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Islamic World News ( 18 Jan 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Five Times As Many Troops In Washington Than Afghanistan, Iraq Combined Ahead Of Biden Inauguration


New Age Islam News Bureau

19 January 2021

 

National Guard members get instructions near the Capitol, ahead of US President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration, in Washington, US, January 18, 2021. – Reuters

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• Civil Society Groups Urge UN To Take Action Against France Over Islamophobia

• Meet the South Asian and Muslim Americans in Biden’s Cabinet

• South Asia's LGBT Muslims Turn To Social Media For Support

• Saudi Arabia’s Future Investment Initiative Conference To Host Over 140 Speakers

• Two Kashmir-Based Terror Operatives Arrested As Cops Bust Terror Module In Samba

• Pakistan PM Angry Over Reports Arnab Goswami Knew About Balakot Strike

• IMF Says Working ‘Very Intensively’ With Sudan To Move Toward Debt Relief

 

North America

• Five Times As Many Troops In Washington Than Afghanistan, Iraq Combined Ahead Of Biden Inauguration

• US military Apache helicopter goes down in Syria’s Hasakah: Report

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Europe

• Civil Society Groups Urge UN To Take Action Against France Over Islamophobia

• Britain’s Prisons Are A Breeding Ground For Islamist Terror

• UK 'Seriously Concerned' By Israel’s West Bank Settlement Expansion

• Turkish, Greek militaries conclude NATO-hosted meeting

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South Asia

• Meet the South Asian and Muslim Americans in Biden’s Cabinet

• US Has Conceded Too Much To Taliban, Says Afghan Vice-President

• Afghanistan Army kills 8 Taliban terrorists in Takhar province

• U.S Embassy: American Citizens ‘Should Consider Departing’ Afghanistan

• NATO’s Position in Afghanistan Has not Changed: Stoltenberg

• Taliban calls on Joe Biden administration to honour Donald Trump's deal to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by May 2021

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Southeast Asia

• South Asia's LGBT Muslims Turn To Social Media For Support

• Muslim Group Says Will Countersue If Anwar Goes Ahead With Legal Challenge Against Emergency Declaration

• Turkish messaging app gains attention in Indonesia

• Toyota Capital Malaysia introduces world’s first Islamic-based car subscription programme

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Arab World

• Saudi Arabia’s Future Investment Initiative Conference To Host Over 140 Speakers

• Qatar urges Persian Gulf states to start talks with Iran, end rift

• Reports about Syrian–Israeli meetings 'untrue': Foreign Ministry

• US denies involvement in alleged attack on Iraq’s Baghdad: Embassy

• First Qatar-Egypt Flight Since 2017 Takes Off From Doha

• Airstrikes pound Iran-backed militias south of Iraq’s Baghdad: Reports

• Lebanon’s Hezbollah erects Soleimani statues, dividing supporters on Iran propaganda

• UAE-Israel visa exemption deal postponed over coronavirus worries

• Casualties reported as airstrikes hit Iraqi forces’ positions in Babil

• US forces transport 70 imprisoned Daesh terrorists from Syria to Jordan border: Report

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India

• Two Kashmir-Based Terror Operatives Arrested As Cops Bust Terror Module In Samba

• No Spectators At Wagah Border On Jan 26, BSF Yet To Take Call On India-Pak Parade

• Sohail Mansuri, The Married Man 1st To Be Held Under MP ‘Love Jihad’ Law

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Pakistan

• Pakistan PM Angry Over Reports Arnab Goswami Knew About Balakot Strike

• PML-N, PPP ask PTI for proof of foreign funding allegations

• Pakistani raid kills Taliban suspected of slaying of troops

• Pakistan's transgender people demand respect

• Security heightened in capital as PDM gears up for rally outside ECP

• Pakistan approves another Covid-19 vaccine

• NAB overlooked Sherpao’s ‘dubious’ transactions, UK arbitrator rules

• PDM given ‘free hand’ for today’s protest: minister

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Africa

• IMF Says Working ‘Very Intensively’ With Sudan To Move Toward Debt Relief

• Clashes erupt in Sudan's South Darfur, 47 people killed: Tribal leader

• Tunisia rocked by four consecutive nights of riots

• 600 people arrested, army deployed after riots in Tunisia

• UN chief urges pullout of foreign forces from Libya

• Boko Haram kills 4 soldiers in Niger

• UN chief taps veteran diplomat to lead Libya efforts

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Mideast

• IRGC Commander: Iranian Armed Forces’ Drills Aimed at Deterring Enemy Moves

• Envoy: Iran Not in Hurry to Judge Biden’s N. Deal Policy

• Iranian Speaker: US-Israeli ‘Deal of Century’ Plot Fails

• Iran’s Top Commander Mocks US for Putting Armed Forces on Alert for Biden’s Swearing-in Ceremony

• Turkey slaps advertising ban on Twitter, Pinterest

• Turkey orders detainment of 238 suspects in military probe over Gulen links

• UN urges Israel to ‘halt,’ ‘reverse’ new settlements in West Bank

• Israel to demolish more Palestinian schools, mosques

• Iran hosts webinar on parliaments supporting Quds

• HRW calls on Israel to vaccinate all Palestinians against COVID-19

• Turkey, Azerbaijan preparing for joint winter military drills

• Turkey nabs 35 terror suspects over alleged links to Daesh/ISIS

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau


URL: https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/five-times-many-troops-washington/d/124102

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Five Times As Many Troops In Washington Than Afghanistan, Iraq Combined Ahead Of Biden Inauguration

 

National Guard members get instructions near the Capitol, ahead of US President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration, in Washington, US, January 18, 2021. – Reuters

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 Anwar Iqbal

January 19, 2021

As housekeepers prepare the White House for President-elect Joe Biden, over 25,000 National Guard troops will be occupying the streets of Washington. That is five times more than the number deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.

Acting US Secretary of Defence Christopher Miller said on Monday there were "25,000 Guardsmen" who would leave "no stone unturned in securing the capital".

"There are more troops in DC now than there are in Afghanistan and Iraq," Congressman Seth Moulton remarked on the development.

According to the United States Department of Defence, there are currently 5,000 troops in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.

The troops in Washington are not there to take part in the inaugural parade but to ensure that the inauguration ceremony goes smoothly.

The ceremonial mood that accompanies an inauguration ended on January 6, when a mob charged by President Donald Trump’s fiery repudiation of Biden’s win, attacked the Capitol building. Five people died in the storming and subsequent intelligence reports suggest that Trump supporters may launch similar attacks during the inauguration.

Worse than the fear of another insurrection, however, is the despondency and gloom caused by the coronavirus pandemic which has already killed almost 400,000 people across the United States. The pandemic forced the Biden team to cancel most inaugural ceremonies, urging Americans to watch the inauguration on their televisions, computers and cellphones.

Trump plans to leave the White House on Wednesday morning but not for the inauguration stage outside the Congress building where the new president takes oath of office. He will be flying home to Florida.

The White House staff will only have five hours to prepare the official residence for Biden who would replace Trump as the 46th US president on Wednesday. Biden will enter his new official residence around midday when the oath-taking ends.

The housekeeping staff told various US media outlets that the moving trucks will be waiting outside the gates and the packing and unpacking will start as soon as Trump leaves.

So far, Trump has not given a farewell statement but the First Lady has.

“I ask every American to […] focus on what unites us. To rise above what divides us. To always choose love over hatred, peace over violence, and others before yourself," she said in a video statement.

President-elect Biden, who faces the monumental task of healing a divided nation, has indicated that fighting the coronavirus pandemic will be his first priority and the next will be healing the wounds caused by the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

“Our administration will lead with science and scientists — with a CDC and NIH (health agencies) that are free from political influence, a Surgeon General who is independent and speaks directly to the people, and an FDA whose decisions are based on science and science alone,” he wrote in a tweet posted on Monday.

Although he has categorically said that he will not attend the ceremony, some people say they will not be surprised if he suddenly turns up on the stage — given his proclivity to do the unexpected.

But if he sticks to his plan, Trump will be the first US president in 150 years to skip the inauguration of his successor. Yet, for himself, he wants the full protocol accorded to an outgoing president, perhaps even more.

He wanted a full military parade, attended by all services chiefs, at the Pentagon with planes flying over and tanks driving by. This demand has been turned down, apparently because of the January 6 mob attack.

The outgoing president, however, will get a red-carpet military send-off at the Andrew airbase, near Washington. He will also have the presidential airplane — Air Force One — to fly home. Military aircraft may also fly with the plane all the way to Florida, as requested. The Air Force One will return to Washington several hours after the new president is sworn in.

Before Trump leaves, he is expected to issue pardons and commutations, potentially more than 100. US media reports suggest that a self-pardon is a possibility, although legal aides have advised Trump not to do so. Some reports claim that those involved in the January 6 storming may also be pardoned.

US talk shows analysts say that Trump may be forced to pardon himself because some Democrats have explicitly stated their plan to sue him once he leaves the White House.

Democrats have also assembled a team to seek Trump’s conviction at a Senate trial as soon as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sends over the article of impeachment. The House has already passed this article. Trump is the first president in US history to be impeached twice — in 2019 and January 2021.

The history, however, offers some comfort to Trump. There have been three previous presidential impeachments so far, but none has resulted in a conviction in the Senate.

Democrats will need a two-thirds majority vote to convict Trump, which will require them to win over at least 17 Republican senators. This seems unlikely.

Two Republican senators — Tom Cotton and Lindsey Graham — have warned that it would be unconstitutional to convict an ex-president. But Democrats and Republicans can agree on a plan to prevent the outgoing president from participating in future elections, as it suits both.

President Trump, who has been stopped by both Twitter and Facebook from posting his comments, also plans to set up his own media outlet and to use it for launching another bid for the presidency.

Trump had a bright political future even after his November 3 loss to Biden. He emerged from the elections as the only Republican presidential candidate ever to win more than 74 million votes. Under his leadership, Republicans gained quite a few seats in the House and retained their hold over the Senate.

But the Republican president spent his political capital on pushing unsubstantiated claims about widespread election frauds. And then he instigated the January 6 attack, which further damaged his image.

However, it would be wrong to discard him. Trump still has millions of supporters and knows how to use them to create a situation.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1602374/5-times-as-many-troops-in-us-capital-than-afghanistan-iraq-combined-ahead-of-biden-inauguration

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Civil Society Groups Urge UN To Take Action Against France Over Islamophobia

19 January 2021

 

French police ride horses outside the Great Mosque in Paris amid a heightened risk of terror attacks on places of worship in October 2020. (Photo by AFP)

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Dozens of civil society organizations have urged the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to open formal infringement procedures against the French government for entrenching Islamophobia.

In a written complaint to the UNHRC, Some 36 groups from 13 countries outlined the “clear violation of a number of basic rights that are protected in legislation that is ratified by Paris.”

The coalition said that France’s actions and policies in relation to Muslim communities also violated international and European laws.

“France has seen shocking levels of state-sanctioned Islamophobia in recent months. This has precipitated the closure of mosques, Muslim schools, Muslim-led charities and civil society organizations,” said Muhammad Rabbani, the managing director of Cage, which co-signed the complaint.

“As a signatory to the UN, France cannot be allowed to infringe upon its international rights obligations so openly, and yet present itself as the land of ‘liberte, egalite, fraternite,’” Rabbani said, referring to the national motto of France, “liberty, equality, fraternity.”

The 28-page complaint, which was seen by the London-based online news outlet Middle East Eye, stressed the necessity of a formal infringement procedure against the French government because there was no effective remedy within the French legal system to stop structural Islamophobia.

The document cited the anti-Islam remarks by French President Emmanuel Macron, including his October 2020 speech in which he defended the republication of blasphemous cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by the French weekly Charlie Hebdo.

The speech sparked protests across the world and calls for the boycott of French goods.

The coalition of civil society groups slammed the government’s defense of such publications.

It said such a stance “goes beyond the permissible limits of an objective debate” and “could stir up prejudice and put at risk religious peace,” citing the UN Human Rights Committee’s own comments on depictions of the Prophet (PBUH).

The groups also said the French government exploited the murder of a school teacher that followed the speech “for racist and Islamophobic purposes,” including the raiding of several Muslim homes and organizations.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said the raids were conducted against some individuals “not linked with the investigation around the beheading (of the teacher) but to whom we want to send a message.”

Teacher Samuel Paty was murdered by a teenager of Chechen origin after he showed his students the caricatures of the Prophet (PBUH) published by Charlie Hebdo. The assailant was killed by French police near the scene of the attack.

The document also referred to several examples of state aggression against Muslim children, including an October 3, 2020 raid on a mosque in which children were learning Arabic, where authorities counted the youths, allegedly classifying them based on whether they were wearing a headscarf.

The coalition censured France for acting “out of proportion” and “unreasonably” applying exceptions to restrictions on fundamental freedoms in order to protect national security.

Feroze Boda of the Muslims Lawyers Association, who submitted the complaint on behalf of the group, expressed hope that Muslims around the world would support the coalitions’ call.

“Muslims around the world united behind the cry to hold the French government accountable for continuing to support publications defaming the Prophet (PBUH),” Boda said. “We hope they will unite again around this global first, a truly collective effort, which expands the call for accountability and positive change to include the dismantling of pervasive hateful policies against Muslims in France.”

“These policies are not only counter-productive, but they are open to abuse, and have been abused — while also being completely out of touch with reality,” Boda added.

The complaint’s signatories also included the Strasbourg-based European Muslim Initiative for Social Cohesion, the Muslim Association of Britain, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/01/19/643365/Civil-society-groups-urge-UN-to-take-action-against-France-over-Islamophobia

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Meet the South Asian and Muslim Americans in Biden’s Cabinet

January 19, 2021

 

Neera Tanden, a contentious Twitter user and head of the Democrat-leaning think tank Centre for American Progress

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They include a number of Indian-American appointments and for the first time ever two Kashmiri women, in what has been touted as the ‘most diverse’ cabinet in US history.

As President-elect Joe Biden gets set for inauguration on January 20, his cabinet has been popularly touted as the “most diverse ever in history” and one that “looks like America,” on the heels of the vanilla-hued and testosterone-filled administration that dominated the Trump era.

Biden’s running mate Kamala Harris, who is half Black and half Indian, will become the first ever woman to be sworn in as Vice President on Wednesday.

Harris is not the only high-ranking member of Biden’s cabinet to be drawn from minority communities. In addition to a Black man heading the Pentagon, a Latino homeland security chief, Native American cabinet secretary and an openly gay Transport Secretary, it has been stocked with a sizeable number of Indian-American appointments and Muslims as well.

For Indian-Americans alone there have been at least 20 nominees or appointees, 13 of which are women.

Two of them with top positions are Neera Tanden and Dr Vivek Murthy.

Tanden, a contentious Twitter user and head of the Democrat-leaning think tank Centre for American Progress, has been nominated as Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Dr Murthy was nominated as US Surgeon General, reprising the role he held during the Obama administration. Murthy, who has been the co-chair of Biden’s Covid-19 advisory board, is expected to play an important role in acting as the “top medical expert and public face of the [pandemic] effort.”

For the first time ever are hires of two Indian-Americans who trace their origins to Kashmir: Aisha Shah and Sameera Fazili.

Shah was named as partnership Manager at the White House Office of Digital Strategy. Meanwhile, community and economic development expert Fazili has been pegged to occupy the position of Deputy Director at the US National Economic Council (NEC). Fazili had previously served as a senior policy advisor on the White House’s NEC and as a senior advisor at the US Treasury Department.

News of Fazili’s appointment sparked celebrations amongst her extended family back in Srinagar. Rouf Fazili, Sameera’s uncle, called it a “proud moment” for Kashmir, saying that while she was not born there and her parents left the Valley in the early 1970s, she retains “a strong affinity with Kashmir”.

The NEC has another Indian American, Bharat Ramamurti, former economic advisor to Senator Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 presidential campaign and who will also be taking up the role of Deputy Director.

Veteran diplomat Uzra Zeya is billed as the Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights. A key adviser to the Obama administration during the Arab Spring, Zeya had previously served a post in Delhi.

For the first time in any US administration will be the presence of non-Indian South Asians too.

