New Age Islam
Wed Oct 21 2020, 12:17 PM

Islamic World News ( 21 Feb 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Floating Island: New Home for Rohingya Refugees Emerges In Bay of Bengal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

View of the Vashan Char, previously known as Thengar Char island in the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh February 14, 2018. Picture taken February 14, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

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Floating Island: New Home for Rohingya Refugees Emerges In Bay of Bengal

ISIS Executes Entire Squad of Deserting Jihadists in East Syria amid Major Battle with US-Backed Forces

No Proof of ISIS Links, Says NIA on Muhammed Riyaz Accused of Trying To Sell Wife as Sex Slave

Sikh Man Faces Racial Attack Outside UK Parliament, Attacker Shouted ‘Muslim Go Back’

Police Declares Musharraf ‘Not Guilty’ In Lal Masjid Cleric Murder Case

 

South Asia

Floating Island: New Home for Rohingya Refugees Emerges In Bay Of Bengal

Ghani Asks Taliban To Enter Into Decisive Peace Dialogue

3 ISIS militants killed, 1 wounded in US drone strike in Afghanistan

Taliban’s military commission members killed in Farah roadside explosion

HRW demands probe into alleged killing of 20 civilians by Afghan Special Forces

Gen. Dostum’s commander killed in Taliban ambush in Jawzjan

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Arab World

ISIS Executes Entire Squad of Deserting Jihadists in East Syria amid Major Battle with US-Backed Forces

Amnesty International Demands Saudi Arabia to Halt Execution of 14 Shia Activists

Daesh terrorists kill 20 truck drivers on border with Iraq

OIC seeks steps to reduce unemployment in Muslim countries

ISIL Gives Last Ultimatum to Rival Terrorists in Southern Damascus

US-led airstrike claims at least 12 lives in Syria's Dayr al-Zawr

Bahrain activist Rajab sentenced to 5 yrs for tweets

Sisi: Egypt govt not a party on gas deal with Israel

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India

No Proof of ISIS Links, Says NIA on Muhammed Riyaz Accused of Trying To Sell Wife as Sex Slave

Kashmir Editors’ Guild Seeks Photojournalist’s Release, Slams NIA

Pakistan troops target Indian posts along LoC

Pakistan behind influx of people from Bangladesh into NE: Army chief

Terrorist hideout busted in Kishtwar, huge cache of arms recovered

Terrorist hideout in J&K’s Kishtwar district busted

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Europe

Sikh Man Faces Racial Attack Outside UK Parliament, Attacker Shouted ‘Muslim Go Back’

Sweden, Kuwait Request UN Vote on Draft Demanding Syria Ceasefire

2 French soldiers killed in Mali mine blast

Kremlin rejects US report blaming Russia for civilian deaths in Syria's East Ghouta

Morocco says dismantled ISIL cell

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Pakistan

Police Declares Musharraf ‘Not Guilty’ In Lal Masjid Cleric Murder Case

Seized, but Not Ceased: Banned Charities Pose Challenge for Pakistan

Khatm-e-Nabuwwat: IHC Appoints Experts in Election Act Case

CII, Provincial Officials Oppose Public Hanging For Child Abductors

'This verdict did nothing but reinforce Nawaz Sharif's narrative,' Maryam spurns SC ruling

Church praised for carrying forward govt’s initiative

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Mideast

Three Sufi Protesters Killed Hours After Being Shot By Iranian Forces

Saudi Warplanes Pound Yemen's Sa’ada, Kill At Least 15 People

Those helping Syria Kurds in Afrin ‘legitimate target’: Turkey

Turkey and Iran face off in a new battle in Syria

Iran: US Reviving Terrorist Groups in Region, North Africa

Yemeni forces seize Houthi-controlled posts in Lahij

Rouhani urges end to Yemen war, efforts to restart national dialog

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Africa

Towards A Royal Academy for Imams and Preachers, With a Global Scope

Nigerians Stage Rally to Call For Release Of Zakzaky

Three Christians shot dead by suspected Al Shabaab militants in Kenyan primary school

Boko Haram attack kills 6 in northern Cameroon

Three militiamen killed in Libya car bomb attack

Tunisia's Ennahda nominates Jew for local polls

Explosion kills 3 in central Libya

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Southeast Asia

Human Rights Still Under Threat in Malaysia, Says Amnesty

MUI Calls on National Police to Explain Mounting Attacks on Religious Leaders

Group holds Filipinos seeking to set up extremist cell

In Geneva, UN committee tells Malaysia to eliminate FGM

Philippines wants court to declare communist groups terrorists

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North America

Islamic State Sympathizer Pleads Guilty In Terrorism Case

Stanley: Muslim ban has no place in America

To Help Settle Qatar Feud, U.S. Needs to Understand It

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/floating-island--new-home-for-rohingya-refugees-emerges-in-bay-of-bengal/d/114375

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Floating Island: New Home For Rohingya Refugees Emerges In Bay Of Bengal

February 22, 2018

Bangladesh is racing to turn an uninhabited and muddy Bay of Bengal island into home for 100,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled a military crackdown in Myanmar, amid conflicting signals from top Bangladeshi officials about whether the refugees would end up being stranded there.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said on Monday that putting Rohingya on the low-lying island would be a "temporary arrangement" to ease congestion at the camps in Cox's Bazar, refuge for nearly 700,000 who have crossed from the north of Myanmar's Rakhine state since the end of August last year.(Graphic: A remote home for Rohingya click tmsnrt.rs/2C6gWk5)

However, one of her advisers told Reuters that, once there, they would only be able to leave the island if they wanted to go back to Myanmar or were selected for asylum by a third country.

“It’s not a concentration camp, but there may be some restrictions. We are not giving them a Bangladeshi passport or ID card,” said H.T. Imam, adding that the island would have a police encampment with 40-50 armed personnel.

British and Chinese engineers are helping prepare the island to receive refugees before the onset of monsoon rains in April, which could bring disastrous flooding to ramshackle camps further south that now teem with about 1 million Rohingya .

Hasina’s adviser, Imam, said the question of selecting Rohingya in Cox’s Bazar to move to the island was not finalised, but it could be decided by lottery or on a volunteer-basis.

The United Nations High Commissioner for refugees said in a statement: “We would emphasise that any relocation plan involving refugees would need to be based on and implemented through voluntary and informed decisions.”

FRENETIC CONSTRUCTION

Humanitarian agencies criticized the plan to bring Rohingya to the island when it was first proposed in 2015. Aid workers who spoke to Reuters said they remain seriously concerned that the silt island is vulnerable to frequent cyclones and cannot sustain livelihoods for thousands of people.

But work on the project has accelerated in recent months, according to architectural plans and two letters from the Bangladesh navy to local government officials and contractors seen by Reuters.

A year ago, when Reuters journalists visited Bhasan Char, whose name means “floating island”, there were no roads, buildings or people.

Returning on Feb. 14, they found hundreds of laborers carrying bricks and sand from ships on its muddy northwest shore. Satellite images now show roads and what appears to be a helipad.

Floating Island, which emerged from the silt only about 20 years ago, is about 30 km (21 miles) from the mainland. Flat and shape-shifting, it regularly floods during June-September. Pirates roam the nearby waters to kidnap fishermen for ransom, residents of nearby islands say.

The plans show metal-roofed, brick buildings raised on pylons and fitted with solar panels. There will be 1,440 blocks, each housing 16 families.

CHINESE AND BRITISH COMPANIES

Chinese construction company Sinohydro - better known for building China’s Three Gorges Dam - has begun work on a 13-km (8-mile) flood-defense embankment for the $280-million project.

A Sinohydro engineer on Bhasan Char, reached by telephone later, said the company had “confidentiality agreements” and that questions about construction on the island should be referred to the Bangladesh government.

HR Wallingford, a British engineering and environmental hydraulics consultancy, is advising the project on “coastal stabilisation and flood protection measures”, the company told Reuters in a statement earlier this month.

https://nation.com.pk/22-Feb-2018/floating-island-new-home-for-rohingya-refugees-emerges-in-bay-of-bengal

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ISIS executes entire squad of deserting jihadists in east Syria amid major battle with US-backed forces

By Andrew Illingworth

21/02/2018

BEIRUT, LEBANON (1:10 P.M.) – ISIS has executed an entire squad of deserting ranks in the Syrian province of Deir Ezzor amid a major battle with US-backed forces on the east Euphrates shore according to pro-coalition sources.

Reports state that the terrorist group executed seven of its jihadist fighters who were attempting to flee the frontline near the town of Ash-Sha’fah (currently controlled by ISIS).

It is not clear whether the militant deserters were captured by their of forces and then killed or shot dead whilst in the midst of escaping the combat zone.

At the present time, US-led coalition partner forces are attempting to seize number of river settlements north and south of Ash-Sha’fah from Islamic State terrorists – key ones being Haijin, Bo Hassan and As-Sosa.

The town of Ash-Sha’fah itself (fortified to the point of representing a fortress) serves as an important stronghold for the now fledgling ISIS presence on the east Euphrates bank.

https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/isis-executes-entire-squad-deserting-jihadists-east-syria-amid-major-battle-us-backed-forces/

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No Proof of ISIS Links, Says NIA on Muhammed Riyaz Accused of Trying To Sell Wife as Sex Slave

February 21, 2018

New Delhi: The National Investigation Agency has so far not found any evidence to suggest that Muhammed Riyaz, whose wife accused him of forcibly converting her to Islam and attempting to sell her as a sex slave, has any links with the Islamic State.

Top officials involved with the probe told CNN-News18 that prima facie, no evidence has been found, but said ISIS link will be investigated further. According to sources, the agency has also not found any evidence to link Riyaz to Kerala-based group Popular Front of India.

"We are not giving a clean chit to anyone. But while in the Hadiya case, it is beyond doubt that her husband Shafin Jahan was a PFI member, in this case we will have to probe deeper," an official said.

NIA had arrested Riyaz on February 3 from the Chennai airport after his return from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. His wife, Akshara Bose, had alleged that he blackmailed her into converting to Islam using a recording of their sexual encounter and also pressured her into marrying him. She had also alleged that she was taken to Saudi Arabia, from where Riyaz tried to sell her off to ISIS terrorists.

"During interrogation, Riyaz accepted that he did videograph her but says it was with her consent. We have sent his laptop for forensic examination to verify the claim," an NIA officer said.

Two mobile phones, a laptop and a pen drive recovered from him have been sent to the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) in Thiruvananthapuram for forensic examination. A second laptop, recovered on the instance of the accused, is also being examined, an official said.

An IG level officer of NIA had interrogated Riyaz last week. Nine other accused, including Riyaz's mother, his cousins and friends will be questioned next. Bose had alleged that Riyaz’s family had receive gifts in cash and kind for converting a non-Muslim.

The investigative agency said it would also re-examine the complainant to corroborate the versions of husband and wife. Sources said that preliminary investigation establishes that the complainant was unhappy with Riyaz because he forced her to adapt to Islamic prayers and dress code. The marriage was also strained because of financial issues, they said.

Riyaz in his statement to NIA had rejected all charges of rape, blackmail and links to ISIS. He called it a case of a marriage gone sour. "We will examine all aspects. If only a case of rape and other sections of IPC are made out we will inform the court," an officer said.

A native of the Kannur district in Kerala, Riyaz had met Bose at a Bengaluru college. While he has told NIA that they fell in love and got married, his wife accused him of luring and raping her. She alleged that Riyaz married her through deceit by forging documents, created a fake passport, illegally confined and threatened her in Kerala before taking her to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for joining ISIS.

During interrogation, NIA also learnt that Riyaz was forced to come back to India from Jeddah after his cousin and friends were arrested by Kerala Police, which had first registered the case lodged by his wife.

http://www.news18.com/news/india/no-proof-of-isis-links-says-nia-on-man-accused-of-trying-to-sell-wife-as-sex-slave-1667923.html

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Sikh man faces racial attack outside UK Parliament, attacker shouted ‘Muslim go back’

by Divya Goyal

February 22, 2018

A prominent Sikh environmentalist from India was allegedly attacked in UK with the attacker also attempting to rip off his turban and shouting ‘Muslim, go back’.  The incident took place outside the parliamentary office of Slough MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi at Westminster, the high-security area in central London of the United Kingdom where UK Parliament and other government offices are located.

Ravneet Singh, South Asia project manager of EcoSikh, who hails from Ludhiana in Punjab, told The Indian Express over phone that he was waiting outside MP’s office when a man came running towards him and began shaking his turban with both hands. He also attacked him on his neck. Before running away, he shouted, ‘Muslim, go back.’ EcoSikh is an organisation based in the United States working on environmental related issues in many countries including India.

