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Islamic World News ( 27 Jan 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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France Restricts ‘Salafistes,’ Film on Islamic Radicals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: A still from “Salafistes” shows a member of Al Qaeda, Omar Ould Hamaha, in Mali in 2012. Credit François Margolin and Lemine Ould Salem

 

Europe

France Restricts ‘Salafistes,’ Film on Islamic Radicals

Islamic State group claims responsibility for ambush on Egypt army

At Least 12 Migrants, Including 8 Children, Drown Off Greece

Germany Says Flow of Fighters to Syria, Iraq Increasing

French FM: N. Deal Turning Point in Relations with Iran

NATO Considering US Request for AWACS to Fight Islamic State

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North America

Uncomfortable Truth: Washington Caught Supporting Jihadists in Syria

US: Serious Concerns over Turkey’s Commitment to Democracy

Islamic State-linked hacker makes first US appearance in federal court

Obama warns of rising anti-Semitism

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Arab World

ISIS Car Bombing Left Dozens of Casualties in Yemeni Capital

ISIL Releases Unmasked Photos of Jihadi John

CIA, Saudi Funding of Syrian Extremists Greater Than Previously Realized

Saudi Arabia Urged To Make More of Its Human Rights Successes by Minister

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Pakistan

Terrorist Blows Himself Up As Railway Bomb Plot Foiled In Pakistan

Three Cops Gunned Down By Militants in Quetta Province Of Pakistan

We Are Winning Militarily, Losing Psychological War against Terror, Says Pakistan's Interior Minister

Pakistan court junks petitions to provide 26/11 voice samples

Peshawar on edge as police foil terror plot in Pakistan

Pakistan urges India to do away with practice of terror allegations

Terrorism controlled to great extent, says Sindh province Chief Minister of Pakistan

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Mideast

Iranian Speaker Asks for Islamic States' Practical Measures to Fight Terrorism

Report: Nusra-ISIL Clashes Result of Lebanese Army Siege

Turkey’s Jewish Community Commemorates Holocaust with Music

Rouhani in European Tour: World Thirsty for Ties with Iran

Turkish fighter involved in killing of Russian pilot in Syria attends funeral in İstanbul

‘Turkey to have up to 5 million Syrians in 10 years’

Lebanese detain vulture from Israel for ‘spying’

Iran, Russia Discuss Latest Regional Developments

Iranian Embassy in Sana'a Attacked by Saudi Warplanes for Second Time in January

President Rouhani: Iran-France Rapprochement to Benefit Region

Senate President: France Believes in Iran's Constructive Role in Region

Israel reluctant to accuse Islamic State over bar shootings despite hallmarks

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South Asia

Daesh Launches Dari-Language Program on ‘Voice of the Caliphate’ In Nangarhar

Taliban Gunned Down Four De-Miners in Helmand

UN Mine Action Service condemns attack on de-miners in Helmand

New US general named to lead international forces in Afghanistan

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Africa

Nigeria Calls On Muslim World to Condemn ISIS

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India

Indian-Origin Islamic State (IS) Terrorist Suspect Siddhartha Dhar Praises Hitler in New Video

Indian cabinet approves $142.25m as revised construction cost of Afghan parliament

Music launch event of Ghulam Ali in Mumbai cancelled following opposition from Shiv Sena

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Southeast Asia

Rights groups rap treatment of Indonesian sect members

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/france-restricts-‘salafistes,’-film-on-islamic-radicals/d/106142

 

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Europe

France Restricts ‘Salafistes,’ Film on Islamic Radicals

JAN. 27, 2016

PARIS — The French Culture Ministry ruled Wednesday that a new documentary film on Islamic radicals was unsuitable for minors, saying that it offered images of violence that were “sometimes unbearable” and interviews with members of Al Qaeda and other extremist figures that provided a platform for propaganda.

The documentary, “Salafistes,” will also be accompanied by a warning about its contents. It shows one leader of the Salafists, who practice a fundamentalist form of Islam, supporting the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States and another leader justifying the amputation of hands as a punishment under Shariah, the legal code of Islam. They also speak freely about their opinions on the inferiority of women.

The decision to restrict a movie to those 18 and over is usually reserved for films with pornographic content or extremely violent scenes, and is very rare for documentaries in France, which has been grappling with how to balance freedom of speech and expression with national security after a series of deadly attacks last year. This month, the distributors of “Made in France,” a film about fictional homegrown jihadists, decided to cancel its release in theaters, citing security concerns.

The documentary starts with a tour of Timbuktu, Mali, under the occupation of jihadists in 2012 and ends with propaganda images of the Islamic State last year. The images inspired the movie “Timbuktu,” directed by Abderrahmane Sissako, which was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

“We wanted to show what it was like to live under the Shariah when we started the project, but then Daesh emerged and we had to put it in the synopsis,” said François Margolin, who directed the French film with Lemine Ould M. Salem, a journalist from Mauritania, using another term for the Islamic State.

“Salafistes” was among the films to be shown at the FIPA festival in Biarritz in south-western France. Just before the first screening the National Center of Cinematography, which assigns movie ratings, called the festival to say that the documentary was “degrading human dignity” because it showed images of a police officer killed in the attacks of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo last year.

In response, the festival restricted the screening only to those with credentials, like reviewers and journalists.

The cinematography center recommended that the film receive an under-18 restriction and a warning message. Mr. Margolin and Mr. Ould Salem cut that scene and submitted the new version Tuesday.

But after watching the second version, the culture minister, Fleur Pellerin, who has oversight on ratings, agreed with the centre, which argued that the film did not provide any counterpoint to the extremists, some of whom called for the murders of Jews and Christians.

Mr. Margolin said he had not expected the film to be rated at all. “The interviews explain the ideology of these people, and the propaganda images are here to show in practice how their ideas work,” he said Tuesday. “People are intelligent enough to understand the contrast.”

At the film’s Paris premiere on Tuesday night, the audience was split, with some arguing that the movie had the courage to “look evil in the eye,” while others thought it amounted only to propaganda.

The rating is also proving to be a financial blow to the directors. “Salafistes” had been scheduled to open in 30 theatres nationwide but will instead open in just three.

“We are going to lose a lot of money despite the fact that we risked our lives to shoot some scenes,” Mr. Margolin said.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/28/world/europe/france-restricts-salafistes-film-on-islamic-radicals.html?_r=0

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Islamic State group claims responsibility for ambush on Egypt army

January 28, 2016

CAIRO — The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the roadside bombing of an army convoy in the turbulent northern part of the Sinai Peninsula a day earlier that killed at least four.

In a statement distributed by Islamic State sympathizers on social media Thursday, the group said that it had killed and wounded more than 20 soldiers including senior officers. The Associated Press could not independently verify the claim, but its design and logo resembled previous IS claims.

Egyptian security and health officials had said the attack, just south of the coastal city of el-Arish, killed an army colonel and three soldiers and wounded another 12 soldiers, several of whom were in critical condition. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

http://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/islamic-state-group-claims-responsibility-for-ambush-on-egypt-army-1.390992

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At least 12 migrants, including 8 children, drown off Greece

AP | Jan 28, 2016

ATHENS: Greece's coast guard says it is unclear how many people are missing from the latest migrant boat sinking off an eastern Greek island that has claimed at least 11 lives.

Ten people have been rescued from Thursday's sinking north of the island of Samos.

The coast guard said the survivors were in shock and their accounts of how many people were on board were confused and vague.

Five of the survivors were found clinging to a piece of wood, leading authorities to believe that the vessel that sank was made of wood.

The bodies of our boys, three girls, three men and one woman were recovered from the sea.

A search and rescue operation was ongoing in the area by the Greek coast guard and vessels from the European border patrol agency Frontex.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/europe/At-least-12-migrants-including-8-children-drown-off-Greece/articleshow/50755050.cms

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Germany Says Flow of Fighters to Syria, Iraq Increasing

Jan 28, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Germany's domestic intelligence agency says the number of Islamic extremists heading to Syria and Iraq continues to grow, raising concerns over trained fighters returning who could carry out attacks in Europe.

The agency said Wednesday its latest evidence shows 790 people so far have made the trip from Germany to link up with militant groups in the Mideast, up from 750 in October, and about one-third had returned, CBS reported.

Agency head Hans-Georg Maassen says "the security situation is serious."

Germany so far has been spared mass-casualty attacks by Islamic extremists such as the Nov. 13 Paris attacks but security officials say it is also a target.

All but two of the Paris attackers were from Belgium or France and French authorities maintain the attacks were planned in Syria.

CBS News reported earlier this week that, according to the latest figures, more foreign fighters have gone from Belgium to join jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq, per capita, than any other European nation.

According to the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence (ICSR), 440 people have gone to join the fight from Belgium, and an estimated 130 of them have come back home.

By contrast, an estimated 500 foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq have come from Germany, but it is a much more populous nation.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941108000200

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French FM: N. Deal Turning Point in Relations with Iran

Jan 28, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius described the July nuclear agreement between Tehran and the world powers as a milestone in relations with Iran, and said bilateral ties should also be used to settle the regional problems.

In a statement issued on Wednesday ahead of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s arrival in Paris, Fabius said that "this visit, which we hope is successful, will allow us to address the international situation and regional crises where we hope Iran can play a positive role, notably in Syria and Lebanon".

He added that the trip could also be very helpful for promoting bilateral relations between Iran and France, saying it could be very important particularly from an economic point of view.

Fabius said the nuclear agreement reached between Iran and the world powers in July, in which he said France played a major role, was a turning point in relations between Tehran and Paris.

He added that the deal, which was also signed by the United States, Russia, China, Germany and Britain, “opened the way to a reinforcement” of Iran-France relations.

Leading a high-ranking political and business delegation, President Rouhani arrived in Paris on Wednesday. He left the Italian capital of Rome earlier in the day after a two-day visit to the country and Vatican.

France will be the last leg of Rouhani’s tour of Europe, where he is planned to hold meetings with President Francois Hollande and other senior officials.

He arrived in Rome on Monday at the head of a delegation of more than 100 businessmen and ministers and met with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, the country's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Pope Francis.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941108000477

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NATO Considering US Request for AWACS to Fight Islamic State

Jan 28, 2016

The NATO chief said the alliance is considering a U.S. request to provide AWACS surveillance planes to help in the fight against the Islamic State extremist organization.

NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg told reporters Thursday that "we are now looking into that request. And this is a decision that will be taken by 28 allies" unanimously.

