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Islamic World News ( 27 Jan 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Friday First: Woman Who Led Prayer in Kerala Faces Backlash














Photo: The rmove has kicked up a wide debate for and against the practise of a woman leading prayers on the social media.

 

Who Are The Haqqanis, Afghanistan's Most Feared Insurgents?

Ansarullah Vows to Use New Missile to Change Equations in Yemen War

Israeli Occupied Soldiers Storm Mosque in Al-Khalil

Slovenia Avoids Recognizing Palestinian State, Postponed To Next Month

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India

Friday First: Woman Who Led Prayer in Kerala Faces Backlash

Kasganj Violence: Internet Services Suspended Till 10 Pm Today; Miscreants Torch Vehicles, Shops

Kabul ambulance blast: India 'strongly' condemns attack, offers 'all possible assistance' to Afghanistan

Indian PM to visit Palestine; UAE & Oman from Feb 9-12; first ever PM visit to Palestine

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South Asia

Who Are The Haqqanis, Afghanistan's Most Feared Insurgents?

Growing Anger after Kabul Ambulance Bomb Kills Nearly 100

Afghanistan declares national day of mourning over deadly attacks

Farah and Parwan provinces get new governors after violent Farah protests

Trump reaffirms Washington’s commitment regarding Afghanistan

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Arab World

Ansarullah Vows to Use New Missile to Change Equations in Yemen War

UAE, S. Arabia Intensify Power Struggle in Southern Yemen

Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal released after paying settlement

Leader's Top Aide: US Military Buildup in Syria Aimed at Disintegration Plot

Several ISIL Terrorists Captured in Western Iran

Iraqi Popular Forces Preparing to Hunt Terrorists on Syrian Territory

ISIL Drives Rival Terrorists out of Key Region in Southern Damascus

Several Iraqi Army Troops Killed in US Choppers' Raid in Anbar Province

Tribal Leaders Meet with Kurdish Fighters on Deployment of Syrian Army at Hasaka Borders

Northern Syria: Kurdish Fighters Ward off Turkey-Backed Militants' Heavy Offensive

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Europe

Slovenia Avoids Recognizing Palestinian State, Postponed To Next Month

Torfaen MP Nick Thomas-Symonds Warns Against Banning Hezbollah

How Did Food From Britain End Up In IS-Controlled Territory In Syria?

Iran cultural days to be held in Bosnia on victory anniversary of Islamic Revolution

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Pakistan

Mardan Jirga Demands Legal, Financial Aid for Girl’s Family

Pakistani peacekeeper killed 'by members of an armed group' in Congo

PM Abbasi says Pakistan; US are fighting the same enemy

Pakistani minister emphasizes Iran, Pakistan cooperation to facilitate pilgrims’ travels

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Mideast

Israeli Occupied Soldiers Storm Mosque in Al-Khalil

Turkey Urges US to Withdraw From Syria's Manbij

Nato's Second Biggest Army Is Commanding A 'Jihad' In Afrin, Turkish Parliamentary Speaker

Israel slams bill to outlaw blaming Poles for crimes of WWII

Bahrain Celebrates Muharraq as Capital of Islamic Culture for the Arab Region

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Southeast Asia

Citing Islam, Duterte Jokes He Could Offer '42 Virgins' To Boost Philippines' Tourism Industry

Indonesian president in Bangladesh to discuss Rohingya

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Africa

At Least 10 Malian Soldiers Killed In Attack on Camp: Officials

Boko Haram, Muslim herders and Christian farmers clash leave 6 dead in Adamawa

Egypt election appears to follow an old formula

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North America

Trump Says Will Not Allow the Taliban To Win

US Muslim, Non-Muslim protesters criticize Trump Travel Ban

Rex Tillerson insists Russia to blame for Syria chemical attacks

US air strike kill Iraqi security personnel by 'mistake'

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/friday-first--woman-who-led-prayer-in-kerala-faces-backlash/d/114078

 

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Friday first: Woman who led prayer in Kerala faces backlash

M P Prashanth | TNN | Updated: Jan 28, 2018

KOZHIKODE: In a first for Kerala and perhaps the country, a Muslim woman led Friday prayers on January 26+ in Malappuram. Jamida, who goes only by her first name, said she wanted to question a custom imposed by the male clergy. "Nowhere does Islam stipulate that only a man can be an imam (one who leads the prayers)," Jamida, state general secretary of Qur'an Sunnath Society, told TOI.