Ravneet Singh further said, “At first I thought he must be mentally unwell. But soon the attack turned more aggressive. He held my turban with both hands and kept shaking it. My turban was almost down to my face. Then he also tried to injure my neck. I kept shouting what’s this, stop it. He did not budge. Soon security guards were there and he ran away. But we could hear what he was shouting. What we heard was ‘Muslim go back’…It was not English but some other language. But these three words were clearly there.”

Ravneet Singh along with his colleague Jaspreet Singh were waiting to meet MP Dhesi to discuss the plans for the upcoming World Sikh Environment Day on March 14 and establishing EcoSikh as an environmental charity in the UK, before which the attack took place.

UK police have recorded Ravneet’s statement. “MP has strongly condemned the incident and confirmed that he will follow up to prevent this kind of attacks on Sikhs. The police has informed us that the incident was recorded in the CCTV camera and they will find out the attacker. Our statement has been recorded,” added Ravneet.

In the past years since 9/11 attack in the US, Sikh community has become the target of hate crime in foreign countries and being mistaken as Muslims due to their beards and turbans.

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/racial-attack-on-sikh-man-from-ludhiana-outside-uk-parliament-in-london-attacker-shouted-muslim-go-back-5073567/

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Police declares Musharraf ‘not guilty’ in Lal Masjid cleric murder case

Feb 22, 2018

Former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf on Wednesday was declared ‘not guilty’ by the police in the murder case of Lal Masjid cleric Ghazi Abdur Rasheed.

Islamabad senior superintendent of police (SSP) and Aabpara station house officer (SHO) submitted their replies to court queries regarding the case at a sessions court in Islamabad. Islamabad Additional Sessions Judge Justice Raja Asif Mehmood presiding over the proceedings.

Earlier, the former president had petitioned the court, seeking the dismissal of the charges against him.

According to the statement filed in the court by police officials, the Lal Masjid operation of 2007 was carried out in accordance with the law and Constitution of Pakistan. “The court can, if it sees fit, grant permission to the people seeking to file a reference against the former president in the case,” the statement adds.

Due to a general strike by the lawyers, the court postponed further proceedings of the case until March 12.

Earlier, capital’s police had been asked to initiate proceedings to secure red warrants for Musharraf so that he could be brought back to the country to face the courts.

The son of former Lal Masjid cleric Abdur Rasheed Ghazi approached the police with the request to initiate the process of bringing Musharraf back to Pakistan. An application in this regard was submitted to the SHO at Aabpara Police Station.

Rashid, together with his brother Abdul Aziz used to run the Lal Masjid in the capital and the adjoining Jamia Hafsa seminary. However, in 2007, military commandoes stormed it to take on the militants holed up inside. Rashid was killed in the operation.

Since September 2, 2013, the Aabpara police had registered a murder case against Musharraf on the directions of the Islamabad High Court. The former president was arrested on October 10 and was granted bail by a sessions judge on November 4, 2013.

Rashid’s son, Haroon, had gone to court, accusing the former dictator of murdering his father. But with Musharraf abroad, an Islamabad district court had declared the former strongman a proclaimed offender for his continued failure to appear before the court in the murder case and issued permanent arrest warrants against Musharraf in September 2016.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/02/21/police-declares-musharraf-not-guilty-in-lal-masjid-cleric-murder-case/

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South Asia

 

Ghani asks Taliban to enter into decisive peace dialogue

Feb 22, 2018

KABUL: Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday again invited the Taliban to enter into purposeful peace negotiations with the government in Kabul and to stop waging war in the country.

He spoke at the closing session of a two-day consultative meeting on peace where he outlined his administration’s vision for durable peace in the country. The meeting was held ahead of the next week meeting, a gathering of 23 nations, including the UN, European Union and NATO, which is intended to discuss security and political issues

President Ghani stressed the need for more efforts to be made to further promote rule of law and the reform process in the country. “We will give them (Taliban) options to decide, they must think whether they have the intention to surrender to the will of Almighty Allah. Do they realise the expectation of the people or not,” he said.

CEO Abdullah Abdullah said that there should be a dignified peace which involves all. “When we say dignified it involves even those who are fighting and then denounce the war and halts relations with terrorist groups and say that I am coming to join my people, his dignity must be persevered,” he said.

Wrapping up the meeting, the delegates issued a 14-item declaration in which they encouraged insurgents to join the peace process. “Our demand from the Taliban is to stop paving the way for the meddling of intelligence agencies of regional and ultra-regional countries in Afghanistan by continuing the war,” said Haleema Sadaf, one of the participants.

President Ghani went on to say that his administration would announce its peace and war strategy at the upcoming Kabul Process conference in Kabul, adding that the government would call on the Taliban to choose between peace or war. “People have consensus, those who think that they can pursue their objectives in the conflict, they must rethink their approach. The nation will not allow anyone to create conflict,” he said.

At the meeting, the Afghan government will try to create a regional and international consensus on the peace process in Afghanistan. The Taliban has steadily expanded its reach since US and NATO coalition formally concluded their combat mission in 2014 and transitioned their military mission to a support and counterterrorism role.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/02/22/ghani-asks-taliban-to-enter-into-decisive-peace-dialogue/

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3 ISIS militants killed, 1 wounded in US drone strike in Afghanistan

Feb 22 2018

At least three militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group were killed in a US drone strike in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

The 201st Silab Corps of the Afghan Military in the East said the latest drone strike was carried out in the vicinity of Deh Bala district.

According to the Silab Corps, at least one ISIS militant was also wounded in the airstrike that was carried out on a ISIS hideout in Langari area.

The anti-government armed militant and terrorist groups including the ISIS insurgents have not commented regarding the report so far.

Nangarhar is among the relatively calm provinces in the East but the terrorist and anti-government armed militant groups have started their operations in some of its remote districts during the recent years.

However, the counter-terrorism operations by the Afghan national defense and security forces as well as airstrikes on ISIS hideouts and other terror groups are underway in this province.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/3-isis-militants-killed-1-wounded-in-us-drone-strike-in-afghanistan-04526

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Taliban’s military commission members killed in Farah roadside explosion

Feb 21 2018

At least four Taliban insurgents all belonging to the group’s military commission for western Farah province were killed in a roadside bomb explosion.

According to the local officials, the incident took place in the vicinity of Anar Dara district after an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) planted on a roadside went off targeting the vehicle of the militants.

The provincial police commandment confirmed that a vehicle of the militants struck a roadside mine in Zahkan village.

The source further adds that a commander of the Taliban group identified as Gul Aqa were among those killed.

The anti-government armed militant groups including the Taliban insurgents have not commented regarding the report so far.

The Taliban insurgents and militants belonging to the insurgent groups often use improvised explosive devices as the weapon of their choice to target the security forces but in majority of such incidents the ordinary civilians are killed besides such tactic claims the lives of the insurgents as well.

A total of 10,453 civilian casualties – 3,438 people killed and 7,015 injured – were documented in the 2017 Annual Report released last week by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN Human Rights Office.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/talibans-military-commission-members-killed-in-farah-roadside-explosion-04525

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HRW demands probe into alleged killing of 20 civilians by Afghan Special Forces

Feb 21 2018

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has demanded a probe into the alleged killing of at least 20 civilians in Afghan Special Forces fire in southern Kandahar province of Afghanistan.

The Afghan government and US military should investigate reports that Afghan special forces summarily executed civilians in Kandahar province during military operations from January 31 to February 1, 2018, Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

According to HRW, citing official reports, on the evening of January 31, the Special Forces Unit of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) backed by US airstrikes began an offensive against Taliban insurgents in the Band-e Timor area of Maiwand district and the Reg area of Panjwai district.

Local residents told Human Rights Watch by phone that Afghan security forces opened fire on men as they attempted to flee, killing about 50 Taliban fighters and at least 20 civilians.

One witness said, “when the airplanes came we fled. But as the people were running away the forces were shooting them.”

“The alleged deaths of at least twenty civilians in Band-e Timor demands a prompt and impartial investigation,” said Patricia Gossman, senior Afghanistan researcher. “Summarily executing people in custody, whether they are fighters or civilians, is a war crime. Only a full investigation can uncover all who may be responsible.”

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/hrw-demands-probe-into-alleged-killing-of-20-civilians-by-afghan-special-forces-04524

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Gen. Dostum’s commander killed in Taliban ambush in Jawzjan

Feb 21 2018

A commander of the Public Uprising Forces who was previously serving as the commander of General Abdul Rashid Dostum has been killed in Taliban’s ambush in northern Jawzjan province of Afghanistan.

According to the local security officials, Commander Abdul Jalil was killed late on Tuesday afternoon in the vicinity of Dasht-e-Lili.

Provincial security chief Faqir Mohammad Jawzjani said Commander Jalil and his driver were patrolling the area in Bashikod area when they were ambushed by the Taliban insurgents.

He said Commander Jawzjani and his driver were killed in the ambush of the Taliban insurgents and their vehicle was set on fire.

The anti-government armed militant groups including the Taliban insurgents have not commented regarding the report so far.

Jawzjan is among the relatively volatile provinces in the North where the anti-government armed militant groups including the Taliban insurgents are actively operating in some of its districts.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/gen-dostums-commander-killed-in-taliban-ambush-in-jawzjan-04522

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Arab World

 

Amnesty International demands Saudi Arabia to halt execution of 14 Shia activists

Feb 21, 2018

Amnesty International has urged Saudi authorities to halt imminent execution of 14 young Shia activists who were condemned to death for taking part in anti-regime protests gripping the kingdom's Eastern Province.

The leading international human rights group in a recent statement decried the Saudi Arabian Supreme Court’s decision to uphold death sentences against the group convicted of participating in the protests.

“The men about to be executed told the court they were tortured, which makes their confessions invalid - most of us could be forced to say anything under torture. They were then charged with offences related to their alleged participation in anti-government demonstrations in Saudi Arabia,” read the statement.

Amnesty said, "We must stop this Saudi execution. All that stands between these 14 men and their death is King Salman’s signature. Join us in urging the Saudi authorities to stop the executions now."

In June 2016, the the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) sentenced to death the 14 men charged with crimes relating to protesting in what Amnesty says was a "grossly unfair mass trial."

"Following a grossly unfair trial, where the men were put in a group with others being sentenced, the judge handed them the ultimate cruel and inhumane punishment: the death sentence,” said Amnesty.

The activists were convicted of a wide array of crimes that include bomb making, participation in riots and shooting at security vehicles.

According to reports, the trial process preceding the verdicts took place at the criminal court dealing with terrorism-related cases, a tribunal viewed by legal experts as an Interior Ministry tool to suppress opposition activists.

This is while some of the defendants had said during the hearing sessions that they were forced into false confessions through physical and psychological torture.

In July last year, Samah Hadid, Director of campaigns for the Middle East at Amnesty International, said in a statement that "by confirming these sentences, Saudi Arabia's authorities have displayed their ruthless commitment to the use of the death penalty as a weapon to crush dissent and neutralize political opponents."

"King Salman's signature is now all that stands between them and their execution. He must immediately quash these death sentences which are a result of sham court proceedings that brazenly flout international fair trial standards."

In May 2017, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson, urged Saudi Arabia to stop using the law against people peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

Shia activists belong to the restive Qatif region, which has been the scene of peaceful protest rallies against the ruling Al Saudi regime in recent years.

The rulers in Riyadh have been under fire by international rights groups for using the so-called “anti-terrorism law” to silence critical voices in the kingdom. Riyadh adopted a revised version of the law in 2014, enabling tougher penalties for those found guilty of terrorism.

The tough verdicts were issued amid the latest wave of unrest in the Shia town of Awamiyah in Qatif.

Qatif was home to Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, an outspoken critic of the Saudi policies whose execution in 2016 by the Riyadh regime sparked angry protests at home and abroad as well as widespread international condemnations.

Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the oil-rich region, but the marches have been met with a heavy-handed crackdown by the Saudi military.

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/21/553138/Amnesty-International-Shia-Muslims-Saudi-Arabia-Qatif-Eastern-Province

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Daesh terrorists kill 20 truck drivers on border with Iraq

Feb 21, 2018

Members of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group have reportedly executed nearly two dozen truck drivers on the border with Iraq’s western province of Anbar as Syrian government forces, supported by allied fighters from popular defense groups, are fighting to drive foreign-sponsored Takfiri militants out of the war-ravaged Arab country.

An Iraqi security source, requesting not to be named, told Arabic-language al-Sumaria television network on Wednesday that Daesh Takfiris staged an ambush on the Syrian side of the border, killing 20 people.

The source added that the truck drivers were waiting to cross into Iraq, and that the militants have fled the area with the ill-fated drivers’ trucks.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The Syrian government says the Israeli regime and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri terrorist groups that are wreaking havoc in the country.

On December 9, 2017, Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared the end of military operations against the Daesh terrorist group in the Arab country.

On July 10, Abadi formally declared victory over Daesh extremists in Mosul, which served as the terrorists’ main urban stronghold in the conflict-ridden Arab country.

