) it was dissolved and yet another committee has been formed,” the PML-Q chief said.

He said: “A few ministers and notable leaders of the PTI are creating misunderstandings between us and the prime minister. Talking to reporters here, Punjab Governor Sarwar said the Chaudhry brothers rightly said that end of the coalition would be equally harmful for the PTI and the Q-League.

He said the PML-Q, MQM, Balochistan Awami Party and other allies were with the government and none of them was talking of toppling it.

The new committee would soon make a formal contact with PML-Q leadership and its reservations would be removed, the governor said, adding the PTI-PML-Q alliance was not in danger.

PML-N sees fissures in coalition

PML-N Punjab information secretary Azma Bokhari said it was written on the wall that the PTI could not go along with its allies for a longer period. “Time is not far away when the PML-Q will have to quit the alliance with the PTI because of their growing distrust in each other,” she said while talking to Dawn.

She said the PML-N wanted PML-Q to decide its future with the PTI soon. “Once it (PML-Q) comes out of the coalition, we will show our cards.”

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1532156/pml-q-refuses-to-hold-talks-with-new-pti-team

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North America

 

US elections: The Arab and Muslim vote may be decisive in Iowa

3 February 2020

Iowa. America's breadbasket. The nation's heartland. The state of farmers, wheat and cornfields. The rural midwest.

It's more than that.

Perceived as largely white and conservative, Iowa is actually home to some of the oldest Arab and Muslim communities in the country. Immigrants from what is today Lebanon and Syria settled in the state late in the 1800s.

There in Cedar Rapids, a quiet city on a small river that feeds into the Mississippi, they constructed America's first Muslim house of worship. The Mother Mosque still stands today as a witness to the state's and the nation's diverse history.

As the Iowa caucuses, which will set the tone for the Democratic presidential primaries approach, Arab and Muslim advocates say their communities may have a decisive role to play in choosing the party's nominee and subsquently the nation's next president. "We want every Arab-American and Muslim-American across the state of Iowa to participate," said John Dabeet, a Palestinian-American organiser based in eastern Iowa.

Dabeet, who has come out in support of Senator Elizabeth Warren, said Arabs and Muslims in the state can make a "huge difference on the outcome" of the election on Monday night.

Numbering in the tens of thousands, Iowa's Arabs and Muslims can be a deciding factor in who wins the state.

Iowa is the first election contest of the primary season. The last three democrats who won the Iowa caucuses - Al Gore, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton - became the party's nominee.

With several candidates locked in a tight race for the top spot on Monday, every vote is important. If Arab- and Muslim-Americans come out in thousands, they can easily determine the winner.

Getting involved

Activists say various campaigns, particularly those of Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders, have been courting the Arab and Muslim vote.

And in a sign of the growing Muslim presence, five mosques will be caucus sites on Monday.

Now organisers are focusing on increasing the turnout. In the absence of organisational structures, that effort has fallen on individuals who are decrying political apathy in the community.

Dabeet said getting involved politically is the only way for Arabs and Muslims to make themselves heard in the United States. "We don't want to just do it in Iowa; we want to do it all over the country to get where we need to get."

Besides domestic issues, he said, a top priority for Arab voters in the state is foreign policy. "The Palestinian issue is the number one issue for us."

That advocacy for the Palestinian cause is driving Arab and Muslims in Iowa to the campaigns of Warren and Sanders, he added.

"Both candidates really have a vision for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, have a vision for achieving justice and freedom and self-determination for the Palestinian people," Dabeet said.

Warren and Sanders represent the left-wing progressive base of the Democratic Party, which has been growing increasingly sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.

Warren has said that as president she would ensure that US aid to Israel is not used to support the annexation of occupied Palestinian territories.

And Sanders has vowed to use Washington's assistance to Israel as leverage to stop settlement expansions and improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Dabeet, who co-chairs the US Palestinian Council advocacy group, said the aim should not only be to defeat Donald Trump.

"We also want to replace him with the right candidate," he told Middle East Eye.

'Deciders'

To engage Arabs and Muslims in Iowa, Sanders' campaign hired Sami Scheetz as a constituency outreach director.

Scheetz, who described himself as the son of a Syrian immigrant mother and a white working class father, said Arab and Muslim Iowans can play a "huge role" on Monday, adding that Sanders' campaign is exerting major efforts to court their vote.

"I truly think because of the way the caucuses are set up and how powerful and influential the group is, in such a close race they will be the deciders as to who wins tomorrow," Scheetz told MEE in Des Moines on Sunday.

Many prominent Arabs and Muslims have been "feeling the Bern" since the Vermont senator first ran for president in 2016. In last cycle's Michigan primaries, Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton by a large margin in predominantly Arab-American neighbourhoods in cities like Dearborn.

In 2020, America's two Muslim congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar endorsed Sanders. In fact, both legislators have been campaigning for the Vermont senator in Iowa.

Scheetz said communities across America, regardless of religion or ethnicity, share the same basic economic concerns.

But addressing foreign policy has been particularly effective in engaging Arab-Americans, he added.

"Foreign policy is something that our campaign has been able to resonate with these voters on," he said.

"Bernie has for the past 30 years been very progressive and consistent in advocating for anti-war propositions."

Scheetz cited Sanders' opposition to the Iraq war and his efforts in leading a bipartisan congressional resolution to end US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, which was eventually vetoed by Trump last year.

"He's been very consistent and especially with his support for the Palestinians," Scheetz said. "He stood up on the debate stage and said in front of millions of people that we need to respect the rights of both the Israelis and Palestinians. And that is something he doesn't believe is being done right now in the White House."

Newman Abuissa, a Sanders' supporter and Syrian-American advocate in Iowa City, also stressed Palestinian rights' activism amongst Arab-Americans.

The Iowa Democratic Party's platform includes progressive language on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict thanks to the efforts of activists like Abuissa. It calls for Palestinian statehood and ensuring equal rights between Israelis and Palestinians.

Still Abuissa, who leads the international affairs subcommittee on the party's platform committee, said challenges remain in organising the community ahead of the elections with most people busy tending to the demands of daily life.

"We need to trust in the system here and be effective in the system," Abuissa said.

He added that Arabs and Muslims have also been discouraged by bigoted attacks.

While many activists told MEE that the state's population is "nice" and welcoming, one of Iowa's four congressional districts is represented by Steve King who has a history of making racist and Islamophobic statements.

"That's my philosophy - to become proactive get energised by those attacks," Abuissa said. "We want to influence the process."

The Mother Mosque

In Cedar Rapids, about an hour north of Iowa City, Taha Tawil, the imam of the Mother Mosque, said Muslim-Americans like all citizens want a president who is fair and just.

He said Muslims should organise and participate in the process to confront the "hate" that has come to the surface in recent years. But he stressed that mosques in Cedar Rapids have avoided politics out of respect for the separation of church and state.

"There's enthusiasm in the community. Some people are saying they will be in line for the caucuses at 5:30," Tawil told MEE. (The caucuses start at 7).

But there has not been a big push for a single candidate, according to the imam.

"Sometimes in the same family, the father wants Bernie and the mother wants Elizabeth and the children want someone else."

The Mother Mosque was built by immigrants from Lebanon in 1934. It was the first building constructed in North America for the purpose of being a mosque.

The house of worship - a rectangular, white building - stands in a residential subdivision west of the Cedar River. The ten steps leading to its front door are covered with a green canopy that sits below a small dome crowned with a silver crescent above the mosque's facade.

If it were not for the green addition, it could be mistaken for a large home in the neighbourhood.

"This mosque is proof that there is religious freedom in this country," Tawil said.

Iowa's Arabs and Muslims seem to have nothing but praise for their state. And as Monday's contest approaches, activists want their community to become a recognisable force in the state's electoral politics.

Miriam Amer, a Muslim American activist in Cedar Rapids, said campaigns seeking the Muslim vote are sending staffers and volunteers to talk to people and hand out literature outside of mosques.

Meanwhile, activists are trying to increase the turnout.

"The young people are spreading it between themselves on social media; they're really doing a great job. The older people are doing it through word of mouth," Amer said. "That's how it's been done, the old fashion way, talking to people."

Asked about the candidates who seem to be gaining the biggest foothold within the Muslim community, Amer said: "Elizabeth and Bernie"

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/us-elections-arab-and-muslim-vote-may-be-decisive-iowa

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'US expanding Ain al-Assad facilities, beefing up base defenses: Report

03 February 2020

US forces deployed in the Ain al-Assad airbase in western Iraq are seeking to expand the facility and beef up defenses following an Iranian missile attack on the facility, according to a report.

Iraq's al-Maalomah news agency cited an informed source on Saturday as saying that US troops have started working on "broadening the area of the base" and further developing structures accommodating US troops.

According to the report, US forces are also setting up barbed wire and "various defensive structures" along with signs warning against approaching the base.

The source added that Iraqi forces inside the airbase are unaware of the American measures because details regarding the movements are limited to the jurisdiction of the Office of the Commander-in-Chief of Iraq's Armed Forces.

The report comes nearly a month after the base was the target of a major Iranian missile attack in response to the assassination of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani on January 3.

The Trump administration initially claimed that little material damage had been done and no Americans had been injured in the strikes.

Washington has since gradually confirmed casualties from the Iranian attack, most recently claiming that 64 US troops were injured as a result of the strikes.

The reported American defensive measures also come as Iraqi resistance groups and influential figures have vowed to mobilize against American presence in the country if Washington does not withdraw troops from Iraq.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/03/617748/US-expand-Ain-al-Assad-facilities-defenses

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Muslim Delegation Participates in Interfaith Dialogue at YU

February 2, 2020

An interfaith dialogue was held at Yeshiva University in conjunction with the American Jewish Committee (AJC) on Dec. 2, 2019, on the theme of “Tradition and Modernity: Religious Identity and Civic Engagement in the United States.” The event was organized by Rabbi Dr. Stuart Halpern, Senior Advisor to the Provost, and Dr. Ari Gordon, the Director of U.S. Muslim-Jewish Relations for the AJC.

The meeting brought American Muslim religious leaders and Modern Orthodox institutions together. “The Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council (MJAC) is one of the AJC’s signature domestic initiatives, taking our relationships beyond dialogue to advocacy and action on issues of mutual concern, on domestic policy issues, in a bipartisan manner,” Dr. Ari Gordon, the AJC’s Director of Muslim-Jewish Relations, said. The focus of the meeting was to learn how each faith can continue to retain their identity within the context of the modern world.

The 12-person Muslim delegation was spearheaded by Imam Mohamed Magid, Executive Imam of All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center. His four-branch mosque community is based in Sterling, Virginia and serves 25,000 Muslims in Washington, DC.

The day began at Yeshiva University with a tour of the Glueck Beit Midrash where the Muslim and Jewish delegations watched students learn and engage in Torah texts with Roshei Yeshiva. They also heard a presentation made by Special Advisor to the President of Yeshiva University Rabbi Ari Lamm about the future direction of YU.

Various members of YU’s administration attended the interfaith event, including President Ari Berman, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Selma Botman, Dean of Undergraduate Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dr. Karen Bacon, Dean of the Sy Syms School of Business Dr. Noam Wasserman, Dean of the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration Dr. Rona Novick and Dean of the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies Dr. David Berger.

President Berman welcomed the Muslim delegates. “One of the core values of Yeshiva University is the role faith can and should play in contributing positively to the broader society,” said Berman. “Our conversation with Imam Magid and his fellow Islamic American leaders on the opportunities our respective traditions can and should play in the betterment of mankind is inspiring for all involved, and we look forward to building a brighter future together.”

Muslim participants heard about the Beit Din of America (Jewish religious court) from rabbis at YU and specific Jewish laws related to the court system. The delegations also discussed how to conduct themselves in an interest-driven economy according to their respective religious guidelines.

Other topics of conversation included the benefits of co-education settings while maintaining traditional religious values, how to address religious doubt amongst students and vaping.

After visiting YU, the Muslim participants made their way to SAR High School, where they met with founding principal Rabbi Naftali Harcsztark, administrators, teachers and students. The purpose of the visit was to highlight the school’s unique approach to bringing together Jewish and religious values and American culture. 

According to Gordon, many Jews and Muslims are joining in conversation together in America, but most Orthodox and Modern Orthodox institutions stay out of the fold. This meeting was seen by him as an opportunity to change that. “It is important to connect Modern Orthodox Jews and American Muslims, because we navigate many of the same challenges that arise in nurturing religious commitments alongside broader civic and cultural life,” Gordon said. 

“I was impressed with how diverse the Muslim group was. I guess, I should not have been, considering how far-flung Islam has spread,” said Dr. Jill  Katz, Clinical Assistant Professor of Archeology at Stern College, who attended the event. “Nevertheless, the diversity of the group made an impression — they or their parents came from Afghanistan, Africa, America, Pakistan, etc.” According to Katz, the parameters of discussion were established before the meeting began and no points of conflict arose.

According to Dr. Ronnie Perelis, an associate professor at the Bernard Revel Graduate School, the event “was one of respect, curiosity, great conversations, questions, answers, listening and learning. He explained that his classes often discuss the history of the Jews in Spain. “A central feature of that history is the ways that Jews, Muslims and Christians lived together, learned from each other — and despite real tensions and conflict — managed to create a dazzling culture.”

Full report at:

https://yucommentator.org/2020/02/muslim-delegation-participates-in-interfaith-dialogue-at-yu/

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US officials sceptical as Al Qaeda in Yemen claim Florida airbase shooting

Feb 3, 2020

An audio recording purporting to be from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has claimed responsibility for a fatal shooting in December at a US naval base in Pensacola, Florida.

The recording offered no evidence that the group was behind the attack by Saudi national Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani that killed three and sources in the US have said they do not believe the group were involved.

"We congratulate our Muslim nation and embrace the operation of the martyr hero, the daring knight Muhammad bin Saeed Al Shamrani," said the audio, purportedly released by al Qaeda’s Yemen branch.

A US government source familiar with official reporting and analysis told Reuters news agency that government did not believe the claim by AQAP that the Florida shooter was acting for them or on their behalf.

The source said that AQAP could have put out the claim to counter reports in recent days about the killing of their leader in a drone strike.

Reports in Yemen have suggested in recent days that AQAP leader Qassim Al Raymi had been killed in a drone strike in Marib.

The reports are yet to be confirmed.

One Yemeni government official said there had been a drone strike in Marib but it was not Raymi who had been killed.

After the attack, the US grounded all 850 Saudi pilots undergoing military training in America and restricted training to classroom-based activities while it reviewed vetting and security.

However, on January 16, the Pentagon said it would soon resume operational training.

"We're looking forward to turning that (training) back on in the coming days," Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told a news briefing.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/gcc/us-officials-sceptical-as-al-qaeda-in-yemen-claim-florida-airbase-shooting-1.973288

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Europe

 

Hate Case Dropped Against Teen Who Criticised Islam and Got Death Threats

CHRIS TOMLINSON

2 Feb 2020

French prosecutors have dropped a potential hate crime case against a French teen named Mila who received death threats after she criticised Islam online.

The Vienne public prosecutor dropped the investigation for “hate provocation” against the 16-year-old, stating that the investigation into the motive and context of her words “revealed no element likely to characterize this as a criminal offence”, France Info reports.

The investigation began after Mila had made a post on social media platform Instagram earlier this month in which she made several remarks critical of Islam and saw a massive backlash from Muslims in France, including several death threats.