The Transatlantic alliance is not directly involved in the fight against Islamic State, though the United States and all other NATO member states also belong to the coalition fighting IS in Iraq and Syria.

Stoltenberg said the AWACS question will be considered at a February meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels, but declined to predict when a decision might be taken.

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/nato-us-request-awacs-fight-islamic-state-36567745

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North America

Uncomfortable Truth: Washington Caught Supporting Jihadists in Syria

January 28, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Obama administration has found itself in an awkward position: the White House has long supported unsavory extremist groups in Syria which are now spreading havoc in the region, New York-based independent foreign affairs correspondent Joe Lauria notes.

Ahead of the Geneva talks on Syria Washington should separate the wheat from the chaff and decide who the Syrian terrorists are that should be excluded from the negotiations, New York-based independent foreign affairs correspondent Joe Lauria remarks, Sputnik reported.

"The major obstacle is deciding who will represent the opposition across the table from the government. And that hinges on the question of who is a terrorist in Syria," Lauria writes in his article for Consortiumnews.com.

The White House has been caught in an awkward position: after excluding Daesh (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant/ISIL) and al-Nusra Front (al-Qaeda in Syria) from participation in the upcoming negotiations the Obama administration should decide what to do with the myriad of other opposition groups, some of whom cooperate closely with al-Nusra Front and other jihadists.

To complicate matters further, many of them have long been backed by Washington.

While the Obama administration asserted that it was "vetting what groups it supports," the pro-neocon Daily Beast revealed that CIA-backed rebels were collaborating with al-Qaeda, the journalist points out.

Lauria recalls Vladimir Putin's September address to the UN General Assembly: the Russian President stressed that it was irresponsible "to manipulate extremist groups and use them to achieve your political goals, hoping that later you'll find a way to get rid of them or somehow eliminate them."

"Putin did not mention clear evidence he was certainly aware of the US Defense Intelligence Agency. An August 2012 DIA document declassified by a judge says that Washington, Ankara and the Persian Gulf States were helping to establish a Salafist principality in eastern Syria to pressure Assad and that it could team up with extremists on the Iraqi side of the border to form an Islamic State — the document uses that exact phrase," the foreign affairs correspondent underscores.

He also refers to former DIA chief Gen. Michael Flynn who noted in an interview with Al Jazeera, that it was a "willful decision" of the Obama administration to team up with Salafists, al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria back in 2012.

"I don't know that they turned a blind eye, I think it was a decision. I think it was a willful decision," Flynn said.

In this light Washington's unwillingness to form a coalition with Russia that targeted ISIL and al-Qaeda in Syria comes as no surprise. Furthermore, the Obama administration has repeatedly made attempts to accuse Russia of hitting the so-called "moderate rebels" in Syria.

"Washington leveled the tired charge that Putin is trying to reestablish the Soviet Empire and takeover the Middle East from the US: a duplicitous case of projecting imperial designs onto another," Lauria stresses.

The question then arises how to untie the Gordian knot of political and sectarian contradictions in the Middle East.

The Syria peace negotiations could potentially solve the problem.

Despite contradictions still surrounding the negotiations, the agenda has been finally set: it will include governance issues ("new governance, new constitution and new elections") and humanitarian matters — most notably broad ceasefire and humanitarian aid access in the country, US journalist Laura Rozen reported in Al-Monitor.

"There are political risks. But those political risks and tensions… should take into account that our line… is clear: no preconditions, at least to start the talks…. The rest is open," Staffan de Mistura told journalists in Geneva on January 25.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941108000241

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US: Serious concerns over Turkey’s commitment to democracy

January 28, 2016

The United States has declared it is concerned about Turkey's commitment to democracy, after recent charges against two critical journalists raised serious concerns over the country's commitment to democracy and freedom of expression, and urged the Turkish government to ensure that everyone in the country is free to speak.

Washington considers Turkey a robust ally but says it is not going to “shy away” from leveling criticism on its ally's democracy and rights record.

US State Department Spokesman Mark Toner on Wednesday criticized charges against the Cumhuriyet's newspaper's staff. “We're obviously very troubled by the reports,” Toner told reporters in a daily press briefing.

A new indictment seeks an aggravated life sentence, a life sentence and 30 years of imprisonment for Cumhuriyet journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül on separate charges. Both journalists have been held in a prison outside İstanbul since last November.

“We said before the extraordinarily harsh criminal charges, pretrial arrest, and now the prosecution's call for life sentences raise serious concerns about Turkey's commitment to fundamental principles of freedom of expression, of democracy, of due process, and judicial independence,” Toner said in a forceful statement.

Washington's unusually strong remarks came on a day when the world's three leading rights advocates -- Freedom House, Human Rights Watch and Transparency International -- targeted Turkey for its decline in democracy, gross violation of rights and a poor record on corruption.

The indictment was announced just days after US Vice President Joe Biden, who met with the family of Dündar, departed Turkey. “I would hope there's no link,” Toner said, characterizing Turkey as a friend, ally and partner.

He called on the Turkish authorities to ensure that all individuals and organizations, including the media, are free to voice a full range of opinions and criticism.

Biden paid a visit to Turkey last week to continue talks on ways to seal the last remaining stretch of the Turkish-Syrian border. Both allies are working together to shut down the 98-kilometer border to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Toner said foreign fighter flow into Syria from that border is a “very complex and very difficult issue” to deal with. He added that the US is working with Turkey to seal and increase the security along its border with Syria.

“We think it's become harder,” Toner said about Syria-bound foreign fighters, acknowledging that Turkey has strengthened the border, but clearly more work needs to be done.

Turkey has been under fire for allegedly turning a blind eye as ISIL smuggled fighters and goods through Turkish territory. US officials say they had been working very hard to convince Turks that ISIL poses a real threat to Turkey and that it needs to take it seriously.

Toner said the US is "absolutely convinced" that Turkey understands the magnitude of the problem and that it wants to stop the flow of foreign fighters and seal off its Syrian border.

Russia has been particularly pointed in its criticism of Turkey's business dealings with ISIL, claiming that the Turkish government is involved in a lucrative oil trade with ISIL. On Tuesday an Israeli minister claimed that ISIL benefits from Turkish money for its oil.

Toner said Washington disagrees with that statement and that this alleged trade does not "make economic sense at all." He said there is no evidence or signs to back up these allegations.

"We, the United States, reject the premise that the Turkish government is somehow in league with ISIL to smuggle oil. We just see no evidence to support that accusation," Toner stated firmly.

Along with oil, ISIL also smuggles people, goods and war material due to the porous nature of the Turkish-Syrian border. The rest of the border is now controlled by Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militias, a group that Washington calls "friendly forces" and Turkey considers "terrorists."

As Turkey's own separate war in a predominantly Kurdish areas escalates, Ankara has taken a hawkish position in dealing with Syrian Kurds. Over the past week Turkey vowed that it would walk out of peace talks in Geneva on Friday if Syria's Democratic Union Party (PYD) is invited to join the talks. PYD is the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a militant group listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the US.

The US State Department spokesman said the UN has not yet announced invitations; however, the PYD will not be participating in this week's talks. Recalling Turkey's "very real and almost existential" concerns about Syria, Toner said the initial exclusion of the PYD was a decision taken by the UN's Syria envoy.

http://www.todayszaman.com/diplomacy_us-serious-concerns-over-turkeys-commitment-to-democracy_410810.html

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Islamic State-linked hacker makes first US appearance in federal court

January 28, 2016

WASHINGTON - A Kosovar citizen accused of hacking the personal data of more than a thousand US officials and sending it to Islamic State militants in Syria appeared in US federal court in Virginia on Wednesday.

It was the first time Ardit Ferizi, 20, had publicly appeared in the United States since being extradited from Malaysia, where he was detained in October on a US provisional arrest warrant.

Ferizi, who is believed to be the leader of a Kosovar Internet hacking group, hacked the computer server of a US online retailer and stole the personal identification information of 1,351 US military personnel, according to charging documents.

The criminal complaint says Ferizi provided the list to Islamic State members including the British hacker Junaid Hussain, who linked to the list in an Aug. 11, 2015, tweet titled "NEW: US Military AND Government HACKED by the Islamic State Hacking Division!"

Twitter messages from Ferizi to other Islamic State-affiliated Twitter accounts show that he also offered to build the group a computer program enabling them to post propaganda that would "never get deleted," according to court records.

US officials called Ferizi's case the "first of its kind" when his arrest was announced last year, but he is one of at least 79 individuals whom US prosecutors have charged with Islamic State-related crimes in the past two years.

An Albanian interpreter has been appointed in advance of his next court appearance on Friday.

Ferizi faces a maximum sentence of 35 years in prison if convicted.

http://www.jpost.com/Breaking-News/Islamic-State-linked-hacker-makes-first-US-appearance-in-federal-court-443030

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Obama warns of rising anti-Semitism

Jan 28, 2016

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama used an event honouring Holocaust heroes Wednesday to warn of rising anti-Semitism and to stress America's "unbreakable" bonds with Israel.

"We must confront the reality that, around the world, anti-Semitism is on the rise. We cannot deny it," Obama said, declaring "we are all Jews", on what was International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

"An attack on any faith is an attack on all of our faiths," he said as he cited instances of discrimination in Europe, Asia and the United States (US).

Obama said that the United States (US) was at the forefront of efforts to combat anti-Semitism and would remain a friend to Israel.

Obama has been at pains to stress close ties with Israel amid a series of rows with the country's government and particularly Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The pair have sparred publicly over settlement building and the Iran nuclear deal, which Netanyahu fiercely opposed.

"America's commitment to Israel's security remains, now and forever, unshakeable," he said in a speech at the Israeli embassy.

"It would be a fundamental moral failing if America broke that bond."

http://www.dawn.com/news/1235917/obama-warns-of-rising-anti-semitism

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Arab World

ISIS car bombing left dozens of casualties in Yemeni capital

By ZABIHULLAH MOOSAKHAIL - Tue Jun 30 2015

An ISIS or the Islamic State-claimed car bomb attack has left dozens of Shia Huthis killed and wounded in Yemeni capital of Sanaa.

Security officials say that the car bomb was parked behind a military hospital and exploded on Monday leaving several people killed and wounded including civilians.

Security officials close to Houthis said that the explosion targeted homes of Houthi leaders but did not provide exact number of the casualties.

However, medics have said at least 28 people, including women have been killed in last night’s bombing.

