New Age Islam
Wed Aug 12 2020, 09:19 AM

Islamic World News ( 27 Aug 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Forget Srinagar, Focus on Saving POK, Pak Opposition Tells Imran Khan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forget Srinagar, Focus on Saving POK, Pak Opposition Tells Imran Khan

Cancellation Of 23 Firs: Notice to Ministry, Counter Terrorism Department on Hafiz Saeed’s Plea

Kashmir Lockdown: Hizb Posters in Pulwama Ask People to Unite Against Abrogation Of Article 370

Sri Lanka Urged To Tackle 'Hate Propaganda' Against Muslims

Minister: Jakim Forwarded 5,000 Complaints over Insults against Prophet Muhammad, Islam to Police, MCMC

Some Islamic Scholars from Saudi Arabia and Their Nigerian Counterparts Have Debunked Insinuations That Islam Breeds Terrorism

Shia Group: U.S. Military and Civilian Bases In Iraq Have Become Legitimate Targets For Us

Take Them Back! Donald Trump Presses Merkel To Accept Captured ISIS Fighters Claiming They're Mostly From Germany, UK, France And Other European Nations

 

Pakistan

Forget Srinagar, Focus on Saving POK, Pak Opposition Tells Imran Khan

Cancellation Of 23 Firs: Notice to Ministry, Counter Terrorism Department on Hafiz Saeed’s Plea

No Bargain over Kashmir Issue Acceptable, Says Jamiat Ulema-I-Islam-Fazl Leader

PM terms ties with China ‘anchor for regional stability’

Full airspace closure for India, ban on land routes for Indo-Afghan trade under consideration

Tribal people finally get representation in KP Assembly

Chinese general calls on PM Imran, reaffirms full support at ‘crucial juncture’

Lodhi raises Kashmir issue with UNGA president

PM Imran briefs MBS on IOK situation

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India

Kashmir Lockdown: Hizb Posters in Pulwama Ask People to Unite Against Abrogation Of Article 370

Hindu Body Admits Babur Had Endowed Land for Mosque in Ayodhya

Rahul Gandhi Slams Pakistan over Violence in Kashmir, Says J&K Internal Matter

Terrorist Arrested In Jammu and Kashmir from Baramulla Check Post

RSS Blames 'Untouchability' On Islam, And Accused the British Of Coining The Term 'Dalit', BJP Ally Unhappy

SC To Examine Legal Challenge To Abrogation Of Article 370; Refers Matter To 5-Judge Constitution Bench

Pakistan violates ceasefire along LoC in Jammu and Kashmir's Poonch

J&K denies Shah Faesal held in illegal custody, opposes his study claim

Imran Khan Mulling Full Airspace Closure, Trade Route Ban For India, Tweets Pakistan Minister

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South Asia

Sri Lanka Urged To Tackle 'Hate Propaganda' Against Muslims

Taliban Positive on Peace Deal with Washington

Over 3 Dozen Militants Killed In N. Afghanistan

Afghanistan seeks UN intervention over Pak military violations

TIKA volunteers reach out Rohingya in Bangladesh

15 Taliban and ISIS militants killed, detained in Afghan Special Forces operations

Airstrike kills 6 militants of ISIS Khurasan in Nangarhar province

8 Taliban militants killed, wounded an airstrike in Faryab province

U.S. airstrikes kill, wound 19 Taliban militants in Ghazni and Paktika

Taliban kill 14 people after storming checkpoint in western Afghanistan

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Southeast Asia

Minister: Jakim Forwarded 5,000 Complaints over Insults against Prophet Muhammad, Islam to Police, MCMC

Marina Mahathir: SIS Court Ruling Means Shariah Law Applicable To All Companies With Muslim Directors

IGP blames Opposition for destabilising Pakatan govt amid rising race, religious tension

Syed Saddiq and Anwar caved in on Zakir Naik, says MCA

Malaysia ex-PM Najib's biggest 1MDB trial begins

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Africa

Some Islamic Scholars from Saudi Arabia and Their Nigerian Counterparts Have Debunked Insinuations That Islam Breeds Terrorism

US to keep up pressure on Sudan as it discusses lifting sanctions: Official

Sudanese activists say tribal clashes killed 37 in port city

Aid groups warn against Kenya's UN bid to sanction Al-Shabaab

Al-Shabaab commander captured hours after death of KDF's most wanted terrorist

Aid groups warn against Kenya's UN bid to sanction Al Shabab

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North America

Shia Group: U.S. Military and Civilian Bases In Iraq Have Become Legitimate Targets For Us

Creating a ‘Domestic Terrorism’ Charge Would Actually Hurt Communities of Color

Justice Department to seek death penalty against Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect

Taken by ISIS: One American Father’s Harrowing Journey to Get His Kids Back from the Caliphate

Muslim men sue L.A. Sheriff’s Department, alleging religious discrimination in jail

Muslim Officers in New York Suspended For Refusing to Shave Beard Reinstated

US seeks to enter into direct talks with Yemen’s Houthis: Report

Palestinian Harvard student 'denied entry to US because of friends' social media posts'

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Europe

Take Them Back! Donald Trump Presses Merkel To Accept Captured ISIS Fighters Claiming They're Mostly From Germany, UK, France And Other European Nations

Austria to repatriate orphan children of female ISIS adherent from Syria

UK supporting family of British-Iranian dual national sentenced to jail in Iran

Iran journalist flees Zarif delegation to stay in Sweden

Russia offers Turkey to send astronaut to space station

Family of British-Iranian man jailed in Iran calls charges laughable

Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan agree on military push in Syria's Idlib

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Arab World

Hunt For Iraqi IS Leaders Continues Amid Heightened Secrecy

Syria’s Idlib Clashes Kill At Least 60 Fighters

Air strikes kill 12 civilians in north-western Syria

Iraqi Troops Destroy 10 Islamic State Hideouts In Anbar

Lebanon Accuses Israel of 2nd Attack in 2 Days

Hezbollah's dangerous false narrative about the Lebanese Army

Al-Qaeda not down and out, even if Hamza dead

Iraqi Gov't Orders All Military Bases to Target Any Unidentified Drone

Saudi Arabia Supportive of UAE’s Coup Plot in Southern Yemen

Iraqi Official: Israel’s Drones Providing Massive Backup for Reviving ISIL in Diyala

Lebanese Paper Discloses Israeli Plot to Assassinate Senior Hezbollah Member in Drone Attack

Syria Kurds fighters start pullback from Turkish border to implement ‘safe zone’

Syrian opposition launches largest Khan Sheikhoun attack since regime takeover

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Mideast

Iran Seen Preparing For Space Launch

Coalition denies Al Houthi strike in Riyadh

Explosions hit two police checkpoints in Gaza, three dead

Hezbollah plans ‘calculated’ response to Israel: Sources

Netanyahu warns Hezbollah, Iran, Lebanon leaders: ‘Watch your actions’

Saudi Council of Ministers reiterates Kingdom’s call for Yemeni dialogue

Two Palestinians killed, 3 injured as Israel pounds Gaza Strip again

Yemeni forces strike Saudi army positions in Najran with new missile

Istanbul's new opposition mayor cuts funding to some pro-government groups

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL:  http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/forget-srinagar,-focus-on-saving-pok,-pak-opposition-tells-imran-khan/d/119590

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Forget Srinagar, focus on saving POK, Pak opposition tells Imran Khan

Aug 27, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Even as Prime Minister Imran Khan has been threatening India with nuclear war for revoking special status of Jammu and Kashmir, at home, he got severely criticised by his opponents at home over his Kashmir policy.

Prime Minister should focus on saving Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Muzaffarabad and forget Srinagar, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Chairman of opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), said on Monday after meeting his father, Asif Ali Zardari and aunt Faryal Talpur in Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail.

Bilawal’s dig at Khan came a day after US President Donald Trump made it clear that he had no intention to meddle in Jammu & Kashmir. Incidentally, none of G7 countries paid heed to Pakistan’s warning of nuclear conflagration with India.

“The government has totally failed on the Kashmir front, as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has annexed Kashmir, while the government was sleeping and busy in destroying economy of the country and forcing its political opponents against the wall,” Bilawal said.

“First, Pakistan’s policy on Kashmir was how to get Srinagar. Now due to the Imran Khan government’s inept behaviour and greed our foreign policy position is how to save Muzaffarabad (the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir),” he said.

When a journalist asked him about the awards conferred on Prime Minister Narendra Modi by the Gulf States, Bilawal said it was due to the failure of Pakistan’s foreign policy.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-opposition-asks-imran-khan-to-forget-kashmir/articleshow/70867401.cms

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Cancellation Of 23 Firs: Notice to Ministry, Counter Terrorism Department on Hafiz Saeed’s Plea

August 28, 2019

LAHORE: A Lahore High Court two-judge bench on Tuesday issued a notice to the interior ministry and Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) on a petition for cancellation of 23 FIRs registered against Jamatud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed and other leaders on charges of using different properties for terror financing.

The bench comprising Justice Syed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi and Justice Chaudhry Mushtaq Ahmad also summoned the CTD station house officer on next date of hearing.

Malik Zafar Iqbal, secretary of Al-Infal Trust (subsidiary of JuD), challenged the cases against 65 leaders and members of the organisation.

Advocate A.K Dogar represented the petitioner and told the court that the properties in-question had never been used for terror financing as there was no tangible evidence on record to support such bald allegations.

He said describing Hafiz Saeed and other leaders of the JuD as leaders of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) was factually and legally incorrect. He submitted that a full bench of the high court in a case against detention of JuD leaders already declared in its 2009 judgment that Mr Saeed and others are not the members of LeT.

The counsel said the petitioners had never been involved in any activity against the country nor they had links to any terrorist organisation. He said allegation against Hafiz Saeed and others of being involved in Mumbai attacks was nothing but propaganda of the Indian lobby.

He argued that the properties mentioned in the FIRs stood dedicated for the purpose of mosques and being used for the last so many years.

He asked the court to declare the impugned FIRs unlawful and also declare that the JuD leaders nominated in them had no connection with the LeT.

The bench sought replies from the respondents within a fortnight.

Mr Saeed and others are in custody of the CTD through physical remand granted by anti-terrorism courts of different cities.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1502066/cancellation-of-23-firs-notice-to-ministry-ctd-on-hafiz-saeeds-plea

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Kashmir Lockdown: Hizb Posters In Pulwama Ask People To Unite Against Abrogation Of Article 370

Ashraf Wani

August 27, 2019

Terrorist organisation Hizbul Mujahideen has put several posters across Pulwama district asking people to unite against the abrogation of Article 370 and continue their protests across Jammu and Kashmir.

The abrogation of Article 370 stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its special status, which gave it special rights and privileges and divided the state into two Union territories. The region has been under a clampdown since the day the abrogation was announced on August 5.

Hizbul Mujahideen posters, put up in several villages in Pulwama district, ask all sections of people to join the protest. The posters also warn political workers to join protests or face consequences.

Tuesday marked the 22nd day of a clampdown in the Valley. Normal life has been out of gear since the restrictions were put in place.

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/kashmir-lockdown-hizb-posters-in-pulwama-ask-people-to-unite-against-abrogation-of-article-370-1592285-2019-08-27

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Sri Lanka urged to tackle 'hate propaganda' against Muslims

27 Aug 2019

A United Nations human rights expert has called on Sri Lanka to take urgent action on "hate propaganda targeting Muslim communities" following a spate of deadly attacks on churches and hotels on Easter Sunday.

Ahmed Shaheed, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, issued the call on Monday at the end of a 12-day mission to the Buddhist-majority country in the Indian Ocean.

He said there was a "serious deficit of trust among ethnoreligious communities" in the wake of the ISIL-claimed attacks in April.

More than 250 people were killed in the bombings, the deadliest since the end of a 26-year-civil war against Tamil separatist fighters in 2009.

"While the government promptly brought the situation more or less under control after the bomb blasts, many religious communities remain very concerned about their security because of incitement to hatred and violence by some religious extremists," Shaheed said in a statement.

The suicide assaults led to anti-Muslim riots in May, which were partly blamed on Buddhist groups.

There was also a spike in reports of hate speech, with a senior Buddhist monk saying in June Muslims should be stoned in one case. Warakagoda Sri Gnanarathana made the comment after repeating unsubstantiated claims that a Muslim doctor had sterilised thousands of Buddhist women.

"The government must take action against the hate propaganda targeting Muslim communities that is being spread through unregulated media and is instigating ethnoreligious tension for political gain," said Shaheed.

Failure to do so "will allow extremism to escalate and pose serious challenges to peace-building," he added.

'Sporadic small incidents'

Sri Lanka's population of about 22 million is a patchwork of ethnicities and religions. Sinhalese speaking Buddhists make up more than 70 percent, while Tamils account for 15 percent.

Muslims are the second-largest minority, comprising about 10 percent of the population.

There has been an increase in attacks against the community since the civil war's end, including major bouts of violence in 2013 and 2018. Buddhist groups - some led by monks - were blamed for the unrest.

But many in the government saw the unrest as "sporadic small incidents", he said, warning they must not be treated as such.

"The underlying unease and hostility existed long before the Easter attacks and subsequent violence," he said.

He highlighted a range of factors for the "simmering" tensions. including the politicisation of religion, segregated education based on ethnoreligious identity, as well as impunity for previous religiously motivated attacks.

Failure to hold perpetrators to account for previous violence has "strengthened the anti-Muslim groups", he said, adding: "It is time for Sri Lanka to vigorously adopt measures to protect the rights of all people and to hold perpetrators accountable, regardless of their ethnoreligious background."

He urged the Sri Lankan authorities to "make efforts to dismantle the networks of hate" and "speak out against hateful narratives".

He also called for urgent reforms to the education system "to foster inclusive identities".

There was no immediate comment from the government on Shaheed's report.

The expert is expected to submit his detailed report to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2020.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/08/sri-lanka-urged-tackle-hate-propaganda-muslims-190826165119514.html

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Minister: Jakim forwarded 5,000 complaints over insults against Prophet Muhammad, Islam to police, MCMC

27 August 2019

BANGI, Aug 27 — About 5,000 complaints have been lodged with the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) relating to articles or provocative statements insulting Islam and Prophet Muhammad.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Dr Mujahid Yusof said these were some of tens of thousands of complaints received by Jakim’s monitoring unit since it was set up in March to monitor provocative writings in all media platforms including on the social media.

“Since the online complaint (platform) was opened, we have received many complaints, and there was a time when the unit received up to 10,000 complaints a day.

“Of these, about 5,000 complaints were referred to the Royal Malaysia Police and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) for further action,” he said in reply to questions from participants at the Islam Rahmatan Lil Alamin Seminar and Maqasid Syariah Townhall session today.

Also present at the seminar which was held at the Teachers’ Training Institute here were Jakim director-general Datuk Mohamad Nordin Ibrahim and president of the Islamic Dakwah Foundation of Malaysia (Yadim) Nik Omar Nik Abdul Aziz.

He said offenders in four cases were found guilty and sentenced in court.

The unit was launched on March 8 to look into cases insulting Prophet Muhammad and to ridicule Islam. Members of the public with information can lodge their complaints through the WhatsApp application at hotline number 010-3005260 or send an email to adu­an@islam.gov.my. — Bernama

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/08/27/minister-5000-complaints-lodged-with-police-mcmc-over-insults-against-proph/1784814

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Some Islamic Scholars From Saudi Arabia And Their Nigerian Counterparts Have Debunked Insinuations That Islam Breeds Terrorism

August 28, 2019

Some Islamic scholars from Saudi Arabia and their Nigerian counterparts have debunked insinuations that Islam breeds terrorism.

They urged Muslims to henceforth embark on the propagation of the religion in a peaceful manner.

The scholars, who gathered in Ilorin, Kwara State, on Tuesday to brainstorm on how to bring about peaceful propagation of Islam, said Muslims should work to change the wrong perception  of  the religion as one being spread through force.

The scholars at the conference, themed, “Correcting the wrongs in society: Its principles and skills,” were of the opinion that some Muslims had wrong perception about the concept of jihad in propagating Islam.

They said jihad was the relocation (Hijrah) of Prophet Muhammad from his birth place of Makkah to Madinah with the sole purpose of giving peace a chance between Islamic faithful and the then unbelievers of Makkah.

This, flight, they claimed, was aimed at promoting peaceful co-existence.

The conference organised by Darul Ikhtab Wa Sunnah, Ilorin in collaboration with the Nayat Centre, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, was the fifth in the series as similar events had been held in Abuja, Lagos, and Ogun states.

The lead speaker at the conference, Shaykh Ali Abu al-Khayl of the Saudi Arabia Islamic Centre, advised those interested in propagating Islam to do it peacefully and in accordance with the dictates of the Qur’an and traditions of Prophet Muhammad.

While reminding Islamic clerics that “Islam abhors violence in whatever form and guise,” Abu al-Khayl said acting in accordance with the dictates of the Qur’an would ensure peace among Islamic faithful and the adherents of other religions.

In his own submission, the Proprietor of Darul Ikhtab Wa Sunnah, Dr AbdulKadir Solagberu, said the conference was organised to acquaint Islamic scholars with the best ways of how to propagate the religion and enhance peaceful coexistence among people of other faith.

He said there was a greater need for social interaction among people of various religious beliefs and this could only be achieved in an atmosphere of peace.

Solagberu also explained that Islam “forbids acts of terrorism in all its ramifications,” urging those who had embraced terrorism as a means of propagating Islam to desist from the ungodly act.

Also speaking, Dr AbdulHamid Badmas of the University of Ilorin, urged Islamic scholars to engage in constructive criticisms while trying to correct societal ills or personalities, rather than being combative or resort to name-calling.

https://punchng.com/islam-doesnt-promote-terrorism-say-scholars/

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Shia Group: U.S. Military And Civilian Bases In Iraq Have Become Legitimate Targets For Us

Amer al-Hassani 

27.08.2019

A Shia group on Tuesday threatened to target U.S. forces in Iraq amid tension over recent attacks on Iran-linked groups in the country.

The threat came in a video posted on the Internet by Jund Al-Imam Al-Hujja, in which a group of masked gunmen appeared during a training with rockets, while a leader of the armed group made the statement.

"U.S. military and civilian bases have become legitimate targets for us," the masked man said, directing his message to U.S. President Donald Trump.

The speaker pointed out that the group's motive is based on a fatwa (religious edict) by prominent Iraqi Shia cleric Kazem al-Haeri, who lives in Iran.

On Friday, Al-Haeri accused Israel of carrying out drone attacks with support of U.S. forces in Iraq against the Shia Hashd al-Shaabi forces.

Roughly 5,000 U.S. troops have remained deployed in Iraq since the U.S. cobbled a coalition together in 2014 with the stated aim of fighting Daesh terrorist group.

Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted at Israel's involvement in the attacks against Iranian targets in Iraq.

Israel views Iraq as a potential growing base for Iran. Both Tel Aviv and Tehran are regional arch enemies.

Israel has carried out several airstrikes against Iranian targets in war-torn Syria, where Tehran is supporting the Bashar al-Assad regime.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/shia-group-threatens-to-target-us-forces-in-iraq/1566371

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Take them back! Donald Trump presses Merkel to accept captured ISIS fighters claiming they're mostly from Germany, UK, France and other European nations

26 August 2019

Donald Trump urged German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the G7 in Biarritz, France to take back captured ISIS fighters who journeyed to the conflict zone from Europe.

He said most radicals being guarded came to the battlefield by way of Germany, France, the UK and other European nations

'We did a great job, and we have had very good talks. But you know, it's not fair for the United States to have these people. We want to give them to the areas where they came from,' he asserted in France.

He said, 'And that includes not just Germany. France. We have a lot from France. We have a lot from the UK. We have a lot from a lot of different countries, and for the most part, all in Europe.'

Merkel had been asked by a reporter, in English, about the ISIS fighters Trump has been threatening to unshackle in European countries, where they'll be free to roam.

Yet it was Trump who responded, saying, 'We're talking about that now. We have a lot from Germany, which is a great thing. We'll work something out. I think we're going to work something out.'

The German chancellor said after that her nation had already accepted a 'a number' of people and 'we want to find a solution together' to the problem. She did not commit taking back ISIS fighters with German ties who were taken into custody in Syria.