During an argument with another user, she said, “I hate religion. The Koran is . . . full of hate. There is only hate in it. Islam is a shit religion. That’s what I think.”

Breitbart London

@BreitbartLondon

Muslims in Europe Becoming Less Secular, More Radical as 80 Percent Now Identify as Religious https://www.breitbart.com/europe/2018/12/20/secularism-muslims-europe-decline-80-percent-identify-religious/ …

Muslims in Europe Becoming Less Secular, More Radical

Professor emeritus Felice Dassetto has claimed the number of secular Muslims in Europe is in a steep decline.

breitbart.com

176

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According to The Times, the teen saw 200 hateful messages per minute and was forced to leave school and be placed under police protection for her own safety.

The issue has caused controversy across the political spectrum in France, with left-wing feminists defending Mila, who is a lesbian, and populist National Rally leader Marine Le Pen also coming out in support of the teen.

“We might find [the girl’s comments] vulgar, but we can’t accept the fact that some people sentence her to death for that in France in the 21st century,” Le Pen said.

The prosecutor’s office has also stated they are investigating the various death threats and other posts made against Mila.

The affair is just the latest clash between Islam and France’s secular society in recent years.

From disputes over the sharia-compliant swimwear known as the burkini to Muslim mass street prayers, France is becoming increasingly divided.

A poll released in October revealed that 61 per cent of the French public thought that Islam was simply not compatible with French society, while another study from 2018 claimed that Muslims were becoming less and less secular.

Breitbart London

@BreitbartLondon

France: As Many Muslims as Practising Catholics in 18-29 Year-Old Demographic https://www.breitbart.com/europe/2019/05/26/france-as-many-muslims-as-practicing-catholics-in-18-29-year-old-demographic/ …

France: As Many Muslims as Practising Catholics Among 18-29 Year-Olds

Fewer and fewer French identify as religious, and there are now as many practising Muslims in the 18 to 29-year-old demo as Roman Catholics.

breitbart.com

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https://www.breitbart.com/europe/2020/02/02/hate-case-dropped-against-teen-who-criticised-islam-and-got-death-threats/

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London's burning: Terror attacks in Britain since 2005

February 3, 2020

Britain has been struck by a string of attacks in recent years, many claimed by jihadists. Here is a recap of some others since 2005.

February 2, 2019, Streatham

A man is shot dead by police on Streatham High Road, a busy thoroughfare and shopping street in south London. At least two people were injured, according to initial police reports.

November 29, 2019: London Bridge

Police shoot a man on London Bridge, in the heart of the capital, after several people were stabbed in what officers said was a terrorist incident.

September 15, 2017: Tube bomb

A bomb partially explodes on a London Underground train at Parsons Green station in southwest London during the morning rush hour. It leaves 30 people injured.

An 18-year-old Iraqi asylum seeker, Ahmed Hassan, believed to have trained with the Islamic State group in Iraq is later given a life sentence.

The judge said it was an attempt to kill as many members of the public as possible.

June 19, 2017: Mosque attack

A van ploughs into people leaving late-night prayers at a mosque in Finsbury Park in north London, killing one man and injuring 11 others.

The driver, 47-year-old Darren Osborne, is later given a life sentence for murder. He said he was seeking revenge for Islamist terror attacks and a child sex scandal.

June 3, 2017: London Bridge attack

Three men wearing fake suicide vests mow down pedestrians with a van at a popular nightlife hub around London Bridge before getting out to stab people. They are killed by police.

Eight people are killed and about 50 are hurt. The Islamic State group claims responsibility.

May 22, 2017: Manchester Arena bombing

A suicide bomber blows himself up outside a pop concert by teen idol Ariana Grande in Manchester, killing 22 people and injuring 116. Seven of the victims are under the age of 18.

The attack was carried out by 22-year-old Salman Abedi, a Manchester-born university drop-out of Libyan origin, and claimed by the Islamic State group.

March 22, 2017: Westminster Bridge attack

Five people are killed and more than 50 wounded when a man rams his car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in London before crashing into the barriers surrounding parliament and then stabbing a police officer to death.

The attacker, 52-year-old British Muslim convert Khalid Mahmood, is shot dead by police. Investigators describe it as a lone-wolf attack and "Islamist related terrorism".

2013: British soldier slain

British soldier Lee Rigby, 25, is hacked to death in May by two Britons of Nigerian descent whom witnesses say shouted "Allahu Akbar" ("God is greatest") before being injured and arrested.

Michael Adebolajo, 29, is later sentenced to life in prison for the murder while Michael Adebowale, 22, receives a minimum of 45 years behind bars.

2007: Glasgow airport attack -

Two men in a burning vehicle ram into the main terminal of Glasgow Airport in Scotland in June.

An Indian man driving the car suffers serious burns and later dies. The passenger, Iraqi doctor Bilal Abdulla, 29, is jailed in December for at least 32 years for plotting to murder hundreds of people.

2005: London transport hit

On July 7 four British suicide bombers inspired by Al-Qaeda attack London's Underground network and a bus during rush hour, killing 52 people, as well as themselves, and wounding 700.

Full report at:

https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/02/03/london-burning-terror-attacks-in-britain-since-2005-.html

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U.K. Police Kill Man in a ‘Terrorist Related’ Incident

By Iliana Magra

Feb. 2, 2020

LONDON — A man armed with a knife and wearing a fake explosive device strapped to his body was shot and killed by the police in South London on Sunday after he was suspected of stabbing people on Sunday.

The authorities described the attack as “terrorist related.”

The assault in London came more than three months after another terrorism spree left two people dead near the London Bridge, and added to the litany of attacks Britain has endured in recent years, testing the nerves and fortitude of its residents.

According to Lucy D’Orsi, the deputy assistant commissioner in specialist operations, the suspect was Sudesh Mamoor Faraz Amman, 20.

Local news reports said Mr. Amman had been under surveillance by the police when two pedestrians were stabbed on Sunday in Streatham, about five miles south of Central London. One of them, a man, was hospitalized with “life-threatening” injuries, according to the police.

A third pedestrian, a woman, was believed to have been injured by glass after officers discharged their weapons, the police said.

The Metropolitan Police said that officers from “a proactive counterterrorism operation” quickly responded to the “Islamist related” attack and killed Mr. Amman around 2 p.m. local time. The suspect was wearing what appeared to be an explosive device strapped to his body, but it was later found to be false, a police statement said.

Mr. Amman was pronounced dead at the scene, said Ms. D’Orsi. Images on social media showed his body lying on the pavement outside a pharmacy while at least two officers pointed guns at him.

The stabbings unfolded on Streatham High Road, a crowded thoroughfare filled with shops, cafes and a movie theater. Witnesses told reporters they had seen what appeared to be plainclothes officers chasing and shouting at a man before hearing shots.

Gulled Bulhan, 19, said that he had been crossing the street when he saw a man with a machete “and silver canisters on his chest” being chased by what appeared to be an armed undercover officer, according to the BBC.

Karker Tahir, who worked at a shop nearby, said that the officers asked the man to halt before they shot him.

“They kept telling him, ‘Stop, stop!’” Mr. Tahir told Sky News. “But he didn’t stop, and then I saw that they shot him three times,” he said. He added that the police told him and a colleague that “you have to leave the shop because he has a bomb in his bag.’”

“I’m still shocked,” he said.

A video circulating on Twitter showed what appeared to be at least two plainclothes officers drawing their weapons as they took cover behind a police car. A flurry of yellow ambulances and police cars with loud sirens and blinking lights also flooded the street.

The speed with which the police declared a terrorism-related attack on Sunday stood in stark contrast to their announcements after previous attacks, when the authorities took hours or days to say that a terrorist assault had taken place.

David Videcette, a former British counterterrorism detective, said on Sunday that though the investigation was still in its early stages, he believed that the police officers who quickly responded to the stabbing had been part of a focused surveillance operation.

The Metropolitan Police’s counterterrorism unit was leading the investigation into the attack, according to Ms. D’Orsi.

Mr. Amman had been arrested in May 2018 under the Terrorism Act. He was brought to the attention of the police by a blogger from Holland, who posted one of his Telegram messages online. The message was a photo that showed two guns and a knife “on top of an Islamic flag, with the caption “Armed and ready April 3” overlaid in Arabic,” the police said.

He was sentenced in December 2018 to three years and four months in prison for six counts of collecting information “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism” and seven counts of “dissemination of terrorist material,” the Metropolitan Police said in a statement at the time.

According to the BBC, Mr. Amman was released about one week ago, after serving part of his sentence.

The assault on Sunday had echoes of the London Bridge attack in November, when Usman Khan, a 28-year-old Muslim man who had served eight years in prison for his involvement in a plot to bomb the London Stock Exchange, killed two people near the bridge.

During the attack, he wore a fake suicide vest, which experts have said is often meant to cause panic in members of the public and to keep law enforcement at a distance. He began stabbing people, the police said, after having participated in a conference on prison rehabilitation at a venue called Fishmongers’ Hall on the north bank of the River Thames.

His attack ended when he was rushed by several men — one wielding a fire extinguisher and another brandishing an ornamental whale tusk torn from the wall of the hall — and the police shot him.

After the London Bridge attack, the British government said that it would toughen terrorism sentences and end early release for serious offenders. Prime Minister Boris Johnson also declared that “this country will never be cowed or divided or intimidated by this sort of attack.”

On Sunday evening, Mr. Johnson thanked the emergency services on Twitter and wrote, “My thoughts are with the injured and all those affected.”

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, condemned the attack in a statement on Sunday. “Terrorists seek to divide us and to destroy our way of life — here in London we will never let them succeed,” he said.

The United States Embassy in Britain urged people on Twitter to avoid the area.

The current terrorism-related threat level in Britain stands at “substantial,” meaning that an attack is “likely,” according to the country’s Security Service.

Streatham is a relatively unusual location for a terrorist attack in London. It is a lively, gentrifying suburb of southern London between the district of Brixton and the borough of Croydon. But it has no famous landmarks and was described as “an area of quite high poverty” by Mr. Videcette.

Other terrorist attacks in the British capital have taken place in more central boroughs.

Bell Ribeiro-Addy, a member of Parliament from Streatham, told Sky News on Sunday that it was “shocking” that such an attack would happen in the area. But she called it an “isolated incident” and said, “Streatham is a resilient community.”

Full report at:

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/02/world/europe/streatham-police-shooting-uk.html

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France to send 600 more troops to battle terrorism in the sub-Sahara

Callum Paton

Feb 2, 2020

France is to send another 600 troops to the Sahel, increasing the number of its soldiers in the desert region to 5,100.

France’s Ministry for the Armed Forces said most of the reinforcements would be sent to the border area between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

The remote area has experienced regular terrorist attacks by extremists loyal to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and ISIS.

On Sunday, local media in Burkina Faso reported at least 20 civilians had been killed in the Gorgadji area in the country’s restive Seno province.

French forces, which have been active in the region since the country’s 2013 intervention in Mali, are supported in the Sahel by other European special forces and troops from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

France will also send 100 support vehicles, some heavily armoured, and reach the five Sahel nations before the end of the month.

Another contingent of the French forces will be involved in training local troops from the five nations.

French President Emmanuel Macron earlier announced that 220 soldiers would be sent to the Pau summit with the Sahel nations in January.

The troop escalation appears to have been motivated in part by lobbying from the French military as Paris looks to change the situation in the Sahel.

French Chief of the Defence Staff, Gen Francois Lecointre, had warned in January that the 4,500 troops supporting Operation Barkhane, the multinational military operation in the Sahel, was insufficient, Le Monde reported.

"In this extremely vast area, the means that are made available to Operation Barkhane are not sufficient to have soldiers deployed 24 hours a day, seven days a week," he said. “But 4,500 men in the Sahel, it's ridiculous."

The beginning of 2020 in Burkina Faso and the wider Sahel has been bloody.

At the start of January, 14 people, including seven children, were killed when a bus triggered a roadside bomb in northern Burkina Faso.

Later in the month, the country declared two days of mourning after 36 civilians were killed in an attack on an attack on a village market in Sanmatenga province.

Burkina Faso had for years been spared the kind of extremist attacks Mali was suffering.

A separatist ethnic insurgency in Mali’s north was hijacked by extremists, leading to the French intervention in 2013.

But deadly violence arrived in Burkina Faso during two attacks in 2016 and 2017 in the capital of Ouagadougou. Both were aimed at sites popular with foreigners.

Frequent attacks in the country’s north and east already have displaced more than a half million people, the UN says.

The continuing international military operation in the region has not been without cost to France.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/france-to-send-600-more-troops-to-battle-terrorism-in-the-sub-sahara-1.973063

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India

 

Protests organised against CAA and NRC in Ludhiana, Holding Placards with Messages Like “No CAA, No NRC, NO NPR”

Feb 2, 2020

LUDHIANA: Various religious and social group representatives, mostly from Muslim community, protested against CAA and NRC at Rahon Road here on Sunday. The protesters comprised of women and children as well. They were holding placards with messages like “No CAA, No NRC, NO NPR”, “We don’t want CAA, NRC”, “Secular Bharat, Democratic Bharat”, “Hindu Muslim Sikh Isai, Aapas Main Hain Bhai Bhai”, “Stop CAA, Stop NRC” etc. They also raised slogans “Golibari Nahi Chalegi”, “Gundagardi Nahi Chalegi” Inqualab Zindabad” etc.

Naib Shahi Imam Punjab, Maulana Muhammad Usman Ludhianvi said that apart from thousands of muslim men, women and children, members of other communities including Dr HS Bhatia, Ramanjeet Lali, Muhammad Abid Ansari, Muhammad Sajjad, Muhammad Hashim, Nazim Ansari, Master Feroz, Abdul Shakoor Mangat, Muhammad Jameel, Muhammad Mustakeem etc attended the rally.

While addressing the gathering, Naib Shahi Imam alleged that BJP led Union government is trying to divide people in the name of CAA. He added that country belongs to all and any law keeping in mind a particular religion will not be acceptable to them. He denounced the “acts” by two communal persons who opened fire at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi and said that “Gunda” elements should hear it with open ears that people of India will not be scared by such acts (firing).

The religious leader alleged that those threatening and those opening fire are trying to play with the constitution which the people of the country will never tolerate. He further alleged that Union government has badly failed to give communal or caste colour to the agitation of people across the country.

“People of the country have made the government understand that CAA and NRC are not related to any particular religion or sect but with the self respect of every Indian,” Usman Ludhianvi said.

In the meanwhile protestors said that they will never allow communal elements to create a wedge between various communities and will maintain communal harmony.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ludhiana/protests-organised-against-caa-and-nrc-in-ludhiana/articleshow/73876458.cms

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Maharashtra village sans Muslim population passes resolution for ‘non-cooperation’ with ‘CAA-NRC-NPR’

Feb 3, 2020

AURANGABAD: Islak, a small village on the outskirts of Ahmednagar town with a population of just 2,000 - and not a single Muslim resident - has become the first village in the country to have passed a resolution for non-cooperation with the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the National Population Register (NPR).

The resolution was passed last week during the gram panchayat meeting on January 26 (Republic Day). The copy of the resolution was signed by the sarpanch and the deputy sarpanch and was forwarded to the district administration.