The society is a revisionist Muslim sect in Kerala which believes that the Quran alone matters and the Hadith (sayings and acts of Prophet Muhammad) are essentially extrapolations. The prayer was held at the organisation's head office at Vengara, where a small group of men joined Jamida though there were no women in the congregation.

Her action has predictably provoked an angry reaction from conservative sections of the community who alleged a conspiracy by "anti-Islamic forces". "Women can lead prayers for women but there is no tradition of a woman acting as imam for men. Islam has prohibited such male-female mingling to prevent chances of some wrong happening between them," said Abdul Hameed FaiziAmbalakkadavu, state general secretary of Sunni YuvajanaSangham (Sunni Youth Front).

Quran Sunnath Society was established by Islamic scholar P K Abdul Muhammad Hassan Moulavi alias ChekannurMoulavi, who was known for his unconventional reading of Islam. He was murdered in 1993, allegedly by extremists in the community.

Jamida revealed that following Friday's developments, threats against her have increased manifold but she has decided to go ahead and organise such prayers in other parts of the state too. She hails from Thiruvananthapuram but lives at Kappad in Kozhikode. Jamida, who used to be a teacher, has received threats earlier for speaking out against triple talaq and forced conversions.

C P Saleem, spokesperson of Wisdom Global Islamic Mission, a Salafi organisation, said: "The purpose of this gimmick is just to insult Islam and become an instant celebrity."

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/friday-first-woman-who-led-prayer-in-kerala-faces-backlash/articleshow/62677491.cms

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Who Are The Haqqanis, Afghanistan's Most Feared Insurgents?

AFPJanuary 28, 2018

Afghanistan on Saturday blamed a devastating suicide bomb attack in Kabul that killed at least 95 people and wounded 158 others on the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani Network, former CIA assets now considered one of the most dangerous factions fighting US-led Nato forces in Afghanistan.

Led by SirajuddinHaqqani, who doubles as the Afghan Taliban's deputy leader, the extremist group has been blamed for spectacular attacks across Afghanistan since after the US invasion.

“When you hear US officials, including in private settings, talking about what worries them the most, they always talk about the Haqqanis,” says analyst Michael Kugelman, of the Wilson Center in Washington.

Long suspected of links to the Pakistani establishment, the network was described by US Admiral Mike Mullen in 2011 as a “veritable arm” of Pakistani intelligence. Pakistan strongly denies the claim, saying the Haqqani Network has moved to Afghanistan.

Who are they?

The group was founded by JalaluddinHaqqani, an Afghan mujahideen commander fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s with the help of the US and Pakistan.

Jalaluddin gained notoriety for his organisation and bravery, garnering attention from the CIA and a personal visit from US congressman Charlie Wilson.

A fluent Arabic speaker, Jalaluddin also fostered close ties with Arab jihadists including Osama Bin Laden who flocked to the region during the war.

Later, Jalaluddin became a minister in the Taliban regime.

Now designated a terrorist group by the US, the Haqqanis are known for their heavy use of suicide bombers.

They were blamed for the truck bomb in the heart of Kabul in May 2017 that killed around 150 people — though Sirajuddin later denied the accusation in a rare audio message.

The network has also been accused of assassinating top Afghan officials and holding kidnapped Westerners for ransom.

That includes recently released Canadian Joshua Boyle, his American wife Caitlan Coleman, and their three children — all born in captivity — as well as US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who was released in 2014.

Where are they now?

Following the US invasion of Afghanistan, Taliban fighters had flooded across the border into Pakistan, where they regrouped before launching an insurgency against the Americans.