Pakistani-American Ali Zaidi is set to be Deputy National Climate Advisor; Sri Lankan-American Rohini Kosoglu is Domestic Policy Advisor to the Vice President; and Bangladeshi-American Zayn Siddique is tabbed to be White House Deputy Chief of Staff.

As Biden’s first Arab-American pick, Reema Dodin was named as Deputy Director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs back in November. A groundbreaking selection as a Palestinian Muslim woman, Dodin brings 15-years of seasoned political experience to the Biden camp.

The all-important National Security Council (NSC) has also received three Indian-American hires: Tarun Chhabra as Senior Director for Technology and National Security, Sumona Guha as Senior Director for South Asia, and Shanthi Kalathil as Coordinator for Democracy and Human Rights.

Among Biden’s inner circle, Vinay Reddy has been named as Director of Speechwriting after serving as senior advisor and speechwriter for the Biden-Harris campaign.

Vedant Patel is set to occupy a seat as Assistant Press Secretary to the President, and is the third-ever Indian American to be part of the White House press corps.

Civil rights attorney Vanita Gupta was nominated as Associate Attorney General at the Department of Justice.

The future First Lady Dr Jill Biden’s team includes three South Asian women: Mala Adiga appointed as Policy Director and Garima Verma would be the Digital Director to the Office of the First Lady, while Sabrina Singh has been named as her Deputy Press Secretary.

Biden repeatedly made it a point that he planned to have a government which reflected the diversity of the country, or have to deal with a political fallout if he didn’t uphold a pledge that is increasingly important to Democratic supporters.

"This cabinet will be more representative of the American people than any other cabinet in history," Mr Biden told reporters back in December, highlighting his "precedent-busting nominations" to date.

During his campaign, Biden indicated that he would enlist South Asian Americans, and Indians in particular: “As President, I’ll also continue to rely on Indian-American diaspora, that keeps our two nations together, as I have throughout my career,” he said during an address to the Indian-American community during India’s independence day last year.

Biden had additionally vowed to add Muslims to his cabinet during a webinar to Muslim-American voters in July.

On his first day in office, Biden plans to issue a number of executive orders, including one rescinding the controversial travel ban on several predominantly Muslim countries.

https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/meet-the-south-asian-and-muslim-americans-in-biden-s-cabinet-43367

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South Asia's LGBT Muslims turn to social media for support

18.01.2021

Shahamat Uddin moved to the United States recently to look for a better future after living in fear for his life as a marginalized gay man in Muslim-majority Bangladesh.

The numerous instances of violence and persecution of the LGBT community in Bangladesh shocked Uddin.

The murder of Xulhaz Mannan in 2016 was perhaps the most disturbing incident. Mannan and another LGBT activist, Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy, were hacked to death in Mannan's apartment by men armed with machetes.  Al-Qaida in Bangladesh eventually claimed responsibility for the murders.

Mannan had founded Bangladesh's first, and only, LGBT magazine, Roopbaan.

The attack forced many members of Bangladesh's LGBT community to go into hiding or flee abroad after religious extremist groups published their names on a "hit list."

Several activists erased their social media traces. Homosexuality is illegal under Bangladeshi law.

'The Queer Muslim Project'

Mannan's advocacy for LGBT rights had inspired Uddin deeply. He, too, wanted a platform where he could express himself freely. Eventually, Uddin stumbled upon an online community of Muslim LGBT individuals from South Asia called "The Queer Muslim Project."

"To be Queer is to be a political troublemaker. I love you Xulhaz and it is because of you, I know why God would make us Brown, Muslim, Queer - troublemakers," reads one of Uddin's posts.

The project is an online series of testimonies that caters to all LGBT Muslims in South Asia.

Rafiul Alom Rahman, a former scholar of sociology from the University of Texas at Austin, started the project in 2017 when he was studying the intersection of religion and sexuality. He dropped out of the Ph.D. program and came back to India to set up the platform.

"There is very limited space in mainstream Islamic theology to talk about gender and queer rights. So, I wanted a space where queer Muslims could come together and exchange ideas within the space of faith," he told DW.

This space is not limited to social media. There are workshops, consultations and meet-ups where community members share experiences.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, some of the events took place in India's capital, New Delhi. But they now mostly happen over video conferencing from around the world.

"It has been an eye-opener. When we heard people's powerful and heart-breaking stories of being at odds with their identity, we realized there was a need for mental health support and community space," said Rahman. 

'A place I could belong'

One such meeting was an eye-opener for Kabir (name changed), who is a university student in New Delhi. 

"'Homosexuality is a sin.' I grew up hearing this. I would go to the mosque to pray and couldn't help feeling attracted to other boys. It caused me extreme guilt and I felt lonely," Kabir said.

He said his inner conflict and loneliness took a toll on him. He would feel withdrawn and didn't particularly do well in social situations.

"I came across the Muslim queer community potluck event during Ramadan. I was intrigued and scared but somehow mustered the strength to attend it. It was a revelation to find people like me, a place where I could belong," he told DW.

The camaraderie and support from the community helped Kabir to come out to his parents who belong to a moderate Muslim household.

"I expected a hysterical reaction from my parents after I broke the news to my mother. It was overwhelming and she broke down in tears, but she held me close and hugged me. I was just relieved to be accepted," he said.

Kabir said he no longer feels in conflict with his religion, and that conservative members of the community should understand that diversity makes the faith stronger.

Acceptance will take time

"It took me more than two decades to understand myself so I don't expect everyone to understand it easily. It is a process," said Kabir.

Rahman from the Queer Muslim Project said sharing people's powerful personal stories raises awareness. Sometimes family members look for reconciliation after they see the posts.

However, the project has received flak from conservative quarters and is trolled regularly.

"Recently, a conservative Muslim group called us out publicly in a homophobic manner. Some go on to call us an aberration and an insult to the religion. This is the usual reaction from people who don't take any initiative to understand us," Rahman said.

The group has 15,000 members on Facebook and about 25,000 followers on Instagram.

Sometimes the larger LGBT community is not pleased with the group either. They feel a special focus on religion divides the community. The group is often accused of appeasing Muslim right-wingers.

"We are suspected of being either conservative or extremists. But we are operating from a place of critical engagement with faith. There are gay imams now. Some mosques are accepting LGBT members," Rahman said.

Exposing this complex identity remains a double-edged sword. More visibility could put people at risk. The project also wants to expand to regions beyond cities and languages other than English.

The growing community has members from across the Islamic world in countries like Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Iraq and Bangladesh. Rahman says they still have a long way to go.

https://www.dw.com/en/south-asias-lgbt-muslims-turn-to-social-media-for-support/a-56266117

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Saudi Arabia’s Future Investment Initiative conference to host over 140 speakers

Matthew Amlô

19 January 2021

Saudi Arabia’s fourth annual Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference will feature more than 140 speakers throughout the event next week, according to a statement.

Yassir al-Rumayyan, the governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), and chairman of energy-giant Saudi Aramco, will officially open FII on January 27 under the theme “The Neo-Renaissance.”

Al-Rumayyan will be joined by David Solomon, chairman & CEO of The Goldman Sachs Group, Thomas Gottstein, CEO of Credit Suisse Group, Ray Dalio, co-chairman & CIO of Bridgewater Associates, and Marco Alvarez, CEO of Snam, for a discussion on how the global investment community can use the global economic downturn caused by the coronavirus to build a more sustainable future.

Also in attendance will be Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the Kingdom’s Minister of Energy, who will be joined by Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, Patrick Pouyanne, chairman and CEO of Total, and Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and Special Envoy and group CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), who will join together to discuss the future of investment in the energy sector.

Other high-profile names that have already been confirmed include Khalid al-Falih, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Investment, Lord Gerry Grimstone, the UK’s Minister of State for Trade, Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, group chairman and CEO of DP World, and Dr. Rania Al-Mashat, Ministry of International Cooperation of Egypt.

“There has never been a more important time for leaders, investors and policy makers to come together to work towards re-energizing the global economy,” al-Rumayyan said in a previous statement in the lead up to the conference.

Saudi Arabia previously postponed the fourth FII conference to January 2021 from October 2020 due to global travel issues related to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The 4th edition of FII will see the most innovative technologies to facilitate global conversations and to be inclusive at the benefit of all of humanity,” Richard Attias, the CEO of the FII Institute earlier said.

“The FII Institute will act as a catalyst and a pioneer to allow interaction and exchange of disruptive ideas. There has never been a more important time to bring the greatest minds together to harness this opportunity to reimagine our world.”

This year the conference will differ from previous editions, as the main program will be livestreamed from Riyadh, the Kingdom’s capital, without participants in attendance due to coronavirus social distancing measures.

In October 2019, more than 6,000 executives and participants attended the third Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2021/01/19/Saudi-Arabia-s-Future-Investment-Initiative-conference-to-host-over-140-speakers

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Two Kashmir-based terror operatives arrested as cops bust terror module in Samba

January 18, 2021

Jammu and Kashmir Police Monday busted a terror module in Ramban district and arrested two Kashmir-based terror operatives along with a huge quantity of arms and ammunition, officials said.

The seized arms and ammunition had been dropped on the Indian side of the International Border in Samba district allegedly by Jaish-e-Mohammad handlers in Pakistan with the help of a drone, according to Inspector General of Police Jammu zone Mukesh Singh. These included two AK-74 rifles along with nine magazines and 269 rounds, 16 grenades, besides a pistol and two magazines.

Pointing out that this followed a joint operation, Ramban district police and Special Operation Group (SOG) Jammu, IGP Mukesh Singh said the initial investigation revealed that two terror operatives – Umar Ahmed Malik and Suhail Ahmed Malik – both residents of Semthan, Anantnag were working under a terror plot hatched by Kashmir-based terrorists and their Pak-based JeM handler Aqib alias Alfa from Budgam had travelled from Kashmir to the International Border at Vijaypur, Samba and received arms and ammunition that were dropped with the help of drones.

Further investigation of the terror module is underway, he added.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/two-kashmir-based-terror-operatives-arrested-as-cops-bust-terror-module-in-samba-7151486/

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Pakistan PM Angry Over Reports Arnab Goswami Knew About Balakot Strike

Jan 19, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's prime minister reacted angrily on Monday to media reports of a text exchange between an Indian TV anchor and a former media industry executive that suggests a 2019 Indian airstrike inside Pakistan was designed to boost Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's chances for re-election.

Imran Khan took to Twitter to respond to Indian media reports of an exchange on the WhatsApp messaging service between popular Indian TV anchor Arnab Goswami and Partho Dasgupta, the former head of a TV rating company.

The purported text exchange three days before the airstrike indicates Goswami had prior knowledge of the attack and that it was designed to drum up support for Modi in his re-election bid in pending parliamentary elections.

Goswami, a firebrand anchor who is Indian Republic TV's co-owner and editor in chief, is known for supporting Modi and his nationalist policies.

According to the WhatsApp chat transcript, Goswami texted Dasgupta three days before the February 26, 2019 airstrike, saying “something big will happen” and “On Pakistan the government is confident of striking in a way that people will be elated."

Dasgupta tells Goswami the attack on Pakistan would give Modi a “sweeping majority" in the upcoming general election. Months later, Modi surged to a landslide victory in May 2019, propelling his Hindu nationalist party to back-to-back majorities in parliament.

Transcripts of the purported text exchange seen by The Associated Press were filed by Mumbai police as part of a supplementary charge sheet in a different case relating to manipulation of TV ratings.

Neither Dasgupta nor Goswami was available for comment on Monday. But Goswami's Republic TV issued a statement alleging the Pakistani government was conspiring against his station.

The Congress Party said the text exchange between the two men raised serious questions about India's national security. “(Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party) govt betrayed our nation by leaking national security information to a so-called journalist,” the party tweeted Monday.

Shashi Tharoor, a Congress Party lawmaker, said Sunday the “leaking of military secrets to a TV channel for its commercial purposes” required a “serious inquiry” by the Modi government. “We all expect it won't, given the evidence of its complicity in the betrayals revealed,” Tharoor wrote on Twitter.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-pm-angry-over-reports-arnab-goswami-knew-about-balakot-strike/articleshow/80342418.cms

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IMF says working ‘very intensively’ with Sudan to move toward debt relief

18 January 2021

The International Monetary Fund is working “very intensively” with Sudan to build the preconditions for broad debt relief, and will assess progress on a staff-monitored program in March, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said on Monday.

She told reporters during an online news conference that she was encouraged by strong support from the United States, Britain and other member countries for providing debt relief to Sudan under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, and by the determination of the Sudanese authorities.

“We do hope as swiftly as possible to present to the membership a strong case on Sudan for HIPC so that country can reintegrate with the international community,” Georgieva said.

“I expect that in March we will have more to tell you.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/business/economy/2021/01/18/IMF-says-working-very-intensively-with-Sudan-to-move-toward-debt-relief

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North America

 

US military Apache helicopter goes down in Syria’s Hasakah: Report

19 January 2021

A Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopter belonging to the US military has reportedly crashed in Syria’s northeastern province of Hasakah, with no information available about the fate of those onboard.

The Arabic service of Russia’s Sputnik news agency, citing local sources, reported that the aircraft went down inside a US-run base at the al-Jabsa oil field in the oil-rich city of al-Shaddadi, located about 60 kilometers south of the provincial capital city of Hasakah, on Tuesday morning.

The sources said the helicopter crashed during a refueling operation, and there are reports of injuries among its crew members.

The US military has stationed forces and equipment in northeastern Syria, with the Pentagon claiming that the deployment is aimed at preventing the oilfields in the area from falling into the hands of Daesh terrorists.

Damascus, however, says the deployment is meant to plunder the country's resources. 

The US first confirmed its looting of Syrian oil during a Senate hearing exchange between South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in late July last year.

On July 30 and during his testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Pompeo confirmed for the first time that an American oil company would begin work in northeastern Syria, which is controlled by militants from the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The Syrian government strongly condemned the agreement, saying that the deal was struck to plunder the country's natural resources, including oil and gas, under the sponsorship and support of the administration of US President Donald Trump.

'US transfers Daesh inmates to own base in Tanf'

Separately, the US military reportedly transported dozens of Daesh militants from prisons run by allied militants from the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northeastern Syria to al-Tanf military base in southern Syria near the Jordanian border.

Syria’s official news agency SANA, citing local sources, reported on Monday that 70 Daesh terrorists had been moved to the base, warning that the military site is a sanctuary for the Takfiri militants who are supplied with various weapons and trained to carry out fresh acts of terror against Syrian government troops.

Back on May 14 last year, a number of captured members of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group confessed to close cooperation with US military forces stationed at al-Tanf base.

During confessions broadcast on Syria’s state-run television network at the time, three Daesh terrorists revealed that they were instructed by American forces to target Syrian government troops in and around the ancient city of Palmyra, the Tiyas Military Airbase, the Shaer gas field as well as nearby oil wells.

The militants, who had been arrested during a security operation in the Syrian Desert, later pointed to the existence of coordination between their commanders and those of the so-called Revolutionary Commando Army, commonly known by the Arabic name Jaysh Maghawir al-Thawra.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/01/19/643364/US-military-Apache-helicopter-goes-down-in-Syria-Hasakah-Report

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Europe

 

Britain’s prisons are a breeding ground for Islamist terror

19 January 2021

Was Reading terrorist Khairi Saadallah radicalised behind bars? What we do know is that locking Saadallah in HMP Bullingdon to develop a ‘close’ relationship with radical cleric Omar Brooks was an extraordinary lapse in operational security. Only 16 days after leaving the prison, the violent, troubled and combat experienced Saadallah launched his murderous attack in Reading. At the very least, it is clear that prison served little purpose in stopping him.

Once again, this raises the question of whether Britain's jails are a breeding ground for radicalisation. When one of this country’s most notorious apologists for terrorism Anjem Choudary was locked up five years ago, there was much speculation as to how he could be prevented from dripping poison into the ears of those locked up alongside him. It is likely that Choudary was confined for at least some of his sentence in a separation unit, a repurposed wing of a High Security prison designed to incapacitate offenders who pose a threat to national security.

I conceived of these units in a report I compiled in 2016 on the extremist threat. My idea was unpopular with senior managers in the Prison Service (which came as little surprise) but the Government listened to me and introduced them anyway. At one time, three of these units were in operation. Intelligence from inside prison was used to isolate charismatic and dangerous prisoners who were determined to subvert national security and convert others to violent extremism.