Last week Trump said he'd air drop ISIS fighters into Europe, with no restrictions on the radicals' movements, if the countries they were living in before they were caught on the battlefield refuse to take them into custody.

He told journalists before he left the White House: 'If Europe doesn't take them, then I have no choice but to release them into the countries from which they came, which is Germany, and France, and other places.'

Trump indicated the topic was likely to come up when he met with European leaders this weekend in France. They're holding their annual gathering in the seaside resort town of Biarritz. 

He revived the claim two times last Wednesday, the second time in a speech to veterans at a Kentucky conference, where he asked attendees if they agreed that jihadis caught in Iraq and Syria should be returned.

'Certain countries in Europe, they've got to take them back. Because we don't want to hold them,' he stated. 'They'd rather have us hold them, and let us have them for 50 years. We don't want them. They should take them. Do we agree? They should take them?'

His statement was met with applause, and Trump continued to riff about about American allies refusing to take custody of the ISIS fighters.

'They say to us, why don't you hold them in Guantanamo Bay for 50 years and you just hold them and spend billions and billions of dollars holding them. And I'm saying, no you gotta take them,' he asserted.

The president has become increasingly anxious about the fighters as he turns his attention to the Group of Seven summit. He's spoken about the jihadis on three occasions publicly in the past week, each time suggesting he's growing more impatient with Europe's stance on the terrorists.

He told journalists at the White House that day, 'We're holding thousands of ISIS fighters right now, and Europe has to take them.'

'We beat them. We captured them. We've got thousands of them. And now, as usual, our allies say, "Oh no. We don’t want them." Even though they came from France and Germany and other places,' he insisted. 'So we're going to tell them and we've already told them, "Take these prisoners that we've captured because the United States is not going to put them in Guantanamo for the next 50 years and pay for it." '

Trump did not offer a deadline for his threat to dump them in France and Germany.

He simply said, 'It's moving along, my deadline. They know.'

The White House and State Department have been pressuring governments in Europe to take back thousands of jihadis and their brides captured when ISIS collapsed – and having no success – for nearly two years, a source with knowledge of the conversations told DailyMail.com earlier this month.

Officials are pushing governments, including those of Boris Johnson, Emmanuel Macron and Merkel, to take back their citizens - and to guarantee that they will not be allowed to roam the streets unchecked, the person said.

Trump arrived in France on Saturday for the G7 summit of the world’s largest economies and met all three leaders face to face; in Johnson’s case it was their first meeting since the British politician took office as the UK’s new prime minister.

The president had signaled that the jihadis will be on the agenda, bringing the subject up twice on Wednesday without any prompting.

First, he told reporters on the South Law of the White House, that he'll dump them in Europe, if their last nation of residency won't take them back.  Then, he polled an audience veterans on the topic at a summit, asking if the group agreed that they jihadis should be Europe's problem.

The jihadis, their wives and children are all held in territory in Iraq and Syria held by U.S. allies, with American military aiding their detention. Among them are two of the ‘Beatles,’ the British citizens turned ISIS killers who beheaded American hostages in gruesome videos.

One source familiar with the push to get the jihadis repatriated from what is effectively U.S.-controlled territory said that it was causing tensions with European capitals but framed it as the result of those countries’ immigration policies – a point unlikely to be agreed with by European leaders.

‘That's going to cause some difficulties. They’re not going to be happy about that. But you get the jihadis you invite in sometimes, and now you have to learn to deal with them,' the person said of Donald Trump's push to get rid of them.

The person said the U.S. government has been pushing America's allies to take the fighters in for nearly two years, with no success at all.

'It’s more exploratory than operational,' the person said of the discussions, acknowledging the lack of progress.

The total number of foreign fighters captured in Syria and Iraq is unclear.

Trump told journalists at a Marine One departure on the South Lawn at the beginning of August that the coalition against ISIS had captured more than 10,000 jihadis in Iraq and Syria.

Many are from Middle Eastern countries but many hundreds are believed to have come from European countries. Trump claimed there were 2,500 from Europe.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, who are allied with the U.S., were alone holding around 800 European jihadis earlier this month, The Independent reported.

'We have 2,500 ISIS fighters that we want Europe to take because they were going back into Europe — into France, into Germany, into various places,' he said.

Trump has publicly floated the idea that the jihadis could simply be released.

The person familiar with the discussions acknowledged that such a move was unlikely.

Not only do international treaties and obligations prevent President Donald Trump from doing so, the person said, fighters are likely to return to extremist cells if they are released from government custody.

'I just don’t think there’s any way, ' the person said. 'The Europeans could just say no.'

On top of those who fought for ISIS are their wives and children. Already one of the ISIS brides - Shamima Begum – has been stripped of British citizenship. She fled Britain aged just 15 to marry a jihadi and is now 19, and stranded in a camp in Syria effectively without a state.

The largest camp, al-Hol, has 11,000 people in it, most of them civilian women and children.

The issue added to the list of flashpoints with European leaders like trade and tariffs at the G7, which is made up of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the U.S. 

European countries acknowledge that citizens or residents who left for ISIS territory to take part in the jihad or to marry men who were should be punished.

ISIS brides are a problem in particular. Trump's administration has contended that one woman, Hoda Muthana, who was born in America isn't a citizen, because her father originally came to the country as a diplomat.

President Trump has said he could release other terrorist sympathizers and fighters into Europe and suggested in early August that a plan to do so was in the works.

Trump told journalists at a Marine One departure on the South Lawn that he could drop detainees on European countries' doorsteps.

'We have thousands of ISIS fighters that we want Europe to take, and let’s see if they take them,' he said. 'If they don’t take them, we’ll probably have to release them to Europe.'  

The source familiar with the conversations said that the U.S. is actively seeking assistance from regional allies, as well.

'There are discussions under way. Those discussions are happening, And they’re happening I think more driven by Iraq and Syria and what to do about them, starting with the ISIS wives. A lot of discussion of what category those people fall into,' the person said.

Since 2008, the U.S. has not shipped detainees to Guantanamo Bay, the prison it maintains at a naval base off the coast of Cuba.

Trump once said he'd like to 'load it up with bad dudes' but he never followed through.

Barack Obama drove down the number of detainees in U.S. custody through repatriation deals. Just 40 terror suspects are now held at the site.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7395139/Trump-presses-Merkel-accept-captured-ISIS-fighters-Europe.html

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Pakistan

 

No Bargain Over Kashmir Issue Acceptable, Says Jamiat Ulema-I-Islam-Fazl Leader

August 28, 2019

SUKKUR: It seems as if ‘selected’ Prime Minister Imran Khan during his visit to the United States (US) has bargained over the issue of Kashmir and many other things.

This was stated by Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) Sindh general secretary Maulana Rashid Mehmood Soomro while addressing a press conference at the residence of Hafiz Rab Nawaz Chachar in Kandhkot on Tuesday.

He said Pakistanis had been chanting slogan ‘Kashmir Banay Ga Pakistan’ for the past 70 years, but today a game of bloodshed was being played in Kashmir and people there were facing atrocities of Indian army.

The people of Pakistan, he said, would be with their Kashmiri brethren in their struggle and freedom movement, and such “bargain” over the Kashmir issue from the rulers would not be acceptable at all.

Maulana Soomro said the government had already failed so far to fulfil the promise of providing five million houses and 10 million jobs. People of the country were facing problems even in arranging two square meals a day due to corruption of the rulers.

Loans of the country had reached high levels and the amounts drawn by the present government during the past 11 months had not been drawn during the past 40 years.

He warned that there were three million JUI-F workers in the country who took oath that they were ready to fight the enemy along with Pakistan Army for Kashmir.

He asked if the rulers could open the Kartarpur border for the Sikh community people, why they did not open the border for their Kashmiri brethren.

Reiterating that the final solution of such problems was the JUI-F’s proposed million march in Islamabad, he said that more than five million workers of his party throughout the country would reach Islamabad.

He said innocent people were being killed in the interior of Sindh due to tribal clashes, but still they were kept deprived of their rights.

Other leaders of the JUI-F present on the occasion were Maulana Abdul Qayyum Halejvi, Maulana Saud Afzal Halejvi, Engineer Abid Lakho, Hafiz Rab Nawaz Chachar, Qari Mohammad Shafi Khoso, Maulana Shamsuddin Bheri and Hafiz Irfan Khoso.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1502138/no-bargain-over-kashmir-issue-acceptable-says-jui-f-leader

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PM terms ties with China ‘anchor for regional stability’

August 28, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan and a visiting Chinese commander on Tuesday reaffirmed the commitment of their countries to collaborate for peace and stability in the region.

“Pakistan and China would continue to closely consult and coordinate for the promotion of peace and stability in the region and maintenance of strategic balance,” the PM Office said after a Chinese delegation, led by Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) of China General Xu Qiliang, called on Mr Khan.

General Xu is leading a high-level delegation to Pakistan to discuss issues of mutual interest for Pakistan and China. His visit for bilateral discussions on regional security and enhancement of defence collaboration took place against the backdrop of heightened tensions between India and Pakistan because of the Indian move to revoke autonomous status of India-held Kashmir and its bifurcation into Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

China criticised Indian action and supported Pakistani request for convening of an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council (UNSC), held on Aug 16.

PM Khan, while thanking China for supporting Pakistan’s approach to the UNSC on Indian action, said that “the unique quality of the time-tested, Pakistan-China All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership” was an anchor for peace and stability in the region and beyond.

The prime minister warned that Indian actions were posing a threat to peace and security. He repeated the warning that India could stage a false flag operation to divert the world’s attention from its crimes.

He worried that the brutal repression of Kashmiris could trigger a wave of extremism that could destabilise the region.

General Xu reiterated Chinese leadership’s commitment to the tradition of both countries supporting each other on issues of core national interest. He emphasised that South Asia needed stability and economic development and resolution of outstanding disputes.

President meets commander

President Arif Alvi in his meeting with Gen Xu said that Pakistan deeply valued China’s defence cooperation with Pakistan and support on issues of its national security.

During Gen Xu’s visit, an MoU was signed for enhancement of defence cooperation between Pakistan and China and capacity building of the Pakistan Army.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1502024/pm-terms-ties-with-china-anchor-for-regional-stability

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Full airspace closure for India, ban on land routes for Indo-Afghan trade under consideration

August 27, 2019

Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry on Tuesday announced that the federal cabinet was considering restoration of a complete ban on the use of Pakistani airspace for Indian flights.

Taking to Twitter, the minister revealed that a blanket ban on the use of Pakistani land routes for India's trade with Afghanistan was also suggested during today's cabinet meeting.

He said the legal formalities for these decisions to take effect were under consideration.

"Modi has started we'll finish!" the minister wrote, in a reference to the Indian prime minister's move to revoke occupied Kashmir's special autonomy earlier this month.

The minister's tweet comes a day after Prime Minister Imran took the nation into confidence on the government's strategy regarding Indian-occupied Kashmir through a national address, vowing that Pakistan "will go to any lengths" to support the cause of the oppressed Kashmiri people.

On Tuesday, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Information Firdous Ashiq Awan told a press conference that the prime minister during the cabinet meeting reiterated Pakistan's support for Kashmiris.

On August 5, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi stripped Kashmiris of the constitutional rights they had for seven decades through a rushed presidential order. An indefinite curfew was imposed in occupied Kashmir and elected leaders were put under house arrest.

By repealing Article 370 of the constitution, people from the rest of India will now have the right to acquire property in Kashmir and settle there permanently. Kashmiris as well as critics of India’s Hindu nationalist-led government see the move as an attempt to dilute the demographics of Muslim-majority Kashmir with Hindu settlers.

Furthermore, Indian Home Minister Amit Shah, who is also president of the BJP, moved a bill — passed by the Indian parliament — to bifurcate the state into two union territories to be directly ruled by New Delhi.

Pakistan angrily slammed the decision, expelling India's ambassador, suspending bilateral trade, and taking the matter to the United Nations Security Council.

The country observed a 'Black Day' on Aug 15 to coincide with India's independence day celebrations, in solidarity with the people of occupied Kashmir.

Prime Minister Imran, meanwhile, has pledged to take up the responsibility of raising voice of the Kashmiri people at every forum of the world. “I will be the ambassador of your cause across the globe,” he said earlier this month.

Other matters discussed by cabinet

Awan said that during the cabinet meeting, PM Khan directed the concerned quarters to bring in legislation to make death sentence a punishment for those involved in child rape. She added that the cabinet also decided to formulate a national policy to empower transgenders.

The cabinet also approved Amended Criminal Ordinance 2019 under which jail terms will be granted against theft of electricity, she said.

The SAPM said that Railways Minister Shaikh Rashid told the cabinet that the 'free ticket policy' for senior citizens has been changed and now only up to four free tickets each year would be given to people aged 75 years or more.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1501998/full-airspace-closure-for-india-ban-on-land-routes-for-indo-afghan-trade-under-consideration

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Tribal people finally get representation in KP Assembly

Zulfiqar Ali

August 28, 2019

PESHAWAR: Amid cheers and slogans from the visitors’ galleries, 19 newly-elected legislators from the merged districts of defunct Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) were sworn in to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on Tuesday.

The journey for the merger of erstwhile Fata -- started in November 2015 -- finally reached its logical conclusion with the representation of over five million people of tribal districts in the provincial assembly.

It would be pertinent to recall that the previous government of PML-N had constituted a six-member committee, headed by adviser to prime minister on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz, which presented a set of recommendations for the mainstreaming of tribal belt, abutting Afghanistan.

One of the recommendations of the committee was the merger of tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Speaker Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani administered oath to the lawmakers, who were elected in the polls held on July 20. Lawmakers of the ruling PTI, PML-N, ANP, Jamaat-i-Islami, JUI-F and Balochistan Awami Party took oath.

Two women MPAs and one MPA representing religious minorities also took oath.

Nevertheless, nomination of two women lawmakers on reserved seats is still under process. Election Commission of Pakistan has allocated one seat each to PTI and Balochistan Awami Party (BAP).

“We are now starting a new journey and people of the merged districts have pinned great hopes on their representatives,” remarked Speaker Mushtaq Ghani while congratulating the newly-elected MPAs. It is a memorable day in the history of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa legislature and all the political forces played an appreciable role in mainstreaming of tribal areas.

A needless hullaballoo was also witnessed in the session as jubilant supporters of the MPAs started shouting slogans from the visitors’ gallery, eulogising their leaders and parties. This prompted the speaker to warn them of adjourning the session and expelling them from the assembly, but to no avail.

The joint opposition also staged walkout in reaction to the Speaker’s decision of not giving the floor to ANP parliamentary leader Sardar Hussain Babak. On the directives of speaker, Chief Whip Qalandar Khan Lodhi and Information Minister Shaukat Ali Yousafzai went to the opposition lobby and brought the protesting members back to the sitting.

Welcoming the newly-elected lawmakers, Chief Minister Mahmood Khan termed the day as epoch-making for the people of the province, especially merged districts.

“Let the visitors celebrate this occasion,” Mahmood Khan addressed the chair on a lighter note. The credit, he said, went to the government and the opposition for passing 25th Amendment, which paved way for the merger of the former Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “Elections in the tribal districts [which ensured representation of Fata people in provincial assembly] is one of the major steps for the completion of the merger process,” he maintained.

The chief minister said that tribal people rendered remarkable sacrifices for the country and defended the country’s western border. He said that tribal people had liberated Azad Jammu and Kashmir and would liberate the India-held Kashmir as well.

He said that government would not do politics on the issue of merged districts. He said that people of tribal districts showed confidence in PTI. “The victory of PTI in tribal districts shows that we are not selected but elected ones,” he added.

Speaking on the occasion, Opposition Leader Akram Khan Durrani said that militancy caused widespread destruction in the tribal belt, killing thousands of people besides causing displacement of millions of people.

Referring to the fully-damaged infrastructure in tribal districts, he urged the government to allocate funds 10 times more than the settled districts. “Election in tribal districts is beginning of a long journey and the government should treat constituencies of the newly-elected MPAs irrespective of their political affiliations,” he said.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1502145/tribal-people-finally-get-representation-in-kp-assembly

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Chinese general calls on PM Imran, reaffirms full support at ‘crucial juncture’

August 28, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Vice Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission (CMC) General Xu Qiliang called on Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday and reaffirmed Beijing’s full support to Pakistan at the “crucial juncture”.

“Chinese General Xu Qiliang conveyed cordial greetings of President Xi Jinping, as well as that of Premier Li Keqiang, and reaffirmation of China’s full support to Pakistan, particularly at this crucial juncture,” a statement issued by the PM Office said. General Xu’s visit to Pakistan comes in the aftermath of India revoking Article 370 of the constitution that gave IOK a substantial degree of autonomy. On Monday he called on army chief General Qamar Bajwa at the GHQ in Rawalpindi.

During the meeting, PM Imran highlighted India’s unilateral actions of revoking occupied Kashmir’s special status, and the continuing lockdown for over three weeks in the held valley.

He discussed the dire human rights and the humanitarian situation in IOK, as well as the threat to peace and security posed by India’s actions.

“The prime minister underlined that India could stage a false-flag operation to divert the world’s attention from its crimes,” the statement added.

The prime minister, the communique said, thanked China for supporting Pakistan’s approach to the UNSC, and reiterated that curfew in IOK must be immediately lifted, and international NGOs be allowed to visit the area to have an objective assessment of the humanitarian tragedy unfolding there.

PM Imran underscored that the brutal suppression of human rights in the disputed territory had the potential to spark a wave of extremism and India’s reckless actions could destabilize the region immeasurably.

The Chinese general, meanwhile, reiterated Beijing’s resolve to work for further strengthening Sino-Pak ties in a range of areas.

“Vice Chairman Xu underlined that the South Asia region needed stability and economic development and resolution of outstanding disputes, and appreciated Pakistan’s efforts in advancing those goals,” read the statement.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/08/27/chinese-general-xu-qiliang-calls-on-pm-imran/

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Lodhi raises Kashmir issue with UNGA president

August 28, 2019

Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN) Maleeha Lodhi on Monday met with the President of the UN General Assembly Maria Fernanda Espinosa and spoke to her about the situation in Indian-occupied Kashmir (IOK).

Ambassador Lodhi briefed the UN president on the continued aggression being committed by India in IOK. She reminded the UN of its obligation to maintain peace and security in the world.

Lodhi’s meeting with UNGA president comes days after Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi raised the issue of human rights violations in IOK with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/08/27/lodhi-raises-kashmir-issue-with-unga-president/

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PM Imran briefs MBS on IOK situation

August 28, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan briefed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) on the latest developments in occupied Kashmir in a telephonic conversation late Monday night.

The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported that “Prime Minister Imran had called the crown prince and discussed the regional situation along with the ongoing situation in Indian occupied Kashmir”.

In a televised address to the nation a day earlier, the premier had vowed to “act as Kashmir’s ambassador” and discuss the issue on every platform.

“I will tell the world about this, I have shared this with heads of states that I have been in contact with. I will raise this issue in my speech at the UN General Assembly as well,” he had said.

He had also addressed the lack of action by Muslim countries, including the Middle East, and assured the nation that “if some Muslim countries are not raising this issue because of their economic interests, they will eventually come on our side. They will have to, with time.”

Monday marked the third time when both leaders discussed the burning dispute between the two nuclear-armed neighbors. Last week, crown prince dialed the premier to discuss the rights violations in the occupied valley.

Prior to this, PM Imran had a telephonic conversation with MbS on Aug 7 and told him about the worsening situation in the held valley amid Modi government’s unilateral move to strip it of its special status through a rushed presidential decree on Aug 5.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Representative to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi met United Nations General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa and briefed her on Indian atrocities in occupied Kashmir.

The envoy briefed the UNGA president in detail about the human rights violations in the held valley, where the curfew and communications blackout entered the fourth week on Tuesday.

Maleeha Lodhi

@LodhiMaleeha

Met Maria Fernanda Espinosa , President of UN General Assembly & briefed her in detail about the grave situation in occupied Kashmir where the continuing curfew & lockdown is exacerbating the suffering of the Kashmiri people.UN should live up to its obligations on IOK

View image on Twitter

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https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/08/27/pm-imran-mbs-discuss-held-kashmir-in-telephonic-conversation/

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India

 

Hindu body admits Babur had endowed land for mosque in Ayodhya

August 28, 2019

New Delhi: Hindu body fighting the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title case admitted before the constitutional bench that according to Muslims Babur had endowed land for mosque.