In the run-up to Mosul's liberation, Iraqi army soldiers and volunteer Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters had made sweeping gains against Daesh.

The Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January 2017 after 100 days of fighting, and launched the battle in the west on February 19 last year.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/21/553135/Daesh-truck-drivers-Iraq-Syria

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OIC seeks steps to reduce unemployment in Muslim countries

22 February 2018

JEDDAH: The opening session of the senior officials’ preparatory meeting for the fourth Islamic Conference of Labor Ministers began on Wednesday in Jeddah.

The conference, which is jointly organized by the Ministry of Labor and Social Development and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and held under the theme “Developing A Common Strategy for Manpower Development,” brings together 56 Islamic states as well as regional and international organizations.

During the opening ceremony, Abdullah Abu Thunain, president of the fourth Islamic conference and deputy minister for inspection and development of the work environment at the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, said: “This event provides a great opportunity to discuss and exchange views on the most important challenges facing the creation of job opportunities for our citizens.”

“The economic recession in several countries makes us think deeply about finding solutions and addressing the challenges facing youth and persons with disabilities in the job market,” he said.

“In Saudi Arabia, we have taken the initiative and launched the Vision 2030, which supports youth and empowers women in the job market to effectively contribute to building the national economy in light of the country’s current comprehensive development.” “We will review and discuss the content of two important documents: OIC’s mutual recognition arrangement for skilled employees and the OIC-recommended bilateral agreement on manpower exchange,” he said.

Maruli A. Hasoloan, president of the third Islamic conference and director general of labor placement and employment development at the Indonesian Ministry of Manpower, expressed his appreciation to Saudi Arabia for organizing and hosting the conference.

He said that OIC member states sought to improve cooperation to reduce unemployment, improve workforces and ensure a healthy work environments in Islamic countries.

Ambassador Hameed Opeloyeru, OIC assistant secretary-general for economic affairs, praised the efforts made to expand the scope of work and relations between OIC member states.

The fourth Islamic Conference of Labor Ministers aims to explore labor market challenges in OIC countries and ways to generate and sustain job opportunities, as well as exchanging information on policies and successful programs.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1251721/saudi-arabia

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ISIL Gives Last Ultimatum to Rival Terrorists in Southern Damascus

Feb 21, 2018

ISIL has given three days to the Al-Nusra to surrender after the latter came under ISIL's siege in al-Rijeh square and some of the nearby buildings in Yarmouk Palestinian Refugee Camp in the Southern countryside of Damascus city.

Tens of Al-Nusra members, including several commanders, have been killed or wounded in clashes with the ISIL at Yarmouk camp.

A number of senior Al-Nusra commanders, including Abu Talib Yadawi, Emir of Region 15th Abu Fariq and notorious sniper Abu Zobayr are among the commanders killed in clashes by the ISIL. 

An Arab media source reported on Sunday that Abu Talib al-Yadawi, a senior commander of Al-Nusra Front, was killed in clashes with ISIL terrorists in Yarmouk Palestinian Refugee Camp in the Southern countryside of Damascus city.

The Arabic-language al-Watan daily reported that ISIL imposed full control over Mashrou'a al-Wasim region in Yarmouk camp after heavy fighting with Al-Nusra.

The daily added that a number of members of both warring sides, including Al-Nusra Emir Abu Talib al-Yadawi, were killed in the clashes.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961202001212

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US-led airstrike claims at least 12 lives in Syria's Dayr al-Zawr

Feb 22, 2018

A US-led airstrike has claimed the lives of at least 12 civilians in Syria's eastern province of Dayr al-Zawr.

A large number of people were also injured in the Wednesday attack that targeted the town of Hajin located in the province's eastern regions.

The latest airstrike came just a day after over a dozen civilians lost their lives when the US-led coalition targeted residential buildings in the province's al-Bahra village.

The London-based Airwars organization, which tracks civilian deaths in US-led airstrikes, reported earlier this year that a total of at least 5,961 civilians had been killed as a result of such attacks in Iraq and Syria.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported on November 23 last year that 2,759 civilians, including 644 minors and 470 women, had been killed in US-led aerial attacks against civilian areas in Syria over the past 38 months.

The Daesh Takfiri terrorist group still holds patches of the desert on either side of the Euphrates River in the oil-rich Dayr al-Zawr province.

The US and its allies have been bombarding what they call Daesh positions inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate.

The strikes, however, have on many occasions resulted in civilian casualties and failed to fulfill their declared aim of countering terrorism.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/22/553188/syria-us-airstrike-dayr-al-zawr-civilians

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Bahrain activist Rajab sentenced to 5 yrs for tweets

February 22, 2018

DUBAI : Jailed high-profile Bahraini activist Nabeel rajab was Wednesday sentenced to five more years behind bars over tweets critical of the Saudi-led intervention in the Yemen war and on the alleged mistreatment of prisoners, in a trial rights groups slammed as “shameful”.

rajab , a leading figure in 2011 protests against the Gulf state monarchy, is already serving a two-year sentence handed down last July for “disseminating rumours and false information” in television interviews critical of the government.

He has served multiple stints in prison since 2012, all linked to his role in the protests.

A judicial source close to the case said rajab was found guilty Wednesday of insulting a neighbouring country and spreading false news and rumours.

The charges are linked to tweets and retweets made via Rajab’s account and critical of a Saudi-led coalition, including bahrain , that has been fighting in Yemen in support of its beleaguered government since 2015.

The bahrain Center for Human Rights, which rajab co-founded, the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) released a joint statement Wednesday saying the charges came over a March 26, 2015 tweet voicing criticism of the “hatred, destruction and horrors” of war.

The Saudi-led military alliance had launched its first air raids on Yemen that same day.

The charges also relate to tweets critical of Bahrain’s treatment of inmates at the notorious Jaw prison, south of the capital Manama, according to the rights groups.

Amnesty International slammed Wednesday’s ruling as a “shameful attack on freedom of expression”, while FIDH called the verdict an “outrageous sentence (that) contributes to further shut down space for civil society in the country.”

Human rights groups have warned they fear for the health of rajab , who has been hospitalised multiple times in recent years.

FIDH, OMCT and the Gulf Center for Human Rights said the activist had been advised not to take his medication back in January over fears the government had interfered with the treatment.

But Rajab’s son Adam tweeted that his father’s “first reaction to the court ruling was to smile and flash the sign to hold strong”.

Authorities in bahrain , a tiny kingdom strategically located between Saudi Arabia and Iran, have jailed dozens of high-profile activists and disbanded both religious and secular opposition groups since 2011.

They have stripped hundreds of those convicted of their citizenship, making many stateless, according to Amnesty International.

The archipelago plays a key military role in the Gulf, hosting both the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet and a British military base that is under construction.

US President Donald Trump has eased restrictions on arms sales to bahrain since taking office in January last year.

The kingdom later announced it had signed deals with US defence company Lockheed Martin for the acquisition of upgraded F-16 fighter jets.

US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Tuesday that Washington had “very serious concerns” about the case against rajab , whom she called “a prominent human rights activist”.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/22-Feb-2018/bahrain-activist-rajab-sentenced-to-5-yrs-for-tweets

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Sisi: Egypt govt not a party on gas deal with Israel

21 February 2018

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said that the Egyptian government is not a party to the recent gas agreement with Israel.

Sisi said during his opening of a number of service centers for investors, on Wednesday, that the Egyptian government is not party to a private company’s deal to import quantities of natural gas from Israel.

He added that he was very pleased with the Egyptians' involvement in the events taking place in their country.

He pointed out that Egypt has nothing to hide, and what happened is a contractual matter between a private sector company based in Egypt and the state of Israel.

Israel has announced a deal with the private company “Dolphinus Holdings” to import natural gas over 10 years against 15 billion dollars.

Egyptian Oil Minister Tariq Mulla denied the government’s intervention in the deal, while Hamad Abdul Aziz, spokesman of the Ministry of Petroleum, said that in case the government approves of the agreement which is signed between private companies to import gas from Israel, these companies will use the local network for gas pipelines as well as the liquefaction stations in Egypt.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/02/21/Sisi-on-gas-deal-with-Israel-Egyptian-government-is-not-a-party.html

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India

 

Kashmir Editors’ Guild Seeks Photojournalist’s Release, Slams NIA

Written by Bashaarat Masood

February 21, 2018

Seeking immediate release of photojournalist Kamran Yousuf, the Kashmir Editors’ Guild on Tuesday slammed NIA for its charge sheet listing the “moral duty of a journalist” and said “redefining” journalism is “seen as an effort by totalitarian and dictatorial regimes and not democracies”. In its chargesheet filed on January 18 against 12 people, including Yousuf, in connection with terror funding and stone-pelting in the Valley, the NIA observed: “Had he been a real journalist/stringer by profession, he may have performed one of the moral duty of a journalist which is to cover the activities and happening (good or bad) in his jurisdiction.

He had never covered any developmental activity of any Government Department/Agency, any inauguration of Hospital, School Building, Road, Bridge, statement of political party in power or any other social/developmental activity by state government or Govt of India.” “It is high time that Yousuf is permitted to move out of jail and resume his routine and help his mother, the only relation he has, in surviving honourably,” spokesperson for the Guild Shafat Kira said after a meeting in Srinagar. “His release will contribute to the strengthening of democracy and right to free speech.”

“If the cops are supposed to define the roles and responsibilities of the journalists, which manage the fourth pillar of democracy, the universities that train thousands of journalists in a year across India must be locked,” Kira said, adding, “Re-defining journalism is usually seen as an effort by totalitarian and dictatorial regimes and not democracies.” Calling for a fair trial, he said, “It has been a long time since Yousuf’s arrest that the investigators have probed almost all angles of his supposed involvement. So far, nothing has been proved as the charge sheet suggests”.

Other journalist bodies in Valley have also sought Yousuf’s immediate release. The Kashmir Working Journalist Association has called Kamran Yousuf’s detention “illegal”, saying he is being “victimized for carrying our professional duties that somehow embarrassed the government”. Secretary of the association Samaan Lateef said the journalist’s job is not to cover bridge inaugurations or birthday parties of government and political functionaries. “If NIA does not understand the basics that separate PR from journalism, it puts its own investigating capabilities into question,” he said.

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/kashmir-editors-guild-seeks-photojournalists-release-slams-nia-5072096/

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Pakistan troops target Indian posts along LoC

Feb 22, 2018

SRINAGAR: Pakistani troops today fired at Indian posts along the Line of Control (LoC) in the Uri sector of Jammu and Kashmir, prompting Indian soldiers to retaliate, an Army official said.

The Pakistani troops opened unprovoked firing at Indian posts in the Hajipeer area of the Uri sector in Baramulla district this morning, the official said.

He said Indian soldiers are retaliating the aggression from across the LoC effectively and in equal measure.

No casualties have been reported in the incident so far, he added.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pakistan-troops-target-indian-posts-along-loc/articleshow/63023925.cms

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Pakistan behind influx of people from Bangladesh into NE: Army chief

Feb 21, 2018

NEW DELHI: A "planned" influx of people from Bangladesh into the northeast is taking place as part of a proxy warfare by Pakistan with support from China with an aim to keep the area disturbed, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat said on Wednesday.

Referring to reports of increase in Muslim population in several districts of Assam, the Army chief also talked about Badruddin Ajmal-led AIUDF (All India United Democratic Front) in the state, observing that its growth has been "faster" than that of the BJP in the 1980s.

"A planned immigration is taking place because of our western neighbour. They will always try and ensure that this area is taken over, playing the proxy dimension of warfare," Gen Rawat said, talking about influx of people from Bangladesh into the northeast.

He was addressing a conference on bridging gaps and securing borders in the northeast region.

"I think the proxy game is very well played by our western neighbour, supported by our northern border (China) to keep the area disturbed. We will continue to see some migration happening. The solution lies in identifying the problem and holistically looking at it," he said.

Influx of illegal Bangladeshis is a major issue in Assam and the state government is now coming out with a national register of citizens to find out those living illegally in the state.

"There is a party called AIUDF. If you look at it, they have grown in a faster time-frame than the BJP grew over the years," he said, while referring to the BJP winning only 2 seats in 1984. "The AIDUF is moving at a faster pace in Assam."

The AIUDF, which was formed in 2005 with an aim to champion the cause of Muslim community, currently has three parliamentarians in Lok Sabha and 13 legislators in the state assembly.

The Army chief said the solution to the problem lies in ensuring development of the region by taking a holistic approach.

"I do not think you can now change the population dynamics of the area. If it was five districts to eight to nine, inversion has taken place whichever be the government," he said while referring to reports that Muslim majority has increased from five to nine districts in Assam.

The Army chief said efforts should be to "amalgamate" the people living in the region and then try and "start identifying those creating trouble for us".