Soon after the blast Houthis cordoned off the area and ambulances were seen transporting the casualties for treatment.

According to the SITE Intel Group, which monitors terrorist groups, The Islamic State’s Sanaa Division claimed responsibility on a Twitter account, attributed to the group.

Yesterday’s bombing came as Saudi-led airstrikes on Houthi positions continued.

On Monday Saudi-led coalition airstrikes targeted the Houthi stronghold of Saada. Aden and Shabwa were also hit by the coalition airstrikes.

Saudi formed a coalition against Houthis in March and since them the Houthi positions in Yemen are bombed by the coalition. The coalition was formed after the advancement of Houthis in Yemen.

http://www.khaama.com/isis-car-bombing-left-dozens-of-casualties-in-yemeni-capital-3570

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ISIL Releases Unmasked Photos of Jihadi John

Jan 28, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Released through one of the group’s websites, Daesh, also known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), has posted photos of Jihadi John unmasked.

Mohammed Emwazi, better known as Jihadi John, was a British citizen who featured in a series of Daesh propaganda videos documenting the executions of Westerners. In August of 2014, footage was posted of Emwazi beheading American journalist James Foley, Sputnik reported.

In the notorious videos, Emwazi’s face was hidden by a black ski mask. Now, new photos published by the terrorist organization on Tuesday show him posing with an AK-47 amid a fleet of armored vehicles.

It is unclear where or when the photos were taken. One of the vehicles appears to bear the emblem of Iraq, but the photos were first picked up by English-language media outlets after being tweeted by Syrian activists operating in Raqqa, the terrorist group’s self-proclaimed capital in Syria.

US officials stated last November that they believed Jihadi John had been killed during a coalition airstrike. Daesh confirmed the extremist’s death last week, posting a “tribute” to Emwazi online.

A computer science graduate who lived in West London before traveling to Syria in 2013, Emwazi had been under close surveillance by Britain’s MI5. After joining Daesh, he began using the name Abu Muharib al-Muhajir.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941107001615

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CIA, Saudi Funding of Syrian Extremists Greater Than Previously Realized

01/27/2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- New reports in the US media reveal that secret cooperation between the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Saudi Arabia to fund ISIL and other extremist groups in Syria was far greater than previously suspected, US scholars said.

"The details about the Saudi funding should give very serious pause to Americans," Middle East expert and author Helena Cobban said, Sputnik reported.

New details revealed in a New York Times report indicated that the US government and its secret agencies were trying to repeat in Syria the strategy they used against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan 35 years ago, Cobban stated.

"It all looks eerily like what happened in Afghanistan in the 1980s — a semi-clandestine and very hard to control CIA ‘intervention,’ backed up with huge amounts of Saudi money, and the ever-present Saudi support for the Wahhabist global agenda," she suggested.

However, the Islamic terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, whom the CIA supported in Afghanistan during the 1980s, eventually turned on the United States with devastating consequences and the same thing could happen now, Cobban cautioned.

"What could possibly go wrong? We might ask the widows and orphans of the September 11, 2001 attack that question," she said.

The New York Times report revealed that the scale of US military and Saudi financial assistance to the Islamists in Syria was vastly greater than anything the Obama administration had previously admitted to, US author and Middle East affairs expert Dan Lazare told Sputnik.

"In the famous talk that [US Vice President] Joe Biden gave at Harvard's Kennedy School in October 2014… he said that the [Persian] Gulf states ‘poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of military weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad’," Lazare noted.

However, according to the New York Times report, estimates have put the total cost of the arming and training effort at several billion dollars, Lazare pointed out.

"So the Saudi contribution alone was on the order of ten times greater than what Biden had indicated. That's huge," Lazare emphasized.

Cobban further noted that US diplomats openly fanned the flames of rebellion and civil war in Syria.

"There were the blatantly incendiary actions of Ambassador Robert Ford during the spring of 2011, when… he gave a lot of moral and political support to very activist figures in the opposition," Cobban recalled.

According to the New York Times report, Lazare observed, the US government was well aware how much Saudi citizens continued to support terrorist groups, but maintained their close intelligence partnership with Riyadh anyway.

These were the same forces that bombed the World Trade Center in 2001, killing nearly 3,000 Americans, he concluded.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941108000261

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Saudi Arabia Urged To Make More Of Its Human Rights Successes By Minister

 Tobias Ellwood

Chris Green | The Independent | Jan 28, 2016

A government minister has urged Saudi Arabia to do a "better job" of trumpeting its human rights successes during an official visit to the country, less than a month after it carried out the mass execution of 47 people.

Tobias Ellwood, the Foreign Office minister for the Middle East, made the comments on Monday as he and other British delegates addressed Saudi Arabia's National Society for Human Rights in the capital Riyadh, The Independent understands.

Leading human rights organisations described Ellwood's remarks as "astonishing", pointing out that Saudi Arabia was currently presiding over a surge in executions and engaging in a brutal military campaign in Yemen that may be breaking international laws.

During the visit, which was not publicised by the Foreign Office, Ellwood was told that Saudi Arabia had introduced a series of reforms, such as allowing women to vote in municipal elections.

In response, he told his hosts that they needed to improve the way they promoted their human rights successes, according to people present at the meeting.

Accounts of the meeting that appeared in three Saudi media outlets claimed that Ellwood went even further, saying that people in Britain were unaware of the "notable progress" made on human rights by the Saudi regime.

An article in the daily newspaper Al Watan read: "Tobias Ellwood revealed the ignorance of the British to the notable progress in Saudi Arabia in the field of human rights, confirming throughout the visit of a British FCO delegation... that he had expressed his opinion regarding the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia before the British Parliament, and that the notable progress in this area has been obscured."

However, a Foreign Office spokesman strongly denied that Ellwood had used those words. "We do not recognise these remarks," he said. "Ellwood raised our human rights concerns in all of his meetings in Riyadh... The Government will continue to raise our concerns in public and private.

"The minister was very clear that despite some recent incremental progress - such as December's municipal elections... in which women were allowed to stand and vote in - further progress still needed to be made." A press release issued by the National Society for Human Rights said Ellwood had been joined at the private meeting by Simon Collis, the British Ambassador, who stressed the importance of creating partnerships between human rights organisations in the two countries.

The chairman of the society, Dr Mofleh bin Rabiean Qahtani, told Ellwood he was concerned that some high profile individual cases were being "exploited, generalised and circulated" in order to discredit Saudi Arabia's reputation, the press release said.

Recent cases which have drawn international condemnation include that of Raif Badawi, the liberal writer sentenced to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes for promoting free speech, and Ali al-Nimr, who was sentenced to death at the age of 17 for taking part in a pro-democracy protest.

Nimr's uncle, the Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, was among 47 people killed by Saudi Arabia earlier this month as part of the country's biggest mass execution for more than 30 years. It has since emerged that two of those killed were minors at the time they were arrested.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/uk/Saudi-Arabia-urged-to-make-more-of-its-human-rights-successes-by-foreign-office-minster-Tobias-Ellwood/articleshow/50751345.cms

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Pakistan

Terrorist blows himself up as railway bomb plot foiled in Pakistan

AMIR KAYANI —Jan 28, 2016

JHELUM: A terror bid on the outskirts of the city in Domeli Mor was foiled by police Thursday morning when a terrorist, during an encounter with police, blew himself up, police said.

The terrorist who was allegedly targeting the Rawalpindi to Lahore Pakistan Express tried to plant explosives on railway tracks near Grand Trunk Road when a citizen reported the 'suspicious individual' to Motorway Police, police said.

Deputy Superintendent Police Motorways Rauf Chishti reached the scene after the tip-off.

The terrorist lobbed a hand grenade at security personnel upon sight and then blew himself up, security sources said.

District Information Officer Awais, however, earlier said the suspect had exchanged fire with police before blowing himself up with a hand grenade.

Police recovered four hand grenades and two pistols, as well as two National Identity Cards and a vehicle from the terrorist's possession.

A heavy contingent of police, along with the District Police Officer, reached the site of the explosion and cordoned off the area. A search operation was conducted in the area and two suspicious individuals were arrested.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Pakistan-court-junks-petitions-to-provide-26/11-voice-samples/articleshow/50749906.cms

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Three cops gunned down by militants in Quetta province of Pakistan

SYED ALI SHAH — Jan 28, 2016

QUETTA: Three policemen were killed and one other critically injured in what police said appeared to be an incident of targeted killing in the Munir Mengal Road area on Thursday.

Assailants opened fire on a police mobile, killing two policemen on the spot and injuring two others before fleeing on motorbike, police said.

The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed the attack in an email sent to journalists.

The injured policemen were rushed to Civil Hospital Quetta for treatment, where one succumbed to his wounds.

Police and Frontier Corps personnel reached the spot and an investigation was launched into the attack.

Earlier this month, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a polio centre in Quetta's Satellite Town area, killing 15 people, including 12 policemen.

In the past, policemen have been targeted in Quetta's Satellite Town, Sariab Road and Pashtoonabad areas.

http://www.dawn.com/news/1235923/three-cops-gunned-down-by-militants-in-quetta

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We are winning militarily, losing psychological war against terror, says Pakistan's Interior Minister

Jan 28, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Equipped with statistics on the past year's terror incidents across the country, Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan hit out at critics of the National Action Plan (NAP) on Thursday saying those criticising the policy "had never read NAP".

During a press conference in the capital, Nisar boasted the gains made through NAP and claimed terror incidents and casualties are the lowest in nine years.

In an apparent remark to growing criticism of NAP in the wake of the recent Charsadda University attack, he said Pakistan is militarily winning the war on militancy but "we are losing the psychological war against terror", he said.

"Whenever there is an attack, a storm begins. We behave exactly how our enemies want by creating an atmosphere of fear. People criticise the government saying no progress has been made."

Nisar laments schools closure

Nisar took issue with the closing of schools in Punjab. "Security can be improved while schools are still on."

"We should give a message of strength and unity and fight against the atmosphere of fear and terror."

"The terrorists are desperate so they are attacking the softest targets. There are hundreds of thousands of schools in Pakistan. Securing each is a difficult job, but it must be done."

The minister said he told the Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) minister Tariq Fazal Chaudhry that schools should not be closed

"I will request Punjab and other provinces to not shut down schools," he said. "I am saddened by the closure of schools."

"If we close all our educational institutions, hospitals, streets, neighbourhoods and hide ourselves in our houses; this is what the terrorists want."