As reported by the Inquilab with reference to Jamiat Ulama Hind, hearing of Babri Masjid title suit entered into the 13th day. During the hearing, lawyer of Nirmohi Akhara S K Jain began his incomplete argument and told the constitutional bench comprising of 5 judges that prayer was not performed on the disputed site since 1934 while a temple is present on the site whose caretaker is Nirmohi Akhara.

The day before, bench had asked Sushil Kumar Jain if Nirmohi Akhara opposes suit no 5, a plea filed by Ram Lalla, then will its case not get weakened? The bench asked him to apprise it of the view of ‘Akhara’ on Tuesday as to whether it was still seeking dismissal of the lawsuit filed by the deity and others.

On this Sushil Kumar Jain said Nirmohi Akhara will not oppose Ram Lalla’s plea on the condition that the plaintiff of suit no 5 does not reject Nirmohi Akhara’s claim of being the caretaker of the site.

https://www.siasat.com/hindu-body-admits-babur-had-endowed-land-mosque-ayodhya-1598672/

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Rahul Gandhi slams Pakistan over violence in Kashmir, says J&K internal matter

August 28, 2019

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has come out to clarify that although the Congress disagrees with the Modi government on a number of matters, there is no two ways about the fact that Kashmir is an internal matter for India with no scope for any interference from Pakistan or any other nation.

In two tweets on Wednesday morning, Rahul Gandhi said, "I disagree with this Govt. on many issues. But, let me make this absolutely clear: Kashmir is India's internal issue & there is no room for Pakistan or any other foreign country to interfere in it."

Rahul Gandhi added, "There is violence in Jammu & Kashmir. There is violence because it is instigated and supported by Pakistan which is known to be the prime supporter of terrorism across the world."

Rahul Gandhi

@RahulGandhi

• 2h

I disagree with this Govt. on many issues. But, let me make this absolutely clear: Kashmir is India’s internal issue & there is no room for Pakistan or any other foreign country to interfere in it.

Rahul Gandhi

@RahulGandhi

There is violence in Jammu & Kashmir. There is violence because it is instigated and supported by Pakistan which is known to be the prime supporter of terrorism across the world.

17K

9:10 AM - Aug 28, 2019

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Earlier, both Rahul Gandhi and Congress, including a number of its leaders, have slammed the Modi government over the abrogation of Article 370 and the subsequent lockdown in the Valley.

Last week, an Opposition delegation led by Rahul Gandhi landed in Srinagar after being invited by Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik. However, the group was not allowed to step into the Valley and was sent back.

Rahul Gandhi raised several questions as to what was the government trying to hide from the people and the Opposition that they were sent back from the airport itself.

Full report at:

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/rahul-gandhi-slams-pakistan-over-violence-in-kashmir-1592414-2019-08-28

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Terrorist Arrested In Jammu And Kashmir From Baramulla Check Post

August 27, 2019

SRINAGAR: Security agencies arrested a terrorist in Baramulla district of Jammu and Kashmir during a checking operation even as heavy shelling took place at two locations along the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch, officials said on Tuesday.

The terrorist was arrested on Monday from a joint check post of the Army and Jammu and Kashmir Police at Delina Chowk, which came under sudden fire from a truck. An AK-47 and a pistol were recovered from the terrorist. His accomplice, however, managed to escape.

An Army official said the second terrorist had entered a nearby 'mohalla' and operations were still on to arrest him.

The official said a Bakarwal (member of a nomadic tribe) was killed by a terrorist on Monday in Tral in South Kashmir. He was one of the two Bakarwals, who had been abducted by unidentified terrorists last week in the Mansar Bhaik area. The other abducted person is still missing.

According to security agencies, Pakistan has resorted to increased ceasefire violations along the LoC after a lull in the first two weeks of August.

Two ceasefire violations were reported along the LoC in Poonch district on Monday. Indian Army retaliated to the violations though there were no reports of injuries or casualties.

A truck driver had been targeted and killed in Bijbehara area of the Valley by stone-pelting mobs on Sunday. In more stone-pelting incidents, two persons have been injured in Pampore and Hawal areas of Srinagar.

Full report at:

https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/terrorist-arrested-in-jammu-and-kashmir-from-baramulla-check-post-2091041

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RSS Blames 'Untouchability' On Islam, And Accused The British Of Coining The Term 'Dalit', BJP Ally Unhappy

August 27, 2019

Senior RSS functionary Krishna Gopal has blamed untouchability on Islam and accused the British of coining the term 'Dalit', invoking a rebuke from a Janata Dal (United) leader.

"The first example of untouchability is seen after Islam came," Gopal said at a book release event on Monday.

"It is seen when at Raja Dahir's (last hindu king of sindh) household his queens were on their way to commit 'johar' (the act of self immolation). They mentioned the word 'malechcha' and said they need to hurry to the 'johar', else the 'malechcha' will touch them and they will become impure.

"This is the first example of untouchability in Indian text," Gopal said.

The word 'Dalit' was coined by the British with a view to "divide and rule", he added.

The RSS Sah-karyavah also spoke on Islamic invasion and religious conversion. He accused both Islam and Christianity of taking the conversion route to expand their numbers.

Union Culture Minister Prahlad Patel was on stage when Gopal made the comments.

But JD(U)'s General Secretary Pawan Kumar Verma said it was more important to look within than blame others.

Taking a dig at Gopal, Verma said that it was not the ethos of Hinduism to blame its problems on others. The JD(U) is an ally of the BJP, whose ideological mentor is the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS).

Earlier, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat sparked a row by calling for a debate between people who favour and oppose reservation in jobs and education.

Full report at:

https://www.indiatvnews.com/news/india-rss-functionary-krishna-gopal-blames-untouchability-on-islam-545162

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SC To Examine Legal Challenge to Abrogation Of Article 370; Refers Matter To 5-Judge Constitution Bench

Aug 28, 2019

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday decided to examine the legal challenge against the Centre's decision to abrogate Article 370, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and referred the matter to a five-judge Constitution bench.

The apex court issued notices to the Centre and Jammu and Kashmir administration on a batch of pleas challenging the Presidential order by which Article 370 was abrogated.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was not in agreement with the Centre that there was no need for issuance of notice in the matter as Attorney General K K Venugopal and Solicitor General were marking their presence in the court.

"We will refer the matter to a five-judge Constitution bench", the bench also comprising justices S A Bobde and S A Nazeer said while not accepting the arguments that the issuance of notice will have a "cross-border repercussion".

The Attorney General said whatever is being said by this court is sent before the United Nations.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/sc-to-examine-legal-challenge-to-abrogation-of-article-370-refers-matter-to-5-judge-constitution-bench/articleshow/70870634.cms

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Pakistan violates ceasefire along LoC in Jammu and Kashmir's Poonch

Aug 27, 2019

JAMMU: Pakistan troops violated the ceasefire by targeting forward posts with mortar shells and small arms along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir's Poonch district on Tuesday, a defence spokesperson said.

The cross-border firing by Pakistan started at about 6.30 pm and ended at 8.00 pm, he said.

The Indian Army retaliated befittingly, the spokesperson said.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pakistan-violates-ceasefire-along-loc-in-jammu-and-kashmirs-poonch/articleshow/70865185.cms

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J&K denies Shah Faesal held in illegal custody, opposes his study claim

by Pritam Pal Singh

August 28, 2019

Denying that Shah Faesal, former IAS officer from Jammu and Kashmir, is in “unauthorised custody”, the J&K administration has stated before the Delhi High Court that his “liberty has been curtailed in accordance with statutory provisions, and under an order passed by the competent authority”.

The administration opposed Faesal’s “theory” that he wanted to travel to the US to complete a course in Masters in Public Administration.

In an affidavit, the J&K administration stated, “It is not conceivable, in absence of any cogent material, to accept the theory that a leader of political outfit which is very vocal about the constitutional actions taken by constitutional bodies of our country on 5th August, 2019, would leave the country at this juncture to pursue some academic course, that too without student visa.”

The affidavit stated, “It is submitted that on August 14, 2019, the petitioner was travelling on ‘B1/B2’ visa (tourist visa)…. B1/B2 visa affixed on his passport, not being a student visa, does not entitle him to study in USA.”

The administration also pointed out that Faesal resigned from the civil service, joined politics and formed a political outfit – J&K People’s Movement. It said Faesal’s claim that he is in illegal detention “appears to be a facade and an incorrect fact”.

The J&K administration was responding to Faesal’s plea before Delhi HC alleging that he was illegally detained at IGI Airport in New Delhi while on way abroad and subsequently sent to Kashmir against his wishes. While seeking directions to the authorities to “immediately” set him free, Faesal stated in his plea that his life is at “risk” and that his “illegal detention amounts to abduction”.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/jk-denies-shah-faesal-held-in-illegal-custody-opposes-his-study-claim-5942846/

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Imran Khan mulling full airspace closure, trade route ban for India, tweets Pakistan minister

August 27, 2019

The Imran Khan-led Pakistan government is considering a blanket ban on the use of the country’s airspace by Indian flights, a Pakistan minister said amid escalating tension between the two nuclear-armed nations over Jammu and Kashmir.

Fawad Chaudhry, Pakistan’s Minister for Science and Technology, said his country was also considering banning India from using Pakistani land routes for Indo-Afghan trade.

Ch Fawad Hussain

@fawadchaudhry

PM is considering a complete closure of Air Space to India, a complete ban on use of Pakistan Land routes for Indian trade to Afghanistan was also suggested in cabinet meeting,legal formalities for these decisions are under consideration... #Modi has started we ll finish!

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In reference to Narendra Modi-led government’s decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370, the minister said, “Modi has started we’ll finish!”

“PM is considering a complete closure of Air Space to India, a complete ban on use of Pakistan Land routes for Indian trade to Afghanistan was also suggested in cabinet meeting, legal formalities for these decisions are under consideration,” Chaudhry tweeted.

Earlier this year, Pakistan had fully closed its airspace on February 26 after the Indian Air Force fighter jets struck a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist training camp in Balakot in retaliation to the Pulwama attack on February 14. Almost after five months, Pakistan opened its airspace for all civilian traffic on July 16.

Chaudhry’s statement came a day after Prime Minister Khan said that he will raise the Kashmir issue at every international forum, including at the UN General Assembly next month.

Khan’s address to the nation came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his meeting with US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the G7 Summit in France on Monday, categorically rejected any scope for third party mediation between India and Pakistan on Kashmir.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/pakistan-mulls-full-airspace-closure-trade-route-ban-for-india-minister-5942370/

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South Asia

 

Taliban positive on peace deal with Washington

SAYED SALAHUDDIN

August 28, 2019

KABUL: The Taliban hopes to finalize a peace deal with US diplomats soon in a move that could end a decades-old conflict in Afghanistan, the group’s spokesman told Arab News on Tuesday.

Taliban emissaries and US diplomats, led by Washington’s special envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, began their ninth round of talks in Qatar recently, after US President Donald Trump assigned the Afghan-born diplomat with the task of finding a peaceful solution to the war and the eventual withdrawal of US troops from the country.

Ahead of the resumption of Tuesday’s discussions, Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban based in Qatar, tweeted: “We will try to finalize the last points of agreement.”

Later on Tuesday, several Afghan media reports, citing unnamed sources, said that both the US and Taliban negotiators had agreed to establish “safe zones” once American forces start leaving Afghanistan.

President Ashraf Ghani’s government, which has been absent from all nine rounds of talks, rejected reports of the creation of “safe zones” for the insurgents.

“We are not of this opinion, that is not our understanding from the talks between the Taliban and the Americans,” Sediq Seddiqi, Ghani’s spokesman, told Arab News.

“On the contrary, our expectation is that any progress should lead to peace and cessation of war, a cease-fire that brings peace across Afghanistan and direct talks between the Taliban and the government,” he added.

US diplomats have yet to comment on the matter.

The news follows a Reuters report quoting unnamed Taliban officials, which said that Washington will stop providing aid to Afghan forces who rely on the US and the West to bankroll the war.

Commenting on the matter from Qatar, Khalilzad rejected the report in a tweet: “A Reuters report quoting two unnamed Talib commanders alleges we will cease support of the Afghan forces as part of any agreement. Not true!”

No one should be “intimidated or fooled by propaganda,” he added.

“Let me be clear: We will defend Afghan forces now and after any agreement w/ the Talibs. All sides agree Afghanistan’s future will be determined in intra-Afghan negotiations,” the second part of his tweet read.

The talks in Qatar have been shrouded in secrecy, even as the Taliban have publicly said that they will fight until all foreign troops leave Afghanistan and a timetable for their departure is set.

The group has also demanded an end to the presence of US intelligence networks and contractors in the country, pledging in return to not allow Afghan soil to be used against any country or US interests.

There have been contradictory comments by US officials and even Trump, with some saying that there will be a reduction of troops while warning against a hasty pullout.

Meanwhile, Trump, who until now had insisted on a complete departure of troops, has been reported saying Washington would seek to retain its intelligence officials in Afghanistan. 

The US is insisting on signing the deal with the Taliban before Sept. 1, weeks ahead of the crucial presidential elections.

Ghani says his priority is the polls, and that a strong elected government can negotiate from a position of strength with the Taliban.

Some of his rival candidates have been pushing for the creation of an interim government. “The Taliban is not interested in holding talks directly with Kabul,” Shohab Hakimi, a nominee, was quoted as saying.

“The people know that the Taliban are not prepared for talks with the government and establishment of peace can only happen by the establishment of an interim government,” Murad Ali Murad, a deputy candidate, said on Tuesday.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1546166/world

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Over 3 dozen militants killed in N. Afghanistan

2019-08-26

MAZAR-E-SHARIF, Afghanistan, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) -- At least 37 militants have been killed in parts of Afghanistan's northern Balkh province over the past 24 hours, army spokesman in the northern region Mohammad Hanif Rezai said Monday.

The operations backed by fighting aircrafts and covered the restive Charbolak and Sholgara districts since Sunday have also left dozens of militants injured, the official said.

Several villages have been liberated from the clutches of the armed militants, Rezai said.

Taliban militants, who are active in parts of Balkh province with Mazar-e-Sharif as its capital 305 km north of Kabul, have yet to make comment.

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-08/26/c_138339904.htm

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Afghanistan seeks UN intervention over Pak military violations

Aug 28, 2019

WASHINGTON: Afghanistan has reiterated "strong condemnation" over Pakistan's military violations along its border and sought for the intervention of the United Nations in the matter.

The Afghan Mission, in a letter issued to the UN on August 22, said, "Afghanistan reiterates its strong condemnation of Pakistan's failure to adhere to its obligations under the principles of the UN Charter, including Article 2, as well as international law and international humanitarian law." The war-torn country also urged the security council to take "necessary measures and actions to bring about an end to the violations," the letter said.

It said that these violations were in the form of shellings of the districts located along the eastern parts of Afghanistan, construction of military forces and barriers on Afghan territory, and violation of Afghan air-space by Pakistani military aircraft. Kabul alleged that these attacks further resulted in the destruction of residential property and the displacement of the local population.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/afghanistan-seeks-un-intervention-over-pak-military-violations/articleshow/70867659.cms

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TIKA volunteers reach out Rohingya in Bangladesh

Ahmet Furkan Mercan  

27.08.2019

Turkish medical students visited a Turkish hospital and distributed aid packages in Bangladesh as part of a program organized by Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA).

As part of the "2019 Experience Sharing Program", TIKA volunteer students participated in clinical-general surgery practices along with senior Turkish doctors at Sahra Hospital which was built by Turkey in Bangladesh's southern Cox's Bazar district, according to a statement by TIKA.

The hospital provides services to Rohingya refugees living in cramped makeshift camps in Cox's Bazar.

A total of 1,000 patients are treated daily in the clinic, according to Kadir Serkan Turel, head doctor at the Sahra hospital.

Students also took part in a food aid campaign organized by TIKA and distributed food packages to 19,000 people and 5,000 families.

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, pushing the number of persecuted people in Bangladesh above 1.2 million.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/turkey/tika-volunteers-reach-out-rohingya-in-bangladesh/1566466

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15 Taliban and ISIS militants killed, detained in Afghan Special Forces operations

27 Aug 2019

The Afghan Special Forces killed 2 Taliban and ISIS militants and detained 13 others during the operations in Helmand, Nangarhar and Kandahar provinces.

The military officials said Tuesday that the Afghan Special Forces arrested 4 Taliban militants during an operation in Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand.

The officials further added that the Special Forces also destroyed a small cache of weapons during the operation.

Furthermore, the Special Forces killed a militant of ISIS Khurasan terror group during a raid in Deh Bala district of Nangarhar province.

The officials said the Special Forces also detained 9 ISIS militants and destroyed a small cache of weapons.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/15-taliban-and-isis-militants-killed-detained-in-afghan-special-forces-operations-03778/

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Airstrike kills 6 militants of ISIS Khurasan in Nangarhar province

27 Aug 2019

An airstrike killed six militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Khurasan (ISIS-K) in eastern Nangarhar province.

The military officials said Tuesday that the security forces conducted the airstrikes in Pachir Wa Agam district of Nangarhar.

The sources further added that the airstrike killed six militants of the terror group.

The ISIS sympathizers have not commented regarding the airstrike so far.

https://www.khaama.com/airstrike-kills-6-militants-of-isis-khurasan-in-nangarhar-province-03779/

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8 Taliban militants killed, wounded an airstrike in Faryab province

26 Aug 2019

The security forces killed or wounded at least 8 Taliban militants during an airstrike in northern Faryab province.

The 209th Shaheen Corps said in a statement that the security forces conducted the airstrike late on Sunday night in Ghormach district.

The statement further added that the airstrike killed 4 Taliban militants and wounded 4 others.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/8-taliban-militants-killed-wounded-an-airstrike-in-faryab-province-03772/

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U.S. airstrikes kill, wound 19 Taliban militants in Ghazni and Paktika

28 Aug 2019

The U.S. forces conducted separate airstrikes in Ghazni and Paktika provinces killing or wounding at least 19 Taliban militants.

The 203rd Thunder Corps in a statement Tuesday that the U.S. forces conducted airstrikes in Mir Khan area of Qarabagh district and Dalani of Aab district in Ghazni.

The statement further added that the airstrikes killed 11 Taliban militants, destroyed a vehicle and two motorcycles.

Furthermore, the 203rd Thunder Corps said the U.S. forces also conducted an airstrike in Malik Shahi area of Bermal district in Paktika.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/u-s-airstrikes-kill-wound-19-taliban-militants-in-ghazni-and-paktika-03781/

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Taliban kill 14 people after storming checkpoint in western Afghanistan

28 August 2019

An Afghan official says Taliban insurgents have stormed a checkpoint in western Herat province, killing 14 pro-government militia members.

Police chief spokesman Abdul Ahid Walizada said on Wednesday that seven others were wounded in the Tuesday night attack in Robat Sangi district. He said an unspecified number of Taliban fighters suffered casualties.

Separately, in eastern Nangarhar province, governor’s spokesman Attaullah Khogynai said a university professor was killed and two others wounded on Tuesday when a bomb attached to their vehicle detonated in Jalalabad, the provincial capital.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/08/28/Taliban-kill-14-people-after-storming-checkpoint-in-western-Afghanistan.html

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Southeast Asia

 

Marina Mahathir: SIS court ruling means Shariah law applicable to all companies with Muslim directors

27 August 2019

BY IDA LIM

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 27 — The High Court’s decision today on Muslim women rights advocacy group Sisters in Islam (SIS) sets a “very dangerous” precedent for companies with Muslim directors as it means Shariah law can be used on them, prominent activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir said today.

Marina said the court’s ruling today had “enormous implications” for everyone, noting that the judge had today lifted the corporate veil on SIS in this case.

Marina pointed out that normally a company and its shareholders are treated as separate legal entities, and that this corporate veil is usually only lifted in “very limited cases” to enable the suing of shareholders of a company.

“Now he’s saying that you can, which means any companies that have Muslims in it can be acted upon by the Shariah law.

“This is backdoor Shariah-sation of our entire law, our entire Constitution, is what I understand it to be,” she told reporters here when met outside the courtroom.

