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Islamic World News ( 31 Oct 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Darul Uloom Deoband fatwa drives out Congress leader Salman Khurshid from Islam for performing Ram aarti







Photo: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks at the opening ceremony of Future Investment Initiative Conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Saudi Press Agency via AP)

 

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince wants to ‘crush extremists.’ But he’s punishing the wrong people.

Concept of Islamic Caliphate Grows More Popular Among Indonesian Students: Survey

Ethiopian Unrest: A Chance for Radical Islam?

India

Darul Uloom Deoband fatwa drives out Congress leader Salman Khurshid from Islam for performing Ram aarti

Maulana Kalbe Sadiq urges Muslims to give away Babri Masjid land and win hearts

China's stand on Masood Azhar shows UN body's limitations, says India

Dalit, Muslim groups in Bengal unite to mark Babri demolition and Ambedkar death anniversary

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Arab World

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince wants to ‘crush extremists.’ But he’s punishing the wrong people.

The Muslim world must confront the underlying problems in Islamic theology

Bahrain court sentences 10 men on terrorism charges

Syria regime shelling kills 6 schoolchildren

Saudi Crown Prince Going Paranoid for Fear of Life

Is 'moderate Islam' just another way of saying Arab nationalism?

Syrian Army Continues Marching towards ISIL-Held Albu Kamal

Iraqi Forces Impose Control over Energy-Rich Region in Western Anbar

Syrian Army Discovers Terrorists' Vast Network of Tunnels in Deir Ezzur

Iraqi, Syrian Gov't Forces Cooperating to Secure Common Borderline

Militants in One More Region Join Peace Agreement with Syrian Army

Senior Terrorist Commander Escapes from Eastern Syria to Greece with SDF's Assistance

Unknown Raiders Assassinate Another Al-Nusra Commander in Northwestern Syria

Egypt raids militants responsible for Western Desert attack

Iraqi army takes control of Turkey border from Kurds

Syrian forces retake three districts in Dayr al-Zawr from Daesh

Lebanese security forces dismantle espionage cell working for Mossad

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Southeast Asia

Concept of Islamic Caliphate Grows More Popular Among Indonesian Students: Survey

Govt: No reason to arrest Zakir Naik for alleged terrorism

Zimbabwean Islamic scholars come to defence of Mufti Menk

Johor follows Singapore’s lead to ban 2 Muslim preachers

More IS-linked Malaysians in central Maguindanao?

Why is Malaysia allocating more money for the degradation of Islam?

Cycling couple on a mission to spread peace and tolerance

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Africa

Ethiopian Unrest: A Chance for Radical Islam?

Egypt hits ‘terrorists,’ but Libyans say 12 civilians killed

US forces capture Benghazi attacks suspect in Libya

17 killed in airstrike in Libya's Darnah

Somalia: Jubbaland President Calls for an All-Out Offensive Against Al Shabaab

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Pakistan

Pakistan gained more successes in war on terror than US: Senate

US to give Pakistan chance to strike terrorist targets, says Tillerson

Pakistanis are peace and sports loving nation: COAS

Call for dismantling jihadi structure of 80s

Around 3,000 Sikh yatrees to arrive in Pakistan on Nov 2

Foreign policy comes under fire in Senate

Ahsan for grand dialogue to ensure democracy

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South Asia

Taliban increase influence, territory in Afghanistan: US watchdog

Myanmar says Bangladesh dragging feet over repatriating Rohingya Muslim refugees

14 dead as bomber attacks Kabul's diplomatic zone

Four Rohingya drown as refugee boat capsizes off Bangladesh

Bangladesh arrests pilot accused of plot to hijack plane

Afghan Special Forces likely to receive upgraded M3E1 Bazooka systems

Confrontation not to help Afghan peace, Pak army chef warns US

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Mideast

Yemen: 500 militants killed in army operations in recent weeks

Tensions rise after Israel blows up tunnel from Gaza

Seven killed as Israel destroys tunnel dug under Gaza border

Probe reveals ISIL planned massacre with microwave ovens in Istanbul shopping mall

Top Commander: US, Israel's Defense Shields Not Able to Resist Iranian Missiles

Turkish PM: Another border gate to open with Iraq through Tal Afar

Israeli and Palestinian ministers meet in Trump peace push

Al-Maalami: The coalition has taken specific measures to avoid injuring civilians

Arab coalition strikes Houthi training camps in Yemen, killing 40 militiamen

Iran fighter jets practice carpet-bombing amid drills

Iran slams UN’s selective actions against children’s rights violators

Iraqi army takes control of Turkey border gate from Kurds: Turkish PM

Iran, Russia, Azerbaijan to hold tripartite summit in Tehran

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North America

Manhattan Terror Attack Kills 8 and Injures 11

US to pledge up to $60 mln to fight terrorism in Sahel

He tried to stop his friend from joining ISIS. But then he lied to the FBI.

Professor investigated for sharp responses to Muslim student

Muslim Americans Again Brace for Backlash After New York Attack

4,000 troops in Syria, US commander says then changes his mind

Canadian government to match charitable donations for Rohingya crisis

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Europe

UN Secretary-General calls for addressing root causes of terrorism

How Russia spawned more ISIL fighters than most nations

Lee Rigby's killer has converted inmates to Islam, court told

Muslim father 'forced' not to impose Islam on his own children

At French terror trial, killer’s brother denies extremism

ISIS threatens to attack Prince George

German police arrest Syrian suspected of planning bomb attack

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/darul-uloom-deoband-fatwa-drives-out-congress-leader-salman-khurshid-from-islam-for-performing-ram-aarti/d/113091

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Darul Uloom Deoband fatwa drives out Congress leader Salman Khurshid from Islam for performing Ram aarti

October 31, 2017

Darul Uloom Deoband — largest Muslim seminary — after ousting dozens of Muslim women from Varanasi for celebrating Diwali, in a fatwa issuedrecently has expelled former union minister and senior Congress leader Congress leader Salman Khurshid from Islam for worshipping God Ram.

India’s largest seminary debarred the Congress leader after his photographs and videos performing aarti of Lord Ram during Kalki Festival in Sambhal got viral.

The statement released by Deoband Ulema Muftu Tariq Kashmi reads, “His act is against the believes of Islam which does not allow any devout Muslim to worship anyone other than Allah.”

The statement also read that Islam does not allow idol worship of anyone other than Allah.

The statement released by the seminary further says that Salman Khurshid’s act of performing aarti of Lord Ram violates Islamic Laws thus he has been expelled from Islam.

“Khurshid is no longer a Muslim for his un-Islamic act. He will be allowed to embrace Islam as per Islamic Laws,” read Darul Uloom Deoband statement.

http://www.newsnation.in/india-news/darul-uloom-deoband-fatwa-drives-out-congress-leader-salman-khurshid-from-islam-for-performing-ram-aarti-article-185348.html

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Saudi Arabia’s crown prince wants to ‘crush extremists.’ But he’s punishing the wrong people.

By Jamal Khashoggi

October 31, 2017

Last week before an enthusiastic crowd at an investment conference, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman looked angry when he vowed to “crush extremists” and bring back “moderate Islam” to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He promised, “we will destroy them, now and immediately.” During the same conference, he announced an ambitious $500 billion free zone that will transform a region the size of Massachusetts into a high-tech, futuristic hub.

The crown prince is reflecting the anger and frustration of many Saudis who have longed to shake off the influences that have so negatively impacted the country. We were waiting for a leader who realizes that extremism, both economic and social, is bad for the country. City states like Dubai, which only just started on its journey to global prominence in 1980, puts into perspective just how much the kingdom, the largest economy in the region, has lost in the past 40 years.

I know why the young Prince Mohammed is so agitated. Salafi Wahhabism, a reform movement within Islam, was prevalent in the country, turned even more anti-modern and xenophobic after two political earthquakes struck the kingdom in 1979 – the first was when Salafi extremists seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca, one of the holiest sites in Islam. The second was Ayatollah Khomeini’s seizure of power in Iran. In Saudi Arabia, the pernicious influence of this 18th-century puritanical streak can be found everywhere: state-sanctioned religious police can intervene even in people’s private lives; educational curricula warn of the kafir or infidels; TV preachers opposed to the rights of women and minorities, and the banning of goods like chess and Barbie dolls.

Prince Mohammed is right to go after extremists. But he is going after the wrong people. Dozens of Saudi intellectuals, clerics, journalists, and social media stars have been arrested in the past 2 months — the majority of whom, at worst, are mildly critical of the government.  Meanwhile, many members of the Council of Senior Scholars (“Ulema”) have extremist ideas. Sheikh Saleh Al-Fawzan, who is highly regarded by Prince Mohamed, has said on Saudi TV that Shiites are not Muslims. Sheikh Saleh Al-Lohaidan, also highly regarded, has given legal advice that the Muslim ruler is not bound to consult others. Their reactionary opinions about democracy, pluralism or even women driving, are protected by royal decree from counter argument or criticism.

How can we become more moderate when such extremist views are tolerated? How can we progress as a nation when those offering constructive feedback and (often humorous) dissent are banished?

There is a popular Twitter handle (@m3takl_en)  that exposes the arrests and provides information on the individuals who have been detained in the kingdom, many for several weeks without any charge. There you can find their views — from YouTube and on websites. They are mainly in Arabic, and I can assure you that most are in favor of pluralism and diversity within Islam which traditional Wahhabism totally opposes: They call for open-mindedness, allowing entertainment, allowing women to drive and believe in the rights of minorities; some even went as far as to support ending male guardianship of women, which is still a highly controversial topic. In short, most hold views that would make them ideal partners for Prince Mohammed’s ambitious agenda.

So, why were they arrested? The only possible explanation is that they also called mildly for political rights. It’s true, some are traditional Wahabi Muslims who share the ideas of the scholars of the state-protected official council yet, unlike their peers, they voice their objections to the crown prince’s reforms. Even though I disagree with them, they have the right to express their views, as long as they are not calling for violence.

Can we really present a compelling image of a modern society, complete with robots, foreigners and tourists when Saudis, many miles from “Neom,” are silenced? Is this truly “modern” Arabia?

“I’m one of 20 million people, I’m nothing without them,” said the crown prince as he launched his “Neom” vision for futuristic Saudi Arabia. The 72 intellectuals who have been in jail without charges, and many more who are banned from travel, likely wonder if they and others like them are now outcasts in their own country.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/global-opinions/wp/2017/10/31/saudi-arabias-crown-prince-wants-to-crush-extremists-but-hes-punishing-the-wrong-people/?utm_term=.83dcdcd43155

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Concept of Islamic Caliphate Grows More Popular Among Indonesian Students: Survey

2017-10-31

About a fourth of Indonesia’s college students support fighting for the implementation of an Islamic caliphate system in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, a survey released Tuesday showed.

The Jakarta-based Alvara Research Center and Mata Air Foundation polled 1,800 students from 25 leading universities in Indonesia and 2,400 students from high schools across Java and other islands to determine if early detection of radicalism among campus populations could predict Indonesia’s future.

“We asked about the state ideology with a statement saying, ‘The Islamic state is worth fighting for to implement more consistent Islamic teachings’ and 23.5 percent of college students agree [with the statement], and 16.3 percent of high school students agree,” Alvara CEO Hasanuddin Ali told reporters in Jakarta on Tuesday.

“Intolerance has penetrated students’ life in schools and later grows stronger in campus life through religious studies,” Hasanuddin said. “If we can start handling it on campus, radicalism will be so much easier to be erradicated among professionals.”

Hasanuddin said the survey, conducted on Sept. 1 to Oct. 5, also revealed that 17.8 percent of university students and 18.3 percent of high school students preferred the concept of a caliphate ruled by a Muslim spiritual leader over Indonesia’s current republic.

The survey found that 18.6 percent of university students and 16.8 percent of high school students preferred Islam over the official Pancasila foundation of five principles as the state ideology. The university and high school students also preferred sharia law at the local level, by 21.9 percent and 19.6 percent, respectively.

Pancasila, the five-pillared official philosophy that underlies Indonesia’s foundation, espouses unity in diversity along with democracy and social justice.

‘Red-alert’

Nusron Wahid, a prominent member of Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), said he was shocked by the survey’s results.

“One person committing a suicide bombing in the name of religion has torn many lives apart. It’s worse what those in a 20-percent group can do,” Nusron told reporters. “Indonesia is facing red-alert status in ideology."

“I always believed one who can control universities will control the public,” he said. “If the idea of a caliphate has its own space in the universities, it will grow bigger in the next few years.”

He said he hoped that the survey would motivate the government to revive religious-affairs classes in schools and universities.

“And it’s not just a huge homework assignment for the Ministry of Religious Affairs, but also for Indonesia as a nation. We need to revive the curriculum of religious affairs, because it should be adjusted with the current situation,” he said.

Nusron also called on NU and Muhammadiyah, another of the country’s large Islamic organizations, to step up.

“Moderate Muslim organizations like NU and Muhammadiyah need to change their style of dakwah [spreading the good messages of Islam] for millenials to understand. [The message] should be light, short yet strong,” he said.

Increasing intolerance

Akhmad Muqowam, secretary-general of the Diponegoro University Alumni Association, said the survey revealed an increase in intolerance among students.

A similar 2009 survey, he said, showed that the concept of a caliphate was acceptable to less than 12 percent of respondents.

“It should be our main concern,” Akhmad said, adding most students fail to understand the difference between religious interest and humanity.

“They consider going to Afghanistan and Pakistan [for jihad] is an advanced step in implementing Islam as a whole. Most of the students are too inexperienced in differentiating the concept of state and religious interest,” he said.

Didin Wahidin, director of student affairs at the Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education, said the survey results would be used to guide his office.

“We allow universities to stage extracurricular activities to help implement the values of the state ideology, Pancasila. Meanwhile, our education in religious affairs has been focusing on mere basic teaching of Islam,” he said. “The nonexistence of moderate Islamic student organizations has allowed other groups to present alien ideologies.”

“We have set standards in education, research and social responsibility, but not in student affairs. It means, legally, there is no sanction to be given to any university that fails to stage student activities,” Didin said.

The survey also found that 29.5 percent of university students and 29.7 percent of high school students did not want non-Muslim leaders to govern in Indonesia. The survey had a margin of error of 2.35 percent for college students and 2 percent for the high school students.

The survey was published two weeks after the new governor of Jakarta, Anies Rasyid Baswedan, took office after being elected in a bitter and tense race that divided Indonesians along religious and racial lines. In April, Anies defeated Gov. Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, who soon after was sent to prison on blasphemy charges for allegedly making public comments that were perceived as anti-Muslim.

http://www.benarnews.org/english/news/indonesian/indonesia-militants-10312017181359.html

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Ethiopian Unrest: A Chance for Radical Islam?

Nov 1, 2017

Ethiopian police gunned down at least 10 people on Thursday in Ethiopia’s Oromia region. Protesters had blocked the main road into Ambo in a dispute over sugar shortages. Police used live rounds to disperse the crowd.

Eleven Oromos were killed a week prior in the same province. The bloodshed came in tit-for-tat violence with a neighboring region.

In recent years, tight authoritarian rule has kept uprisings from engulfing the nation. The heavy-handed government has also kept the outside world from seeing in too deeply.

But that tactic is not perfect. Violence does erupt and news reports do get out, drawing the ire of many humanitarian bodies.

The Trumpet has forecast that Ethiopia will soon face major social upheaval. Ongoing tensions between the 80 different ethnic groups could play a part in that unrest.

Almost 700 people were killed last year when Oromos protested a government development plan. Opponents of the initiative saw the plan as a land grab by the ruling powers.

The Oromos make up the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia. Yet they feel their grievances are not heard by the ethnic minority government. Addis Ababa has promised to be inclusive of all ethnicities, but disputes have led to violence and mistrust in the provinces.

Martial law was imposed to quell last year’s bloodshed. It was lifted in August of this year. Then in September, 150,000 Oromos were displaced from the province of Somali.

The displacement occurred after Somali police had killed two Oromi officials. The Oromos responded by killing Somalis. The 150,000 Oromos were driven from the Somali province in retaliation. The expelled people now live in camps. The United States Embassy in Addis Ababa said in a September 19 statement that it was “disturbed by the troubling reports of ethnic violence and the large-scale displacement of people living along the border between the Oromia and Somali regions.”

There is 1,000 miles of borderland between the Oromia and Somali regions. Cross-border disputes go back to 2004 and the referendum that established the border. A crippling drought in Somali and paramilitary involvement in disputes have seen violence intensify.

An expert on Ethiopian ethnicity and identity, Fekadu Adugna, told the Washington Post, “What the conflict is doing is increasing the mistrust between the political parties.” He continued, “That mistrust can be a serious threat for the federal arrangement.”

Many see the central government as either turning a blind eye or unable to resolve the inter-province violence.

But unrest is not Ethiopia’s greatest concern. It is what grows in the unrest—Islamic extremism—that Ethiopia should be wary of.

A Growing Religion

Islam has existed in Ethiopia for centuries. Some of the first Muslims arrived from Mecca as refugees and were taken in by King Negus Ashama ibn Abjar. He ruled the kingdom of Axum—the land that is today part of modern Ethiopia—in the early seventh century.

According to the latest polls, 33 percent of Ethiopians identify as Muslim. In 1991, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (eprd) took power. At that point Ethiopian Muslims started practicing their religion freely. As one commentator for the Addis Standard noted, “[G]aining the freedom to exercise their religion means Ethiopian Muslims are now sharply aware of their rights to exercise their faith.” Islamic schools are being built and hijabs and niqabs are worn in public.

Significantly, most Muslims live in Eastern and Southern Ethiopia—Oromo heartland. These areas tend to foster instability and mistrust for the government. And to the East is Somalia—where Wahhabism has flourished. It is no surprise that the Ethiopian government has made numerous incursions into Somalia to stamp out radical Islam. It has also uncovered Wahhabi plots to establish a kingdom in Ethiopia run on sharia law.

Domestically, the government attempts to spread a religion of Sufiesm and liberal Islam. They do this by controlling the nation’s Islamic Affairs Supreme Council. This, in turn, has built more mistrust in the Muslim community.

Growth in Unrest

One clear lesson the Arab Spring has taught is that radical Islam can capitalize on unrest. When strongmen like Saddam Hussein, Muammar Qadhafi or Hosni Mubarak are removed, chaos ensues. In some cases, Iran-backed terror quickly follows.

Iraq’s Hussein was a brutal dictator, but he kept Iran at bay. Following the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, half the nation was captured by the Islamic State. Flash forward to today and Iran rules that territory.

Look at Libya: Iran-backed militias fought on the streets of Benghazi. Look at Egypt: How soon after Mubarak fell did Iran cozy up to the Muslim Brotherhood?

Across the Middle East and North Africa, we have seen radical Islam—supported by Iran—flourish. One common factor is instability. Iran loves a crisis! Flash points like Yemen become opportunities for Iranian expansion. Should the opportunity present itself, Ethiopia would not be immune.

Surrounded

Beyond Ethiopia’s borders, radical Islam is spreading. Somalia is overrun. Iran uses Eritrean ports as a staging ground for intervention in Yemen. To the north, Libya is now a hotbed of radicalism. Unrest also flourishes in the Sinai Peninsula, Algeria, Nigeria and Morocco. Radical Islam stands knocking at Ethiopia’s door.

Further placing Ethiopia in the crosshairs of radical Islam is the nation’s location. Iran is the world’s foremost state sponsor of terror. Tehran has consolidated power at critical sea-lanes in the region, often using instability to get a stranglehold. Look at the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez and Bab el-Mandeb. Control of Eritrea and Ethiopia would be a major step forward in Iran’s stranglehold plan.

The Trumpet forecasts that Iran’s interest in and influence over Ethiopia will grow. In the April 2011 Trumpet issue, editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote:

Why would Iran be so interested in getting some measure of control over Libya and Ethiopia? To me, the answer is intriguing. All you need to do is get a good map of the Middle East, with the emphasis on the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Then you can see why the king of the south, or radical Islam, is so interested in an alliance with or control over these two countries. They are on the two seas that comprise the most important trade route in the world!