'Civilian govt in control'

The minister rubbished critcism that NAP is controlled by the military saying, "Operation Zarb-i-Azb started before NAP. It is not a part of NAP."

"One or two things [in the NAP] are informed by the Ministry of Defence and the army. Everything else is from the civilian government."

Nisar said he would brief the media managements next week on the gains of NAP.

"Networks of terrorism have been broken. The terrorists are on the run so they hit the softest targets. Instead of 7-8 attacks every day, they hit one target. They create so much terror that everyone roams fearfully," he said.

"The government policy is very clear — there are no good or bad militants."

He also hit out at the PPP and referring to ex-president Asif Ali Zardari's notorious 'eenth-se-eenth' outburst against the military establishment, Nisar said, "A few political elements have problems elsewhere but they vent out their frustration on NAP."

Following the recent attack on the Bacha Khan University in Charsadda which had claimed 21 lives, Leader of Opposition in the national Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah had pointed the finger at NAP meant to curb terrorism and held the interior minister responsible for the attack.

Shah had accused the federal government of making no significant progress on the NAP and said only 60 out of 3,000 major terrorism cases had been sent to military courts.

In reference to the intelligence that Charsadda terror attack was being controlled from a location in Afghanistan through Afghan cellphone, Nisar said although Afghan SIMs could no longer work on roaming in Pakistan, there were some places in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas where their towers can broadcast signals.

"We took this matter up with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority and will take this matter up with the Afghan government too," he maintained.

'Misstatements regarding Abdul Aziz'

Nisar, who came under fire last week for 'misleading' the House on Lal Masjid cleric Abdul Aziz, said, "In my absence, there were many misstatements regarding Maulana Abdul Aziz in the Senate. People who want to score political points only want to create confusion."

The minister said he will "request the chairman Senate to broadcast my response and criticism [regarding Abdul Aziz] live."

"What do I have to hide?" he said, vowing he will put everything before the Senate regarding Abdul Aziz.

"I can make a mistake unintentionally but i should not be called a liar."

The interior ministry came under immense pressure to take action against Abdul Aziz after four key legal documents, asserting that the cleric was an absconder, were presented before the upper house by Senator Farhatullah Babar last week.

Babar, who also sought the chair’s permission to move a privilege motion against Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan for misleading the house, said Nisar incorrectly stated in Senate that the government did not move against Aziz because of a lack of evidence in the case lodged against him.

'Grievances against media'

Nisar said he had grievances against certain sections of the media which criticised his absence, which was due to his poor health.

"My health worsened as i was working for two days while i was ill," he said. "Any one can fall ill."

He also mentioned cartoons published by some media outlets which depicted him carrying a burden of lies.

http://www.dawn.com/news/1235919/we-are-winning-militarily-losing-psychological-war-against-terror-says-nisar

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Pakistan court junks petitions to provide 26/11 voice samples

Omer Farooq Khan | TNN | Jan 28, 2016

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad high court has dismissed two petitions seeking voices samples of seven 26/11 accused facing trial in Pakistan besides declaring two others, including executed terrorist Ajmal Kasab, as absconders.

The Dawn reported this without elaborating why the HC dismissed the petitions on Monday. A trial court had earli er dismissed petitions on voice samples in 2011 and 2015 saying there was no law to allow this.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had sought the samples to compare them with conversations Indian investigators had recorded and to present them before an anti-terrorism court (ATC), where the seven are being tried. The first petition said Indian intelligence agencies had intercepted the conversations of the handlers instructing the terrorists who had attacked Mumbai in 2008.

"According to the reports, the handlers of attackers remained in touch with the terrorists for instructions through Voiceover Internet Protocol (VoIP) and satellite/mobile phones, which also indicate connectivity with LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) militants including Abu Al-Qama," the petition said.

It added that India had handed over the recordings to Pakistan in a CD and that the FIA needed the samples to verify if the conversations were those of the accused. The petition argued that the samples were essential for concluding investigations in the case.

The court dismissed another petition seeking declaration of Kasab and Fahim Ansari, who was acquitted in the case in India, as absconders to "meet legal formalities".

The dismissal of the petition regarding voice samples is likely to further delay the trial, which has been impeded several times since 2009.

In April 2005, 26/11 mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi was bailed after the government failed to keep him behind bars. He had been arrested in December 2008 from LeT's headquarters in Muzaffarabad and was booked along with six others two months later.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Pakistan-court-junks-petitions-to-provide-26/11-voice-samples/articleshow/50749906.cms

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Peshawar on edge as police foil terror plot in Pakistan

Jan 28, 2016

PESHAWAR: Police on Thursday defused five bombs planted under a 132KV electric tower in the provincial capital, officials said.

The bombs, comprising 20 kilograms of explosive materials, were packed into four pressure cookers and a canister in the Phando area of the city under the main transmission lines powering Peshawar.

Bomb Disposal Unit officials said if not defused in time, the bombs would have caused major destruction.

Senior Superintendent Police Abbas Majeed Marwat said militants wanted to target the main transmission line to deprive the people of the city from electricity, but police foiled their plan.

Reassuring city residents, he said "the police is vigilant and alert at all times to avoid mishaps."

Residents of the provincial capital are fearful, as police have been kept busy with reports of suspicious shopping bags from around the city.

Police also received a call about a suspicious bag in the Bala Mani area, but when officials reached the scene, they found a bag full of books, not explosives.

http://www.dawn.com/news/1235927/peshawar-on-edge-as-police-foil-terror-plot

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Pakistan urges India to do away with practice of terror allegations

MATEEN HAIDER — Jan 28, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Office spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah on Thursday urged India to do away with the practice of hurling "unsubstantiated terror allegations against Pakistan."

"Such a practice undermines efforts to eliminate terrorism from the region in a collaborative manner," the spokesman remarked.

Speaking at the weekly FO briefing, he said terrorism was not an issue for only India or Pakistan but a global problem that needs to be tackled with joint cooperation.

He expressed hope that India would share findings of the Samjhota Express attack investigations with Pakistan.

The spokesman said India and Pakistan are in touch to finalise the dates for foreign secretary level talks.

Commenting on the joint Indian-French statement on terrorism, issued at the end of the visit by French President Francois Hollande to India, the spokesperson said Pakistan's sacrifices in the war against terrorism have been acknowledged by the world community.

Khalilullah said next round of the Quadrilateral Coordination Committee would be held in Islamabad on Feb 6 to discuss the road map for reconciliation in Afghanistan.

Refusing to comment on any media report regarding Pakistan’s mediation policy in the Middle East crisis, Khalilullah said that both Saudi Arabia and Iran have appreciated Pakistan’s role as a mediator to ease tensions between the two countries.

‘Pakistan has sought details from India about IAF bomb incident’

The FO spokesman said Pakistan had sought details from its high commission in New Delhi about dropping of bombs by the Indian Air Force (IAF) in Rajasthan, which is close to Pakistan.

"We have seen media reports about the incident and sought more details from the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi."

According to reports in Indian media, loud explosions were heard when IAF jets "accidentally dropped bombs" in Rajasthan's Barmer district on Tuesday.

There were also reports saying an IAF Sukhoi-30MKI fighter aircraft shot down a balloon-like suspicious object in the same area.

IAF officials said the object was flying in from the western sector (implying Pakistani side) and was shot down on Tuesday morning.

“Between 10:30am and 11am today, an unidentified balloon-shaped object was picked up by IAF radar. An IAF fighter was launched which intercepted the object and brought it down. Further investigation is under way,” an IAF spokesperson said at the time.

No one was hurt nor was any damage caused to the property in the area, the spokesman in Jaipur said.

http://www.dawn.com/news/1235928/pakistan-urges-india-to-do-away-with-practice-of-terror-allegations

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Terrorism controlled to great extent, says Sindh province Chief Minister of Pakistan

January 28th, 2016

DADU: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah has said that his government has succeeded in controlling terrorism to a great extent. Referring to a remarkable improvement in Karachi law and order, he said acts of terrorism, targeted killing and other heinous crime ravaged the city for 30 years but they had almost been curbed by the government.

Speaking at a public meeting in Khanpur Junejo town of Dadu district on Wednesday, the chief minister termed terrorism the biggest challenge being faced by the country. “Right from Karachi to Jacobabad, the menace had spread across Sindh but the provincial government took effective measures and succeeded in controlling it to a great extent,” he said, and held out the assurance that it [terrorism] would be eliminated very soon.

Mr Shah criticised the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) for registering fresh cases against Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, and recalled that similar false cases had been registered against him by it (PML-N) in the past as well.

“We support the PML-N in pursuance of the PPP chief’s policy and in the greater interest of democracy and the country,” Mr Shah said.

Speaking about various other issues, the chief minister said that murders, kidnapping for ransom and other crimes in Sindh had registered a decline due to effective police operations against dacoits. Most of the criminals had either been killed or arrested, he added.

Regarding the energy crisis, Mr Shah said that the Thar coal project would be completed soon to overcome it. Once the coal-powered projects were put in operation, electricity tariff would drastically come down and loadshedding would come to an end, he said.

Published in Dawn, January 28th, 2016

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Mideast

Iranian Speaker Asks for Islamic States' Practical Measures to Fight Terrorism

JAN 28, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani called on the Islamic countries to seriously increase efforts and moves to help campaign against terrorism.

Talking to reporters on Wednesday night upon arrival from Baghdad after participating in the 11th conference of the Parliamentary Union of the OIC Member States (PUIC), Larijani said that during the conference different issues, including terrorism and the regional crises, were discussed.

"There is almost a good convergence in fighting against terrorism, although today we need practical measures more than any other time," he added.

Larijani said that he had good talks and consultations with his counterparts during the Baghdad meeting.

In relevant remarks in 2014, the Iranian speaker underscored the country's support for those world states, specially the ones in the region, that take real and practical measures against terrorism.

"We have adopted practical measures in fighting terrorism and if other countries take practical measures in this regard too, we will support them," Larijani said in a joint press conference with his Iraqi counterpart Salim al-Jabouri in Baghdad at the time.

Larijani who was earlier in Syria and Lebanon before visiting Iraq, underlined that the three countries' determination to fight terrorism is appreciable.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran supports the determination of these governments to fight terrorism," he added.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941108000624

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Report: Nusra-ISIL Clashes Result of Lebanese Army Siege

JAN 28, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Al-Qaeda's Nusra Front militants launched a surprise attack against the ISIL extremist group along the Lebanese-Syrian border on Wednesday as a result of the siege laid by the Lebanese army and Hizbullah against the fighters, informed sources said on Thursday.