“Before this, everybody wants to have Bumis (Bumiputera) on their board, right? Now it’s dangerous to have any of that on, because of this decision,” she said.

Marina, who is currently an ordinary member of SIS without positions in the organisation, said the court decision today would mean fatwas could be issued “against any company as long as it’s got Muslim directors”.

Marina said she also found it “extremely shocking” for the judge to have said that there was no need for the Selangor Islamic authorities to inform those who they want to impose the fatwa on and that there was no breach of natural justice.

“But how would you know that there is a law that you are supposed to contravene if you don’t know about it?

“How Islamic is that? How do I know? You mean that they can just come and arrest me for a law that I don’t even know existed? What sort of process is that? I’m sorry, it’s outrageous,” she said, noting that there would be no chance for one to defend oneself.

Earlier today, High Court judge Datuk Nordin Hassan dismissed SIS’ legal challenge solely by ruling that the civil courts had no jurisdiction to decide on the case, and that SIS should instead go to the Shariah courts to challenge the fatwa.

The judge had gone on to provide his views on other legal points, saying that the Selangor fatwa applies to SIS Forum (Malaysia) even if it was only a company.

Companies and their directors are usually considered separate legal entities, but the judge said justice in this case requires this corporate veil to be lifted.

While acknowledging the company SIS is an “artificial legal person”, the judge said its directing minds are Muslims and their activities touch on Islamic law which the fatwa is applicable on.

SIS’ lawyers had previously said the group which operates as the company SIS Forum (Malaysia) should not be subject to a 2014 Selangor fatwa that labelled it as deviant, arguing that the Selangor Islamic authorities only have powers over “persons professing the religion of Islam” and not companies.

When met outside the courtroom, SIS lawyer Surendra Ananth said SIS had previously argued that the civil courts has the powers to hear the case.

Surendra said the court had disagreed with this argument, and that the court had also disagreed with SIS’ other arguments that the 2014 fatwa is unconstitutional and violates freedom of expression, the rule of natural justice and federal laws.

“On the merits, in essence our argument is because the fatwa directs the banning and seizure of books, it has to do with liberalism and pluralism, it does not define what these concepts mean.

“It’s impossible for a Muslim to know whether they are a liberal or plural person, therefore it’s vague and violates a number of rights. Again the court disagreed,” he said when explaining the court’s decision and SIS arguments.

The Selangor fatwa, which was gazetted on July 31, 2014, singled out SIS Forum (Malaysia) in a sweeping declaration that the organisation and any individuals, organisations or entities holding on to “liberalism” and “religious pluralism” are deviant from Islamic teachings.

The 2014 fatwa also declares that any published materials with elements of liberalism or religious pluralism are haram (forbidden to Muslims) and can be confiscated, and instructs the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to block social websites that go against Islamic teachings and Islamic law.

The fatwa or religious edict also declares that any individual holding on to liberalism and religious pluralism should repent and return to the path of Islam.

On October 31, 2014, SIS Forum (Malaysia), the group’s co-founder Zainah Anwar and Datuk Zaid Ibrahim had filed a judicial review application over the fatwa against the Selangor Fatwa Committee, the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS) and the Selangor state government.

In SIS’ legal challenge, it had asked the civil courts to declare the 2014 fatwa as being unconstitutional and being in breach of federal laws and a state law.

SIS had also applied for the civil courts to declare that SIS as a company or others not able to profess the religion of Islam should not be subject to the Selangor religious authorities’ jurisdiction, as the latter has powers only over “persons” professing the religion of Islam.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/08/27/marina-mahathir-sis-court-ruling-means-shariah-law-applicable-to-all-compan/1784790

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IGP blames Opposition for destabilising Pakatan govt amid rising race, religious tension

27 August 2019

BY JERRY CHOONG

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 27 — Police Inspector-General Datuk Seri Abdul Hamid Bador has accused Opposition parties for attempting to destabilise the Pakatan Harapan government, amid a rise in  as racial and religious tensions in Malaysia.

The South China Morning Post reported him as saying that the situation in the country is ‘troubling’.

“Security-wise, it is of concern but manageable. The deposed party would continue to destabilise and weaken the ruling party,” Abdul Hamid said in an interview.

The inspector-general himself issued a caution last week, saying that anyone found to be playing on racial sentiments and inciting religious sensitivities will be arrested without warning.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s media advisor Datuk A Kadir Jasin also said there is a decisive need for the authorities to act against those who misuse social media, such as arresting individuals for inflammatory posts online and closing down sites.

He warned of the situation taking a ‘dangerous’ turn should it remained unchecked, and echoed Abdul Hamid’s sentiments by fingering the Opposition parties of exploiting such issues to garner Malay-Muslim support.

“Who are the people promoting divisive, racial and religious agenda for political gain? It is Umno and PAS. From a nationalist party, Umno has now become nothing more than an extremist Malay party.

“And PAS is using Islam for the exact same purpose of fighting with Umno for Malay support,” said Kadir.

He also pointed out that for Umno, exploiting racial and religious issues is the only way it can use to cover up their own sins, their corruption, and for being rejected over the 1MDB scandal.

“So what better way to hide their own sins than by resorting to race and religious issues,” Kadir added.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/08/27/igp-blames-opposition-for-destabilising-pakatan-govt-amid-rising-race-relig/1784802

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Syed Saddiq and Anwar caved in on Zakir Naik, says MCA

Vinodh Pillai

August 28, 2019

PETALING JAYA: An MCA vice-president has accused PPBM Youth leader Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman and PKR president Anwar Ibrahim of changing their tune about Zakir Naik to increase their respective party’s voter base.

“It goes to show they are hypocritical and posturing to the populist view only when it suits them but cave in to the political reality of a need to capture the bigger vote base,” said MCA vice-president Ti Lian Ker.

He told FMT: “As far as Malaysians are concerned, they are against Zakir Naik but the political reality is that PPBM and PKR will have a bigger voter base at the next general election if they have the support of the Muslims and Malays, who are generally in support of Naik.”

Ti said it was “totally despicable” for Syed Saddiq and Anwar to make a U-turn on Naik, despite originally stating their disagreement with him.

“I think by now, a lot of people have realised the true business of Pakatan Harapan politicians, who in the past hide behind populist sentiments,” Ti added. “When these are put to the test, they fail and their principles collapse.”

Naik, a controversial preacher from India, is a permanent resident of Malaysia. He recently sparked controversy when he allegedly questioned the loyalty of Malaysian Hindus to Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad. He was later quoted as saying that the Chinese in Malaysia could also be considered as “guests” in the country.

PKR president Anwar Ibrahim had initially urged Naik to apologise to Mahathir and said he disagreed with him. However, he later said Naik did not intentionally insult or question the Chinese and Indians.

Syed Saddiq had called for Naik to be deported but later urged Malaysians to “move on” after Mahathir ruled out Naik’s deportation.

Ti said the government was singing “different tunes at different times” about Naik to cater to different audiences. “That is why there are contrasting opinions made on social media or when addressing the public and party grassroots,” he said.

“But ultimately, they are posturing for the Malay and Muslim votes that will be the determining votes of the coming GE15. They need a substantial amount of the Malay vote to win the next GE. There will also be more Malays now that those under-18 can vote,” he added.

However this strategy did not take into account the views of minority ethnic groups. He said Pakatan Harapan received 90% of the Chinese vote at the 2018 general election, which was now at risk.

Sabah MCA women’s chief Pamela Yong urged DAP and its 42 MPs to state their stance on Anwar and Syed Saddiq, noting that DAP constantly harps about realising the “Malaysian Malaysia” dream.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2019/08/28/syed-saddiq-and-anwar-caved-in-on-zakir-naik-says-mca/

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Malaysia ex-PM Najib's biggest 1MDB trial begins

Aug 28, 2019

Malaysia's ex-prime minister Najib Razak played a pivotal role in plundering the state's 1MDB fund and channeled hundreds of millions of dollars into his own bank account, a prosecutor said Wednesday at the opening of his most significant graft trial.

Claims that Najib and his cronies pilfered massive sums from the fund and spent it on everything from real estate to artwork contributed to the defeat of his long-ruling coalition to a reformist alliance.

After losing power last year, the former prime minister was arrested and hit with dozens of charges related to 1MDB. He is expected to face several trials.

The first started in April but Wednesday's is the biggest, with Najib accused of 21 counts of money-laundering and four of abuse of power, centering on allegations that he illicitly obtained 2.28 billion ringgit ($540 million) from 1MDB.

Opening the trial, lead prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram told the High Court in Kuala Lumpur that Najib was a key player in the plunder of 1Malaysia Development Berhad, a fund established with the ostensible aim of boosting Malaysia's economy.

"His objective was to enrich himself," the prosecutor told the packed courtroom, as he outlined a series of complex financial transactions between 2011 and 2014 he said were used to funnel cash to Najib.

Najib — who was also finance minister — put himself in "sole control" of the fund's important affairs and used his position "to exert influence over the board of 1MDB to carry out certain abnormal transactions with undue haste."

Gopal said the former premier was the "mirror image" of fugitive financier Jho Low, who has been charged in both Malaysia and the United States.

"Jho Low and the accused acted as one at all material times," he said. Low held no official positions at 1MDB but was believed to have exerted huge influence over its operations.

In addition, Najib "took active steps to evade justice. He interfered with the course of investigation of this case," Gopal said.

Crucial part of 1MDB saga

The 66-year-old, who was in court for the start of the trial, denies all the charges.

The case relates to a crucial part of the 1MDB saga.

When reports surfaced in 2015 that huge sums linked to the fund had flowed into Najib's bank account, it dramatically ratcheted up pressure on the leader and his inner circle.

The attorney-general later cleared Najib of any wrongdoing, saying the money was a personal donation from the Saudi royal family, and closed down domestic investigations.

As allegations surrounding the fund multiplied, Najib became increasingly authoritarian, jailing political opponents and introducing laws that critics said were aimed at stifling dissent.

Prosecutors plan to call about 60 witnesses in a trial that is likely to be lengthy and complex, but Najib's lawyers have complained they have not had sufficient time to prepare for such a major case.

Prosecutors wrapped up their case Tuesday in Najib's first trial, which involves the theft of 42 million ringgit from a former unit of 1MDB. The judge will rule in November whether it is strong enough to continue.

The new government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Najib's mentor-turned-nemesis, came to power partly on a pledge to probe 1MDB and has been keen to push ahead with the cases against the toppled leader.

The US Department of Justice, which is seizing assets in America allegedly bought with looted 1MDB money, believes that $4.5 billion was stolen from the fund.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/08/28/604675/Malaysia-Najib-Razak-graft-trial-1MDB-fund

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Africa

 

US to keep up pressure on Sudan as it discusses lifting sanctions: Official

27 August 2019

The United States will test the commitment of Sudan’s new transitional government to human rights, freedom of speech and humanitarian access before it agrees to remove the country from a state sponsor of terrorism list, a senior US official said on Monday.

The State Department official, speaking to reporters on background, said while Sudan’s new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok would be the main point of contact, US diplomats would also have to interact with General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, commonly known as Hemedti, the outgoing deputy chief of the military council who heads a widely feared paramilitary group.

“Prime Minister Hamdok has said all the right things so we look forward to engaging with him,” the State Department official said.

“This new government has shown a commitment so far. We are going to keep testing that commitment,” the official added.

Hamdok, an economist, was sworn in last week as leader of a transition government, vowing to stabilize the country and solve its economic crisis.

The official said the new government had emphasized in recent talks with US officials that it wanted the country removed from the terrorism sponsor list, which limits Sudan’s access to international financing, including from lenders such as International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

Hamdok, who has worked for the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, told Reuters on Sunday he was seeking up to $10 billion in foreign funding over the next two years to cover Sudan’s import bill and help it rebuild.

“It is an obstacle right now,” the official acknowledged referring to US sanctions, adding: “It will take a little bit of time to work through but we are committed to doing that. We want to have a positive dialogue with this new civilian government.”

Sudan was designated a state sponsor of terrorism in 1993 under former US President Bill Clinton, cutting it off from financial markets and strangling its economy.

Washington lifted a 20-year trade embargo against Sudan in 2017 and was in the process of discussions on removing it from the US list when the military stepped in on April 11 to depose veteran autocrat Omar al-Bashir, who ruled Sudan for 30 years.

Mounting public anger over shortages of food, fuel and hard currency triggered mass demonstrations that eventually forced al-Bashir from power in April.

The Trump administration suspended talks on normalizing relations with Sudan and demanded that the military hand power to a civilian government.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/08/27/US-to-keep-up-pressure-on-Sudan-as-it-discusses-lifting-sanctions-Official.html

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Sudanese activists say tribal clashes killed 37 in port city

August 27, 2019

CAIRO: An eastern Sudanese port city remained volatile Tuesday after tribal clashes last week killed at least 37 people, including a child, activists said.

The fighting in Port Sudan, in the Red Sea province, erupted last Thursday between the Bani Amer tribe and the displaced Nuba tribe.

The Sudan Doctors Committee said late Monday at least 17 people of the 37 were killed by gunshots. More than 200 were wounded, including children.

The clashes came just days after the formation of a power-sharing government by the pro-democracy movement and the generals who overthrew the country’s longtime autocrat Omar Al-Bashir.

Sudan’s new joint military-civilian council on Sunday declared a state of emergency in Port Sudan, deployed troops to the area and sacked the provincial governor and its top security official.

The state-run news agency said 700 troops with 100 vehicles arrived in Port Sudan to enforce security in the city.

Maj. Gen. Bashir Al-Mahdi said security in the Red Sea province was stable and that the dispute between the two tribes “is being settled peacefully,” according to the SUNA report.

Activist Thouiba Al-Gallad said dozens of houses were burned in the violence in Port Sudan, 825 kilometers (512 miles) east of the capital, Khartoum. The clashes subsided after authorities declared a state of emergency and deployed more troops in the streets on Monday.

“There are lots of weapons,” said Al-Gallad, warning that new fighting could flare up anytime.

Rebel groups in the Nuba Mountains and eastern Sudan condemned the violence, saying the clashes were “disgrace to the Sudanese revolution.”

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1546061/middle-east

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Aid groups warn against Kenya's UN bid to sanction Al-Shabaab

28th Aug 2019

Kenya is urging the UN to list Al-Shabaab under the same sanctions as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, but foreign donors say the move could leave millions in drought-stricken Somalia without aid.

The proposed listing -- which could take effect as soon as Thursday -- comes at a critical time in Somalia, where 2.2 million people, or nearly 18 per cent of the population, face the risk of severe hunger.

Al-Shabaab is already targeted under broader sanctions imposed by the United Nations on Somalia, which is heavily aid-dependent after three decades of conflict and economic ruin.

Right now, UN agencies and humanitarian organisations are exempt from these sanctions, which enables them to deliver urgent aid without prosecution when they venture into territory controlled by Al-Shabaab.

But Kenya wants to tighten the screws on the jihadist group after several deadly attacks on its soil, and the sanctions regime it proposes would remove that safeguard.

"A measure like this will have the effect of criminalising humanitarian aid," Eric Schwartz, president of Refugees International, told AFP.

"Any measure that would impact the current provision of aid would have extremely serious and substantial implications."

If no member state objects before August 29 the Al-Shabaab listing under Security Council resolution 1267 will take immediate effect.

Hundreds of millions of aid dollars for Somalia will then be thrown into doubt.

In some cases, foreign donors said they may need to freeze payments for up to a year as they consider how to comply with the new sanctions, said an aid source in New York liaising with the UN on the issue.

Grey area

"We would be operating in a huge grey area. As humanitarian actors, we would have this huge dilemma of carrying on providing aid, or we stop altogether," the official working for a large global charity told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Another concern is that banks, fearing repercussions, could limit financial services to humanitarian agencies working in Somalia -- a process known as "de-risking" that makes it difficult to transfer money and fund programmes.

The looming deadline has sparked a flurry of lobbying at Security Council headquarters in New York.

Earlier this month, 20 former ambassadors, national security and humanitarian officials wrote to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and USAID administrator Mark Green urging them to reject the Kenyan proposal.

Their decision "could either help sustain critical and life-saving relief to Somalia, or exacerbate the dire humanitarian situation and puts hundreds of thousands if not millions of people at grave risk", the August 7 letter warned.

"They (humanitarian groups) have worked carefully to develop systems to reach people while limiting aid diversion" to Al-Shabaab, it added.

Exemptions from sanctions are extremely rare, the International Peace Institute pointed out in a June paper.

Kenya sees Al-Shabaab as no different to extremist groups elsewhere and believes sanctions are a way to blunt their violence.

On July 13, after 26 people were killed in Somalia's south, Kenyan Foreign Minister Monica Juma said "this attack was another reminder to the international community of the imperative" to list Al-Shabaab under resolution 1267.

The foreign ministry did not reply to queries from AFP before publication.

Al-Shabaab violence has surged in 2019 with atrocities in Somalia and Kenya, including an attack in Nairobi in January that left 21 people dead.

Kenya has applied considerable diplomatic leverage on its allies, notably lobbying the EU in May to list the Al-Shabaab as a "terrorism organisation".

Bad timing

The timing could not be worse for Somalia, which is facing another hunger crisis after the rainy season failed this year.

Nearly 18 percent of the population faces severe hunger, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned.

The country is prone to devastating, frequent droughts. A famine between October 2010 and April 2013 killed almost 258,000 people, more than half of them children under five.

Somalia has accused its larger neighbour of meddling that could worsen its domestic problems and have repercussions for regional stability.

Somalia's envoy to the UN, Abukar Dahir Osman, told the Security Council on August 21 that impeding aid efforts "will play into the Shabaab's narrative and self-image as a de-facto government in areas where state reach is limited".

He reiterated the government's "condemnation of any interference in the internal affairs of Somalia."

Kenya's campaign on Al-Shabaab comes as it spars with Somalia on several diplomatic fronts including a battle over its marine borders, said Matt Bryden, director of Nairobi-based think tank Sahan.

Full report at:

https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2001339785/aid-groups-warn-against-kenya-s-un-bid-to-sanction-al-shabaab

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Al-Shabaab commander captured hours after death of KDF's most wanted terrorist

Al-Qaida allied militants Al-Shabaab have continued to suffer heavy loses in recent weeks, with SNA soldiers and friendly forces intensifying crackdown.

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Sources indicate that a senior and influential Al-Shabaab commander was on Monday captured by AMISOM troops in Modadishu and is being held for grilling.

The commander, whose identity is yet to be revealed, is said to have been coordinating Al-Shabaab activities both in the country and across the border.

"Security agents have tonight captured an Al-Shabaab operative in Yaqshid district of Mogadishu following an operation. The individual has not been identified yet but a source says he is an important figure of Al-Shabaab operations in Mogadishu," reports indicated.

The significant progress comes barely 24 hours after an operation in Jubbaland led to the killing of a militant who has been on KDF's blacklist.

Somali National Army owned radio on Sunday claimed that Mohamed Dhubow, who is believed to be the coordinator of Al-Shabaab in Jubbaland and Southeast region was killed.

Dhobow, who is believed to have trained with Al Qaida, has been on the run despite KDF's spirited effort to have him arrested for interrogation.

However, the SNA radio did not specify when and where the operation took place. It's not also clear whether it's KDF or SNA carried the onslaught.

"Somali Army radio is reporting that a militant wanted by Kenya Mohamed Dhubow and the son of Mahad Karate were killed in an operation in Sablale area, Lower Shabelle region.

"The radio didn’t specify when the operation took place; there is no independent confirmation of the claim," tweeted VOA journalist Harun Maruf, who also authored Inside Al-Shabaab book.

Full report at:

https://hivisasa.com/posts/51720512-al-shabaab-commander-captured-hours-of-death-of-kdfs-most-wanted-terrorist

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Aid groups warn against Kenya's UN bid to sanction Al Shabab

Aug 27, 2019

Kenya is urging the UN to list Al Shabab under the same sanctions as Al Qaeda and ISIS, but foreign donors say the move could leave millions in drought-stricken Somalia without aid.

The proposed listing, which could take effect on Thursday, comes at a critical time in Somalia, where 2.2 million people, or nearly 18 per cent of the population, face severe hunger.

Al Shabab is already targeted under broader sanctions imposed by the United Nations on Somalia, which is heavily aid-dependent after three decades of conflict and economic ruin.