Most of the residents of the village are medium and marginal farmers. Sarpanch Babasaheb Gorange (38) said that some residents were not only landless, but they did not have any documents either. "There are people residing here for generations, but till today, they neither have any document nor any piece of land to prove their existence," he told TOI.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/aurangabad/ahmednagar-village-first-in-india-to-pass-resolution-against-caa-nrc/articleshow/73887453.cms

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‘CAA has not opened gates for all Hindus or non-Muslims to enter India’

Feb 2, 2020

Well-known lawyer Firdos Mirza last Sunday told TOI that CAA is a threat to national security as it may allow even undesired elements to become Indian citizens. Supporting the law is Rajesh Jhambia hailing from Sindh province in Pakistan. He decided to settle here as minorities in Pakistan are ‘living under fear’. He sees the protests against CAA as politically motivated and feels there is misinformation against NRC

Rajesh Jhambia say he misses his native town of Ghotki in Sindh province of Pakistan as much as he finds himself safe in India. Leader of the community of Hindu immigrants from Pakistan at Nagpur, he claims that minorities are often in a hapless situation there. Heading the Sindhi Hindi Panchayat, Jhambia finds his people caught in cross fire amid protests against CAA-NRC. Majority of Hindu immigrants from Pakistan are from Sindh, he says.

He claims to have cleared the written test for joining Pakistan Air Force (PAF) but alleges that the interviewer bluntly said that the job was not meant for minorities.

Excerpts from the interview...

Q. Many Hindus like your family chose to live in Pakistan in 1947 even as the majority left for India. Why did you feel the need of leaving the country now, so many years after partition.

A. Recently, I decided to settle in India. The Sindh province always had a culture of religious tolerance. It changed after General Zia-ul-Haq took over, leading to radicalization of the society. The general Sindhi, irrespective of religion, is still peace loving, but certain elements mainly the clerics spread poison. Minorities began to be targeted from 1990s onwards and soon our women were under threat. Kidnapping of young girls for their forceful conversion and marriage became a regular affair. Finally, when it came to our women, we decided to leave the country rather than face the dishonour. Many of us were well-off financially, which also aroused envy ultimately leading to sectarian violence.

Q. Amid all the protests against CAA, how do you justify that it is really needed.

A. All of us are legal immigrants to India who were living on long-term visa (LTV) extending beyond five years. To get a visa of any country, one needs to have a valid passport of the other country. Our passports that expired after a period of five years were not easily renewed by the Pakistan authorities and many had to go back and lead a life under threat. After CAA, we can get citizenship even with an expired passport. We had been making representations before respective governments to ease the norms for us. Finally, it could happen in the BJP regime.

Q. How would the process work out now?

A. In 2014, the government eased the rules allowing LTVs to all those whose passports were valid till 2009. Now, the benefit has been extended to citizenship. It must be understood that CAA has not opened gates for all the Hindus or other non-Muslim to enter India. The gazette clearly says that CAA will cover the immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who have been living in India as on December 2014. This means no new entrants will benefit. The paper says that citizenship will be granted as per law, this means all of us will have to go through the procedure of security clearance by police and Intelligence Bureau (IB). This sets aside doubts that CAA will allow miscreants to enter India. Another important provision of CAA is that it reduces the period of stay in India to six years instead of 12 earlier.

Q. How do you see the protests against CAA?

A. It’s limited to a certain sect — mainly Muslims — and also appears to be politically motivated. Perhaps, CAA and NRC have given them a chance to vent their ire. Maybe, the community would have been branded as traitors if protests were taken out against removal of Article 370, Ayodhya issue or even Triple Talaaq. Now, none can object if they come out with Tricolors in hand.

Q. Leave aside CAA, don’t you think NRC will be unfair to Muslims?

A. You must know even Pakistan has gone through a NRC-like exercise, and we all had national identity cards (he shows one). Government of every country has a right to keep a count of population. Only after the national identity card exercise did Pakistan realize that it has a population of 20 crore. A lot of misinformation is being spread about NRC. Many think that they will be thrown away. I don’t think there is any reason to fear, except for those who are illegal immigrants indeed. Like a father has right to question his children, even the government has the right to ask its people their credentials.

Q. Should CAA not have included Muslims also?

A. Muslims already have 56 countries to seek refuge and in the three countries mentioned in CAA they don’t have any problem. As per law, they can still get Indian citizenship. No Muslim is or will be treated as second class citizen in India. Hindus were treated as second class in Pakistan and two other nations. I was denied a job despite qualifying for Pakistan air force.

Q. Don’t you think it’s vote bank politics?

A. A handful immigrants will hardly make any vote bank. Even in Nagpur there are around 3,500 immigrants in all.

Q. In Assam, there was a demand for NRC but not in majority of other states

A. May be many sneaked into other states from Assam.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/caa-has-not-opened-gates-for-all-hindus-or-non-muslims-to-enter-india/articleshow/73871274.cms

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Delhi: In the Third Shooting Incident Gunshots around 11.40 PM at Jamia Millia Islamia Again

Feb 3, 2020

NEW DELHI: In the third shooting incident near a site of anti-CAA protests in the capital in the past four days, two unidentified men on a scooty allegedly opened fire outside gate number 5 of the Jamia Millia Islamia late on Sunday night, according to students who raised an SOS call on several social media platforms around 11.40pm. No injuries were reported.

Gunshots at jamia

A statement issued by the Jamia Coordination Committee (JCC), a group comprising students and alumni of the varsity, said the miscreants was on a red scooty. Police sources said they scanned the location but could not find any empty shell there.

Students form human chain outside Jamia

There were different versions about the vehicles — some saying said it was a motorcycle, others a scooter. “We will conduct an inquiry into the incident and appropriate action will be taken as per law,” said Kumar Gyanesh, additional DCP South East.

Soon after the news of the shooting, hundreds of students gathered at the university gate, shouting slogans of Azadi and Inquilab Zindabad. “If they think this will scare us, I just want to say it won’t. We will continue our fight,” said one of the students. Several women from Shaheen Bagh also joined the protest for a night vigil.

Another student Prafool, who claimed to be an eyewitness, told TOI that they were managing traffic like every day when two people on a scooty wearing helmets appeared near gate number 5. “We heard a gunshot around 11.40pm. We tried to chase them but they fled on their vehicle and we couldn’t catch them because our way was blocked by an incoming car,” he said.

Jamia Nagar SHO reached the protest site soon after to pacify the students. “Give me some time and I will find out who the accused are. We have installed pickets from both sides and will carry out checking throughout the day,” he told protestors.

Danish Shaikh, member of JCC, said that several students saw the assailants and “a few of them took their bikes and scooters and chased after them till the Holy Family Hospital. Police assured us that they will take action in two hours but students are unhappy about the lack of security here.”

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/delhi-gunshots-at-jamia-millia-islamia-again-say-students/articleshow/73885199.cms

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Delhi Police not found any bullet shells near Jamia Millia Islamia University

Feb 3, 2020

NEW DELHI: Delhi Police has not found any bullet shells from the site near Jamia Millia Islamia University where the firing was reported on Sunday late night.

A case has been registered and an investigation is underway in the firing incident which was reported near gate no.5 at the university.

Earlier, ACP Jagdish Yadav said, "Statements have been recorded. On their basis, FIR has been registered under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) Section 307/34 and Section 27 of the Arms Act."

He said that a team will go to the spot and collect the CCTV footage from gate No.5 and 7.

"Further details which will come out will be included in the FIR. Action will be taken," the ACP said.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/delhi-police-not-found-any-bullet-shells-near-jamia-millia-islamia-university/articleshow/73890864.cms

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Bought pistol seven years ago, Shaheen Bagh shooter tells cops

Feb 3, 2020

NEW DELHI: The pistol used by 25-year-old Kapil Gurjar to open fire at the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protest site at Shaheen Bagh was acquired by him seven years ago. Gurjar told police that he had bought it for celebratory firing during his brother's wedding and had hidden it from his parents. However, he has been evading questions about where he bought the weapon.

Police are scanning through his Facebook profile to find out whether he was influenced by someone to carry out the attack. Gurjar's profile was deleted immediately after his arrest. His family's antecedents will also be analysed.

Meanwhile, a Delhi court sent Gurjar to two-day police custody. Police will verify his claims and also from where he procured his pistol.

The officer who interrogated Gurjar told TOI that he gave evasive replies when asked where he procured the pistol from. "He remained composed during the investigation, but did not cooperate much, giving multiple replies to the same question. Looking at his conversations and body language, Gurjar does not seem to be mentally disturbed," the officer said. However, Gurjar told one of the investigators, " Apne desh mein kab tak dab ke rahenge? (For how long will we live suppressed in our country)"

Gurjar's father told police he did not know about his son's plans or that he had a pistol.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/bought-pistol-seven-years-ago-shaheen-bagh-shooter-tells-cops/articleshow/73890259.cms

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Arrested terrorist ferried Jaish terrorists in December 2019 too: Officials

Feb 2, 2020

JAMMU/ SRINAGAR: Sameer Dar, the cousin of the February 2019 Pulwama suicide bomber Adil Dar, has told interrogators that he had dropped a batch of terrorists to the Valley in December last year, officials said here on Sunday, two days after the former was arrested while attempting to ferry Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists to Kashmir. Sameer was nabbed by police when he was trying to escape from Nagrota on Friday after Jaish terrorists opened fire on security forces.

Hailing from Kakpora area of Pulwama district in South Kashmir, Sameer confessed he had been successful in ferrying JeM terrorists to the Kashmir Valley last year and dropped them to Pulwama, the officials said.

Sameer claimed he was not aware about their whereabouts since but told the interrogators that they were carrying large ammunition including 'steel core bullets' -- which can pierce through a normal bullet-proof vehicle.

This has triggered an alarm bell within the security establishment especially Border Security Force (BSF), which guards the International Border with Pakistan, as the force has been maintaining in its inter-departmental meetings that there has been no infiltration from the border.

On February 14 last year, Sameer's cousin Adil blew himself in an explosive-laden car next to a CRPF bus killing 40 personnel.

Sameer told his interrogators that infiltration from across the border has been continuing and the militants were fanning in various parts of the South Kashmir especially in Pulwama and Tral areas, the officials said.

Sameer also told them that the terrorist were dropped at Kareemabad in South Kashmir. He also gave the details of the arms and ammunition being carried by the terrorists, indicating that the group also had M-4 carbine and ammunition of steel core bullets. The steel core bullet has the capability to pierce through a static bullet proof bunker used during counterterrorism operations, the officials said.

The first assault with such bullet was noticed on the New Year eve in 2017 when JeM terrorists had carried out a suicide attack on a CRPF camp in Lethpora in South Kashmir.

Five personnel of the paramilitary force were killed in the attack and one of them was hit by a bullet fatally eve though he was using a static bullet-proof shield provided by the Army, officials said.

A thorough inquiry into the attack showed that the bullet fired by the terrorist from the assault AK rifle was of steel core.

The AK bullets used in the armoury have a lead core covered with mild steel which cannot penetrate a bullet proof shield but after December 31, 2017 encounter and subsequent findings, the rules of the proxy-war changed, the officials said.

A detailed analysis of the previous suicide attacks was carried out.

The analysis of the terror attack on district police lines of Pulwama in South Kashmir in August 2017 showed that 'steel core' bullets had been used by the terrorists in that encounter with security personnel, the officials said.

Eight security personnel had lost their lives in the terror strike.

The ammunition, according to the officials, was being modified from across the border with the help of Chinese technology of encasing the bullet with hard steel core.

The officials said the terrorists carrying M-4 carbine used by the US-led allied forces in Afghanistan have been extensively trained by the Pakistan's external snooping agency ISI and could be used for carrying out sniper attacks in Kashmir Valley.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/arrested-militant-ferried-jaish-terrorists-in-december-2019-too-officials/articleshow/73870045.cms

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J&K DSP case: NIA raids multiple places in south Kashmir

Feb 2, 2020

SRINAGAR: The National Investigation Agency on Sunday morning carried out searches in connection with a case in which a senior Jammu and Kashmir police officer was arrested while ferrying terrorists outside the valley, officials said here.

Multiple NIA teams fanned in various parts of south Kashmir and carried out the searches at some private offices and residences, they said.

The NIA had taken over the case in which Jammu and Kashmir's Deputy Superintendent of Police Davinder Singh, who has since been suspended, was caught in south Kashmir while ferrying two terrorists out of the valley on January 11.

The searches come days after NIA officers interrogated all the accused arrested in the case.

Besides Singh, the others arrested were: Syed Naveed Mushtaq Ahmed alias Naveed Babu, who is a self-styled commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, Rafi Ahmed Rather and Irfan Shafi Mir, who claims to be an advocate.

They were arrested from the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway near Qazigund in South Kashmir.

Later, Naveed's brother, Syed Irfan Ahmed, was also arrested on January 23 after he was brought from Punjab.

He was in constant touch with his brother and had asked him to look for an accommodation in Chandigarh where they could escape the harsh winters months of Kashmir.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/jk-dsp-case-nia-raids-multiple-places-in-south-kashmir/articleshow/73864583.cms

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Delhi’s Muslim voters say the provocation is real but won’t fall for BJP game-plan

NEELAM PANDEY

3 February, 2020

New Delhi: For 24-year-old Izhar Hussain, an engineering student at Jamia Millia Islamia, these are difficult times. “There is an unsaid fear. The atmosphere is highly charged,” he says. “One never knows if the moment you ask the government to answer on jobs or the economy you might be called a ‘dangai (rioter)’.” 

It’s a common refrain among the Muslim community residing in different parts of Delhi ahead of assembly elections on 8 February.

“Without any proof they arrest students, and an image is created on social media that the person is a threat to India,” adds Hussain, a resident of Okhla.

“It is difficult to counter such things. It has only become worse but we have not lost our patience.”

The fear is not helped by the fact that there is no ‘visible’ support from political parties even as the BJP has upped the ante using the protests at Shaheen Bagh to polarise the capital’s electorate. From Home Minister Amit Shah to union ministers Anurag Thakur and Giriraj Singh, BJP leaders have minced no words in making Shaheen Bagh a poll plank.

“AAP is doing development work for us not because we are Muslims, but because we are citizens of this country and residents of Delhi,” Hussain adds.

“They have given us free electricity, water and our women can travel safely in public transport. This distinction is important.”

For 39-year-old Dilfan Ali Pasha, the current situation is the darkest moment for the country’s Muslims. But Shaheen Bagh and Muslims’ resilience against a discriminatory law give him hope that it’s not all over yet.

Pasha, however, is clear on how the elections will pan out. “BJP ke liye Dilli abhi door hai. They can continue with the Hindu-Muslim polarisation but people of Delhi have seen through the BJP’s game,” he says. “This is not the Delhi of 1992 nor is this Gujarat of 2002.”

Others say they are sure of the “BJP’s game-plan”.

“If they can implement the NRC (National Register of Citizens) in Assam, they can do it anywhere in the country. Now the BJP is claiming it never mentioned NRC and that CAA is not about Indian Muslims. Then why can’t they clarify it in Parliament?” asks Shehzaad Hussain, a resident of Sarita Vihar.

“If a student protests today, they label them as rioters and they create such an image that people end up believing it. They way they assaulted students of a university, that too in a library is unheard of. We as a community are angry over this treatment and the only way to answer them is through our votes.”