An Unlikely Alliance

Many today scoff at the notion of Islam holding sway in Ethiopia. But it isn’t just geopolitics that the Trumpet bases its analysis on. The Christian Bible states that an Islamic relationship with Ethiopia will come about! Skeptics need only read the prophecies in Daniel 11:40-43, which foretell an end-time clash. It comes from a German-led Holy Roman Empire and an Iranian-led Islamic coalition called the king of the south.

In verse 43, Daniel mentions Ethiopia by name! Our free booklet Libya and Ethiopia in Prophecy explains this relationship in detail. And the identity of Iran as the head of this king of the south is also provable. Watch the following 90-second video and see for yourself.

Another free publication we offer, The King of the South, covers this astounding prophecy in detail. Be sure to request a copy if you don’t yet have one.

This is why we watch events in Ethiopia. Despite the government’s efforts to prevent unrest and the spread of radical Islam, the Bible predicts a very specific outcome!

Keep an eye on events in Ethiopia. The forces of radical Islam will not let unrest go to waste.

https://www.thetrumpet.com/16431-ethiopian-unrest-a-chance-for-radical-islam

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India

 

Maulana Kalbe Sadiq urges Muslims to give away Babri Masjid land and win hearts

November 1, 2017

New Delhi: Well-known Shia religious scholar Maulana Kalbe Sadiq once again urged Muslims of India to prefer victory of Islam over personal victory in any inter-religious dispute. He once again indirectly advised the Muslims to give away disputed religious structure of Ayodhya to the Hindu brethren.

Citing a land dispute which arose between Hindus and Muslims near Muzaffar Nagar a 100 years ago, Maulana said when the court finally advised the parties to settle the case outside court, the Hindu party unanimously selected a Muslim leader and informed the court that whoever the leader will ask to handover the land they are ready to accept his decision. The Muslim leader gave judgement in favour of Hindus and asked Muslims to prefer victory of Islam over their own, which can be gained by winning hearts.

Maulana Kalbe Sadiq was addressing a conference presided over by Chancellor of Sanskriti University Mathura Prof. Sachin Gupta.

https://www.siasat.com/news/maulana-kalbe-sadiq-urges-muslims-give-away-babri-masjid-land-win-hearts-1250055/

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China's stand on Masood Azhar shows UN body's limitations, says India

Nov 1, 2017

NEW DELHI: A day after China confirmed that it would block a ban on Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar, India told the UN Counter-Terrorism Centre that the global body's counter-terrorism efforts risked becoming a "trauma centre". Speaking at a meeting of the UN body, India's envoy to the UN Syed Akbaruddin said the international community was always one step behind the terrorists. "While we struggle to actualise our essential counter-terrorism necessities, terrorists think ahead into the future. While we take years to work on our approach of a collective response to terrorist threats faced in the past, the threats of tomorrow are being planned in the dark web and obscure safe havens," he said.

The US, India, Afghanistan and a host of other countries have blamed Pakistan for offering safe havens to deadly terror groups like Taliban, al-Qaida, etc.

Even China, which batted for Pakistan in the Masood Azhar case, last week asked Pakistan to increase security for its envoy in Islamabad, after intelligence showed that Pakistan-based terror groups were threatening the Chinese diplomat.

On Monday, China asked Pakistan to deliver "justice" against the terrorists accused of killing two Chinese citizens in Balochistan in June.

Akbaruddin emphasised the challenge faced by nations and multilateral agencies in "acting in a more coordinated manner, more coherently, more strategically, and with more foresight to tackle the challenges of the future".

The Azhar episode also displayed the limitations of the UNSC'S 1267 committee, showing that the exercise of veto, which has hobbled it, has afflicted the counter-terrorism centre as well.

Reflecting India's disappointment, Akbaruddin said, "Strengthening of the UN system and our collective response to the threat posed by terrorists must remain a priority. Unfortunately, this approach seems yet to permeate our actions."

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/chinas-stand-on-masood-azhar-shows-un-bodys-limitations-says-india/articleshow/61384148.cms

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Dalit, Muslim groups in Bengal unite to mark Babri demolition and Ambedkar death anniversary

Oct 31, 2017

A number of Muslim and dalit organisations have come together to hold a mega public gathering in Kolkata on December 6 to mourn the demolition of Babri masjid and observe death anniversary of B R Ambedkar simultaneously.

This is the first time an initiative of this kind has been taken in the state. The motto, organisers say, is “to fight manuvadi and brahminical fascism.”

In Bengal, people belonging to scheduled caste (23%) and Muslim (27%) communities comprise nearly half the population.

Read: BJP can’t ignore new zeal in Dalit resistance against caste violence

“Earlier, dalits used to observe Ambedkar’s death anniversary while Muslims mourned the demolition of Babri masjid. This year, we have decided to bring all programmes under one banner and hold a single event on December 6,” said Sukriti Ranjan Biswas, president of Samya, Shanti, Sampriti Mancha (forum for equality, peace and harmony), an amalgamation of dalit and Muslim organisations founded in late 2016.

Around three dozen dalit and Muslim organisations based in various parts of Bengal are coming together to make the initiative successful.

Biswas - a dalit leader who mostly works among refugees from Bangladesh - alleged that politicians have always used dalits against Muslims for electoral gains. “We will foil their plan,” he said.

Organisers believe that the event will become a major step towards forging a dalit-Muslim unity in Bengal against the BJP and saffron organisations.

The BJP has been in the crosshairs of Dalit and Muslim groups across India after attacks were perpetrated by cow vigilantes groups.

Read: Kolkata emerging as a centre of protest against uniform civil code, national meeting planned on Nov 20

With the BJP being accused of being anti-Dalit - an allegation that stuck after students’ unrest across universities following the suicide of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula in Hyderabad and reinforced by the flogging of Dalits by cow protection groups at Una in Gujarat - the party is now working hard to change the perception.

Significantly, former central committee member of the banned CPI(Maoist), septuagenarian Purnendu Sekhar Mukherjee, is one of the organisers of the event in Kolkata. Arrested in 2011, Mukherjee was released on bail in 2015.

“Initial steps towards dalit-Muslim unity were taken last year to maintain peace and harmony and defeat divisive campaign by Brahminical fascist forces. With the December 6 rally, we hope to strengthen this unity,” Mohammad Kamrujjaman, general secretary of the Mancha, told HT.

Incidentally, several organisations set to participate in the event earlier came together and took out a rally in Kolkata in support of the Rohingya Muslims. Thousands marched in the city protesting the Centre’s stand on the refugees from Myanmar.

Full report at:

http://www.hindustantimes.com/kolkata/dalit-muslim-groups-in-bengal-unite-to-mark-babri-demolition-and-ambedkar-death-anniversary/story-0NR2QZjtdqMJ6wLNueAIDL.html

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Arab World

 

The Muslim world must confront the underlying problems in Islamic theology

Nov 1, 2017

In April of this year, Mashal Khan, a 23-year-old journalism student from Abdul Wali Khan University — a university in Pakistan, the country of my birth — was accused of blasphemy by a mob of students, dragged out of his dorm room, stripped naked, beaten, and shot dead. Khan self-identified as a “humanist” and had portraits of Karl Marx and Che Guevera hanging in his room. He’d also advocated for Islamic reform. A video of the incident showed the perpetrators crying “Allahu Akbar!” as they beat Khan’s lifeless body with terrifying zeal. The perpetrators of this violence were not members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). They were university students.

Khan’s gruesome death convinces me that the ideology that inspired ISIS will not soon be defeated, even though ISIS is on the precipice of military defeat. Its forces recently lost control of their capital city of Raqqa to the U.S.-backed and predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces in Syria, and, three months before that, lost their largest city, Mosul, to Iraqi government forces.

The Muslim world has tended to treat ISIS as an anomaly, to assert that ISIS is not Islam. This response is intellectually lazy. Muslim-majority countries must confront the underlying problems within aspects of Islamic theology.

ISIS did not usher in a new concept. The concept of an Islamic State is old — centuries old, in fact. ISIS’s goal has been simple: to unite the Muslim world under the black banner of the Khilafah (or Caliphate), and to establish their set of divine laws (Sharia) on Earth. If you are a student of Islamic history, you will recognize myriad examples of ambitious sultans, emirs and warlords — from Timurlane to Aurangzeb — who shared this same desire to establish an Islamic theocracy.

While many Muslim-majority countries do not have a problem with theocratic states, many — including Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim theocracy — have condemned ISIS as a terrorist organization. But these countries have often failed to specifically condemn the ideology that it operates on. They have not denounced, for example, ISIS’s criminal justice system as “un-Islamic.” Presumably, this is because many of these countries enforce very similar laws.

ISIS has been creative in its brutality, but the corporal punishments it inflicts are not conceptually novel. From stoning adulterers to amputating the hands of thieves, these punishments are all grounded in ancient Middle Eastern laws. Some of them are actually pre-Islamic (dating back to the times of Hammurabi in the 18th century B.C.E.), but are also mentioned in Biblical and Islamic traditions as part of Sharia. These punishments are also used by some Muslim governments, most notably Saudi Arabia and Iran, against citizens who commit these same crimes.

ISIS is known to inflict a particularly disgusting punishment on gay individuals, throwing them off rooftops or bludgeoning them to death. But this is simply ISIS’s recapitulation of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, where Allah (God) rained down fire and stones on a homosexual city, resulting in the death of all its inhabitants. According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, in 2017, there were 12 countries in the world where homosexuality remains punishable by death. All of these are Muslim-majority countries, including Yemen, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Somalia. Unfortunately, it is hard to find an example of ISIS ruthlessness that is not sanctioned by Islamic texts. Even the execution of apostates or the taking of female sex slaves (known as Malakat Aymanukum, which literally translates to “those females whom your right hands possess”) can be justified by reference to religious texts.

It is not enough for people of Muslim background — myself included — to simply reject ISIS as a “non-Muslim” organization. We have a responsibility to own up to the ideological problems present in our midst. The problem has never been just ISIS, al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood or Boko Haram. The problem is the tree that brings forth these fruits. This is the tree of Islamic fundamentalism and the ethnocentric and religious supremacist way of thinking that it demands from its adherents.

The Muslim community needs to reject intellectual laziness and embrace bold thinkers who are prepared to reform Islam and its traditions. Individuals like Irshad Manji, Maajid Nawaz and Tawfik Hamid, for example, have emphasized the importance of reinterpreting violent passages within Islamic scriptures to combat Islamic extremism. Muslim-majority countries also need to separate Mosque and State, to better allow freedom of expression and protect their religious minorities. Islam must be depoliticized: one’s religious decisions should be a personal matter, rather than a force used to control the masses.

Currently, the Muslim world is in a dark age, where freedom of thought is absent. The first step is to acknowledge that ISIS is indeed a Muslim problem that needs to be dealt with by Muslims. If we fail to do so, we risk seeing the lives of more people destroyed, both abroad and overseas.

http://nationalpost.com/opinion/the-muslim-world-must-confront-the-underlying-problems-in-islamic-theology

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Bahrain court sentences 10 men on terrorism charges

October 31, 2017

A Bahraini court sentenced 10 men to life imprisonment and revoked their citizenship on charges of forming a terrorist cell and plotting attacks, the Bahraini Public Prosecution said on Tuesday.

The men were accused of receiving training in military camps in Iran and Iraq in the use of arms and bombs to carry out terrorist attacks in Bahrain , the prosecution said in a statement.

Bahrain , a small island state linked to Saudi Arabia by a 25 km (15 mile) causeway, is strategically important to the West as it hosts the US Fifth Fleet. It has a Shi‘ite Muslim majority population but is ruled by a Sunni royal family.

The government, citing years of deadly bombing and shooting attacks against its security forces, says it faces a militant threat backed by arch-foe Iran.

On Monday Bahrain’s Public Prosecution said it had sentenced 19 unnamed defendants to prison terms for contacts with a banned party it says is backed by Iran and involved in militant attacks.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/31-Oct-2017/bahrain-court-sentences-10-men-on-terrorism-charges

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Syria regime shelling kills 6 schoolchildren

November 01, 2017'

JISREEN, Syria - At least six schoolchildren were among 11 people killed in Syrian regime shelling Tuesday in Eastern Ghouta, a war monitor said, despite a ceasefire in the hunger-hit rebel enclave.

The bombardment of the rebel-held pocket outside Damascus came as a new round of peace talks to end Syria’s six-year war entered a second day in the Kazakh capital Astana.

Government fire on the besieged region has been on the rise in the past week, and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said the latest shelling hit a school in the town of Jisreen. “A shell fired by regime troops hit the entrance of a school in Jisreen just as children were leaving it,” said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

A medical source at the town hospital confirmed the death toll and said another 25 people were wounded.

The Observatory said earlier that four children had died, but two later succumbed to their wounds in hospital.

An AFP photographer at the medical facility saw the bodies of four children, wrapped in blood-stained white shrouds.

Several wounded children lay or sat in shock on hospital beds, including one with severed legs.

A man cried out after learning his son had died, as others around him tried to comfort him.

Small blue school bags and a tiny pair of shoes lay in a corner, drenched in blood.

Outside the primary school, children stared at the pools of blood staining the concrete ground.

“I was coming out of school and was about to turn into a side street when the shell hit. There were dead people, wounded people,” one child told AFP.

The Observatory said regime bombardment on Tuesday also hit other areas of Eastern Ghouta, where opposition fighters have been battling President Bashar al-Assad’s troops for six years.

The regime on July 22 announced a ceasefire with rebels in the besieged area, which has been included in a so-called “de-escalation zone” agreed by Turkey, Russia and Iran.

On Tuesday, regime shelling on the Mesraba area, also in Eastern Ghouta, killed four civilians including two children, the Observatory said.

An AFP journalist at a morgue saw rescue volunteers and young men slip the bodies of a father and his son into white plastic bags.

“May God avenge oppressors,” the man’s brother cried.

In the town of Harasta, shelling also hit near a school as pupils were leaving it, wounding 10 people including five children.

On Sunday, 11 civilians including a journalist for pro-opposition television were killed in Eastern Ghouta.

The shelling comes as Eastern Ghouta, where an estimated 400,000 people live, faces a mounting humanitarian crisis.

Shocking AFP images from the region this month showed severely underweight children, and doctors reported two infants had died of malnutrition and related complications.

On Monday, dozens of trucks carrying aid for 40,000 people entered Eastern Ghouta.

The region was once a prime agricultural region famed for its orchards.

But the rebel stronghold has been under a tight government siege since 2013, causing shortages of food and medicine, as well as price hikes for the local and smuggled supplies available.

Basic services are virtually non-existent, with electricity produced only by generators and water often dirty and a vector for disease.

More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

The conflict has since spiralled into a complex war involving world powers and Islamic State group militants, who took over large swathes of the country in 2014.

But the militants have since lost most of the territory they controlled, and were ousted two weeks ago from their de facto Syrian capital of Raqa.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/01-Nov-2017/syria-regime-shelling-kills-6-schoolchildren

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Saudi Crown Prince Going Paranoid for Fear of Life

Oct 31, 2017

"Bin Salman is living in horror. All those who want to meet him (even the closest ones) should go through three inspection rooms and all their belongings and whatever they carry are taken away from them, even a small pen in the second room," al-Ahd al-Jadid wrote on its twitter page on Tuesday.

Anyone who wants to meet bin Salman is thoroughly checked from top to toe and this is done on everyone even close relatives and family members.

Other Arab media outlets also reported in August that bin Salman has escaped an assassination attempt at one of the royal family palaces in Jeddah.

Arabic language Mer'at al-Jazeera quoted sources close to the royal family as saying that bin Salman was targeted by an assassination attempt in Jeddah by one of the Saudi princes.

Also, a western diplomat in Riyadh said that the Saudi crown prince wasn’t harmed in the failed attempt and the prince who made the move was arrested.

Bin Salman's ambitious acts in recent months and his attempts to dethrone the rivals have created wroth among other Saudi princes.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960809001671

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Is 'moderate Islam' just another way of saying Arab nationalism?

Burhanettin Duran

Nov 1, 2017

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's recent pledge to "return Saudi Arabia to moderate Islam" was motivated by regional considerations rather than domestic needs. My sense is that Riyadh is making ideological preparations for a new stage in the Saudi Arabia-Iran rivalry.

In my most recent column, I had pointed out that efforts to revive the "moderate Islam" discourse were intended to identify Iran as the main sponsor of all forms of extremism. After all, it has been quite some time since the original, U.S.-backed "moderate Islam" project ran aground, as Washington turned its back on the goal of transforming and democratizing political Islam after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. As such, Mohammed bin Salman's words amount to nothing more than an effort to rebrand "Arab nationalism" as "moderate Islam" - mainly to contain Iran and, even, Turkey.

Before focusing on this new wave of nationalism, let us first engage the question of why Washington's "moderate Islam" policy failed in the first place. For a long time, Washington's plans to create a "moderate, democratic brand of Islamism" primarily focused on promoting "harmony with the West." In other words, the representation of popular demand in the political arena was always placed on the back burner. Therefore, the policy was could not go beyond keeping Islamic movements under control. In the end, everybody went back to repressing democratic demands in Muslim societies. And, of course, the Obama administration drove the final nail in the coffin of the "moderate Islam" project by letting the Arab Spring sour into winter.

In particular, the successive U.S. administrations made it clear that their quest to promote "moderate Islam" was ingenuine at four points.

1. The United States failed to recognize the results of the 2006 election in Gaza, which Hamas won by a landslide.

2. In Egypt, Washington supported the violent overthrow of the country's first elected president Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood by Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

3. U.S. officials have been trying to identify the AK Party and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a vocal critic of the Western-centered world system's injustice who puts Turkey's national interests first, as "radical-fascist Islamist."

4. Although it became clear that the Gülenists, who presented themselves as advocates of "dialogue" and "tolerance," were actually members of a terrorist organization and proxies for various intelligence services, the United States did not stand in solidarity with Turkey.

These cases make you think that any mention of "moderate Islam" marks the beginning of a new project or initiative. It would appear that the most recent regional plans will entail some type of rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations, and Iraq on the basis of Arab identity. The proponents of the new plan would like to play down the separation between Salafists and Shiites in order to highlight the divisions between Arabs and Persians. As such, they hope to ensure that Iran will be contained in Iraq and elsewhere in the Arab Middle East.

Let us recall that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently urged the Shiite militias in Iraq to "go back home." Last Thursday, he called on Iraq to resist Iranian influence from Geneva, "Iraqis are Arab. Iraqis are not Persian. So whether it's Iraqi-Sunni or Iraqi-Shiite, it's Iraqi-Shiite Arabs. They're not Persians. I think. [what] the Saudis are keen to achieve is a reconnection with their long-standing tribal brothers."

Full report at:

https://www.dailysabah.com/columns/duran-burhanettin/2017/11/01/is-moderate-islam-just-another-way-of-saying-arab-nationalism

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Syrian Army Continues Marching towards ISIL-Held Albu Kamal

Oct 31, 2017

The sources said that the army men hit ISIL's defense lines East of the newly-captured T2 oil pumping station and seized control over al-Shamas region only 63 km away from Albu Kamal.

In the meantime, other field sources reported that the army men repelled ISIL's heavy attack in Southwestern Deir Ezzur and managed to carry out a rapid counter-attack, pushing terrorists back from more positions with the support of the country's Air Force, deploying 50 km away from Albu Kamal.

The sources said that the army established control over T2 after today's advances against the terrorists.

Reports said earlier today that the army men engaged in clashes with ISIL within the framework of Valfajr 3 operation and advanced almost seven kilometers East of the newly-captured T2 oil pumping station towards Albu Kamal.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960809001198

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Iraqi Forces Impose Control over Energy-Rich Region in Western Anbar

Oct 31, 2017

Commander of Anbar Operation Major General Abdul Amir Yarallah said that his forces have seized full control over Akaz 1 and 2 oilfields in Western Anbar.