UN agencies and humanitarian organisations are exempt from these sanctions, which enables them to deliver urgent aid without prosecution when they venture into territory controlled by Al Shabab.

But Kenya wants to tighten the screws on the militant group after several deadly attacks on its soil, and the sanctions regime it proposes would remove that safeguard.

"A measure like this will have the effect of criminalising humanitarian aid," Eric Schwartz, president of Refugees International, told AFP.

"Any measure that would impact the current provision of aid would have extremely serious and substantial implications."

If no member state objects before August 29 the Al Shabab listing under Security Council resolution 1267 will take immediate effect.

Hundreds of millions of aid dollars for Somalia will then be thrown into doubt.

In some cases, foreign donors said they may need to freeze payments for up to a year as they consider how to comply with the new sanctions, said an aid source in New York liaising with the UN on the issue.

"We would be operating in a huge grey area. As humanitarian actors, we would have this huge dilemma of carrying on providing aid, or we stop altogether," the official working for a large global charity told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Another concern is that banks, fearing repercussions, could limit financial services to humanitarian agencies working in Somalia, a process known as "de-risking" that makes it difficult to transfer money and fund programmes.

The looming deadline has sparked a flurry of lobbying at Security Council headquarters in New York.

Earlier this month, 20 former ambassadors, national security and humanitarian officials wrote to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and USAID administrator Mark Green urging them to reject the Kenyan proposal.

Their decision "could either help sustain critical and life-saving relief to Somalia, or exacerbate the dire humanitarian situation and puts hundreds of thousands if not millions of people at grave risk", the August 7 letter said.

"They [humanitarian groups] have worked carefully to develop systems to reach people while limiting aid diversion" to Al Shabab, it said.

Exemptions from sanctions are extremely rare, the International Peace Institute said in a June paper.

Kenya sees Al Shabab as no different than extremist groups elsewhere and believes sanctions are a way to blunt their violence.

On July 13, after 26 people were killed in Somalia's south, Kenyan Foreign Minister Monica Juma said "this attack was another reminder to the international community of the imperative" to list Al Shabab under resolution 1267.

The foreign ministry did not reply to queries before publication.

Al Shabab violence has surged in 2019 with atrocities in Somalia and Kenya, including an attack in Nairobi in January that left 21 people dead.

Kenya has applied considerable diplomatic leverage on its allies, notably lobbying the EU in May to list Al Shabab as a "terrorism organisation".

The timing could not be worse for Somalia, which is facing another hunger crisis after the rainy season failed this year.

The country is prone to devastating, frequent droughts. A famine between October 2010 and April 2013 killed almost 258,000 people, more than half of them children under five.

Somalia has accused its larger neighbour of meddling that could worsen its domestic problems and have repercussions for regional stability.

Somalia's envoy to the UN, Abukar Dahir Osman, told the Security Council on August 21 that impeding aid efforts "will play into the Shabab's narrative and self-image as a de facto government in areas where state reach is limited".

He repeated the government's "condemnation of any interference in the internal affairs of Somalia".

Kenya's campaign on Al Shabab comes as it spars with Somalia on several diplomatic fronts including a battle over its marine borders, said Matt Bryden, director of Nairobi-based think tank Sahan.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/africa/aid-groups-warn-against-kenya-s-un-bid-to-sanction-al-shabab-1.903302

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North America

 

Creating a ‘domestic terrorism’ charge would actually hurt communities of color

By Roy L. Austin Jr. and Kristen Clarke

August 26, 2019

Roy L. Austin Jr. is a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. Kristen Clarke, a former prosecutor in the Civil Rights Division, is president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

In the wake of the horrific mass murder this month in El Paso, in which a gunman killed 22 people and wounded dozens of others, Americans have understandably sought ways to prevent such tragedies. In particular, some have called for making “domestic terrorism” a chargeable offense. As former federal civil rights prosecutors, we don’t believe that we need new laws. We just need to stop discriminating in the resourcing and enforcing of the laws we have.

We already have powerful tools for prosecuting hate crimes — criminal offenses motivated by bias toward an individual’s race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. The first federal hate crime law was passed in 1871 to address the Reconstruction-era racial terrorism experienced by African Americans, including  lynchings. These laws have  evolved over time. In 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which expanded existing laws to protect a broader range of threatened communities.

On the other hand, domestic terrorism (unlike international terrorism) is not a chargeable offense. It never has been, nor does it need to be. Such a law is unnecessary and would be harmful to communities of color.

The USA Patriot Act defines “domestic terrorism” as an act that occurs primarily within the United States that is dangerous to human life and is intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion, or affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping. That term is used for purposes of investigation only.

Unfortunately, however, in an inherently biased criminal-justice system, the concept of domestic terrorism has long been used in discriminatory and harmful manners. In the post-9/11 world, the counterterrorism framework targeted and discriminated against Arab Americans, American Muslims and South Asian Americans. This securitized frame of engagement with specific communities sent a false message that Arab, Muslim and South Asian Americans somehow warranted suspicion. An increase in  hate crimes against members of these communities soon followed.

Historically, federal law enforcement agencies have used this kind of framing to target not only those who commit acts of violence but also those who advocate social and racial justice — including the FBI’s covert operations against the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s and, five decades later, its creation of the term “black identity extremists” to target those protesting excessive force used by police.

Law enforcement agencies and prosecutors already have the tools they need to investigate and prosecute acts of mass violence. There are 57 terrorism-related charges in federal law — 51 of which would apply to acts of both international and domestic terrorism, including hate crimes. What our government lacks is the will to consistently use these charges when a threat involves white supremacists. What our government also has done is disproportionately allocate its resources in this area to acts of terrorism, though hate crimes have led to far more deaths of Americans and on U.S. soil than terrorism over the past decade.

Furthermore, should history repeat itself, a stand-alone charge of domestic terrorism would do more harm than good for communities of color. First, it would suggest that white supremacists of today are somehow different from the white supremacists of 1871, diminish the importance of existing hate crime laws and ignore why they were enacted in the first place. Second, in an inherently biased system, it would heighten the possibility that law enforcement agencies would have yet another tool for targeting the very communities that are most vulnerable to acts of violence.

The national conversation we should be having is how to respond adequately to an increase in reported hate crimes — including those perpetrated by white supremacists. We can do that without a new charge that has the potential to harm the communities we seek to protect. Indeed, we can best do that by actually using the tools that we currently have and elevating our response to hate crime on the local, state and federal levels.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/domestic-terrorism-doesnt-need-to-be-a-chargeable-offense-we-already-have-powerful-hate-crime-laws/2019/08/26/14c6f354-c4eb-11e9-b72f-b31dfaa77212_story.html?noredirect=on

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Justice Department to seek death penalty against Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect

By Amir Vera

August 26, 2019

(CNN)The Justice Department is planning to seek the death penalty against the suspected shooter in the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue massacre.

Robert Bowers, 46, has been charged in the October 2018 shooting that left 11 worshipers dead. His attorneys pleaded not guilty on his behalf in November and requested a jury trial.

Federal prosecutors will seek the death penalty on charges that include obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death, use and discharge of a firearm to commit murder and possession of a firearm during a violent crime.

Prosecutors say their intent to seek the death penalty is justified because Bowers' anti-Semitic views played a role in the shooting, the shooting was intentional and he showed no remorse, according to a federal notice to seek the death penalty.

Full report at:

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/08/26/us/pittsburgh-synagogue-shooting-death-sentence/index.html

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Taken by ISIS: One American Father’s Harrowing Journey to Get His Kids Back from the Caliphate

Aug 26 2019

The scene was apocalyptic: Twisted steel from the skeletal frames of destroyed vehicles sticking out of mounds of earth; ammunition belts strewn along the side of the road; bloated and decomposing bodies of ISIS fighters lying between the obliterated buildings.

It was March 23 and the territorial caliphate declared by Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi had finally crumbled, the last town under the control of his so-called Islamic State now in the hands of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. But the story was far from over.

Somewhere among the thousands of families who had poured out of ISIS’ last stronghold during the final assault were two young American children named Yousuf and Zahra. Their mother had been killed several months ago, and their father back in the U.S. was anxiously waiting to hear if they’d been found.

Born in Miami

Yousuf was just 4, and Zahra 1, when they were taken from their home in Miami to Syria. They are the children of Bashir Shikder and his wife, Rashida, devout Muslims who immigrated to the U.S. from Bangladesh and became citizens. The kids were born in Florida; Rashida stayed home to care for them, while Bashir worked as an engineer.

But one day in early 2015, he returned from a trip overseas to find the house empty. According to Bashir, Rashida had been radicalized online and decided to join the Islamic State — with Yousuf and Zahra. With no warning or explanation, she packed their belongings and flew the kids to Turkey. From there, they crossed into Syria.

Rashida made contact with Bashir via WhatsApp from inside the caliphate. For a time, she remained in regular touch, sending him pictures of the children and urging him to join them. When he didn’t, she broke off communication, then sent him an ISIS document declaring that she had been granted a divorce in order to marry a fighter.

From that point on, the messages became less frequent as the military campaign against ISIS stepped up. Bashir could tell from occasional pictures that the kids were being moved around, from Raqqa to other places within the caliphate. Then one day he got a fateful message from a contact in Syria: His wife had been killed in an airstrike, and both Yousuf and Zahra were injured in the blast. Before long, the line of communication was cut entirely, leaving Bashir with just the videos and voice messages to remind him of his lost family.

Caliphate crumbles

Once ISIS was cornered in the town of Baghuz, on a tiny scrap of land close to Syria’s border with Iraq next to the Euphrates River, Bashir had fresh hope that his kids would soon be found. Thousands of ISIS families streamed out of the enclave as the bombardment intensified, but we couldn’t find Yousuf and Zahra among the crowds. As the final ISIS positions collapsed and victory was announced with no sign of the children, the search turned to the sprawling refugee camps housing ISIS women and children who survived the last stand of the caliphate.

The largest camp is Al Hol, where tens of thousands of former ISIS families live in tents guarded by just a few hundred Syrian Democratic Forces security personnel. Conditions are dire, and dozens of children have died of malnutrition or hyperthermia in this camp. The ideology of the Islamic State continues to grow here — especially among the nearly 12,000 foreigners who traveled from countries as diverse as Indonesia, Trinidad & Tobago, Uzbekistan, and Canada.

Many of the women and children speak English, but their governments are refusing to let them return. Last month the black ISIS flag was raised above the tents, and women who reject the group have been killed.

In July, with Bashir’s contacts at the FBI indicating they had information the kids were still alive, he decided to make a trip to Syria to search for them himself. He was able to get rare permission for a civilian to enter the country and traveled from Miami via Istanbul, retracing the same journey his wife and kids had made four years earlier.

Rescue operation

But after multiple reports that the kids had been seen in Al Hol, Bashir’s contacts in the camp said Yousuf and Zahra were in the hands of a family that did not want them found. They said Rashida had left instructions that if she was killed, Yousef and Zahra should not be returned to him. Local authorities tracking his case told Bashir that his children’s identities had been concealed and they were being hidden within the camp, moved around from tent to tent.

After weeks of negotiating on the ground, Bashir met with commanders of the SDF military force that had ended the ISIS caliphate. He told them he had received a ransom note via text messages from a Syrian number, saying his kids would be killed if he didn’t pay $20,000. The messages said Yousuf and Zahra were “children of the Islamic State,” and that if Bashir didn’t cooperate, his children would be killed. The SDF decided to act.

Under the guise of a weapons search, the SDF planned to send in a platoon of female soldiers who could search women’s tents without causing a larger disturbance. They had pinpointed the area where the kids were reportedly located — a collection of tents on higher ground in a far corner of the foreigners’ section known as the “Hill of Baghuz.” The soldiers studied photos of the two children and then entered the camp under heavy guard.

Going from tent to tent, they questioned boys and girls who resembled Yousuf and Zahra. As the soldiers moved through the camp, they were approached by women telling them Yousef and Zahra had been killed in Baghuz. At the same time, children said they recognized Bashir’s kids and had seen them recently.

Full report at:

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/ne8bad/taken-by-isis-one-american-fathers-harrowing-journey-to-get-his-kids-back-from-the-caliphate

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Muslim men sue L.A. Sheriff’s Department, alleging religious discrimination in jail

By JAMES QUEALLYSTAFF WRITER

AUG. 27, 2019

Three Muslim men are suing the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, alleging they were denied access to an observant diet and proper religious garments and texts, while the same accommodations were made for inmates of other faiths.

The lawsuit, filed Monday by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, argues that the Sheriff’s Department has engaged in a “systematic effort to disfavor Muslim inmates and their spiritual needs over those of inmates of other faiths.”

The three men claim staff inside the Men’s Central Jail either delayed, or in some cases outright denied, their access to foods consistent with a halal diet, copies of the Quran or time for weekly prayer, according to the lawsuit. The men also contend deputies heavily scrutinized their knowledge of the Islamic faith before deciding whether or not they should have access to a halal diet.

A spokesman for the county referred questions to the Sheriff’s Department, which did not respond to a request for comment.

“The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department treatment of religious requests from inmates is egregious,” CAIR’s National Litigation Director, Lena Masri, said in a statement. “Our clients have had to resort to hunger strikes to get basic religious accommodations to practice their faith after their written requests and grievances were repeatedly ignored and denied.”

Joe Alfred Taylor III first requested that he be provided halal foods in February 2017, but a deputy told Taylor he was “not a Muslim,” according to the lawsuit. Taylor was quizzed about his knowledge of Islam several times, engaged in a days-long hunger strike and had access to halal foods approved and then revoked with little explanation between February 2017 and late 2018, the lawsuit contends.

Two other inmates, Miguel Arciniega and Hugo Cortez, claim they endured similar treatment. In the lawsuit, Cortez said that when he answered questions about his faith with the “proper Arabic terminology,” a Sheriff’s Department sergeant told him “we’re in America and we don’t speak Arabic here.”

The lawsuit also contends that while Muslims inside Men’s Central Jail are denied appropriate prayer times, access to religious attire and celebrations of certain religious feasts or days of observance, similar accommodations are made for inmates of Christian, Jewish or Buddhist faith. The men claimed Passover and Christmas celebrations were permitted inside the jail last year, but no such allowances were made for Eid, which marks the end of Ramadan, according to the lawsuit.

All three men remain in custody, said Carolyn Homer, a trial attorney for CAIR. Court records show Arciniega was charged with murder in connection with a 2015 homicide and is awaiting trial. He was also charged with attempted murder in connection with jailhouse assaults allegedly carried out at the direction of the Mexican Mafia, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

Cortez is awaiting trial on murder charges related to a 2011 slaying, jail and court records show. Taylor III was convicted at a recent trial, but Homer did not know what charges he had faced.

The federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act protects the rights of prisoners to observe their chosen faith and grants them access to certain types of garments or diets, unless the need would compromise security. But police agencies in Southern California have repeatedly run afoul of the law.

Last year, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department had to pay out $75,000 to settle a lawsuit after a Muslim woman claimed deputies forced her to remove her headscarf while in custody. In 2017, the city of Long Beach had to pay $85,000 to a Muslim woman who was forced to remove her headscarf by officers arresting her on a shoplifting warrant.

Some of the state’s largest law enforcement agencies say they take steps to prevent fraudulent claims of religious affiliation made for the sake of receiving certain benefits, such as access to different food. Last year, the Los Angeles Police Department told The Times they have chaplains on call to address such situations.

Full report at:

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-08-27/muslim-men-sue-la-sheriffs-department-alleging-religious-discrimination

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Muslim Officers in New York Suspended For Refusing to Shave Beard Reinstated

August 28, 2019

Albany, New York: Muslim correctional officers in New York were reinstated Tuesday after being suspended for refusing to shave their beards because of religious reasons, the state prisons agency said.

It came a day after Brian Sughrim and David Feliciano, correctional officers at Fishkill prison in Dutchess County, filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

The lawsuit, which argued the agency discriminated against the two men, is the "sole reason that they're getting their jobs back," said their attorney, Joshua Moskovitz.

The agency did not comment on what role the lawsuit might have played in the officers' reinstatement.

It seems clear, Moskovitz said, that religious intolerance was at the heart of the suspensions. The litigation will proceed, he said.

The employees will receive full back pay, prisons agency spokesman Thomas Mailey said in an emailed statement. The agency, he wrote, will be "reviewing its rules regarding facial hair immediately in light of the new law."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation this month banning employment discrimination because of religious attire or facial hair.

According to the lawsuit, a prison official acknowledged the new law to Sughrim, but the agency suspended him and Feliciano this month anyway.

The two men are long-time department employees and the agency years ago gave them "medical accommodations" to wear beards due to a skin condition, according to the lawsuit.

Earlier this year, the department asked the two men for new documentation of their medical conditions and decided not to continue the medical accommodation.

The suit says the men also put in requests for religious accommodation, but those were rejected by the agency.

According to the lawsuit, the agency argued all security staff should be "clean-shaven because they all must be able to wear respirators in case of an emergency or other staffing need."

Yet, the department has allowed correctional officers to have facial hair for secular reasons, the suit argues.

Feliciano, in a statement provided by his attorney, said the reinstatement "was a small victory for Muslims worldwide." Sughrim, in a statement, described it as a "first victory."

Full report at:

https://www.news18.com/news/world/muslim-officers-in-new-york-suspended-for-refusing-to-shave-beard-reinstated-2286883.html

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US seeks to enter into direct talks with Yemen’s Houthis: Report

Aug 27, 2019

The United States is reportedly planning to initiate direct talks with Yemen's Houthi Ansarullah movement in a declared bid to end the protracted war in the impoverished country.

The Wall Street Journal cited American officials familiar with the plans as saying in a report on Tuesday that the administration of US President Donald Trump was also looking to prompt Saudi Arabia into taking part in the talks with Houthi leaders in Oman to broker a ceasefire in Yemen.

Enjoying the support of the US and UK, Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015.

The US plan to open direct negotiations with the Houthis comes at a time when fears of broader regional war are growing, according to the journal.

Yemen's resistance, however, has pushed the Saudi war to a stalemate, with Yemeni forces increasingly using sophisticated weaponry in retaliatory attacks against the Saudi-led coalition.

Over the past months, the Yemeni army has managed to conduct several missile and drone attacks on Saudi airports and oil facilities.

Trump has strongly defended arm sales to Riyadh up to this point and has vowed to veto any resolution in Congress banning the sales.

The UK has licensed over £4.7 billion worth of arms exports, including missiles and fighter jets, to Riyadh since the beginning of the deadly conflict. Britain has also been providing combat intelligence and target data to Saudi Arabia over the course of the war, which has killed thousands of Yemeni civilians and put millions more on the verge of famine.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the Saudi-led war has claimed the lives of over 91,000 Yemenis over the past four and a half years.

The Saudi-led war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/08/27/604658/US-direct-talks-Yemen-Houthi-Ansarullah-movement

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Palestinian Harvard student 'denied entry to US because of friends' social media posts'

Jack Dutton

Aug 27, 2019

A Palestinian student who is due to study at America’s Harvard University claims he was denied entry to the country because his friends made anti-US comments on social media.

Ismail Ajjawi, 17, who was due to begin his studies next Tuesday, told the university's student paper Harvard Crimson that he was detained on arrival at Boston’s Logan International Airport on Friday night.

Mr Ajjawi said immigration officers interrogated him for hours and demanded access to his phone and laptop.

The student, who lives in Tyre in Lebanon, said he was asked about his religious beliefs and practices before officers searched his devices.

He said that after five hours of questioning, an officer summoned him to a room and “started screaming” at him.

"She said that she found people posting political points of view that oppose the US on my friends list,” Mr Ajjawi said.

“I responded that I have no business with such posts and that I didn't like, share or comment on them, and told her that I shouldn't be held responsible for what others post,” he said.

“I have no single post on my timeline discussing politics.”

The officer then cancelled the teenager’s visa and told him he would be deported.

"Applicants must demonstrate they are admissible into the US by overcoming all grounds of inadmissibility including health-related grounds, criminality, security reasons, public charge, labour certification, illegal entrants and immigration violations, documentation requirements and miscellaneous grounds," a spokesman for US Customs and Border Protection told the Crimson.

"This individual was deemed inadmissible to the United States based on information discovered during the CBP inspection.”