But while the terror threat Britain faces has not gone away, it seems that these units' days might be numbered. As late as 2019, the Ministry of Justice’s own research paper showed three separation centres working effectively. A full curriculum was being delivered, and the units were safe, decent and secure environments with highly motivated staff. Now more recent reports suggest just one remains in operation with eight prisoners in it. In that unit, at HMP Frankland in Country Durham, the local independent watchdog has raised concerns about the ‘mothballing’ of other units and the impact this has had. (I’ve never been invited back to see these units, so I’ve no way of knowing for sure why this sudden collapse in effectiveness has occurred.)

Britain's prisons, perhaps as never before, are well evidenced incubators and accelerators of violent extremism. They are places where it is ludicrously easy for hate preachers to target, get alongside and manipulate weak people searching for meaning and purpose, or for those already mobilised to hone their skills. The Islamist extremists Usman Khan and Sudesh Amman,  as well as Khairi Saadallah, are grim testimony to the scale of the problem.

The recent conviction of two terrorists who tried to murder an officer inside HMP Whitemoor was particularly chilling. It demonstrated that it was possible, even in one of the most supposedly secure places in the UK, for an Islamist extremist to groom a violent prisoner to join him in a terror attack. Only good luck and extraordinary bravery saved the life of the prison officer the pair targeted.

Yet we are risk of allowing something like this to happen again. If it is right that only one separation unit now remains – and that as few as eight prisoners are held there – what about the other extremists behind bars today? Who are they sharing their cells with? Who are they mixing with and influencing? Are these high-risk prisoners being monitored?

The separation of Islamist proselytisers in prison is the worst solution apart from all the alternatives. Staffing and running separation units is a hugely complex and challenging job. No one is saying otherwise. But surely it is worthwhile? From Vienna to Brussels, we see Islamists networking in prisons, deceiving well-meaning but naïve attempts by officials to change them. Tragic results are the inevitable consequence.

The growing number of extreme right terrorists won’t be far behind either. These people notice weakness and they will fill any space abandoned by the state. How we deal with terrorists behind bars is a task that is hopelessly compromised by a lack of bravery, not among the frontline staff who work in our prisons, but in those a world away in senior managerial roles.

Across the world, even prison systems regarded as more liberal than ours are taking steps to shut down these vectors of radicalisation and isolate the groomers. If our own prison service cannot or will not accept this challenge, it must be stripped of that responsibility. The only thing we can be sure of right now is that within those walls, tomorrow’s jihadist is in the making.

https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/britain-s-prisons-are-a-breeding-ground-for-islamist-terror

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UK 'seriously concerned' by Israel’s West Bank settlement expansion

18 January 2021

The British government has expressed serious concern about Israeli plans to expand settlements in the occupied West Bank, calling for an immediate halt to the illegal construction as the move could threaten future peace negotiations.

The anti-settlement monitoring group Peace Now announced on Sunday that Israeli authorities advanced plans for the construction of 780 new illegal settler units in the occupied West Bank.

The announcement came a week after Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered plans for the construction of new homes in the area.

"The UK is seriously concerned by… Israel's decision to approve the construction of 780 new settlement units across the Occupied Palestinian Territories," a Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office spokesperson said.

The inclusion of areas "deep within the West Bank" and within the construction plans "could threaten future peace negotiations," the spokesperson added.

"Settlements are illegal under international law and risk undermining the physical viability of the two-state solution. We call for the construction of these in East Jerusalem [al-Quds] and elsewhere in the West Bank to cease immediately," the spokesperson said.

The UK and much of the international community have censured ongoing construction of illegal settlements in areas that belong to Palestinians.

The European Union urged Israel in a statement on Monday to halt its settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank.

European Commission’s spokesperson on foreign affairs said in the statement that Israel's latest decision to advance plans for the construction of new settlement was “contrary to international law and further undermines the prospects of a viable two-state solution.”

Egypt slams Israel's construction plans

Also on Monday, Ahmed Hafez, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, condemned the Tel Aviv regime's decision to build 780 new settlement units in the occupied West Bank and said the measure undermines the possibility of achieving the two-state solution.

Hafez also underlined that such decisions challenge the current efforts aimed at advancing the peace process and resuming the negotiations between Palestine and Israel.

More than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.

All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law as they are built on occupied land.

Palestinians want the West Bank as part of their future independent state with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.

After US President Donald Trump took office in December 2016, Israel stepped up its settlement expansion in defiance of Resolution 2334, which pronounces settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds “a flagrant violation under international law.”

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/01/18/643332/UK-Israeli-settlements

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Turkish, Greek militaries conclude NATO-hosted meeting

Zehra Aydin Turapoglu  

18.01.2021

A technical meeting between Turkish and Greek military delegations hosted at NATO headquarters in Brussels has concluded, said a Turkish National Defense Ministry statement on Monday.

The ministry announced earlier that the meeting – resuming meetings from last fall – would discuss an established de-confliction mechanism between the two countries, amid disputes over maritime boundaries and related issues.

Last October, NATO had said such a mechanism “is designed to reduce the risk of incidents and accidents in the Eastern Mediterranean. It includes the creation of a hotline between Turkey and Greece, to facilitate de-confliction at sea or in the air.”

Starting last September, Turkish and Greek military delegations held a series of technical talks at NATO headquarters in Brussels to discuss the Eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey and Greece are also due to start bilateral exploratory talks on Jan. 25 in Istanbul to resolve their disputes.

Turkey, which has the longest continental coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, has rejected maritime boundary claims by Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, stressing that the excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots.

Ankara last year sent several drill ships for energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting its rights in the region, as well as those of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Turkish leaders have repeatedly stressed that Ankara is in favor of resolving outstanding problems in the region through international law, good neighborly relations, dialogue and negotiations.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/turkish-greek-militaries-conclude-nato-hosted-meeting/2114157

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South Asia

 

US has conceded too much to Taliban, says Afghan vice-president

January 15, 2021

With the US due to complete the withdrawal of another 2,000 troops from Afghanistan, the Afghan vice-president tells the BBC the US made a mistake in conceding too much to the Taliban.

Amrullah Saleh says the American mission, which began 20 years ago, is not yet accomplished.

Last year President Donald Trump made a peace deal with the Taliban and agreed to drastically reduce US troops.

Mr Saleh says the pull-out risks more violence in the unstable country.

The Afghan government has been battling the Taliban, a hard-line Islamic movement, as the group tries to tighten its grip on parts of the country.

The current US presence in Afghanistan dates to 2001 when soldiers invaded to remove the Taliban from power, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

But the movement regrouped and by 2018 was active in more than two-thirds of Afghanistan, threatening the elected government.

Thousands have been killed, including 2,400 US soldiers. Mr Trump has been clear that he is determined to withdraw all US troops from the country.

Vice-President Saleh told the BBC that US talks with the Taliban were not a mistake in themselves, but that Mr Trump's administration made an error in giving the group a "massive concession".

The deal signed in February 2020 said that the US and its Nato allies will withdraw all troops in 14 months if the Taliban upholds its promise to stop attacks. The Taliban also promised not to allow al-Qaeda or other militants to operate in areas it controls.

As a condition of starting negotiations with the Afghan government, the Taliban demanded that 5,000 of their men be released from Afghan prisons. The final 400 prisoners were set free in August last year.

Following the historic agreement, attacks by Taliban insurgents on international forces stopped, but fighting with Afghan security forces continued.

"I am telling them [US] as a friend and as an ally that trusting the Taliban without putting in a verification mechanism is going to be a fatal mistake," Mr Saleh said.

"The US delegation came to us and swore on every Holy Scripture that if you release these 5,000 Taliban prisoners there will be no violence. We told them at the highest level that our intelligence indicated otherwise, and if we do this violence will spike. Violence has spiked," he added.

He said that the group had not separated itself from terror group al-Qaeda whose leaders are "embedded" inside the Taliban. In October senior UN officials agreed with the assessment that al-Qaeda and the Taliban remain close allies.

"You want to negotiate with terrorism, it's your choice. But we are telling you, don't be deceived," the vice-president says.

"The Taliban were terrorists. They are terrorists today. They are killing women, activists, civil rights activists," he said.

But, he added, Afghanistan is not begging US soldiers to stay and the government accepts America's decision:

"We remain grateful for their assistance. But the fate of my country does not lie with the last US military helicopter."

At the peak of the war, there were 88,000 US troops in Afghanistan. After the completion of the latest withdrawal on Friday, that number will be down to about 2,500.

The Taliban has told the BBC if all foreign troops do not withdraw by spring, as agreed by the Trump administration, they will resume attacks on international forces.

The Afghan government has been in talks with the Taliban, but it's unclear if and when they will sign a peace deal.

Many fear that if foreign militaries withdraw before a lasting agreement is reached, the Taliban might be back in power.

Mr Trump's successor, Joe Biden, takes office on 20 January and one of his tasks will be to decide what happens to the final American soldiers remaining in Afghanistan.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-55666152

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Afghanistan Army kills 8 Taliban terrorists in Takhar province

JAN 18, 2021

As many as eight Taliban terrorists were killed and seven were wounded in Khawja-Ghar district of Takhar province by Afghan National Army on Sunday.

"8 Taliban were killed and 7 others were wounded in Khawja-Ghar district of #Takhar province by Afghan National Army last night (Sunday)," Ministry of Defense, Afghanistan tweeted.

Besides the attack in Takhar province, Afghan Army killed 25 Taliban terrorists and wounded eight others in a preemptive operation in Zheria and Arghandab districts of Kandahar province yesterday.

The Army also discovered two hideouts and three strongholds along with a large amount of their ammunition.

"25 Taliban were killed and 8 others were wounded in preemptive operation of ANA in Zheria and Arghandab districts of #Kandahar province, yesterday. Additionally, 2 hideouts, 3 strongholds and a large amount of their ammunition and weapons were destroyed," MoD said in a subsequent tweet. (ANI)

https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/afghanistan-army-kills-8-taliban-terrorists-in-takhar-province-101610966336717.html

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U.S Embassy: American Citizens ‘Should Consider Departing’ Afghanistan

By Mohammad Haroon Alim

18 Jan 2021

The U.S. embassy in Kabul says terrorist and criminal incidents in Kabul are likely to escalate and urges all U.S. citizens to refrain from traveling to Afghanistan, and that the American citizens in Afghanistan should leave the country immediately.

U.S Embassy in Kabul tweeted, a security alert statement on Sunday, January 17, 2021.

“The Embassy reminds U.S. citizens that the Travel Advisory for Afghanistan is Level 4-Do Not Travel due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, armed conflict, and COVID-19. U.S. citizens already in Afghanistan should consider departing” the US embassy stated.

Terrorist attacks, kidnappings, criminal offenses, and other similar incidents have increased across Afghanistan in recent weeks, according to the U.S embassy’s security alert.

US Embassy indicates, “Hotels, residential compounds, international organizations, embassies, and other locations frequented by foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens, are known to be under enduring threat”.

The US Embassy in Kabul reminds all American citizens to refrain from traveling to Afghanistan and those who are in Afghanistan should consider leaving the country, but those who have decided to stay should only make limited domestic travel arrangements and keep low profile.

“If you decide to remain in Afghanistan, carefully consider all travel and limit trips only to those that are absolutely necessary,” US Embassy said in a security alert statement.

Earlier, the US embassy had issued an alert indicating Targeted killings of journalists, civil society activists, government officials, and public figures will escalate.

Following the issued statement, it has been three months since incidents as such have raged across the country.

https://www.khaama.com/u-s-embassy-warns-its-citizens-to-leave-afghanistan-situational-alert-556655/

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NATO’s Position in Afghanistan Has not Changed: Stoltenberg

By Mohammad Haroon Alim

18 Jan 2021

Jen Stoltenberg, the Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has spoken to president Ghani on Monday, both discussed the peace process.

“NATO’s position has not changed & our presence is conditions based,” Stolenberg stated in his twitter.

He further noted that “We continue helping the Afghan security forces to ensure Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorism.”

Earlier, US acting Defense Secretary, Christopher Miller on Friday announced the drawdown of American troops in Afghanistan to 2,500 personnel.

“Today, US force levels in Afghanistan have reached 2,500. Directed by President (Donald) Trump, and as I announced on November 17, this drawdown brings US forces in the country to their lowest levels since 2001”, Miller said in the statement.

Miller added, “Today, the United States is closer than ever to ending nearly two decades of war and welcoming in an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led peace process to achieve a political settlement and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire,”.

Miller indicated the remaining US troops and commanders are tasked to keep US interests safe in the regions.

“A force of 2,500, commanders have what they need to keep America, our people, and our interests safe” Miller said in the statement.

On the other hand, NATO commented over the US troops drawdown, stating that the US made it clear, “they would continue to provide their enablers to our Resolute Support Mission”, but NATO’s position in this regard has not changed.

“We are carrying out our Train/Advise/Assist mission in its current configuration, with a Headquarters in Kabul and four regional commands. We are helping the Afghan security forces in their efforts towards lasting peace, and ensuring that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorism” NATO stated.

https://www.khaama.com/natos-position-in-afghanistan-has-not-changed-stoltenberg-556655/

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Taliban calls on Joe Biden administration to honor Donald Trump's deal to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by May 2021

JAN 19, 2021

The Taliban has called on President-elect Joe Biden to honor a US agreement to withdraw all American forces from Afghanistan by May in order to secure intra-Afghan peace talks and end the two-decade-long war.

“Steps must now be taken to end the war, not to prolong it, and the agreement was made for the purpose,” Mohammad Naeem, a senior spokesman in the Taliban’s political office in Doha, said on Monday, referring to their accord with the US signed last February which paves the way for a complete withdrawal of American troops by May in exchange for Taliban security guarantees. “The lack of complete implementation of the agreement can affect the ongoing process of negotiations,” he added.

The call from the insurgent group comes just days after the US reduced its troop levels from 4,500 to 2,500 at President Donald Trump’s direction, despite opposition from both Republican and Democrat lawmakers who’ve warned of the potential impact on counter-terrorism operations. Naeem cheered the reduction on Twitter, saying the move was a “good advancement.”

While it’s unclear whether Biden will withdraw all US troops by the May deadline, his nominee for national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, told CNN early this month the new administration would support “diplomacy” with the Taliban, urging the insurgent group to cut ties with Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, ensure a reduction in violence and participate in “good-faith negotiations” with the Afghan government.

The Biden transition team declined to weigh in.

Urgent Decision

Andrew Watkins, a senior analyst with International Crisis Group, said the May 1 troop withdrawal deadline is the biggest early challenge for the peace process and the most urgent decision for the incoming Biden team.

“If the Biden administration ignores the deadline set down in the U.S.-Taliban agreement without discussing and clearing a delay with the insurgents, the Taliban will almost certainly respond by escalating their use of force -- either via attacks on population centers, facilities housing international troops or both,” Watkins said Monday.

A reduction in US troops -- who provide air support to Afghan forces -- won’t affect the ability of Afghan forces to push back against the Taliban, according to a spokesman for the country’s National Security Council, Rahmatullah Andar.

Targeted Killings

The Afghan government and Taliban resumed negotiations in early January under the shadow of a series of targeted killings of journalists, government employees and independent human rights advocates. In the latest unclaimed gun attack in the capital Kabul, two female Supreme Court judges were killed on Sunday on their way to work, according to a statement from the country’s Presidential Palace.

“The Taliban should understand that such actions for which it bears responsibility outrage the world and must cease if peace is to come to Afghanistan,” US ambassador in Kabul, Ross Wilson, said on Twitter Sunday.

The new wave of violence has created an unprecedented level of fear and anxiety among Afghans and forced some prominent local journalists to flee the country. Since November, five journalists have been killed in targeted attacks and two others died in Kabul from unknown causes. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the US have blamed Taliban for the killings, which the group denies.

Wanting to reduce the bloodshed, Ghani’s negotiating team is pushing harder for a ceasefire agreement first before negotiating other key agenda items -- including a power-sharing deal -- with the Taliban. However the group wants to declare a ceasefire in the final stages of the talks.