He further added that the Iraqi forces also captured the villages of Um al-Walaf, Hossein al-Ali and Um Tineh.

The Iraqi commander went on to say that the pro-government forces captured the two villages of al-Khasim and al-Rafedah and a phosphorus mine in line with the liberation operation of al-Qa'em at the border with Syria.

Iraqi army announced earlier today troops arrival at the borders of ISIL’s strongholds West of Anbar, ahead of the last phase of operations there.

Sabah al-Noa’man, Spokesperson for the army’s elite Counter-Terrorism Service, said, “troops arrived their positions near al-Qa'em ahead of beginning the last phase of the operation of the town,” Iraqi News reported.

Earlier, the Iraqi forces halted their advance towards ISIL locations in Anbar province due to bad weather.

Meanwhile, Joint Operations Command airdropped more than one million leaflets urging ISIL militants to turn in themselves.

Many ISIL militants reportedly fled al-Qa'em heading to Albu Kamal in Syria, after several leaders ran away and were killed in airstrikes by the Iraqi jets and in other attacks.

The Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi announced on Thursday the launch of operations to liberate al-Qa'em and Rawa towns. Hundreds of thousands of messages were airdropped on Wednesday on the two towns informing civilians that security troops are coming to free them and urging them to stay away from the enemy.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960809001294

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Syrian Army Discovers Terrorists' Vast Network of Tunnels in Deir Ezzur

Oct 31, 2017

The source said that the army men found a network of long tunnels that mostly were a region on the Western bank of the Euphrates River between Deir Ezzur city and the towns of al-Mayadeen, connecting the towns and villages of Mouhassan, Bu Amr, Bu Leil and Buqrus to each other.

The source added that the ISIL has dug and used the tunnels to send fresh forces and provide logistical supplies for its important positions in necessary cases.

The source went on to say that the newly-seized tunnels are very deep and have different branches with command rooms and depots of arms, ammunition and equipment.

Relevant reports said on Monday that the army men stormed ISIL's positions in the neighborhoods of old airport, al-Hamidiyeh and al-Jabiliyeh after capturing the Stadium district and imposed control over more positions.

In the meantime, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that fifty terrorists were killed in the army operation and advances in Deir Ezzur city last night.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960809000852

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Iraqi, Syrian Gov't Forces Cooperating to Secure Common Borderline

Oct 31, 2017

The Iraqi and Syrian forces have launched simultaneous offensives in Iraq's Anbar province and Deir Ezzur province in Syria in a bid to secure the long borderline between the two countries, the English-language Lebanon-based AMN reported.

Since launching their offensive, the Iraqi Armed Forces have liberated more than 22,000 square kilometers of territory near the Syrian border.

Meanwhile, their counterparts from the Syrian army have also managed to liberate large territories in Deir Ezzur province, retaking several districts inside the provincial capital.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960809001379

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Militants in One More Region Join Peace Agreement with Syrian Army

Oct 31, 2017

The Russian ministry report said that representatives of militants in the town of al-Qanaya endorsed peace agreement with the army, adding, "The total number of cities, towns and region that have so far joined the peace plan stands at 2,261."

A Russian media outlet reported on Sunday that commanders of eleven militant groups in Eastern Qalamoun region in Damascus province were about to attend peace talks with the Syrian government to end battle with the Syrian Army troops.

The Arabic-language website of RT reported that leaders of eleven militant groups in Eastern Qalamoun agreed to hold a meeting with Damascus official on Sunday to study the terms of a peace agreement after they negotiated with Russian military men in Humeimim peace center and the mediatory role of regional elites.

The Arabic RT reported that the militant groups with almost 2,000 gunmen were from five large towns in Qalamoun, adding that the gunmen would join the Syrian Army's back up forces after indorsing the peace agreement and receiving government amnesty.

The representative of the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria said that the militants' different pretexts and new demands in the peace process were the cause of delay in holding final talks between the militants and the government.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960809000754

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Senior Terrorist Commander Escapes from Eastern Syria to Greece with SDF's Assistance

Oct 31, 2017

The websites reported that Zia'a Mustafa al-Bati, an ISIL field commander in Southern Deir Ezzur, crossed the SDF-held regions and moved towards Greece with considerable cash.

They added that al-Bati has paid $40,000 to the human traffickers and left Syria along with another ISIL member known as Harth al-Jeihan.

Albati was one of the former members of the Free Syrian Army (SDF) in the town of Mouhassan in Southeastern Deir Ezzur that joined ISIL later.

Relevant reports said on Monday that Mohammad al-Shahada, a field commander of the ISIL, escaped battlefields in Deir Ezzur towards the SDF-held regions following rapid advances of the Syrian Army troops in the region.

In the meantime, the army men, backed up by the Syrian Air Force, managed to advance from their positions in the small town of Mahkan Southeast of Deir Ezzur towards the key town of Albu Kamal at the border with Iraq, capturing several positions.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960809000710

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Unknown Raiders Assassinate Another Al-Nusra Commander in Northwestern Syria

Oct 31, 2017

The websites reported that Abu Ali Damer, a senior field commander of Al-Nusra, was killed by unknown assailants along the road connecting Idlib city to the town of Ma'arat Mesrin amid intensifying attacks on Al-Nusra commanders.

Militant-affiliated websites disclosed on Sunday that recent assassination of senior commanders of Al-Nusra Front was rooted in their disagreement with Turkish military intervention in Idlib province.

The websites further said that differences and arguments among commanders of Al-Nusra over Turkey's military meddling in Idlib and Western Aleppo were the root cause of the assassination of four high-ranking commanders of Al-Nusra.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960809000670

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Egypt raids militants responsible for Western Desert attack

31 October 2017

Egypt’s air force killed a large number of militants responsible for a deadly attack on a police convoy 10 days ago, the military said on Tuesday following an air raid on the militant’s base.

The raid, the second in a week targeting militants behind the Oct. 21 attack, was coordinated with police and based on intelligence about the location of their hideout, the military statement said.

Three security sources said at the time that at least 52 police officers and conscripts were killed on Oct. 21 when their patrol came under attack, but the interior ministry refuted that figure the next day and said only 16 officers had been killed.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi appointed a new military chief of staff a week after the militants struck and the Interior Ministry dismissed several high-ranking officials.

Tuesday’s military statement said the air strike was a “continuation of the armed forces and police efforts to avenge the martyrs of national duty”.

A “large number of terrorist elements” died in the strike, and the air force and police were pursuing several militants on the run, the statement added.

Three vehicles loaded with large quantities of weapons, ammunition and explosives were also destroyed in the strike, and the military later posted footage of the attack.

An official source in the Giza province security directorate told Reuters more than 12 militants had been killed, though a military spokesman did not confirm any death toll.

State news agency MENA later quoted an official security source as saying that a police officer who had been kidnapped during the Oct. 21 attack was rescued and taken to hospital. A military spokesman said he could neither confirm nor deny this.

Egypt has been fighting an ISIS insurgency concentrated in the northern part of the Sinai peninsula since Sisi led the military overthrow of President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013. Hundreds of members of the security forces have been killed since.

No group has claimed responsibility for the Oct. 21 attack in a remote desert area of Giza, about 130 km (80 miles) southwest of Cairo.

The latest air strike was the second attack on militants in five days - at least 13 militants died in a raid on a farm hideout in the region on Friday.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/10/31/Egypt-raids-militants-responsible-for-Western-Desert-attack.html

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Iraqi army takes control of Turkey border from Kurds

31 October 2017

An Iraqi military delegation is preparing to take control of the Kurdistan region border with Syria, an Iraqi military statement said on Tuesday.

The delegation headed by the Iraqi army chief of staff, Lieutenant General Othman al-Ghanmi, is visiting the Fish-Khabur triangle formed by the Iraqi Turkish Syrian border, in northwestern Iraq, a statement from the Iraqi joint operation command in Baghdad said.

The visit aims to “control the international border” it said, mentioning Iraq’s two crossings with Turkey and Syria, respectively Ibrahim al-Khalil and Fish-Khabur.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/10/31/Iraqi-to-take-control-of-crossing-between-Kurdistan-region-and-Syria.html

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Syrian forces retake three districts in Dayr al-Zawr from Daesh

Oct 31, 2017

The Syrian army forces have recaptured three neighborhoods from Daesh Takfiri terrorists in the eastern city of Dayr al-Zawr.

The Syrian forces also discovered 1,000 tons of wheat in the eastern suburban area of Muhasan on Tuesday which Daesh terrorists had hidden under the ground.

Later in the day, Russian submarine Veliky Novgorod launched three "Kalibr" missiles from Russia's Syrian naval base of Tartus in eastern Mediterranean at Daesh positions near the town of Abu Kamal in Dayr al-Zawr.

"A missile strike with three Kalibr missiles destroyed a command post with large numbers of militants and armed vehicles and also a large weapons and ammunition depot," the Russian defense ministry said in a statement on Facebook.

The statement confirmed "the destruction of all the given targets."

The developments come a day after the Syrian forces liberated al-Himidyah neighborhood in the city.

On Sunday, the Syrian forces reportedly killed at least 50 Daesh terrorists in Dayr al-Zawr and confined the Takfiris to an area between the city and the Euphrates.

Damascus broke Daesh’s siege on the city, which the group had been maintaining since 2014, when it began its campaign of bloodshed and destruction against Syria.

The terrorists seized huge swathes of land in lightning strikes after taking on the country. Syria then enlisted the assistance of Lebanon's Hezbollah and Russian aerial support, pushing the terrorists out of much of the territory under their control.

Dayr al-Zawr Province, of which the city is the capital, is the last place in the Arab country, which holds pockets of the terrorists.

US-backed so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are also closing in from the other side of the Euphrates, threatening a showdown with government troops and their allies.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2017/10/31/540533/Syria-Dayr-alZawr-Daesh

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Lebanese security forces dismantle espionage cell working for Mossad

Oct 31, 2017

Lebanese security forces have busted an espionage cell in the country, whose members were collecting sensitive information and passing it to the Israeli spy agency Mossad.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Lebanon-based Arabic-language al-Mayadeen television news network, General Director of the General Security Directorate Major General Abbas Ibrahim stated that the cell, run by a Syrian national identified as Paul George Khoury, was dismantled last July.

Ibrahim added that Khoury traveled to Belgium in 2011, where he met with a group of people affiliated to Mossad.

Khoury came to Lebanon in 2014, Ibrahim explained, and sought to establish a charity group as a cover to recruit agents for the Israeli spy agency.

Mossad then tasked Khoury with recruiting agents, inspecting Lebanese military and security sites, arranging meetings with people who had a predisposition to collaborate with the Tel Aviv regime, and promoting Zionism.

Lebanese General Directorate of State Security announced in a statement on October 7 that security forces had arrested three people on charges of collaborating with Mossad.

The statement added that the trio had been active in Bourj el-Barajneh area in the southern suburbs of Beirut, as well as in Aley district in the southeast of the capital.

The three Lebanese nationals were arrested in Bourj el-Barajneh, Hadath el Jebbeh town and Dayr Qoubel area.

On August 13, fighters from the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement found an Israeli spying device on the outskirts of Barouk village in the Chouf district of Mount Lebanon, located 52 kilometers southeast of Beirut.

The Israeli military then remotely detonated the spy device to prevent the de-codification and interpretation of its recorded data.

However, Hezbollah fighters could recover some parts of the exploded device, including its transmission receiver base and batteries.

The Lebanese army soldiers and Hezbollah fighters have on occasions dismantled Israeli surveillance devices planted near the country’s border regions with the occupied territories.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2017/10/31/540521/Lebanese-security-forces-dismantle-espionage-cell-working-for-Mossad

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Southeast Asia

 

Govt: No reason to arrest Zakir Naik for alleged terrorism

October 31, 2017

PETALING JAYA: The home ministry maintains that controversial Indian preacher Dr Zakir Naik is not receiving “special treatment” although he does enjoy permanent resident (PR) status in Malaysia.

This was contained in a written answer to Teresa Kok (DAP-Seputeh), who asked why Naik had yet to be arrested by Malaysian authorities.

The government said there was no reason to arrest Naik for alleged terrorism as he had not violated any Malaysian laws.

“Besides, the government has not received any official request from the Indian government in relation to allegations that he was involved in terrorism activities.”

In her question, Kok also wanted the government to state the reason why Naik had been granted PR status.

The ministry said PR status was granted to Naik five years ago according to the procedures set by the Immigration Department.

“According to our records, there was no citizenship application submitted to the National Registration Department,” the statement added.

The ministry, however, said the government would continue to monitor Naik’s activities in the country and would take action if he was suspected to be involved in terrorism.

On Nov 18, 2016, India’s National Investigation Agency lodged a criminal case against Naik in Mumbai, invoking the Indian Penal Code and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

India also declared Naik’s Mumbai-based Islamic Research Foundation an “unlawful association.”

It was reported that Naik has been stripped of his Indian citizenship and has an Interpol Red Notice out on him calling for his arrest.

Believed to have citizenship in Saudi Arabia, Naik also claimed to have been offered citizenship by at least 10 governments but had not decided which he should accept.

In March, 19 individuals, including Hindraf chairman P Waythamoorthy and lawyer Siti Kasim, filed a suit against the government for allegedly harbouring the controversial preacher.

They claimed he was capable of threatening national security and harmony, and had encouraged terrorism in public.

They also sought a court order that Naik be considered a threat to Malaysia, and a court order to stop him from coming to the country or remaining here, if he was already in the country.

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2017/10/31/govt-no-reason-to-arrest-zakir-naik-for-alleged-terrorism/

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Zimbabwean Islamic scholars come to defence of Mufti Menk

November 1, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Senior Muslim scholars in Zimbabwe have come to the defence of their mufti Ismail Menk after authorities in Singapore banned him from the city state over a speech forbidding Muslims to greet non-Muslims for their religious festivals.

The Council of Islamic Scholars (MUZ) questioned the claim that Ismail, better known as Mufti Menk, was divisive and unfit for a multi-religious society for telling Muslims not to say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Diwali”.

“We place on record that he has never said it is ‘blasphemous’ to greet others during their festivals. He teaches that everyone has the same right to celebrate their festivals, without any fear or restriction,” said the council’s president Shaikh Umar Phiri.

He said Menk preferred greetings that were “inclusive” such as “Happy Holidays”, “Seasons Greetings” and “Have a Good Day”.

“To claim that his preaching is divisive because of this is unfortunate, unfair and seems to be done without understanding the middle ground he has always taught in this regard.”

On Monday, Singapore’s ministry of home affairs said it had rejected Menk’s application, alongside Malaysian preacher Haslin Baharim or better known as “Ustad Bollywood”, to speak there this month in a religiously-themed cruise from the republic.

The statement said Ismail had been known to preach segregationist and divisive teachings, citing as an example his claim that it was a sin and a crime for a Muslim to wish a non-Muslim “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Deepavali”.

Menk is a frequent visitor to South East Asia including Malaysia, and has also met Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Yesterday, Putrajaya said it had no problems with Menk or Haslin.

“During their time in Malaysia, they did not say anything that caused racial conflict or tension in our society,” said Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

MUZ said Menk was an asset to Zimbabwe’s multi-cultural and multi-religious society.

“Similarly, he has proven his value on the world stage and in similar settings,” it added.

“We urge those concerned to listen to some of his sermons in full and not an edited clip of a few minutes. These talks are available online. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or instagram to see the moderate path he has chosen.

Full report at:

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2017/11/01/zimbabwean-islamic-scholars-come-to-defence-of-mufti-menk/

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Johor follows Singapore’s lead to ban 2 Muslim preachers

November 1, 2017

JOHOR BAHRU: Johor has followed Singapore’s lead in banning two Muslim preachers, Zimbabwe grand mufti Ismail Menk and Malaysian Ustaz Haslin Baharim, from giving lectures in the state on the ground that their views could harm racial unity and harmony.

Johor religious committee chairman Abd Mutalip Abd Rahim said the ban was ordered by state ruler Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar in a decree today, according to Berita Harian (BH) Online.

“The contents of the lectures delivered previously by the two preachers could cause disquiet.

“The Johor Religious Department will continue to monitor religious lectures in the state to ensure they are free from elements or views that could disrupt racial unity,” he told BH here today.

The Singapore government banned Ismail Menk and Haslin from entering the city state in an announcement on Oct 30.

The decision to ban them was made in consultation with the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, Singapore Tourism Board and Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, the republic’s home ministry said.

The ministry said Ismail had been known to preach “segregationist and divisive teachings”, such as calling it a sin and crime for a Muslim to wish a non-Muslim Merry Christmas or Happy Deepavali.

Haslin was said to have described non-Muslims as “deviant”.

In Kuala Lumpur yesterday, deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the government would not bar the two preachers from giving talks in Malaysia as it had found nothing wrong with their speeches.

Full report at:

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2017/11/01/johor-follows-singapores-lead-to-ban-2-muslim-preachers/

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More IS-linked Malaysians in central Maguindanao?

Zam Yusa

November 1, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR: A grouping of more than 120 militants, including Malaysians, are believed to be in central Maguindanao in the Philippines where another armed conflict could be brewing.

A terrorism research group which monitors hundreds of Islamic State (IS)-linked communication channels said it detected chatter about the group at least two weeks before the end of the Marawi siege.

“There is a lot going on in central Maguindanao where foreign fighters and locals are meeting up under one banner,” Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium (TRAC) told FMT.

“So, one thing that is really interesting about the Philippines is that Marawi is not the only game in town.”

The Philippine military had announced on Oct 23 that Marawi city was free of terrorists following the last standoff with the remaining pro-IS militants who were cornered in a building by troops.

The Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups, who had pledged allegiance to the IS, began the siege on Marawi city on May 23 when the Philippine authorities attempted to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, the emir-designate of IS in Southeast Asia.

Isnilon was the head of the Abu Sayyaf group while the Mautes were led by brothers Omar and Abdullah.

More than 1,000 people, mostly militants, were killed in the five-months of clashes between the rebels and government forces.

Malaysians, including the alleged financier of the Marawi siege, Mahmud Ahmad, were reported to have played a major role in the attacks.

After the final standoff with the remaining militants, 42 bodies were recovered from the last building cleared by the Philippine authorities.

Philippines defence secretary Delfin Lorenzana said some Malaysians were believed to be among those found dead but other reports said some remaining terrorists, including Malaysians, could have given the authorities the slip.

The latest news quoted Ranao Joint Task Force deputy commander Col Romeo Brawner Jr as saying a pro-IS gunman had been killed in the main battle area in the city yesterday.

Apart from the groups responsible for the Marawi attacks, the authorities are also setting their sights on another IS-inspired group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), led by Esmael Abdulmalik, a former Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) guerilla fighter.

While an offensive on the scale of Marawi is not likely to take place in the near future, the BIFF has reportedly been involved in clashes with security forces and MILF, where scores of people from both sides have been killed.

The BIFF is said to be a breakaway group of the MILF, who has improved ties with the government.

An unknown number of BIFF fighters were also reported to have been involved in the protracted war in Marawi.

TRAC, which operates a digital intelligence repository on political violence, said the BIFF, like the Maute group, also had strong connections with Malaysians.

“The Mautes have loads of connections with both Indonesians and Malaysians,” said TRAC.

Full report at:

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2017/11/01/more-is-linked-malaysians-in-central-maguindanao/

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Why is Malaysia allocating more money for the degradation of Islam?

31st October 2017

By Zan Azlee

MALAYSIA’S Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is also the country’s finance minister, last week tabled the 2018 national Budget.

It is a bigger budget in terms of allocation of money, increasing from RM260 billion in 2017 to RM280 billion for 2018.

It’s all well and good if money is allocated to the right areas and managed well. Overall, there’s an increase in allocation for all the major sectors like health, education, agriculture and entrepreneurship, which is, hopefully, positive.

However, one sector that will receive what I feel is an unwarranted increase in allocation is the Islamic development sector (RM1.03 billion has been earmarked for this). Most of this money is going to the Malaysian Islamic Development Department, better known as Jakim.