The university is trying to resolve the issue before classes begin.

“The university is working closely with the student’s family and appropriate authorities to resolve this matter so that he can join his classmates in the coming days,” Harvard spokesman Jonathan Swain told the student paper.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/the-americas/palestinian-harvard-student-denied-entry-to-us-because-of-friends-social-media-posts-1.903467

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Europe

 

Austria to repatriate orphan children of female ISIS adherent from Syria

AUGUST 26, 2019

Austria is preparing to repatriate from Syria two young orphans of a female Islamic State supporter in the first such move for Vienna, a government spokesperson said Monday, August 26.

The decision to hand over the boys aged one and three to their grandmother in Vienna was made after positive DNA results and a court granting her custody, according to foreign ministry spokesperson Peter Guschelbauer.

“We have decided to bring back the two orphans, and preparations have started … It is the first repatriation of children from this region,” he told AFP, adding that the process could take several weeks.

The children are now in the crammed Kurdish-run al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria. Their Austrian mother, who went to join ISIS in 2014 when she was 15 years old, is believed to have died.

Guschelbauer said at least three other children could be repatriated later.

Last week, authorities in northeastern Syria handed over to Germany four children from ISIS families, all of them under 10 years old.

Another dozen children of alleged jihadist fighters have been repatriated from Iraq to Germany since March.

France and Belgium have also brought a handful of orphans home, while the United States last year repatriated a woman, Samantha Elhassani, with her four children.

Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kosovo have repatriated dozens of women and children.

ISIS overran large parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014 and proclaimed a “caliphate” there, but the jihadist group has since been ousted from those territories.

Al-Hol camp in northeast Syria is home to nearly 74,000 people, among them wives and children of suspected ISIS fighters. According to the United Nations, about 15% of the people living in the camp are not from Iraq or Syria.

The autonomous administration in northern Syria has repeatedly warned it does not have the means to put such large numbers of people on trial or even maintain the camp.

Conditions in Al-Hol are dire, and over 200 children under the age of five are known to have died in the camp.

https://thedefensepost.com/2019/08/26/austria-isis-orphan-children-syria/

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UK supporting family of British-Iranian dual national sentenced to jail in Iran

27 August 2019

Britain said it was supporting the family of the British-Iranian dual national Anousheh Ashouri who has been sentenced to 10 years in jail in Iran on spying charges.

Ashouri was sentenced for spying for Israel’s Mossad and for acquiring illegitimate wealth, judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili was quoted as saying by Iranian state TV on Tuesday.

“We have been supporting the family of a British-Iranian dual national...and our Embassy in Tehran continues to request consular access,” a spokesman for Britain’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/08/27/UK-supporting-family-of-British-Iranian-dual-national-sentenced-to-jail-in-Iran.html

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Iran journalist flees Zarif delegation to stay in Sweden

August 27, 2019

STOCKHOLM: An Iranian journalist covering Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s Nordic tour has fled the official delegation and applied for residency in Sweden, officials here said Tuesday.

The Swedish Migration Agency said Amir-Tohid Fazel, a political reporter for Iran’s ultra-conservative news agency Moj, had “applied for a residence permit in Sweden on 21 August 2019.”

It provided no further details.

Fazel was traveling with Zarif’s delegation as part of an international tour to Finland, Sweden and Norway and other countries.

On August 20, “when I was in Sweden, one of my colleagues in Tehran contacted me via Internet and said ‘four plainclothes came to the news agency with a warrant for your arrest’,” he said in an interview with Swedish television SVT.

He had recently published a list of names of Iranian officials who allegedly hold dual citizenship in countries the Iranian government views as “hostile states.”

Iran does not recognize dual citizenship and refuses to provide consular aid to Iranian dual nationals.

“The Iranian government officially announced that it will file a complaint,” Fazel told SVT.

The day after his colleague in Iran tipped him off, while still in Sweden, Fazel managed to slip away from the delegation.

“It was very difficult because of the 48 bodyguards that were there to provide security for Dr. Zarif and keep an eye on the reporters,” he said.

The journalist refused to be drawn on his political affiliation.

Zarif has been on a world diplomatic tour that kicked off in Kuwait on August 17, before visiting the Nordic countries and France, where he held meetings on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Biarritz.

Iran occupies spot 170, out of 180, in the 2019 Reporters Without Borders rankings of countries’ press freedoms.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1546026/world

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Russia offers Turkey to send astronaut to space station

Emre Gurkan Abay

27.08.2019

MOSCOW

Russian space agency (Roscosmos) on Tuesday offered Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to send a Turkish astronaut to the International Space Station (ISS).

"We have a joint offer to you -- to send a Turkish astronaut to the orbit to celebrate the Republic’s anniversary. The Cosmonaut Training Center is ready to work on this," Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos, said referring to Turkey's 100th anniversary of the Republic to be celebrated on Oct. 29, 2023.

The offer came during the joint visit of Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to the MAKS-2019 International Aviation and Space Salon.

"We will participate in your esteemed work. I thank you on behalf of our country, thank you for the work you have done," Erdogan said.

Erdogan and Putin attended the inauguration ceremony of the MAKS-2019, one of the world’s leading events in its field.

On December 2018, Turkey’s official gazette published a presidential decree announcing the establishment of the country’s space agency aiming to prepare and carry out the National Space Program in line with the policies determined by the president of Turkey.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/russia-offers-turkey-to-send-astronaut-to-space-station/1566682

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Family of British-Iranian man jailed in Iran calls charges laughable

Aug 28, 2019

The family of a retired British businessman who was jailed by Iran has dismissed claims that he had ties to Israeli Mossad spy agency as laughable.

Anoosheh Ashoori, 65, was jailed for 10 years on espionage charges and two years for acquiring illegitimate wealth after allegedly being caught with €33,000 (Dh121,215), it was announced on Tuesday.

Gholamhossein Esmaeili, a spokesman for the Iranian judiciary, said the businessman “had been connected to the Mossad and had relayed a lot of intelligence to that country”.

The businessman’s family told The Times that he had been arrested in August 2017 and sentenced several months before the news was made public today.

His daughter, Elika, said the family was surprised that the authorities in Tehran had made his sentence public.

Mr Ashoori was one of three people handed lengthy sentences on security and spying charges, Mr Esmaeili told the state-owned Tasnim news agency on Tuesday.

He said Ali Johari and Aras Amiri, an Iranian national who was working for the British Council in London, were jailed in Iran for allegedly spying on the country.

Ms Amiri was detained in March last year when she returned to Iran to visit her elderly grandmother, and the British Council firmly rejects the accusations against her.

"We have been supporting the family of British-Iranian dual national Mr Ashoori since the start of his detention and our embassy in Tehran continues to request consular access," a British Foreign Office spokesman said.

"The treatment of all dual nationals detained in Iran is a priority and we raise their cases at the most senior levels. We urge Iran to let them be reunited with their families."

British-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was jailed for five years in 2016 on spying charges.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Ms Amiri are being held in the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/family-of-british-iranian-man-jailed-in-iran-calls-charges-laughable-1.903502

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Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan agree on military push in Syria's Idlib

Jonathan Brown

Aug 27, 2019

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may not have got the reprieve he hoped for during talks in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who appears determined to rout remaining armed opposition groups from Syria.

During Mr Erdogan’s one-day visit to Russia, the Russian leader told reporters that Turkey and Russia had agreed on joint measures aimed at clearing "terrorists" in Syria's Idlib province.

"Together with Turkey's president we have outlined additional joint steps to neutralise the terrorists' nests in Idlib and normalisation of the situation there and in the whole of Syria as a result," Mr Putin told a joint briefing with the Turkish president in Zhukovsky, near Moscow, on the sidelines of an international aviation and space show.

The Russian president said that representatives from the two countries alongside Iranian officials would meet in Turkey in September to make progress on brokering a political solution to the conflict.

Mr Erdogan’s trip to Moscow was seen by observers as a plea for respite in the Syrian government’s offensive on the last bastion of opposition to President Bashar Al Assad.

After eight years of conflict, government forces backed by Russia are several months into an operation to quash armed opposition groups and extremists in the north-west province of Idlib.

Victory for Mr Assad would all but mark the end of the military phase of the war in Syria, which erupted after his forces brutally suppressed a series of peaceful, anti-government protests in 2011.

Mr Erdogan is concerned that an all-out assault will force a massive wave of refugees towards Turkey’s borders. Idlib is home to about three million Syrians, many of whom sought refuge there after fleeing regime offensives on their home cities.

Turkey already houses more displaced Syrians than any other country, but Mr Erdogan is facing a political crisis at home as the country buckles under the weight of hosting more than three million displaced Syrians.

In recent weeks, Ankara has come under fire for its crackdown, deporting vulnerable Syrians back to a conflict zone.

Mr Erdogan told the Russian president last week that attacks by the Syrian regime’s forces were causing a humanitarian crisis and threatened Turkey's national security.

However, Russia and Mr Assad are anxious to finally rout armed opposition from Idlib, bring about a final military resolution to the conflict and begin reconstruction efforts.

Russia and Turkey along with Iran agreed a ceasefire in Idlib last September and tasked Ankara with coordinating a drawdown of armed opposition there. The region is controlled mainly by Hayat Tahrir Al Sham (HTS), an Al-Qaeda affiliate that has vowed to continue the fight against the Assad regime.

Ahead of Erdogan’s visit, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the Russian-backed offensive in Idlib did not violate the terms of the ceasefire.

“Erdogan will try to renegotiate the Idlib agreement because Turkey isn’t able to implement it, which gives Russia a reason to support Syrian military operations in the province,” said Alexei Khlebkikov, a Middle East expert at the Russian International Affairs Council, a think tank which advises the Kremlin.

“It is unlikely that Erdogan is capable of stopping Russia-backed Syrian army offensive in Idlib, but he might be able to slow it down and decrease the level of violence,” Mr Khlebnikov told The National.

The UN says that 500,000 have already been displaced by the Russian-backed Syrian offensive in Idlib and Mr Khlebnikov added it was likely that, “Erdogan will raise the issue of the new refugees that are fleeting towards Turkey”.

Mr Erdogan’s trip coincided with a new round of deliveries of the Russian S-400 missile system to Turkey, an arms deal that has strained relations between Ankara and Washington.

US President Donald Trump threatened sanctions and repeatedly called on Turkey to call off the missile deal ahead of the first deliveries earlier this summer. United States officials say the Russian systems are incompatible with other allies within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, a defense alliance whose members include the US and Turkey.

During his visit to Moscow, the Turkish president toured the MAKS air show, a biennial event that showcases Russia’s aerospace industry.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/vladimir-putin-and-recep-tayyip-erdogan-agree-on-military-push-in-syria-s-idlib-1.903455

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Arab World

 

Hunt for Iraqi IS leaders continues amid heightened secrecy

Shelly Kittleson

August 27, 2019

BAGHDAD — As the fourth phase of Operation Will of Victory gets underway in Iraq to hunt down Islamic State (IS) remnants, attempts to understand who the current top IS military leaders are is proving frustrating.

Several Iraqi security analysts and Deir ez-Zor sources have told Al-Monitor that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and other key Iraqi leaders are mostly believed to be in Syria. But beyond that, scant information is available.

One source, a well-connected Deir al-Zor native who cannot be named for security reasons, told Al-Monitor that a man known as Jabbar al-Iraqi may be key to understanding Baghdadi’s whereabouts.

The source is known to have provided coordinates to the international coalition for IS targets in Syria in the past.

Jabbar al-Iraqi is from the Shimmari tribe, he said, “an Iraqi Bedouin who uses this to his advantage to get IS leaders across the border,” the source said.

The Shimmari tribe is one of the largest tribes in Iraq, and a significant number are in northeastern Syria as well.

Jabbar al-Iraqi is a military leader of Wilayet al-Jazeera and is very close to Baghdadi, the source told Al-Monitor, adding that several local sources had told him that Baghdadi fled the Syrian Baghouz during the battle there in February-March 2019 by crossing into Iraq with shepherds.

The IS leader then spent time in Iraq’s Roumana desert in the western Anbar region, the source claims, but is now on the Syrian side of the Iraqi-Syrian border.

These movements would have been difficult if Baghdadi had actually been paralyzed during the fight for the Baghouz, as some intelligence officials claim.

That he is in Syria, however, coincides with what Al-Monitor has been told by high-level Iraqi counterterrorism intelligence sources and is a view strongly supported by Iraqi security analyst Fadhel Abu Raghief.

Meanwhile, the apparently fake announcement of a decision claimed to have been made by Baghdadi on a new “manager” for the international terrorist group’s daily operations has puzzled observers.

The Times of London went so far as to publish an entire article on August 22 based on the fake announcement, seemingly unaware that it had been debunked two weeks before by BBC Monitoring, among others.

For the spread of the announcement, many have pointed at Raghief, who is a top-level Iraqi security analyst frequently asked to appear on Iraqi national television channels to discuss terrorism-related issues. He tweeted information related to the announcement on his Twitter account, which has over 95,000 followers.

Raghief told Al-Monitor in an interview Aug. 16 that Abdullah Qaradosh is in any case thought by Iraqi intelligence agencies to be in charge of running IS’s daily administrative operations now.

The security analyst said that Abdullah Qaradosh had been a religious leader of al-Qaeda close to several key IS leaders, such as the former second-in-command Abu Alaa al-Afri, who was killed in 2016 prior to joining IS.

Ha added that Qaradosh had three brothers: one of whom had been in jail before being killed, another who was a Mosul University professor and was also killed, and the third the former head of a Turkmen association in Tal Afar who is currently in Ankara, Turkey.

Raghief said Qaradosh had “previously argued with Baghdadi but [they] left the past behind them when Baghdadi entered Mosul” in 2014, adding that Baghdadi had tried to “push Qaradosh to re-enter Iraq from Syria” more recently in order to “rebuild” the terrorist organization in the country.

He stressed that there is “no doubt” that Baghdadi is now in Syria, since Iraqi terrain is no longer fertile ground for the group “unlike in Syria, where more support can be seen in Idlib and near Palmyra” as well as in the al-Hol camp, which has “58,000 people.”

All those in the camp, he claims, “men, women and children — all of them — support IS.”

Raghief is in constant contact with several security agencies and top-level individuals involved in counterterrorism in Iraq and has called top-level members of the security establishment while with Al-Monitor to verify figures.

Information is also expected to be extracted from over 1,600 Iraqi IS detainees transferred from Syria in recent weeks, who are now being interrogated at Baghdad’s Muthana prison, Raghief said.

Iraqi security and counterterrorism expert Hisham al-Hashimi, who has written books on terrorism — including one whose Arabic title translates as “The Islamic State from Inside” — and is frequently quoted by international journalists, told Al-Monitor that “no one has any idea about the hierarchy of the Islamic State, for now.”

Hashimi said that IS has “changed its approach to security since 2018, becoming more secretive” about who their leaders are.

He said the United States has put a bounty on the heads of three top-tier members of IS, including a head of finance and two men from the Jabouri tribe. He did not go into further details.

In addressing the “reasons for IS’s defeat,” Hashimi said it “created enemies everywhere it went, including al-Qaeda and its branches, the Muslim Brotherhood, Shia resistance factions, Kurdish factions, as well as the United States, Russia, the European Union, Iran, Turkey and the Arab League,” and tribes that worked with it “did so under duress and fear.”

Attacks in areas of eastern Syria in recent weeks may be linked to local discontent with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces management of the Arab-majority Deir ez-Zor region as voiced by residents to Al-Monitor during a reporting trip in May to the area.

A large-scale insurgency that might threaten major cities does not, however, appear likely in the immediate future. Frequent arrests and killings of IS sleeper cells continue in both Iraq and eastern Syria.

With the focus in Iraq now shifting to other issues and given the difficulty involved in discerning who the surviving commanders — or new ones — are, the hunt for Baghdadi’s key strategists, religious leaders and military commanders may soon be deprioritized, at least for the time being.

https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/08/iraq-isis-terrorism-security.html

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Syria’s Idlib clashes kill at least 60 fighters

August 27, 2019

BEIRUT: Clashes between anti-government fighters and regime forces killed more than 50 combattants on both sides in northwestern Syria on Tuesday, a war monitor said.

At a meeting in Moscow, the presidents of Turkey and Russia expressed “serious concern” over the violence in Idlib province.

Russia-backed regime fighters have for weeks been chipping away at the edges of the extremist stronghold, which borders Turkey, after bombarding it for months.

But hard-line rebels and extremists on Tuesday attacked loyalist positions in the south of the bastion, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“Violent clashes east of the town of Khan Sheikhun broke out at dawn after extremist and opposition groups attacked regime positions,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.

The attack was led by the Al-Qaeda-linked Hurras Al-Deen group and another extremist faction, Ansar Al-Deen, he said.

The clashes killed at least 29 regime forces and 31 rebels and extremists, the Observatory said in an updated death toll, before government troops repelled the extremists.

In the southeast of the bastion, eight rebels were killed trying to sneak through frontlines toward regime positions near the Abu Duhur military airport, the monitor added.

Elsewhere in southern Idlib, 10 civilians, among them a child, were killed in regime air strikes, the Observatory said.

Regime forces recaptured Khan Sheikhun last week, and have been massing north of the town in recent days.

The town lies on a key highway running through Idlib province, and fully recapturing the artery would allow the government to reconnect Damascus to second city Aleppo.

Heavy regime and Russian bombardment has hit areas north of Khan Sheikhun in recent days, in the vicinity of the town of Maaret Al-Noman, the next stop north on the highway.

On Monday, regime and Russian air strikes killed 12 civilians in the extremist stronghold, the Observatory reported.

“The situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone is of serious concern to us and our Turkish partners,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a press conference with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

He said Turkey had “legitimate interests” to protect on its southern borders and supported the creation of a security zone in the area.

Putin said he and Erdogan had agreed “additional joint steps” to “normalize” the situation in Idlib, but did not provide details.

The Idlib offensive comes despite a deal signed in September last year by Moscow and rebel backer Ankara to avert a full-blown assault on the Idlib region which hosts some three million people.

The presidents of both countries were set to meet in Moscow on Tuesday.

Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham — a group led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate — extended its administrative control over the whole of Idlib in January, but other rebel factions remain present.

A spike in bombardment since late April has killed more than 920 civilians, the Observatory says. The United Nations says it has caused more than 400,000 people to flee their homes.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1546126/middle-east

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Air strikes kill 12 civilians in north-western Syria

Aug 27, 2019

Russian and Syrian regime air strikes have killed 12 civilians in north-western Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Russian air strikes on areas in the southern province of Idlib killed six civilians.

The monitor said the regime's raids also killed six civilians in the same area under the control of Al Qaeda-linked group Hayat Tahrir Al Sham, and wounded 27.

Earlier on Monday at least four people, including a woman and her child, were killed in air raids on Bsakla village, said the opposition's Syrian Civil Defence rescue group, also known as White Helmets.

Heavy shelling in the province, which borders Turkey, has killed more than 2,000 people, including hundreds of civilians, since the end of April.

Syrian forces backed by Russian warplanes are advancing in the province to capture rebel-held areas.

Ten of thousands of people have fled to the Turkish border over the past few days as the Syrian army pushes further into the stronghold.

On Wednesday, the Syrian military seized the town of Khan Sheikhoun from militants and allied rebels, and overran the countryside to the south, encircling a Turkish observation post in northern Hama.

On Saturday, pro-government fighters gathered north of Khan Sheikhoun to press on with the offensive.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/air-strikes-kill-12-civilians-in-north-western-syria-1.903006

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Iraqi troops destroy 10 Islamic State hideouts in Anbar

by  Mohammed Ebraheem

Aug 26, 2019

Anbar (IraqiNews.com) – An Iraqi paramilitary commander said on Monday that 10 hotbeds of the Islamic State militant group were destroyed during an ongoing military operation in the country.

“Security forces, backed by Iraqi warplanes, destroyed 10 Islamic State hideouts and killed all terrorists inside as part of the fourth phase of the Operation Will of Victory in the desert of Anbar on the Iraqi-Syrian border,” Qatari al-Obeidi, a senior commander of the Popular Mobilization Forces, told Iraq’s Almaalomah website.

The operation was carried out based on intelligence information, he said, adding that the security forces launched a wide-scale campaign to search for other IS hideouts in the area.