‘Don’t mind AAP’s silence’

The Muslim vote is an important one. Not only for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) but for the BJP too. Here’s why: To counter AAP on its governance plank, BJP leaders have been making provocative speeches in an alleged attempt to create Hindu-Muslim faultlines and polarise voters along communal lines.

The Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP, which got huge support of Muslim voters in the 2015 elections, doesn’t want to lose them this time but is also wary of openly extending support to protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) at Shaheen Bagh.

Many of the Muslims ThePrint spoke to, say they understand AAP’s “political compulsions”.

“If Kejriwal does or says anything now he runs the risk of losing out the Hindu vote. You can’t win elections by getting Muslim votes only,” says Tasneem Iqbal, a resident of Bharat Nagar in south Delhi.

“The Muslim community understands that, and which is why we are not perturbed by his silence. It is an election and to counter the BJP you have to resort to such tactics.”  

His sentiment is echoed by others too. “Delhi voters understand the value of a vote and will not waste it. They won’t fall for this Hindu-Muslim rhetoric,” says Pasha. “As far as Muslim voters are concerned, we are clear about AAP and its governance plank.”

A number of Muslim voters also feel that it is probably the first time that Delhi elections have become so overtly communal. Aware of this reality, they don’t want to “waste” their vote on Congress, which they say is nowhere in the game.

“Congress is nowhere in the fight, so why would I waste my vote on the party,” says Mohammed Yameen, a 40-year-old AC technician from Bharat Nagar. “With AAP, Sisodia has made it clear that he backs protesters at Shaheen Bagh. Kejriwal is quiet because of the elections.”

Many also feel, the BJP has only become emboldened in its second innings, which is reflecting in its daily politics.

“Things were still fine during Modi’s first tenure but it seems that power first got to their heads with the kind of majority they got in 2019 and then, after a string of electoral setbacks, they are resorting to polarisation techniques,” says Hussain, the student from Okhla.

“They tried to provoke Muslims through Triple Talaq, then Article 370 and then thought we would react on the Ayodhya judgment. But when they got no response they used their most lethal weapon — CAA and NRC,” he adds. “How can you exclude one religion? The Constitution doesn’t allow that… We will fight for our rights.” 

The Delhi Muslim vote

Muslims constitute around 13 per cent of Delhi’s population. They are estimated to be over 50 per cent in five of the 70 assembly constituencies — Ballimaran, Matia Mahal, Mustafabad, Okhla and Seelampur. AAP has fielded all Muslim candidates on these seats.

They include Shoaib Iqbal at Matia Mahal assembly seat, Imran Hussain at Ballimaran, Amanatullah Khan at Okhla, Haji Yunus at Mustafabad and Abdul Rehman at Seelampur.

There are around seven more constituencies where the Muslim population is between 30 to 50 per cent — Shahdara, Babarpur, Seemapuri, Sadar Bazar, Nand Nagri, Kirari and Chandni Chowk.

The BJP doesn’t have a single Muslim candidate in the Delhi elections.

Its leaders are hopeful that the Muslim vote will get divided between AAP and Congress and benefit them electorally.

“The Muslim voter is not going to give us a chance. They will not vote for us, and we are aware of that. The seats that are completely Muslim-dominated, we know our candidate will not be able to match up,” a senior BJP leader said.

Full report at:

https://theprint.in/politics/delhis-muslim-voters-say-the-provocation-is-real-but-wont-fall-for-bjp-game-plan/357842/

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Delhi Police start probe into Sunday’s shooting near Jamia University

Feb 03, 2020

Delhi Police have begun an investigation into the alleged firing incident outside the Jamia Millia Islamia University in south Delhi on Sunday night, the third such incident in four days at an anti-citizenship act protest site in the Capital.

Eyewitnesses said two men came on a scooter from Okhla and moved towards Jullena and opened fire outside Gate No 5 and then Gate number 1. No one was injured in the shooting.

A 23-year-old man was arrested on Saturday after he fired two rounds in the air at the Shaheen Bagh, which has emerged as the heart of protests against the amended citizenship law.

Before that, a 17-year-old boy was arrested after he fired and injured a student who was at the anti-CAA protest site in Jamia University.

In both these cases, the shooters are alleged to have been shouted right-wing Hindu supremacists slogans when shooting.

The shootings came in quick succession after Union minister of state for finance Anurag Thakur was allegedly heard prompting the crowd during an election rally, saying “desh ke gaddaron ko... (traitors of the country...),” to which the crowd responded with “goli maaron … (shoot them...)”.

Union home minister had issued a strong statement condemning the incidents on Twitter. The Delhi Police report to the Union home ministry.

Shah said in a tweet that he had spoken to Delhi Police commissioner after the juvenile fired at students in Jamia area and said the guilty will not be spared.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/delhi-police-start-probe-into-sunday-s-shooting-near-jamia-university/story-MDow6aRZK5ObdEc45IAn4N.html

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ISI used same set of social media IDs to trap sailors, finds NIA investigation

Neeraj Chauhan

Feb 03, 2020

The National Investigation Agency (NIA)’s initial probe into the naval spy ring busted in December has found that Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), used the same set of social media accounts to honey trap sailors and paid them very small amounts of money, officials familiar with the matter said.

As of now, the agency has found that no sensitive information could have been leaked to the ISI since the navy personnel did not have access to any classified information, the officials added. But the further inquiry is on to ascertain if any specifics of naval vessels or submarines of Vishakhapatnam’s Eastern Naval Command or Western command in Mumbai were shared with the ISI. Most of the personnel under probe had joined the navy after 2015. Other suspicious cases are also being checked, the officials said.

As many as 10 sailors have been arrested since the espionage racket was busted on December 20 in a joint operation of the Andhra Pradesh police and central intelligence agencies.

The NIA suspects there could be more navy personnel in the lower ranks, who were honey-trapped.

“It appears that a particular set of women working as Pakistani agents, most likely based in a third country, were using these Facebook and other social media accounts to get in touch with the navy personnel. Once they befriended the personnel, they were either blackmailed or some willingly started bragging about their work, job profile,” said one of the officials cited above.

The agency is in the process of sending Letters Rogatory or judicial request for seeking information from foreign jurisdictions to the United States for information on the Facebook accounts used to honey-trap the personnel.

The official said the money paid to the sailors was not very big. “Small amounts like ~ 5,000 to ~10,000 were paid to the navy personnel through a hawala dealer.

We are further checking everyone’s accounts and personal investments,” he added.

The “handler” of the Pakistani agents, who was trying to penetrate the Indian naval installation through its personnel, is yet to be identified.

It is suspected that both eastern and western naval command centre responsible for the security of the maritime borders with Pakistan were exposed to the Pakistani agents.

After the spy ring was busted, the navy had asked all its personnel on-board warships, dockyards and naval bases to keep themselves away from social media and smartphones.

Earlier, in a similar espionage case probed by the NIA, the agency in April 2018 put Pakistani diplomat Amir Zubair Siddiqui posted as visa counsellor in the Pakistani High Commission in Colombo on its wanted list along with two other senior Pakistani officers for conspiring to launch 26/11-type attacks on US and Israeli consulates besides army and navy commands in south India in 2014.

Siddiqui was even charged by the NIA in February 2018 for planning attacks on vital installations in Chennai and other places in south India with the help of his agents.

Siddiqui allegedly hired Sri Lankan national Muhammed Sakir Hussaien and others, including Arun Selvaraj, Sivabalan and Thameem Ansari, all of whom were arrested by Indian agencies.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/isi-used-same-set-of-social-media-ids-to-trap-sailors-finds-nia-investigation/story-9YMrYjLcWr6LLNl4A2EETP.html

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South Asia

 

Abdullah signs decree to stop Ghani’s recent reform order

02 Feb 2020

President Mohammad Ashrafi Ghani’s main partner at the National Unity Government of Afghanistan, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah signed a decree to stop President Ghani’s recent reform order.

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has recently assigned a committee at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) to review the employment records and reform the Ministry according to a package approved by the President.

Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) signed a decree on Sunday, ordering the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to prevent any kind of reform on the eve of the election results announcement.

According to the National Unity Government’s agreement document and for the sake of preserving state’s prestige and the national interest of the country, at this critical juncture, on the eve of the announcement of the election results, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is ordered to strictly avoid any hasty implementation under the name of reforms.From the decree issued on Sunday, February 2, 2020

Shah Hussain Murtazawi, advisor to President Ghani has said that Abdullah Abdullah has been a barrier to the reform.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been transformed into a place for wealthy families and the Reform must open the way for poor”, Murtazawi tweeted.

This comes as President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has recently been accused of appointing government officials in contrast to the NUG’s agreement, which has upset his partner Abdullah Abdullah.

Fardin Barmaki, an Afghan diplomat based in Prague complained of injustice at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and accused President of illegal appointments which are based on favoritism.

Fardin Barmaki, the second secretary and the in-charge of Aghanistan’s consulate in Prague, in a letter sent to Khaama Press, said that he and several of his colleagues have been recalled back to the Ministry before ending their service period.

“The Termination of my duty before end of the service period is a clear violation of the diplomatic and consulate regulations and administrative procedures,” Fardin said.

https://www.khaama.com/abdullah-signs-decree-to-stop-ghanis-recent-reform-order-879080/

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What has Khalilzad discussed with the Afghan politicians?

03 Feb 2020

US peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Kabul on Saturday to meet the Afghan leaders and politicians.

Khalilzad met President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, the former President Hamid Karzai, the Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah, and some other prominent politicians.

Antithesis statements were published about these meetings by the Palace and Karzai’s office.

‘No agreement has been made in discussions with the Taliban yet, the Presidential palace quoted Khalilzad.

However, another statement published by Karzai’s office said that Khalilzad was happy with the progress of the peace talks with the Taliban and he hopes the results are fruitful.

On the other hand, an informed and reliable source close to Abdullah Abdullah told Khaama Press new stories about the meeting between the US peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad and prominent Afghan politicians including Abdullah.

Khalilzad has briefed Abdullah and his electoral team on five key issues including US-Taliban deal conditions, reduction in violence and ceasefire, the continuation of NUG until the final election results are announced, creating a national consensus for the success of the peace process and support of the United States from a transparent election result, the source who did not want to be named in the report said.

According to the source, US peace delegation and the Taliban have discussed over four key conditions which are the elimination of terrorism in Afghanistan and the commitment that the soil is not used against the United States of America, Intra-Afghan talks on the future government’s structure, violence reduction and ceasefire and US forces withdrawal commitments.

“Violence reduction and the ceasefire are key issues but are not possible before the US-Taliban deal is signed”, the source said quoting Khalilzad.

Afghanistan is in a critical situation, the US supports transparent election results and the National Unity Government between Ghani and Abdullah shall remain at its place until the final election results are announced, Khalilzad has said according to the source.

The US Embassy in Kabul announced the conclusion of Khalilzad’s meeting on Sunday evening with the release of a statement but did not provide further details about the discussions.

Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and an interagency team concluded a productive visit to Afghanistan on February 2, the statement said.

Ambassador Khalilzad continued his ongoing consultations with Government of National Unity leaders President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah on U.S. efforts to facilitate a political settlement to end the war. They also discussed recent efforts by the United States to negotiate a reduction of violence with the Taliban to pave the way for a U.S.-Taliban agreement, intra-Afghan negotiations, and a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire in support of a sustainable peace. From the press release by the US Embassy, Kabul

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/what-has-khalilzad-discussed-with-the-afghan-politicians-8790709/

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US envoy discusses peace deal progresses with Afghan leaders

02 Feb 2020

US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad met Afghan leaders including President Ghani, CEO Abdullah, Ex-President Hamid Karzai, and elders after discussing peace progresses with Pakistan officials.

Khalilzad arrived in Kabul on Saturday and briefed President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani on the discussions and progresses made about the Afghan peace process.

A statement published by the presidential Office said the US envoy briefed Afghan President on discussion with the Taliban and his recent meeting with the Taliban officials.

“We are waiting for a clear answer from the Taliban about a ceasefire or lasting reduction in violence based on a working mechanism which is acceptable to the people of Afghanistan and the US government,” the Palace quoted Khalilzad.

No agreement has been made in discussions with the Taliban yet, Khalilzad said according to the statement published by the Palace.

Khalilzad also met the former President Hamid Karzai on Sunday wherein, Karzai urged for more seriousness and speeding up the US, Taliban talks to reach an agreement.

According to a statement by Karzai’s office, Khalilzad is happy with the progress of the peace talks with the Taliban and he hopes the results are fruitful.

The US Embassy in Kabul announced the conclusion of Zalmay Khalilzad’s trip to Kabul on Sunday evening.

“Ambassador Khalilzad continued his ongoing consultations with Government of National Unity leaders President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah on U.S. efforts to facilitate a political settlement to end the war. They also discussed recent efforts by the United States to negotiate a reduction of violence with the Taliban to pave the way for a U.S.-Taliban agreement, intra-Afghan negotiations, and a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire in support of sustainable peace”, US Embassy statement said.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/us-envoy-discusses-peace-deal-progresses-with-afghan-leaders-8790876/

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Arab World

 

Iraqi protesters dig in their heels, reject PM-designate

February 03, 2020

BAGHDAD: Furious anti-government youth dug in their heels in Iraq’s capital and south on Sunday, rejecting the previous evening’s nomination of Mohammad Allawi as premier after months of demonstrations and political paralysis.

Allawi was named prime minister-designate after a hard-won consensus among Iraq’s rival parties, who had struggled to agree on a candidate since outgoing premier Adel Abdel Mahdi resigned under growing street pressure two months ago.

Mass rallies have rocked Baghdad and the mainly-Shia south since October, with protesters demanding snap elections and an independent prime minister as well as accountability for corruption and recent bloodshed.

Young demonstrators have expressed contempt for the ruling elite and on Sunday, they slammed Allawi — a former lawmaker and minister — as part and parcel of the system they want to overhaul.

“We are here to reject the new prime minister because he has a well-known history within the political class,” said 22-year-old university student Tiba protesting in Baghdad.

Hundreds of students flooded the streets around the capital’s main protest camp of Tahrir Square, carrying pictures of Allawi with an “X” over his face.

They blared upbeat Arabic music through speakers, trying to drown out the somber Islamic hymns played by demonstrators loyal to populist cleric Moqtada Sadr.

Sadr backed the protests in October but has split with the main movement over Allawi, whose designation he welcomed as a “good step”.

After his endorsement, Sadr’s supporters — identifiable by their blue caps — rushed into the multistorey building known as the Turkish restaurant.

The structure had become a symbol of the uprising, featuring portraits of young men shot dead in the rallies and huge banners listing reforms protesters wanted to see.

By Sunday, those banners were gone and Sadr posted new tweets condemning student sit-ins and road closures — the two main tactics used by anti-government demonstrators.

“The revolution must go back to being restrained and peaceful,” Sadr wrote on Twitter.

Despite his appeal, angry protesters in the holy city of Najaf blocked roads with burning tyres and held up a sign that read, “Mohammad Allawi is rejected, by order of the people!” In Diwaniyah, further south, protesters marched into government buildings to demand they close for the day while students began sit-ins at schools and universities.

“Naming Mohammad Allawi is a mockery,” one demonstrator said.

“It represents a total disregard for those killed in the protests and for the demands of the Iraqi people who have been demonstrating for four months to reject parties affiliated with Iran,” the demonstrator said.

In addition to their calls for better services and an end to government graft, demonstrators have accused Iraq’s ruling elite of being beholden to powerful neighbour Iran.