From 2017’s RM745 million, Jakim will get an increased allocation of RM811 million to spend in 2018. I honestly don’t know what better way (if any) Jakim plans to spend next year’s allocation – it’s not like they’ve been contributing a whole lot to developments in religion, or even to society as a whole.

So where will the money go? Are they looking to increase staff wages and bonuses? If they’re doing it as a reward for racism, then their employee, preacher Zamihan Mat Zin, would be deserving of such a raise, as we all know from his recent remarks.

Most recently, he said the Chinese were very dirty and unclean. This was in response to a laundromat in the state of Johor which had put up a sign saying they will not serve non-Muslim customers due to cleanliness issues.

Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim had announced his displeasure and said he would not tolerate such racist and exclusive behaviour in the state. He ordered the laundromat to take down the signage immediately.

This has since resulted in the Sultan ordering the state administration to cut ties and ignore the federal-level Jakim – a first for the state.

Zamihan has also been banned from speaking and preaching in Selangor. This is because he had insulted and criticised the Malaysian royal institution while preaching in a mosque in the state’s capital city Shah Alam.

Meanwhile, if Jakim’s budget is meant to be used to sow hatred and misunderstanding, then the department should really receive more for all that dedication it put into the campaign to stop non-Muslims and non-Malays from using the word “Allah”.

Remember how adamant they were about usage of that sacred Arabic word for God? Especially when Malay-speaking Christians here were found to be using it? Eventually, the word was banned from being used in sermons in Bahasa Malaysia and also in Christian publications in Malaysia.

They failed to realise that “Allah” is just one word that translates to God. There are many words that mean the same thing in different languages, such as “Tuhan”, “San”, etc. In fact, in the Arab world, all the different religions use “Allah” to refer to God.

So here we are approaching another year and supposedly another stage of progress in Malaysia. Unfortunately, the only area we don’t seem to see much progress in is our inter-religious and interracial understanding of each other. And that’s really sad, given the fact that the diversity of our people is what really helps us stand out as a nation.

Full report at:

https://asiancorrespondent.com/2017/10/malaysia-allocating-money-degradation-islam/#j0wIvckGi25ty02y.97

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Cycling couple on a mission to spread peace and tolerance

November 1, 2017

Riding on a tandem bicycle, Hakam Mabruri, 35, and his wife Rofingatul Islamiah, 35, entered Egypt on Oct. 17 via its border with Jordan.

They departed their hometown of Malang in East Java on Dec. 17, 2016 and spent the next 304 days traveling all the way to Egypt.

The couple was on a mission: to spread the message about Islam in Indonesia which is moderate and peaceful.

The two shared their story and experience with Indonesians, who are residing in Egypt, at the Indonesian Embassy in Cairo on Sunday.

“What they have done is very positive because it promotes Indonesia through citizen diplomacy,” said Indonesia’s ambassador to Egypt, Helmy Fauzi.

“The Indonesian Embassy will support them in any way possible during their stay in Egypt,” Helmy said in a statement sent to The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

Hakam said the biggest challenge they faced during the journey was the language barrier, especially when traveling through small towns where the residents did not speak English.

He shared one experience where the couple was denied entry into Myanmar because of visa restrictions. They then had to cycle 560 kilometers back to Bangkok to get visas from the Myanmar Embassy.

Full report at:

http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/11/01/cycling-couple-on-a-mission-to-spread-peace-and-tolerance.html

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Africa

 

Egypt hits ‘terrorists,’ but Libyans say 12 civilians killed

1 November 2017

CAIRO: Egypt’s military destroyed three vehicles loaded with weapons, ammunition and explosives, and killed a “large number” of militants in the western desert, a military spokesman said Tuesday.

Col. Tamer El-Rifai said in a statement that those targeted are suspected of having been involved in an ambush on police nearly two weeks ago about 135 km southwest of Cairo. The Interior Ministry said 16 policemen were killed in the attack.

El-Rifai said the airstrikes took place in a rugged area some 80 km southwest of Cairo. He said the scene was still being assessed and a casualty count was incomplete.

However, Libyan lawmakers and forces controlling an eastern city accused Egypt’s air force of conducting airstrikes that killed a dozen civilians, including an entire family.

Lawmaker Hamad Al-Bandaq said jets bombed a house in Al-Fatayah district in Darna late Monday, killing at least 12 people, mostly women and children visiting a sick relative.

A separate airstrike killed a shepherd and his family who were warming themselves by a fire pit.

The local authorities — the Shoura Council of Darna Mujahedeen — that control the city, accused Egypt of carrying out the “brutal airstrike.”

Al-Bandaq said about 50 people were also wounded in the strikes, mostly residents of the area. “Many families slept in the open air that night,” he said.

The Tripoli-based UN-backed government denounced the airstrikes and announced three days of mourning.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1186431/middle-east

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US forces capture Benghazi attacks suspect in Libya

31 October 2017

U.S. forces have captured a suspect in the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya that left four Americans dead, the White House said Monday.

"Yesterday, on my orders, United States forces captured Mustafa al-Imam in Libya," said President Donald Trump in a written statement. "Because of this successful operation, al-Imam will face justice in the United States for his alleged role in the September 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi."

The attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi led to the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and State Department official Sean Smith. Two CIA contractors – Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty – were both killed in a neighboring CIA annex.

“I want to thank our law enforcement, prosecutors, intelligence community and military personnel for their extraordinary efforts in capturing and delivering them (attackers) to the U.S. for prosecution,” Trump said.

Sending his condolences to the families of the victims, Trump said the U.S. will continue to support Libya to ensure that terrorist groups do not use the country as a safe haven for attacks against U.S. citizens, interests and Libyans.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also praised the operation to capture al-Imam, saying the U.S. would spare no effort to ensure that justice is served.

 Tillerson said the Department of State family continues to mourn the loss of the victims and said he spoke with some of their family members to underscore the U.S. government’s unwavering support.

In addition, Attorney General Jeff Sessions promised that al-Imam "will face justice in federal court for his role in the attack".

"We will never forget those we lost -- Tyrone Woods, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Ambassador Christopher Stevens -- four brave Americans who gave their lives in service to our nation," Sessions said in a statement.

"We owe it to them and their families to bring their murderers to justice."

In 2014, one of the main suspects behind the attack, Ahmed Abu Khatalla, was brought to a U.S. federal court in Washington.

Khatalla was captured on June 15, 2014 by U.S. special forces in Libya and was transferred to the USS New York in the Mediterranean.

After being questioned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he was taken to Washington D.C. to be tried in federal court.

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/america-canada/195487/trump-expected-to-nominate-powell-as-fed-chair

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17 killed in airstrike in Libya's Darnah

31 October 2017

Seventeen people were killed and more than 30 wounded in an airstrike late Monday in Libya's Darnah city.

An official of Al-Huraish State Hospital in Darnah, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to security reasons, said the hospital declared a "state of emergency" and a call for blood donations was made.

The perpetrator of the airstrike is not yet known.

The Mujahideen Shura Council, which is currently in de facto control of Darnah, took the city from ISIL in 2015. Darnah is the only city in eastern Libya not being controlled by forces led by General Khalifa Haftar.

Libya has been wracked by turmoil since 2011, when a bloody uprising ended with the ouster and death of longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/africa/195482/cameroon-opposition-party-leader-sentenced-to-25-years

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Somalia: Jubbaland President Calls for an All-Out Offensive Against Al Shabaab

31 OCTOBER 2017

The President of Somalia's southern semi-autonomous region of Jubbaland, Ahmed Mohamed Islam alias (Ahmed Madoobe) has called for an all-out offensive against Al Shabaab militants.

President Madoobe made the announcement at the consultative forum in Mogadishu, which brought together heads of Federal member states and the leaders of the Somali government.

Jubbaland President has criticized the mourning for the victims of the latest attacks in Mogadishu, including Oct 14 truck bombing in Km5 junction, which claimed the lives of more than 377 people.

The leaders held a moment of silence for the victims of Mogadishu attacks at the opening of their meeting kicked off Monday in the heavily guarded Presidential Palace, the Villa Somalia in the capital.

"Holding a moment of silence for the victims of the bombings in Mogadishu is Un-Islamic and will encourage the extremists to double their attacks in the country, so it should be replaced with action," said Jubbaland President.

Full report at:

http://allafrica.com/stories/201710310521.html

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Pakistan

 

Pakistan gained more successes in war on terror than US: Senate

NOVEMBER 1, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Legislators in the Upper House of parliament on Tuesday said that Pakistan on its territory had taken decisive actions against terrorist groups, and its successes were far more than those of the US in Afghanistan.

The senators expressed these views while commencing debate on the recent visit of the US secretary of state to South Asia in the wake of the new US policy. They said that the US should fulfil its commitments made for bringing peace to Afghanistan, adding that there was no military solution to the Afghan conflict. They stressed that a course of dialogue should be perused to bring peace and stability to the war-torn country.

The members said that the US should not hold Pakistan responsible for its own failure in Afghanistan.

Saying that Pakistan would never accept Indian hegemony in the region, they emphasised the need for maintaining “unity in our ranks” to cope with the challenges on the internal and external fronts.

Taking part in the debate, Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the way forward for Pakistan was to dismantle the jihadi infrastructure of the ’80s, dissociate from the narrative of General (r) Pervez Musharraf and civilianise foreign policy formulation instead of viewing it from the perspective of security establishment alone. He said that he was shocked that Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif only reiterated the narrative of Pervez Musharraf.

“Musharraf used to confront foreign interlocutors by asking them to give him phone numbers and addresses of the Afghan Taliban hiding in Pakistan and he would go after them. Khawaja Asif also informed the Senate that the visiting US secretary of state had been asked to give the addresses of Taliban leaders for taking action,” he said. “Musharraf’s policy of denial continues.”

He said that many had welcomed the recent statements of Kh Asif and Ahsan Iqbal regarding putting our own house in order, and asked why there wasn’t a hint about it in the foreign minister’s address. “Is it that Khawaja Asif was not fully in charge of the policy formulation?” he asked.

He advised Khawaja Asif to simply pursue investigations into the identity card and passport issued to Taliban leader Mullah Mansoor Akhtar.

He said that because of the disastrous foreign policy, Pakistan was losing heavily. Last week, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani banned Pakistani trucks from entering Afghanistan, warning that Pakistan would not be able to trade with central Asian states, he said, adding that the annual bilateral trade between the two countries had come down from $2.7 billion to less than $1.5 billion. “With the new trade route of Chabahar, Kabul’s dependence on Pakistan has further decreased.” Pakhtuns on both sides were the victim and the country was losing, but no one seemed to care, he said.

He said that after Trump’s new policy, drone strikes had been resumed, as militants were hiding and changing locations.

https://dailytimes.com.pk/133084/pakistan-gained-successes-war-terror-us-senate/

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US to give Pakistan chance to strike terrorist targets, says Tillerson

Anwar Iqbal

November 01, 2017

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has informed Congress that Pakistan is willing to target terrorists if provided information and Wash­ington plans to give Islamabad the opportunity to prove it.

At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Monday night, American lawmakers also warned that if the United States insisted on having the option of first strike against a nuclear-armed nation, it could send a wrong signal to other nations with nuclear weapons. They particularly mentioned India and Pakistan, two nuclear nations with strained relations.

Although the hearing was on the US president’s authority to go to war, Senator John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican, asked Mr Tillerson to share with the committee what he heard from Pakistanis during his visit to Islamabad last week.

“Pakistanis have indicated — if we provide them information they will act. We’re going to have to test that, give them an opportunity to do so,” Secretary Tillerson replied. “So, we are going to enter into an effort to have greater sharing of certain intelligence information.”

Senator Barrasso also referred to US President Donald Trump’s Aug 21 speech who said that “a pillar” of his new strategy for Afghanistan was “to change the approach in how to deal with Pakistan”.

The senator reminded Mr Tillerson that while travelling in South Asia last week, he too talked about “setting certain expectations” for the government of Pakistan and also about putting in place “a mechanism of cooperation through information sharing and action” to deny terrorist outfits the ability to launch attacks.

“So, could you talk a little bit about what is the change in the approach to Pakistan and maybe some of the expectations that you’ve articulated for the Pakistani government … in terms of what this cooperation is going to look like?” he asked.

Secretary Tillerson said he could only share “some broad contours” of Islamabad visit in a public hearing and if the senators wanted more, he was willing to sit with them for a closed hearing.

“But the conversation with the Pakistani government is for them to recognise that they will be one of the greatest beneficiaries of a successful peace process in Afghanistan,” he said.

He noted that Pakistan had two very unstable borders, with Afghanistan and India, so the message he delivered in Islamabad was — “You have to begin to create greater stability inside your country and that means denying safe haven to any of these organisations that launch attacks from your territory”.

Secretary Tillerson said he hoped his visit will pave the way Pakistan reviews the Afghan situation. “Pakistan will find it in their interests to begin to disassociate these long-standing relationships that have developed over time with certain terrorist organisations,” he added.

He claimed that Pakistan did have long-standing relations with the Haqqani network and the Taliban, which might have served their purpose for stability in the past but they no longer served that purpose.

“And it’s up to Pakistan I think, to think about their longer-term stability and their future by changing that relationship with these organisations,” said the chief US diplomat.

The hearing also focused on the issue of presidential authority to launch a nuclear strike, with the committee’s chairman Senator Bob Corker noting that the Senate hasn’t conducted a hearing on this issue since the 1970s.

Some senators described Pre­sident Trump as unpredictable and warned that he could order a pre-emptive nuclear assault against North Korea or another country with nuclear weapons.

US Defence Secretary James Mattis and Mr Tillerson, however, said that the president could only order a first strike if Washington felt an “imminent threat,” but refused to define what that threat might look like.

Senator Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, asked the two witnesses if Mr Trump could launch a “first strike” without consulting any members of Congress.

Secretary Mattis avoided a direct answer, but said he could imagine a scenario where it’s possible if another country were preparing to fire weapons of mass destruction at the United States.

Another lawmaker pointed out that the Bush administration invaded Iraq because it thought Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons but their assumption was proved wrong.

Mr Mattis said the process for launching nuclear weapons was very rigorous. “No US president has forsworn first strike and that has served us well for 70 years,” Mr Tillerson added.

A Kentucky Republican, Senator Rand Paul, brought India and Pakistan into the debate, saying keeping the first strike option sends a wrong signal.

“What signal does it send to enemies of other nuclear powers? Enemies of Russia, enemies of China, enemies of Pakistan, of India that we’re reserving the right if we don’t like what weapon you have and we think it might reach us, we may as well just take you out,” he said.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1367593/us-to-give-pakistan-chance-to-strike-terrorist-targets-says-tillerson

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Pakistanis are peace and sports loving nation: COAS

NOVEMBER 1, 2017

QUETTA: Pakistanis are peace and sports loving nation bound to rise despite all challenges, the military’s media wing, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Tuesday issued a statement quoting Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa as saying.

Speaking on the concluding session of the Pakistan Motor Rally 2017, Gen Qamar said: “The motor rally is vindication of Pakistan’s progress towards peace and stability. Every Pakistani from Khunjerab to Gwadar is committed to peace and progress of the country.”

According to ISPR, the rally which started on 21 October from Khunjerab finished in Gwadar on Tuesday night.

“Balochistan’s progress is Pakistan’s progress,” the chief of army staff (COAS) said.

While focusing on the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Gen Qamar said: “CPEC will be truly successful when it lifts Balochistan to its rightful place.”

The Pakistan Army will extend full support and assist the socio-economic development of Balochistan by the government, he added.

The COAS also appreciated spirit of organisers, participants and the supporters from across the country.

A large gathering of local population, civil and military officials were present on the occasion to witness the concluding event held under the auspices of the Pakistan Army.

Gen Qamar along with Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Khan Zehri and former Balochistan chief minister Dr Abdul Malik witnessed final segment of the rally and distributed prizes among participants.

Earlier on his arrival, Gen Qamar was received by Southern Command Commander Lieutenant General Asim Saleem Bajwa.

Separately, Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan Mehdi Honardoost called on the COAS Tuesday at the General Headquarters (GHQ).

The focus of the discussion remained on regional security, Pak-Iran border management, visits and exchanges in the defence realm, an ISPR statement said.

“The visiting dignitary acknowledged and appreciated the Pakistan Army’s contributions for peace and stability in the region and pledged to keep working for better relations between two brotherly countries,” the ISPR added

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/133014/pakistanis-peace-sports-loving-nation-coas/

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Call for dismantling jihadi structure of 80s

November 01, 2017

ISLAMABAD -  An opposition senator on Tuesday alleged that Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif was only reiterating the narrative of former military dictator Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf when it comes to action against militants and dismantling jihadi infrastructure.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Farhatullah Babar, while taking part in a debate in the Senate on US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent visit to Pakistan and the foreign minister’s foreign policy statement given in the Upper House last week, said that he was shocked to see that Asif’s narrative of dismantling the jihadi network was the same as that of Musharraf.

Asif would wind up the debate today (Wednesday).

“The way forward for Pakistan is to dismantle the jihadi infrastructure of the 80s, break away from the narrative of Gen (retd) Musharraf and a civilian foreign policy formulation instead of viewing it from the perspective of the security establishment alone,” PPP senator said.

Babar said that Musharraf used to confront foreign interlocutors by asking them to give him phone numbers and addresses of Afghan Taliban including former Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden, who was hiding in Pakistan so that he could go after them.

“Khawaja Asif also informed the Senate that the visiting US Secretary of State had been asked to furnish addresses of the wanted Taliban leaders for taking action,” he said adding that Musharraf’s policy of denial continues.

“Do not deceive others by asking them to give identity numbers of militants.”

Last week, Asif told the Senate that the US had handed over a list of 75 most wanted militants to Pakistan seeking action against them.

Babar said that many had welcomed recent statements of Asif and Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal to “put our own house in order” and asked why there was not a hint about it in his address.

“Is it that Khawaja Asif is not fully in charge of the foreign policy formulation? he asked

He advised Asif to simply pursue an investigation into the identity card and passport issued to Taliban leader Mullah Mansoor Akhtar “to put all the pieces of the jigsaw together”.

The PPP senator said that because of this disastrous foreign policy, Pakistan was losing a great deal.

“Last week, President Ashraf Ghani banned Pakistani trucks from entering Afghanistan also warning that Pakistan will not be able to trade with central Asian states if Afghanistan was denied the transit trade. The annual bilateral trade between the two countries has plummeted from 2.7 billion dollars to less than 1.5 billion dollars. With the new trade route of Chahbahar, Kabul’s dependence on Pakistan has further dwindled. Pakhtuns on both sides of the border are the victims and the country is losing but no one seemed to care,” he said.

Babar said that there were contradictions in the foreign policy of Pakistan. “On the one hand, we deny safe sanctuaries and on the other, we say that we do not want to bring Afghan war to our territory. If there indeed are no sanctuaries how will the war enter Pakistan,” he asked emphasizing that the civilian component in the foreign policy should be enhanced and not diminished at all.

Other lawmakers taking part in the debate said that Pakistan would not tolerate the US intentions of giving India the role of a “policeman” in the region. They also condemned the US for having their links with the extremist elements of India and Israel.  Muttahida Qaumi Movement Senator Nasreen Jalil said that the policy of Pakistan was now clear that it would neither become proxy nor support any militant group. “So there are (now) chances to improve relations with Afghanistan,” she said.

Jalil said that the US only wanted to sell its weapons throughout the world. She said that Tillerson talked with the top civilian and military brass in Pakistan in a friendly atmosphere but he talked about giving a role of the “policemen” to India for the region soon he landed in New Dehli. She said that this role for India would not be acceptable for Pakistan.

PPP Senator Taj Haider said that the US has relations with the extremist elements of India and Israel. He said that fencing the border with Afghanistan would not work and Pakistan would have to remove such walls to improve relations with the neighbouring country.

Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party Senator Usman Kakar alleged that Pakistan always remained a proxy of the US and still it is an ally of the US in Saudi Arabia-led military alliance against Yemen. He said that Pakistan’s differences with the US were not on religion but on the issue of Afghanistan.  He also advised the government to improve its relations with Afghanistan.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Senator Saud Majeed said that Pakistan was trying to keep the house in order. Senator Saleem Zia said that Tillerson’s statement in India that the US was concerned about the stability of Pakistan’s civilian government was the most non-diplomatic statement. “The US has no business to say this,” he said.

Separately, the entire opposition staged a walkout from the House during the question-hour session for ignoring the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) saying the counter-terrorism body was fast becoming a post office due to non-allocation of funds.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/01-Nov-2017/call-for-dismantling-jihadi-structure-of-80s

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Around 3,000 Sikh yatrees to arrive in Pakistan on Nov 2

Nov 1, 2017

LAHORE: Around 3,000 Sikh yatrees from India will arrive here at Wagha Railway Station, through a special train on November 2, for the 549th birth anniversary celebrations of Baba Guru Nanak Sahib.

On the directions of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) chairman, Deputy Secretary Faraz Abbas and other officials visited Gurdwara Janum Asthan Nankana Sahib on Tuesday to inspect the arrangements made for the yatrees.

Talking to media, Faraz Abbas said that all arrangements have been finalised to welcome the yatrees in Pakistan. He said that the yatrees would be provided special facilities of foolproof security, accommodation, journey, medical, etc during their stay in Pakistan. All gurdwaras have been renovated and work on sacred water “amrit jal” has also been completed, he added.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2017/11/01/around-3000-sikh-yatrees-to-arrive-in-pakistan-on-nov-2/

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Foreign policy comes under fire in Senate

Iftikhar A. Khan

November 01, 2017

ISLAMABAD: The foreign policy being pursued by the present government came under fire in the Senate, with a Pakistan Peoples Party lawmaker chiding Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif for his advice to the United States for framing of Afghan strategy by politicians and policy-makers instead of generals who suffered defeat in Afghanistan.

“This principle should also be applied to Pakistan,” Farhatullah Babar of the PPP said while highlighting the need for enhancing civilian input in the foreign policy during a debate on US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent visit to Pakistan.

He noted that the way forward for Pakistan was to dismantle the jihadi infrastructure of the 1980s, dissociate from the narrative of retired Gen Musharraf and civilianise foreign policy formulation instead of viewing it from the perspective of the security establishment alone.

He said that he was shocked that Mr Asif only reiterated the narrative of Gen Pervez Musharraf. “Musharraf used to confront foreign interlocutors by asking them to give him the phone and address of the Afghan Taliban hiding in Pakistan and assure that they would be hauled up”.

Mr Asif also informed the Senate that the US secretary of state had been asked to give the addresses of Taliban leaders for taking action, he said. Gen Musharraf’s policy of denial continued, Mr Babar said.

He said many people had welcomed recent statements by Mr Asif And Ahsan Iqbal about putting own house in order and asked why there was not a hint about it in his address. “Is it that because Khawaja Asif not fully in charge of policy formulation?” he asked.

The PPP senator advised the foreign minister to simply pursue investigations into the identity card and passport issued to Taliban leader Mullah Mansour Akhtar and pieces in the jigsaw puzzle would fall in their place.

He said that because of this disastrous foreign policy Pakistan was losing heavily. Last week President Ashraf Ghani banned Pakistani trucks from entering Afghanistan warning also that Pakistan would not be able to trade with Central Asian states.

He said annual bilateral trade between the two countries had come down from $2.7 billion to less than $1.5bn. With the new trade route of Chahbahar Kabul’s dependence on Pakistan has further decreased. Pakhtuns on both sides were the victims and the country was losing, but no one seemed to care, he added.

He said that after Trump’s new policy drone strikes had been resumed as militants were hiding and changing locations. While the Taliban had intensified attacks inside Afghanistan, they had still not a single province, he said.

Mr Babar said there were contradictions in policy. “On the one hand we deny safe sanctuaries but on the other we say that we do not want to bring the Afghan war to our territory. If there indeed are no sanctuaries how will the war enter Pakistan?” he asked.

Azam Swati of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf alleged that the US wanted to destroy the region and take control of Pakistan’s nuclear assets.

Tahir Hussain Mashhadi of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement criticised the US for its ‘do more’ mantra and noted that it was time for the US to do more. He said Pakistan, Iran, China and Russia should be associated in efforts for peace in Afghanistan.

Muzaffar Hussain Shah of the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional said the role of India as a regional policeman was not acceptable. He underlined the need for finding out a political solution to the Afghanistan imbroglio and said Pakistan would not be allowed to become a proxy in the Afghan war.

Foreign Minister Asif will wind up the discussion on Wednesday.

In a belated reaction to the remarks made by Minister of State for Interior Talal Chaudhry indicating a plan to amend the Pakistan Citizenship Act, 1951 to give nationality of Pakistan to Bengalis and Burmese living in Sindh, Aijaz Dhamra of the PPP said the people and government of Sindh had serious reservations over it. “We will see when an amendment in the law is moved, but I want to bring our position on record,” he said.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1367587/foreign-policy-comes-under-fire-in-senate

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Ahsan for grand dialogue to ensure democracy

November 01, 2017

RAWALPINDI -  Federal Minister for Interior Ahsan Iqbal has expressed his concerns regarding the pursuit of democracy and suggested the need for a "grand dialogue amongst democratic forces to prevent the unconstitutional intervention".

He urged the democratic forces and political parties to form an alliance and conduct grand dialogue so that any unconstitutional intervention in the near future can be avoided.

He also highlighted that certain people are spreading misunderstandings between the government and institutions.

Speaking to media after visiting the house of journalist Ahmed Noorani in Rawalpindi on Tuesday, Ahsan Iqbal condemned the attack and hoped for his wellbeing.

He promised to punish the attackers as soon as possible.

The Interior Minister claimed that he himself overviews the developments in investigation on a regular basis, adding, that all relevant resources will be used to trace down those responsible.

He also stated that the ruling government will not tolerant any kind of restriction on freedom of expression.

On the other hand, NADRA was sent photographs of six suspects involved in the attack on journalist Noorani. These pictures were taken from cameras installed in the capital for safe City project.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/01-Nov-2017/ahsan-for-grand-dialogue-to-ensure-democracy

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South Asia

 

Taliban increase influence, territory in Afghanistan: US watchdog

November 01, 2017

WASHINGTON - The Taliban has increased the amount of territory it has influence over or controls in Afghanistan in the past six months, a US watchdog agency reported on Tuesday, as the militant group has stepped up attacks in recent weeks.

As of August, 13 percent of the 407 districts in Afghanistan were under Taliban control or influence , compared with 11 percent in February, according to a report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR. That means an additional 700,000 people now live in districts where the Taliban has at least some influence . The updated figures are a sign of the deteriorating security situation in the war-torn country, even as the United States has committed several thousand more troops.

The gains being made by the Taliban and a spate of recent attacks underscore worries about Afghan security forces’ ability to deal with a relentless insurgency that they have struggled to contain since most foreign troops left at the end of 2014.

In total, about 43 percent of Afghanistan’s districts are either under Taliban control or being contested, three percent higher than six months ago, SIGAR said.

US forces in Afghanistan also withheld certain data on the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, the report said, including “casualties, personnel strength, attrition, and the operational readiness of equipment.”

“In a significant development this quarter, US Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) classified or otherwise restricted information SIGAR has until now publicly reported,” the report said.

Afghanistan’s worsening security situation was highlighted on Tuesday when a suicide bomber in the capital killed as many as eight people.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.

The increase in the campaign of US air strikes in recent months is part of a new strategy aimed at reversing Taliban gains and forcing the insurgents to seek peace talks with the Afghan government.

The SIGAR report, citing the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan , also said there had been a 52 percent increase in civilian casualties from coalition and Afghan air strikes in the first nine months of 2017 compared with the same period in 2016.

There had also been a sharp increase in “insider attacks” by militants, targeting US and Afghan forces. In June, three Americans were killed an one wounded when an Afghan soldier opened fire on them.

http://nation.com.pk/01-Nov-2017/taliban-increase-influence-territory-in-afghanistan-us-watchdog

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Myanmar says Bangladesh dragging feet over repatriating Rohingya Muslim refugees

Nov 01, 2017

Myanmar has blamed Bangladesh for delaying the start of a repatriation process for hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees, saying it feared Dhaka could be stalling until it receives multi-million dollars of international aid money.

More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled predominantly Buddhist Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh since late August to escape ethnic violence that accompanied a brutal military counter-insurgency operation after Rohingya militant attacks on security posts in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.

Zaw Htay, a spokesman for Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, said Myanmar was ready to begin the repatriation process any time, based along the lines of an agreement that covered returns of Rohingya to Myanmar in the early 1990s.

He said Bangladesh had yet to accept those terms.

“We are ready to start, but the other side did not accept yet, and the process was delayed. This is the number one fact,” Zaw Htay, Director-General of the Ministry of the State Counsellor’s Office, told journalists on Tuesday.

A memorandum of understanding on border liaison posts was signed with Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan following talks in the Myanmar capital, Naypyitaw, last week, but there was no progress on reviving the old agreement.

Zaw Htay linked the delay by Bangladesh to the money raised so far by the international community to help build gigantic refugee camps for the Rohingya.

“Currently they have got $400 million. Over their receipt of this amount, we are now afraid of delaying the programme of deporting the refugees,” he said in comments carried in a front-page article in the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper on Wednesday.

“They have got international subsidies. We are now afraid they would have another consideration as to repatriation,” he said.

The Bangladesh government issued a statement on Thursday saying that Myanmar had not agreed to 10 points put forward by its minister at last week’s talks, including the full implementation of the recommendations of an Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, chaired by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, for a sustainable return of Rohingya.

Khan told Bangladesh media on Friday that the two sides were unable to form a joint working group but said it should be set up by the time Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali goes to Myanmar for talks on Nov. 30.

Full report at:

http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/myanmar-says-bangladesh-dragging-feet-over-repatriating-rohingya-muslim-refugees/story-G0e3pvC1fYKvp37z1VDV9I.html

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14 dead as bomber attacks Kabul's diplomatic zone

November 01, 2017

KABUL -  A suicide bomber believed to be as young as 12 struck Kabul 's heavily fortified diplomatic quarter on Tuesday and killed at least 14 people, showing that militants can still hit the heart of the city despite tighter security.

It was the first attack targeting the Afghan capital's "Green Zone " since a massive truck bomb ripped through the area on May 31, killing or wounding hundreds, and prompting authorities to strengthen protection.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attack, which follows a spate of suicide assaults by Taliban and IS insurgents on security installations and mosques in recent weeks.

A Western security source told AFP the attacker appeared to have been targeting workers leaving an Afghan defence ministry facility inside the heavily protected zone .

Health ministry spokesman Ismail Kawoosi told AFP that several people had been killed and 20 wounded, including women. "The suicide attack was carried out by an underage bomber , a boy we think 13 or 15 years old," interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish told AFP. A police spokesman said the attacker may have been as young as 12.

Defence ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said the bomber "made it through the first checkpoint but was stopped at the second checkpoint and detonated". "We don't know the target but it happened a few metres from the defence ministry's foreign relations office. There were no casualties to our personnel," Waziri said.

The attack is a setback for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani who had promised to beef up the security of the diplomatic zone after the truck bomb detonated outside the German embassy five months ago. Ghani immediately ordered an investigation into how Tuesday's attacker had been able to enter the supposedly secure area.

A Western security source told AFP he had repeatedly warned Afghan authorities about lax security at the checkpoint targeted by the bomber .

The attack struck the heart of the city's diplomatic area, where many embassies and the offices of major international organisations including the United Nations and NATO's Resolute Support mission are located.

"I was 100 metres away when the explosion happened and as I ran towards the site I saw several people lying in blood -- one had been hit in the head and was moving. It was a horrible scene," an eyewitness told TOLOnews. Another witness told AFP: "A lot of people were dead and injured and there was no one to carry them away."

AFP reporters heard a loud explosion around 4:00 pm (1130 GMT) just as workers would have been leaving their offices to go home, followed by the sirens of emergency services.

Many injured people were carried from the scene of the blast, put into ambulances and police pickup trucks and driven away.

US special charge d'affaires Hugo Llorens, America's top diplomat in Afghanistan in the absence of an ambassador, condemned the "cowardly attack" in a tweet.

The last major assault in Kabul was on October 21 when a suicide attacker hit a busload of Afghan army trainees, killing 15.

On October 20 a suicide bomber pretending to be a worshipper blew himself up inside a Shiite mosque in the city during evening prayers, killing 56 and wounding 55.

"The Taliban and IS are trying to demonstrate a lot of potency before the winter," Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told AFP.  Security in Kabul has been ramped up since the May truck bomb that went off on the edge of the Green Zone , killing around 150 people and wounding 400 others.

Special truck scanners, barriers and permanent and mobile checkpoints have been rolled out across the city.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/01-Nov-2017/14-dead-as-bomber-attacks-kabul-s-diplomatic-zone

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Four Rohingya drown as refugee boat capsizes off Bangladesh

October 31, 2017

Four Rohingya Muslims, a man, woman and two children, drowned when a small wooden fishing boat carrying dozens of refugees fleeing ethnic violence in Myanmar capsized off the Bangladesh coast on Tuesday, police said. People living in the coastal strip south of the Bangladesh port of Cox’s Bazar fished 37 survivors out of the water and 11 have been admitted to hospital in a critical condition, Mohammad Abul Khair, the officer in charge at Ukhiya police station, said.

The boat had keeled over in choppy seas as rain fell. According to survivors they had paid 50,000 kyat ($37) to be taken to Bangladesh. They had abandoned their homes in Buthidaung, in the strife-torn north of Myanmar’s Rakhine State.

More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since the military in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar launched a counter-insurgency operation after attacks on security posts by Rohingya militants in late August.

United Nations officials have described the Myanmar military’s action as “ethnic cleansing”, an accusation that Myanmar denies.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/world/four-rohingya-drown-as-refugee-boat-capsizes-off-bangladesh-4915324/

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Bangladesh arrests pilot accused of plot to hijack plane

OCTOBER 31, 2017

DHAKA (Bangladesh) — Bangladesh on Tuesday (Oct 31) arrested a pilot from the national airline accused of plotting with Islamist militants to hijack or crash a plane in a spectacular attack, police said.

Sabbir Emam, a pilot with state-run Biman Bangladesh Airlines, was detained in Dhaka with three others suspected of links to a militant group blamed for a cafe siege last year that left 22 people dead, including 18 foreigners.

The Rapid Action Battalion police unit said Sabbir plotted with senior extremists from Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh to crash a plane into the homes of politicians or to take passengers hostage.

"He is a dangerous person and is working at a sensitive place like Bangladesh Biman, which the country's important individuals use," the battalion said in a statement.

Sabbir, a pilot since 2014, flew a Boeing 737 passenger jet as recently as Monday for Bangladesh's flag carrier, the battalion said.

Neither Sabbir's family or lawyers could be immediately reached for comment.

Sabbir allegedly had ties to senior militants including Sarwar Jahan, the head of a new JMB faction, before he was killed in a police raid.

Police say Sabbir and Sarwar plotted a plane attack with another man, Abdullah, who was killed in a raid in September along with six others, including his wife and children, in an apartment building in Dhaka.

The building was owned by Sabbir's father, who was questioned by police.

The homegrown JMB group has been blamed for a string of deadly attacks on foreigners, atheist bloggers, rights activists and religious minorities in Bangladesh.

The most prominent was in July last year when militants stormed an upmarket cafe in Dhaka and massacred 22 hostages. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State group but the government denied any role by the international militants.

JMB remains active despite efforts to decapitate its leadership by Bangladesh police, who have while killed more than 70 alleged militants since the cafe attack.

Full report at:

http://www.todayonline.com/world/asia/bangladesh-arrests-pilot-accused-plot-hijack-plane

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Afghan Special Forces likely to receive upgraded M3E1 Bazooka systems

Nov 01 2017

The Afghan Special Operations Forces will likely received the upgraded version of the MSE1 Bazook system, lightweight shoulder-fired Multi-Role Anti-Armor, Anti-Personnel Weapons System (MAAWS).

The Army is fast-tracking acquisition of more than 1,000 upgraded, lightweight shoulder-fired weapons able to destroy enemy targets hidden behind rocks, trees and buildings, according to National Interest magazine.

According to the magazine, latest version, or M3E1, is not only lighter, but shorter than the existing M3 but also ergonomically designed with a longer handle and better grips. These features, as well as its ability to use multiple types of rounds for firing, has led the Army to approve a requirement for 1,111 M3E1 unit.

The Ministry of Defense deputy spokesman Mohammad Radmanish confirmed that the Afghan commando forces are expected to receive the light weaponry in the near future.

He said the weapon will help the Afghan security forces to target the enemies of the country from different angles and hit their positions, including the armored personnel carriers.

This comes as the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission said earlier this month that the Afghan National Army and Special Forces will receive new weapons and ammunition from their international partners amid ongoing efforts to further boost the capabilities of the national defense and security forces.

“The Afghan National Army and Afghan Commandos gain firepower! The Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan’s Security Assistance Office conducted a night mission to receive various weapons and ammunition in Kabul,” NATO-led Resolute Support mission said in short statement posted online.

NATO says providing weapons and ammo increases the Afghan Army’s fighting capability.

Full report at:

http://www.khaama.com/afghan-special-forces-likely-to-receive-upgraded-m3e1-bazooka-systems-03760

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Confrontation not to help Afghan peace, Pak army chef warns US

Oct 31 2017

Pakistan’s chief of army staff General Javed Qamar Bajwa has warned Washington that confrontation will not help the Afghan peace and reconciliation process, it has been reported.

A spokesman for Pakistani military, Gen. Asif Ghafoor has told The Voice of America, that Gen. Bajwa had ‘candid, frank and without mincing words’ during his meeting with the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

According to Gen. Ghafoor, the army chief reiterated that “cooperation will take us forward; confrontation or coercion will not.”

He said Pakistan re-emphasized that it supports an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process and believes “reconciliation” is the way forward to end the war.

Tillerson last week visited Pakistan and met with the top Pakistani officials, including Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and reiterated President Trump’s message regarding the increased efforts needed by Pakistan to eradicate the militants and terrorists from its country.

“The Secretary reiterated President Trump’s message that Pakistan must increase its efforts to eradicate militants and terrorists operating within the country,” the Department of State said in a statement.

Full report at:

http://www.khaama.com/confrontation-not-to-help-afghan-peace-pak-army-chef-warns-us-03758

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Mideast

 

Yemen: 500 militants killed in army operations in recent weeks

31 October 2017

Yemeni sources announced the killing of more than 500 militants in recent weeks during operations between armed forces and the coalition in several provinces.

According to the sources, 128 militia members were killed in operations in the province of Tihama, hitting five military engineers, one of them is Iranian, as well as leaders including Ibrahim al-Moayad, Bashir al-Jabri and Hasan al-Shami.

The source noted that the operations of the legitimate forces backed by coalition aircraft have left the militias more than 200 dead in Nahm near the capital Sanaa.

The sources said that the military operations in Mukha resulted in the killing of 213 elements of militias, during raids on villages and farms in the region.

In Al-Jouf, on the border with Saudi Arabia, the sources said that a number of field militia leaders were killed, including Abdel Karim Halsa and Khalid Mubarak.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2017/10/31/Yemen-500-militants-killed-in-military-coalition-operations.html

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Tensions rise after Israel blows up tunnel from Gaza

November 01, 2017

GAZA CITY - Tensions rose Tuesday after an Israeli operation to blow up a tunnel from the Gaza Strip killed seven Palestinian militants in one of the deadliest incidents since a devastating 2014 war.

The seven men, from the armed wings of Gaza 's rulers Hamas and allied group Islamic Jihad, were killed Monday when Israel blew up the tunnel it said had crossed into its territory and was intended for attacks. They were being buried Tuesday in their respective neighbourhoods in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniya appeared at a funeral in central Gaza attended by a few thousand people, witnesses said, while senior Hamas figure Khalil al-Hayya spoke at one in the southern part of the strip.