The Will of Victory Operation’s first phase had been launched in July, targeting IS elements in western regions.

According to the Iraqi military, 13 villages were cleared in areas south of Nineveh during the operation’s third phase.

Iraq declared the collapse of Islamic State’s territorial influence in Iraq in November 2017 with the recapture of Rawa, a city on Anbar’s western borders with Syria, which was the group’s last bastion in Iraq.

Full report at:

https://www.iraqinews.com/iraq-war/iraqi-troops-destroy-10-islamic-state-hideouts-in-anbar/

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Lebanon Accuses Israel of 2nd Attack in 2 Days

By Ben Hubbard

Aug. 26, 2019

BEIRUT, Lebanon — An Israeli drone struck a Palestinian militia base in eastern Lebanon on Monday, Lebanon’s National News Agency said, the fourth time in three days that Israel has been accused of attacking Iranian-backed forces across the Middle East.

The string of events — only one of which Israel has claimed responsibility for — has heightened tensions and raised fears that what has so far remained a shadow war between Iran and Israel and their respective allies could escalate into a more direct conflict.

The strike on Monday hit the base of an Iranian-backed Palestinian militia, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, in the eastern Bekaa Valley. On Sunday, a drone exploded south of Beirut, shattering the windows of an office belonging to Hezbollah, another Iranian-backed group.

Lebanese politicians across the spectrum condemned the attacks and accused Israel of pushing the country toward conflict.

“What happened is tantamount to a declaration of war that allows us to resort to our right to defend our sovereignty, independence and territorial security,” President Michel Aoun of Lebanon told a top United Nations official on Monday, according to a statement released by the president’s office.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri told United Nations Security Council diplomats that the government wanted international help to avoid “any slide toward a serious escalation.”

A United Nations spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric, said the United Nations had noted the statements by Mr. Aoun and Mr. Hariri but was not in a position to confirm or verify the reported attacks.

“The U.N. calls on the parties to exercise maximum restraint, both in action and in rhetoric,” he said at a briefing on Monday.

The Israeli military declined to comment on either episode.

After the crash of one drone and the explosion of another near the Hezbollah media office on Sunday, the group’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, vowed that Hezbollah fighters would seek to bring down any Israeli drones they found in Lebanon and strike back for attacks on its fighters in neighboring Syria.

Early Tuesday, Hezbollah changed its description of the first drone, saying that it had been carrying 12 pounds of explosives. The group’s officials had previously said the first drone was for surveillance while the second was laden with explosives.

Hezbollah is a political party represented in the Lebanese government as well as the country’s most formidable military force. It fought a devastating war against Israel in 2006 and has more recently sent fighters to help President Bashar al-Assad of Syria fight rebels seeking to overthrow him.

Israel and Iran have long been staunch enemies, but the conflict has heated up recently as Israel has increasingly attacked armed groups that Iran backs to extend its influence in the Arab world. The recent strikes appear to be an escalation of that effort.

On Saturday, Israel bombed a site in Syria where it said Iranian operatives were preparing to dispatch armed drones to attack Israel. No Iranians were killed, according to Iran and Mr. Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, but Mr. Nasrallah said two of his group’s fighters were.

On Sunday, in addition to the drone explosion in Beirut, an apparent drone strike in western Iraq killed a leader of an Iranian-backed militia there and wounded a companion, the militia said. The group accused Israel of launching the attack. Other reports indicated that two people had been killed.

The strike on the Palestinian militia base on Monday killed no one, according to a member of the group using the nom de guerre Abu Ratib. He accused Israel of firing four missiles at the base, three of which exploded, apparently trying to kill Khalid Jibril, the son of the group’s leader, Ahmed Jibril, who was not present. The younger Mr. Jibril survived.

Lebanese officials accused Israel of violating the agreement that ended the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Lebanon.

For its part, Israel has long accused Lebanon of not living up to the agreement by allowing Hezbollah to keep its arms.

Full report at:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/26/world/middleeast/lebanon-israel-attack.html

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Hezbollah's dangerous false narrative about the Lebanese Army

08/26/19

Recently, I have seen writers perpetuating Hezbollah propaganda claiming that the Lebanese Army and Hezbollah have become close partners. This is a false claim and needs to be debunked immediately. Hezbollah would like nothing more than for the West to fall for their false narratives and stop funding the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). The LAF is the only legitimate state security organization and the one constant entity ensuring the stability and security of Lebanon. With Hezbollah’s power threatened, it is resorting to spreading false narratives with the intention of creating doubt in the United States.

The first false narrative is that Hezbollah has greater influence over the state-led military than U.S. officials are willing to admit. These allegations often point to the LAF’s failure to disarm Hezbollah and not enforcing UN Resolution 1701 which states that all militias other than the LAF must be disarmed. These critics are omitting the fact that attempting to disarm Hezbollah at this time would almost certainly lead to another civil war in Lebanon. Not only would this endanger the Christian community in Lebanon, but Lebanon’s border to Israel would be exposed to increased violence. Hezbollah could use the opportunity to strike Israeli civilians with their arsenal of Iranian rockets. The U.S. would be forced to intervene in order to oppose Iran and protect Israel. Another civil war in Lebanon is an unacceptable outcome for the U.S. and our allies in the region.

Critics are also obsessed with Hezbollah propaganda photos claiming that the LAF has been providing them with tanks and weapons. This false claim has been debunked by U.S. military leaders. “Since our security assistance began, Lebanon has maintained an exemplary track-record of adhering to regular and enhanced end-use monitoring protocols. We are confident the LAF has not transferred equipment to Hezbollah,” states General Joseph Votel at a 2018 House Armed Services Hearing. Hezbollah pushes its false narrative with propaganda photos of some U.S. made armored troop transports in a Hezbollah parade. The Defense Department confirmed that these were not vehicles given to the LAF, but most likely stolen by Hezbollah from a disbanding militia in the early 2000s, specifically the Southern Lebanese Army which was forced to dissolve at the end of the civil war.

Another false narrative is Hezbollah claiming it fought alongside the LAF in the war against ISIS on the northern border. Again, the United States Department of Defense has recognized that this is, in fact, fake news spread by Hezbollah to dissuade the U.S. from supporting the LAF. On the ground, the LAF ran into interference from Hezbollah as the terrorist group was caught fighting Al-Qaeda militants. Hezbollah wanted to upstage the LAF’s successful initiatives against ISIS and helped Islamic State fighters cross the border into Syria in an attempt to sabotage LAF efforts.

The last major false narrative being spread is that the Rafiq Hariri International Airport is under LAF control, thereby insinuating that Hezbollah’s airport drug, weapons, and smuggling is being overseen and allowed by the LAF. This is a deep misunderstanding of the situation without all the facts. Rafiq Hariri Airport is in predominantly Shia South Beirut, a Hezbollah stronghold. While the LAF maintains some security presence at the airport, the customs and border control workers are primarily Hezbollah loyalists. The airport's security situation is problematic, and the U.S. must work with Lebanon to address it. However, facts do matter. The fundamental issue at hand with the airport is that the Lebanese government has not given the country's legitimate state institutions a mandate to secure it.

Finally, for the first time in decades, Hezbollah’s power is weakening. The sanctions on Iran, Hezbollah’s main source of funding, are working. Now, more than ever, is the United States’ opportunity to dry up Iran’s funding to the terrorist group, Hezbollah, and at the same time continue funding the only legitimate state security organization, the LAF. After sanctions have been successful, the LAF is the only organization capable of finally disarming Hezbollah in accordance with UN Resolution 1701 and maintain the security and stability of Lebanon.

Full report at:

https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/foreign-policy/458818-hezbollahs-dangerous-false-narrative-about-the-lebanese

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Al-Qaeda not down and out, even if Hamza dead

By TATIANA KANUNNIKOVA

AUGUST 27, 2019

Last month, news media reported the death of Hamza bin Laden, the favorite son of the late al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, who was apparently willing to follow in his father’s footsteps. These reports cited several US officials who claimed that there was evidence confirming Hamza’s death. The New York Times reported, citing its sources, that the United States was involved in the operation and Hamza died in an air strike during the first years of the current presidential administration. And yet little is known about the circumstances surrounding the terrorist’s death.

If Hamza’s elimination proves true, it should rather be considered as a symbolic victory. Aged around 30, Hamza bin Laden was largely viewed as al-Qaeda’s emerging leader and was being prepared for this role for many years. Being young, charismatic and associated with the most famous man in terrorism, Hamza had all chances to become al-Qaeda’s new face.

More important, as the Soufan Group’s chief executive officer Ali Soufan put it, he could unite jihadis all over the world, something that would be pretty timely, given the fall of Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate. While representing a jihadist group that is an ideological rival to ISIS, Hamza had never criticized Islamic State. In turn, ISIS propaganda attacked either al-Qaeda on the whole or its emir Ayman al-Zawahiri in particular, but not Hamza bin Laden.

At the same time, we should not overstate the symbolic value of Hamza’s death. His father, Osama bin Laden, had managed to earn the notorious reputation of being the world’s “terrorist number one.” And now, he remains a beloved figure among jihadists in all parts of the world, so it was quite logical that Hamza attempted to capitalize on his family name. That said, Hamza has become known not for his own deeds or achievements, nor did he fiught on the frontlines. If he headed al-Qaeda, he would more likely play a propaganda role or could be a propaganda tool in someone’s more competent hands.

And that seems to be the role he had been playing over the past years. In 2015, al-Qaeda released a propaganda audio message with Hamza bin Laden calling for jihadists to attack the United States and other countries. This was followed by a series of similar statements in 2016 and 2017. What is particularly worrying about these messages is the call to take the battlefield from the war zones in Muslim countries to the cities of Western states, Israel, and Russia. Worse still, Hamza stressed that successful attacks in the West would be more important than multiple operations in the East.

So does al-Qaeda still pose a threat to Europe and other Western countries?

“Whether or not the reported death of Hamza bin Laden is accurate, al-Qaeda remains a threat to the security of Europe,” said Mitchell Belfer, president of The Euro-Gulf Information Centre. “True, it lost a degree of Islamist appeal to its rival-cum-ally ISIS: its flash-and-bang tactics, that it held actual territory (the ultimate goal for both al-Qaeda and ISIS) and its cyber presence gave ISIS an edge. But al-Qaeda was never about a leadership cult or rapid growth and expansion. It relies on a hard core of fighters and financiers, and those remain intact.

“Also, al-Qaeda’s franchise system has proven formidable over time with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQM) very operationally adept on their home territories and abroad. It should be remembered that Hamza bin Laden was still living in Iran – under the IRGC’s watchful eye – when AQAP successfully attacked Paris in the now infamous Charlie Hebdo massacre. Al-Qaeda is not a pyramid – it is diffused. While I doubt the news that Hamza bin Laden is indeed dead, I also don’t think he matters that much either way,” Belfer noted.

Al-Qaeda’s battlefields

After the death of Osama bin Laden and the rise of ISIS, al-Qaeda mostly disappeared from headlines but was not eliminated as an organizing force of global jihad. Instead, it made rebuilding and reorganization its key policy, which has allowed the group to survive. Forging alliances with terrorist groups in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, al-Qaeda has created a global movement consisting of numerous franchises with a capacity to stage significant terror attacks. Al-Qaeda’s branches include AQIM in the Maghreb, AQAP in Yemen, AQIS in South Asia, JNIM in Mali and, al-Shabab in Somalia and East Africa. Another group, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in Syria, is also considered to be associated with al-Qaeda.

This dangerous global terror network is shifting its focus toward Western countries and soon may be ready to attack again. This was largely reflected in United Nations reports and statements made by European officials. So this year, Alex Younger, the head of the UK’s MI6, warned of al-Qaeda’s resurgence. “It is definitely not down and out,” he stressed. Last year, British Security Minister Ben Wallace said that the group could carry out attacks on passenger planes in European countries. “The aviation threat is real,” Wallace noted, adding that the group had already mastered new techniques.

Full report at:

https://www.asiatimes.com/2019/08/opinion/al-qaeda-not-down-and-out-even-if-hamza-dead/

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Iraqi Gov't Orders All Military Bases to Target Any Unidentified Drone

Aug 27, 2019

The Arabic-language website of Sputnik quoted Athir al-Shar'e as saying that meetings have been held between leaders of the 3 branches of power in Iraq and Hashd al-Shaabi commanders to study results of attacks on Iraqi popular forces.

He added that secret investigations have shown that several sides and possibly a country not far from Iraq's borders have collaborated in the attacks, noting that the Iraqi government has ordered all bases to destroy any unidentified drone over the country's sky.

Al-Shar'e underlined that the three branches of power in Iraq have condemned the attacks against Hashd al-Shaabi that are operating under the supervision of the general command of the Iraqi Armed Forces.

Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi forces in a statement announced that Israeli drones backed by the US aircraft pounded their positions near the border with Syria.

The Hashd al-Shaabi in a statement reported that two Israeli drones struck its military positions in Akashat-Alqaem Road in al-Anbar province 15 kilometers from the border with Syria.

The statement noted that the attack has taken place with the aerial support of the US and monitoring of a huge surveillance balloon near the site of the attack, and said that the attack took place with the start of the Phase 4 of Eradeh al-Nasr (the Will of Victory) military operation jointly conducted by the Iraqi Army, Police Force and Hashd al-Shaabi against the ISIL remnants in the Western part of the country.

It noted that a Hashd al-Shaabi member was killed and another was wounded in the Israeli drone attacks.

Meantime, Hashd al-Shaabi commander Hadi al-Jazayeri told the Arabic-language al-Ma’aloumeh news website that the continued drone attacks on Hashd al-Shaabi’s military positions will be given a harsh response by Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces as already warned by his deputy Abu al-Mahdi al-Mohandes.

Al-Jazayeri pointed to the defeat of the US-Israeli plots targeting Hashd al-Shaabi in Iraq and the region, and said that such defeats have resulted in Israeli drone attacks on Hashd al-Shaabi’s military positions.

Al-Jazayeri also warned that any flight taking place over Iraqi sky and without the permission of the Iraqi government is regarded an act of aggression.

In a relevant development on Sunday, Hashd al-Shaabi downed a spy drone over Nineveh province.

The Arabic-language Sumeriyeh News website quoted an Iraqi security source as saying that the intelligence forces of Hashd al-Shaabi Brigade 50 in Nineveh Province identified and shot down a reconnaissance drone over its headquarters in Nineveh province.

Hashd al-Shaabi had earlier downed another spy drone over Baghdad airspace.

Hashd al-Shaabi traced and targeted a spy drone over one of its centers near Baghdad.

The Hashd al-Shaabi in a statement on Thursday announced that the air defense systems of the popular forces’ Brigade 12 has intercepted a spying drone over its center in Baghdad.

The statement said that Hashd al-Shaabi prevented the hostile aircraft from conducting its reconnaissance mission.

In a relevant development on Thursday, second-in-command of Hashd al-Shaabi Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, held the United States fully responsible for recent attacks on the volunteer forces.

He said in a statement that the US, which has contributed to the emergence of terrorist groups in the Middle East, is now considering various ways to violate Iraq’s sovereignty and targeting the Hashd al-Shaabi .

“We have accurate and credible information that Americans brought in four Israeli drones this year via Azerbaijan to operate within the US fleet to carry out sorties aimed at Iraqi military headquarters. We also have other information, maps and recordings of all types of American aircraft, when they took off, when they landed and the number of hours they flew,” al-Mohandes pointed out.

“Instead of chasing Daesh terrorists, US military aircraft are collecting information and data concerning the brigades of Popular Mobilization Units, and their warehouses and arms depots,” the statement added.

Sayf al-Badr, the spokesman of the Iraqi Health Ministry, said in a statement that at least one person was killed and 29 others were wounded in a powerful explosion, which rocked a military base in Southern Baghdad on August 12.

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980605001081

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Saudi Arabia Supportive of UAE’s Coup Plot in Southern Yemen

Aug 27, 2019

Al-Faqih told alkhaleejonline that bin Salman agreed to a coup led by the UAE-backed militias in the South of Yemen to topple Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and divide Yemen into two the countries of North Yemen and South Yemen.

He added that Saudi Arabia made a compromise with the UAE and Emirati-back militias to achieve this goal.

When these militias started a military operation in Aden, Riyadh cut its logistical and arms supply to the elements of former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and ordered al-Amalek brigade, the main military arm of Hadi in Aden, to retreat.

Al-Faqih highlighted that despite coordination and agreement between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi in their plot against Hadi, the two disagree on how to project the story to the world, and Riyadh wants the announcement of formation of the South Yemen country postponed.

He added that Saudi Arabia is saying that currently the militias of the Southern Transitional Council must keep their activities under the guise of the Saudi coalition against Yemen.

According to the same source, despite the fact that Abu Dhabi and Riyadh are in full agreement about dividing Yemen, the UAE, however, is willing to tell the world that recent developments in the South of Yemen is a start of the formation of a new country, and is trying to convince Saudis to agree with this plan.

Early in this month, comments by a senior Emirati official showed that the division between Abu Dhabi and Yemen’s ousted government of Hadi was gaping.

Abdul-Khaleq Abdullah, a UAE academic and former aide of Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Zayed, seriously censured Yemen’s ousted government of former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

While Yemen’s ousted government has been for years backed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Abdullah said in a tweet on August 03 that the former rulers of Yemen are now in contact with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, a group which is blacklisted by many Arab countries as a terrorist group.

He went on accusing the elements of former regime in Yemen as influenced by media propaganda of Qatar, adding that they are holding a secret grudge against the UAE.

They are after confronting the UAE and destructing all moves of Abu Dhabi in Yemen, Abdullah stressed.

His tweet came after Bloomberg reported two days earlier that Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed, prime minister of Yemen’s ousted regime, was disappointed with Abu Dhabi after his recent visit to the UAE.

Saudi Arabia has been striking Yemen since March 2015 to restore power to fugitive president Mansour Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh. The Saudi-led aggression has so far killed more than 20,000 Yemenis, including hundreds of women and children. Despite Riyadh's claims that it is bombing the positions of the Ansarullah fighters, Saudi bombers are flattening residential areas and civilian infrastructures.

Yemen is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis with more than 22 million people in need and is seeing a spike in needs, fueled by ongoing conflict, a collapsing economy and diminished social services and livelihoods. The blockade on Yemen has smothered humanitarian deliveries of food and medicine to the import-dependent state.

The UN has repeatedly criticized the Saudi-UAE-led military coalition's bombing campaign and placed it on a blacklist of child rights violators last year.

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980605001012

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Iraqi Official: Israel’s Drones Providing Massive Backup for Reviving ISIL in Diyala

Aug 27, 2019

“The ISIL has resumed its terrorist activities between Diyala and Salahuddin provinces while enjoying massive foreign support, including from Israel,” Head of Diyala Security Council Committee Sadeq al-Hosseini told the Arabic-language al-Ma’aloumeh News Agency.

He reiterated that Israel’s spy drones have provided the ISIL with intel, and said that Israel is investing in terrorist organizations in line with its goals, including making Iraq destabilized.

Meantime, a member of Diyala Provincial Council Ahmad Arzouqi pointed to ISIL’s penetration into some parts of Diyala province, and said that some foreign countries are seeking to keep the ISIL in Iraq.

In a relevant development on Monday, Iraq’s Hashd al-Sha’abi (Iraq’s Popular Mobilization) forces in a statement announced that Israeli drones backed by the US aircraft pounded their positions near the border with Syria.

The Hashd al-Sha’abi in a statement reported that two Israeli drones struck its military positions in Akashat-Alqaem Road in al-Anbar province 15 kilometers from the border with Syria.

The statement noted that the attack has taken place with the aerial support of the US and monitoring of a huge surveillance balloon near the site of the attack, and said that the attack took place with the start of the Phase 4 of Eradeh al-Nasr (the Will of Victory) military operation jointly conducted by the Iraqi Army, Police Force and Hashd al-Sha’abi against the ISIL remnants in the Western part of the country.

It noted that a Hashd al-Sha’abi member was killed and another was wounded in the Israeli drone attacks.

Meantime, Hashd al-Sha’abi commander Hadi al-Jazayeri told the Arabic-language al-Ma’aloumeh news website that the continued drone attacks on Hashd al-Sha’abi’s military positions will be given a harsh response by Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces as already warned by his deputy Abu al-Mahdi al-Mohandes.