Tehran has seen its influence grow in Iraq since the US-led invasion that toppled ex-dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Allawi, 65, launched his political career in the aftermath of the invasion, first as a parliamentarian and then twice as communications minister under former premier Nuri al-Maliki.

But he resigned both times, accusing Maliki of turning a blind eye to graft in a country considered among the top 20 most corrupt in the world by Transparency International.

His appointment came after days of crisis talks prompted by President Barham Saleh, who said he would select his own candidate if Iraq’s parliamentary blocs did not nominate someone by Saturday.

The negotiations were very secretive and it remains unclear what finally unlocked a deal, but on Saturday evening Allawi announced his own nomination in a video posted to Twitter.

There was no official statement from Saleh, but Abdel Mahdi congratulated his successor and the pair pledged to meet soon to ensure a smooth transition.

In his first public remarks, Allawi vowed to form a representative government, hold early parliamentary elections and ensure justice for protest-related violence.

More than 480 people have died and nearly 30,000 have been wounded since the rallies began on October 1, but few have been held accountable for the bloodshed.

Allawi has one month to form a government, but ensuring an independent line-up may prove a challenge, said Sajad Jiyad of the Iraq-based think tank the Bayan Center.

“If we’ve learned anything from the previous PM, it’s that this is the most difficult part: pushing back against the political blocs’ demands,” Jiyad said.

In Iraq, cabinets are typically formed after complex horsetrading whereby parties demand lucrative and influential ministerial posts based on their share of parliament.

If Allawi fails to resist ministerial candidates proposed by parties, “it will back up what protesters are saying” about his allegiance to the factions, Jiyad added.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1532197/iraqi-protesters-dig-in-their-heels-reject-pm-designate

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Six injured in protests in front of US Embassy in Lebanon

2 February 2020

Demonstrators gathered in front of the US Embassy in Lebanon on Sunday to protest US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, Lebanese media agencies reported.

At least six people were injured when security forces sprayed demonstrators with pepper spray in the vicinity of the embassy.

Demonstrators threw rocks at security forces, according to reports.

Earlier Sunday there was a heightened security presence around the embassy as demonstrations were expected.

Trump revealed on Thursday his plan aimed at resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict, which was rejected by many world leaders including those part of the Arab League.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/02/Six-injured-in-protests-in-front-of-US-Embassy-in-Lebanon-.html

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Iraqi cleric Sadr tells followers to clear sit-ins after PM appointed

2 February 2020

Populist Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr urged his followers on Sunday to help security forces clear roads blocked during months of sit-in protests, calling for "day-to-day life" to resume following the appointment of a new prime minister.

Sadr, who has alternately sided with the anti-government protesters and the Iran-backed political groups they reject, urged his unarmed supporters known as "blue hats" to work with authorities to ensure schools and businesses can operate normally again.

"I advise the security forces to stop anyone from cutting off roads and the ministry of education should punish those who obstruct regular working hours, be they students, teachers or others," Sadr said in a statement published on Twitter.

Some of his followers appeared to have helped already to clear out protest areas in Baghdad's Tahrir Square overnight, a Reuters reporter said.

The Turkish Restaurant, a tall building occupied by demonstrators since October, was mostly empty and the blue hats stood guard with walkie-talkies outside it.

Anti-government protests continued nearby, with demonstrators directing their ire towards new Prime Minister Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi, who was named on Saturday as part of a deal between Sadr and rival Iran-backed political groups.

Protesters demanding the removal of Iraq's ruling elite and the creation of better jobs and services have regularly blocked main roads in Baghdad and southern Iraq since demonstrations erupted in October.

A political opportunist, Sadr has directed anti-government unrest in previous years but he has not been able to control this round of demonstrations and many protesters oppose him as much as the rest of the political class.

Saturday's appointment of Allawi resulted from a deal following two months of wrangling between Sadr and pro-Iran parties, sources close to outgoing premier Adel Abdul Mahdi said.

Abdul Mahdi resigned in November under pressure from the street protests.

Sadr's supporters had previously bolstered the protesters and sometimes helped shield them from attacks by security forces and unidentified gunmen.

But they withdrew from the main sit-in camps at his request earlier this month, and even attacked protesters in Tahrir Square, the main protest camp in the capital, hours before Allawi's designation on Saturday.

Many protesters, including some of his own supporters who had joined demonstrations, accused him of abandoning their cause.

Many of Sadr's supporters hail from eastern Baghdad slums and share the same grievances as many Iraqis - no work opportunities, poor healthcare and education.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/02/Iraqi-cleric-Sadr-tells-followers-to-clear-sit-ins-after-PM-appointed.html

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Large Turkish military convoys enter Syria as Ankara-Moscow tensions rise

2 February 2020

Three Turkish military convoys entered Syrian territory from the Kafrlosin border crossing, according to a Syrian war monitor, two days after President Erdogan said Turkey may launch a military operation in Idlib.

The first convoy consists of 40 tanks, armored vehicles, troop carriers, and military and logistic equipment, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The three convoys are heading toward Idlib and Aleppo, the Observatory said, amid reports that Ankara will militarize the Aleppo-Latakia road in a sign of rising tensions between the two countries supporting opposing sides of the Syrian conflict.

Russian airstrikes on Syria

Russian airstrikes were heard in a town in the southwest of Aleppo province, which the first Turkish convoy reportedly entered, according to the Observatory.

The airstrikes killed at least 14 civilians in the northwestern region on Sunday, seven of whom are members of one family, the Syrian Observatory reported.

Turkey has 12 military observation posts around Idlib, set up under a 2017 agreement with Russia and Iran. Several of them have since been surrounded by advancing Syrian regime forces.

Erdogan accuses Russia, which backs the Syrian regime, of violating agreements to reduce the fighting in Idlib, a charge Moscow denied on Friday.

Turkish military operation

The Turkish President said on Friday that Turkey may launch a military operation in Syria’s Idlib region unless fighting there is “quickly halted.”

On Friday, regime forces battled extremists and moderate opposition forces on the outskirts of Idlib’s Saraqib, which has been nearly deserted following two weeks of heightened bombardment, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The fighting in Idlib and in western Aleppo over the past week has killed 205 pro-government fighters and 220 anti-regime combatants, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Idlib significance

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, backed by Russian airpower, have made rapid advances in the Idlib region, the last major opposition-held stronghold in Syria’s nearly nine-year war – which began after the Syrian regime’s brutal oppression of peaceful protests demanding reform and regime change.

If Saraqib falls in the hands of the government, it would be the second strategic town in Idlib province, after Maarat al-Numan, to be recaptured by regime troops this week.

The region is home to around three million people, half of whom have been evacuated by Assad’s forces from other parts of the country after the Syrian regime besieged whole cities which were controlled by the opposition and bombarded them with Russian airstrikes.

Armed factions controlling the opposition’s last bastion include extremists, whom the Syrian regime and Russia claim they are fighting.

The Assad-Russian campaign on Idlib has displaced hundreds of thousands of people, posing a risk of a new refugee wave on bordering Turkey, which backs factions of the Syrian armed opposition.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/02/Ankara-Moscow-tensions-rise-as-Turkish-military-convoy-enters-Syria-.html

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Egypt begins evacuation of 300 students out of China's coronavirus epicenter

2 February 2020

Egypt started the evacuation process of 300 students out of China’s coronavirus epicenter Wuhan, according to Al Arabiya sources.

Wuhan, in China’s Hubei province, has become the epicenter of a virus outbreak which has killed at least 304 and infected 14,000 people.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/02/Egypt-begins-evacuation-of-300-students-out-of-China-s-coronavirus-epicenter.html

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Protest held near US embassy in Lebanon against Trump Mideast plan

02 February 2020

People in Lebanon have held a protest rally near the US embassy in capital Beirut to express their dissent against American President Donald Trump's Middle East plan, known as the so-called deal of the century, on Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

On Sunday, protesters, both Palestinian refugees and Lebanese, chanted anti-US and anti-Israel slogans and waved flags near the US diplomatic mission in Beirut’s northeast district of Awkar. They tried to reach the embassy but were stopped as security forces blocked a road to the compound.

“The ‘deal of the century’ shall not pass,” read a huge banner in the colors of the Palestinian flag carried by protesters on Sunday, referring to the so-called peace plan.

A number of demonstrators even attempted to dismantle a razor-wire barrier.

A call to hold a protest rally circulating on social media in Lebanon branded the Trump’s scheme as “the deal of shame.”

Trump unveiled his self-proclaimed “deal of the century” during an event at the White House alongside Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in Washington on Tuesday.

All Palestinian groups have unanimously rejected the American president’s highly-provocative initiative that largely meets Israel’s demands in the decades-old conflict while creating a Palestinian state with limited control over its own security and borders.

It enshrines Jerusalem al-Quds as “Israel’s undivided capital” and allows the regime to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank and the Jordan Valley. The plan also denies the right of return of Palestinian refugees into their homeland, among other controversial terms.

The protest rally came a day after the Palestinian Authority (PA), led by Mahmoud Abbas, cut all ties with Washington and Tel Aviv, including those relating to security, after strongly rejecting Trump’s proposal.

Abbas announced the decision while in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, to address an emergency meeting of the Arab League, which also rejected the proposal, citing its unfairness to the Palestinian cause.

“I came here to defend my rights and those of my children as Palestinians,” said a Palestinian refugee living in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, adding, “We will not accept handing over our land.”

According to a one-off census by the Lebanese government in 2017, some 174,000 Palestinian refugees live in 12 camps across the small Arab country.

The refugees began coming to Lebanon after Israel was forged in 1948, setting up camps, which gradually turned into bustling urban districts.

Palestinian refugees face tough living conditions and are barred from taking certain jobs.

“The right to return is an individual and collective right,” read another protest sign carried by protesters on Sunday.

Palestinians had already stopped recognizing any intermediary role by Washington in late 2017, when Trump recognized the holy city of Jerusalem al-Quds in the Tel Aviv-occupied West Bank as the Israeli “capital.”

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/02/617719/Lebanon-protest-Palestine-US-Trump-Israel-deal-of-century

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Syrian troops liberate more towns, villages in Idlib, Aleppo

02 February 2020

The Syrian army has retaken control of three more villages in the northwestern Idlib province as part of an operation to liberate the last major terrorist-held territory in the Arab country.

Syria’s official news agency SANA reported on Sunday that the government forces liberated the villages of Inqrati, Kafr Battikh and Kafr Dadikh after inflicting heavy losses on foreign-backed Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists southwest of the city of Saraqib in Idlib.

This came after the Syrian army retook control of Louf and Qamhana villages in Idlib.

Also on Friday, the Syrian soldiers recaptured the town of Hish as well as the villages of Ameria, Kafr Mazdah, Tabish, killing and injuring score of terrorists.

This week, Syrian troops, backed by Russia's air cover, made rapid advances in Idlib liberating the city of Ma'arat al-Nu'man, which is situated 100 kilometers southwest of the militant-controlled city of al-Bab.

The Syrian forces are advancing against foreign-backed Takfiri militants in Idlib, tightening the noose in their last major stronghold.

Syria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates wrote to the United Nations on January 25, stressing that the operation in Idlib and Aleppo against Takfiri elements "will not stop until the elimination of those terrorists, who threaten safety and security of Syrian civilians."

Syrian army forces advance in Aleppo

The Syrian troops on Sunday also managed to liberate Khalsa village in the southern countryside of the country’s northwestern province of Aleppo after eliminating the Takfiri terrorists there.

They had liberated the strategic town of Khan Tuman in Aleppo on Wednesday after fierce clashes with members of the Takfiri Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) terrorist group.

The group is a coalition of different factions of terror outfits largely composed of the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham Takfiri terrorist group, formerly known as al-Nusra Front.

The capture of Khan Tuman now enables the Syrian army to secure areas lying on the 450-kilometer-long M5 highway that crosses the country from north to south, from Aleppo to the border with Jordan.

Idlib and the area north of Aleppo Province form part of the only large territory in the hands of terrorists after the Syrian military managed to vanquish the foreign-backed terrorists across the country and bring back almost all of the Syrian soil under government control.

The Syrian army declared the start of Idlib anti-terror operation in August.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/02/617711/Syria-army-Idlib-Takfiri-militants-Aleppo-villages-Khan-Tuman-offensive

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Armed men blow up Israel-Egypt gas pipeline in Northern Sinai

02 February 2020

Armed men have blown up a gas pipeline connecting Israel to Egypt, according to media reports.

Al Jazeera's Arabic-language news channel cited local sources as saying that the sabotage operation took place in the Sinai's Bir el-Abd region on Sunday evening.

The report did not provide any further information regarding possible motives or identities behind the attack. Israeli follow-up reports have claimed that the pipeline remains "functional" and that the incident is under investigation.

The attack comes after Israel started exporting natural gas from the "Leviathan" natural gas field off the coast of occupied Palestine into Egypt on January 15.

The new gas pipeline has been described by Israeli officials to be of strategic importance for the Israeli regime which is largely isolated in the region.

Israel had been previously importing gas from Egypt until Cairo canceled the exports in 2012 after a series of explosions targeted gas export operations to Israel in the first six months of 2011.

Tel Aviv's multi-billion-dollar gas deal with Amman has also prompted numerous protest rallies in Jordan in recent months. In December, unidentified people torched infrastructure related to the Israeli gas exports in Irbid, northern Jordan.

The reports regarding Sunday's attack come as regional tensions have been running high after United States President Donald Trump unveiled the so-called "deal of the century" alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week.

The US-Israeli initiative enshrines Jerusalem al-Quds as “Israel’s undivided capital” and allows the regime to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank and the Jordan Valley.

The plan also denies the right of return of Palestinian refugees into their homeland, among other controversial terms.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/02/617740/Explosion-Israel-Egypt-gas-pipeline

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Syrian shelling kills four Turkish soldiers in Idlib

February 03, 2020

ISTANBUL: Four Turkish soldiers were killed and nine wounded, one of them seriously, in intense shelling by Syrian government forces in Syria’s northwestern Idlib region on Monday, the Turkish defense ministry said.

Turkish forces retaliated immediately, destroying targets in the Idlib region, the ministry said in a written statement.

President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would continue retaliating against attacks on its forces in the region.

“We have responded in kind to these attacks and will continue to do so, whether it is with our artillery or mortars. We are determined to continue our operations for the security of our country, people and our brothers in Idlib,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul.

“Those who question our determination will soon understand they made a mistake,” he added.

Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces, backed by Russian air power, have recently made advances in Idlib and Erdogan said on Friday that Turkey might launch a military operation in the area if fighting continued.

Turkey, which already hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees, fears a fresh wave of migrants from Idlib.

It has 12 military observation posts around the region, set up under a 2017 agreement with Russia and Iran. Several of them have since been surrounded by advancing Syrian government forces.

The shelling by Syrian government forces was carried out “against our elements sent as reinforcements to prevent clashes in Idlib, despite their positions being coordinated beforehand,” the Turkish defense ministry statement said.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1622106/middle-east

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Mideast

 

No place for Israel to be established on Palestinian lands: Top Hezbollah official

02 February 2020

A high-ranking official of Lebanon’s resistance movement, Hezbollah, says there is no place for Israel within the recognized borders of Palestinian lands, dismissing US President Donald Trump’s so-called deal of the century on the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict as “void and unsuccessful.”