The sources said that the clashes, which have left scores dead and injured, were the bloodiest between the rival extremists, Naharnet reported.

The sounds of gunshots and explosions reverberated across the northeastern border town of Arsal on Wednesday.

Al-Akhbar newspaper reported the extremists were trying to take over bases from their rivals to improve their battle positions after the siege laid by the Lebanese military and Hizbullah left them incapacitated in the harsh winter cold.

The ISIL and Nusra Front are taking the porous Lebanese-Syrian border as a refuge since 2014.

The gunmen clash with the army occasionally. But the major confrontation between them took place in August 2014 when they overran Arsal.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941108000192

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Turkey’s Jewish community commemorates Holocaust with music

January 28, 2016

Turkey's Jewish community was hosted by the consul general of Hungary in İstanbul, Balazs Hendrich, on Wednesday evening to observe International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The small, intimate ceremony was held at the Schneidertempel Art Gallery, a synagogue that was converted into an art space in 1998. Despite there being no more than a hundred guests, heavy security measures were taken. Contralto Judit Rajk, oboist Bela Horvath and pianist Dora Petery performed Jewish folk melodies, in addition to pieces by composers Bach and Handel.

During the ceremony leader of the Turkish Jewish community İshak İbrahimzadeh spoke to the audience and explained that in the Jewish faith, singing is as important for celebration as it is for expressing sorrow. “The most joyful days in our life have music, and the bitterest days of our lives also have music. Music is the movement of the soul.”

“Are we looking for pity for the Jewish people? Surely not because the moment that we create pity we create someone who is guilty,” İbrahimzadeh said. “We don't want anyone to feel guilty.”

Earlier in the day, a grand memorial ceremony was held in Turkey's capital of Ankara, with European Union Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkir in attendance. Bozkir condemned anti-Semitism, calling it an epidemic and saying there will be no tolerance for it. Chief Rabbi İsak Haleva and US Ambassador to Turkey John Bass were also present for the ceremony.

http://www.todayszaman.com/latest-news_turkeys-jewish-community-commemorates-holocaust-with-music_410829.html

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Rouhani in European Tour: World Thirsty for Ties with Iran

January 28, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani who is on a bi-nation tour of Italy and France underlined that the world states are showing high interest in bolstering relations with Tehran.

The world is thirsty for relations with Iran, and Tehran would continue enhancement of ties with the international community, including the European states, Rouhani said in Italy before heading to France.

He referred to the nuclear deal clinched between Iran and the world powers in July which nullified the sanctions, and said the Europeans were the biggest losers of embargos against Tehran.

Heading a 120-strong delegation of business leaders and ministers, Rouhani spent two days in Rome before flying to France on Wednesday.

Iran and Italy signed business deals worth billions of dollars on Monday at the start of a visit to Europe by President Rouhani aimed at rebuilding his nation's ties with the West after sanctions.

The two sides signed up to 17 billion euros ($18.4 billion) worth of deals in sectors from energy to infrastructure, steel, shipbuilding, mining, agriculture, modern technology, travel and tourism, among others.

Among the deals struck on Monday were a pipeline contract worth between $4 billion and $5 billion for oil services group Saipem, up to 5.7 billion euros in contracts for Italian steel firm Danieli, and up to 4 billion euros of business for infrastructure firm Condotte d'Acqua.

Also, on Wednesday, the two countries signed a comprehensive roadmap to join efforts in the war against global terrorism and extremism.

They also agreed to expand cooperation in the fields of international diplomacy, economy, culture, tourism, science, and technology.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941108000133

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Turkish fighter involved in killing of Russian pilot in Syria attends funeral in İstanbul

January 28, 2016

Alparslan Çelik, the Turkish citizen who Russia is after for having killed a Russian pilot in Syria, on Wednesday attended the funeral of his comrade who was slain while fighting government forces in Syria.

Çelik (33) was among those at the funeral of İbrahim Küçük at the Fatih Mosque in İstanbul, the Hürriyet daily reported on Thursday.

Çelik previously admitted to having killed Oleg Peşkov, a Russian pilot, as he parachuted from his plane, which was hit by a Turkish jet for allegedly violating Turkish airspace. A Turkish F-16 shot down the Russian pilot's Su-24 on Nov. 24, an act that has led to a crisis in relations between the two countries. Peşkov was one of the two pilots in the downed jet that fell over Syrian territory near the Turkish border after being hit by a missile.

Çelik was reportedly surrounded by five of his friends after the coffin was placed in the hearse.

According to the report Çelik said in remarks to reporters: “The martyr was a friend of ours. He was with us in the Bayırbucak [region]; we were all together.”

Bayırbucak is the name of the northwestern part of Syria that is populated by the Turkmens.

Asked when he came back to Turkey, Çelik said: “I come and go. I'm here for the funeral. I'll go back.”

Küçük was a Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) figure who was killed in fighting against Syrian government forces that were supported by Russian jets. He was also deputy chairperson of the MHP's Fatih district office.

While the hearse left for the cemetery, some of those at the funeral reportedly shouted, “Killer Russia, get off of Turkmen Mountain.”

After weeks of intense fighting, the Syrian forces backed by Russian jets recently captured Turkmen Mountain, which lies to the south of Turkey's Hatay province.

Çelik was reportedly seen shedding tears as he helped put the coffin in the hearse.

He was seen admitting in video footage broadcast by Turkish television stations shortly after the downing of the jet that the pilot was killed by the Turkmens.

Andrey Karlov, Russian ambassador to Turkey, said in remarks to the Cumhuriyet daily in mid-December that the person who was seen in the video footage was a Turkish citizen and named Çelik.

Çelik is the son of Ramazan Çelik, who formerly served as an MHP mayor for the Keban district in the eastern Turkish province of Elazığ.

Leading MHP figures such as Oktay Vural, the party's parliamentary group deputy chair, MHP Deputy Chairman Celal Adan, Atilla Kaya, Semih Yalçın and İzzet Ulvi Yönter were also present at the funeral, according to the report. Meral Akşener, a senior MHP figure who is contending for the party's top post, was also among those present, the report said.

Turkey is particularly concerned about Russian bombing near the Turkish border because the area in question is populated by Turkmens.

Ahmet Mahmut Ünlü, also known as Cübbeli Ahmet Hoca, the leader of an İstanbul-based religious community, led the funeral prayer for Küçük.

http://www.todayszaman.com/anasayfa_turkish-fighter-involved-in-killing-of-russian-pilot-in-syria-attends-funeral-in-i-stanbul_410830.html

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‘Turkey to have up to 5 million Syrians in 10 years’

January 27, 2016

The number of Syrians in Turkey may reach 5 million in 10 years from now, a leading migration analyst has predicted, warning that not taking steps for the integration of migrants may well prove costly for Turkey in the future.

“The [current] figure [of Syrians] will go well beyond 3 million, even possibly as high as 5 million, 10 years from now,” Murat Erdoğan, the director of the Migration and Politics Center (HUGO) at Hacettepe University, told Today's Zaman in an exclusive interview.

According to official figures, there are slightly over 2.5 million Syrians in Turkey, but Erdoğan estimates that the figure could be as high as 3 million when including the unregistered Syrians.

A big majority of the Syrians are here to stay and urgent steps must be taken to integrate them into Turkish society to avoid serious problems in the future, Erdoğan stressed.

“Even if the clashes should end [in Syria], 80 percent of the Syrians would continue to stay in Turkey,” the HUGO head maintained.

Erdoğan's prediction is based on data outlining that migrants usually choose to settle for good in a country where they have been for two years.

If asked, they may respond that they would return to Syria when the civil war is over, but that will usually not be the case, argued the HUGO director, who recently co-authored a report on Syrians for the Turkish Confederation of Employer Associations (TİSK).

Having also worked for years on researching Turkish migrants in Europe, Erdoğan uses his previous findings as examples to prove his point.

Many of the Turks in Europe continue to live in the countries where they are established, although when asked they say that they want to return to Turkey, he noted.

“Of the Syrians here, 400,000 have jobs and they have no country to go back to,” Erdoğan argued.

Granting work permits for Syrians and the inclusion of Syrian children in the Turkish education system is essential for a successful integration.

Noting that many of the Syrians in Turkey are from rural areas and are illiterate, he said, “We may find ourselves in the future faced with [internal] conflicts, like countries in the region have been experiencing, should these uneducated people be excluded from society,” Erdoğan warned.

There are efforts to resolve the almost five-year-long civil war in Syria, but it is widely estimated that it would take years for the country to have peace, even if a peace agreement should be reached at the Geneva talks this Friday.

Many Syrians may prefer to establish a life in Turkey as their hometowns, like many parts of the country, are in ruins.

Syrian men in Turkey may return to Syria, but it is highly improbable that the women and children will go back, Erdoğan argued.

The children -- 55 percent of the migrants -- and women together make up around 80 percent of the Syrians in Turkey, as most of the women are those who lost their husbands in the war.

In Turkey, 125 Syrian babies are being born every day and around 200,000 have been born so far.

The Turkish government has recently introduced a legislation allowing Syrians to work in Turkey. The work permit granted to Syrians has its limits, but is expected to facilitate their integration.

The education of Syrian children is yet another major problem that Turkey needs to resolve.

The number of school-age Syrian children in Turkey is over 700,000. Around 400,000 of the children do not receive any schooling.

It is dangerous for Turkey if these children go without education, Erdoğan said, noting that the children would end up as unqualified manpower in society if no steps are taken.

“Only around 60,000-70,000 of these are part of the Turkish education system and are learning Turkish,” Erdoğan said.

Erdoğan is concerned about the quality and content of the education that the rest of the migrant children are getting, and that they may be influenced by radical Islamist teachings.

Stating that the rest of the children are given education in Arabic by civil society organizations or by organizations linked with them, he warned, “This situation may well cause serious problems in the future.”

According to Erdoğan, all Syrian children should have access to education in Turkish as Turkey does not have the capacity to offer education in Arabic to all of the almost-800,000 of them.

Otherwise, these children will grow up to be problem children,” he said.

As the Turkish government took so long to grant Syrians work permit and failed, until recently, to come up with solid proposals for their integration into Turkish society, many of the more qualified Syrians left for Europe.