"The government is looking at the Northeast in correct perspective, and if that happens, time will not be far that we will be able to amalgamate the region and ensure development. And with development comes the control of the people who are residing in this area," he said.

Gen Rawat said the Centre is seriously taking several measures to ensure development of the region. "The development will finally happen in the area. That should take care of lot of things."

He said, "We will have more problem in segregating people. Yes some people will have to be identified who are creating trouble for us."

The Army chief said migration is also taking place from Bangladesh because of shrinking land space in the country due to various reasons including floods.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pakistan-behind-influx-of-people-from-bangladesh-into-ne-army-chief/articleshow/63019723.cms

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Terrorist hideout busted in Kishtwar, huge cache of arms recovered

Sanjay Khajuria

Feb 21, 2018

JAMMU: Security forces busted a terrorist hideout in Kishtwar district on Wednesday and recovered a huge cache of arms and ammunition from the spot.

“Acting on intelligence inputs, a joint team of Indian Army and Jammu and Kashmir Police cordoned the Kesna forest area and launched a search operation. The forces busted a terrorist hideout and recovered two AK-56 rifles, three 9mm pistols, one country-made pistol, 15 magazines of AK-56 rifle, 98 rounds of PIKA guns, two rounds of UBGL (under barrel grenade launcher), one round of RPG (rocket-propelled grenade), two binoculars, 12 detonators and two radio sets,” said Jammu defence spokesperson Lt Col Devender Anand.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/terrorist-hideout-busted-in-kishtwar-huge-cache-of-arms-recovered/articleshow/63017420.cms

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Terrorist hideout in J&K’s Kishtwar district busted

February 21, 2018

Army troops and state police in a joint operation on Wednesday smashed a terrorist hideout in Kishtwar district of Jammu and Kashmir and seized huge quantity of arms, ammunition and explosives from the site. Pointing out that the joint operation was launched by a Rashtriya Rifles Battalion and local police in Kesna forest area on a specific information, sources said that the seizures included two AK 56 rifles, three 9 mm pistols, one country made pistol, 15 magazines of AK 56 rifle, 98 rounds of Pika gun, two rounds of Under Barrel Grenade Launcher (UBGL), one Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG), two binoculars, 12 detonators and two radio sets.

It was an old hideout which was used by terrorists during peak militancy in the area for sustenance, sources added. The security forces are continuing with their persistent operations to keep Kishtwar district safe and sanitized from terrorists as well as their support infrastructure, an official release said, adding that seizure of war like stores have dealt a severe blow to nefarious designs of terrorists to revive militancy in the area.

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/terrorist-hideout-in-jks-kishtwar-district-busted-5073121/

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Europe

 

Sweden, Kuwait request UN vote on draft demanding Syria ceasefire

22 February 2018

The UN Security Council is expected to vote, probably on Thursday, on a draft resolution demanding a 30-day ceasefire in Syria to allow deliveries of humanitarian aid and medical evacuations, diplomats said.

Sweden and Kuwait, which drafted the measure, requested the vote “as soon as possible,” the Swedish mission said, adding that it will likely be held on Thursday.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2018/02/22/Sweden-Kuwait-request-UN-vote-on-draft-demanding-Syria-ceasefire-.html

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2 French soldiers killed in Mali mine blast

February 22, 2018

PARIS:- Two french soldiers were killed and another was hurt Wednesday when their armoured vehicle struck a mine in mali , the french presidency said. Around 4,000 french troops are deployed in mali and neighbouring countries to fight jihadist groups that have staged a string of attacks and kidnappings, some targeting Western nationals. The two soldiers were from a cavalry regiment based in Valence, a city in southeastern France, President Emmanuel Macron’s office said in a statement, which did not say where the attack took place.–AFP

Macron sent condolences to the soldiers’ families and said the regional counter-terrorism operation had dealt “severe blows” to the enemy, the presidency added.

https://nation.com.pk/22-Feb-2018/2-french-soldiers-killed-in-mali-mine-blast

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Kremlin rejects US report blaming Russia for civilian deaths in Syria's East Ghouta

Feb 21, 2018

Moscow has denied a US claim that Russian fighter jets carried out airstrikes in Syria's militant-held Eastern Ghouta and reportedly killed scores of civilians since the start of the week.

"These are groundless accusations. It is not clear what they are based on. No specific data has been given. We do not agree (with them)," President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday in response to a US briefing blaming Russia for the attacks.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-opposition monitoring group, claimed that at least 250 civilians had been killed in the attacks.

The Britain-based group also blamed Russian jets for the attacks.

Eastern Ghouta region, located near the capital Damascus, is included in a deal between Turkey, Russia and Iran to establish de-escalation zones in Syria with the aim of reducing violence in the war-torn Arab country.

Russia has been lending aerial support to Syria’s counter-terrorism operations since September 2015.

The US and its allies have been bombarding what they call Daesh positions inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate.

The strikes, however, have on many occasions resulted in civilian casualties and failed to fulfill their declared aim of countering terrorism.

Russia’s defense sector not affected by US sanctions

Meanwhile, Moscow refuted a report by the US State Department that sanctions against Russia had cost the country $3 billion in lost defense contracts.

"I can just say that everything is fine, everything is fine," Peskov told reporters during a phone call on Wednesday.

He added that Moscow was "trying to hedge risks related to instances of unfair competition on the part of the United States in the market of military-technical cooperation."

On January 30, US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said Washington sought to impose new sanctions on Russia “in the near future,” under a new law designed to punish Moscow for alleged meddling in the 2016 US election.

The announcement came after the US Treasury Department published a list of 114 senior Russian political figures and 96 "oligarchs" who Washington says have gained wealth or power through links with Putin.

Ties between Moscow and Washington soured after US officials accused Russia of meddling in the 2016 US presidential election. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied the allegation.

Back in January, the US had expanded its sanctions against Russia, adding 21 people, including Russian Deputy Energy Minister Andrey Cherezov, and nine companies to the sanctions list because of what Washington called Moscow's continued interference in Ukraine.

The armed conflict in Ukraine broke out following the ouster of pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 and intensified after people in the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea voted for reunification with the Russian Federation in a referendum held in March 2014.

The United States and its allies in Europe brand the reunification as annexation of the territory by Russia, accusing Moscow of having a major hand in the crisis in eastern Ukraine, an allegation strongly rejected by the Kremlin.

The Western countries have levied broad economic sanctions against Moscow over its alleged support for pro-Russia separatist forces in eastern Ukraine and Crimea’s reunification with Russia.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/21/553140/Russia-US-Syria-Eastern-Ghouta

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Morocco says dismantled ISIL cell

21 February 2018

Moroccan authorities have broken up a ISIL cell in the North African country, according to the Moroccan Interior Ministry.

In a statement on Wednesday, the ministry said six suspects had been detained in the northern city of Tangier for links to the ISIL terrorist group.

The ministry said the suspects were involved in assaults against several people in the city and were “plotting assaults to harm the country’s security and stability."

According to the ministry, the cell had links to another cell that had been dismantled by Moroccan authorities earlier this month in the cities of Tangier and Meknes.

Late last year, Moroccan security forces arrested two people in the city of Fez for suspected links to the ISIL terrorist group. Four suspected members of the same cell were arrested in late October.

In November, Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit said around 1700 Moroccan nationals were fighting in conflict zones overseas, including 929 fighting with ISIL group.

http://www.worldbulletin.net/africa/199060/explosion-kills-3-in-central-libya

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Pakistan

 

Seized, but Not Ceased: Banned Charities Pose Challenge for Pakistan

February 21, 2018

Rawalpindi, Pakistan. The vast network of Islamist charities taken over last week by Pakistan's government includes a horse-breeding stable, a fleet of 4x4 trucks, a swimming academy, martial arts classes and tens of thousands of staff and volunteers.

Islamabad hopes that by seizing control of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) charities, which the United States says are terrorist fronts, it can stave off being included this week on a global watchlist of country's deemed to be doing too little to curb militant financing.

But the sheer scale and diversity of the charities founded by Hafiz Saeed, who is designated a terrorist by the United Nations, shows how difficult it will be for the government to even run the network, let alone track and take control of all their sources of income and funding.

Reuters visited three of JuD's main facilities – protected by close-circuit TV cameras, huge iron gates and stout-built, bearded guards – including a sprawling 81-hectare headquarters in Muridke just outside the eastern city of Lahore.

A few government representatives were on site and new signs hung to rename the facilities, but little else appeared to have changed since the government announced it was banning the charities on Feb. 14.

Officials said they have not yet drawn up plans on how to run the network, which includes more than 300 seminaries, schools, hospitals, a publishing house and ambulance services.

"We're still collecting details about the JuD's facilities which have been taken over," a spokesman for the Punjab provincial government, Malik Mohammad Ahmad Khan, told Reuters. "Our financial strategists are in consultation with the federal government to prepare a plan to run these facilities."

$10 Million Bounty

Hafiz Saeed is one of the founders of the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), or Army of the Pure, which Washington and India blame for the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people. The United States has offered a $10 million reward for evidence leading to his conviction.

The LeT has been banned in Pakistan since 2002 but Saeed, who denies involvement in violence or funding militants, was freed by a Pakistani court from house arrest last year and his charity wings had been allowed to remain in operation.

Those charities are the focus of a motion co-sponsored by the United States and European allies calling for Pakistan to be placed on the terrorist financing watchlist maintained by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

Member states of the FATF, an intergovernmental body that sets global standards for fighting illicit finance, were discussing the motion at a meeting in Paris this week.

The move is part of a broader US strategy to pressure Pakistan to cut its alleged links to Islamist militants.

Pakistan was on the FATF "grey list" from 2012 to 2015. Islamabad has recently been scrambling to avert being put back on the list, a measure officials fear could hurt its economy, by taking a series of measures such as amending an antiterrorism law and banning JuD and FIF.

Saeed denounced the latter move in a fiery sermon on Friday, accusing Islamabad of caving in to US and Indian pressure.

"It is regrettable that rulers have been bowing to external powers" he said, adding that Islamabad was making the nuclear armed nation an "American colony."

No Change

At JuD's Muridke headquarters, Reuters found the day-to-day management of the charity running largely as before.

Only an administrator, two school principals and a doctor had been added by the government to the facility – previously known as Markaz-e-Taiba, now renamed Government Health and Education Complex Sheikhupura – where nearly 1,000 students take classes, a JuD official, Mohammad Athar, told Reuters.

Five policemen had been added to the squad of 100 JuD security guards, while the rest of the staff were still working, he said, adding: "We know nothing about the government's future plans."

Besides some 500 visitors daily, Athar said, nearly 3,000 students and employees live on the site, which boasts manicured lawns, rice fields, sports grounds, hostels, residential colonies, a swimming pool and a horse stud farm.

"Schoolboys swim in the pool during summer season," Athar said. "There are 35 horses for their riding classes." The students play football, gymnastics and martial arts, he said. Cricket is prohibited, said Athar, who believes the game is "a waste of time."

At JuD's Hudabya Madrassa in Chakra, on the outskirts of Rawalpindi, which caters for nearly 160 students, 22 teachers and a dozen more of staff, just a caretaker had been appointed since the government takeover.

"I'm drawing 20,000 rupees [$200] salary a month," said a teacher, Tariq Husain. Monthly expenses for the facility could amount to 1 million-1.5 million rupees a month, according to Reuters's estimate, based on the salaries staff reported and likely overheads of a facility that size.

"People come and donate," said another teacher, Mohammad Musab.

"Our group mainly bear the expenses," he added, while handing out sweet milk tea and cookies to Reuters journalists.

He said a government official came and took office records on Thursday (15/02).

At a third facility, in the heart of Rawalpindi, a grand mosque was under construction, adorned with banners appealing for donations for the Muslims in Kashmir, Palestine and Syria.

Double Game

Pakistan has long denied accusations from Washington, New Delhi and others that it supports Islamist militants operating in Afghanistan and disputed Kashmir.

Arif Jamal, the author of Call For Transitional Jihad: Lashkar-e-Taiba 1985-2014, said patience had run out with Pakistan's "double game," and doubted the takeover of JuD and FIF would succeed in heading off further action.

"My sense is that they're not likely to believe Pakistan for a long time even if Pakistan starts to take serious steps to dismantle terrorist parties," Jamal wrote from Washington in a WhatsApp reply to Reuters.

But Pakistan's former counterterrorism chief, Khawaja Khalid Farooq, said there were insufficient grounds for the country to be put back on the FATF watchlist.

"I don't think there is any strong justification," Farooq said by phone from Dubai. "There may be loopholes in our system which could be pointed out."