That included the Haqqanis, who coordinated attacks on Nato from across the border in their stronghold of Miran Shah, the biggest town in North Waziristan.

The US has launched repeated drone attacks targeting the group, while the Pakistan Army has conducted successive clearing operations.

Pakistan intensified a military operation in the area in 2014, and some militant sources say the pressure has forced many of the Haqqanis underground or over the border into their Afghan strongholds, claims that AFP could not confirm.

Why are they linked to Pakistan?

Pakistan sees its arch-nemesis to the east, India, as an existential threat, and has long sought influence over Kabul as a bulwark against Delhi.

The Haqqanis have frequently been accused of targeting Indian installations in Afghanistan, spurring speculation they were overseen by Pakistani intelligence agencies.

“For Pakistan, the calculus comes down to India,” said Kugelman.

“It views the Haqqanis and also more broadly the Afghan Taliban as a useful asset to help push back against the presence of India in Afghanistan.”

Politicians and retired military officials in Islamabad acknowledge privately that having open channels with the Haqqanis is vital. Some stressed the nature of the connection.

“There's a difference between contact and supporting them or being part of them,” Mehmood Shah, a retired brigadier who worked in Pakistan's tribal areas, told AFP.

What does the US want Pakistan to do?

Washington has long pressured Pakistan to crack down on militant groups, with the Haqqanis a top priority.

US President Donald Trump turned up the heat last summer when he accused Pakistan of playing a double game in Afghanistan and upbraided Islamabad for sheltering “agents of chaos”.

Islamabad has repeatedly denied the claims and accused Washington of ignoring the thousands of Pakistani lives lost in its struggle with militancy.

The recovery of Boyle, Coleman, and their children came weeks later, with Pakistan using its role in securing their freedom to urge the US to trust it is doing its best.

But — Pakistan's desire for strategic depth aside — a crackdown on the Haqqanis might not be easy in a tribal society where social relations matter, warned political analyst Imtiaz Gul.

“You can't simply pluck out somebody because they've gone politically incorrect,” he said.

dawn.com/news/1385656/who-are-the-haqqanis-afghanistans-most-feared-insurgents

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Ansarullah Vows to Use New Missile to Change Equations in Yemen War

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- A senior Ansarullah official announced on Saturday that the movement will unveil a newly-developed missile in the near future to change the scene of the battle in favor of Yemen in the war against the Saudi aggressors.

"The missile will most likely change the military trend of the war," Abdolquds al-Shahari, a media official of Ansarullah, was quoted by the Russian Sputnik news agency as saying today.

Elsewhere, he blasted the Saudi-led coalition which has launched the devastating war against Yemen for destroying all the existing mechanisms for a negotiated settlement to the crisis.

"In our view, the solution to the crisis should be Yemeni-Yemeni talks without any foreign and regional pressures," Abdolquds said.

A senior Ansarullah movement leader warned in December that the capital cities of all the Saudi-led coalition member states are within the range of Yemen's missiles.

Zeifollah al-Shami, a senior Ansarullah politburo member, was quoted by the Iranian media as saying that the movement's missile strike against Abu Dhabi was "a message to other aggressive states".

"Ansarullah which has earlier targeted Riyadh once and Abu Dhabi in the UAE twice is able to target the capital of any other country that is a member of the aggressive coalition and has launched war against Yemen and occupied it," he added.

"Also, we gave a direct response to the UAE as the main supporter of militias affiliated to Abdullah Saleh (former Yemeni president who was killed on Monday while escaping from Sana'a to the UAE) as Saleh had strong ties with the UAE because he owns assets and properties in there and his children live there. Saleh and the UAE were fully coordinated but they were disgraced finally and their real being came under the spotlight," al-Shami said.

Saudi Arabia has been striking Yemen since March 2015 to restore power to fugitive President Mansour Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh. The Saudi-led aggression has so far killed at least 15,500 Yemenis, including hundreds of women and children.