"(Hamas) knows how to manage the conflict with the enemy and how to get revenge and strike at the time and place that hurts the enemy," Hayya said, according to a statement.

Israel soldiers fire on 'suspect'

vehicle, Palestinian killed

Israeli forces opened fire on a "suspect" vehicle in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday, killing one Palestinian and wounding another, Israel 's army and the Palestinian health ministry said. An army statement said a vehicle approached Israeli soldiers in a suspicious manner near the Jewish settlement of Halamish and the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh.

"The soldiers perceived the vehicle as a threat and consequently fired towards it in order to stop it," it said.

Hamas and Israel have fought three wars since 2008 and the last conflict in 2014 was waged in part over tunnels from Gaza that were used to carry out attacks.

Israel said it had been monitoring the digging of the tunnel for an unspecified length of time and was forced to act after "the grave and unacceptable violation of Israeli sovereignty."

It said the operation was carried out on the Israeli side of the border and stressed it was not seeking a further escalation. No tunnel opening had been found on the Israeli side of the border. It had come from the vicinity of the city of Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip, Israeli's military said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday his country would "not tolerate any attacks on our sovereignty, on our people, on our land, whether from the air, from the sea, from the ground, or below the ground," he said. "We attack those who seek to attack us."

The operation comes at a sensitive time, with rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas pursuing a reconciliation accord aimed at ending their 10-year rift.

Hamas is due to hand over control of the enclave's borders to the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday under the deal mediated by Egypt and signed on October 12. It is due to return the Gaza Strip to full PA control by December 1.

Both Haniya and Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah spoke of ensuring the reconciliation pact remains on track.

"The response to this massacre... is to move forward towards the restoration of national unity because the enemy realises our strength is our unity," Haniya said.

Senior PA official Mustafa Barghouti accused Israel of trying to disrupt the reconciliation bid.

Separately in the West Bank on Tuesday, Israeli forces opened fire on a "suspect" vehicle, killing one Palestinian and wounding another, Israel 's army and the Palestinian health ministry said. There did not appear to be any connection.

Hamas forces have used tunnels in the past to enter Israel and carry out attacks, but discoveries of those stretching into Israeli territory since the end of the 2014 war have been rare.

In April 2016, Israel 's military said it had located and destroyed a tunnel extending from the Gaza Strip into Israel in the first such discovery since the 2014 conflict.

An army spokesman said Monday that Israel used advanced technology to locate the tunnel but declined to elaborate. The army has been seeking to build an underground wall surrounding Gaza that would block such tunnels, among other methods it has been developing.

Israeli leaders have been keen to show they are addressing the threat of tunnels from the Gaza Strip.

A state inquiry in February accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and top army brass of being unprepared for the tunnels used by Hamas during the 2014 conflict.

Hamas has ruled Gaza since a near civil war with Fatah, based in the occupied West Bank, in 2007.

Since then the Islamists have fought three wars with Israel , while Gaza 's two million citizens have suffered as Israel has blockaded the strip.

Egypt's border with the enclave has also remained largely closed in recent years.

Wednesday's scheduled handover of the border crossings is a first key test of the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation deal.

Israel has said it will reject any unity government that includes Hamas if the Islamist group does not disarm and recognise the country, among other demands.

During the 2014 war, 32 tunnels were discovered, including 14 that extended into Israel , according to a UN report on the conflict.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/01-Nov-2017/tensions-rise-after-israel-blows-up-tunnel-from-gaza

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Seven killed as Israel destroys tunnel dug under Gaza border

October 31, 2017

Seven Palestinian militants were killed on Monday when Israel blew up what it said was a tunnel being dug underneath the Gaza Strip border .

Hamas said Israel had made a “futile attempt to sabotage efforts to repair Palestinian unity”, a reference to the reconciliation agreement it reached with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, earlier this month.

However, neither Israel nor Hamas seemed eager to seek escalation. Israel was at pains to point out that its action against the tunnel was carried out on its own side of the border .

“The IDF (Israel Defence Forces) does not intend to escalate the situation but stands prepared for a variety of scenarios,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman.

“The working assumption is that this is not the only tunnel that Palestinian terrorist organizations are trying to dig.”

The tunnel was being dug from the Gaza town of Khan Younis across the border , where it was blown up, Conricus said.

A source for the Islamic Jihad militant group said the head of the faction’s armed wing in central Gaza was killed along with a senior associate and other gunmen. It vowed revenge saying “all options are open for response.”

Hamas’s armed wing said two of its gunmen were killed while trying to rescue the Islamic Jihad men working in the tunnel . Gaza health officials said nine people were wounded. It said it would avenge “the blood of the martyrs.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in remarks to legislators of his right-wing Likud party, said “groundbreaking technology” aided the tunnel’s discovery, but gave no details.

Israel has been constructing a sensor-equipped underground wall along the 60-km (36-mile) Gaza border , aiming to complete the $1.1 billion project by mid-2019.

During the last Gaza war, in 2014, Hamas fighters used dozens of tunnels to blindside Israel’s superior forces and threaten civilian communities near the frontier, a counterpoint to the Iron Dome anti-missile system that largely protected the country’s heartland from militant rocket barrages.

Israel and the United States have called for Hamas to be disarmed as part of the pact between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, so Israeli peace efforts with Abbas, which collapsed in 2014, could proceed. Hamas has rejected the demand.

On Saturday, UNRWA, the main U.N. welfare agency for Palestinians, said it had discovered “what appeared to be a tunnel” underneath one of its schools in Gaza on Oct. 15 and had sealed the cavity.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/31-Oct-2017/seven-killed-as-israel-destroys-tunnel-dug-under-gaza-border

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Probe reveals ISIL planned massacre with microwave ovens in Istanbul shopping mall

October 31 2017

Militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) set up a three-phase bomb plan aiming to carry out a massacre at a shopping mall in Istanbul, according to Turkish anti-terror police.

Recent wide-scale anti-ISIL operations have revealed that members of the jihadist group planned to attack the Forum Istanbul mall and its parking lot in the Bayrampaşa district, before donning suicide vests and staging suicide attacks targeting people rushing to help victims of the two blasts.

Anti-terror police on Oct. 27 launched an operation after two consecutive explosions took place in two buildings in Istanbul’s Esenyurt and Arnavutköy districts, followed by fire.

Upon finding objects used in bomb making, including chemical materials, metal marbles, nails, a screw, a remote control, electronic circuits, cables, batteries and other materials at the two addresses, police determined that the apartments were used by ISIL militants preparing attacks.

One day later, police tracked four suspected ISIL militants linked to the explosions and found their car inside a mall’s parking lot in the Bayrampaşa district.

As the suspects started to move away from the car, police launched an operation and detained all four. One of the suspects was shot in the leg by police after trying to escape.

Bomb disposal units determined that the car was packed with explosives, while also finding a bomb-laden motorcycle.

A total of 66 home-made explosives with remote-control set ups were found in the two vehicles.

In the searches carried out inside the mall, police also found four microwave ovens filled with explosives, which had been placed inside safety deposits.

Due to the findings, the authorities were able to foil ISIL’s three-phase massacre plan.

According to police, ISIL militants bought microwave ovens from separate shops inside the mall. After stuffing them with explosives, they went back to the mall, telling security guards at the entrance that there was a problem with the ovens and therefore they wanted to return them.

Security guards of the mall then put the bomb-laden ovens inside safety deposits.

ISIL planned to detonate the bombs inside the ovens via remote control as part of the first step of their massacre plan, the authorities stated, adding that the second phase included detonating the explosives in the car and the motorcycle while people were trying to escape.

The final attack would have come after people rushed to help the victims of the blasts, with ISIL militants wearing suicide vests blowing themselves up inside the crowds.

Meanwhile, the investigations have also revealed that the explosions in Arnavutköy and Esenyurt were carried out by ISIL in order to divert the police’s attention.

Police targeted a number of jihadist cells in Istanbul after the incident, while also staging raids across Turkey and detaining dozens of suspected militants.

Full report at:

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/probe-reveals-isil-planned-massacre-with-microwave-ovens-in-istanbul-shopping-mall-121646

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Top Commander: US, Israel's Defense Shields Not Able to Resist Iranian Missiles

Oct 31, 2017

"The deterrence power of the Islamic Republic of Iran's missiles is updated and efficient," General Baqeri said on Tuesday.

"The anti-missile power of enemies, including the criminal US and the human-killer and child-killer Zionists, cannot overcome our missile power no matter how much they strengthen it," he added.

General Baqeri explained the religious ban on the production and use of nuclear warheads (as Weapons of Mass Destruction), and said that's why Tehran has focused on boosting the precision-striking power of its missiles with the aim of preventing damage to the innocent people.

In relevant remarks in July, General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri underlined his country's high missile power one day after the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) launched missile strikes against the ISIL bases 700km away in Syria.

"Iran is among the world's big powers in the missile field," General Baqeri said, addressing a meeting in Tehran on June 19.

He stressed the arrogant powers' weakness in confrontation with Iran, and said, "They don’t have the capability to engage in clashes with us for now and of course, we don’t intend to involve in clashes with them but we are in permanent rivalry with them in different fields, including the missile sector."

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960809001541

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Turkish PM: Another border gate to open with Iraq through Tal Afar

31 October 2017

Iraq’s central government has taken over control of the main land crossing into Turkey from the autonomous Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Tuesday.

Yildirim also said that Turkey had agreed to open another border gate with Iraq, as part of a route that would lead to the city of Tal Afar, some 40 kilometers west of Mosul and home to a predominantly ethnic Turkmen population.

“Habur border gate has been handed over to the central government as of this morning,” Yildirim told members of his ruling AK Party in parliament. “The current route, heading down to Kirkuk will continue. We will start to put into action another border gate through Tal Afar in the short term, in agreement with the Iraqi government.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/10/31/Turkish-PM-Another-border-gate-to-open-with-Iraq-through-Tel-Afar.html

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Israeli and Palestinian ministers meet in Trump peace push

31 October 2017

Israel and Palestinian officials held a rare high-level meeting in Ramallah as the United States seeks to kickstart stalled peace efforts, officials said on Monday.

President Donald Trump’s special envoy for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, wrote on Twitter that the meeting on Sunday night in the West Bank city of Ramallah was attended by Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah, Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and senior Israeli defense ministry official Yoav Mordechai.

“Important progress last night between Israeli & Palestinian sides,” Greenblatt tweeted.

“Meaningful steps forward on key economic issues -- revenues, customs, and investment -- that help support the search for peace,” he added.

Mordechai’s office confirmed his participation in the talks but said no more.

Official Palestinian news agency WAFA said that Palestinian finance minister Shukri Bishara also took part as well as head of intelligence Majid Faraj.

WAFA said the meeting covered Israeli settlement building in the occupied West Bank, its blockade of the Gaza Strip and joint economic projects.

WAFA said the talks dealt with a number of issues, “foremost of which is the settlement campaign, lifting of the siege of the Gaza Strip and financial issues related to the financial entitlements of the Palestinian National Authority.”

Israeli newspaper Haaretz said the gathering was the second by the same participants in the past six months.

It said that one project on the table was for an industrial zone adjacent to the southern West Bank village of Tarkumia which would employ local Palestinians and Israeli settlers.

Greenblatt and Trump’s Middle East envoy and son-in-law Jared Kushner have been ferrying between Israeli and Palestinian leaders for months.

A White House official said on Sunday that both men had “recently returned from Saudi Arabia” -- a previously unannounced visit -- following Greenblatt’s earlier talks in Cairo, Amman, Jerusalem and Ramallah.

“As President Donald J. Trump has clearly stated, he is personally committed to achieving a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians that would help usher in an era of greater regional peace and prosperity,” the official said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2017/10/31/Israeli-and-Palestinian-ministers-meet-in-Trump-peace-push.html

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Al-Maalami: The coalition has taken specific measures to avoid injuring civilians

31 October 2017

Saudi Arabia’s UN envoy, Abdullah al-Maalami, said that the Arab coalition forces had taken specific measures to avoid injuring civilians in Yemen.

He added that the UN report proved that the Houthi militias along with the fighters of the ousted Ali Saleh have been recruiting children and using them as shields.

He explained that Saudi Arabia has worked to rehabilitate the children who have been recruited by the militias of Yemen.

In addition, al-Maalami said that the Yemeni militias fired about 30 ballistic missiles towards the Saudi borders.

He confirmed that the coalition investigated 37 cases after allegations of targeting civilians in Yemen, noting that he seriously inspected all allegations of injuries among civilians.

Al-Maalami said that the coalition works on the presumption that all areas of Yemen are civilian occupied until “the contrary is proven.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2017/10/31/Al-Maalami-The-coalition-has-taken-specific-measures-to-avoid-injuring-civilians.html

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Arab coalition strikes Houthi training camps in Yemen, killing 40 militiamen

31 October 2017

Arab coalition strikes on Houthi’s training camps in west of Dhamar, south of Sanaa, killed at least 40 Houthi militiamen and injured others, local sources said.

Meanwhile, Al Arabiya sources said Houthi commander of an artillery brigade Mohammed al-Soufi was killed by a coalition strike in Jawaf, north of the country.

Soufi, believed to be from Ibb, is considered a prominent commander among Houthis and forces loyal to ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The coalition also struck another training camp in Jaref, south of Sanaa.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2017/10/31/Arab-coalition-strikes-kill-40-Houthi-militiamen-in-Yemen-s-Dhamar.html

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Iran fighter jets practice carpet-bombing amid drills

Nov 1, 2017

Overnight, fighter planes with the Iranian Air Force have conducted carpet-bombing of mock enemy positions amid the aerial maneuvers in the central province of Isfahan.

Flying at low altitude, Iran’s Sukho-24 and Phantom aircraft practiced the bombardment technique, which features dropping a large number of bombs on enemy targets in an area with the aim of causing uniform destruction.

The Air Force’s F-4 planes were also backing up the overnight mission by releasing flares to light up the drill zone.

Brigadier General Massoud Rouzkhosh, the spokesman for the drills, said this stage of the maneuvers also witnessed aerial refueling of Phantom combat planes at low altitude under the air cover of F-14 jets.

Meanwhile, Sukho-24-to-Sukho-24 refueling was also performed for the first time at low altitude, the general added.

The two-day drills, codenamed Fada’ian-e Harim-e Velayat 7 (Death-defying Defenders of Velayat’s Sanctuary) 7, began on Tuesday morning.

The event enlists the services of all Iranian airbases, with the Shahid Babayi Airbase in Isfahan Province playing the central role.

Also joining the drills are MiG-29 and Sa’egheh (Lightning bolt) fighter bombers, alongside interceptor aircraft, manned and unmanned reconnaissance planes, Boeing 707 and 747 cargo planes as well as logistical aircraft.

The aircraft drilled air-to-surface and surface-to-air firing, test-fired highly-destructive air-to-air munitions, and practiced aerial fire control and surveillance as part of the drills’ first stage.

They also fired laser-guided, television-guided, radar-guided, and thermal missiles, as well as 500-pound (226-kg), smart and precision bombs.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2017/11/01/540582/Iran-Air-Force

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Iran slams UN’s selective actions against children’s rights violators

Nov 1, 2017

Iran’s UN ambassador has stressed that political pressure on the world body is stopping it from taking necessary steps towards countries who violate children’s rights.

While addressing the Security Council Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict on Tuesday, Gholamali Khoshrou noted that 2016 was a “horrifying year” for children in countries engaged in armed conflicts.

“At least 4,000 verified violations by government forces and more than 11,500 verified violations by the range of non-State armed groups have occurred in the relevant reporting period. They perpetrated acts of violence against children, launched indiscriminate attacks on civilian populations, targeted schools and health facilities and detained children in large numbers,” he said.

He went on to note that the Tel Aviv regime had never been blacklisted by the UN despite its constant targeting of Palestinian children.

“The 2016 report on this issue and other UN agencies documented that the numbers of Palestinian children in military detention reached the highest levels recorded since 2010, with 444 children (including 15 girls). Use of live ammunition is frequent by Israeli forces leading to the killing of 30 Palestinian children this year,” he said.

He added that Saudi Arabia was also entered in to the UN’s black list last year for killing and maiming Yemeni children, but was later removed following Riyadh’s threats and pressure.

“Last year, the Saudi-led coalition was first blacklisted, based on the UN findings indicating that it was directly responsible for 60% of child casualties, including the deaths of 785 children due to bombings of schools and hospitals. But surprisingly, its name was finally removed from the list, again due to heavy pressures and lobbying. This year we have noticed that the name of Saudi led Coalition is in the list, though as an “improving child killer.”

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2017/11/01/540565/un-saudi-arabia-blacklist-saudi-yemen-israel-palestine

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Iraqi army takes control of Turkey border gate from Kurds: Turkish PM

Oct 31, 2017

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildrim says Iraqi army forces have taken control of a key border crossing with Turkey in the Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region after weeks of tensions between Baghdad government and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) over last month’s non-binding independence referendum.

Speaking at the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party’s parliamentary group meeting in Ankara on Tuesday, Yildirim said Turkish officials will remain in control of the Habur border gate on the Turkish side of the border, while Iraqi authorities will be in the control of the Ibrahim Khalil gate on the Iraqi side from now on.

The Turkish prime minister noted that “There was no problem during the handover,” adding that transportation will continue on the current route.

“Those who take advantage of the route will be eliminated. Step-by-step checks and illegitimate taxes across the border will be removed,” he said.

The new practice will enable Ankara and Baghdad to boost bilateral trade, Yildirim stated.

Yildirim went on to say that Turkey and Iraq will open another border gate in the near future, as part of a route that would lead to the city of Tal Afar, located 63 kilometers west of Mosul and home to a predominantly ethnic Turkmen population.

The referendum on secession of the Kurdistan region was held on September 25 despite strong opposition from Iraqi authorities, the international community, and Iraq's neighboring countries, especially Turkey and Iran.

On October 12, an Iraqi government spokesman said Baghdad had set a series of conditions that the KRG needed to meet before any talks on the resolution of the referendum crisis could start.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2017/10/31/540504/Iraqi-army-Turkey-border-gate-Kurds-Turkish-PM

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Iran, Russia, Azerbaijan to hold tripartite summit in Tehran

Nov 1, 2017

Iran, Russia and Azerbaijan are set to hold a summit in Tehran for talks on trilateral and regional issues, with presidents of the three countries in attendance.

The presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan, Vladimir Putin and Ilham Aliyev, are due in the Iranian capital on Wednesday to take part in the summit with their Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani.

During the event, the three leaders will discuss mutual cooperation, especially in the fields of transit and energy, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told ISNA news agency.

“After the first meeting of the presidents in Baku, it will be a good opportunity to boost cooperation,” he said.

Rouhani, Putin and Aliyev held their first tripartite summit in August 2016 in Azerbaijan’s capital, where they exchanged views on environmental issues and the fight against terrorism as well as ways of enhancing cooperation in the areas of commerce, energy, communications, transport and transit.

They further vowed to work together to prepare the grounds for the construction of the International North-South Transit Corridor (NSTC) which is expected to provide a faster and more efficient trade connectivity between Europe and Southeast Asia.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin has announced that the Russian president will discuss issues such as the Syria crisis as well as energy cooperation with President Rouhani and Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei during his visit to Tehran.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2017/11/01/540576/Iran-Russia-Azerbaijan-Tehran

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North America

 

Manhattan Terror Attack Kills 8 and Injures 11

By BENJAMIN MUELLER, WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM and AL BAKER

OCT. 31, 2017

A driver plowed a pickup truck down a crowded bike path along the Hudson River in Manhattan on Tuesday, killing eight people and injuring 11 before being shot by a police officer in what officials are calling the deadliest terrorist attack on New York City since Sept. 11, 2001.

The rampage ended when the motorist — whom the police identified as Sayfullo Saipov, 29 — smashed into a school bus, jumped out of his truck and ran up and down the highway waving a pellet gun and paintball gun and shouting “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” before he was shot in the abdomen by the officer. He remained in critical condition on Tuesday evening.