“Much will depend upon how the Biden administration responds to the failure of the intra-Afghan dialog component of these negotiations,” said Kamran Bokhari, the director of analytical development for Center for Global Policy in Washington. “We will likely see a resumption of air strikes, increased intelligence ops and the use of Special Operations Forces to support Afghan National Security Forces who will be doing the heavy lifting on the ground. The goal will be to force the Taliban back to the table and be able to negotiate more effectively with the insurgents.”

https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/taliban-calls-joe-biden-to-honor-deal-to-withdraw-us-troops-from-afghanistan-101611039219626.html

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Southeast Asia

 

Muslim group says will countersue if Anwar goes ahead with legal challenge against Emergency declaration

19 Jan 2021

BY EMMANUEL SANTA MARIA CHIN

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 19 — Gerakan Pembela Ummah (Ummah), a coalition of 500 Muslim groups, today said it will intervene to block Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s lawsuit if the Opposition leader takes the government to court over the nationwide proclamation of Emergency.

Ummah chairman Mohd Zai Mustafa said Anwar’s actions were akin to questioning the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s wisdom, noting that the King made the proclamation only after consultation with the ruling government and senior officials.

“The actions of Anwar also paints him as someone who is just power crazy and practises politics without limits to the point he is willing to gamble with the fate of the people and national security,” Mohd Zai said in a statement on the group’s Facebook page.

“He should actually be getting behind the government to encourage the spirit or patriotism among the rakyat and call for national unity to be strengthened to face the huge challenges the country is facing right now, just as the Agong had previously advised during the opening of previous Parliament,” he added.

Mohd Zai said that Ummah will then be prepared with their own legal team to face and challenge the appeal that will be filed by Anwar’s team.

This he said, would all be done for the sake of defending the powers of the Agong as provided and stated within the Federal Constitution.

“Ummah will on our end also prepare a team of legal experts ready to challenge and appeal against such actions,” he added.

Anwar had criticised the Perikatan Nasional government for reversing its own policies and causing widespread confusion in handling the Covid-19 pandemic.

Accusing it of poor leadership and inciting panic by being unclear in its messages, Anwar announced his intention to challenge Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and the government for forcing a state of Emergency on the country.

The Port Dickson MP said the decision to resort to a declaration of an Emergency was a reckless and desperate move by the administration, one devoid of a rational basis.

The state of Emergency was declared by Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah on January 12, and will last until August 1, or until Covid-19 cases return to a manageable point.

The King’s announcement came a day after Muhyiddin had announced the re-implementation of the movement control order in six states for at least 14-days beginning January 13, after thousands of new Covid-19 infections were being detected nationwide.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2021/01/19/muslim-group-says-will-countersue-if-anwar-goes-ahead-with-legal-challenge/1941921

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Turkish messaging app gains attention in Indonesia

Pizaro Gozali Idrus  

18.01.2021

JAKARTA, Indonesia

People from all walks of life in Indonesia have started to switch to Turkish communication and messaging app, BiP, amid concerns about privacy protection on WhatsApp.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency on Monday, Heriyanto, who goes by only one name, a teacher in Central Java province, said he started using the app as it has high-quality video call service which is better than Whatsapp.

He said BiP allows group chats for up to 1,000 people and subscription of various channels.

"This is suitable for those who run a business," Heriyanto told Anadolu Agency via the app.

He said he was proud to use BiP because it was made by Turkey, a Muslim country.

"I recommended my friends to switch to BiP," he added.

Surabaya-based journalist Muhammad Nashir told Anadolu Agency that the app is interesting as it has many features such as dark mode and invites users to chat with each other by providing random chat notifications to new users.

Also applauding Turkey’s initiative, Ahmad Faishal Fahmi, an anesthesiology specialist in Jambi province, said that BiP has better video quality and fonts that are easier to read than Whatsapp.

However, he noted that it is still hard for some operator numbers to send SMS verification to register an account.

"There is no format text features like bold, italic, and others. There is also no live YouTube broadcast feature yet," Fahmi told Anadolu Agency

The doctor said that if BiP can accelerate its technology quickly, it is not impossible for the app to accommodate a digital payment system that is accepted around the world or at least in Muslim countries.

Fahmi, who is the admin of a cross-professional Muslim community group, also sees that many Indonesians use BiP as part of protest against Facebook which he said limits Muslim’s freedom of speech with its policy that ignores privacy rights.

"Apart from that, this [move] is also motivated by the strengthened sentiment toward products of Muslim countries and appreciation for Turkey's progress," he added.

Safe and comfortable

Ahmad Ufuwan, an IT practitioner in Jakarta, said the reason many Indonesians switch to BiP is that the app guarantees more security than its American competitor and is more comfortable to use.

"I personally feel comfortable using BiP and the app commits to data security," Ufuwan told Anadolu Agency.

He said that the app is easy to use by ordinary people, so everyone can easily adapt to its features.

"BiP deserves to be a substitute application for WhatsApp in Indonesia, where the majority of the population has historical linkages with Turkey," said Ufuwan.

Data showed Saturday that BiP has been downloaded by more than 50 million users worldwide, according to Google's app store.

After popular messaging app WhatsApp forced many users to agree to new privacy rules, a large number of people started to seek alternatives for their smartphones.

WhatsApp recently introduced controversial changes to its privacy policy that allows it to share more data with parent company Facebook.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/turkish-messaging-app-gains-attention-in-indonesia/2113682

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Toyota Capital Malaysia introduces world’s first Islamic-based car subscription programme

18 Jan 2021

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 18 — Toyota Capital Malaysia has introduced Kinto One, the world’s first Islamic-based car subscription programme, offering the public a new medium to own and drive a car without all the hassles associated with the traditionally popular hire-purchase facility.

Its president, Thomas Chai, said Kinto One is the result of a strategic partnership between Toyota Capital Malaysia and UMW Toyota Motor Sdn Bhd, and is a distinctly curated response to the new generation lifestyle seeking for mobility.

“It is about the shift of consumer behaviour from car ownership to car usership. It is about Toyota’s vision of ‘Mobility for All’,” he said in a statement today.

Kinto One offers an all-inclusive, fixed monthly payment car subscription plan, where the fixed monthly subscription covers vehicle registration, annual comprehensive insurance and road tax,  as well as periodic and preventive maintenance.

The subscription period comes in either two or three years, and once completed, the customer can just simply return the car to Toyota Malaysia.

UMW Toyota Motor president Ravindran Kurusamy said Kinto One aimed to cater to the newer generation of car owners seeking for freedom and mobility through its all-inclusive fixed monthly subscription plan.

Kinto One was established by Toyota Motors Corporation and has been introduced in many parts of the world, from Northern to Southern America as well as major Asian countries, and has a very big presence in the European countries.

The programme is officially available to the Malaysian public starting today and is exclusively available online at www.kinto-my.com.

Current models available include Toyota Vios, Yaris, Corolla, Innova, Fortuner and Camry, with many more models coming soon, including Lexus cars. — Bernama

https://www.malaymail.com/news/drive/2021/01/18/toyota-capital-malaysia-introduces-worlds-first-islamic-based-car-subscript/1941536

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Arab World

 

Qatar urges Persian Gulf states to start talks with Iran, end rift

19 January 2021

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani has called on the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states to enter negotiations with neighboring Iran in order to patch up their differences.

Speaking in an interview with Bloomberg television news network, Al Thani said the time was right for Doha to broker such talks, and that he has long called for a summit between leaders of the six-member council and Iranian officials.

He said his government was “hopeful that this would happen and we still believe this should happen.”

“This is also a desire that’s shared by other GCC countries,” the top Qatari diplomat said.

The comments come as US President-elect Joe Biden is gearing up to take the helm in the White House within the next few days. Biden has vowed during his presidential campaign that he would rejoin the 2015 Iran nuclear deal – officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – and would upend President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran that won the support of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt signed a declaration on the eve of the GCC leaders’ summit in the ancient desert city of Al-Ula, to ease a rift with Qatar, signaling the end of a three and a half year embargo of the energy-rich country.

In June 2017, the four countries accused Qatar, among other things, of supporting “terrorism” and having close ties to Iran, and severed economic and diplomatic ties. A blockade was also imposed by the four countries by land, sea and air.

Qatar repeatedly denied the claims and said there was no justification for severing relations.

Al Thani went on to say that Doha was already supporting ongoing discussions between Iran and South Korea to secure the release of the MT Hankuk Chemi tanker, which Iran impounded in its territorial waters on January 4 for polluting the environment.

“Qatar will facilitate negotiations if asked by stake holders and will support whoever is chosen to do so,” he said. “We want the accomplishment, we want to see the deal happening.”

“Wherever it is, whoever it is conducting this negotiation, we will support them,” Al Thani noted.

Back on December 23 last year, the Qatari foreign minister called for a de-escalation of tensions in the Persian Gulf region and for dialogue between Arab countries and Iran.

Iran has backed talks and diplomacy as the viable solution to the persisting tensions in the Persian Gulf, expressing hope that the resolution of the diplomatic crisis with Qatar will contribute to the stability as well as the political and economic development of the regional nations.

President Hassan Rouhani unveiled Iran’s peace initiative to promote security in the Persian Gulf, dubbed Hormuz Peace Endeavor (HOPE), during his speech at the UN General Assembly in September 2019. The Iranian president invited all regional countries to participate in the initiative.

Last October, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stressed the importance of implementing the HOPE initiative, and called for collective cooperation among neighbors to establish “inclusive dialogue and security networking” in the region.

“Security is contingent on a reliance on our own peoples and cooperation with our own neighbors. We need collective efforts by regional countries to establish inclusive dialogue and security networking in this region,” Zarif told a virtual debate of the UN Security Council on October 20.

“Otherwise, we will all be engulfed in turmoil for generations to come,” he added, warning that turmoil in the region “will be everyone’s turmoil.”

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/01/19/643357/Qatar-urges-Persian-Gulf-Arab-states-to-start-talks-with-neighboring-Iran

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Reports about Syrian–Israeli meetings 'untrue': Foreign Ministry

18 January 2021

Syria has vehemently rejected untrue reports by some "hired media outlets" about having held meetings with Israel, saying those who are spreading such lies seek to draw the whole region into Western Zionist alliances.

“The Syrian Arab Republic categorically denies the untrue news marketed by some mass media about holding any Syrian-Israeli meetings at any place,” an official source at Foreign and Expatriates Ministry said in a statement on Monday, Syria's official SANA news agency reported.

The statement added that the financiers of the "hired news outlets" have made this failed attempt in order to cast doubt on Syria’s principled and firm stance towards the Israeli occupation.

Syria has pursued and is still pursuing a clear policy and takes its decisions in a way that serves the country's interest and just causes, the foremost of which is the Palestinian issue and the liberation of the entire occupied Syrian Golan as well as the occupied Arab lands in accordance with the relevant international resolutions, it added.

According to the statement, Syria reiterates that those who stand behind such lies are those who seek to normalize ties with the Zionist regime.

The statement came after a number of Arab countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan, embarked on full normalization of relations with Israel through deals mediated by the administration of outgoing US President Donald Trump.

Trump has been scrambling to hammer out peace treaties between Arab governments and Israel in order to portray them as foreign policy gains.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/01/18/643334/Syria-Israel-normalization-meetings-SANA-Palestine

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US denies involvement in alleged attack on Iraq’s Baghdad: Embassy

Tamara Abueish

19 January 2021

The United States was not involved in the alleged attacks on the south of Baghdad in Iraq, a spokesperson for the US Embassy in Baghdad confirmed on Tuesday.

“We are seeing reports of potential explosions near Jurf as-Sakhr, south of Baghdad. We can confirm that no US personnel or assets were in the vicinity of Jurf as-Sakhr and that there was no US involvement in this alleged incident,” the spokesperson said.

Earlier on Tuesday, the official account of the security media cell of the Iraqi Prime Minister’s Office denied reports of airstrikes hitting Iraq’s Baghdad on Monday night, calling them “incorrect”.

The sound of explosions that were reportedly heard at the scene were the result of electrical towers that were hit by ISIS militants, the media cell said on Twitter on Tuesday.

Security officials began a search operation to arrest those responsible for the attack, according to the statement.

Several reports on Monday had suggested the explosions may have been US or Israeli airstrikes on Iran-backed militias.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2021/01/19/ISIS-militants-hit-electric-towers-in-Iraq-s-Baghdad-airstrikes-report-denied

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First Qatar-Egypt flight since 2017 takes off from Doha

 18 January 2021

The first Qatar-Egypt flight since the two Arab countries severed relations in 2017 took off from Doha on Monday, making life easier for the thousands of Egyptian residents of the Gulf nation.

Egypt in June 2017 joined Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain in cutting ties with Qatar, accusing it of being too close to Iran and of backing extremists, charges Doha denies.

The quartet agreed to heal the rift at a Gulf summit on January 5 in Saudi Arabia, after a flurry of diplomatic activity by outgoing US President Donald Trump’s administration.

As many as 300,000 Egyptians call Qatar home, according to statistics, but many were unable to travel home during the crisis.

In May 2020, frustrated Egyptians protested outside the compound housing Egypt’s then-empty embassy.

Following the demonstration, 18 repatriation flights operated via neutral Oman to comply with Cairo’s ban on direct air traffic.

The first commercial flight between Qatar and Egypt in three and a half years, an EgyptAir service to Cairo, took off from windswept Doha airport.

A Qatar Airways plane was due to also make the trip to Cairo later Monday.

Mustafa Ahmed, 38, an Egyptian technical engineer, said: “We are very happy...”

“With direct flights, life will be easier, especially for families and children, avoiding the torment of changing airports and planes and waiting for hours for transit flights,” he told AFP.

Egyptians in Qatar work in a number of sectors including education, healthcare and engineering.

Thousands of Qatar’s majority-expatriate workforce, however, have lost their jobs as a result of a downturn caused by the coronavirus epidemic.

A first flight between the UAE and Qatar since the inter-Arab row that severed transportation links was also due Monday to land in Doha from the emirate of Sharjah.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2021/01/18/First-Qatar-Egypt-flight-since-2017-takes-off-from-Doha

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Airstrikes pound Iran-backed militias south of Iraq’s Baghdad: Reports

Joseph Haboush

18 January 2021

Multiple explosions were heard south of Iraq's capital overnight Monday in what reports suggest may have been US or Israeli airstrikes on Iran-backed militias.

US Central Command (CENTCOM) said it was not aware “of any strikes in Iraq,” according to a Reuters reporter in Washington.

The Pentagon did not respond to a request for comment.

The airstrikes were reported south of Baghdad in Jurf al-Sakhr.

Meanwhile, pro-Iran groups raised the possibility of an Israeli strike on militia outposts.

Last March, US airstrikes targeted a weapons depot in the area, which it said belonged to Kata'ib Hezbollah.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2021/01/19/US-airstrikes-pound-Iran-backed-militias-south-of-Iraq-s-Baghdad-Reports

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Lebanon’s Hezbollah erects Soleimani statues, dividing supporters on Iran propaganda

Mona Alami

18 January 2021

Traditionally adorned with pictures of Iranian proxy group Hezbollah’s martyrs and leaders, the southern suburbs of Beirut, the party’s bastion, are now lined with Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) iconography, but many of the terrorist organization’s supporters have remained opposed to the move.

Statues, billboards and posters of IRGC Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani – killed by US airstrikes in Iraq in January 2020 – have been erected across the suburb’s populous neighborhoods as well as on the highway connecting the international airport to the capital Beirut.

Many Lebanese have decried Hezbollah’s campaign, viewed as a symbol of Iranian domination of Lebanon. Hezbollah’s popular base is no stranger to the debate, with many long-time supporters of the terrorist organization opposed to what they criticize as a provocative campaign to other Lebanese communities at a time when the country is suffering an unprecedented economic and political crisis.

“Despite Iran’s support to our struggle against Israel, we should not erect pictures of Iranian military or symbols, if that is perceived as offensive to a large tranche of the Lebanese population, at a time when the country is facing so many political and economic challenges,” Ali, a nurse hailing from Dahieh, the colloquial name referring to the Southern suburbs of Beirut, said.

On the eve of the anniversary of Soleimani’s death, Hezbollah engaged in a wide campaign celebrating the Iranian commander “martyrdom” against the Americans. Hezbollah militants were also seen distributing posters and headbands featuring Soleimani’s name with the mention “Jerusalem and Karbala are his destiny”.