“The (so-called) deal of the century is a void and unsuccessful plan. Trump crafted it only for the sake of electoral gain in America and to help (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu secure more votes inside occupied Palestinian territories,” Hezbollah's Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem said on Sunday.

He added that the Palestinian nation together with resistance movements in the region will not let the deal proceed, and will not allow the Tel Aviv regime to occupy Palestinian lands and legitimize its occupation concurrently.

“There is no place for Israel within recognized borders. The only place for Palestine to be established is the entire Palestinian soil from the river to the sea, with (the entire Jerusalem) al-Quds as its capital and not simply its eastern sector. We believe such an ideal will materialize, but it needs some sacrifices and time,” Sheikh Qassem pointed out.

“While some people have described the (so-called) deal of the century as a grave calamity, it is also such an unjust and dangerous plan that neither Palestinians nor Arab and world leaders have agreed to it, and have termed it as not viable. This proves that it is a dangerous deal and not suitable for the resolution of the Palestinian issue,” the top Hezbollah official added.

On Tuesday, 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".

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/2020/02/02/617721/No-place-for-Israel-to-be-established-on-Palestinian-lands:-Top-Hezbollah-official

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Japan destroyer heads to Middle East as Iran-US tension lingers

2 February 2020

Japan sent a naval destroyer to the Middle East on Sunday for a rare overseas mission to ensure the safety of its ships amid lingering tension between Iran and the US.

The vessel left the Yokosuka naval base, south of Tokyo, for an information gathering mission in the Gulf of Oman, northern parts of the Arabian Sea and parts of the Gulf of Aden.

Japan earlier decided not to take part in the US-led Operation Sentinel to protect shipping routes in the region.

“Securing safety of vessels related to Japan is an important duty of the government,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the crew members of the 4,650-ton ship -- the Takanami -- as it readied to leave port.

Energy-poor Japan has traditionally enjoyed warm ties with Middle Eastern countries, including Iran, as the world’s third largest economy relies heavily on energy from the resource-rich region.

Abe has held a series of meetings with Middle Eastern leaders over the last year, including Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani, in an attempt to calm the soaring tension between Washington and Tehran.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/02/02/Japan-destroyer-heads-to-Middle-East-as-Iran-US-tension-lingers-.html

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Shameful ‘deal of century’ doomed to fail like its predecessors: IRGC cmdr

02 February 2020

The commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has blasted US President Donald Trump’s so-called deal of the century on Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying the “shameful” plot is doomed to failure just as Washington’s previous attempts.

In a phone conversation with the leaders of Palestinian resistance groups on Sunday, Brigadier General Esmaeil Qaani reaffirmed the Islamic Republic’s strong support for the oppressed Palestinians in the face of Trump’s so-called peace plan and the plots that aims to target Palestinians’ historical rights, saying that the “shameful deal of the century is dead on arrival and just as previous peace plans, it is doomed to fail.”

Stressing that Iran’s policy of providing overwhelming support for the Palestinian resistance has not changed, particularly after the US assassination of top Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani, in Iraq, Qaani said, “We will stand with the Palestinian nation and the axis of resistance till the collapse of the US and Zionism.”

The Quds Force commander added, “American statesmen only seek to appease Zionist criminals and will spare no crime and act of treason to this end.”

'Palestinian groups will foil the deal'

During the phone call with the commander of the IRGC's Quds Force, Ziad al-Nakhala, secretary general of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement, expressed gratitude for the Islamic Republic’s stance on supporting the Palestinian nation and resistance groups, saying, “The Palestinian nation and resistance groups will foil the so-called deal of the century and the entire plots against Palestine’s historical rights.”

Al-Nakhala added that the “Palestinian nation has no other option but resistance against this disgraceful deal.”

Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Political Bureau of Palestinian resistance movement, Hamas, said for his part that all “Palestinian groups are unanimous in their rejection of the despicable plan, the so-called deal of the century.

Haniyeh added that the Islamic Republic of Iran’s positions and approaches in support of the Palestinian resistance "will boost our morale and determination for the liberation of Palestine.”

Defying international outcry, Trump on Tuesday announced the general provisions of the plan at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side.

The scheme — which all Palestinian groups have unanimously rejected — largely meets Israel’s demands in the decades-old conflict, while creating a Palestinian state with limited control over its own security and borders.

It enshrines Jerusalem al-Quds as “Israel’s undivided capital” and allows the regime to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank and the Jordan Valley, among other controversial terms.

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

Thousands of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip poured out onto the street in immediate condemnation of the plan.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/02/617725/IRGC-Quds-Force-Esmaeil-Qa'ani-deal-century-conflict-Palestinian-resistance-groups

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Palestinians in Gaza hold conference against Trump Mideast plan

02 February 2020

Ashraf Shannon

During a national conference held in the blockaded Gaza Strip, Palestinian resistance groups and people from all walks of life slammed Donald Trump’s so-called deal of the century.

Hundreds of people attended the event titled “the Deal of the century will fail”. The announcement of the one-sided deal came only six months after the Bahrain economic workshop in the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom which introduced the economic part of Trump’s proposal.

Palestinians have held rallies against the US administration over the past days. Trump’s so-called deal also prompted angry reactions from pro Palestinian activists around the world.

During the national conference participants slammed the US administration plots against Jerusalem al-Quds and the issue of Palestinian refugees. Some believe the so-called deal of the century is mainly a desperate booster shot for Netanyahu and Trump to stay in power.

In its final communiqué the national conference announced the formation of a Higher National Committee against the so-called deal of the century.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/02/617733/Palestine-Gaza-conference-Trump-Deal-of-Century

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Iranians must have ‘right to choose’ at polls: Rouhani

3 February 2020

Iranians must have the “right to choose” between different political movements, President Hassan Rouhani said Sunday, as controversy grows over the disqualification of thousands of candidates in upcoming polls.

Speaking at the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini during annual celebrations of the 1979 revolution, Rouhani praised the political heritage of the Islamic republic’s founder.

“The imam (Khomeini) insisted on the fact that people must participate in all elections and have the right to choose”, Rouhani said during the address, broadcast on state television.

“Whoever prevents people from choosing, and does not allow them to choose between different (political) tendencies, and whoever discourages people from going to the polls, is certainly far from the approach of the imam”, he added, surrounded by members of the government.

Controversy has been raging for the last fortnight, pitting the coalition that supports Rouhani’s government against the Guardian Council, which oversees Iran’s elections and is dominated by ultra-conservatives.

The council says it has barred some 9,500 potential candidates from standing in the February 21 legislative polls – almost two thirds of the 14,500 hopefuls – including 92 sitting MPs from of all political stripes.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/03/Iranians-must-have-right-to-choose-at-polls-Rouhani.html

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Tourist lashed 80 times in Iran for drinking alcohol: Report

2 February 2020

A tourist was lashed 80 times in eastern Iran on Saturday for drinking alcohol, state media reported.

“More than one and a half liters of alcoholic drinks were found on a bus carrying tourists,” the public prosecutor of the city of Tabas Amir Zare Hosseini said on Saturday, adding that there were “images and videos showing an individual drinking alcohol.” The sentence was not appealed by the tourist, according to Hosseini.

Alcohol consumption has been illegal in Iran since the 1979 revolution.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/02/Tourist-lashed-80-times-in-Iran-for-drinking-alcohol-Report.html

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Iran welcomes election of new Iraqi prime minister: Iran Foreign Ministry

2 February 2020

Iran welcomes Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi’s election as prime minister of Iraq, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Sunday, according to the official IRNA new agency.

“In continuing support for the independence, national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and strengthening the foundations of democracy in Iraq, Iran welcomes the election of Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi as the new prime minister of this country,” Mousavi said.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/02/02/Iran-welcomes-election-of-Allawi-as-prime-minister-of-Iraq-Iran-Foreign-Ministry.html

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Armed Israeli settlers attack, injured Palestinian family in West Bank

02 February 2020

A group of Israeli settlers have attacked and injured a Palestinian family in the south of the occupied West Bank, local Palestinian media reports.

The attack took place near an Israeli military checkpoint in central al-Khalil (Hebron) on Saturday night.

The family members were on their way to hospital when armed settlers from the Ramat Yishai settlement stopped their car at gunpoint and assaulted them.

55-year-old Mohammad Taysir Nayrukh and his family members suffered bruises and their car was damaged in the attack.

The eyewitnesses said that the Israeli soldiers stood idly and did not stop the settlers from assaulting the Palestinians.

Separately, gangs of rampaging Israeli settlers with an army escort broke into several neighborhoods in al-Khalil and threatened Palestinian families of expelling them from their homes.

The incidents come as the settlers have pressed ahead with their acts of vandalism and violence, known as price tag attacks, against Palestinians and their property as well as Muslim holy sites.

Last month, the Palestinian Authority strongly condemned an attack by a group of extremist Israeli settlers on a mosque in the Jerusalem al-Quds.

It said in a statement that the arson attack against the mosque in Beit Safafa town, located 4.5 kilometers (2.7 miles) southwest of Jerusalem al-Quds, besides assaults on other Christian and Muslim places of worship reflects the nature of Tel Aviv regime’s politics and attitudes, and its intentions to accommodate extremist Jews and fanatic settlers in the occupied West Bank.

The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates called on the international community to place Israeli settlers involved in attacks and acts of terror against the Palestinian population in the occupied territories on their terror lists, and put travel bans on them.

Back in July 2015, a large fire broke out after settlers threw firebombs and Molotov cocktails into two Palestinian houses in the West Bank town of Duma, setting them ablaze while their inhabitants were asleep.

The arson attack killed 18-month-old baby Ali Dawabsheh, and critically wounded his father and mother, Sa’ad and Riham, who later succumbed to their injuries. Ali’s four-year-old brother, Ahmad, who was also wounded in the assault, remained the sole survivor of the ill-fated family.

More than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.

All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/02/617734/Israel-Palestine-West-Bank-Taysir-Nayrukh-al-Khalil

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Turkey dispatches large military convoy to Syria’s Idlib province: Observatory

02 February 2020

Turkey has reportedly brought in a new column of military forces and hardware to be deployed in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib, only two days after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey may launch a military operation there if the ongoing offensive by Syrian government forces against foreign-sponsored Takfiri militants continues.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported on Sunday that the column entered the Syrian territory through Kafr Lusin border crossing, and consisted of battle tanks, personnel carriers, armored vehicles as well as military and logistical supplies.

The Britain-based war monitor group, citing reliable sources requesting anonymity, reported that a Turkish military convoy had already been positioned in the entrance of Kafr Amim village, which lies in the Saraqib Nahiyah district of Idlib province.

Turkish military forces are installing a new military post on the highway linking Abu al-Duhur town to the city of Saraqib.

“We will do what is necessary when someone is threatening our soil. We will have no choice but to resort to the same path again if the situation in Idlib is not returned to normal quickly,” Erdogan said on Friday.

“We will not refrain from doing what is necessary, including using military force,” he said.

Syrian government forces are advancing against foreign-backed Takfiri militants in Idlib, tightening the noose around the extremists in their last major stronghold.

Syria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates wrote to the United Nations on January 25, stressing that the operation in Idlib and Aleppo against Takfiri elements "will not stop until the elimination of those terrorists, who threaten safety and security of Syrian civilians."

The Syrian army declared the start of an offensive against foreign-sponsored militants in Idlib on August 5 last year.

It came after those positioned in the de-escalation zone failed to honor a ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey and continued to target civilian neighborhoods.

Under the Sochi agreement, all militants in the demilitarized zone that surrounds Idlib, and also parts of the provinces of Aleppo and west-central province of Hama, were supposed to pull out heavy arms by October 17 2018, with the Takfiri groups having to withdraw two days earlier.

On October 9, Turkish military forces and Ankara-backed militants launched a long-threatened cross-border invasion of northeastern Syria in a declared attempt to push militants from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) away from border areas.

Ankara views the US-backed YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984.

On October 22, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Erdogan signed a memorandum of understanding that asserted YPG militants had to withdraw from the Turkish-controlled "safe zone" in northeastern Syria within 150 hours, after which Ankara and Moscow would run joint patrols around the area.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/02/617704/Turkey-convoy-Syria-Idlib-

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Sudanese promised jobs in UAE but taken to war in Libya, Yemen

02 February 2020

Sudanese youths have revealed that the UAE pledged them jobs with high salaries in the Persian Gulf small country, but instead took them to Libya which is embroiled in a war between rival groups.

The United Arab Emirates is the key supporter of renegade general Khalifa Haftar which is leading a grueling military offensive against the government in the Libyan capital of Tripoli.

Several Sudanese youths have told the Middle East Eye that they were promised to work as security guards in the UAE on a salary of around $2,175 per month, but were instead sent to hostile areas in Libya.

Abdul Rahman Alzaki, a 34-year-old IT engineer, went to visit the Amanda travel agency in the center of the Sudanese capital that had placed the advertisement.

He was told the work was for the Emirati security firm Black Shields and would be located in Abu Dhabi or another UAE city.

Following several job interviews, Alzaki paid around 80,000 Sudanese pounds ($950) to Amanda after he was told the salary had been confirmed and that the travel agency would transport him to the UAE.

He traveled to the Emirates, but his dream soon turned into a nightmare after he discovered that he would in fact be receiving three months of military training and then be sent to Libya or Yemen.

The UAE wanted him and other Sudanese youths to protect oil refineries and strategic locations in the area held by Haftar, he told the MEE.

The UAE is among several countries supporting Haftar in his campaign to oust the UN-recognized government in Tripoli. The Arab country is also a key party to a Saudi-led coalition waging war on Yemen.

Around 3,000 Sudanese are believed to have been deceived by Black Shields, which sub-contracted companies such as Amanda advertising for the Emirati company.

"When we reached the Emirates we realized that we had been cheated, as the company had taken our passports, mobile phones and everything, and sent us to a military training camp called Zayed Military City" in Abu Dhabi, Alzaki said. 

The MEE said it visited the Amanda travel agency in downtown Khartoum on Wednesday, but the agency was closed and phone calls to the manager and other employees of the agency went unanswered.

Dozens of job seekers were waiting outside the agency in order to try to get their money back, the online website said.

Boraey Mohamed Ahmed said he and other Sudanese youths had been subjected to extensive cheating by mafia companies working between the UAE and Sudan.

Circulation of the story on social media has ignited protests against the UAE and its policies in Sudan and in the region.

Thousands of Sudanese protesters have waged a wide campaign on social media against UAE policies, calling on the government to maintain the dignity of the Sudanese.

On Tuesday, hundreds of protesters demonstrated outside the UAE embassy and the Sudanese Foreign Ministry in Khartoum, demanding the return of the Sudanese youths.

Chanting anti-Emirati slogans, the protesters also called for the return of Sudanese soldiers from the war in Yemen.

Protester Marwa Hassan criticized the policies of the UAE on Sudan and the region as a whole.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/02/617695/UAEv-Sudanese-youth-Libya-Yemen-oil-fields

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Israel launches strikes on Gaza after rockets fired

February 02, 2020

JERUSALEM: Israel launched air strikes on the Gaza Strip early Sunday in retaliation for projectiles fired from the Palestinian enclave into southern Israel, the army said.

Military jets and helicopters struck targets linked to Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, shortly after midnight, with no reported casualties.

Israel also suspended cement deliveries to the enclave and canceled 500 commercial entry permits into Israel “until further notice.”