Pakistan's foreign office spokesman Mohammad Faisal told local 92 TV that Islamabad was lobbying to block the FATF motion, which he called US "pressure tactics."

http://jakartaglobe.id/international/seized-not-ceased-banned-charities-pose-challenge-pakistan/

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Khatm-e-Nabuwwat: IHC appoints experts in Election Act case

Faisal Kamal Pasha

February 22, 2018

ISLAMABAD: To adjudicate the matter regarding the amendment in the oath of Khatm-e-Nabuwwat in the Election Act 2017, an IHC bench Wednesday appointed four religious scholars as amicus curiae including Professor Dr Hafiz Hassan Madni, from Institute of Islamic Studies, University of Punjab Lahore, Dr Mohsin Naqvi, former member Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), Prof Dr Sahibzada Sajidur Rehman, a member of CII and Mufti Muhammad Hussain Khalil Khel from Karachi.

IHC bench noted in its order that delicacy of the matter and questions involved require answers and interpretation; therefore, amicus are appointed to render their assistance.

The IHC bench has put six questions before the scholars that are: “Whether an Islamic state could introduce such a law on the basis of which a non-Muslim directly or indirectly could be considered and identified as a Muslim? Whether in an Islamic state non-Muslims could be permitted to present themselves as Muslims? If a non-Muslims conceals his identity and introduces himself as Muslim, would it come under the definition of cheating/fraud with the state? If the answers to these questions are in affirmative, then what is the responsibility of the state? Isn't it mandatory for an Islamic state to be aware about the religion and ideologies of its citizens and to put in place an effective and wholesome mechanism for such identification? Is it a violation of the fundamental rights to inquire a citizen about his religion and religious ideology?”

IHC bench has directed Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Arshad Mehmood Kiani to contact the above mentioned scholars and dispatch them copies of the writ petition, replies submitted so far and they may be inquired about their availability before the court from Monday Feb 26.

IHC bench comprising Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui was hearing the petition of Maulana Allah Wasaya who has challenged the amendment in the oath of Khatm-e-Nabuwwat in Election Act 2017.

On Feb 20 federal government after strict warning issued by the court had finally submitted the report of Raja Zafarul Haq Committee that was formed to probe the issue of amendment in the election act-2017 regarding the oath of Khatm-e-Nabuwwat and to fix the responsibility as well.

From Monday onward the scholars appointed will render their assistance to the court.

Each scholar will be allocated with one day time to render his assistance. Today's hearing legal counsel for Maulana Allah Wasaya, Hafiz Arfat Ahmed could not appear before the court and sought adjournment. Whereas, IHC bench has directed that no further adjournment will be granted in this matter. The bench has also directed the counsel to conclude his argument in two days.

Petitioner Maulana Allah Wasaya has been contending before the court that an amendment was made in Election Act 2017 (EA-2017) regarding oath of Khatm-e-Nabuwwat and on hue and cry of the entire nation another amendment to the act was brought on October 19, 2017 through which sections 7B and 7C of the conduct of General Elections Order,

Full report at:

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/284223-khatm-e-nabuwwat-ihc-appoints-experts-in-election-act-case

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CII, Provincial Officials Oppose Public Hanging For Child Abductors

By Riazul Haq

February 21, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Representatives of the four provinces as well as the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) have opposed the bill seeking amendment to the Constitution to pave way for public hanging of kidnappers of children below the age of 14.

The bill, proposed by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Abdur Rehman Malik, was discussed for the third time on Wednesday in a meeting of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice where representatives of all four provincial home ministries and prison departments gave their viewpoint.

Interestingly, in the first meeting, when emotions were running high after last month’s abduction, rape and murder of the 7-year-old Zainab in Kasur, majority of the members were of the view that such culprits must be publicly hanged.

Senate panel proposes public hanging of child abductors

In second meeting, lawmakers including, Aitzaz Ahsan and Barrister Saif had suggested a decision must be taken with sanity rather than driven by emotions. However, on Wednesday the officials of all four provinces as well as the CII opposed the amendment, saying that it might have negative repercussions for society.

“Going for such hangings in public might lead to an untoward law and order [situation],” an official from Punjab home ministry said. “Existing laws are enough to punish the culprits and such hangings must be carried out inside the jail premises and in front of family members of the victim,” he added.

Punjab Inspector General Prisons Mirza Shahid Baig said it was not a good suggestion in current times, adding that hangings inside the prison are fine. “Open hangings will have violent effect on society especially the kids,” he said.

The CII chairperson Dr Qibla Ayaz said the existing prison manual already supported public hangings but the major purpose of such acts in Islam was deterrence. “There can be any means to create deterrence but severity and certainty is important in such crimes,” he said.

Senate panel proposes public hanging of child abductors

Sindh’s Home Ministry representative said the world was heading towards ending death penalty while Pakistan was considering public hangings. “The message from Pakistan to outer world will not be a good one,” he said, adding: “In such situations a mob can get violent and pose a security threat.”

The Khyber Paskhtunkhwa (K-P) home ministry also gave a similar view opposing the amendment while the representative from Balochistan also warned against implications of public hangings.

“In 1936 the US abandoned public hangings as it can become a security hazard. In one of the cases in Balochistan, a mob had taken the criminal on death row,” the official said.

A senior lawyer from the Islamabad High Court bar said the prosecution process should be swift like it was carried out in Zainab’s case besides deciding mercy petitions without any delay.

Minister for Law and Justice Bashir Virk and Secretary Law Karamat Niazi avoided categorically saying anything but called for a rational approach. “I think it is a complex issue but we must not get carried away with emotions and act rationally,” Virk said.

Later, the Committee’s Chairperson Murtaza Abbasi referred the matter to the Ministry of Law and Justice for their reply to be submitted in a week.  The decision will likely be communicated during the next committee meeting.

On January 22, the Senate Standing Committee on Interior passed a resolution, condemning the recent incidents of children’s abduction, rape and murder in Punjab’s Kasur and the K-P’s Mardan districts.

Full report at:

https://tribune.com.pk/story/1640751/3-senate-committee-law-justice-opposes-public-hanging-child-abductors/

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'This verdict did nothing but reinforce Nawaz Sharif's narrative,' Maryam spurns SC ruling

February 22, 2018

PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz on Wednesday sharply criticised the Supreme Court verdict declaring a disqualified person ineligible to head a party, saying the judgement has only strengthened her father, ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif's stance.

"Will this decision make the party stop accepting Nawaz Sharif as the leader [of PML-N]?" she asked on Twitter. Answering the question herself, she said the SC ruling of today "has done nothing but reinfornce Nawaz Sharif's narrative".

In another tweet, she addressed PML-N loyalists and said: "Lions! Don't be concerned."

"These excesses will take Nawaz Sharif/Muslim League (N) even higher. Remember, when injustice crosses the limit it gets erased," said Maryam, who after the announcement of the judgement changed her Twitter display photo to one of her father with the accompanying text reading, "I too am Nawaz and I know how to fight for the truth."

A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that an individual disqualified under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution cannot serve as head of a political party.

The apex court's verdict was in response to 17 petitions challenging the controversial Elections Act 2017, which had been bulldozed through parliament last year to pave the way for Nawaz Sharif's return to the PML-N's helm as party president.

In its judgement, the court declared Section 203 of the law — which allowed Sharif to retake his party's leadership — null and void, and subsequently ordered the Election Commission of Pakistan to remove Sharif as president of the PML-N.

'No precedent of this verdict'

Separately, in an official response to the top court's judgement, the PML-N termed the ruling "contrary to the basic requisites of justice".

"There is no precedent of this judgement in democratic history," a PML-N spokesman said, claiming that the verdict will harm democratic values in the country.

Alleging that the court's ruling has robbed a political party of its democratic right to choose its leader, the statement said Nawaz Sharif's leadership "does not depend on a designation or rank".

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1390882/this-verdict-did-nothing-but-reinforce-nawaz-sharifs-narrative-maryam-spurns-sc-ruling

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Church praised for carrying forward govt’s initiative

February 22, 2018

LAHORE - The Diocese of Raiwind-Church of Pakistan carried forward the initiative of the government, Paigham-e-Pakistan.

The government on January 16 launched the national narrative on extremism and terrorism titled “Paigham-e-Pakistan”, rejecting terrorism, extremism, sectarian hatred and use of force to impose Shariah in the Country.

The peace building department of Diocese of Raiwind gathered a total of 23 religious scholars and influential leaders from Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh faith communities. A diverse group was constituted of leaders from Barelvi and Deobandi school of thought. The Christians were from Catholic, Protestant and other denominations. A three-day training was organized in Murree on the theme of Paigham-e-Pakistan.

Noman Sajjad, the coordinator and organizer of the event, said, “It is imperative to engage religious leaders from different faiths who can influence people at the grassroots level. The main focus was on creating awareness and mobilize communities for their positive contributions for a tolerant and peaceful society. Religious leaders as key actors of the society have an important role for promotion of tolerance and peaceful co-existence as people follow them and get inspiration in their lives.”

The training was divided into different sessions which were led by Rev. Emanuel Khokhar and Rev. Samuel Nawab from Raiwind Diocese, Mr. Ali Tariq from IIU, Mr. Munir Ahmed from QaU and Mr. Amir Hussain from Jamia Naeemia. An action plan was formulated by Noman Sajjad in order to highlight the role of religious leaders in creating peaceful environment and practical steps for eliminating extremism in the country and secondly, promoting a softer image to the world.

The religious leaders were given line of action to use pulpit of the mosque, church , Hindu and Sikh temple for generating feelings of welfare among the people and guide their followers to treat others with respect and dignity.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/22-Feb-2018/church-praised-for-carrying-forward-govt-s-initiative

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Mideast

 

Three Sufi protesters killed hours after being shot by Iranian forces

21 February 2018

Iranian sources reported on Tuesday the death of three Gonabadi Sufis in the hospital hours after being shot in clashes with Iranian security forces north of the capital Tehran.

The site "Zaytoun" reported that the Iranian police forces have transferred three Gonabadi Sufis on Monday evening to the hospital in Tehran and were reported dead on Tuesday night as their injuries were fatal.

Monday evening witnessed intense clashes between protesters and the security forces in the Iranian capital Tehran, which lasted until Tuesday morning, killing at least five security men, wounding dozens from both sides and leading to the arrest of hundreds of protesters.

The official Iranian news agency Irna quoted a police spokesman as saying that three policemen and two Basij militia were killed during the clashes, and 300 Gonabadi Sufis were arrested.

A video posted on social networking sites in Iran showed a speeding bus trampling a number of policemen during the clashes. Police sources claim that the driver is a Gonabadi Sufi called Mohammed Thalith, which is denied by the Sufis.

The Sufi protests began after the arrest of a person named Nematollah Riahi about two weeks ago during violence in northern Tehran, where the Sufis gathered outside the house of their guide, "Nurallah Tabenda", following reports that the security forces intend to arrest him.

This occured although Tehran police chief Hussein Rahimi announced that "There is no intention to go after the Gonabadi Sufis in Tehran."

In the last two decades, Gonabadi Sufis have been subjected to security pursuits throughout Iran, with several arrested and facing charges.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/02/21/-Three-Sufis-dead-after-being-shot-by-Iranian-security.html

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Saudi warplanes pound Yemen's Sa’ada, kill at least 15 people

Feb 21, 2018

Saudi fighter jets have bombed Yemen’s northern province of Sa’ada, leaving at least 15 people dead and several others wounded.

Residents reported that the Saudi airstrike hit two cars transporting passengers and a truck on a main road south of the Sa’ada provincial capital on Wednesday.

They added that the blasts caused damage to the main road linking the capital Sana’a and Sa’ada.

At least 13,600 people have lost their lives since the onset of Saudi Arabia’s military campaign against Yemen in 2015, which is meant to reinstall the country’s former Riyadh-friendly government and crush its popular Houthi Ansarullah movement.

Much of the Arabian Peninsula country’s infrastructure, including hospitals, schools and factories, has been reduced to rubble due to the war.

The Saudi-led war has also triggered a deadly cholera epidemic across Yemen and pushed the country to the verge of famine.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/21/553172/Saudi-airstrike-Saada-Yemen

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Those helping Syria Kurds in Afrin ‘legitimate target’: Turkey

Feb 21, 2018

Turkey has repeated its warnings about an escalation of tension in Syria’s northern region of Afrin, where it has been attacking the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), saying any group coming to the help of the Kurds in the region would be considered a “legitimate target” for the Turkish military.

Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Wednesday that any force in Afrin, including the Syrian government, would be targeted by Turkish troops if they assist the YPG, the main Kurdish militant group in the region.

“Every step taken in support for the YPG terror organization would mean (any forces intervening on the Kurdish militants' side) are on the same level as terror organizations. And for us, that would make them legitimate targets,” said Kalin, adding, “It doesn't matter who makes such an attempt, there will be serious consequences.”