In the southern Lebanese village of Arabsalim, a model depicting the moment a US drone missile struck Soleimani’s vehicle on its way out of Baghdad’s airport was placed on the main road. The militant group also erected a statue of the Iranian General in the southern Lebanese town of Maroun al-Ras. The bronze bust of Soleimani, was also placed in Ghobeiry, in the southern suburbs by the local municipality, to commemorate the general’s death.

Ahmad, a grocery store owner, echoed the Ali’s statements, noting that placing the general’s pictures in areas outside of Hezbollah’s natural dominion would only infuriate other Lebanese and further marginalize Shiites.

Iranian cultural colonialism

Other Shiites view the commemoration of Soleimani’s death as a form of cultural colonialism. “As a victim of the Israeli invasion of South Lebanon, I support the Resistance [Hezbollah]. But I do not see why we should erect statues to Soleimani, a person who is foreign to our culture and our Lebanese identity,” said Nada a physiotherapist from South Lebanon.

Lokman Slim, an anti-Hezbollah activist, emphasized that while a section of Hezbollah’s traditional popular base may criticize the party’s increasing pro-Iranian propaganda in Lebanon, few publicly oppose it. “Shiites may view these theatrics as provocative to other Lebanese, but they remain part of a silent opposition, which only criticizes the party behind closed doors,” Slim said.

Amal, a beautician living in the southern suburbs explained that no one can challenge the creeping Iranian influence in southern areas. “We may not be happy with it, but we have no other choice but to accept it,” she added fatalistically.

For anti-Hezbollah activist and Janoubia editor Ali Amine, Hezbollah’s latest campaign in commemoration of Soleimani’s death aims to root Lebanese Shiite identity in Iranian military and religious references.

“Hezbollah has done much more in terms of propaganda for the death of Soleimani than for after the killing of its own commander Imad Mughnieh. Hezbollah is attempting to impose and normalize Iranian cultural references on its Shiite constituency,” he added.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2021/01/18/Lebanon-s-Hezbollah-erects-Soleimani-statues-dividing-supporters-on-Iran-propaganda

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UAE-Israel visa exemption deal postponed over coronavirus worries

18 January 2021

The United Arab Emirates has postponed the implementation of a visa-exemption agreement with Israel after Israel required anyone entering from the Gulf state to be quarantined as a COVID-19 precaution, Israeli officials said on Monday.

Visa waivers were a centerpiece of a Sept 15 deal formalizing Israeli-UAE relations. According to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, they were meant to have gone into effect by February 13, having been ratified by Abu Dhabi last Wednesday.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app

But the Israeli ministry said in a statement that its UAE counterpart had “suspended” the waiver agreement until July 1 “given efforts to arrest the spread of the coronavirus”.

Citizens of the two countries can obtain visas through their airlines, as tens of thousands have done since the normalization pact.

Monday’s announcement followed a decision by Israel’s Health Ministry to require that anyone coming from the UAE be taken to a military-run “coronavirus motel” for a quarantine lasting between 10 and 12 days.

Israel had previously exempted the UAE from its watchlist of so-called “red” countries. The UAE, with a population of 9 million, has seen a surge in cases this month, with new infections surpassing 3,000 per day for the first time.

Israel, whose population is of a similar size, has also been struggling with the pandemic even as it implements the world’s fastest-paced vaccination program. Israel’s Health Ministry has logged more than 5,000 new cases per day this week.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2021/01/18/UAE-Israel-visa-exemption-deal-postponed-over-coronavirus-worries

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Casualties reported as airstrikes hit Iraqi forces’ positions in Babil

19 January 2021

Several Iraqi forces have apparently been killed in airstrikes against the positions of the Arab country’s military units in Jurf al-Sakhar, Babil province, local sources and media reports said.

At least four explosions were heard on Monday night in Jurf al-Sakhar region, according to local sources.

The attacks were apparently launched by F-16 warplanes and drones, and have killed nine Iraqi military forces so far, sources close to the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), better known as Hashd al-Sha’abi, said.

Lebanon’s Al Mayadeen TV channel says American warplanes were flying over the al-Qaem area near the Iraqi-Syrian border following the attacks.

Thile several PMU units – especially those of Kata’ib Hezbollah – used to be stationed in the region, some Iraqi sources are saying the airstrikes have targeted the Arab country’s army personnel.

Despite speculations about the US role in the airstrikes, a senior US defense official has told Fox News there were no US airstrikes near Baghdad tonight.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo posted tweets about the 2019 attacks against the US embassy in Baghdad as the airstrikes were hitting Jurf al-Sakhar.

“When violent protestors attacked US Embassy in Baghdad on New Year’s Eve 2019, State Department special agents defended the compound against the mob for more than 40 hours, with no loss of life or serious injuries. #UnsungHeroes” he said in one of his tweets.

Sabereen News, which is close to the PMU, reports that the Iraqi prime minister has ordered the deployment of Iraqi troops near the US embassy in Baghdad to protect the compound against possible retaliatory attacks.

On December 20, a series of Katyusha rockets landed near the US embassy complex, which is inside Baghdad’s heavily-fortified Green Zone. The attack, which was the biggest one on Baghdad’s Green Zone since 2010, caused minor damage to buildings there.

Anti-American sentiments have run high since the 2020 assassination of Iran’s top anti-terror commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of the PMU, in a US airstrike near Baghdad airport.

The US embassy was targeted several times last year amid heightened anti-American sentiments in Iraq in the aftermath of the assassinations.

After the terrorist act, the Iraqi parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution calling for the expulsion of US forces from the Arab country.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/01/19/643345/Iraq-Us-airstrike-jurf-sakhar-pmu

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US forces transport 70 imprisoned Daesh terrorists from Syria to Jordan border: Report

18 January 2021

US forces have transported 70 imprisoned members of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group from the northeastern Syrian province of Hasakah to their bases on the Jordan border, a report says.

Syria's official news agency SANA reported on Monday that the prison is controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and the bases are in the al-Tanf border area.

The militants were shifted from the southern entrance of Hasaka to the bases in al-Tanf, the report added.

In April 2020, US troops transported a number of Daesh terrorists from Hasakah to Iraq.

Speculations are that Washington has, either directly or indirectly, supported the terrorist group through its regional allies in the past few years.

Numerous accounts have emerged alleging airlifts, weapon air-drops and aerial support for the Takfiri outfit, particularly as its strength diminished in Syria and Iraq.

Thousands of Daesh terrorists escaped from Syrian jails, as Kurdish prison guards were focused on fighting back the Turkish military that had been engaged in an operation against Kurds in northeastern Syria.

Daesh has already been driven out of all its urban bastions both in Iraq and Syria, but its remnants carry out sporadic terror attacks in both countries.

Senior US officials have on occasions complained about Washington’s policies in Syria, arguing that the approaches made by the administration of President Donald Trump have left American troops stuck in a ‘forgotten war’ and guarding oil and gas resources there, while the Iranian military advisors and Russian troops are making advances and help the Damascus government recover.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/01/18/643311/US-imprisoned-Daesh-terrorists-Syria-Jordan

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India

 

No spectators at Wagah border on Jan 26, BSF yet to take call on India-Pak parade

JAN 19, 2021

No spectators will be allowed on the Indian side of the Attari-Wagah joint checkpost on Republic Day in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, officials familiar with the matter said on Monday.

A Border Security Force (BSF) official said that a decision is yet to be taken on whether the coordinated parade with Pakistan will be held this year or not.

“Due to the coronavirus pandemic, no spectator will be allowed to enter the joint check post (JCP) at Attari this Republic Day. But we have yet to decide our programme, including the parade ceremony, to celebrate the day on the border,” said a senior Punjab BSF official, requesting anonymity.

The joint parade was held on Independence Day last year.

Another BSF official said that while they are yet to receive a programme for Republic Day, it is likely that the parade will be held. Celebrations for the Republic Day may be similar to the beating the retreat ceremony which was held in August without any spectators, the official said.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak in March last year, only a flag-lowering ceremony is conducted at sunset on the Indian side of the border.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/no-spectators-at-wagah-border-on-jan-26-bsf-yet-to-take-call-on-india-pak-parade-101611013478384.html

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Sohail Mansuri, The Married Man 1st To Be Held Under MP ‘Love Jihad’ Law

Jan 19, 2021

Barwani: Madhya Pradesh police on Monday made the first arrest under the new ‘love jihad’ ordinance on the basis of a complaint filed by a 22-year-old woman in Barwani.

She has alleged that a married man sexually abused her for four years by going under a false name and pretending to be from her community. The ruse broke when he started pressuring her to change her religion for marriage, Barwani Kotwali police station in-charge Rajesh Yadav told TOI.

The accused, Sohail Mansuri alias Sunny, has been booked under Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Ordinance 2020 and IPC sections 376 (rape), 506 (criminal intimidation), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 294 (obscene act).

According to the complaint, the woman met Sohail four years ago in Palsud town of Barwani, about 170km from Indore, where he had shifted. Sohail worked as a driver but also played music at parties and events.

“Sohail met the girl at a function, introduced himself as Sunny and said he belongs to her community. They exchanged mobile numbers. Very soon they entered into a relationship. He established physical relations with the girl by giving her various inducements,” the inspector said.

Some time ago, Sohail revealed his true identity and began pressuring her to change her religion so that they could marry, she alleges, adding that he beat her several times when she refused.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bhopal/married-man-1st-to-be-held-under-mp-love-jihad-law/articleshow/80335425.cms

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Pakistan

 

PML-N, PPP ask PTI for proof of foreign funding allegations

January 19, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The opposi­tion Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakis­tan Peoples Party (PPP) on Monday challenged the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) to produce evidence of its claim that they had received funding from abroad.

The counsel for the two parties appeared before the scrutiny committee of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and argued that they had not received any foreign funds.

After the committee meeting, PML-N’s counsel Jehangir Jadoon told Dawn that the party had already submitted details of its donors along with their CNIC numbers, stressing that all these funds had been collected locally.

He said the PML-N had also submitted its documents, including bank statements, and the ECP could verify them through the State Bank of Pakistan.

He claimed that the complainant, PTI MNA Farrukh Habib, while answering a question during the committee’s meeting, said he had no proof against the PML-N.

The counsel said he asked the committee to wind up the proceedings in the absence of any proof of wrongdoing and expressed concern over the uncalled-for delay in taking the ‘baseless’ case to its logical conclusion.

Jadoon, however, noted that the committee was deliberately dragging the matter.

“Perhaps it wants to decide all the foreign funding cases, including the one against the PTI, together,” he remarked.

He said the committee had stated that it would give a new questionnaire, but it was yet be received.

Meanwhile, informed sources told Dawn that the ECP committee on Monday sought details of donors from the PPP.

They said the committee asked for the details on demand of the PTI’s counsel and the PPP promised to produce the same in the next session.

A source in the PPP said Farrukh Habib had in his complaint alleged that the PPP had incorporated a company in the United States by the name of PPP LLC to collect illegal funds and remit them to Pakistan. However, he did not submit a single piece of paper in support of his allegation of any such company having been formed by the PPP in the US.

He said the PPP had nothing to do with the PPP LLC, registered in the US, adding that the LLC was in fact in the business of plastic scrap recycling for decades.

He said the company had been incorporated in the US in 1967. “This company or its business has no nexus with the PPP.”

The documents downloaded from the company’s website were attached at pages 10 to 14 of the reply submitted by the PPP to the ECP, he remarked.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1602306/pml-n-ppp-ask-pti-for-proof-of-foreign-funding-allegations

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Pakistani raid kills Taliban suspected of slaying of troops

JANUARY 18, 2021

Pakistani security forces raided a hideout on January 18 in a former insurgent stronghold in the country’s northwest and killed two Taliban fighters, including one suspected of involvement in an October attack that killed six soldiers, the military said.

A third suspect was arrested in the raid in the South Waziristan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. The military said it acted on intelligence.

The six soldiers were killed in a bomb attack in the region three months ago. The military statement provided no further details.

Pakistani militants have in recent months stepped up attacks on troops in the former tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, citing concerns that insurgents are regrouping there.

The North and South Waziristan districts served as the main base for local and foreign militants until the military secured the regions in 2015 with a series of operations.

The Pakistani Taliban, also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, are a separate insurgent group from the Afghan Taliban, although Pakistan’s militant groups are often interlinked with those across the border.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/pakistani-raid-kills-taliban-suspected-of-slaying-of-troops/article33600584.ece

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Pakistan's transgender people demand respect

Kamran Chaudhry

January 19, 2021

Nadra Khan is campaigning for justice after a bank manager rejected her application to open an account.

“People make us dance but enjoy bank accounts. The dancers can’t have one. I perform in functions for my bread. I don’t have any other source of income. You have insulted me,” she said in a video posted on Facebook on Jan. 15.

“Most of our community members in Pakistan do not own houses. We can’t loot or steal. Banks should instead provide us interest-free loans for housing, car finance and business. Do something good.”

Khan, who registered Hazara Transgender Associates last year with the Security Exchange Commission, referred to her recent visit to Meezan Bank in Mansehra in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in northwest Pakistan.

On Jan. 14, she was informed that the bank’s Sharia board had rejected her request to open an account because of “un-Islamic” income.

“Such people are the real hurdle in our life of dignity. Meezan Bank has no right to make fun of me or my income. I am really under stress,” said Khan.

Meanwhile, in Islamabad, members of the transgender community protested on Jan. 11 outside parliament and Islamabad Press Club to demand justice for Rimal Ali, Pakistan’s first transgender model, a victim of torture and rape. Ali accused Jahanzeb Khan of Attock in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa of shaving her eyebrows and hair and burning her with cigarettes.

Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari assured the protesters of action and offered legal aid to Ali. Mazari directed the concerned police station to take action against those involved in the incident and promised a new law for the transgender community.

In a Jan. 13 video message on Twitter, Ali thanked police and politicians for their cooperation.

“We are receiving threatening messages and calls. People are following us. We demand a non-bailable warrant for Jahanzeb Khan. He didn’t even appear at the police station. We are only demanding our right to live,” she said. 

Transgender people, locally known as khwaja siras, continue to suffer human rights abuses and growing incidents of violence. Often shunned by mainstream society, transgender citizens find themselves vulnerable to being forced into begging, sex work or dancing in a country where it is considered un-Islamic for a woman to dance in front of men.

Muslim transgender people complain of being insulted and mocked and stopped from entering mosques. They are questioned about Islamic practices and proclamations, they say.

The number of transgender people recorded in Pakistan's census in 2017 was 10,418.

The change

In 2009, Pakistan became one of the few Islamic countries to recognize transgender people legally. In 2018, Marvia Malik became the first transgender television news anchor in the Islamic republic.

In August 2020, Karachi-based female pastor Ghazala Shafique established St. Jeremiah Church, the first church for transgender people in Mehran, a seaport city. The congregation of 30 moved to her house for weekly Friday prayers in September.

“They preferred a dedicated service instead of a mixed one to avoid the stares. They are still insecure on roads. In the compound of my house, they hang out after the service and share their challenges,” Shafique told UCA News.

The pastor has been successful in recording video messages of several clerics in Karachi accepting transgender people among the faithful.

“A mosque for transgenders has been reopened in Islamabad. Another was opened last week in Karachi. Ali used her celebrity status to get government attention but the community is generally poor, facing problems on a daily basis,” said Shafique.

Despite the passing of several laws and policies to protect the rights of transgender people, they continue to suffer prejudice and violence, say rights groups.

The killings

Human Rights Watch’s recently released World Report 2021 claims women, religious minorities and transgender people continued to face violence, discrimination and persecution, with authorities often failing to provide adequate protection or hold perpetrators to account.

“Pakistan’s penal code continued to criminalize same-sex sexual conduct, placing men who have sex with men and transgender people at risk of police abuse, and other violence and discrimination. At least 65 transgender women have been killed in KP province since 2015,” it claims.

Police in Karachi found the mutilated body of 40-year-old transgender Guddu at a house in Clifton area at the weekend, ARY News reported. The police said the body bore torture marks as if she had been mauled by animals.

That same evening baton-wielding transgender people in Chiniot, Punjab province, protested against police for raiding a birthday party. “Police are thieves,” they shouted. A constable was injured.