The action was taken “due to the continued rocket fire and launchings of incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip into Israel,” said a statement by Major General Kamil Abu Rukun, head of the Israeli military unit responsible for coordination in the Palestinian territories.

Since the announcement Tuesday by US President Donald Trump of his plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, rockets, shells and explosive balloons have been fired almost daily from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel, provoking Israeli retaliation.

Palestinians strongly reject the US plan, seen as heavily favoring Israel.

The Trump initiative suggests that Israel would retain control of the contested city of Jerusalem as its “undivided capital” and gives the Jewish state the green light to annex settlements in the West Bank, which Israel occupied in 1967.

Rocket fire from Gaza on Saturday night forced Benny Gantz, a leading candidate in Israel’s upcoming general election who was campaigning in southern Israel, to take refuge with his team in a shelter, local media reported.

Former military general Gantz heads the Blue and White party and is the chief rival of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the March 2 election.

The Israeli army said its overnight strikes on Gaza targeted infrastructure belonging to Hamas, the Islamist group that has controlled the enclave since 2007.

“Fighter jets and attack helicopters struck a number of Hamas terror targets in the northern Gaza Strip,” it said in a statement.

Among the targets was “underground infrastructure... used as a situation room,” it added.

There were no casualties from the strikes, according to Hamas security sources.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1621741/middle-east

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Africa

 

Sudanese Promised Jobs in UAE But Taken To War In Libya, Yemen

02 February 2020

Sudanese youths have revealed that the UAE pledged them jobs with high salaries in the Persian Gulf small country, but instead took them to Libya which is embroiled in a war between rival groups.

The United Arab Emirates is the key supporter of renegade general Khalifa Haftar which is leading a grueling military offensive against the government in the Libyan capital of Tripoli.

Several Sudanese youths have told the Middle East Eye that they were promised to work as security guards in the UAE on a salary of around $2,175 per month, but were instead sent to hostile areas in Libya.

Abdul Rahman Alzaki, a 34-year-old IT engineer, went to visit the Amanda travel agency in the center of the Sudanese capital that had placed the advertisement.

He was told the work was for the Emirati security firm Black Shields and would be located in Abu Dhabi or another UAE city.

Following several job interviews, Alzaki paid around 80,000 Sudanese pounds ($950) to Amanda after he was told the salary had been confirmed and that the travel agency would transport him to the UAE.

He traveled to the Emirates, but his dream soon turned into a nightmare after he discovered that he would in fact be receiving three months of military training and then be sent to Libya or Yemen.

The UAE wanted him and other Sudanese youths to protect oil refineries and strategic locations in the area held by Haftar, he told the MEE.

The UAE is among several countries supporting Haftar in his campaign to oust the UN-recognized government in Tripoli. The Arab country is also a key party to a Saudi-led coalition waging war on Yemen.

Around 3,000 Sudanese are believed to have been deceived by Black Shields, which sub-contracted companies such as Amanda advertising for the Emirati company.

"When we reached the Emirates we realized that we had been cheated, as the company had taken our passports, mobile phones and everything, and sent us to a military training camp called Zayed Military City" in Abu Dhabi, Alzaki said. 

The MEE said it visited the Amanda travel agency in downtown Khartoum on Wednesday, but the agency was closed and phone calls to the manager and other employees of the agency went unanswered.

Dozens of job seekers were waiting outside the agency in order to try to get their money back, the online website said.

Boraey Mohamed Ahmed said he and other Sudanese youths had been subjected to extensive cheating by mafia companies working between the UAE and Sudan.

Circulation of the story on social media has ignited protests against the UAE and its policies in Sudan and in the region.

Thousands of Sudanese protesters have waged a wide campaign on social media against UAE policies, calling on the government to maintain the dignity of the Sudanese.

On Tuesday, hundreds of protesters demonstrated outside the UAE embassy and the Sudanese Foreign Ministry in Khartoum, demanding the return of the Sudanese youths.

Chanting anti-Emirati slogans, the protesters also called for the return of Sudanese soldiers from the war in Yemen.

Protester Marwa Hassan criticized the policies of the UAE on Sudan and the region as a whole.

“Why do they want to use our people as mercenaries in Yemen and Libya, we have nothing to do with their interests in these countries, why are they exploiting the poverty of our youths to use them badly like this,” she shouted.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/02/617695/UAEv-Sudanese-youth-Libya-Yemen-oil-fields

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New U.S. Travel Ban Shuts Door on Africa’s Biggest Economy, Nigeria

By Ruth Maclean and Abdi Latif Dahir

Feb. 2, 2020

The newlyweds had already been apart for half their yearlong marriage. Miriam Nwegbe was in Nigeria. Her husband was in Baltimore, and until she could join him, everything was on hold: finding a home together, trying for their first baby, becoming an American family.

Then, on Friday, their lives were thrown into disarray by the expansion of President Trump’s ban on immigration to include six new countries, including four in Africa. Nigeria, the continent’s most populous nation, was one of them.

“America has killed me,” Ms. Nwegbe’s husband, Ikenna, an optometrist, texted her when he heard. “We are finished.”

A year after the Trump administration announced that a major pillar of its new strategy for Africa was to counter the growing influence of China and Russia by expanding economic ties to the continent, it slammed the door shut on Nigeria, the continent’s biggest economy.

The travel restrictions also apply to three other African countries — Sudan, Tanzania, and Eritrea — as well as to Myanmar, which is accused of genocide against its Muslim population, and Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet state.

The ban will prevent thousands of people from being able to move to the United States.

The initial ban, which was put into effect in 2017, restricted travel from some Muslim-majority countries as part of Mr. Trump’s plan to keep out “radical Islamic terrorists.” It has already affected more than 135 million people — many of them Christians — from seven countries.

With the new expansion, the ban will affect nearly a quarter of the 1.2 billion people on the African continent, according to W. Gyude Moore, a visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development, a research group, potentially taking a heavy toll on African economies — and on America’s image in the region.

“Chinese, Turkish, Russian, and British firms, backed by their governments, are staking positions on a continent that will define the global economy’s future,” he said, adding, “One hopes that the United States would follow suit and fully engage with the continent — but that hope fades.”

The rationale for the new restrictions varies depending on country, but the White House announcement said that most of the six countries added to the list did not comply with identity-verification and information-sharing rules.

And Nigeria, it said, posed a risk of harboring terrorists who may seek to enter the United States. The country has been hit brutally by the Islamist group Boko Haram, though the extremists have shown little sign that they have the capability to export their fight overseas.

Critics, many of whom also denounced the initial ban, saw something far more venal at play.

“Trump’s travel bans have never been rooted in national security — they’re about discriminating against people of color,” Senator Kamala Harris, the former Democratic presidential candidate, declared on Sunday. “They are, without a doubt, rooted in anti-immigrant, white supremacist ideologies."

Two Democrats still in the race also weighed in. Elizabeth Warren described the measure as a “racist, xenophobic Muslim ban.” Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. called it “a disgrace.”

And Nancy Pelosi, the house speaker, said Democratic lawmakers would push ahead with a measure to forbid religious discrimination in immigration policy.

Beyond those people who may now never make it across American borders, the new ban could also affect millions who have no plans to travel to the United States themselves but may have benefited from the billions of dollars in remittances visa holders send home each year.

The United States may also emerge a loser, studies suggest. Nigerians are among the most successful and highly educated immigrants to America. (Mr. Trump, demanding to know why immigration policies did not favor people from countries like Norway, once disparaged those from Africa and Haiti, and said Nigerians would never go back to their “huts” if they were allowed in.)

Hadiza Aliyu lives in Borno, the Nigerian state at the epicenter of the Boko Haram crisis that has left tens of thousands dead. But she thought she had found a way out.

Ms. Aliyu was preparing to apply to move to the United States, where she once studied and where her two brothers live.

She was furious when she heard about the extended ban.

“Trump has been looking for a way to get at us Africans for a very long time, and finally got us,” Ms. Aliyu said. “To hell with Republicans and their supremacist ideas.”

Mika Moses moved to Minnesota from Nigeria nine years ago to join his mother and siblings, who were allowed entry after the family was attacked in religious riots in their northern city of Kaduna in 1991. His wife, Juliet, and their daughter were planning to join him, but are stuck in Kaduna, where Ms. Moses sells soda in a small store.

She said they were heartbroken by the news that the move would now be impossible.

“I have been struggling to raise our daughter alone,” she said. “Why would Trump do this to us, after we have waited for nine years?”

Nigerians already living in the United States have been calling lawyers to try to figure out whether they will have to leave. Marilyn Eshikena, a biomedical research ethicist, has lived in the United States for the past seven years, but her visa expires this year. Her employer sponsored her application for a green card.

“If it turns out that everything needs to stop, they will feel cheated, because they spent a lot of money on this process,” Ms. Eshikena said. “I will also feel cheated, because all the time that I spent working here will ultimately be for nothing. I can’t even imagine what packing up and leaving will mean for me.”

Her departure may also have serious consequences for her brother, who is studying in Canada. Ms. Eshikena has been sending part of her earnings to help pay his rent.

Some Nigerians praised Mr. Trump for his decision, arguing it might make it more difficult for those responsible for stealing government money back home to find cover in the United States, and force the country’s leaders to be more honest and work harder to develop Nigeria.

In 2018, 7,922 immigrant visas were issued to Nigerians. Of these, 4,525 went to the immediate relatives of American citizens, and another 2,820 to other family members. An estimated 345,000 people born in Nigeria were living in the United States in 2017, according to the census bureau.

If the visas are coveted in Nigeria, they are just as prized in African countries like Eritrea, where government repression is rampant and those who try to leave face obstacles and danger. With more than 500,000 refugees living outside the country, Eritrea was the ninth-largest source of refugees in the world in 2018, according to the United Nations, but fewer than 900 Eritreans received immigrant visas to the United States that year.

Abraham Zere, a journalist who moved to the United States from Eritrea in 2012, had dreamed of living in the same country as his mother since leaving home. On Saturday, he said his plans to bring her to the United States had been thrown into disarray. His family has been in constant communication on the messaging platform WhatsApp trying to understand what the ban will mean for them.

“This decision complicates everything and creates fear,” said Mr. Zere, 37, a doctoral candidate at the School of Media Arts and Studies at Ohio University.

Mr. Zere and other Eritreans say they can’t go back. They fear they will be punished for criticizing the government or leaving without approval.

“If I can’t be reunited with my mother,” Mr. Zere said, “it nullifies the whole notion of protection and punishes innocent citizens for reasons they had no slightest part in.”

With nine siblings scattered across Europe, Africa, and the United States, Mr. Zere said their family has never had a full family portrait taken.

The economic consequences of the ban could be far-reaching, experts said.

“Being cut off from the largest economy in the world systematically is problematic,” said Nonso Obikili, a Nigerian economist.

The biggest impact, he said, could be on remittances.

Nigerians abroad send home billions of dollars each year, $24 billion in 2018 alone, according to the accounting firm PwC. With Nigeria’s economy highly dependent on oil and its unemployment rate at 23 percent, this money provides a lifeline for millions of its citizens.

The new restrictions come at a time when the United States says it wants to jockey for power in Africa, particularly through its “Prosper Africa” initiative announced last summer, which aims to double two-way trade and investment.

“If on the one hand you’re trying to make a push into Africa, and on the other hand you’re barring the largest African country by population from moving to your country, then it does send mixed signals,” Mr. Obikili said.

In January 2017, Mr. Trump’s travel ban targeted several other African nations, including Chad, Libya, and Somalia. Chad was later removed from that list, but the executive order halted the plans of thousands of Somali refugees living in camps in Kenya who were about to travel to the United States and start new lives.

According to the United States Department of Homeland Security, nearly 30,000 Nigerians overstayed their nonimmigrant visas in 2018. The number of Nigerians visiting the United States dropped sharply after the Trump administration made it harder for visitors to obtain visas last summer.

The new restrictions affect those who want to move to the United States, not visit it.

The six countries newly added to the immigration ban are not easily categorized together by religion. Nigeria, for example is thought to be home to more than 200 million people, roughly half of them Muslim and half Christian. Of the four African countries newly singled out, only Sudan has a significant majority of Muslims.

The United States has left Sudan on a list of state sponsors of terrorism, even as the country works to reverse decades of authoritarian rule under President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who was deposed in April.

“This ban contributes to the overall impression that Sudan remains a very fragile state,” said Cameron Hudson, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council, a research group.

Many people from the countries newly targeted by the ban said the uncertainty was the hardest thing to bear. Ms. Nwegbe, the newlywed, who works as the chief operating officer of a tourism company that tries to encourage people to visit Africa, said the ban came as she and her husband were building their future.

“We’re in limbo and our relationship is suffering,” she said. “This is unnecessary hardship.”

Full report at:

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/02/world/africa/trump-travel-ban.html

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Algeria to give Tunisia $150 mln deposit loan

2 February 2020

Algeria will deposit $150 million in Tunisia as a loan, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said on Sunday at a news conference with his Tunisian counterpart Kais Saied.

Tunisia has a large public debt burden while neighboring Algeria, a major energy exporter, is trying to reduce its own state deficits since oil and gas revenues have fallen sharply in recent years.

“As Tunisia is in a difficult economic period, we decided that Algeria will put a deposit with $150 million in Tunisia’s central bank. We agreed to facilitate Tunisia’s payment of the gas and fuel bill,” Tebboune said in the news conference, which was broadcast online by the Tunisian presidency.

Saied’s visit to Algeria is the first since he was elected in October. Tebboune was elected in December in a vote that was opposed by a large protest movement.

Tunisia and Algeria are both neighbors of Libya and are both concerned by the escalation of the conflict there in recent months.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2020/02/02/Algeria-to-give-Tunisia-150-mln-deposit-loan.html

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Burkina Faso: Suspected Takfiri militants raid village, kill nearly 20 civilians

03 February 2020

Nearly 20 civilians have lost their lives in an overnight attack by suspected Takfiri militants on a village in northeastern Burkina Faso, officials say.

Security sources said Sunday that Lamdamol village in Seno Province — located in the Sahel region of Burkina Faso — was raided by a group of “heavily armed” assailants riding on motorbikes, who “literally executed the local inhabitants,” the AFP reported. The sources said nearly 20 people had been killed in the attack, while governor of the Sahel region Colonel Salfo Kabore put the number at 18.

The village’s chief nurse was also among the victims. Kabore said “the defense and security forces brought back the body of the nurse to give it to her family in Yalgo and secure the area to allow the burial of other victims.”

A local health official told the AFP that “there is panic in the village and the surrounding area,” adding that people were fleeing the area towards the center-north of the country.

A security source also said the attack was launched by the Takfiri militants after residents of the village paid no heed to an earlier call by them for people to leave the region.

Burkina Faso’s northern regions have witnessed a spike in such militant raids over the past weeks. The deadliest one took place in late January, claiming the lives of 39 civilians in the province of Soum, northwest of Seno.

In the past years, Takfiri terrorist groups mainly linked to al-Qaeda and Daesh have emerged and expanded in the Sahel region, wreaking havoc on the civilian population.

Burkina Faso’s security forces have failed in their struggles to counter the deadly raids despite the presence of thousands of foreign military forces, especially French troops, in their country.

The country borders Mali to the northwest and Niger to the east. Both of the neighboring states are similarly struggling to contain the rise of Takfiri militants there.