Despite Riyadh's claims that it is bombing the positions of the Ansarullah fighters, Saudi bombers are flattening residential areas and civilian infrastructures.

The Saudi-led air campaign against Yemen has driven the impoverished country towards humanitarian disaster, as Saudi Arabia's deadly campaign prevented the patients from travelling abroad for treatment and blocked the entry of medicine into the war-torn country, according to several reports.

A UN panel has compiled a detailed report of civilian casualties caused by the Saudi military and its allies during their war against Yemen, saying the Riyadh-led coalition has used precision-guided munitions in its raids on civilian targets.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961107001720

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Slovenia avoids recognizing Palestinian state, postponed to next month

January 28, 2018

Slovenian President BorutPahor has announced that his country will not recognize the Palestinian state at this stage, claiming that such move would aggravate the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

(AhlulBayt News Agency) - Slovenian President BorutPahor has announced that his country will not recognize the Palestinian state at this stage, claiming that such move would aggravate the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

This decision followed a statement by Slovenia's foreign minister, Karl Erjavec, last Monday that his country is in the process of recognizing the state of Palestine. However, the president later said that the right moment for the recognition has not come yet.

Following his meeting with the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, in Brussels, Erjavec said that the Slovenian government plans to recognize the Palestinian state next Spring.

The parliament's foreign affairs committee is scheduled to meet on Wednesday to approve the proposal and submit it to the parliament for a vote in March or April 2018, according to Slovenia's RTV channel.

Slovenia's ambassador to Israel, Barbara Sušnik, on Monday told Agence France-Presse that the US president Donald Trump's recent decision to recognize Al-Quds Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was one of the reasons that prompted Ljubljana to accelerate its plan to recognize the Palestinian state which was first put forward in 2014.

Of the 28 European Union (EU) countries, only nine recognize the state of Palestine. Sweden is the only country to recognize Palestine while it is a member of the EU. The rest of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Malta and Cyprus made this move before becoming EU members.

It is clear that Slovenia has backtracked on the recognition move in response to a US-Israeli request in order to pressure the Palestinians to accept Washington's "deal of the century".

en.abna24.com/news/europe/slovenia-avoids-recognizing-palestinian-state-postponed-to-next-month_879534.html

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India

Friday first: Woman who led prayer in Kerala faces backlash

M P Prashanth | TNN | Updated: Jan 28, 2018

KOZHIKODE: In a first for Kerala and perhaps the country, a Muslim woman led Friday prayers on January 26+ in Malappuram. Jamida, who goes only by her first name, said she wanted to question a custom imposed by the male clergy. "Nowhere does Islam stipulate that only a man can be an imam (one who leads the prayers)," Jamida, state general secretary of Qur'an Sunnath Society, told TOI.

The society is a revisionist Muslim sect in Kerala which believes that the Quran alone matters and the Hadith (sayings and acts of Prophet Muhammad) are essentially extrapolations. The prayer was held at the organisation's head office at Vengara, where a small group of men joined Jamida though there were no women in the congregation.

Her action has predictably provoked an angry reaction from conservative sections of the community who alleged a conspiracy by "anti-Islamic forces". "Women can lead prayers for women but there is no tradition of a woman acting as imam for men. Islam has prohibited such male-female mingling to prevent chances of some wrong happening between them," said Abdul Hameed FaiziAmbalakkadavu, state general secretary of Sunni YuvajanaSangham (Sunni Youth Front).

Quran Sunnath Society was established by Islamic scholar P K Abdul Muhammad Hassan Moulavi alias ChekannurMoulavi, who was known for his unconventional reading of Islam. He was murdered in 1993, allegedly by extremists in the community.

Jamida revealed that following Friday's developments, threats against her have increased manifold but she has decided to go ahead and organise such prayers in other parts of the state too. She hails from Thiruvananthapuram but lives at Kappad in Kozhikode. Jamida, who used to be a teacher, has received threats earlier for speaking out against triple talaq and forced conversions.