For more than a month, Turkey has been launching attacks on the YPG in Afrin. The campaign, designated as illegal by the Syrian government, has met growing criticism even among Turkey’s allies, including the United States, which backs the YPG and other anti-government forces in northern Syria. Ankara justifies its aggression as a form of self-defense. Turkey views the YPG as an arm of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group, which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region since 1984. The remarks by the Turkish spokesman came a day after Syrian pro-government forces entered Afrin with the aim of repelling the Turkish military intervention.

Syria’s official news agency, SANA, said Monday the forces intended to enter Afrin to "join the resistance against the Turkish aggression."

The Turkish army on Tuesday attacked pro-Syrian government forces that had arrived in Afrin.

Kalin said the fire targeting the Syrian forces was "warning shots,” warning that Ankara would continue to attack Syrian forces if they again support the Kurds.

“Today, tomorrow could they attempt this again? It's possible. But the relevant measures have been taken,” he said.

The official added, however, that Turkish and Syrian intelligence forces could get in touch through "direct or indirect" methods to minimize the escalation of violence in northern Syria.

Turkey has warned that it would fire at any forces seeking to repel the Afrin offensive.

Turkey has been waging “Operation Olive Branch” against Syria’s Afrin since January 20 in a bid to eliminate the YPG.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/21/553124/Turkey-Syria-Afrin-operation

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Turkey and Iran face off in a new battle in Syria

By Ishaan Tharoor

February 21, 2018

Syria's messy war is becoming even messier. On Tuesday, pro-regime militias reportedly moved into the embattled enclave of Afrin, which is under siege from Turkish forces who invaded Syria last month. The regime units appeared to be reinforcing Syrian Kurdish factions that have controlled the area near the Turkish border, much to the frustration of Ankara.

As I wrote during the early days of the Turkish incursion, the battles in Afrin risk a wider conflagration. The main Syrian Kurdish armed group, known as the YPG, is seen by Turkey as a direct proxy of the outlawed Kurdistan Worker's Party, or PKK, which operates inside Turkey and is considered a terrorist organization by Ankara and Washington. But the United States supports the YPG, depending on its fighters to help combat the jihadist Islamic State. Washington's complicated role in the war — as well as its decision to avoid becoming deeply involved in the clashes in Afrin — compelled the Syrian Kurdish militias to turn to President Bashar al-Assad for help.

“The Syrian government responded to the call of duty and sent military units on Tuesday, and they will be positioned along the border and take part in defending the unity and border of the Syrian territory,” YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud told reporters Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would begin a heavy assault on the city center of Afrin in coming days. He described the Syrian government's move as the work of “terrorists” and claimed Turkish artillery had driven the pro-Assad forces back. Syrian sources claim that the barrage only briefly stalled the advance of the pro-Assad forces.

The convoy's arrival is yet another geopolitical twist in a war that is growing ever more complicated. The pro-Assad militias that supposedly came to the Syrian Kurds' rescue probably had another set of allegiances: “The fighters arriving ... appeared to be from a network of Iran-backed units that have often bolstered the efforts of Assad’s military,” my colleague Louisa Loveluck reported.

If that is the case, we are seeing Turkey and its rebel allies potentially squaring off against pro-Assad militias that are linked to Iran and are operating in tandem with Syrian Kurdish units friendly with the United States — which opposes both the Assad government and Iran's presence in Syria. It is the sort of bewildering entanglement that characterizes the ruinous seven-year conflict, its constellation of warring parties and their tangled sets of interests.

From the Iranian perspective, the Turkish operation in Afrin was unwelcome. Iranian leaders, including President Hassan Rouhani, denounced the invasion, which soured recent talks held between Russia, Turkey and Iran over Syria's political future. According to the Middle East affairs website Al-Monitor, Iranian officials have pressed their Turkish counterparts to avoid a messy war of attrition in Syria.

“Turkey hoped that it would move into Afrin and its ... partners would look the other way. Ankara thought it got its wish when Russia, which controls the skies over Afrin, finally gave the green light to the Turkish military incursion into the Kurdish enclave,” wrote Gonul Tol, a fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington. “But the recent developments on the ground suggest the way forward might not be as smooth and the partnership with Russia and Iran might not be as strong as Ankara had hoped.”

Outside Afrin, the Syrian chessboard is no less crowded. Rebel Islamist groups in nearby Idlib province are battling each other while also partnering with Turkish forces against the Syrian regime and its allies. The American air war in Syria, primarily directed at the Islamic State, has also led to the deaths of Russian mercenaries. The Assad government, with Russian support, continues to mercilessly pound rebel-held areas. And Israel, alarmed at Iran's entrenched presence in Syria, recently carried out airstrikes on suspected Iranian positions. Israeli officials openly talk about the prospect of entering a more intense regional war.

The hard reality for Ankara is that Turkey has few good options. Rising anti-American sentiment in Turkey, combined with U.S. support for the YPG, has placed the United States somewhat at odds with its NATO ally. No one else looks poised to step in. “Neither Russia nor Iran — both of whom Turkish politicians sometimes tout as potential replacements for the United States — seem terribly eager to accommodate Turkish interests,” wrote Nicholas Danforth, a Turkey expert at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington.

Indeed, there is a growing chorus in Washington to stop accommodating Ankara's agenda. “Nobody wants a violent rupture with Turkey,” wrote Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. “But seven years into the catastrophic Syrian war, observers need to admit some ground truths: The Turks allowed thousands of foreign radical Islamists to flow into Syria and create bases from which they threatened Europe and the United States; these terrorists would still be in their capital of Raqqa, planning attacks, if the United States hadn’t partnered with the Kurdish-led ... militia that Turkey hates so much.”

For the Americans, too, a tough road lies ahead. “Washington’s ability to shape developments in regime-held Syria is admittedly weak,” wrote Mona Yacoubian, a senior policy scholar at the United States Institute of Peace. “While Assad remains in power, perhaps the best the United States can hope for is to keep countering the regime’s egregious behavior without further inflaming the conflict.”

Full report at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2018/02/21/turkey-and-iran-face-off-in-a-new-battle-in-syria/?utm_term=.9501af2e1fd1

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Iran: US Reviving Terrorist Groups in Region, North Africa

Feb 21, 2018

"The US national security strategy and nuclear doctrine in the new era is a serious threat to global peace and violates the UN Charter, and all deterrent measures are required to prevent this madness," Shamkhani said at a meeting with Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Sigrid Kaag in Tehran on Wednesday.

He underlined that the ISIL terrorist group has been annihilated in West Asia through extensive cooperation and coordination between Iran, Syria, Iraq and Russia, and said, "Extensive evidence indicates the US relentless attempts to revive the armed terrorist groups in the region and North Africa which shows that the country doesn’t attach any importance to global security."

Elsewhere, he underscored the necessity for the EU to act on the crisis in Yemen and stop the cruel massacre of the Yemeni people by Saudi Arabia, and said, "Silence on al-Saud's regretting crimes against the defenseless Yemeni women and children is collaboration in genocide and destruction of the poor country's resources and infrastructures."

In relevant remarks earlier this month, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani warned that the US had transferred the ISIL terrorists from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan to create new problems for Iran.

"The US has transferred the ISIL from Iraq to Afghanistan to cause problems in Iran again but the Iranian nation will foil all these plots with the guidelines of Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution (Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei)," Larijani said.

He downplayed the plots hatched by US President Donald Trump and his accomplices to create changes in Iran, and said, "They utter cheap words on Iran's missile industry."

Also, late in January, Ayatollah Khamenei expressed deep regret over the massacre of the Afghan people in the recent terrorist attacks, blaming the US for the tragedies by transferring the ISIL terrorists to Afghanistan to guarantee its presence in the region.

"The US goal of transferring the ISIL terrorists to Afghanistan is justification of its continued deployment in the region and establishment of security for the Zionist regime," Ayatollah Khamenei said, addressing the Iranian seminaries in Tehran.

"The same hands which used the ISIL as a tool to oppress and commit crimes against the people in Syria and Iraq by its creation, is today after transferring the ISIL to Afghanistan after sustaining defeat in those regions, and the recent massacres are actually the start of this plot," he added.

Ayatollah Khamenei said that the US-backed terrorists don’t differentiate between the Shiites and Sunnis, and added, "The US wants this region not to see good days and wants the regional governments and nations to be busy with their own affairs so that they don’t think of opposing the evil agent of arrogant powers, that is Zionism."

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961202001395

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Yemeni forces seize Houthi-controlled posts in Lahij

21 February 2018

The Yemeni army aided by the Arab coalition’s air force seized posts that the Houthi militia had controlled in the Al-Qabbaytah District, north of Lahij.

Army forces advanced west of Al-Qabbaytah District following violent clashes with the Houthi militias which were deterred from several posts.

A source said the army seized control of most mountainous areas surrounding the areas of Moujar, Soubeih and Wadi al-Khamis, adding that there will still violent battles towards Souq al-Khamees.

At least 10 Houthi fighters were killed, the source added.

The army also continued to advance towards the strategic Al-Rakiza Mountain in west Al-Qabbaytah District where militias are stationed.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/02/21/Yemeni-forces-seize-Houthi-controlled-posts-in-Lahij.html

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Rouhani urges end to Yemen war, efforts to restart national dialog

Feb 21, 2018

President Hassan Rouhani has urged Saudi Arabia and its allies to stop their “blame game” against Iran over Yemen’s crisis, saying efforts should instead be driven towards ending the deadly war on the impoverished nation and pave the way for intra-Yemeni dialog.

Rouhani made the remarks on Wednesday in a meeting with Dutch Acting Minister of Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag, who had arrived in Tehran a day earlier for talks with Iranian officials.

He rejected the accusations against Iran of missile shipment to Yemen as “completely wrong and baseless,” saying such claims do not serve to resolve the standing problems.

Instead of fabricating such accusations, efforts should be made to immediately end the war on Yemen, establish a ceasefire there, provide humanitarian assistance to violence-stricken people, and finally pave the ground for intra-Yemeni talks, Rouhani said.

Rouhani also drew attention to the large-scale sales of destructive arms by Western states to regional countries, saying the military equipment, including warplanes and missiles, are being used against innocent civilians.

‘Iran won’t initiate JCPOA violation’

Elsewhere in his comments, Rouhani touched on the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers.

“One cannot add something to the JCPOA or distract something from it,” Rouhani said, referring by abbreviation to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the official name of the nuclear deal.

The United States under President Donald Trump has been untiringly trying to sabotage the accord, and has threatened to leave it or have it renegotiated.

Rouhani said as long as the other parties commit to their obligations under the deal, “The Islamic Republic will do its utmost to preserve the agreement, and will, undoubtely, not be the party initiating its violation among the seven countries.”

Iranian-Dutch ties

The president also said there were “extensive capacities” for the development of Iran and the Netherland’s cooperation. The current trade volume stands at around €1 billion, which has to increase, he added.

The Islamic Republic, he said, welcomes the participation of Dutch companies in projects in different areas.

He emphasized the need for the Dutch government to encourage the country’s banking sector to establish stronger ties with its Iranian counterpart.

Kaag, for her part, pointed to the European Union’s continued commitment to the JCPOA, and the role the agreement played in the development of bilateral relations.

She stressed the need for the continuation of talks between Tehran and the bloc towards further trust-building in areas of common interest.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/21/553114/Iran-Yemen-Netherlands-Rouhani-Kaag-nuclear

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Africa

 

Towards A Royal Academy for Imams and Preachers, With a Global Scope

Feb 22, 2018

What passed unnoticed when the Tawjihi results were announced on Saturday is the fact that the number of regular Sharia students who sat the national test was just 46, compared, for example, with around 39,000 in the literary stream, apart from home-study students.

This is a shocking fact in a country that has been spearheading the Islamic world's drive to clarify the truth about Islam through a series of initiatives, including the landmark Amman Message of 2004.

There are more than 7,000 mosques in Jordan, along with around 3,000 Quranic after-school centres, with a shortage in imams estimated last year at 3,500. And among those who take the pulpits for Friday sermons, there is a significant number who do not reflect the spirit of Amman Message and still promote a message of isolationism, rejection of others and, to various degrees, extremism.

There have been attempts to address the problem, but looking at the results on the ground, they have proved futile and some of these plans have been shallow and lacking vision. We cannot, for example, raise the minimum Tawjihi average for admission to Sharia faculties to 80 per cent, like what happened last year. Simply, no student, except very few, would be interested when their average allows them to study engineering, for example.

Social prestige, good financial compensation and incentives are key words if we seek a plan that would encourage excelling school leavers to join a programme to prepare imams and preachers, not only to fill the vacancies locally, but also to serve as ambassadors of Jordan and true Islam in other countries across the globe to preach the values of Amman Message.

A Royal academy, if planned well and run by the right people, could make a huge difference, taking into consideration that it should be attractive enough to lure students to take this career path. For a start, study at the college, which is supposed to offer a four-year major, should be totally free of charge for students who achieve, say, above 90 per cent in Tawjihi. A monthly allowance as pocket money and dormitories for students coming from remote areas would add to the appeal of the idea. In return, candidates should be aware that they cannot graduate without mastering English and another language of choice, in partnership with international language centres. It could also be easy to arrange for seniors to spend a year in a Muslim community somewhere in the world, depending on the language he has learnt.