Al-Jazayeri pointed to the defeat of the US-Israeli plots targeting Hashd al-Sha’abi in Iraq and the region, and said that such defeats have resulted in Israeli drone attacks on Hashd al-Sha’abi’s military positions.

Al-Jazayeri also warned that any flight taking place over Iraqi sky and without the permission of the Iraqi government is regarded an act of aggression.

In a relevant development on Sunday, Hashd al-Sha'abi downed a spy drone over Nineveh province.

The Arabic-language Sumeriyeh News website quoted an Iraqi security source as saying that the intelligence forces of Hashd al-Sha'abi Brigade 50 in Nineveh Province identified and shot down a reconnaissance drone over its headquarters in Nineveh province. Hashd al-Sha'abi had earlier downed another spy drone over Baghdad airspace.

Hashd al-Sha’abi traced and targeted a spy drone over one of its centers near Baghdad.

The Hashd al-Sha’abi in a statement on Thursday announced that the air defense systems of the popular forces’ Brigade 12 has intercepted a spying drone over its center in Baghdad.

The statement said that Hashd al-Sha’abi prevented the hostile aircraft from conducting its reconnaissance mission.

In a relevant development on Thursday, second-in-command of Hashd al-Sha’abi Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, held the United States fully responsible for recent attacks on the volunteer forces.

He said in a statement that the US, which has contributed to the emergence of terrorist groups in the Middle East, is now considering various ways to violate Iraq’s sovereignty and targeting the Hashd al-Sha’abi .

“We have accurate and credible information that Americans brought in four Israeli drones this year via Azerbaijan to operate within the US fleet to carry out sorties aimed at Iraqi military headquarters. We also have other information, maps and recordings of all types of American aircraft, when they took off, when they landed and the number of hours they flew,” al-Mohandes pointed out.

“Instead of chasing Daesh terrorists, US military aircraft are collecting information and data concerning the brigades of Popular Mobilization Units, and their warehouses and arms depots,” the statement added.

Sayf al-Badr, the spokesman of the Iraqi Health Ministry, said in a statement that at least one person was killed and 29 others were wounded in a powerful explosion, which rocked a military base in Southern Baghdad on August 12.

An unnamed source from Iraq’s Interior Ministry stated that an ammunition warehouse exploded inside a federal police military base, named Falcon, in Owerij area near the Southern district of Doura.

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980605000647

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Lebanese Paper Discloses Israeli Plot to Assassinate Senior Hezbollah Member in Drone Attack

Aug 27, 2019

"Based on security information, Israel aimed to assassinate a former Hezbollah representative at the parliament who is now a senior member of the resistance group," the Arabic-language al-Nahar paper reported on Tuesday.

Meantime, the Saudi al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper quoted an informed source as saying that the target of the Israeli operations in Dahiyeh region of Beirut has likely been a prominent Lebanese figure, which forces Hezbollah to insist on response.

The Lebanese Army announced on Sunday that two Israeli drones had crashed in a stronghold of the Hezbollah resistance movement in the South of the capital, Beirut.

“Two drones belonging to the Israeli enemy violated Lebanese airspace (at dawn)... over the Southern suburbs of Beirut. The first fell while the second exploded in the air causing material damage,” it said in a statement.

The army statement came hours after Lebanon’s resistance movement Hezbollah first announced in an early Sunday statement that its rockets had downed the two Israeli drones, but later revised its report saying that the second drone exploded itself.

The Lebanese Army also added that it had sealed off the area and that military police had opened an investigation into the incident.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri denounced the Israeli drone attack as a “threat to regional stability”, saying the incursion is meant to fuel tensions.

Speaking on Sunday, Hariri stated that the incident was an open attack on Lebanon’s sovereignty and a blatant violation of United Nations Resolution 1701.

Hariri noted that he was in consultations with President Michel Aoun on what next steps would be undertaken over what he called the “new aggression”.

Aoun stated that the Israeli attack on Beirut's Southern suburbs was "a blatant aggression against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Lebanon and a new chapter in the continued violation of Security Council Resolution 1701."

Full report at:

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980605000441

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Syria Kurds fighters start pullback from Turkish border to implement ‘safe zone’

27 August 2019

The Kurdish authorities in northeast Syrian said Tuesday their forces had started to withdraw from outposts along the Turkish border after a US-Turkish deal for a buffer zone there.

They said work had begun Saturday on “the first practical steps -- in the Ras al-Ain area -- in removing some earth mounds and withdrawing a group of (Kurdish) People’s Protection Units and heavy weapons.”

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/08/27/Syria-Kurds-fighters-start-pullback-from-Turkish-border-to-implement-safe-zone-.html

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Syrian opposition launches largest Khan Sheikhoun attack since regime takeover

27 August 2019

Syrian opposition groups carried out the largest attack since the regime forces’ takeover of Khan Sheikhoun, and the northern countryside of Hama, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday.

Sixty people were killed in the heightened fighting, which included air and ground shelling, as well as fierce battles east of the Idlib province.

“Violent clashes east of the town of Khan Sheikhun broke out at dawn after extremist and opposition groups attacked regime positions,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.

The attack was led by the Al-Qaeda-linked Hurras al-Deen group and another extremist faction -- Ansar al-Deen -- he said.

The fighting has killed 29 regime forces and 20 opponents, including 13 extremists, the Observatory said.

In the southeast of the bastion, eight rebels were killed trying to sneak through frontlines towards regime positions near the Abu Duhur military airport, the monitor added.

Regime forces recaptured Khan Sheikhoun last week, and have been massing north of the town in recent days as they prepare to push on with their assault.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/08/27/Syrian-opposition-launches-largest-Khan-Sheikhoun-attack-since-regime-takeover-.html

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Mideast

 

Iran Seen Preparing For Space Launch

August 26, 2019

In the latest indication that it may be readying an attempt to launch another space rocket, Iran has given its launch pad a fresh coat of paint.

A satellite image taken by the commercial company Planet shows the pad painted a bright blue. The image, taken August 24, was shared with NPR. Until this month, the launch pad at the Imam Khomeini Space Center had been sporting a burn scar from a previous failed launch attempt. It had also been covered in debris from a possible flash flood at the site this past spring.

"The Iranians have finished clearing off the pad, and they painted over the previous launch scar," says Dave Schmerler, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies who has analyzed the imagery.

Other recent imagery has shown vehicle activity at a nearby building where Iran assembles its rockets. "We're getting close to a launch, but exactly when that will happen I can't tell you," Schmerler says.

Iran's press has reported that the government has three satellites that could be ready for launch by the end of the nation's calendar year in March of 2020. A recent report from August suggests that one of the satellites, a communications satellite known as Nahid-1, is ready for launch now.

If a launch does take place, it would be the third such attempt this year. Launch attempts in January and February both ended in failure.

The Trump administration has insisted that Iran's space rockets also advance the nation's ballistic missile program. "Such vehicles incorporate technologies that are virtually identical and interchangeable with those used in ballistic missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement following the failed launch attempt in January.

But Schmerler and other independent analysts are less sure of a clear connection between Iran's liquid-fueled space rockets and its missile activities. The rocket the Iranians are likely to use, known as the Safir, does not contain advanced technology. It is a "relatively dated space-launch vehicle," he says.

https://www.npr.org/2019/08/26/754503778/iran-seen-preparing-for-space-launch

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Coalition denies Al Houthi strike in Riyadh

August 26, 2019

Dubai: The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen dismissed an Al Houthi claim that it had struck the Saudi capital of Riyadh in a missile strike.

Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki said the Houthi account was “fake and deceptive”.

Late Sunday, the Coalition said it had intercepted and destroyed six ballistic missiles fired by the Iran-aligned group targeting civilians in Jizan.

The attacks are part of an escalation of cross-border assaults in the four-year-old conflict between the Houthis and coalition forces.

The Houthis, who control the capital Sana’a, have in the past few months stepped up their attacks against targets in the kingdom. In response, the coalition has targeted military sites belonging to the group, especially around Sana’a.

“The Houthi militias continued targeting of civilians through drones and ballistic missiles ...is an act of aggression and terrorism and a war crime according to international human law,” Al Malki said in a statement.

The UAE condemned the attacks.

In a statement issued on Monday, the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation reiterated its full solidarity with the Kingdom over these terrorist attacks targeting civilians, affirming its support of all measures taken by Saudi authorities to secure the country’s security and stability, as well as any actions taken in the face of extremism and terrorism.

Full report at:

https://gulfnews.com/world/gulf/saudi/coalition-denies-al-houthi-strike-in-riyadh-1.66024217

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Explosions hit two police checkpoints in Gaza, three dead

28 August 2019

Explosions hit two police checkpoints in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, killing three officers and wounding several other Palestinians, the Hamas-run interior ministry said, declaring a state of emergency after the blasts.

Interior ministry spokesman, Eyad al-Bozom, said security forces were making progress in their pursuit of those behind the explosions, but he did not disclose further details.

“The sinful hands that carried out this crime will not escape punishment,” said Bozom.

A spokesman for the Israeli military said he knew of no involvement by Israel in the back-to-back incidents in Gaza city at a time of simmering cross-border confrontations with Hamas, the Palestinian enclave’s ruling militant group.

The first blast destroyed a motorcycle as it passed a police checkpoint with two riders aboard, witnesses said. Two policemen were killed and a third Palestinian wounded. It was not immediately clear if the riders were among the casualties.

The second explosion, less than an hour later, wounded several people at a police checkpoint elsewhere in the city, the interior ministry said. The ministry declared a state of emergency throughout Gaza, putting security forces on alert.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/08/28/Explosion-hits-Gaza-motorcycle-two-dead-Officials.html

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Hezbollah plans ‘calculated’ response to Israel: Sources

27 August 2019

Hezbollah is preparing a “calculated strike” against its enemy Israel after suspected Israeli drones crashed in Beirut but it aims to avoid a new war, two sources allied to Hezbollah told Reuters on Tuesday.

A reaction “is being arranged in a way which wouldn’t lead to a war” that Hezbollah does not want, one of the sources said.

“The direction now is for a calculated strike, but how matters develop, that’s another thing.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah should “calm down” after Nasrallah said the Iranian-backed movement would respond to the crash of two drones in a Beirut suburb.

In a speech on Sunday, Nasrallah described the drones, including one that had exploded, as the first Israeli attack in Lebanon since the two sides fought a month-long war in 2006.

“I say to the Israeli army on the border from tonight, stand guard. Wait for us one, two, three, four days,” Nasrallah said.

One of the drones exploded near the ground, causing some damage to Hezbollah’s media center in the southern suburbs of the capital which it dominates. Israeli officials have declined to comment when asked if Israel was responsible.

“I heard what Nasrallah said. I suggest to Nasrallah to calm down. He knows well that Israel knows how to defend itself and to pay back its enemies,” Netanyahu said in a speech.

Precise details about where the drones were fired from have yet to emerge. Hezbollah has said the two drones were rigged with explosives after its experts took apart the first drone.

Asked if Israel attacked any ground targets in Lebanon in recent days, Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, a member of Netanyahu’s security cabinet, told Israeli Army Radio:

“We of course did not respond to the accusations leveled at us. On their face, these things seem weird and intriguing. The media have reported this fact - that these are allegations that have no basis.”

Lebanon’s Higher Defence Council, which includes the president, prime minister and army commander, convened on Tuesday and said the Lebanese have “the right to defend themselves against any attack”.

Israel deems the heavily armed Shiite Hezbollah movement the biggest threat across its border. In their 2006 war nearly 1,200 people, mostly civilians, died in Lebanon and 158 people died in Israel, mostly soldiers.

Regional sources say that Israel and Hezbollah have formed an unwritten understanding that while they can exchange fire within Syria, any attacks within Lebanon or Israel are to be avoided lest they escalate to war.

Israel has grown alarmed by the rising influence of its foe Iran during the war in neighboring Syria, where Tehran and Hezbollah provide military help to Damascus.

Tehran also has wide sway in Iraq, where a grouping of Iraq’s mostly Shiite Muslim paramilitary groups, many of which are backed by Iran, have blamed recent blasts at their weapons depots and bases on the United States and Israel.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun said on Monday his country had a right to defend itself, likening Israeli drone strikes to a “declaration of war.”

Late on Saturday, Israeli airstrikes killed two Lebanese Hezbollah fighters in Syria.

Israel, which regularly strikes Iranian-linked targets in Syria, said it hit a compound controlled by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Quds force, accusing it of planning killer drone attacks.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/08/27/Hezbollah-plans-calculated-response-to-Israel-Sources.html

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Netanyahu warns Hezbollah, Iran, Lebanon leaders: ‘Watch your actions’

27 August 2019

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday warned Lebanon, Hezbollah’s chief and the head of Iran’s Quds Force to “be careful” with their words and actions.

Addressing Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, Netanyahu told a conference that “he knows very well that the state of Israel knows how to defend itself well, and to repay its enemies.”

“I want to say to him and the Lebanese state, which is hosting this organization that aims to destroy us, and I say the same to Qassem Soleimani: Be careful about your words, and even more cautious about your actions.”

He suggested that Nasrallah “calm down.”

Netanyahu spoke after a series of incidents in recent days that have raised tensions between Israel, Lebanon, Iran and Tehran-backed Hezbollah.

Nasrallah has accused Israel of being behind a drone attack on the Lebanese movement’s Beirut stronghold on Sunday and threatened retaliation.

He called it the first such “hostile action” since a 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun called it a “declaration of war.”

Hours before the Beirut incident, Israel announced it had carried out a strike in neighboring Syria to thwart what it said was a plan by an Iranian force to attack its territory with drones.

On Monday, a pro-Syrian Palestinian group accused Israel of carrying out a drone attack on one of its positions in Lebanon.

Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria targeting what it says are Iranian and Hezbollah targets.

Iran and Hezbollah, along with Russia, have backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his country’s civil war.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/08/27/Netanyahu-warns-Hezbollah-Iran-Lebanon-leaders-Watch-your-actions-.html

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Saudi Council of Ministers reiterates Kingdom’s call for Yemeni dialogue

27 August 2019

Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers has reiterated the Kingdom's call to the Yemeni government and all parties involved in the conflict in Aden to hold a meeting in Jeddah to discuss their differences.

The statement came after the council’s weekly meeting in Jeddah on Tuesday chaired by Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz.

“The Council of Ministers stresses on the joint statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Kingdom and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates regarding the keenness and efforts of the two countries to preserve the Yemeni state and the interests of the Yemeni people under the leadership of the legitimate President of Yemen,” a statement on the Saudi Press Agency read.

The Arab Coalition said that a joint committee was formed on Monday between Saudi Arabia and the UAE to stabilize the ceasefire in the Yemeni provinces of Shabwa and Abyan.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/08/27/Saudi-council-of-ministers-reiterates-Kingdom-s-call-for-Yemeni-dialogue.html

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Two Palestinians killed, 3 injured as Israel pounds Gaza Strip again

Aug 27, 2019

Two Palestinians have lost their lives when Israeli military aircraft launched a new round of airstrikes against the besieged Gaza Strip as the Tel Aviv regime presses ahead with its acts of aggression against the impoverished Palestinian coastal sliver.

The spokesman for the Gaza Ministry of Health, Ashraf al-Qidra, said in a statement that two people were killed while three others, including a woman, sustained injuries in the airstrike.

He identified the two deceased Palestinians as 32 year-old police officers Salameh Majid al-Nadim and Ala' Ziad al-Gharabli.

Moreover, the Gaza-based Ministry of Interior and National Security stated that the incident happened at the al-Dahdouh junction in the southern part of Gaza City.

The strike came hours after an Israeli fighter jet targeted a position of the Palestinian Hamas resistance movement in the central part of the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli army said “the aircraft bombed a Hamas observation post east of Juhor ad-Dik (village) in the central Gaza Strip.”

There were no immediate reports of casualties and the extent of damage caused.

The military claimed that the strike was carried out after four rockets were fired toward the Israeli-occupied territory. Only one of the rockets reached the area, while the other three appear to have exploded within the Gaza Strip, it added.

The Israeli military frequently bombs the Gaza Strip, with civilians being the main target of such attacks.

Israel has also launched several wars on the Palestinian coastal sliver, the last of which began in early July 2014. The military aggression, which ended on August 26, 2014, killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians. Over 11,100 others were also wounded in the war.

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli siege since June 2007. The blockade has caused a decline in the standards of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/08/27/604657/Two-Palestinians-killed-3-injured-as-Israel-pounds-Gaza-Strip-again

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Yemeni forces strike Saudi army positions in Najran with new missile

Aug 27, 2019

Dozens of Saudi troopers and Saudi-sponsored militiamen loyal to Yemen's former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi have been killed and injured when Yemeni army soldiers and fighters from allied Popular Committees launched an offensive against their positions in the kingdom’s southern region of Najran.

The spokesman for Yemeni Armed Forces, Brigadier General Yahya Saree, said Yemeni soldiers and allied fighters launched a newly-developed medium-range ballistic missile Qassem (Raider) missile at the strongholds of Saudi soldiers and their mercenaries in the Saqam area of the region on Tuesday afternoon, leaving dozens of them killed and injured, Arabic-language al-Masirah television network reported.

Saree added that the projectile hit its designated targets with great precision.

The spokesman for Yemeni Armed Forces highlighted that the attack was launched after a delicate intelligence operation, noting that Qassem missile will be displayed during a press conference in the near future.

Yemeni forces had earlier launched the same medium-range ballistic missile and an armed drone at the al-Jalaa military camp in Aden's Buraiqa district.

Al-Masirah TV said the August 1 attack targeted a military parade at the camp belonging to the Yemeni Security Belt forces backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and caused scores of casualties, including military commanders.

Also on Tuesday, an elderly woman suffered grave injuries when a barrage of missiles and artillery rounds, launched by Saudi forces, rained down on a residential area in the Razih district of Yemen’s northwestern mountainous province of Sa’ada.

Yemeni army forces and Popular Committees fighters also targeted a Saudi military vehicle with a roadside bomb southwest of the Hayran district in the northwestern Yemeni province of Hajjah, killing and injuring several Saudi troopers in the process.

Later in the day, a number of Saudi-paid militiamen were killed after Yemeni forces and their allies launched a barrage of artillery rounds at their positions off Jabal al-Qais mountainous area in the kingdom's Jizan region.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crushing the Ansarullah movement.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the war has claimed more than 91,000 over the past four and a half years

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/08/27/604623/Yemeni-forces-strike-Saudi-army-positions-in-Najran-with-new-missile

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Istanbul's new opposition mayor cuts funding to some pro-government groups

August 27, 2019

ANKARA: Istanbul's new opposition municipality cancelled the transfer of more than 350 million lira to some pro-government foundations, Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu said on Tuesday, in one of his first moves against Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan since his election.

Imamoglu, of the main opposition Republican People's Party, won a decisive victory in a June 24 re-run vote, ending a 25-year rule by Erdogan's AK Party (AKP) and its predecessors in the country's largest city and commercial hub.

Throughout his election campaign, Imamoglu vowed to uncover what he said was the wasteful transfer of millions of lira to pro-government foundations by previous administrations.

"As of now, we have completed the cancellation of a total of 357 million lira ($62 million) of resources that were given or transferred to foundations," he told reporters on Tuesday, adding that this figure included 56 million lira of "food support" and a 165 million lira of building.

"It's incredible. On what are you spending the people's money?" he said. "This is only the beginning."

The municipality also annulled its protocol agreements with five foundations receiving transfers.

One of the five was the Turkey Youth and Education Service Foundation (TURGEV), which Erdogan founded when he was mayor of Istanbul in the 1990s. Its board includes Erdogan's daughter, his communication director's wife, and a former AKP mayor.

Other foundations that had protocol agreements annulled and fund transfers cancelled include the Turkish Youth Foundation (TUGVA), the Ensar Foundation, the Aziz Mahmut Hudayi foundation, and the Daru'l Funun Theology foundation.

The move comes after Turkish authorities last week replaced Kurdish mayors in three southeastern cities with state officials and detained more than 400 people for suspected militant links, sparking sharp criticism from the opposition.

Erdogan has said his government would take similar measures in other parts of the country if needed. But Imamoglu said such remarks were "saddening" and meaningless.

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1546146/middle-east

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