News of the latest attack came as France announced it would dispatch a large contingent of military troops to the Sahel region. The new contingent of 600 will bring the total number of French troops in the region to more than 5,000.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/02/03/617752/Africa-Burkina-Faso-Sahel-Militants

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Gunmen kill 20 civilians in Burkina Faso

February 03, 2020

OUAGADOUGOU: Suspected terrorists killed nearly 20 civilians in an attack overnight on the northern Burkina Faso village of Lamdamol, Seno province, security sources said Sunday.

“The attackers, heavily armed and on motorbikes, literally executed the local inhabitants,” the security source told AFP. The attackers left nearly 20 dead, the source added.

A local health official, speaking from the town of Dori in the north, said the village’s chief nurse was among the victims.

“There is panic in the village and the surrounding area,” the official added, saying local people were fleeing toward the center-north of the country.

Another security source said that the attack had come as a reprisal after terrorists had told local people to leave the area a few days earlier.

The security forces worked day and night to make the zone safe, “but it is difficult to be everywhere at once,” said the source.

This massacre comes a week after several similar attacks in the north of the country.

On January 25, 39 civilians were killed in the village of Silgadji, in the neighboring province of Soum.

Burkina Faso borders Mali to the northwest and Niger to the east, both countries that are struggling to contain a wave of lethal terrorist attacks.

Burkina’s security forces, under-equipped and poorly trained, have not been able to counter the deadly raids in their territory, despite the help of foreign soldiers, notably French troops.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1622066/world

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Head of Sudan's sovereign council invited to visit Washington

Feb 3, 2020

In a sign of warming ties since last year’s revolution ushered in sweeping changes in Sudan, the United States has invited the head of the country’s sovereign council to visit Washington.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has invited Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan during a phone call, Sudan’s sovereign council said. The body is the mixed military and civilian transitional council to lead Sudan from the rule of Islamist autocrat Omar Al Bashir to democracy after a revolution ousted the long time dictator last April.

Washington and Khartoum have been at odds for decades and Sudan remains on a US list of state sponsors of terror. But the two countries are improving relations since the revolution with America set to exchanging ambassadors after a 23-year hiatus.

The purpose of the visit will be "to discuss bilateral relations between the two countries and ways of developing them," the sovereign council said in a statement, without giving a date for the trip but saying Gen Al Burhan "promised to fulfil it soon".

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and other cabinet ministers have visited Washington since the transitional government was sworn in. Gen Al Burhan has visited several neighbouring countries and Russia.

In 1993, the US government added Sudan to its list of state sponsors of terrorism over allegations Al Bashir's Islamist government was supporting terrorist groups, a designation that makes Sudan technically ineligible for debt relief and financing from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/head-of-sudan-s-sovereign-council-invited-to-visit-washington-1.973300

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8 soldiers killed in al-Shabaab attack in Somalia

Mohammed Dhaysane

02.02.2020

MOGADISHU, Somalia

At least 18 people including eight Somali government soldiers and 10 al-Shabaab militants were killed, and more than 13 others wounded when fighters from al-Shabaab attacked Somali National Army and African Union peacekeeping mission troops bases in the middle Shabelle region on Sunday.

Hassan Ibrahim, a military official in the region, told Anadolu Agency over the phone that the main attack took place at AMISOM and SNA base in the vicinity of Qalimow in the region.

"The terrorist group al-Shabaab attacked our base in Qalimow on Sunday morning. Eight soldiers were killed, more than 13 others wounded but we have killed more than 10 al-Shabaab militants," Ibrahim said.

The group also attacked several other observation points with mortar shells, he said, adding that they did not know how many people were killed or wounded.

Somali-based al-Qaeda affiliated group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the Qalimow attack that it has killed over 13 soldiers.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/8-soldiers-killed-in-al-shabaab-attack-in-somalia-/1721800

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Nigeria: Why Banning Okada, Keke, Others, When Boko Haram Is Recruiting - Reno to Sanwo-Olu

2 FEBRUARY 2020

By Nwafor Sunday

Ex-aide to former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Pastor Reno Omokri has faulted the banning of commercial motorcycle, popularly known as Okada, keke, and others in Lagos.

He asked the Lagos state government if it was not aware of Boko Haram recruitment, noting that Lagos should expect surge in terrorism and insecurity.

Recall that the Lagos state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, had in January 27 banned the activities of commercial motorcycles, Keke Napepe, GOKADA, OPAY, others in the below LGAs and LCDAs:

Apapa LGA, Apapa Iganmu LCDA, Lagos Mainland LGA, Yaba LCDA, Surulere LGA, Itire-Ikate LCDA, and Coker-Aguda LCDA.

Others are Ikeja LGA, Onigbongbo, LCDA, Ojodu LCDA, Eti-Osa LGA, Ikoyi-Obalende LCDA, and Iru-Victoria Island LCDA, Lagos Island LGA and Lagos Island East LCDA.

Among the 15 Local Governments and Local Council Development Centres affected are Apapa, Apapa Iganmu, Lagos Mainland, Yaba, Surulere, Itire Ikate, Coker Aguda, Eti-Osa, Lagos Island, Ikeja, Onigbongo, Ojodu, Ikoyi-Obalende, Iru Ikoyi-Obalande, and Lagos Island East.

The reason given by the state was to secure lives and properties of Lagosians.

"The figures are scary. From 2016 to 2019, there were over 10,000 accidents recorded at the General Hospitals alone. This number excludes unreported cases and those recorded by other hospitals. The total number of deaths from reported cases is over 600 as of date", said Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Gbenga Omotoso.

But reacting against its implementation, the outspoken Reno averred, "We are already the world headquarters for extreme poverty, and you ban commercial motorcyclist?

"What do you expect the over one million motorcyclist to do? What about their dependents. You render them unemployed, meanwhile Boko Haram is employing.

"You do this type of thing gradually. As you are gradually doing it, you are also gradually creating alternative means of livelihood.

Full report at:

https://allafrica.com/stories/202002030027.html

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Army rewards 37 anti-Boko Haram soldiers for bravery

February 3, 2020

The Nigerian Army on Sunday identified and commended 37 officers and soldiers attached to the Operation Lafiya Dole in the North-East for their “gallantry and professionalism” in the fight against Boko Haram insurgents.

The army authorities noted in a release that the officers and soldiers were given letters of commendation and promotion for displaying bravery in the face of adversary.

The breakdown of the personnel showed that they included two Brigadier-Generals, one Colonel and four Lieutenant Colonels.

Some of them are identified as Brig. Gen. Olufemi Oluyede, the Commander of 27 Task Force Brigade; Brig. Gen. Ahmadu Mohammed, the immediate past Commander of 26 Task Force Brigade, Gwoza; Col. Mohammed Babayo, the Commandant of the Army Super Camp, Benisheik; Lt. Col. Isah Yusuf, the Commanding Officer of 158 Task Force Battalion; Lt. Col. Abayomi Biobaku, the Commanding Officer of the 159 Battalion; Lt. Col. Jerry Maigari, the  Commanding Officer of the 251 Task Force Battalion; and Lt. Col. Tajudeen Lamidi, the Commanding Officer of the 192 Battalion.

The Nigerian Army Operations Media Coordinator, Col. Aminu Iliyasu, said the Chief of the Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, urged the troops to sustain the fight against the Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province terrorists as well as other security challenges confronting the country.

Iliyasu said, “The efforts and commitment of the army to, as a matter of national urgency, eradicate the menace of insurgency in the North-East, and other acts of criminality across the nation cannot be overemphasised.

“In line with its constitutional mandate, the personnel of the Nigerian Army are deployed in the North-East as well as other theatres of operation. In its periodic assessment of the conduct of troops of the Operation Lafiya Dole, the army has identified 37 officers and men who distinguished themselves on the battlefield.

“The officers are to be given Special Letters of Commendation, while the soldiers are to be granted special promotions to their next higher ranks.”

Meanwhile,  the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), will be inducting three fighter helicopters newly acquired by the Nigerian Air Force into the counter-insurgency operations of the military in the North-East zone.

The fighter aircraft – two  Agusta 109P helicopters and one Mi-171E helicopter – would  be inducted on Thursday by the President at the Eagle Square, Abuja, according to the air force on Sunday.

Full report at:

https://punchng.com/army-rewards-37-anti-boko-haram-soldiers-for-bravery/

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Southeast Asia

 

PAS prepares refreshments outside its HQ for Thaipusam

February 3, 2020

PETALING JAYA: Non-Muslim members of PAS will take part in Thaipusam celebrations this week by providing refreshments outside the Islamist party’s headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.

The PAS Supporters’ Wing, or DHPP, under which non-Muslims are grouped in the party, will distribute free food and drinks to Hindu devotees accompanying the chariot procession in the city centre, ahead of the climax of the festival at the Batu Caves temple on Saturday.

DHPP has described the move as proof that PAS is not a “racist, extremist and fanatic” party.

“PAS respects the religious rites and beliefs of all races in the country, and we uphold a tradition of tolerance that has been maintained for a long time,” said DHPP secretary S Barathidasan.

Thaipusam commemorates Lord Murugan’s birthday, with hundreds of thousands including tourists converging at Batu Caves for the annual event.

The annual procession carrying the statue of Lord Murugan is expected to leave the Sri Maha Mariamman temple on Jalan Tun HS Lee on Thursday night.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/02/03/pas-prepares-refreshments-outside-its-hq-for-thaipusam/

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Travel agency says Nur Sajat’s ‘umrah’ well-prepared, as Muslims online pile on backlash

03 Feb 2020

BY RADZI RAZAK

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 3 — Travel agency Albayt Travel (M) Sdn Bhd, which managed cosmetics entrepreneur Nur Sajat’s umrah — or minor pilgrimage in Mecca — explained that it has taken very careful steps to prepare her and her family for the trip.

Following backlash against the celebrity’s religious ritual amid ongoing controversy over her gender identity, the agency explained it has already informed Nur Sajat and her family of the differences in management and procedure involving their trip.

“The client admitted they understood the issue of the difference in gender status which may offend the sensitivities among the Muslim society,” it said in a statement, as reported by Harian Metro.

“Therefore, Albayt had taken very careful steps starting from preparing the documents for visa processing, the special umrah education class, and all matters involving religious rituals while in Mecca.”

It also said that it has reported the trip to the Consulate General of Malaysia in Jeddah, following public complaints online.

Nur Sajat was criticised on social media after photos and videos of her performing the pilgrimage went viral.

Muslims who complained mostly took issue with her wearing women’s clothes during the pilgrimage, as they accused her of not being a woman.

Nur Sajat continues to be hounded by authorities and some in the public over her gender identity.

In January 2018, Malaysian Islamic Development Department’s (Jakim) had then insisted that Nur Sajat needed to undergo a lengthy process in order for authorities to officially verify her gender.

Nur Sajat in her private social media accounts had instead given thanks to God for allowing her to perform the pilgrimage, and that she has “found herself” during the trip.

“Although I am like this, I know that I am a woman in myself and soul. I am lucky because not everyone is called to perform ‘umrah’,” she reportedly posted on her account.

However, Albayt said it had already advised its clients to not publicise the pilgrimage, as it was worried of backlash from some Muslims.

“According to Albayt's preliminary advice, the client agreed to abide by and respect the public's opinion by never displaying any kind of visual to the public regarding the possible causes of misinterpretation.

"But what happened was beyond our expectations and we hope everyone is clear on this," the company said.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/02/03/travel-agency-says-nur-sajats-umrah-well-prepared-as-muslims-online-pile-on/1833971

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I don’t know if govt guarantees for SRC loans tabled in Parliament, Najib tells court

V Anbalagan

February 3, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: Najib Razak told the High Court today that he had no knowledge of whether the Cabinet’s approval to guarantee two loans totalling RM4 billion to SRC International from the Retirement Fund Inc (KWAP) was tabled in the Dewan Rakyat although it was required by law.

The former prime minister, who was also the finance minister at the time, said it was the duty of the “functionaries” to do so.

It was unclear who Najib meant by “functionaries” but it was believed that he was referring to officials at the ministry of finance.

“We have no verification whether the government guarantees were tabled in Parliament. It is the duty of the functionaries. It is an administrative action,” Najib said when cross-examined by ad-hoc prosecutor V Sithambaram.

The prosecutor then referred to Section 2 (3) of the Loans Guarantee (Bodies Corporation) Act which stated that the minister shall, as soon possible, lay before the Dewan Rakyat a statement of the guarantee together with a copy of the agreement.

Sithambaram: I put it to you that these government guarantees were never laid before the Dewan Rakyat?

Najib: I do not know.

Sithambaram: Do you know the purpose of laying it before the Dewan Rakyat is for all (members of Parliament) to know?

Najib: Yes, for transparency.

Najib, who is the first defence witness in his trial, admitted that no Parliament Hansard could be produced to confirm if the government guarantees had been tabled in the Dewan Rakyat.

He also disagreed with Sithambaram’s suggestion that under the law, it was the duty of the minister to table any government guarantee.

In 2011 and 2012, the Cabinet chaired by Najib had issued the government guarantees to KWAP for two loans totalling RM4 billion to SRC to enable the latter to venture into the alternative energy sector.

The prosecution today completed its cross-examination on Najib as the trial entered its 74th day. Attorney-General Tommy Thomas and Sithambaram took 12 days from Dec 10 to question the accused.

Re-examined by lawyer Farhan Read, Najib said he could not override the decision by the KWAP Investment Panel to approve the loans.

He also said the government guarantees for the loans were not predetermined and Cabinet members were given the opportunity to express their views.

“There had been cases of proposals being rejected even though they were raised by the prime minister,” said Najib who led the Barisan Nasional government from April 2009 until May 2018.

Najib said SRC was formed in view of national interest to search for alternative energy.

“The over-reliance of oil and gas could also affect the nation’s interest,” he said.

Najib is accused of abusing his power as prime minister by giving government guarantees on SRC International’s RM4 billion loan from KWAP.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/02/03/i-dont-know-if-govt-guarantees-for-src-loan-tabled-in-parliament-najib-tells-court/

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After skipping KL Summit, Imran Khan begins Malaysia visit

February 3, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: Pakistan’s Imran Khan arrives here today for talks with Dr Mahathir Mohamad, more than a month after he was reportedly forced to back down from a summit hosted by his Malaysian counterpart following pressure from Saudi Arabia.

This is Khan’s second trip to Malaysia since the former cricket celebrity came to power.

In December, Imran announced a eleventh-hour cancellation of his trip to attend the Kuala Lumpur Summit, in what was believed to be the result of diplomatic arm-twisting of the cash-strapped South Asian nation which has received billions of dollars in Saudi aid.

The three heads of state who attended were among the Saudis’ staunchest enemies: Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Observers say Khan’s visit is a “face-saving trip” after his absence last December.

“It also underscores the difficult balancing act that Islamabad faces in balancing its relations with Saudi Arabia—which financially supports Pakistan with billions in aid, including US$20 billion in 2019—and Malaysia, with which Pakistan maintains friendly relations,” said one analysis published on current affairs site Foreign Brief.

Khan is an admirer of Mahathir, and has said that they both inherited problems from the previous administration.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/02/03/after-skipping-kl-summit-imran-khan-begins-malaysia-visit/

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URL: https://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/coronavirus--president-quotes-hadith-on-why-pakistan-is-not-evacuating-citizens-from-china/d/120966

 

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