In April 2020, Musa, a 15-year-old transgender boy, was gang raped and killed in Faisalabad district, Punjab. In July, unidentified gunman in Rawalpindi district, Punjab, killed Kangna, a transgender woman. An unidentified assailant fatally shot Gul Panra, a transgender activist in Peshawar, in September.

https://www.ucanews.com/news/pakistans-transgender-people-demand-respect/91055

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Security heightened in capital as PDM gears up for rally outside ECP

Javed Hussain | Shakeel Qarar

January 19, 2021

More than a thousand security officials, including police and Rangers, were deployed outside the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) headquarters in Islamabad on Tuesday where the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) will stage a protest against the delay in the verdict on the foreign funding case against the ruling PTI.

All entry and exit points to the capitals' Red Zone have also been sealed, police said.

In a statement earlier today, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said that all rallies headed towards the ECP will converge at Kashmir Chowk at 1pm, urging party workers and supporters to make their way to the protest.

"The ECP should start writing down its verdict in the foreign funding case, the people are on their way to receive it. The crime has been unearthed and the thief has confessed," she said, adding that the commission should complete the inquiry.

Meanwhile, Information Minister Shibli Faraz said that the government had not placed any obstacles for the opposition's protest.

"The smooth flow of traffic on the capital's highways is proof of the premier's pro-democratic mindset. The nation has not forgotten when the PML-N government targeted PTI protesters during a peaceful demonstration," he said.

These sentiments were also echoed by Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed. On Monday, he said that the government had decided to give a free hand to the PDM to organise a rally in the Red Zone. But he made it clear that nobody would be allowed to take the law into their own hands.

He said the PDM should know that the Supreme Court, Parliament House and other institutions were situated on Constitution Avenue and the government had taken all necessary security measures for their protection.

According to the PDM leadership, they have no plans to stage a sit-in outside the commission’s headquarters and the rally will disperse after two to three hours.

Some small rallies from Rawalpindi and Islamabad will reach Serena Hotel Chowk from where PDM leaders, including PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and PPP leader and former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf will lead the main rally to the ECP headquarters.

After staging a demonstration, the PDM leaders will address a joint press conference.

All main opposition parties are taking part in the rally with the PML-N expected to play a leading role. JUI-F’s Maulana Fazl will also lead from the front with his party taking out two separate rallies. PPP is joining the PDM power show, but its chairman, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, will not be part of it. Instead, other party senior leaders will be seen in the rally.

The foreign funding case against PTI was filed in Nov 2014 by Akbar S Babar, a founding member of the party. He had alleged serious financial irregularities in PTI’s accounts.

The allegations made by Babar included illegal sources of funding, concealment of bank acco­unts in the country and abroad, money laundering, and using private bank acc­ounts of PTI employees as a front to receive illegal donations from the Middle East.

The ECP is expected to hear the funding case against the ruling party on Wednesday.

Security arrangements

The Islamabad Capital Territory administration has finalised a security plan to maintain law and order during the opposition’s protest. More than 1,000 police officials have been deployed to ensure security while 300 Rangers have been deputed to assist the police force.

Police officials have been instructed not to carry firearms; only Rangers will carry firearms. The Special Branch and the CIA have also been deployed for making arrests.

Meanwhile, a heavy police contingent has been deployed at all entry and exit points of the Red Zone.

Further, the ECP building has been completely sealed with concrete blocks and barbed wire while a large number of security personnel have been deployed outside the building.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1602377/security-heightened-in-capital-as-pdm-gears-up-for-rally-outside-ecp

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Pakistan approves another Covid-19 vaccine

Ikram Junaidi

January 19, 2021

ISLAMABAD: As the country reported 1,920 new coronavirus cases and 46 deaths in a single day, the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) on Monday approved another Covid-19 vaccine manufactured by Chinese state-owned firm Sinopharm.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), a representative body of doctors, has asked the government to share details of the vaccines which are under consideration for import as well as their efficacy rates.

Moreover, with the resumption of matric and intermediate classes across the country on Monday when the winter is on its peak, it is feared that coronavirus cases may further increase.

On the other hand, World Health Organisation (WHO) Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus revealed that during the last four decades the global community had lost battles against pandemics twice and urged the nations to avoid past mistakes and beat history as promise of equitable access to the vaccine was at serious risk.

Drap chief executive officer Dr Asim Rauf, while talking to Dawn, said the National Institute of Health (NIH) got the Sinopharm’s vaccine registered on its name. “The approval has been given for emergency use and it will pave the way for bringing the vaccine to Pakistan,” he added.

It is worth mentioning that Pakistan has already pre-booked 1.1 million doses of Sinopharm’s Covid-19 vaccine and after its approval by Drap the process of its import will start soon.

On Jan 16, Drap had approved AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use in Pakistan.

In a statement, the PMA said Drap had reportedly approved AstraZeneca’s vaccine which is being manufactured by India. Pakistan will acquire this vaccine through Covax, for 20 per cent population, which is a global alliance for vaccine support.

“PMA wants to know the dosage of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine; will it be administered once in life, once a year or more than that? Who will be the beneficiary of this free vaccine? PMA and other stakeholders should be taken on board by the government. Healthcare workers both from public and private sectors should be administered vaccine on a priority basis. Up till now 175 doctors and 30 paramedics have lost their lives due to Covid-19,” it stated.

PMA secretary general Dr Qaisar Sajjad said it was unfortunate that even the doctors, if infected with the virus, were not aware where to go for treatment as no beds were reserved for doctors in any corona-designated hospital.

“So many countries of the world have started vaccinating their people. Even India has started the world’s largest coronavirus vaccination drive under which more than 300 million people will be vaccinated. On the other hand, Pakistan might get the first consignment of free vaccine from Covax in the second quarter of 2021. Unfortunately, we do not see any such planning by our government for vaccinating people,” he regretted.

Dr Sajjad demanded that the government expedite the process of acquiring the Covid-19 vaccine. “Healthcare workers and people above 60 years of age suffering from diabetes, hypertension, cancer or any other uncompromised disease should be vaccinated on a priority basis,” he said.

According to data of the National Command and Operation Centre, 39 people died in hospitals and seven out of hospital during the last 24 hours. As many as 325 ventilators were in use across the country and the number of active cases reached 34,986.

Past mistakes

WHO Director General Dr Tedros, while speaking at an event, urged the global community to play their role in eradication of Covid-19. He recalled that 40 years ago a new virus [HIV] emerged and sparked a pandemic. Life-saving medicines were developed, but more than a decade passed before the world’s poor got access to them.

“Twelve years ago, a new virus [H1N1] emerged and sparked a pandemic. Life-saving vaccines were developed, but by the time the world’s poor got access, the pandemic was over. One year ago, a new virus emerged and sparked a pandemic. Life-saving vaccines have been developed. What happens next is up to us. We have an opportunity to beat history, write a different story and avoid the mistakes of the HIV and H1N1 pandemics.

“The development and approval of safe and effective vaccines less than a year after the emergence of a new virus is a stunning scientific achievement, and a much-needed source of hope. But we now face the real danger that even as vaccines bring hope to some, they become another brick in the wall of inequality between the world’s haves and have-nots,” he said.

“It’s right that all governments want to prioritise vaccinating their own health workers and older people first. But it’s not right that younger, healthier adults in rich countries are vaccinated before health workers and older people in poorer countries. There will be enough vaccine for everyone. But right now, we must work together as one global family to prioritise those most at risk of severe diseases and death, in all countries. We have secured two billion doses from five producers and we aim to start deliveries in February,” he added.

Dr Tedros said: “Covax is ready to deliver what it was created for. But in recent weeks I have heard from several member states who have questioned whether Covax will get the vaccines it needs, and whether high-income countries will keep the promises they have made. As the first vaccines begin to be deployed, the promise of equitable access is at serious risk. More than 39 million doses of vaccine have now been administered in at least 49 higher-income countries. Just 25 doses have been given in one lowest-income country. Not 25 million; not 25 thousand; just 25.”

He said: “I need to be blunt: the world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure — and the price of this failure will be paid with lives and livelihoods in the world’s poorest countries. Forty-four bilateral deals were signed last year, and at least 12 have already been signed this year.

“The situation is compounded by the fact that most manufacturers have prioritised regulatory approval in rich countries where the profits are highest, rather than submitting full dossiers to WHO. This could delay Covax deliveries and create exactly the scenario Covax was designed to avoid, with hoarding, a chaotic market, an uncoordinated response, and continued social and economic disruption.

“A recent study estimated that the economic benefits of equitable vaccine allocation for 10 high-income countries would be at least 153 billion US dollars in 2021, rising to 466 billion dollars by 2025. That’s more than 12 times the total cost of the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator.”

https://www.dawn.com/news/1602299/pakistan-approves-another-covid-19-vaccine

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NAB overlooked Sherpao’s ‘dubious’ transactions, UK arbitrator rules

Malik Asad

January 19, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The judgement of the British arbitrator released by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar disclosed how the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) during former president Gen Pervez Musharraf’s era overlooked the ‘dubious’ transactions of ex-interior minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao after he joined the former military ruler’s cabinet.

Sir Anthony Evans, a London-based arbitrator, ruled in favour of Broadsheet’s claim that recovery from Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao was inordinately delayed and he was given ample opportunity to safely retrieve $3.5 million.

As per the verdict, in July 2002 Broadsheet informed NAB that it had located assets belonging to Mr Sherpao in a bank account in Jersey.

Broadsheet is a UK-based assets recovery firm.

The account was in the name of a trust owned and/or controlled by him and a total of $3.5 million was held in it. Broadsheet asked NAB to make a formal request to the Jersey authorities for a freezing order in respect of its claims and imposed a temporary freezing order.

Judgement supports Broadsheet’s claim that former minister given time to retrieve $3.5m

On Sept 20, 2003 the Crown Advocate in Jersey sought for “an update as to the Sherpao matter”. Before he could provide one, Broadsheet received NAB’s solicitors’ letter dated Oct 28, 2003 purporting to terminate the assets recovery agreement (ARA).

On Jan 30, 2004 the lawyer acting for the government of Jersey wrote directly to NAB asking for detailed information regarding any prosecutions, ongoing or otherwise, against Mr Sherpao.

During the cross examination, a witness, Tallat Ghumman, disclosed that in a meeting between NAB chairman Gen Amjad Hafeez and Mr Sherpao, the letter from Jersey was discussed. Mr Ghumman said in evidence that Mr Sherpao “did not have any answers to our inquiries”.

Mr Sherpao remained under investigation by NAB and a registered target for the purposes of the ARA at least until August 2004.

On August 25, 2004, Mr Sherpao was appointed the interior minister.

In November 2006, NAB filed a Supplementary Reference against Mr Sherpao which accused him of committing “acts of corruption”.

In August 2007, Mr Sherpao submitted a return to NAB regarding foreign assets, including bank accounts in Jersey, stating that all “have been generated through agricultural income, on which I pay regular income tax” and claiming that funds were routed to Jersey ‘for portfolio investments’ via London and Switzerland.

In October 2007, the government of Pakistan issued a National Reconciliation Ordinance. In October 2008, NAB wrote an open letter stating that no case was pending against Mr Sherpao “in this Bureau”.

However, in January 2010 the NAB director general authorised an investigation into the original reference of Mr Sherpao filed in October 2000. On August 15, 2015 the Executive Board of NAB closed the investigation into Mr Sherpao’s assets against the recommendation of its Prosecution Division which had reported “Investigation is incomplete and defective one. Case may not be closed until its logical conclusion”.

The claimant alleges that had the ARA continued, NAB would have recovered the funds held in the Jersey account amounting to $3.5 million and would have been obliged to pay 20pc of that amount namely $700,000 to Broadsheet.

Sir Evans observed that there was no clear explanation as to why NAB failed to take action to make the recovery either in 2002/03 when Broadsheet informed it of the bank account or in January 2004 in response to the letter from the lawyer for the government of Jersey inviting it to do so.

He noted that NAB’s plea of not having sufficient evidence contradicted the testimony of the witness that “Sherpao had no answer to their queries and that they were close to recovering assets from him”.

“Nevertheless, the fact remains that NAB had the opportunity to pursue a claim against the asset in Jersey which Mr Sherpao has acknowledged to be his or his family’s property. There is evidence that a claim was justified and there is no clear explanation why none was made,” the arbitrator further noted.

“I am entitled to assume that NAB would have performed its statutory duties following termination of the ARA. If Broadsheet had continued to be involved, given its established links with the authorities in Jersey, there was a greater chance that NAB would be induced to press its claim for recovery of the asset there,” he went on to state.

Sir Evans held that “there is a significant chance that NAB would have recovered the amount that was held in the bank account in Jersey, and that it would have done so by Dec 31, 2004”.

The net recovery would have been (say) 90pc of $3,500,000, equals to $3,150,000. One-third of that figure is $1,050,000 and Broadsheet’s entitlement under Clause 4 of the ARA (20pc) therefore would be $210,000.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1602261/nab-overlooked-sherpaos-dubious-transactions-uk-arbitrator-rules

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PDM given ‘free hand’ for today’s protest: minister

January 19, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to give a free hand to the 10-party anti-government Pakistan Democratic Movement alliance for holding a protest outside the Election Commission of Pakistan on Tuesday (today).

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told a press conference on Monday that the government had decided to give a free hand to PDM to organise a rally in the Red Zone. But he made it clear that nobody would be allowed to take the law into their own hands.

He said no container would be placed and no hurdle would be created in the way of the PDM to stage a demonstration outside the ECP. The ECP is a constitutional body and it is expected that the opposition will respect its sanctity. He said the PDM should know that the Supreme Court, Parliament House and other institutions were situated on Constitution Avenue and the government had taken all necessary security measures for their protection.

The minister said for the first time the PDM had been allowed to organise its rally in the Red Zone. He said the law enforcement agencies would watch whether any seminary student was participating in the PDM rally. He said the law would take its course if anybody attempted to take the law into their own hands.

Answering a question, Mr Rashid said that action would be taken if any baton or uniform-clad group, like Anasar-ul-Islam, participated in the opposition’s rally.

To another question, the minister said Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party had submitted record of 40,000 transactions to ECP, but the opposition parties were unable to produce record of just 4,000 people from whom they had received foreign funding.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1602293/pdm-given-free-hand-for-todays-protest-minister

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Africa

 

Clashes erupt in Sudan's South Darfur, 47 people killed: Tribal leader

18 January 2021

Tribal clashes broke out Monday in Sudan’s South Darfur state, killing at least 47 people, a tribal leader said, shortly after violence in a neighboring state killed over 80 people.

“A force from the Arab Rizeigat tribe killed 20 people in an attack on the village of Saadoun inhabited by the Fallata tribe using vehicles, motorcycles and camels,” said tribal leader Mohamed Saleh.

“The attack left several houses burned,” said Saleh, from the ethnically non-Arab Fallata tribe, adding that bodies were still being counted.

Monday’s violence came after the killing of at least 83 people in clashes between Arab and non-Arab tribes over two days in Sudan’s West Darfur state.

The violent clashes in the two states come just over two weeks after the United Nations and the African Union ended their long-running joint peacekeeping mission in the vast Darfur region.

Sudan has been undergoing a fragile transition since the April 2019 ouster of president Omar al-Bashir following mass protests against his autocratic rule.

The civilian-majority administration installed after Bashir’s ouster has been pushing to stabilize regions beset by deadly conflict during his time in power.

In October, the government signed a landmark peace deal with the main rebel groups, in a move that observers hoped would end fighting in conflict zones including Darfur.

Only two groups refrained from signing the peace deal, including one with considerable support in Darfur.

Darfur endured a bitter conflict from 2003 pitting African ethnic minority rebels against Arab nomads backed by the Khartoum government under Bashir.

The conflict -- which left roughly 300,000 people dead and 2.5 million displaced -- has subsided over the years but ethnic and tribal clashes still flare periodically.

These clashes largely occur between nomadic Arab pastoralists and settled farmers from non-Arab ethnic groups over land ownership and access to water.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2021/01/18/Clashes-erupt-in-Sudan-s-South-Darfur-20-people-killed-Tribal-leader

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Tunisia rocked by four consecutive nights of riots

19 January 2021

Tunisia was rocked by a fourth night of street clashes between riot police and youths in mostly working class neighbourhoods, and there were calls on social media for more rallies on Tuesday.

More than 600 people had been arrested by Monday over the disturbances in which teenagers and adolescents have hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at police who have fired volleys of teargas at them.