After graduation, the imams should do one year of work under the direct supervision of the academy's staff and if they prove qualified enough to represent Jordan, they could be sent on secondments to Muslim communities abroad, where exposure to other cultures, including non-Muslim, is prone to change their perspectives of life and render them universal citizens more apt to accept others. Let alone that they will be making enough money to lead a decent life and build families when they return home to lead congregations.

In the final outcome, these ambassadors will be an integral part of the leadership model Jordan has exhibited over the past decades.

http://www.jordantimes.com/opinion/mahmoud-al-abed/towards-royal-academy-imams-and-preachers-global-scope

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Nigerians stage rally to call for release of Zakzaky

Feb 21, 2018

Supporters of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria have staged yet another protest to demand the release of their leader Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky.

Press TV Correspondent Danjuma Abdullahi has covered the protest and reports from Abuja, the Nigerian capital.

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/21/553181/Nigeria-Islamic-Movement-Sheikh-Ibrahim-Zakzaky

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Three Christians shot dead by suspected Al Shabaab militants in Kenyan primary school

21 Feb 2018

Three Christians were shot dead by suspected members of the Islamic extremist group Al Shabaab in north-east Kenya last Friday, according to Morning Star News.

Sources told Morning Star News that two Christian teachers and the wife of one of them were killed after being targeted by suspected terrorists from the Somali rebel group who broke into the staff sleeping quarters at the Qarsa Primary School in Somali Wajir, some 100 miles from the Somali border.

It is not clear that the victims were targeted because they were Christians and Morning Star News reported that they may have been killed because they were not local.

But after killing Seth Oluoch Odada, his wife Caroline and another teacher, Kevin Shari, one of the assailants reportedly said in the Somali language, 'These infidels [non-Muslims] should be wiped out,' a teacher who survived the attack told a worker at Wajir Referral Hospital, with the worker recounting this to Morning Star News.

The pastor of a local church, un-named for security reasons, told Morning Star News that Odada and his wife attended his church. It was not known if Shari belonged to a church.

The pastor said: 'We are very concerned about this selective kind of attack on non-locals who are also Christians in this region. Our other church members are not safe. Many of the church members, including teachers, have started fleeing the area to their home villages, and some did not attend the church for the Sunday service.'

The victims' bodies have been transferred to Chiromo Mortuary in Nairobi.

The hospital worker said that after shooting the couple, one of the assailants entered the house Shari shared with the surviving teacher and shot at Shari, with the same bullet striking the hand of the survivor, who fell down and pretended to be dead. The injured man reportedly said that the shooter wore a mask typical of Al Shabaab militants.

The area pastor said that there is a belief in the area that local people have joined Al Shabaab.

'I think these are the people who killed the three Christians,' he said.

According to Morning Star News, Wajir is becoming increasingly dangerous for Christians since Al Shabaab militants appear to have shifted from Mandera, where they carried out attacks in the past few years before the government recently erected a 10-kilometre wall on its border.

Fear has gripped Christians in Wajir, the pastor said.

Meanwhile, in Garissa, about 200 miles south of Wajir and also near the Somali border, Al Shabaab has also been active, with the pastors' fellowship in Garissa reporting that several members did not appear for Sunday services.

'We as the pastors fellowship do register our concern to the government to protect Christians living in this volatile north-eastern country,' the chairman of the fellowship said.

Rebels from Al Shabaab, which is linked to Al Qaeda, have launched several attacks in north-east Kenya since Kenyan forces led an African coalition into Somalia against the rebels in October 2011 in response to terrorist attacks on tourists and others on Kenya's coast, Morning Star News reported.

The Islamic extremist militants have also recently attacked in Kenya's coastal area, killing four Christians on September 6 last year.

Full report at:

https://www.christiantoday.com/article/three-christians-shot-dead-by-suspected-al-shabaab-militants-in-kenyan-primary-school/126136.htm

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Boko Haram attack kills 6 in northern Cameroon

21.02.2018

At least six people were killed and five others injured in a Boko Haram attack in Cameroon's Far North Region on Tuesday night, an administrative source said.

Raymond Rouksbo, the prefect of the Mayo Tsanaga department, told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday that the attack occurred at around 9 p.m. (2000GMT) in the Salamassali village near the Nigerian border.

"At least six people were killed and five others injured according to initial reports," he said, adding that the militant group also burned several houses "before retreating to neighboring Nigeria."

This is the first major Boko Haram attack in Cameroon since the beginning of February.

"Boko Haram’s silence for a few weeks does not mean we have to let our guard down. Our soldiers and population must remain on alert until the end of the war."

"Any suspicious person or movement must be reported to the security forces," Midjiyawa Bakari, governor of the region said.

More than 20,000 people have been killed in the Lake Chad Region since the start of the Boko Haram attacks in 2009.

Full report at:

http://aa.com.tr/en/africa/boko-haram-attack-kills-6-in-northern-cameroon/1069493

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Three militiamen killed in Libya car bomb attack

21 February 2018

BENGHAZI: Three militiamen from forces loyal to Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar were killed Wednesday in a car bomb attack in the central Waddan region, a militia spokesman said.

The blast — which was not immediately claimed by any group — wounded two others at a checkpoint on the road leading to Tripoli, some 500 kilometers (310 miles) to the north, said commander Ahmed Al-Mesmari.

Militants from Daesh remain active in central and southern Libya despite being forced out of their northern stronghold Sirte in 2016.

Libya has been gripped by chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, with rival administrations and multiple militias vying for control of the oil-rich country.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1251681/middle-east

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Tunisia's Ennahda nominates Jew for local polls

21 February 2018

Tunisia’s Islamist Ennahda movement has nominated a Jew for the country’s upcoming local election in May.

Simon Selame, 56, from the central coast city of Monastir, will run as an independent in the May 6 polls.

Selame said he has the right to join the democratic race like every Tunisian citizen.

Ennahda “is a civilian party with Islamic identity that is open to modernism," he said, adding that all Jews in Tunisia could participate in civic, social and political life as Tunisian citizens.

Selame said he was born and raised in Monastir, where “synagogue, church and mosque stay together."

“Even though children of the town have different religions, our citizenship brings us together,” he said.

If he emerges successful in the polls, Selame said he would seek to encourage the Jewish community to participate in the upcoming parliamentary election.

“I am sure that I would join the polls as an independent candidate from the Ennahda Movement. If a party other than Ennahda came to me with this offer, that would not be the answer,” he said.

“I would not regret this experience, because Tunisia's future is above everything.”

There are about 1,500 Jews living in Tunisia, particularly around Djerba Island in the south of the country.

The local polls in May will be the first since a popular uprising unseated autocrat Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/africa/199071/tunisias-ennahda-nominates-jew-for-local-polls

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Explosion kills 3 in central Libya

21 February 2018

An explosion killed three troops loyal to East Libya-based military commander Khalifa Haftar in central Libya on Wednesday, according to a local official.

Another soldier was injured in the blast that targeted a security checkpoint in Waddan town of Al-Jufra city, Fouad Mahdi Rashid, a member of the Al-Jufra municipal council said.

Rashid suggested that the explosion might have been caused by a car-bomb.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

In August, at least 12 soldiers loyal to Haftar, whose forces control large swathes of eastern and southern Libya, were killed in an attack claimed by ISIL terrorist group in Houn town in Al-Jufra.

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/africa/199064/explosion-kills-3-in-central-libya

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Southeast Asia

 

Human rights still under threat in Malaysia, says Amnesty

February 22, 2018

PETALING JAYA: The local chapter of human rights group Amnesty International today hit out at what it called an alarming trend of the government cracking down on dissent.

Amnesty International Malaysia interim executive director Gwen Lee said the authorities’ continuous crackdown on critics and dissent saw human rights issues continuing to suffer in the country.

“Malaysia’s relentless crackdown on freedom of expression, arbitrary travel bans and violations of indigenous people’s rights are some of the major concerns raised in the Amnesty International Report.

“Restrictive laws like the Sedition Act 1948 and the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 continue to be used to harass, detain and prosecute government critics in an effort to silence them,” she said during the release of the 2016/17 report, “The State of the World’s Human Rights”.

She said the Court of Appeal ruled in July last year that the government had absolute discretion to bar any citizen from travelling abroad without needing to provide a reason.

“This ruling allows for continued violations of the right to freedom of movement, including for cartoonist Zunar and activist Hishamuddin Rais.”

Zunar, whose real name is Zulkiflee SM Anwar Ulhaque, was barred from flying to Singapore to attend a forum there in October 2016.

Last November, he failed in his attempt to have his travel ban revoked by the High Court. He is now attempting to challenge the validity of the immigration law in the Federal Court.

Lee said the report also highlighted the crackdown on the rights of association and assembly.

She pointed to Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah and the coalition’s secretariat member Mandeep Singh, whom she said were targeted in October last year for organising the #KitaLawan rally despite their previous charges being dismissed in court.

Likewise, Amnesty International’s report also noted the increased attacks on indigenous people’s rights, she added.

“In January 2017, 21 indigenous human rights defenders in Kelantan were detained along with two journalists. The rights of these people remain under threat due to the logging activities which continue without the free, prior and informed consent of the communities.”

In August last year, she added, another 11 individuals were arrested in Perak for peacefully protesting against a logging company.

Lee said the report also focused on arbitrary arrests and detention, the death penalty, deaths in custody and the continued discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Malaysia.

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2018/02/22/human-rights-still-under-threat-in-malaysia-says-amnesty/

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MUI Calls on National Police to Explain Mounting Attacks on Religious Leaders

February 22, 2018

Jakarta. Din Syamsuddin, chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council, or MUI, Advisory Board, said on Wednesday (21/02) that recent incidents against religious leaders and places of worship in the country are "systematic" attacks and called on the National Police to conduct a thorough investigation into the matter.

"We’ve concluded that these incidents did not take place in a vacuum, but rather as part of something manufactured and systematic," Din said during a press conference in Jakarta.

MUI cited a series of violent attacks on priests, monks and Muslim clerics, as well as places of worship, across Indonesia since December and expressed concerns over what appears to be mounting incidents.

Earlier this month, a sword-wielding assailant attacked the Saint Lidwina Catholic church in Yogyakarta, injuring four, including a priest and a policeman.

Last week, a Muslim ulema was beaten in an attack in Lamongan, East Java.

Reports on the increasing violent attacks from local media claimed the attackers suffer from mental disorders.

On Wednesday, the MUI Advisory Board held a meeting with the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) and the National Police’s Criminal Investigation Unit (Bareskrim) to discuss the issue.

Bareskrim chief Comr. Gen. Ari Dono Sukmanto said his unit recorded 21 incidents against religious leaders and places of worship between December and February, most of which took place in West Java.

"We are still conducting investigations … we [the police] must not conclude right away that the perpetrators are mentally ill, only medical experts can conclude such things," Ari told reporters after the meeting.

According to Ari, National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian has urged his subordinates not to comment on an individual's mental health but instead to let experts determine such diagnoses so as to avoid public misinterpretation.

"Public order police conducts patrols and if they find an individual suspected of suffering from a mental disorder, he will be taken for an examination," Ari explained.

He added that it’s still too early to conclude that the incidents were premeditated.

Full report at:

http://jakartaglobe.id/news/mui-calls-national-police-explain-mounting-attacks-religious-leaders/

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Group holds Filipinos seeking to set up extremist cell

21.02.2018

Ten suspected Islamic militants who were trying to establish a Malaysian cell of a Philippine kidnap-for-ransom group have been arrested in Borneo island, police said Wednesday.

The alleged extremists, mostly Filipinos, are also accused of trying to help fighters linked to the Islamic State (IS) group travel to the Philippines to join up with militants there, they said.

The southern Philippines has long been a pocket of Islamic militancy in the largely Catholic country. A long siege in Marawi, the country's main Muslim centre, sparked fears IS was seeking to establish a foothold in the region.

Malaysian police made the arrests in January and early February in Sabah state on the Malaysian part of Borneo, not far from the southern Philippines. Borneo is a vast island shared between Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.

Seven of those detained were Filipinos, including several senior members of Philippine extremist group Abu Sayyaf which has been behind the kidnappings of numerous foreigners, Malaysian national police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun said in a statement.

"Early information obtained from the 10 suspects caught in Sabah revealed an attempt by the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group to set up a cell in Sabah," he said.

One of those arrested was a 39-year-old believed to have received orders from a senior militant leader in the southern Philippines to bring IS members from the city of Sandakan in Sabah to join militant groups.

Another suspect was a 27-year-old identified as a senior member of the Abu Sayyaf leadership based in the Philippines.