Those with the lowest levels of education stayed in Turkey, Erdoğan said, outlining that the rate of literacy among the Syrians who left via Turkey for Germany is over 40 percent, while the figure is 7 percent for those in Turkey.

http://www.todayszaman.com/national_turkey-to-have-up-to-5-million-syrians-in-10-years_410775.html

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Lebanese detain vulture from Israel for ‘spying’

Will Worley | The Independent | Jan 28, 2016

A vulture from an Israeli nature reserve has been captured in southern Lebanon by locals who claimed it was spying.

The bird was spotted in the Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil, several miles from a nature reserve in Israel's Golan Heights.

People who captured the bird, numbered P98, said they noticed a transmitter device, wing tags and a metal rings with Israeli markings attached to its body. A tweet read, #Lebanon Israeli 'Spy vulture' captured near Bin Jbeil. 100$ this is just normal tracking device.

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority were alerted of the vulture's plight following reports on social media.

"Reports passed to us show the vulture tied with a rope by local people who write that they suspect Israeli espionage apparently because of the transmitter attached to him," said a spokeswoman for the authority, Tali Tenenbaum, according to The Guardian. "In the 21st century, we expect people to understand that wild animals are not harmful. We hope that the Lebanese will release him."

It was later reported by Arabic new site Bintjbeil.org that the bird was freed after locals determined it was not a threat

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/Lebanese-detain-vulture-from-Israel-for-spying/articleshow/50749864.cms

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US: Serious concerns over Turkey’s commitment to democracy

January 28, 2016

The United States has declared it is concerned about Turkey's commitment to democracy, after recent charges against two critical journalists raised serious concerns over the country's commitment to democracy and freedom of expression, and urged the Turkish government to ensure that everyone in the country is free to speak.

Washington considers Turkey a robust ally but says it is not going to “shy away” from leveling criticism on its ally's democracy and rights record.

US State Department Spokesman Mark Toner on Wednesday criticized charges against the Cumhuriyet's newspaper's staff. “We're obviously very troubled by the reports,” Toner told reporters in a daily press briefing.

A new indictment seeks an aggravated life sentence, a life sentence and 30 years of imprisonment for Cumhuriyet journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül on separate charges. Both journalists have been held in a prison outside İstanbul since last November.

“We said before the extraordinarily harsh criminal charges, pretrial arrest, and now the prosecution's call for life sentences raise serious concerns about Turkey's commitment to fundamental principles of freedom of expression, of democracy, of due process, and judicial independence,” Toner said in a forceful statement.

Washington's unusually strong remarks came on a day when the world's three leading rights advocates -- Freedom House, Human Rights Watch and Transparency International -- targeted Turkey for its decline in democracy, gross violation of rights and a poor record on corruption.

The indictment was announced just days after US Vice President Joe Biden, who met with the family of Dündar, departed Turkey. “I would hope there's no link,” Toner said, characterizing Turkey as a friend, ally and partner.

He called on the Turkish authorities to ensure that all individuals and organizations, including the media, are free to voice a full range of opinions and criticism.

Biden paid a visit to Turkey last week to continue talks on ways to seal the last remaining stretch of the Turkish-Syrian border. Both allies are working together to shut down the 98-kilometer border to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Toner said foreign fighter flow into Syria from that border is a “very complex and very difficult issue” to deal with. He added that the US is working with Turkey to seal and increase the security along its border with Syria.

“We think it's become harder,” Toner said about Syria-bound foreign fighters, acknowledging that Turkey has strengthened the border, but clearly more work needs to be done.

Turkey has been under fire for allegedly turning a blind eye as ISIL smuggled fighters and goods through Turkish territory. US officials say they had been working very hard to convince Turks that ISIL poses a real threat to Turkey and that it needs to take it seriously.

Toner said the US is "absolutely convinced" that Turkey understands the magnitude of the problem and that it wants to stop the flow of foreign fighters and seal off its Syrian border.

Russia has been particularly pointed in its criticism of Turkey's business dealings with ISIL, claiming that the Turkish government is involved in a lucrative oil trade with ISIL. On Tuesday an Israeli minister claimed that ISIL benefits from Turkish money for its oil.

Toner said Washington disagrees with that statement and that this alleged trade does not "make economic sense at all." He said there is no evidence or signs to back up these allegations.

"We, the United States, reject the premise that the Turkish government is somehow in league with ISIL to smuggle oil. We just see no evidence to support that accusation," Toner stated firmly.

Along with oil, ISIL also smuggles people, goods and war material due to the porous nature of the Turkish-Syrian border. The rest of the border is now controlled by Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militias, a group that Washington calls "friendly forces" and Turkey considers "terrorists."

As Turkey's own separate war in a predominantly Kurdish areas escalates, Ankara has taken a hawkish position in dealing with Syrian Kurds. Over the past week Turkey vowed that it would walk out of peace talks in Geneva on Friday if Syria's Democratic Union Party (PYD) is invited to join the talks. PYD is the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a militant group listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the US.

The US State Department spokesman said the UN has not yet announced invitations; however, the PYD will not be participating in this week's talks. Recalling Turkey's "very real and almost existential" concerns about Syria, Toner said the initial exclusion of the PYD was a decision taken by the UN's Syria envoy.

http://www.todayszaman.com/diplomacy_us-serious-concerns-over-turkeys-commitment-to-democracy_410810.html

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Iran, Russia Discuss Latest Regional Developments

January 28, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian and Russian officials in a meeting in Moscow conferred on the latest developments in the regional countries, specially Iraq and Syria.

During the meeting, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ebrahim Rahimpour and his Russian counterpart Igor V. Morgulov underlined the need for the reinvigoration and bolstering of mutual cooperation in different spheres.

They also discussed important issues related to the expansion of bilateral ties by considering the agreements reached between the two countries during Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Iran in late November.

Reports on Tuesday said that Iranian Supreme Leader's top advisor Ali Akbar Velayati is also slated to travel to Moscow in coming days to discuss bilateral ties and regional developments with senior Russian officials.

Velayati's visit to Russia will take place at the invitation of the Russian officials this week.

The leader's top aide will meet President Vladimir Putin and other senior Russian officials during his visit to Moscow.

In late December, Iranian Supreme Leader's Deputy Chief of Office for International Affairs and Relations Ayatollah Mohsen Qomi traveled to Moscow nearly one month after Russian President Putin held a meeting with Ayatollah Khamenei in Tehran.

On November 23, Ayatollah Khamenei and President Putin had a two-hour-long meeting in Tehran.

During the meeting, Ayatollah Khamenei told Putin that the US has a long-term plan to dominate the entire West Asian region, cautioning that Washington is also seeking to achieve its goals through negotiations after its failure in the battlefield in Syria.

The Iranian Supreme Leader praised Moscow's effective presence on regional scenes, specially Syria, and welcomed further expansion of "bilateral, regional and international cooperation".

He said the US has a long-term plan to dominate the entire region of West Asia. "This long-term plan of the United States is harmful to all the nations and countries, specially Iran and Russia and it should be defused through vigilance and closer interaction."

The Iranian Leader described Putin as a remarkable figure in the contemporary world, and appreciated Russia's efforts in resolving Iran's nuclear issue.

Ayatollah Khamenei said Iran's nuclear issue seems to be in its last chapter, "but we do not at all trust the Americans and are watching the US administration's behavior and performance in this regard with our eyes open wide".

He further noted the seriousness that both the Russian president and Iranian officials have shown to expand bilateral ties between the two states, and said the Tehran-Moscow cooperation can be promoted way beyond its present level, specially in economic fields.

The Iranian leader also praised the Russian president's stances on different issues, particularly in the last one and a half years, as "very good" and "innovative", and said, "Americans always try to push their rivals into a passive stance, but you have defused this policy."

He voiced satisfaction in Iran-Russia security and political cooperation, and said Moscow's decision and moves on the Syrian issue have increased the regional and global credit of both Russia and Mr. Putin.

"The Americans are seeking to first dominate Syria and then spread their control over the region in a bid to fill their historical gap of lack of domination and control over West Asia, and this long-term plot is a threat to all nations and states, Russia and Iran in particular," Ayatollah Khamenei warned.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941108000180

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Iran, Russia Discuss Latest Regional Developments

Iranian Embassy in Sana'a Attacked by Saudi Warplanes for Second Time in January

January 28, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Saudi fighter jets launched rocket attacks against the districts near Iran's embassy in the Yemeni capital which damaged the mission's building.

Al-Najm al-Thaqib news website reported that shrapnels of the rocket attack hit building of the Iranian mission and left some damages.

This is the second time that the Iranian embassy has been attacked by the Saudi airstrikes in the current month. The Saudi warplanes launched rocket attacks against the mission on January 6.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari condemned the Saudi warplanes' January 6 airstrike on Iran's embassy in the Yemeni capital which injured the mission's guards.

"The Saudi government's conscious and deliberate measure violates all the international conventions and legal regulations for protecting the security and safety of diplomatic places in all situations and the Saudi government should account for this measure and compensate for the damages to the (embassy) building and injuries inflicted on a number of embassy staff," Jaberi Ansari said a day later.

He underlined that it is obvious that the Islamic Republic of Iran considers itself entitled to pursue the issue.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941108000574

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President Rouhani: Iran-France Rapprochement to Benefit Region

January 28, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani underscored that Tehran and Paris's efforts to further expand their bilateral relations and mutual cooperation will meet the regional nations' interests.

Addressing managers of French companies and businesspersons in Paris on Wednesday night, President Rouhani said that there is no obstacle on the way of cooperation between the Iranian and French firms and that Tehran welcomes French capital and technology and establishment of regional and international markets.

Noting that Iran and France used to have close economic ties, he said exchange of visits between the two countries' business people has prepared the ground for expansion economic and trade relations.

"Energy, oil, gas, agriculture, modern technology, automobile industry, mining, telecommunications, modernization of air fleet and railways, and tourism cooperation along with scientific, political, and regional collaboration are appropriate opportunities for joint ventures," Rouhani said.

He stressed that Iran and France are determined to secure the interests of their nations and that their bilateral ties will not be a threat to any third party, rather an advantage for the Middle-East region and peace and stability.

President Rouhani started his tri-nation tour of Italy, Vatican and Paris on Monday.

He arrived in Rome on Monday at the head of a delegation of more than 100 businessmen and ministers. He met with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, the country's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Pope Francis.