The social unrest comes at a time of economic crisis, worsened by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the tourism-reliant North African country, that has deepened poverty and driven up inflation and unemployment.

In the latest unrest until the early hours of Tuesday, hundreds of youths in the capital battled police in several districts including the vast Ettadhamen city on the outskirts of Tunis.

In Sfax, the second largest city, protesters blockaded roads with burning tyres, an AFP correspondent reported. Clashes were also reported in the towns of Gafsa, Le Kef, Bizerte, Kasserine, Sousse and Monastir.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2021/01/19/Tunisia-rocked-by-four-consecutive-nights-of-riots

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600 people arrested, army deployed after riots in Tunisia

18 January 2021

More than 600 people were arrested after a third consecutive night of riots in several Tunisian cities and troops have been deployed in some regions, officials said Monday.

Interior ministry spokesman Khaled Hayouni said a total of 632 people were arrested, notably “groups of people between the ages of 15, 20 and 25 who burned tires and bins in order to block movements by the security forces”. The defense ministry said the army had been deployed in several cities.

Tunisia began a lockdown in response to surging coronavirus cases on Thursday, a day that marked a decade since dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was deposed in street protests.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2021/01/18/600-people-arrested-army-deployed-after-riots-in-Tunisia

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UN chief urges pullout of foreign forces from Libya

19 January 2021

The United Nations (UN)'s chief has demanded the pullout of all foreign soldiers and mercenaries from Libya, also hailing "tangible progress" made in recent months in resolving the conflict in the North African country.

"Tangible progress was achieved in advancing the UNSMIL-facilitated political, security and economic intra-Libyan dialogues over the last few months," Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a report submitted to the Security Council on Monday, referring to the UN mission in Libya.

"Sustained international engagement" in UN-facilitated talks "has generated considerable impetus, demonstrated by tangible progress on the political, security, economic and international humanitarian law and human rights tracks, moving Libya forward on the road to peace, stability and development," Guterres further said.

The UN chief also called on all "regional and international actors to respect the provisions of the ceasefire agreement" reached on October 23 last year on the withdrawal of all foreign troops and mercenaries from the war-ravaged country within three months.

That deadline for the pullout falls on Saturday, though the UN estimates that nearly 20,000 foreign forces and mercenaries still remain in Libya backing the warring factions in the country, namely the UN-backed government in the capital, Tripoli, and the rebels led by military strongman Khalifa Haftar in the east of the country.

Recognizing that the "Libyan economy is at a precipice," Guterres further invited rival Libyan parties "to maintain their resolve in reaching a lasting political solution to the conflict, resolving economic issues and alleviating the humanitarian situation for the benefit of all Libyan people."

Guterres further urged all parties to implement the terms of the ceasefire "without delay," something he reiterated "includes ensuring the departure of all foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya, and the full and unconditional respect of the Security Council arms embargo," which has been in place since conflict broke out in the country nearly 10 years ago.

The next meeting of the Security Council on Libya has been set for January 28. Britain — which participated in a Western military intervention in the country to topple Libyan dictator and former ally Muammar Qaddafi — is preparing a resolution for the UN mission to assume a supervisory role and monitor the departure of foreign forces from Libya and ensure that the terms of the October agreement are satisfied.

The development came a day after the world body announced that the political talks it mediated between Libya's warring parties had led to an agreement on a new transitional government to oversee the run-up to elections set for next December.

Acting UN Libya envoy Stephanie Williams said Sunday that the agreement represented the "best possible compromise" on the issue and could lead to the selection of a transitional government "in several weeks."

Libya has been in chaos since 2014.

The internationally-recognized government in the country is backed by Turkey, while the rebels receive support from the United Arab Emirates, Russia, and Egypt.

The latest push toward peace began after the government repelled a 14-month rebel assault on Tripoli in June last year. A ceasefire was agreed in Geneva in October.

In November, the UN invited 75 Libyans to join a political dialog in Tunis, which set a date of December 24 this year for presidential and parliamentary elections and agreed on the need for a new, unified transitional government.

The transitional government will be responsible for preparing the elections, combating corruption, and restoring public services across Libya, Williams said.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/01/19/643358/UN-chief-urges-pullout-of-foreign-forces-from-Libya

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Boko Haram kills 4 soldiers in Niger

Fatma Esma Arslan  

19.01.2021

At least four soldiers were killed and eight others seriously wounded in an attack by the Boko Haram terrorist group in Niger, the country’s Defense Ministry said Monday.

Members of the terrorist organization detonated an explosive device previously planted in the Diffa region as a military vehicle was passing, the ministry said in a statement.

Boko Haram launched a bloody insurgency in 2009 in northeastern Nigeria but later spread its atrocities to neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting a military response.

More than 30,000 people have been killed and nearly 3 million displaced in a decade of Boko Haram’s terrorist activities in Nigeria, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Violence committed by Boko Haram has affected some 26 million people in the Lake Chad region and displaced 2.6 million others, according to the UN Refugee Agency.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/boko-haram-kills-4-soldiers-in-niger/2114645

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UN chief taps veteran diplomat to lead Libya efforts

Michael Hernandez  

18.01.2021

WASHINGTON

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appointed Monday veteran Slovakian diplomat Jan Kubis to be his special envoy for the conflict in Libya.

In addition, Kubis is also being tasked with leading the UN's Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). He will be replacing Stephanie Williams, who had held the roles on an acting basis since 2018.

"The Secretary-General is grateful for the commitment and outstanding leadership of Acting Special Representative Stephanie T. Williams of the United States in moving the political process forward in Libya," the UN said in a statement announcing Kubis' appointment.

Kubis "brings with him many years of experience in diplomacy, foreign security policy, and international economic relations, both internationally and in his own country," the UN added.

Kubis served as the Special Coordinator for Lebanon since 2019, and was the Secretary-General's Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq from 2015 to 2018. He also held UN posts in Afghanistan and Europe, and was Slovakia's top envoy from 2006 to 2009.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/un-chief-taps-veteran-diplomat-to-lead-libya-efforts/2114456

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Mideast

 

IRGC Commander: Iranian Armed Forces’ Drills Aimed at Deterring Enemy Moves

2021-January-19

“These drills are an important part of the Iranian nation’s deterrence policy to not allow enemy make miscalculations,” General Salami told reporters in Tehran on Tuesday.

He added that the wargames give self-confidence and peace of mind to the Iranian nation and send this message to the enemies that the country is serious about defending its honor and is always ready for defense.

Elsewhere, General Salami referred to the recent incidents at the US Congress, and said today the enemy has focused on protecting the Congress which indicates that the US administration has been rotten.

In relevant remarks on Monday, Chief of Staff of Iran's Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri noted the United States' weakness in sarcastic remarks, saying that the US that intended to overthrow the Islamic Republic is now in such turmoil that its Armed Forces have been put on alert for the new president's inaugural ceremony.

“They wanted the Islamic Republic not to see the 40th anniversary of its revolution but the building of their own Congress came under siege. Their officials voiced concern that their prestige is being spoiled before the eyes of the world people, and now the US Armed Forces are on alert in the society for the swearing-in ceremony of the new president,” General Baqeri said, addressing a ceremony in Tehran.

“We are at the peak (of power) today as enemies are collapsing,” he added.

General Baqeri also referred to the recent massive drills staged by the Iranian Armed Forces, saying that the country could hold the maneuvers in 3 days instead of 20 days which shows the Iranian forces' high preparedness.

Also, late last week, General Baqeri said any enemy move will be annihilated by his country's most advanced missile power.

“If the enemies of the Islamic Republic have evil intentions towards national interests, maritime trade routes and land and territory of the Islamic Republic of Iran, they will be destroyed by advanced missiles of the country,” General Baqeri said on the sidelines of the final stage of Payambar-e Azam 15 (Great Prophet 15) wargames, which kicked off on Friday.

“The military exercises in the past 15 days that will continue for the next 5 days and are carried out almost simultaneously show the extraordinary and excellent readiness of the Armed Forces in all dimensions of land, air, sea, and missile defense,” he added.

Elaborating on the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps’ Great Prophet 15 drills which were launched with the combined operations and mass firing of missiles of various classes, Baqeri noted, “Holding large-scale Great Prophet 15 drills show that the missile power of the Islamic Republic of Iran in short, medium, and long-range is ready to defend the territory, national interests and lofty goals of the Islamic Republic of Iran with all its might.”

"Although we do not want to embark on aggression, we declare with these military exercises that if enemies have any ill intention towards our country, they will be attacked with Iran’s missile power in the shortest time possible,” he stressed.

In relevant remarks on Friday, IRGC Commander Major General Hossein Salami said that preserving national sovereignty, the Islamic Establishment and values against enemies are the main message of Payambar-e Azam 15 wargames.

“The message of the military exercise demonstrated the authority and will of the Islamic Republic of Iran to defend national sovereignty, the Islamic Establishment and values in the face of enemies of Islam and Iran,” Salami said on the sidelines of the first stage of IRGC missile and drone drills on Friday.

“Today, a joint missile and drone combat was launched in very large-scale drills,” he said, adding, “Using a large number of offensive combat drones, equipped with advanced guidance and control technologies and artificial intelligence, along with firing the most sophisticated ballistic missiles as well as destroying targets with great precision in the first phase of the military exercise displayed glorious scenes of deterrent defensive power of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Major General Salami described the successful testing of new technologies in missile and UAV guidance and control systems and very precise command and control of the joint strategic operations as the prominent features of the Great Prophet 15 wargames.

“With Almighty God’s grace, today, the IRGC Aerospace Force was able to accurately hit all specified targets in the drills using the most sophisticated missile and UAV technology,” the commander went on to say.

The IRGC started the first phase of the Great Prophet 15 wargames with the IRGC Aerospace Force's massive missile launch and drone operations in the Central Desert of Iran on Friday.

The first stage of the Great Prophet (Payambar-e Azam) 15 drills of the IRGC kicked off on Friday morning with the codename of “Ya Fatimah al-Zahar”, during which ground-to-ground ballistic missiles were fired and offensive drone bombers operations were put into action in the general area of Iran’s Central Desert.

During the drills that began in the presence of IRGC Commander Major General Hossein Salami, IRGC Aerospace Commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh and a number of senior commanders and officials of the Iranian Armed Forces, a new generation of ground-to-ground ballistic missiles and drones were used in compound offensive against hypothetical enemy bases, destroying all the specified targets.

During this stage of the wargames, after the attack of the IRGC Aerospace’s offensive bomber drones from all sides to the missile shield of the hypothetical enemy and complete destruction of targets, the new generation of the IRGC ballistic missiles of the classes of Zolfaqar, Zelzal and Dezful were mass fired at targets dealing fatal blows to the hypothetical enemy bases.

The missiles were Multiple Re-entry Vehicles (MRVs) with the capability of jamming and going through the enemy missile shield.

Great Prophet wargames are annual missile tests and exercises conducted by Iran's IRGC. The first series of the wargames began in July 2008.

In recent years, Iran has made great achievements in its defense sector and attained self-sufficiency in producing essential military equipment and systems.

The Iranian Armed Forces several times a year test their preparedness and capabilities as well as newly-manufactured weapons systems in different wargames.

The Iranian Armed Forces recently test-fire different types of newly-developed missiles and torpedoes and tested a large number of home-made weapons, tools and equipment, including submarines, military ships, artillery, choppers, aircrafts, UAVs and air defense and electronic systems, during massive military drills.

Iranian officials have always stressed that the country's military and arms programs serve defensive purposes.

Defense analysts and military observers say that Iran's wargames and its advancements in weapons production have proved as a deterrent factor.

https://www.farsnews.ir/en/news/13991030000293/IRGC-Cmmander-Iranian-Armed-Frces%E2%80%99-Drills-Aimed-a-Deerring-Enemy-Mves

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Envoy: Iran Not in Hurry to Judge Biden’s N. Deal Policy

2021-January-19

Takht Ravanchi wrote on his Twitter page on Monday that Iran is in no rush to evaluate the American President-elect Joe Biden’s policy towards the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

He continued that it is yet unclear whether Biden would lift anti-Iran sanctions and abandon the Trump administration’s maximum pressure.

In relevant remarks earlier in January, Iran’s Parliament Speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf said what matters is the removal of sanctions, adding that the US’ returning to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is not important.

“The JCPOA is not a sacred agreement. It is just a deal to remove sanctions under the conditions accepted by the Islamic Republic,” Qalibaf said on Sunday January 10, adding, “It does not matter for us if the US returns to the JCPOA, what matters is the practical and tangible lifting of sanctions.”

He said the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Khamenei has “clarified the roadmap for all officials to fulfill the demands of people.”

“It became clear to everyone that the main strategy in the face of the enemy is to nullify sanctions, which is also a prelude to the lifting of sanctions,” the Speaker said, adding that to lift sanctions, Iran must increase its power in different sectors, including the nuclear industry.

Qalibaf warned the EU Troika that have been following the US’ wicked policies against Iran and said, "The Western front should know that it must recognize the rights of the Iranian people; or else, it should be prepared to pay the proportionate price."

https://www.farsnews.ir/en/news/13991030000364/Envy-Iran-N-in-Hrry-Jdge-Biden%E2%80%99s-N-Deal-Plicy

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Iranian Speaker: US-Israeli ‘Deal of Century’ Plot Fails

2021-January-18

“The US-Zionist axis pursues the scenario of disintegration of the Islamic countries in the region along with the expulsion of the Palestinians from their ancestral land and Judaization and destruction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Qalibaf said on Monday, addressing a virtual meeting of chairpersons of the national security commissions of the parliaments of countries which support Palestine.

“Undoubtedly, if today the Islamic world does not realize this dangerous conspiracy and does not prevent its occurrence, the Zionists will take the next step to disintegrate the Islamic world if they can clean the notoriety of  normalization,” he added.

Qalibaf referred to the contacts between Israel and the terrorist groups in the region, specially Syria in recent years, and said, “This hostility is aimed at disintegration of Islamic countries, and we should be vigilant.”

He, meantime, said, “No doubt, the US-Zionist plot called the Deal of the Century has failed, and the nations are awakened and vigilant, and they will not allow the Zionists to dominate the region thanks to their rich background and Islamic culture.”

In August 2019, In August, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, in a message to the great congregation of pilgrims to the Hajj rituals, had called upon Muslims to take advantage of the event to promote awareness against the harms of the so-called Deal of the Century for Palestinians.

“The ploy of Deal of the Century prepared by the oppressive US, and its treasonous cohorts, is a crime against human society, and not just the Palestinian nation,” Ayatollah Khamenei said.

“We are inviting everyone to actively participate in overcoming this deception by the enemy, and with the power and help of God, we consider this and all other ruses by the arrogant front doomed to failure against the efforts, and faith of the Resistance front,” the Leader underlined.

“Today, one of the most important issues of the Muslim world is Palestine, which is at the top of Muslims’ political issues, regardless of their school of thought, race, and language,” he stressed.

“The greatest injustice in recent history has happened in Palestine. In this painful affair, all that a nation had—their land, homes, farms, belongings, dignity, and identity—was confiscated. With God’s assistance, this nation has not surrendered to defeat, and has not given up, and today, they are on the battlefields more enthusiastic, and braver than yesterday. But the ultimate outcome requires assistance from all Muslims,” Ayatollah Khamenei highlighted.

https://www.farsnews.ir/en/news/13991029000767/Iranian-Speaker-US-Israeli-%E2%80%98Deal-f-Cenry%E2%80%99-Pl-Fails

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Iran’s Top Commander Mocks US for Putting Armed Forces on Alert for Biden’s Swearing-in Ceremony

2021-January-18

“They wanted the Islamic Republic not to see the 40th anniversary of its revolution but the building of their own Congress came under seige. Their officials voiced concern that their prestige is being spoiled before the eyes of the world people, and now the US Armed Forces are on alert in the society for the swearing-in ceremony of the new president,” General Baqeri said, addressing a ceremony in Tehran on Monday.

“We are at the peak (of power) today as enemies are collapsing,” he added.

General Baqeri also referred to the recent massive drills staged by the Iranian Armed Forces, saying that the country could hold the maneuvers in 3 days instead of 20 days which shows the Iranian forces' high preparedness.

In relevant remarks late last week, General Baqeri said any enemy move will be annihilated by his country's most advanced missile power.