The other three detained were Malaysians, police said. Officials did not disclose the suspects' identities.

Malaysia has rounded up numerous suspected militants in recent times as fears grow that the influence of the IS group could encourage extremists to launch attacks in the Muslim-majority country.

Abu Sayyaf, originally a loose network of militants formed in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network, has splintered into factions, with some continuing to engage in banditry and kidnappings.

Full report at:

http://www.pulselive.co.ke/news/world/malaysia-holds-filipinos-seeking-to-set-up-extremist-cell-id8014850.html

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In Geneva, UN committee tells Malaysia to eliminate FGM

February 21, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 21 — The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw) committee has urged Putrajaya to eliminate the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM).

Representatives from Muslim-majority countries criticised Malaysia yesterday for allowing the practice of FGM, even when it is no longer considered to be in line with Islamic teachings.

Naéla Gabr from Egypt had told Putrajaya that FGM is an African tradition and is not Islamic, and even then it is no longer practised in many African countries and other Muslim-majority countries such as Saudi Arabia and Algeria.

The Malaysian delegate had pointed out Malaysia follows the Shafie school of Islamic jurisprudence, and that FGM is obligatory under a 2009 decision by the national fatwa committee unless it brings harm to the girl.

A representative from the Health Ministry had also claimed that FGM is safe and only medical professionals perform the procedure, while comparing it immunisation programmes for female babies.

“FGM is not compatible with islam. We both practice the Sunni denomination and Shafie school. Malaysia must revisit the fatwa and must look at examples from other Muslim majority countries,” Gabr had replied.

“There are six members on this committee from OIC countries — all our countries are not practising FGM and it is against the law in Egypt. So reconsider this practice in Malaysia as it has nothing to do with religion,” she added, referring to the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation.

Representative Ismat Jahan from Muslim-majority Bangladesh had similarly expressed concern over the practice of FGM in Malaysia which she said is not an Islamic tradition, and had called for its abolition.

Other representatives of OIC members in the committee were from Lebanon, Turkey, Algeria, and Mauritania.

The dialogue was broadcast live through internet streaming on UN’s website.

In Malaysia, the most prevalent form of FGM among Muslims is Type I, where midwives or doctors remove the clitoral hood of women, usually when they are still infants or children.

Some practise Type IV, a ritual form which included pricking or nicking of the genitals.

Countries party to Cedaw are obliged to send regular status reports on the implementation of the treaty, to be reviewed by a committee of experts which will engage in dialogue with government representatives.

Full report at:

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/in-geneva-un-committee-tells-malaysia-to-eliminate-fgm#9Vs0dWMuU7GQ9MAY.97

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Philippines wants court to declare communist groups terrorists

Feb 21, 2018

Justice officials have asked a court to formally designate the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People's Army, as terrorist groups in a move that could further damage chances of a resumption of stalled peace talks.

In a petition before a Manila regional court on Wednesday, the Department of Justice cited deadly attacks and violence committed by the insurgents, including bloody internal purges of suspected military spies, in seeking the proscription of the groups behind one of Asia's longest-raging communist insurgency.

President Rodrigo Duterte resumed peace talks with the guerrillas after he rose to power in 2016. He granted concessions by appointing three left-wing activists to his Cabinet, but the cordial relations rapidly deteriorated when he protested continuing rebel assaults on troops and policemen.

Last year, he canceled Norwegian-brokered talks with the guerrillas and signed an order declaring the rebel groups as terrorist organizations in a prelude to his government's formal move on Wednesday.

Senior assistant state prosecutor Peter Ong said the guerrillas were insincere in their talks with the government and only wanted to grab power.

"Their main purpose is to mobilize all their forces in preparation for the 'people's war' aimed at overthrowing the duly constituted authorities," according to the justice department petition, adding that the rebels wanted to impose "a totalitarian regime."

If approved by the court, the proscription could serve as a legal weapon and basis for the government in securing court clearances to put rebel leaders and fighters under surveillance and freeze their bank accounts and assets, Ong said. Companies paying the so-called "revolutionary taxes" to the rebels could be questioned even though the military said such extortion demands have been done by coercion.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/21/553137/Philippines-Communist-Party-Terrorism

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North America

 

Islamic State sympathizer pleads guilty in terrorism case

Feb 21, 2018

NEW YORK (AP) — An Albanian who became a U.S. citizen but kept an Islamic State flag in his apartment pleaded guilty to terrorism charges Wednesday.

Sajmir Alimehmeti, 24, of the Bronx, entered the plea in Manhattan federal court to an indictment alleging he provided material support to the group.

His trial had been scheduled to begin in May. He faces a potential penalty of up to 45 years in prison when he is sentenced at a proceeding scheduled for June 7.

Alimehmeti, a onetime plumbing assistant who had studied funeral services, was arrested in May 2016 on evidence assembled over eight months by two undercover New York City police officers and an undercover FBI employee posing as Islamic State group recruits.

Authorities said Alimehmeti began collecting weapons such as combat knives that could be used in a "lone-wolf" style terrorist attack.

Arresting agents reported recovering terrorist propaganda, the flag and images of jihadist fighters.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said Alimehmeti took steps to travel overseas to support the Islamic State group.

He said Alimehmeti also bought military-grade weapons and helped someone else get travel documents, equipment and encryption technology to fight with the group in Syria.

The case evolved after Alimehmeti twice was rejected trying to enter the United Kingdom after authorities saw his camouflage clothing and nunchakus at Manchester Airport in October 2014 and Islamic State flag images on his cellphone in December 2014 at Heathrow Airport.

According to court papers, Alimehmeti tried shortly before his arrest to provide advice and assistance to an undercover operative he thought was traveling from New York to Syria to train and fight with the Islamic State.

Authorities said Alimehmeti repeatedly expressed his desire to help the group, even claiming that music videos including one depicting its fighters decapitating prisoners kept him motivated while he exercised.

http://www.starherald.com/news/nation_world/islamic-state-sympathizer-pleads-guilty-in-terrorism-case/article_ea708581-0a58-58c7-956d-2d39f98c8a1f.html

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Stanley: Muslim ban has no place in America

Feb 22, 2018

President Trump, over the course of his campaign and administration, has repeatedly called for a ban on immigrants entering the country. During his campaign, he referred to it as a “Muslim ban,” and language calling for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States was present on his website as late as May 2017, when it was suddenly scrubbed from his campaign website. Since then, the administration has tried to distance itself from an explicit religious slant, but that doesn’t change the fact that serious problems, both legal and ideological, still exist with the prospect of a ban on immigration.

However, it’s also important to keep in mind that with a Republican-controlled Congress, and a slim conservative majority in the Supreme Court, legal problems can evaporate very quickly, and the landscape of immigration legislation could change greatly over the next three years.

First, let us address the legal issues present with a stay on immigration. First and foremost, 8 U.S. Code § 1152 is a 1965 federal statute that outlaws discriminating against issuing a visa based on the recipient’s “race, sex, nationality, place of birth, or place of residence,” which President Trump’s “Muslim ban” most certainly does. Courts have not shied away from enforcing this statute either. In Vo Van Chau v. U.S. Dept. of State (1995), the DC District Court forced the State Department to process Vo’s wife’s asylum application after he successfully argued that she would be irreparably harmed if they did not. The same argument can certainly be made on behalf of Muslim asylum-seekers.

Unfortunately, there is one major problem with relying on this law: it can be repealed by Congress, just like any other law. With Congress currently controlled by Republicans, repealing 8 U.S. Code § 1152 is a definite possibility. President Trump would most definitely sign any bill that nullified it. The Supreme Court may grant an injunction against such a bill, maybe taking a stand on the blatant dismantling of a law that has served well for more than 50 years now, but the only parts they could rule unconstitutional are those which prevent permanent residents and citizens from returning. That scope is far too limited.

Ideologically, what do we gain from a Muslim ban? Ironically, the best arguments against such a prohibition are laid out in an official dissent cable from the State Department itself.

The ban fosters suspicion and unease in the Muslim world, including our own Muslim community.

It openly flouts international law, while shutting the doors on heroes and activists who could make an incredible impact on our society.

It calls us back to the darkest times in our history, where we again let hatred blind us and deprived tens of thousands of American citizens of their freedom for nothing more than their ancestry.

Most importantly, it flies in the face of the foundation of our nation. Wall Street and the system of stocks that Trump has so gleefully exploited was created by none other than Alexander Hamilton, America’s greatest immigrant. Immigrants have been behind some of the most game-changing innovations the world has ever seen, from brands like Levi Strauss and Liz Claiborne, to titans like Rupert Murdoch and Google. You get the picture.

Full report at:

http://www.iowastatedaily.com/opinion/article_6a57e864-1092-11e8-a6cd-c78464f0dd6c.html

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To Help Settle Qatar Feud, U.S. Needs to Understand It

By Hussein Ibish

February 22, 2018

Last June, a quartet of staunch U.S. allies in the Middle East — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain — launched a boycott of another key U.S. partner, Qatar. President Donald Trump rushed to take the Saudi side with a tweet accusing Qatar of supporting terrorists, before eventually reversing course and positioning himself as a peacemaker.

Meanwhile, the boycott goes on, with the Trump administration caught in the middle of what Washington conventional wisdom has come to regard as a petty spat between rival desert chieftains.

The clumsy diplomatic balancing act is unlikely to succeed because it ignores what's really going on: nothing less than a struggle to reshape mainstream Arab political culture, especially regarding Islamist movements like the Muslim Brotherhood.

All five countries oppose ultra-terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and Islamic State, which seek the destruction of existing Arab and Islamic states.

But that's not the case when it comes to a network of less extreme groups affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. These organizations seek to take over, not immediately obliterate, the governing institutions of existing countries. Their revolutionary strategies are essentially Leninist, operating simultaneously above and below legal ground, and generally preferring mass political mobilization over terrorism that can alienate majorities.

Qatar supports Brotherhood groups throughout the region with money and advocacy by its vast media arsenal, which includes Al Jazeera television. Qataris argue that these are not only legitimate political parties but an indispensable alternative to radicalism, since without supposedly "moderate" Islamist groups like the Brotherhood, religious conservatives are more likely to be drawn into the orbit of violent extremists.

The Saudi-led quartet rejects this. To the contrary, they argue, these so-called "moderates" don't present an acceptable alternative to radicalism but rather pull politically-oriented fundamentalists down a path toward extremism.

The Muslim Brotherhood, they argue, shares key assumptions and long-term ambitions with overtly terrorist groups, including the goal of re-establishing a caliphate. This view holds that Brotherhood ideology is a crucial source of the logic and substance of terrorist creeds, and thus is a cause of deadly political cancer. The quartet accuses Qatar and Turkey of leading a Sunni Islamist camp that competes with both the Arab mainstream and Iran's Shiite alliance.

Qatar views the less extreme end of the Islamist ideological spectrum as legitimate and necessary, while the quartet sees the entire spectrum as intolerably dangerous.

There are many ironies at work. Some members of the quartet, particularly Saudi Arabia, have their own history of supporting intolerant versions of Islam. And Qatar couches its support of Islamists in terms of liberal values such as democracy and free speech, which it makes no pretense of practicing at home. Moreover, Qatar's monarchy doesn't embrace an Islamist ideology for itself. And its media also promote secular, revolutionary and typically leftist pan-Arab nationalism.

Qatar says it's merely providing a platform for a range of otherwise suppressed Arab voices. Its critics say it's pandering to demagogic populism of both the far left and ultra-right.

The quartet is essentially seeking to ensure that Muslim Brotherhood-style Islamism is viewed by the Arab mainstream as part of the same extremist fringe as more violent groups like al-Qaeda, and thus should be subjected to similar social stigmas and legal sanctions. Hence, they accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism and cast their boycott as a counter-terrorism initiative.

The U.S. has military bases in countries on both sides, but there's more at stake than defense commitments.

While Trump initially sided with the quartet, the Pentagon and State Department have been committed to maintaining, and even strengthening, ties with Qatar. The administration now seems to be trying to shore up cooperation with both Qatar and the quartet, and is urging a resolution of the dispute, but without addressing its underlying causes.

Qatar says it's sticking up for American-style values. The quartet accuses Qatar of being a megaphone, haven and cash machine for terrorism and extremism and, in part because of its enthusiasm for revolutionary groups, a de facto ally of Iran.

Washington has two basic options.

It could let the standoff drag on until the parties decide on their own to resolve it, and only insist that they cooperate just enough to support U.S. military assets in the Persian Gulf. This seems to be the current policy.

Or it could seek to mediate a resolution that addresses the political and ideological core of the argument. Otherwise, Qatar's adversaries are likely to continue the boycott, which they can live with much more easily than Qatar.

Full report at:

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-02-22/qatar-feud-over-terrorism-and-islam-confounds-u-s

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