Rouhani left Rome for Paris on Wednesday to hold meetings with high-ranking French officials.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941108000450

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Senate President: France Believes in Iran's Constructive Role in Region

January 28, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- President of France's Senate Gerard Larcher stressed Iran's influential and constructive role in the region, specially in settling the problems.

Larcher made the remarks in a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Paris on Wednesday.

He welcomed President Rouhani's visit to France, and said that Paris sees a bright future before Iran and France for enhancement of their relations.

Larcher said that removal of sanctions has provided the opportunity for rapprochement between Tehran and Paris.

Underlining the necessity for collective measures to fight against terrorism, he said that France believes in Iran's constructive role in the settlement of regional issues and in the anti-terror fight.

The Iranian president, for his part, expressed dismay over recent terrorist attacks in Paris, and said terrorism is a dangerous virus and a contagious threat which can unsettle the world including European cities.

"To fight terrorism, major rifts should be prevented in the region. The foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran follows such an approach," he added.

Rouhani referred to the instability in some of regional countries, and said they need a political solution.

President Rouhani is on a tri-nation tour of Italy, Vatican and France.

Addressing an Iranian-Italian forum in Rome on Tuesday night, Rouhani said Iran's regional efforts have helped stop foreign-backed extremist outfits from establishing terror states in the Middle East.

"Iran is at the forefront of the fight against terrorism and extremism," he said.

Rouhani said if it had not been for Iran's active role in fighting terrorism, "we would have probably witnessed by now terror states and not terrorist groups threatening global peace and security".

"The world now acknowledges the fact that Iran is playing a key role in global affairs. Global powers also admit they cannot resolve regional issues in the absence of Iran," he added.

Rouhani arrived in Rome on Monday at the head of a delegation of more than 100 businessmen and ministers. He met with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, the country's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Pope Francis.

During the meeting with President Rouhani in Vatican on Tuesday, Pope Francis underlined the need for Iran to play a leading role in campaign against terrorism.

Rouhani left Rome for Paris on Wednesday to hold meetings with high-ranking French officials.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941108000282

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Israel reluctant to accuse Islamic State over bar shootings despite hallmarks

January 28, 2016

It appeared to have hallmarks of the first Islamic State attack in Israel: A Muslim citizen opened fire on a Tel Aviv bar days after the militant group threatened the country, and left behind a black ISIS banner.

But security officials, given pause by the erratic conduct of the slain gunman and wary of aggravating strains with Israel's largely quiescent Arab minority, are steering clear of definitively linking him with Islamic State.

"This really was not a classic ISIS terrorist attack," a security official told Reuters on Thursday after the Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency and Justice Ministry issued their findings on the Jan. 1 shooting rampage by Nashat Melhem that killed three people.

The 31-year-old died a week later in a gunfight with police. The attack fell six weeks after 130 were killed in militant attacks on bars, cafes and a concert hall in Paris.

An Israeli indictment against three Arab citizens for abetting Melhem's escape said he had "sought to help the enemy, including the ISIS group, fight Israel". He left a black banner in Tel Aviv with the group's name in handwritten Arabic and Hebrew as well as a flag with Koranic text, the indictment says.

In selfie recordings released by the authorities, Melhem is seen holding a bullet and vowing to hit "the Jews" again in Tel Aviv, cursing Shia Islam and telling U.S. President Barack Obama: "Become a Muslim, you Crusader, if you want to be saved."

He also uses foul language and is seen drinking from a beer bottle, smoking and bragging about taking drugs. Relatives said Melhem, previously jailed for assaulting an Israeli soldier, had psychiatric problems.

The security official described Melhem's behavior as inconsistent with Islamist piety and a reason the Shin Bet believed he acted alone. Another was the absence of any evidence he received direct instruction from Islamic State.

By contrast, the Shin Bet last year arrested several Israeli Arabs it said were trying to form an armed cell under orders from two fellow citizens fighting with Islamic State in Iraq.

Israel faces more active threats from armed Palestinian factions like Hamas, as well as from Hezbollah guerrillas in neighboring Lebanon, though officials point to Islamic State affiliates in the Egyptian Sinai as having the potential to launch cross-border attacks too.

What constitutes genuine Islamic State action outside its Middle East fiefdoms is a question bedevilling security agencies worldwide. They must weigh media outreach, which is designed to inspire "lone wolf" strikes, but are reluctant to exaggerate the scope of the threat.

Yoram Schweitzer, a terrorism expert with Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies, said Israel was especially mindful of the impact of Melhem's actions on fellow Arabs citizens, who make up a fifth of its population.

While often sympathetic to the Palestinians, Israeli Arabs seldom resort to political violence - a fact often noted by the Shin Bet. But with dozens of Israeli Arabs having left to join Islamic State, authorities worry the domestic danger is growing.

"I think that while the ISIS menace cannot be ignored, what is more important is not to inflate it," Schweitzer said.

"Israeli authorities have an interest in this regard, as no one wants to see Melhem copycats - not least because he managed to kill three people and get away, in what made them look like a bit of a circus."

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-israel-islamic-state-idUSKCN0V61HQ

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South Asia

Daesh launches Dari-language program on ‘Voice of the Caliphate’ in Nangarhar

By KHAAMA PRESS - Thu Jan 28 2016

Daesh-RadioThe loyalists of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) which is locally known by its Arabic name Daesh launched a radio in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan about three months before .

They would broadcast Pashto language programs through the radio named ‘Khilafat Ghag Radio’ or ‘Voice of the Caliphate’.

 But the group has now begun its programs in Dari language as well.

According to a report published by VOA news, ‘Voice of the Caliphate’ has two hours of broadcasting in Dari language on daily basis.

The signal of the radio could be received in the provincial capital ‘Jalalabad city’ and a number of districts including Shinwar.

Ataullah Khogyani, spokesperson for the governor of Nangarhar province says that Daesh radio is active in areas of Shinwar District which are on the border with Pakistan.

According to Khogyani, the radio station does not have a permanent location and changes every hour across the border.

However, Pakistan claims that ‘Voice of the Caliphate’ is being operated from Afghan soil and its signals go far into areas of tribal belt on the border with Afghanistan.

Programs of the radio are propaganda-base trying to recruit fighters to stand with Daesh against the government.

http://www.khaama.com/daesh-launches-dari-language-program-on-voice-of-the-caliphate-in-nangarhar-4526

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Taliban gunned down four de-miners in Helmand

By KHAAMA PRESS - Wed Jan 27 2016

A group of militants, believed to be Taliban, have gunned down four de-miners in an attack in southern Helmand province of Afghanistan.

Officials say the de-miners were busy in their routine job in Gerishk District when Taliban attacked them around 11:00 am today.

One de-miner also sustained injuries in the attack.

Omar Zwak, spokesperson for the governor of Helmand province confirmed the incident.

Although, local officials hold Taliban responsible for the attack but the group’s spokesperson has not yet commented on the report.

Helmand is among the volatile provinces of Afghanistan where anti-government armed militant groups, including Taliban, are actively operating.

Currently, there are heavy clashes between security forces and Taliban in parts of the province.

http://www.khaama.com/taliban-gunned-down-four-de-miners-in-helmand-4523

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UN Mine Action Service condemns attack on de-miners in Helmand

By KHAAMA PRESS - Thu Jan 28 2016

The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) has strongly condemned an attack in which four de-miners lost lives in southern Helmand province.

A statement released by UNMAS on Wednesday states that militants shot dead four de-miners while a fifth was reported missing in one of the heavily mined provinces of the strife -torn country.

“The Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan (MAPA) will not be deterred from this important work by such attacks, which violate the most basic principles of humanity,” states UNMAS statement.

“There is no known motive for the unprovoked killing of these humanitarian workers.” UNMAS added of the attack, which took place in Abbazhai village of Nahr-e Seraj district as demining teams were conducting normal mine clearance activities.

Abbazhai village is close to Gerishk, capital of Nahr-e-Seraj District.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack carried around 11 am on Wednesday but officials say the militants belonged to Taliban.

Helmand is among the volatile provinces of Afghanistan where anti-government armed militant groups, including Taliban, are actively operating.

Currently, there are heavy clashes between security forces and Taliban in parts of the province.

http://www.khaama.com/un-mine-action-service-condemns-attack-on-de-miners-in-helmand-4527

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New US general named to lead international forces in Afghanistan

Jan 28, 2016

WASHINGTON: Lieutenant General John Mick Nicholson, the current head of Nato's Allied Land Command, has been chosen as the new commander of international forces in Afghanistan, the Pentagon said on Wednesday amid concerns about setbacks in the fight against the Taliban.

Nicholson, whose selection must be confirmed by the Senate, would replace General John Campbell, who has commanded United States (US) and international forces in Afghanistan for the past 18 months and is expected to retire.

Nicholson is a veteran of multiple deployments in Afghanistan. He commanded the Army's 75th Ranger Regiment as well as the 82nd Airborne Division, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told a news briefing.

"He understands the importance and complexity of our mission in Afghanistan," Cook said, having served previously as chief of staff of operations for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and US Forces Afghanistan.

The transition comes amid growing concern about the security situation in Afghanistan, where Taliban militants have caused large numbers of casualties among Afghan troops and the militant Islamic State (IS) group's affiliates have made some inroads.

The Taliban seized the northern city of Kunduz last year before being driven out by the Army. They also seized districts in Helmand province and threatened the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.

Brigadier General Wilson Shoffner, a spokesman for the international mission in Afghanistan, said last week that Afghan security forces had "mixed results" in their first year of carrying out the fight against the Taliban on their own.

"Whenever they conducted deliberate, planned operations, they actually did fairly well," he said. "Where they had trouble and they didn't do so well was in response to crisis situations."

The security situation prompted President Barack Obama to announce in October that the US would maintain a force of about 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through most of 2016 instead of drawing down to an embassy-based presence by 2017.

http://www.dawn.com/news/1235909/new-us-general-named-to-lead-international-forces-in-afghanistan

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Africa

Rights groups rap treatment of Indonesian sect members

27 Jan 2016

JAKARTA - Indonesia has relocated more than 1,500 members of a controversial sect from their village "for their own safety", an official said Wednesday, but rights groups described their treatment as religious persecution.

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation, is seen as largely tolerant and pluralist, but a number of high-profile attacks against minority groups in recent years has marred this image.

Members of the mysterious Light of Nusantara Movement -- or Gafatar -- have been moved from a remote communal farm in Indonesia's half of Borneo island after a mob attack.

They are now in the country's main island of Java undergoing "rehabilitation" instruction sessions on Islam and civic duties.