C P Saleem, spokesperson of Wisdom Global Islamic Mission, a Salafi organisation, said: "The purpose of this gimmick is just to insult Islam and become an instant celebrity."

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/friday-first-woman-who-led-prayer-in-kerala-faces-backlash/articleshow/62677491.cms

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Kasganj violence: Internet services suspended till 10 pm today; miscreants torch vehicles, shops

India PTI Jan 28, 2018

Kasganj (Uttar Pradesh): At least three shops, two private buses and a car were torched on the second day of violence in Uttar Pradesh's Kasganj city on Saturday, police said, after a young boy was killed in clashes following stone-pelting on a motorcycle rally taken out to celebrate the Republic Day.

Internet services have also been suspended till 10 pm on Sunday in trouble-torn areas in western Uttar Pradesh, where a curfew was imposed after clashes on Friday, to prevent spread of rumours on social media, they said.

Elaborating about the extent of damage, Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Anand Kumar told PTI, "In all, three shops have been damaged, by pouring petrol below the shutter and setting it afire. Fire was also set on the seats of two private buses, but the engine of the buses are intact. One empty kiosk was also set ablaze by the anti-social elements. In the evening, the seats of an abandoned car were set ablaze."

He claimed that no violence took place on Saturday, and "violence took place only yesterday (Friday)".

A bus set on fire by a group of people who went on a rampage after the cremation of a young man killed on Friday in Kasganj. PTIA bus set on fire by a group of people who went on a rampage after the cremation of a young man killed on Friday in Kasganj. PTI

The ADG added, "Some anti-social elements had tried to break into the gate of a mosque yesterday (Friday), but were unable to do so, as police chased them away."

Meanwhile, District Magistrate RP Singh said, "Internet services were also suspended in trouble-torn area till 10 pm on 28 January."

Principal Secretary (Home) Arvind Kumar said, "Two cases were registered yesterday (Friday). As many as nine arrests in two cases, 40 more preventive arrests have been made. ADG Agra Zone/Commissioner Aligarh/IG Aligarh range have been camping there since yesterday (Friday), an IG-level officer, DK Thakur, has reached there from Lucknow and camping since yesterday night."

He added, "Five companies of PAC and 1 RAF company had reached there (Kasganj) yesterday (Friday) along with additional civil police officers/policemen from the zone. One more company of RAF has been provided today (Saturday)."

The principal secretary (home) also informed, "After the peaceful cremation in the morning, some miscreants have tried to disturb peace which has been strictly dealt with. Only sporadic attempts of arson in the outskirts took place today (Saturday)."

A government spokesperson said prohibitory orders still remained in effect, but did not say whether the curfew had been lifted.

A strong posse of RAF and PAC personnel have intensified vigil in the district, whose borders have been sealed to stop elements detrimental to peace from sneaking into the city.

"In all, 50 accused persons have been arrested. Efforts are on to arrest the rest of the accused," the ADG said, adding that the figure was likely to go up.

Elaborating on the genesis of the clashes, the police said in a statement that a few people were riding motorcycles carrying the tricolours and were chanting 'VandeMataram' and 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai'.

As the procession reached minority community-dominated Baddunagar, "anti-social elements" pelted stones and opened fire. "In this (firing), Chandan was killed and Naushad was injured. Naushad was referred to Aligarh for treatment," it said. Another man, identified as Akram, received head injuries.

The two were undergoing treatment at Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College in Aligarh. Naushad was out of danger and Akram was being operated upon, the hospital authorities said.

The motorcycle rally was taken out by VHP and ABVP volunteers as part of celebrations on the 69th Republic Day.

Meanwhile, the police on Saturday stopped firebrand leader SadhviPrachi in Aligarh and prevented her from visiting Kasganj.

She, however, said: "If the district administration really wanted, it would have not allowed the violence."

Earlier on Saturday, Additional DG (Law and Order) Anand Kumar said, "Anti-social elements today (Saturday) tried to set on fire a small shop on the city's outskirts... Some of them have been taken into custody, while others were chased away."