Mayor Bill de Blasio declared the rampage a terrorist attack and federal law enforcement authorities were leading the investigation. Investigators discovered handwritten notes in Arabic near the truck that indicated allegiance to the Islamic State, two law enforcement officials said. But investigators had not uncovered evidence of any direct or enabling ties between Mr. Saipov and ISIS and were treating the episode as a case of an “inspired” attacker, two counterterrorism officials said.

Mr. de Blasio said at a news conference, “Based on information we have at this moment, this was an act of terror, and a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians.”

Five of the people killed were Argentine tourists who traveled to New York for a 30-year high school reunion celebration, said a senior official in Santa Fe Province, where they were from. The Argentine authorities said they were Hernán Mendoza, Diego Angelini, Alejandro Pagnucco, Ariel Erlij and Hernán Ferruchi. Martín Ludovico Marro, a sixth member of the group, was wounded. Belgian officials said one of those killed and three of the injured were from Belgium.

Mr. Saipov came to the United States from Uzbekistan in 2010, and had a green card that allowed permanent legal residence. He had apparently lived in Paterson, N.J., and Tampa, Fla. An official said Mr. Saipov rented a truck from a Home Depot in Passaic, N.J., where a white Toyota minivan believed to be his was found parked.

The truck came crashing to a stop near the corner of Chambers and West Streets by Stuyvesant High School. Sirus Minovi, 14, a freshman there who was hanging out with friends, said people scattered.

“We heard people screaming, ‘gun’ ‘shooter’ and ‘run away,’” Mr. Minovi said. “We thought it was a Halloween prank.”

He realized it was not a joke when he saw the man staggering through the intersection, waving guns and screaming words he could not make out. A passer-by approached the attacker, apparently trying to calm him, Mr. Minovi said, until the man realized the attacker had a gun. The man “put his hands up and was backing away,” Mr. Minovi said.

Almost immediately, as investigators began to look into Mr. Saipov’s history, it became clear that he had been on the radar of federal authorities. Three officials said he had come to the federal authorities’ attention as a result of an unrelated investigation, but it was not clear whether that was because he was a friend, an associate or a family member of someone under scrutiny or because he himself had been the focus of an investigation.

Over the last two years, a terrorism investigation by the F.B.I., the Department of Homeland Security, the New York Police Department and federal prosecutors in Brooklyn resulted in charges against five men from Uzbekistan and one from Kazakhstan of providing material support to ISIS. Several of the men have pleaded guilty. It is unclear whether Mr. Saipov was connected with that investigation.

Martin Feely, a spokesman for the New York F.B.I. office, declined to comment on whether Mr. Saipov was known to the bureau.

F.B.I. agents were expected to search Mr. Saipov’s home in Paterson, N.J., and his car on Tuesday night, a law enforcement official said. A phone, which was recovered at the scene of the attack, also would be searched, another official said.

The attack unfolded as nearby schools were letting out on a Halloween afternoon. It ended five blocks north of the World Trade Center. The driver left a roughly mile-long crime scene: a tree-lined bike path strewn with bodies, mangled bicycles and bicycle parts, from wheels twisted like pretzels to a dislodged seat.

Mr. Saipov, a slim, bearded man, was seen in videos running through traffic after the attack with a paintball gun in one hand and a pellet gun in the other. Six people died at the scene and two others died at a hospital, officials said. The authorities credited the officer who shot him with saving lives.

“He was Johnny-on-the-spot and he takes the guy down,” a city official said.

Coming five months after a car rammed into pedestrians in Times Square, killing one, Tuesday’s attack again highlighted the danger of a vehicle attack on busy city streets. The Times Square attack was not an act of terrorism. But both events brought to mind the terrorist attack last year in Nice, France, in which a cargo truck killed scores of people celebrating Bastille Day.

The episodes also evoked calls from terrorist magazines, including in an edition of Rumiyah, a magazine used by ISIS, for attackers to mow down pedestrians with trucks, continue the attacks with a knife or a gun and claim responsibility by shouting or leaving leaflets.

Students in Halloween costumes streamed out of nearby schools after lockdowns were lifted and huddled with parents. Their faces, once painted for the holiday, were streaked with tears.

Emily, 12, a seventh-grader at I.S. 289 whose father asked that her last name not be used, had been walking on her usual route home when other students turned and ran in the other direction.

“All the kids were screaming, ‘Run!’, ‘Gun!’ ‘Run inside,’” she said, still wearing cat ears. She said mothers pushing strollers and children in costumes ran in a herd back toward the school.

President Trump responded to the attack on Twitter: “In NYC, looks like another attack by a very sick and deranged person. Law enforcement is following this closely. NOT IN THE U.S.A.!”

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo cautioned at a news conference, “There’s no evidence that suggests a wider plot or a wider scheme.” In the aftermath, city and state law enforcement agencies increased security at high-profile locations.

Terrorism analysts noted that on Monday a French pro-ISIS media unit, known as the Centre Mediatique An-Nur, put out a specific threat for Halloween, mentioning the date on a banner spread on the encrypted app Telegram and on ISIS-affiliated Twitter accounts.

Mr. Saipov wove a deadly path on a stretch usually bustling with commuters, runners and cyclists, drawn by the downtown offices nearby or the shimmering river.

He turned onto the bike path alongside the West Side Highway at Houston Street just after 3 p.m. and sped south, striking numerous pedestrians and cyclists, many of them in the back, the authorities said. People scattered and dived to the asphalt.

The truck, labeled with a sign saying, “Rent me starting at $19,” rammed into the bus near Chambers Street. The bus serves two schools in Lower Manhattan and transports students with special needs. Two adults and two children on the bus were injured, the authorities said.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/31/nyregion/police-shooting-lower-manhattan.html

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US to pledge up to $60 mln to fight terrorism in Sahel

31 October 2017

The U.S. will pledge up to $60 million to support the Group of Five Sahel States (G5 Sahel) Joint Force’s regional counter-terrorism operations, the State Department announced Monday.

 "This money will bolster our regional partners in their fight to ensure security and stability in the face of ISIS (another name for Daesh) and affiliated groups and other terrorist networks," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in the statement.

"This is a fight we must win, and these funds will play a key role in achieving that mission," he said, describing G5 members Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger as "regional partners".

The UN Security Council was due to meet later Monday to support the G5 force and underscore the challenge in the region.

Tillerson said he cannot personally attend the meeting at the UN but asked UN Ambassador Nikki Haley to represent the U.S. and its full commitment to security in Africa's Sahel region.

"I thank (French) Foreign Minister (Jean-Yves) Le Drian for his invitation, and commend France and all our other partners’ eagerness to win this fight," Tillerson added.

Several extremist groups are reportedly active in the Sahel region -- including Daesh, Al-Qaeda and Boko Haram -- which occasionally carry out attacks on military and civilian targets.

This is especially the case in Mali, where militants overran much of the country in 2012 before being expelled following the intervention of French military forces.

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/america-canada/195485/us-to-pledge-up-to-60-mln-to-fight-terrorism-in-sahel

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He tried to stop his friend from joining ISIS. But then he lied to the FBI.

By Rachel Weiner

October 31, 2017

When Soufian Amri found out his friend Haris Qamar had bought a plane ticket to join the Islamic State, he set out to stop him. When Qamar expressed support for the terrorist group, Amri told his friend he was an idiot. Amri even promised to help ­Qamar get a degree and a job where he could do some good.

But when the FBI came to Amri’s Fairfax, Va., gaming center and asked whether he knew anyone who had expressed support for the Islamic State or tried to join the group, Amri decided he could not expose a close friend. He lied, saying he knew only of a “tall, thin Indian kid” he had briefly met a long time ago. ­(Qamar is heavyset and of Pakistani heritage.)

Amri asked his business partner, Michael Queen, to lie as well. Now they are both convicted felons, sentenced this month to two years in prison.

“These are serious times,” Judge Leonie M. Brinkema said during Amri’s sentencing last Friday. “And people have to be cooperative.”

But John Zwerling, an attorney for Amri, argued that Brinkema’s sentence would only make Muslims more fearful of cooperating.

“The message this case sends is clear,” he said after the court hearing. “If you’re a young Muslim, if you thwarted your friend from joining ISIS and the FBI comes to talk to you, tell them you have nothing to say.”

For the past two years, Amri and Queen have together run the Cave, a storefront in Fairfax where people gather to play video games. Qamar was a frequent customer and sometimes helped out with the business.

Both Amri, 31, and Queen, 28, said that they had no idea Qamar had been attempting to actively help the Islamic State through a confidential informant they knew as Ali. At Ali’s instigation, Qamar bought gift cards he thought would be used by terrorists to send messages and took photos of Washington-area landmarks he believed were for a propaganda video. He was sentenced this year to 8½ years in prison.

Prosecutors stressed that Qamar said shocking things, including that he would like to chop off heads and drink “a blood slurpee” for the Islamic State. Had he been involved in a true terrorist plot, prosecutors said, his friends would have stood by while people died. They let Qamar use the Internet at their business, even after he was banned by Twitter for celebrating mass murder.

“In this case, Queen and Amri not only discounted Qamar’s gruesome Twitter activity, his love of violent ISIS videos, and his attempt to travel to join ISIS, but also openly lied about it to the FBI,” prosecutors Colleen Garcia and Gordon Kromberg wrote in a court filing. ISIS is another name for the Islamic State.

In follow-up interviews, when it became clear Qamar was the focus of an investigation, Amri and Queen came clean. Amri said that he never thought Qamar would act on his violent words, even if he had made it to the Middle East.

“[It’s] hard when you know someone and you can feel it in your heart that that person is really a good person and that he has just kind of warped viewpoints on a lot of things,” Amri told an agent, according to court filings. “I love the guy.”

Despite his supposed commitment to a Sunni group that has targeted Shiite Muslims, Qamar treated the game store’s “Iraqi Shiite customers ... so well and so nice,” Amri told the FBI agent. “It breaks my heart.”

In court, Amri apologized. “I didn’t have the right to make that decision,” he said.

Amri early on had cheered the Islamic State, thinking it was defending Sunni Muslims against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. His Google Play profile photo was an Islamic State flag. But friend Antoine Bridges wrote in a letter to the court that Amri changed his mind when he learned of the atrocities being committed, in particular the beheading of photojournalist James Foley in August 2014. He would tell Qamar he was an American, that he “needed a reality check,” Bridges said.

Amri told the FBI he thought of Qamar as a “brother” and felt obligated to try to steer him in the right direction. When Qamar bought a plane ticket to Turkey in 2014, Amri said he told him to go to his parents and apologize; they took his passport away. He encouraged Qamar to focus on school and a career in civil engineering, saying he was planning to start a granite business and would give his friend a job.

Kayla Merlino wrote to the court that she was suspicious of Islam when she started dating Amri last year and engaged him in deep conversations about politics and religion. She said that Amri warned her about Qamar but said he thought his friend would soon outgrow his “really polarizing political viewpoints we can’t stand.”

Merlino now also works at the Cave. She said the business is likely to close while Amri and Queen are in prison, although other co-owners hope to keep it open.

Other friends and family emphasized Amri’s kindness.

“He is the person I would call if my car broke down in the middle of the night and I needed a lift. He is the person who would run to pick up my daughter from school if I was running late or stuck in traffic,” his brother-in-law wrote. “He is dependable and his support is unlimited and unconditional.”

Full report at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/what-happens-when-your-gamer-friend-backs-the-islamic-state/2017/10/30/7253e208-ad13-11e7-9e58-e6288544af98_story.html?utm_term=.0f12d9c3b24c

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Professor investigated for sharp responses to Muslim student

ctober 31, 2017

CINCINNATI — The University of Cincinnati is reviewing a music professor’s sharp responses to a Middle Eastern Muslim student who wrote in a class assignment that Donald Trump’s presidency negatively affected her family.

Assistant professor Clifford Adams’ written replies on the assignment included: “Review this list of Islamic terrorist attacks and then tell me about your hurt feelings,” The Cincinnati Enquirer reported . Another note said: “Muslim females are safer in America than in any Middle Eastern country. How dare you complain while enjoying our protection!”

Adams told the newspaper he wasn’t aware another student posted a photo of his remarks on Facebook. Adams said he couldn’t comment because he hadn’t seen that post.

The Facebook post shows that the Muslim student was writing about the Thirty Seconds to Mars song “Walk on Water,” which has a video using footage filmed across the U.S. on the Fourth of July. The student wrote that the project featured diversity and shows “what America is really about and why we celebrate July 4.”

The professor wrote back: “And just FYI, July 4th is not the day we tape a sign to a damn stick and go out and march with smug college brats and dysphoric drama queens, it is a federal holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. I am glad you took my class; you really do need to shut up, listen, and learn. Welcome to America, and welcome to college.”

Three university offices are investigating the remarks by Adams, who is a nontenured assistant professor in the College-Conservatory of Music.

“The University of Cincinnati takes seriously all concerns for discriminatory or harassing conduct occurring within its community and, pursuant to its policies, will conduct an appropriate review,” university spokesman Greg Vehr said in a statement.

Full report at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/higher-education/university-reviewing-professors-responses-to-muslim-student/2017/10/31/fe6f03e6-be55-11e7-9294-705f80164f6e_story.html?utm_term=.c68ce7ca8a3b

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Muslim Americans Again Brace for Backlash After New York Attack

OCT 31 2017

Umer Ahmad, a 43-year-old Muslim-American physician from New Jersey, was in his Trenton office when he heard that a rented pickup truck had deliberately driven down a bike path in Lower Manhattan, killing eight people and injuring about a dozen more.

"My initial reaction was, obviously, concern and shock over what happened," Ahmad told NBC News. "And then, basically, I was wondering if it was a Muslim who did it."

The suspect was identified as an Uzbek immigrant named Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, 29, who entered the United States in 2010, law enforcement officials said.

Saipov hopped out of the truck and shouted "Allahu Akbar," or "God is great," before firing a BB or pellet gun, four senior law enforcement sources said. Law enforcement sources said he left a note in the truck claiming he committed the attack for the Islamic State terrorist group.

A police officer on patrol in the area opened fire, hitting the suspect in the abdomen and ending what New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called "an act of terror."

Ahmad's question was answered.

"My biggest concern is that he's readily identified as a Muslim and then that is extrapolated out to my own faith," he said.

In the wake of Tuesday's attack, some Muslim Americans and community leaders expressed concerns over how their religion would be perceived and whether Muslims would become targets of violence.

"There has been a history of, sort of, blowback, and that's obviously going to be something that people think about," said Ali Najmi, a board member of the Muslim Democratic Club of New York. "But the primary concern is, usually, and is now, how we can best lend ourselves in this time of crisis."

Najmi predicted that Muslim-American groups would organize around ways to help those affected by Tuesday's attack.

"Their primary concern is about how we can be helpful and how we can help the victims and people in crisis," he said.

Afaf Nasher, executive director of the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the action and attitude that Muslim Americans must take were ones of continued service — "service to what needs to be done for, number one, those that are attacked, but also just in general for the general community."

"From our perspective as Muslim Americans, we are just incredibly heartbroken," Nasher added. "And just thinking about the senseless blood that was spilled and thinking about the families who are now in mourning, it's difficult to even talk."

Ahmad, the physician, said he worried about backlash every time an attack like Tuesday's happens. But "I feel I'm more worried about what the response from political leadership would be," he said.

Ahmad said he had seen the Muslim-American community change since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the deadliest on U.S. soil.

"Ever since 9/11, we've become much less insular," he said. "We're more prone to reaching out and letting people know who we are and basically trying to create those connections in our communities.

"That's been a real important bridge to try to at least mitigate some of the misconceptions, and consequences of those misconceptions," he said.

Nasher said there were ways to combat the negative image often associated with Islam.

"We as Muslims carry the responsibility to show what we say and what we preach, and that's something we do every day," she said.

Ahmad gave some simple advice.

Full report at:

https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/nyc-terrorist-attack/muslim-americans-again-brace-backlash-after-new-york-attack-n816291

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4,000 troops in Syria, US commander says then changes his mind

Oct 31, 2017

A top US military official puts the number of American forces allegedly fighting Daesh Takfiri terrorists in Syria at 4,000, then immediately retracts the figure after being reminded that the official tally is way lower.

“We have approximately ... I think it’s a little over 4,000 US troops in Syria right now,” US Army Major General James Jarrard told Pentagon reporters from the Iraqi capital Baghdad via satellite on Tuesday.

The chief of the US special operations task force immediately backtracked, saying, “I’m sorry, I misspoke there, there are approximately 500 troops in Syria.”

Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman, also corrected the figure later.

“The general misspoke,” Pahon told The Washington Post after the briefing. “I don’t know what 4,000 refers to. That’s nowhere near an accurate number.”

“It’s widely acknowledged there are more than 503 in Syria and 5,200 in Iraq,” Pahon told The Post. “These are our force management level numbers. They don’t include temporary forces.”

According to Jarrard, there are also 5,262 troops in Iraq.

Pentagon normally has far more personnel in overseas operations than what is officially stated.

In August, the US military acknowledged that some11,000 troops are stationed in Afghanistan, thousands more than previously reported.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2017/10/31/540558/4000-US-troops-in-Syria-cmdr-misspeaks

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Canadian government to match charitable donations for Rohingya crisis

Oct 31, 2017

The Canadian government is stepping up its humanitarian effort on the Rohingya refugee crisis, announcing Tuesday that it would match every eligible donation made by individual Canadians to registered charities between Aug. 25 and Nov. 28.

"In the face of this crisis, I know that Canadians want to help. They want to do their part," said Minister of International Development Marie-Claude Bibeau. "The needs on the ground are huge, particularly for women and children who represent 70 per cent of new refugees since August."

"I invite all Canadians to be generous...your donations will save lives and will help more than 900,000 refugees to recover their sense of dignity until they are able to return to their homes to live, hopefully, in peace and security," Bibeau said.

The United Nations refugee agency estimates that since Aug. 25, more than 600,000 Rohingya refugees have fled violence in Myanmar and are now in Bangladesh, joining an existing Rohingya refugee population of roughly 300,000. The latest surge follows a brutal Myanmar army-led campaign against the Muslim-minority population that the UN human rights chief has described as a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing."

The Canadian government has already committed more than $25 million in humanitarian assistance funding to Bangladesh and Myanmar this year.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed former Ontario premier Bob Rae as special envoy to Myanmar. Rae is travelling to Myanmar this week.

'Exhausted, distressed and traumatized'

Bibeau was joined by representatives of the Canadian Red Cross and Islamic Relief Canada, both of whom welcomed the announcement.

"The Canadian Red Cross is on the ground in Bangladesh and seeing first hand the devastating effects that this emergency is having on hundreds of thousands of people," said Pat Laberge, director of global programs at the Canadian Red Cross. "They are exhausted, distressed and traumatized."

Laberge said the crisis is disproportionately affecting women and girls.

"Existing health care facilities are completely overstretched, meaning that survivors of sexual assault and pregnant women, many of whom are adolescent girls, have very little access to the care that they need."

Laberge added the refugee population is at high risk of many forms of exploitation, including human trafficking and sexual abuse.

The majority of Rohingya refugees are housed in a make-shift refugee camp near Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh. Estimates put the total camp population at more than 800,000 people, making it one of the largest refugee camps in the world.

"The conditions are horrific," said Islamic Relief Canada CEO Zaid Al-Rawni, who just returned from Cox's Bazar.

"You suddenly had a town the size of Ottawa...converging on a place and there isn't a single washroom or single tap of water to make sure that sanitation remains safe for people."

Al-Rawni said Tuesday's announcement will have a real impact on the ground and save lives because the government is encouraging Canadians to engage with the crisis.

"Your one dollar will now double its impact. What you did with one dollar yesterday, you will now double today," he said.

Full report at:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canada-rohingya-response-match-fundraising-1.4380256

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Europe

 

UN Secretary-General calls for addressing root causes of terrorism

October 31, 2017

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has stressed the importance of preventing terrorism by addressing its root causes.