Meanwhile, followers of a separate minority group face ejection from their community unless they convert to mainstream Islam, according to Human Rights Watch.

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation, is seen as largely tolerant and pluralist. But a number of high-profile attacks against minority groups in recent years has marred this image.

The controversy surrounding Gafatar, a group accused of luring followers from across Indonesia to practise a deviant blend of the Muslim faith, has captivated national attention despite its tiny following in a country of 250 million.

Last week an angry mob torched their village base in Kalimantan, displacing roughly 500 families -- more than 1,500 people. They were evacuated by government authorities first to temporary shelters then back to Indonesia's main island of Java, some by warship.

A spokesman for President Joko Widodo said the decision was made "for their own safety" and several government departments had been instructed to handle the crisis.

"We must protect our citizens regardless of their identity. They are also Indonesian citizens," spokesman Johan Budi told AFP.

Gafatar insists that it does not practise deviant Islam. The country's top clerical body, the Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI), is expected to rule next month on whether its beliefs are heretical.

Anyone charged with heresy under Indonesian law can face five years in prison, said Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono. Police have said they are investigating any criminal links to the Gafatar movement.

The evacuees in Java have begun what officials are calling "rehabilitation" sessions on religion and civic duty, some run by the MUI.

The classes are expected to last five days and include special instruction for women and children and those deemed "ideologues" within the Gafatar movement, said Central Java MUI chairman Ahmad Daroji.

"We are teaching them to come back and be one of us again. We hope after the programme these people can return to their community," he told AFP.

Several local rights groups, including the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute and the Setara Institute, have criticised the treatment of Gafatar.

"It is religious persecution," Harsono told AFP. "This re-education programme is simply an abuse of human rights."

Meanwhile a community of Ahmadis -- a minority Muslim sect -- living in Indonesia's west has allegedly been ordered to convert to mainstream Sunni Islam or face expulsion, Human Rights Watch said.

The New York-based rights group says the local government is conspiring with religious groups to harass and "unlawfully expel" the small cluster of Ahmadi families from Bangka island off Sumatra.

Ahmadis have long been targeted by hard-line groups in Indonesia, who oppose their belief that a lesser prophet followed Mohammed.

In 2011 a mob beat three Ahmadis to death in an attack captured on video and widely circulated. Adherents are frequently harassed and prevented from praying at mosques.

Bangk

okpost.com/news/asean/841692/rights-groups-rap-treatment-of-indonesian-sect-members

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India

Indian-Origin Islamic State (IS) Terrorist Suspect Siddhartha Dhar Praises Hitler In New Video

PTI | Jan 28, 2016

LONDON: A video has emerged which shows Indian-origin Islamic State (IS) terrorist suspect Siddhartha Dhar praising Adolf Hitler.

Dhar, who has been dubbed "Jihadi Sid" by the British media, uploaded the monologue about his hatred of Jews and Zionism on YouTube in 2014. Praising the Nazi leader, Dhar is seen saying: "Other people were aware of this evil doctrine and they did things to stop it. Like Adolf Hitler."

Dhar also mentions the 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion', a discredited 1909 text claiming a Jewish plan for global domination, saying the document "exposes their (Jews) hatred of humanity".

"They have no qualms with wanting to subjugate them (other religions), oppress them and exploit them," he adds. The 32-year-old former salesman from Britain is believed to be the masked man who appeared in a brutal IS beheading video. The Hindu-born convert now goes by the name of Abu Rumaysah. His sister, Konika Dhar, appeared before a House of Commons home affairs committee hearing last week over the possibility of her brother being the masked man.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/uk/PIO-jihadi-praises-Hitler-in-new-video/articleshow/50749902.cms

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Indian cabinet approves $142.25m as revised construction cost of Afghan parliament

By KHAAMA PRESS - Wed Jan 27 2016

new Afghan parliament buildingIndia’s union cabinet has reportedly given post facto approval for the construction of Afghanistan’s parliament building in Kabul, built by India at a revised cost of 969 crore Indian rupees, which is equivalent to around $142.25 million.

According to the local media reports, citing official sources, the revised construction cost include minor touch-up work, including part of sound system and furniture, that are being undertaken.

“It is part of India’s efforts in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Afghanistan. The project is a visible symbol of India’s contribution to strengthening and rebuilding democracy in Afghanistan,” according to the statement.

The project was inaugurated and dedicated jointly by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani on December 25, 2015.

Described as ‘India’s symbolic gift of democracy to Afghanistan’, construction work of the new parliament building started in 2009 by India’s premier government-owned construction agency – Central Public Works Department (CPWD), with an estimated construction cost of $90 million.

India has played a crucial role by participating in the rebuilding of Afghanistan following the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.

Since 2002, the Government of India has committed around USD 2 billion dollars to the socio-economic rebuilding of the Afghan state and society in accordance with the development priorities of the Government and the people of Afghanistan.

http://www.khaama.com/indian-cabi

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Music launch event of Ghulam Ali in Mumbai cancelled following opposition from Shiv Sena

PTI | Jan 27, 2016

MUMBAI: A music launch event in Mumbai, where Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali was due to attend on Friday, has been cancelled following opposition from Shiv Sena.

"The event was going to happen this Friday at 'the Club' in Andheri but now it is not happening. It has been cancelled," TV show host-turned-filmmaker Suhaib Ilyasi said.

Ilyasi said Ali, 75, has cancelled his visit to Mumbai.

Ali was to have arrived here on Thursday to attend the music launch of "Ghar Wapsi", a movie directed by Ilyasi, the next day. He has sung a patriotic song in the movie apart from acting in it.

Ilyasi said a member of the organising committee had gone to 'the Club' to deposit the money but claimed he was told that "your booking has been cancelled".

"No reason was given. It is unfortunate that this incident is happening. Even Ghulam Ali sahab is aware of this and he is feeling sad about this," Ilyasi said.

Ilyasi claimed that the local police and some members of Shiv Sena had threatened the organisers, asking them to cancel the event.

When contacted, an official at the club said there was no such booking. But Ilyasi said he had gone to the venue personally to make the booking.

"They refused to tell us who booked, or what the event was. Our decorator who was working on the event told us that nobody had booked the venue," he said.

"I am hurt, disturbed and feeling very uncomfortable. There are a lot of forces in Mumbai and Maharashtra which do not believe in law and order."

Akshay Badrapurkar, a leader of Chitrapat Sena — Shiv Sena's film wing — said it is the stated policy of his party to oppose Pakistan artistes.

"We had not threatened anyone but we are against Pakistanis coming here and we will protest in our own way. We will do whatever we can, in a democratic way as far as possible, to ensure these artistes don't perform here," he said.

According to Ilyasi, BJP leader Shaina NC had assured the organisers that protection will be given for the event if it happens in Mumbai.

The event organisers had sought adequate security for Ali from Maharashtra government.

"On January 29, we are releasing the music of our film. We want him to have a secure and peaceful stay while he is Mumbai. We have requested the Mumbai Police and the state government to provide protection for the same, so that no untoward incident happens," Ilyasi said on Tuesday.

"In October last year, his concerts (in Mumbai and Pune) were cancelled due to a threat by Shiv Sena. The reason they gave was the tension prevailing between India and Pakistan."

The director said he is yet to get a confirmation from the authorities on his request for security to Ali.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Music-launch-event-of-Ghulam-Ali-in-Mumbai-cancelled/articleshow/50745361.cms

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Southeast Asia

Rights groups rap treatment of Indonesian sect members

27 Jan 2016

JAKARTA - Indonesia has relocated more than 1,500 members of a controversial sect from their village "for their own safety", an official said Wednesday, but rights groups described their treatment as religious persecution.

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation, is seen as largely tolerant and pluralist, but a number of high-profile attacks against minority groups in recent years has marred this image.

Members of the mysterious Light of Nusantara Movement -- or Gafatar -- have been moved from a remote communal farm in Indonesia's half of Borneo island after a mob attack.

They are now in the country's main island of Java undergoing "rehabilitation" instruction sessions on Islam and civic duties.

Meanwhile, followers of a separate minority group face ejection from their community unless they convert to mainstream Islam, according to Human Rights Watch.

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation, is seen as largely tolerant and pluralist. But a number of high-profile attacks against minority groups in recent years has marred this image.

The controversy surrounding Gafatar, a group accused of luring followers from across Indonesia to practise a deviant blend of the Muslim faith, has captivated national attention despite its tiny following in a country of 250 million.

Last week an angry mob torched their village base in Kalimantan, displacing roughly 500 families -- more than 1,500 people. They were evacuated by government authorities first to temporary shelters then back to Indonesia's main island of Java, some by warship.

A spokesman for President Joko Widodo said the decision was made "for their own safety" and several government departments had been instructed to handle the crisis.

"We must protect our citizens regardless of their identity. They are also Indonesian citizens," spokesman Johan Budi told AFP.

Gafatar insists that it does not practise deviant Islam. The country's top clerical body, the Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI), is expected to rule next month on whether its beliefs are heretical.

Anyone charged with heresy under Indonesian law can face five years in prison, said Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono. Police have said they are investigating any criminal links to the Gafatar movement.

The evacuees in Java have begun what officials are calling "rehabilitation" sessions on religion and civic duty, some run by the MUI.

The classes are expected to last five days and include special instruction for women and children and those deemed "ideologues" within the Gafatar movement, said Central Java MUI chairman Ahmad Daroji.

"We are teaching them to come back and be one of us again. We hope after the programme these people can return to their community," he told AFP.

Several local rights groups, including the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute and the Setara Institute, have criticised the treatment of Gafatar.

"It is religious persecution," Harsono told AFP. "This re-education programme is simply an abuse of human rights."

Meanwhile a community of Ahmadis -- a minority Muslim sect -- living in Indonesia's west has allegedly been ordered to convert to mainstream Sunni Islam or face expulsion, Human Rights Watch said.

The New York-based rights group says the local government is conspiring with religious groups to harass and "unlawfully expel" the small cluster of Ahmadi families from Bangka island off Sumatra.

Ahmadis have long been targeted by hard-line groups in Indonesia, who oppose their belief that a lesser prophet followed Mohammed.

In 2011 a mob beat three Ahmadis to death in an attack captured on video and widely circulated. Adherents are frequently harassed and prevented from praying at mosques.

bangk

 URL: http://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/france-restricts-‘salafistes,’-film-on-islamic-radicals/d/106142

 

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