"Our main job at this point is to ensure...that brotherhood among communities remain intact," Kumar told reporters.

The police were trying to make people "understand communal bonhomie", he said, adding that the situation was under control now. "Sufficient police personnel have been deployed."

Superintendent of Police, Kasganj, Sunil Kumar Singh, said: "Anti-social elements had set two shoe shops on fire in Ghantaghar market, and fire brigade was pressed into action.

"Apart from this, one utensil shop was set afire and a bus was also damaged by anti-social elements, who set it on fire. Fire brigade was called in to douse the fires."

Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya described the violence as unfortunate, and said the people behind it would not go unpunished.

But Samajwadi Party spokesperson Sunil Singh 'Sajan' demanded more than just assurance from the state government.

"The Uttar Pradesh government must act tough on the anti-social elements, so that this acts as a deterrent for others."

Uttar Pradesh Congress spokesperson Virendra Madan suggested the violence was connected to Lok Sabha polls, due next year.

"The state government must show seriousness and control the situation at the earliest... Is there any possible link of this violence with 2019 Lok Sabha elections for polarisation?"

Divisional commissioner of Aligarh, Subhash Chandra Sharma, said the violence erupted after the cremation of the boy, who died on Friday.

firstpost.com/india/kasganj-violence-internet-services-suspended-till-10-pm-today-miscreants-torch-vehicles-shops-4323271.html

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Kabul ambulance blast: India 'strongly' condemns attack, offers 'all possible assistance' to Afghanistan

TIMESOFINDIA.COM | Updated: Jan 27, 2018

India "strongly" condemned a terror attack in Afghanistan's Kabul that claimed atleast 63 lives and wounded more than 150

It said it was ready to extend "all possible assistance" to Afghanistan

A wounded man is assisted at the site of the car-bomb attack in Kabul. (AP Photo)A wounded man is assisted at the site of the car-bomb attack in Kabul. (AP Photo)

NEW DELHI: India on Saturday "strongly" condemned a terror attack in Afghanistan's Kabul+ that claimed atleast 95 lives and wounded more than 150, and demanded that the perpetrators of the attack "be brought to justice."

"India strongly condemns the barbaric and dastardly terrorist attacks in Kabul today that targeted innocent civilians and the wounded under treatment," the ministry of external affairs (MEA) said in a statement.

The MEA added there was "no justification" for such attacks, and maintained that India was ready to extend "all possible assistance" to Afghanistan.

"India stands ready to extend all possible assistance, including for treatment of those injured," it said.

"India stands in solidarity with the Government and the people of Afghanistan at this difficult times of mindless violence and terror imposed on them," it added.

President Ram NathKovind, too, said, "India stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the people and government of Afghanistan in the fight against the forces of terror and evil."

Shocked at news of the terrorist attack in Kabul. Our thoughts are with the bereaved families and with those injure... t.co/75pUPJApSd

— President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) 1517060046000

A car-bomb hidden in an ambulance went off at a police checkpoint in an area near foreign embassies and government buildings in Kabul, officials said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast, reported Reuters.

(With inputs from Reuters)

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/kabul-ambulance-blast-india-strongly-condemns-attack-offers-all-possible-assistance-to-afghanistan/articleshow/62673755.cms

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Indian PM to visit Palestine; UAE & Oman from Feb 9-12; first ever PM visit to Palestine

By Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury, ET Bureau|Jan 28, 2018

NEW DELHI: After Act East, it is time for Act West as Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to visit Palestine, United Arab Emirates and Oman from Feb 9-12.

This will be the first ever visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Palestine, and Prime Minister Modi's second visit to UAE and first to Oman.

His visit to Palestine is to signal India's balanced foreign policy approach in the backdrop of Israel PM's India visit and efforts at de-hyphenating Israel-Palestine issue. India is among the handful of nations that has mission in Ramallah. Indian President had visited Palestine in 2015 along with Israel & Jordan.

During the visit, the Prime Minister will hold discussions on matters of mutual interest with their leaders, apart from participating in other events.