Addressing a meeting of the UN Counter-Terrorism Centre Advisory Board in New York, he said that "together with our international partners, we need to respond early and effectively in the cycle of conflict and radicalization and invest more in prevention."

The Secretary-General said that the threat of terrorism is real, complex and transnational which necessitates a serious and shared response.

http://nation.com.pk/31-Oct-2017/un-secretary-general

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How Russia spawned more ISIL fighters than most nations

by Mansur Mirovalev 

Nov 1, 2017

Moscow, Russia - Abdulmajid Abakarov, a 12-year-old boy from Russia's troubled province of Dagestan, had not seen his mother in three years.

Zagidat Abakarova, 34, and her two younger children were "forcibly held" in Syria by her husband, who had joined ISIL, Russian officials said.

On October 21, the boy waited for her at the airport in Grozny, the capital of neighbouring Chechnya, in an agitated crowd of civilians, security officers and journalists.

Days earlier, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov announced the arrival of seven "rescued" wives and 14 children of Russian ISIL fighters who had been killed, sentenced to death or jailed in Syria or Iraq.

Kadyrov, who rules war-scarred Chechnya and cultivates an image of Russia's top Muslim leader, guaranteed the women's safe return.

The most common charge fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) face in Russia is "organisation of or participation in an illegal armed group".

It is a crime punishable by up to 10 years in jail, but the charge can be dropped if suspected fighters give themselves up to police.

Abdulmajid knew exactly what he would do when he saw his mother.

"I will kiss her, tell her I'll never let her go," the lanky, almond-eyed boy said shyly, in an interview with local media.

But shortly after her arrival, Zagidat and another returnee, Muslimat Kurbanova, were detained by police who drove from Dagestan to apprehend them. On October 24, they were arrested for two months and are awaiting trial. Zagidat is not even allowed to breast-feed her three-month-old daughter.

The arrests "undermine further policies of North Caucasus authorities, [federal] Russian authorities, to return Russian nationals from conflict zones," Galina Tarasova of the Memorial human rights group told Al Jazeera.

'4,000 Russians fight for ISIL'

"Soon, very soon, blood will spill like a sea." This is the chorus of a nasheed, a religious chant released in Russian by Al-Ajnad Media, ISIL's propaganda branch, in 2015. The lyrics mention the "return" to sharia-based rule of Russian regions where up to 20 million Muslims dominate demographically or form a sizeable minority: the North Caucasus, Tatarstan, the Urals Mountains and annexed Crimea.

Almost 3,500 Russians fight for ISIL, making Russia the largest source of recruits - ahead of Saudi Arabia and Jordan, the Soufan Center, a US-based think tank, said on October 24.

As ISIL is nearing collapse, the think tank warned that the fighters' homelands face a "huge challenge" of returnees who are battle-hardened, indoctrinated and angry.

The Soufan Center said some 400 fighters have so far returned to Russia.

In 2015, Tunisia was the number one source of ISIL recruits (6,000) with Saudi Arabia (2,500) and Russia (2,400) trailing behind, the group said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on October 25 that he "doubts the figures" from groups, but did not specify whether the official figure was lower or higher. He added that monitoring the returnees is "one of the priorities" of Russia's security agencies.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin said in February that "up to 4,000" Russian nationals fight for ISIL. In June, he said that ISIL is "preparing plans to destabilise" ex-Soviet Central Asia and Russia's southern regions.

Between January and July, 190 suspected fighters were sentenced to jail for "organisation of or participation in an illegal armed group", the charge Zagidat is facing, according to the Supreme Court's statistics. Last year, the figure was 245, in 2011 - 133.

There are no figures on how many of them are linked to ISIL, and rights groups often doubt the accusations.

"In many cases, a formal accusation is presented without any veritable proof that the people have really been there," Memorial's Tarasova said.

"The accusations are rather vague, and, as a rule, are based on confessions of individuals" that are often received under pressure or in return for promises to leave their families alone, she said.

The Caucasus conundrum

Most of the Russian ISIL fighters come from the North Caucasus, a southern region that lies close to Iraq's Baghdad or Syria's Raqqa than to Moscow. More than 100 ethnic groups co-exist there amid unemployment, corruption and feuds over resources and power.

One of the North Caucasus provinces is Chechnya, where a secular separatist uprising of the 1990s morphed into the "Caucasus Emirate", an armed group that conducted hundreds of attacks, killing thousands of civilians, security officers, officials, pro-Kremlin imams and even owners of alcohol stores.

In 2012, 700 people were killed and 525 wounded in the region making it the hotbed of Europe's "most violent conflict", the International Crisis Group think tank said.

The conflict "is being constantly fuelled by a string of various factors starting from gravest human rights abuses to corruption, clanship, injustices, very strong social stratification, badly functioning government institutions that have essentially been privatised", Ekaterina Sokirianskaia, director of the Conflict Analysis and Prevention Center, a Moscow-based think tank, told Al Jazeera.

Security forces stoke the conflict with abductions, torture and extrajudicial killings of Muslims merely suspected of joining "radical" groups, Human Rights Watch said. Even if a young man is blacklisted by mistake, interrogations, beatings and threats force him to join the "radicals", the group said.

Last December, seven suspected fighters were killed in Chechnya, and four of them were wounded, Memorial said. One of the wounded was 18-year-old Madina Shakhbieva; her relatives were security officers that killed and buried her secretly, the rights group alleged.

Since 2013, North Caucasus fighters started pledging allegiance to ISIL and other groups in Syria and Iraq - and flocked there in droves. Security agencies forced them out of Russia ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, experts claimed, and the number of killings and attacks plummeted.

"The departure of militants, cuts in [foreign] funding, a split among Caucasus Emirate leaders, most of whom pledged allegiance to ISIL and were killed later, decreased the activity of the Islamist underground," Varvara Pakhomenko, one of Russia's leading Northern Caucasus experts, told Al Jazeera.

ISIL declared war on Moscow and took responsibility for at least a dozen attacks, including the 2015 bombing of a passenger plane over the Sinai peninsula that killed 224 mostly Russian tourists returning from Egypt. It became the largest air crash in Russia's history, and Moscow stopped flights to Egypt altogether.

A whipping girl

Although most of ISIL recruits come from North Caucasus, an exemplary A-student from Moscow became the poster child of religious "extremism".

Varvara Karaulova, a 21-year-old philosophy student, converted to Islam after falling in love with an ISIL fighter she met online. Turkish police detained her in 2015 as she was trying to cross into Syria to marry him, and her odyssey generated enormous media buzz back home.

Charges against her were dropped, and Russian security officers used her social network accounts to identify ISIL recruiters. But Karaulova was later sentenced to four and a half years in jail last December in a trial her father described as a "show" aimed at frightening other potential ISIL recruits.

"What I regretted was that after her return I let them communicate with recruiters on behalf of Varvara, and that [communication] was what she was accused of," Pavel Karaulov told Al Jazeera.

Given all the pressure returnees face back home, most ISIL fighters opt to stay out of Russia trying to settle in Ukraine, Turkey or Middle Eastern nations.

"Few real combatants return," said Sokirianskaia, of the Conflict Analysis and Prevention Center. "The returnees are those who have left recently and quickly got disappointed."

One osuch returnee was Rakhman Bagbekov, a 20-year-old theology student who was sentenced to 15 years in jail for spending a month at an ISIL training camp in Syria.

"After a month in a training camp I realised there was no religion, we were just being used. For them, we were cannon fodder, expendable material," Bagbekov told the Argumenty i Fakty weekly, speaking from prison.

Others who return prefer to lay low - for now.

"There is no danger yet, and those who return have not manifested themselves," Alexey Malashenko, a senior expert with the Moscow-based Institute for the Dialogue of Civilizations, told Al Jazeera.

Full report at:

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/10/171031235146462.html

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Lee Rigby's killer has converted inmates to Islam, court told

31 October 2017

A Muslim extremist jailed for life after being convicted of the murder of soldier Lee Rigby is looked up to by fellow prisoners, a high court judge has been told.

Michael Adebolajo was “charismatic”, and intelligence suggested that he had helped convert other inmates to Islam, Mr Justice Langstaff heard.

Detail of the influence Adebolajo wielded in jail has emerged after he took legal action against the Ministry of Justice.

Adebolajo claims that he was injured by prison officers during an incident in a cell and wants compensation.

Langstaff oversaw a preliminary hearing in the case at the high court in London on Tuesday. He said any trial was some distance off and made an order barring prison officers involved from being identified in media reports.

Fusilier Rigby, 25, died after being attacked near Woolwich Barracks in south-east London in May 2013.

Adebolajo, who is in his early 30s, and Michael Adebowale, who is in his mid-20s, were convicted of murder following a trial at the Old Bailey. Adebolajo was given a whole-life jail term and Adebowale was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 45 years. Jurors heard that they mowed down Rigby in a car before hacking him to death.

Langstaff said Adebolajo, who was not at Tuesday’s hearing, had complained about an incident in a cell while on remand in July 2013.

Lawyers representing the MoJ said prison officers likely to give evidence at any trial could be in danger if their names emerged in media reports.

They gave the judge detail of the influence Adebolajo had in prison. “He forms relationships easily,” said the judge.

“He is charismatic. There is intelligence suggesting that he has had some influence on the conversion to Islam of some individuals.

“There is a large group of people who look up to Adebolajo.”

Langstaff said the incident at the centre of Adebolajo’s claim had occurred while he was awaiting trial. Five prison officers had been escorting Adebolajo. Physical force had been used to restrain him. He had been held by the head and an arm and had lost two front teeth.

Full report at:

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/oct/31/lee-rigbys-killer-has-converted-inmates-to-islam-court-told

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Muslim father 'forced' not to impose Islam on his own children

October 31, 2017

A Muslim father, whose three children have been raised by a Christian family, has been warned not to impose Islam on them during his visits.

The man aged 53, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, has three children who have been looked after by a Christian family. The man says he is the victim of racism. But social services say the children’s safety and security is their top priority.

The man is a sincere Muslim and has only seen his children twice in six years, however, the ban has been softened but only on one condition where he would not talk about his religion to his children in a pressuring manner.

The children have been taken into custody by the Christian family after the death of their mother,  before her death the father had been separated from her for several years, after a unstable relationship in which both had made allegations about each other and wanted custody. During that period the children spent some time in care and the mother is said to have told the council the children were ‘not Muslim’.

Islam introduced veils but told men to lower gaze

Eventually the woman won the custody battle. But she died shortly afterwards following drug and alcohol abuse. since the death of the mother the father has been trying to get custody of his children but they refused to see him and chose to stay with their foster parents.

The Manchester Evening News has seen a document from Salford Children’s Services which stipulates that the man ‘agrees not to discuss the Muslim religion’ with his children during any supervised contact.  It goes on to say the children ‘do not have any knowledge or consider themselves as a member of the religion’.

The document clearly states  the children need to be accompanied by a staff member at all times during their visits, and the father must not ask the name or location of their school, or the location of their placement.

Christian man accused of forcibly converting minor girl to Islam

The father claims to have signed the document under pressure as he was desperate to see his children.  The father has been to Manchester’s Family Court 13 times in an attempt to get his children back. At the latest hearing, it was confirmed that Salford Children’s Services do not see the children as Muslims – although a judge appeared to relax the conditions.

District Judge Relph said: “In the light of the court’s finding as to the children’s previous upbringing, the local authority has made it clear that it does not propose to treat the children as belonging to the Muslim faith, although the father may supply relevant information to them about his faith or discuss his beliefs with them in a non-pressurising way during future contact.”

Coun Lisa Stone, lead member for children’s and young people’s services in Salford, said: “We try very hard to keep children with their natural parents but our prime concern is children’s safety and wellbeing. The public would want us to make sure this must always come first.

Saudi crown prince pledges ‘a country of moderate Islam’

“If we have serious concerns about risks to the children, we put our concerns before the court. The court takes a thorough and independent look at the council’s concerns and the family circumstances, including any risks of violence, abuse or emotional harm to the children. The court then decides if a care order is required or not.

Full report at:

https://tribune.com.pk/story/1546014/3-muslim-father-told-not-impose-islam-children/

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At French terror trial, killer’s brother denies extremism

October 31, 2017

Abdelkader Merah wants to show that he has escaped his violent past through devotion to Islam.

Once nicknamed Bin Laden in the French housing project where he grew up, the violence-prone ex-delinquent now says he is a peaceful Muslim and has displayed calm, wit and knowledge at his terror trial in Paris.

From the glass-enclosed court docket where he has been standing for the past four weeks, Merah has been trying to distance himself from his younger brother Mohammed, who five years ago killed seven people in extremist attacks in southern France.

“I’m not Mohammed Merah, I am Abdelkader Merah. There is a big difference,” he told the court.

Abdelkader Merah is accused of complicity to terror in connection with the shooting spree his brother went on in 2012. He denies any wrongdoing.

Public prosecutor Naima Rudloff on Monday requested the maximum sentence for Merah, life imprisonment with 22 years before any possible parole. A verdict is expected on Thursday.

In March 2012, Mohammed Merah killed three French paratroopers in Toulouse and Montauban. Then a few days later, he burst into a Jewish school, killed a rabbi and his two young sons and grabbed an 8-year-old girl and shot her in the head. He was then shot and killed in a dramatic 30-hour police standoff at his Toulouse apartment.

Abdelkader Merah has been held for over the past five years, suspected of having mentored Mohammed as he turned toward jihadism, and with providing assistance to him.

With a thick beard and his hands behind his back, the 35-year-old Merah has proved hard to unsettle during his court hearings, even when the investigation suggested he had helped his brother.

On French intelligence radar since 2006 for his proximity to radical cells in the Toulouse region, Merah has admitted he was with his brother the day Mohammed stole the motor scooter used in the killings. He said he didn’t report the theft to police because he didn’t want to be a snitch.

“This is how it works in the projects. I’ve got the street DNA,” Merah told the court. “As a Muslim, a theft in my presence was not something enjoyable. On the other hand, in the housing project, a scooter theft is not something that really matters.”

Abdelkader Merah’s story is similar to dozens of troubled French youths who have taken the path to radicalism.

A former construction painter, Abdelkader Merah is regarded by investigators as the ideologist who radicalized his younger brother within a dysfunctional family with an absent father. Placed in foster care after he was kicked out from school, Merah was exposed to violence and drugs at an early age. A childcare workers’ report from 1996 describes him as a violent boy.

Merah, nicknamed Bin Laden in his neighborhood after he glorified the 9/11 attacks — does not deny being a role model for Mohammed. But he insists that was before he embraced Islam back in 2006, at a time when he was drinking alcohol and smoking cannabis. “When I was a delinquent, I was a star in the neighborhood. And he (Mohammed) was looking up to us,” said Abdelkader Merah, who was jailed in 2003 for stabbing the family’s eldest brother, Abdelghani, during an argument.

Merah, who grew up alongside two brothers and two sisters, was lured toward radical Islam after he was discharged from jail, after meeting with extremists in the Izards housing project.

“I wake up Muslim. I live Muslim. I eat Muslim. I sleep Muslim,” said Merah during his trial, claiming that “democracy is a religion” and that he places “Islamic law above the French constitution.”

Does that mean he could use violence against French society?

“Absolutely not,” Merah told court President Franck Zientara.

Merah claims that Islam has brought peace to his troubled mind. After what he calls “his conversion,” he went to Egypt four times. While prosecutors believe he could have travelled abroad to connect with terror networks — his brother Mohammed met him in Cairo in 2010 — he insists he went there to learn literary Arabic in Qur’anic schools.

Investigators have found dozens of books on Islam at his house, but also a jihadi audio guide recorded by an Al-Qaeda affiliate.

“People say I have mentored my little brother,” he said. “But I would have loved him to follow me in my quest for science.”

During his trial, Merah has admitted for the first time that his brother was a “terrorist,” and said he felt ashamed by his killings. But during a conversation with his mother recorded earlier in jail, he said that Mohammed had offered him “the most beautiful gift.”

And if he ever has a son, Abdelkader plans on naming him Mohammed.

“He did what he did, but he remains my little brother,” Abdelkader said. “Why should I turn my back on him?”

For Laurence Cechman, a lawyer for the victims’ family, there’s no doubt that Abdelkader is hiding his true face.

Full report at:

https://www.newdelhitimes.com/at-french-terror-trial-killers-brother-denies-extremism/

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ISIS threatens to attack Prince George

October 31, 2017

LONDON: In a chilling warning to the British royal family, ISIS-supporting extremists have threatened to attack Prince George at his London school, reported by Mail online.

In a message allegedly posted by the extremists on Telegram alongside a photo of the future king entering his Battersea school warning, ‘Even the royal family will not be left alone.”

It also featured a message in Arabic taken from a jihadi song, which translate as: ‘When war comes with the melody of bullets, we descend on disbelief, desiring retaliation.’

Reports said the British spies were now monitoring around-the-clock to prevent potential ISIS attacks.

Residents living near Prince George’s school, as well as parents of other students, had raised concerns about security at Thomas’s Battersea ahead of Prince George starting classes last month.

Experts said that it was critical to monitor the threat against George’s school.

Barry Spielman, whose internet surveillance company Sixgill has been tracking Telegram channels since the start of 2017, urged that threats need to be ‘taken seriously’.

He told The Star: ‘This threat to Prince George is chilling. We have also seen evidence terrorists are planning a strike at the World Cup in Russia.

‘These are very worrying times and it is critical we try to uncover these plots. Telegram is where many of them are being hatched as we speak.

LONDON: In a chilling warning to the British royal family, ISIS-supporting extremists have threatened to attack Prince George at his London school.

In a message allegedly posted by the extremists on Telegram alongside a photo of the future king entering his Battersea school warning, ‘Even the royal family will not be left alone.”

It also featured a message in Arabic taken from a jihadi song, which translate as: ‘When war comes with the melody of bullets, we descend on disbelief, desiring retaliation.’

Reports said the British spies were now monitoring around-the-clock to prevent potential ISIS attacks.

The ISIS message on Telegram threatening to attack Prince George

Residents living near Prince George’s school, as well as parents of other students, had raised concerns about security at Thomas’s Battersea ahead of Prince George starting classes last month.

Experts said that it was critical to monitor the threat against George’s school.

Barry Spielman, whose internet surveillance company Sixgill has been tracking Telegram channels since the start of 2017, urged that threats need to be ‘taken seriously’.

He told The Star: ‘This threat to Prince George is chilling. We have also seen evidence terrorists are planning a strike at the World Cup in Russia.

‘These are very worrying times and it is critical we try to uncover these plots. Telegram is where many of them are being hatched as we speak.’

Just four days before George started school, a woman filmed herself walking through the corridors unchallenged, calling the lack of security ‘astonishing’.

In September, a woman was arrested at the school after trying to get into the property twice within 24 hours.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/31-Oct-2017/isis-threaten-to-attack-prince-george

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German police arrest Syrian suspected of planning bomb attack

October 31, 2017

German police arrested a 19-year-old Syrian suspected of planning an 'Islamist-motivated' bomb attack in Germany with the aim of killing as many people as possible, the federal prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday.

The man, whose name was given as Yamen A., was arrested in the early hours in the northeastern town of Schwerin. Police searched his home and also those of other people not suspected of being directly involved.

“According to the findings so far, Yamen A. made the decision no later than July 2017 to detonate an explosive device in Germany in order to kill and injure as many people as possible,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

“As a result, he began to procure components and chemicals needed to make an explosive device. Whether the suspect had already envisaged a specific target for his bomb attack is still unclear,” the office added.

There were no indications that he was a member of a terrorist organization, it said. It did not say when he arrived in Germany.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is trying to form a new coalition government after elections last month, has come under fire for allowing more than one million people to enter Germany over the past two years - many of them refugees from Syria.

Full report at:

http://nation.com.pk/31-Oct-2017/german-police-arrest-syrian-suspected-of-planning-bomb-attack

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