“If the enemies of the Islamic Republic have evil intentions towards national interests, maritime trade routes and land and territory of the Islamic Republic of Iran, they will be destroyed by advanced missiles of the country,” General Baqeri said on the sidelines of the final stage of Payambar-e Azam 15 (Great Prophet 15) wargames, which kicked off on Friday.

“The military exercises in the past 15 days that will continue for the next 5 days and are carried out almost simultaneously show the extraordinary and excellent readiness of the Armed Forces in all dimensions of land, air, sea, and missile defense,” he added.

Elaborating on the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps’ Great Prophet 15 drills which were launched with the combined operations and mass firing of missiles of various classes, Baqeri noted, “Holding large-scale Great Prophet 15 drills show that the missile power of the Islamic Republic of Iran in short, medium, and long-range is ready to defend the territory, national interests and lofty goals of the Islamic Republic of Iran with all its might.”

"Although we do not want to embark on aggression, we declare with these military exercises that if enemies have any ill intention towards our country, they will be attacked with Iran’s missile power in the shortest time possible,” he stressed.

In relevant remarks on Friday, IRGC Commander Major General Hossein Salami said that preserving national sovereignty, the Islamic Establishment and values against enemies are the main message of Payambar-e Azam 15 wargames.

“The message of the military exercise demonstrated the authority and will of the Islamic Republic of Iran to defend national sovereignty, the Islamic Establishment and values in the face of enemies of Islam and Iran,” Salami said on the sidelines of the first stage of IRGC missile and drone drills on Friday.

“Today, a joint missile and drone combat was launched in very large-scale drills,” he said, adding, “Using a large number of offensive combat drones, equipped with advanced guidance and control technologies and artificial intelligence, along with firing the most sophisticated ballistic missiles as well as destroying targets with great precision in the first phase of the military exercise displayed glorious scenes of deterrent defensive power of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Major General Salami described the successful testing of new technologies in missile and UAV guidance and control systems and very precise command and control of the joint strategic operations as the prominent features of the Great Prophet 15 wargames.

“With Almighty God’s grace, today, the IRGC Aerospace Force was able to accurately hit all specified targets in the drills using the most sophisticated missile and UAV technology,” the commander went on to say.

The IRGC started the first phase of the Great Prophet 15 wargames with the IRGC Aerospace Force's massive missile launch and drone operations in the Central Desert of Iran on Friday.

The first stage of the Great Prophet (Payambar-e Azam) 15 drills of the IRGC kicked off on Friday morning with the codename of “Ya Fatimah al-Zahar”, during which ground-to-ground ballistic missiles were fired and offensive drone bombers operations were put into action in the general area of Iran’s Central Desert.

During the drills that began in the presence of IRGC Commander Major General Hossein Salami, IRGC Aerospace Commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh and a number of senior commanders and officials of the Iranian Armed Forces, a new generation of ground-to-ground ballistic missiles and drones were used in compound offensive against hypothetical enemy bases, destroying all the specified targets.

During this stage of the wargames, after the attack of the IRGC Aerospace’s offensive bomber drones from all sides to the missile shield of the hypothetical enemy and complete destruction of targets, the new generation of the IRGC ballistic missiles of the classes of Zolfaqar, Zelzal and Dezful were mass fired at targets dealing fatal blows to the hypothetical enemy bases.

The missiles were Multiple Re-entry Vehicles (MRVs) with the capability of jamming and going through the enemy missile shield.

Great Prophet wargames are annual missile tests and exercises conducted by Iran's IRGC. The first series of the wargames began in July 2008.

In recent years, Iran has made great achievements in its defense sector and attained self-sufficiency in producing essential military equipment and systems.

The Iranian Armed Forces several times a year test their preparedness and capabilities as well as newly-manufactured weapons systems in different wargames.

The Iranian Armed Forces recently test-fire different types of newly-developed missiles and torpedoes and tested a large number of home-made weapons, tools and equipment, including submarines, military ships, artillery, choppers, aircrafts, UAVs and air defense and electronic systems, during massive military drills.

Iranian officials have always stressed that the country's military and arms programs serve defensive purposes.

Defense analysts and military observers say that Iran's wargames and its advancements in weapons production have proved as a deterrent factor.

https://www.farsnews.ir/en/news/13991029000606/Iran%E2%80%99s-Tp-Cmmander-Mcks-US-fr-Ping-Armed-Frces-n-Aler-fr-Biden%E2%80%99s

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Turkey slaps advertising ban on Twitter, Pinterest

19 January 2021

Turkey on Tuesday slapped advertising bans on Twitter, Periscope and Pinterest over their non-compliance with a controversial new law that requires social media platforms to appoint legal representatives in the country.

The law — which human rights and media freedom groups say amounts to censorship — forces social media companies to maintain representatives in Turkey to deal with complaints about content on their platforms.

Companies that refuse to designate an official representative are subjected to fines, followed by advertising bans and could face bandwidth reductions that would make their platforms too slow to use.

Facebook avoided the advertising ban after it announced Monday that it had begun the process of assigning a legal entity in Turkey, joining LinkedIn, YouTube, TikTok, Dailymotion and the Russian social media site VKontakte, which have agreed to set up legal entities in Turkey.

“We hope that Twitter and Pinterest which have still not announced their representatives will rapidly take the necessary steps,” said Omer Fatih Sayan, the deputy minister in charge of communications and infrastructure, after the advertising bans for Twitter, it’s live video-streaming app, Periscope and on the image sharing network, Pinterest, were announced on Turkey’s Official Gazette.

Sayan added: “It is our last wish to impose bandwidth reductions for social networks that insist on not complying with their obligations.”

There was no immediate comment from Twitter and Pinterest over the advertising ban.

Under the law that came into effect in October, the local representative of social media companies would be tasked with responding to individual requests to take down content violating privacy and personal rights within 48 hours or to provide grounds for rejection. The company would be held liable for damages if the content is not removed or blocked within 24 hours.

The law also requires social media data to be stored in Turkey, raising concerns in a country where the government has a track record of clamping down on free speech.

Rights groups have said the decision by international tech companies to bow to Turkish pressure and appoint representatives would lead to censorship and violations of the right to privacy and access to information in a country where independent media is severely curtailed. The Freedom of Expression Association says more than 450,000 domains and 42,000 tweets have been blocked in Turkey since October.

Facebook said Monday it remained committed to maintaining free expression and other human rights in Turkey.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2021/01/19/Turkey-slaps-advertising-ban-on-Twitter-Pinterest

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Turkey orders detainment of 238 suspects in military probe over Gulen links

19 January 2021

Turkey has ordered the arrest of 238 people in an operation targeting suspects in the military allegedly linked to a Muslim preacher who Ankara says was behind a 2016 failed coup, state-owned Anadolu news agency reported on Tuesday.

The operation, covering 60 provinces, was part of a four-year-old crackdown against the network of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. He denies involvement in the July 2016 putsch attempt, in which more than 250 people were killed.

Anadolu said 160 people had been detained in the latest police raids, ordered by prosecutors in Izmir. It said suspects were also targeted in northern Cyprus, where the Turkish military is deployed.

Among the suspects were 218 serving military personnel, including six colonels, three lieutenant colonels and nine majors, Anadolu said.

Since the coup attempt, about 80,000 people have been held pending trial and some 150,000 civil servants, military personnel and others have been sacked or suspended. More than 20,000 people had been expelled from the Turkish military.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2021/01/19/Turkey-orders-detainment-of-238-suspects-in-military-probe-over-Gulen-links

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UN urges Israel to ‘halt,’ ‘reverse’ new settlements in West Bank

19 January 2021

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday urged Israel to “halt and reverse” its decision last week to build 800 new homes for Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank.

The decision is “a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution, and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace” in the Middle East, Guterres said in a statement.

“The establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.

“Settlement expansion... further erodes the possibility of ending the occupation and establishing a contiguous and viable sovereign Palestinian State, based on the pre-1967 lines,” Guterres said.

Israel on Sunday approved the construction of 780 homes in the occupied West Bank, ordered last Monday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

All Jewish settlements in the West Bank are regarded as illegal by much of the international community.

There are currently some 450,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank, living amid an estimated 2.8 million Palestinians.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2021/01/19/Israel-Palestine-UN-urges-Israel-to-halt-reverse-new-settlements-in-West-Bank

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Israel to demolish more Palestinian schools, mosques

18 January 2021

Palestinians in the occupied West Bank are simply being deprived of religious freedom and their children denied education as Israel keeps demolishing newly constructed mosques and schools.

Israeli soldiers stormed the Masafer Yatta area, which is part of the Bedouin community, and delivered ultimatums threatening to raze an elementary school and a mosque under construction, the Palestinian Information Center reported on Monday.

Yousef al-Basaita, a head teacher said the demolitions left up to 50 kids without school.

Last December, the Israeli military notified local officials of its intent to raze the school.

In another incident, Israeli forces stormed al-Maleh area in the northern Jordan Valley and photographed a school using a drone, seen as a prelude to demolishing the building.

Israeli authorities claim the structures that are demolished have been built without permits.

They also sometimes order Palestinians to tear down their own homes or pay demolition costs to the municipality.

The United Nations has censured the regime for carrying out repeated demolition of Palestinian homes in the West Bank.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has warned that there has been a sharp increase in the number of Palestinian houses being demolished given the current era of the coronavirus pandemic.

Many believe the controversial demolition measures adopted by Israel are aimed at expelling more Palestinians from the West Bank.

Israel was created in 1948 after a Western-backed military seizure of vast expanses of Arab territories. In 1967, it occupied the entire West Bank, including East al-Quds, following full-frontal military operations. Israel later annexed the territories. Upon annexation, it also began propping up settlements, which the international community deems illegal due to their construction on occupied land.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/01/18/643330/Israel-Palestinian-schools-mosques

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Iran hosts webinar on parliaments supporting Quds

18 January 2021

Yusef Jalali

Quds, the axis of Muslims’ unity; This is the theme of the International Webinar of Parliaments Supporting Palestine.

Organized by Iran’s parliament, the event was attended by parliament speakers and deputy speakers from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Indonesia and other Muslim countries as well as officials and representatives of Palestine’s resistance movements to express their solidarity with Palestinians in their resistance against Israel’s occupation.

Delegates condemned Sudan, the UAE and Bahrain for their normalization of ties with Israel, calling it a betrayal to the Muslim community.

The Arab-Israeli normalization came as part of outgoing US President Donald Trump’s so-called deal of the century.

The plan, which has triggered a storm of condemnations from Palestinians, refers to Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital and recognizes Israeli sovereignty over large parts of the West Bank.

While the controversial deal was championed by Trump, observers say the incoming US administration will not change course on Palestine.

Palestinian ambassador to Iran says resistance remains the only way ahead of his people against Israel’s occupation, since he believes that the path of dialog does not work with Israel.

Although the Arab-Israeli normalization infuriated the Muslim world, commentators say it should not come as a surprise, and it’s only a revelation of their long-existing covert ties.

This is why they believe the move will not lead to a seismic shift in regional power equations.

Delegates at the webinar underlined that Palestine remains the top priority and the innermost issue of the Muslim World, adding that Israel and its western supporters have spared no effort in derailing that priority.

They called on Muslim countries to stay united as they believe this is the main counterforce against Israel's expansionist agenda.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/01/18/643320/Iran-hosts-webinar-on-parliaments-supporting-Quds

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HRW calls on Israel to vaccinate all Palestinians against COVID-19

18 January 2021

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged Israel to provide more than 4.5 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip with COVID-19 vaccines against the backdrop of reports that Tel Aviv was deliberately letting the spread of the disease in the occupied territories.

In a statement on Sunday, the US-based rights group said the regime must carry out its obligations, as the “occupying power,” under the Fourth Geneva Convention to ensure provision of medical supplies.

The need for the supply, it said, has gone up “after more than 50 years of occupation with no end in sight.”

“Israeli authorities should provide COVID-19 vaccines to the more than 4.5 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. While Israel has already vaccinated more than 20 percent of its citizens, including Jewish settlers in the West Bank, it has not committed to vaccinate Palestinians living in the same occupied territory under its military rule.”

It added that the said responsibility, as well as Israel’s obligations under international human rights, includes providing vaccines in a “non-discriminatory way” to those Palestinians living under the regime’s control, using as a benchmark what is provided for its own people.

The rights group particularly slammed the practice of giving shots to illegal Israeli settlers in the West Bank, but not their Palestinian neighbors.

“Nothing can justify today's reality in parts of the West Bank, where people on one side of the street are receiving vaccines, while those on the other do not, based on whether they're Jewish or Palestinian,” said HRW's Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir in the statement.

He also stressed that everyone in the same territory should be given the COVID-19 vaccine, “regardless of their ethnicity.”

The Palestinian Authority (PA), which runs the occupied West Bank, reported over 5,810 active COVID-19 cases in the region, excluding East Jerusalem al-Quds, as of January 14.

It also reported more than 100,000 cases and 1,000 deaths in these areas since the beginning of the pandemic.

Separately, the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, which runs Gaza, reported 7,000 active COVID-19 cases in the blockaded enclave as of January 14, and a total of over 45,000 cases and 400 deaths.

On December 19, Israel began its coronavirus inoculation drive, which included illegal settlers in the West Bank. So far over a million people have received the shot.

In the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel captured and annexed East Jerusalem al-Quds, in a move that has never won international recognition, along with the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/01/18/643314/HRW-Israel-vaccinate-Palestinians

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Turkey, Azerbaijan preparing for joint winter military drills

18 January 2021

Turkish and Azerbaijani armed forces are getting prepared to hold joint winter military exercises in Turkey's Kars region.

According to a statement by Azerbaijan's Ministry of Defense on Sunday, servicemen from the armed forces of the two countries are to take part in the joint Winter Exercises 2021.

The Turkish Armed Forces also confirmed in a separate statement on Sunday that preparations were underway for the most comprehensive winter drills in recent years.

The drills will mostly focus on training exercises for sheltering, reinforcement and maintenance during harsh winter conditions.

Speaking at a ceremony before Azerbaijani forces departed for the Sadarak checkpoint bordering Turkey, Major General Fazil Agalarov outlined the scope of Azerbaijani-Turkish military-technical cooperation, and stressed the importance of the joint military exercises held annually in Nakhchivan and Kars regions for Baku and Ankara.

Turkey's Daily Sabah reported that tank divisions, cannonry, sniper teams, helicopters and commandos will also participate in the drills.

It added that the two militaries will practice ground and air assaults, airdrops, airborne operations and logistic support.

Domestically-produced weaponry and equipment are to be tested during the twelve-day drills scheduled for February 1-12, it said.

Ankara and Baku launched a two-stage joint military exercise last year.

Turkey put its support behind Azerbaijan after fresh fighting erupted on Sept. 27 between Baku's military and Armenian-backed separatists forces in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The 44-day conflict ended with Baku regaining control of many cities and villages from Yerevan.

On Nov. 10, the two countries signed a ceasefire agreement brokered by Russia to end the conflict and a joint Russian-Turkish peacekeeping force was deployed to monitor the truce.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/01/18/643296/Turkey-Azerbaijan-Joint-Military-Drill-Kars

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Turkey nabs 35 terror suspects over alleged links to Daesh/ISIS

Adsiz Gunebakan  

19.01.2021

Turkey on Tuesday arrested 35 Daesh/ISIS terror suspects as part of an anti-terror operation based in the southeastern Gaziantep province.

Gaziantep's chief prosecutor's office issued arrest warrants for 37 suspects as part of a probe launched to investigate financing of the terrorist organization.

While Turkish security teams arrested 35 suspects across 15 provinces, security sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the search for the remaining two suspects is ongoing.

A number of organizational materials were also seized during the search at the suspects' addresses, added the sources.

In 2013, Turkey became one of the first countries to declare the Daesh/ISIS a terrorist group.

The country has since been attacked by the terror group multiple times, with 315 people killed and hundreds more injured in at least 10 suicide bombings, seven bomb attacks, and four armed assaults.

In response, Turkey launched anti-terror operations at home and abroad to prevent further attacks.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/turkey/turkey-nabs-35-terror-suspects-over-alleged-links-to-daesh-isis/2114853

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URL: https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/five-times-many-troops-washington/d/124102

 

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