Prime Minister would be addressing the Sixth World Government Summit being held in Dubai at which India has been extended 'Guest of Honour' status. He will also meet the Indian community in UAE and Oman.

Later in February India is also expected to host King of Jordan and during Feb-March may even host King of Saudi Arabia and President of Iran.

economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/indian-pm-to-visit-palestine-uae-oman-from-feb-9-12-first-ever-pm-visit-to-palestine/articleshow/62678654.cms

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South Asia

Who Are The Haqqanis, Afghanistan's Most Feared Insurgents?

AFPJanuary 28, 2018

Afghanistan on Saturday blamed a devastating suicide bomb attack in Kabul that killed at least 95 people and wounded 158 others on the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani Network, former CIA assets now considered one of the most dangerous factions fighting US-led Nato forces in Afghanistan.

Led by SirajuddinHaqqani, who doubles as the Afghan Taliban's deputy leader, the extremist group has been blamed for spectacular attacks across Afghanistan since after the US invasion.

“When you hear US officials, including in private settings, talking about what worries them the most, they always talk about the Haqqanis,” says analyst Michael Kugelman, of the Wilson Center in Washington.

Long suspected of links to the Pakistani establishment, the network was described by US Admiral Mike Mullen in 2011 as a “veritable arm” of Pakistani intelligence. Pakistan strongly denies the claim, saying the Haqqani Network has moved to Afghanistan.

Who are they?

The group was founded by JalaluddinHaqqani, an Afghan mujahideen commander fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s with the help of the US and Pakistan.

Jalaluddin gained notoriety for his organisation and bravery, garnering attention from the CIA and a personal visit from US congressman Charlie Wilson.

A fluent Arabic speaker, Jalaluddin also fostered close ties with Arab jihadists including Osama Bin Laden who flocked to the region during the war.

Later, Jalaluddin became a minister in the Taliban regime.

Now designated a terrorist group by the US, the Haqqanis are known for their heavy use of suicide bombers.

They were blamed for the truck bomb in the heart of Kabul in May 2017 that killed around 150 people — though Sirajuddin later denied the accusation in a rare audio message.

The network has also been accused of assassinating top Afghan officials and holding kidnapped Westerners for ransom.

That includes recently released Canadian Joshua Boyle, his American wife Caitlan Coleman, and their three children — all born in captivity — as well as US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who was released in 2014.

Where are they now?

Following the US invasion of Afghanistan, Taliban fighters had flooded across the border into Pakistan, where they regrouped before launching an insurgency against the Americans.

That included the Haqqanis, who coordinated attacks on Nato from across the border in their stronghold of Miran Shah, the biggest town in North Waziristan.

The US has launched repeated drone attacks targeting the group, while the Pakistan Army has conducted successive clearing operations.

Pakistan intensified a military operation in the area in 2014, and some militant sources say the pressure has forced many of the Haqqanis underground or over the border into their Afghan strongholds, claims that AFP could not confirm.

Why are they linked to Pakistan?

Pakistan sees its arch-nemesis to the east, India, as an existential threat, and has long sought influence over Kabul as a bulwark against Delhi.

The Haqqanis have frequently been accused of targeting Indian installations in Afghanistan, spurring speculation they were overseen by Pakistani intelligence agencies.

“For Pakistan, the calculus comes down to India,” said Kugelman.

“It views the Haqqanis and also more broadly the Afghan Taliban as a useful asset to help push back against the presence of India in Afghanistan.”

Politicians and retired military officials in Islamabad acknowledge privately that having open channels with the Haqqanis is vital. Some stressed the nature of the connection.

“There's a difference between contact and supporting them or being part of them,” Mehmood Shah, a retired brigadier who worked in Pakistan's tribal areas, told AFP.

What does the US want Pakistan to do?

Washington has long pressured Pakistan to crack down on militant groups, with the Haqqanis a top priority.

US President Donald Trump turned up the heat last summer when he accused Pakistan of playing a double game in Afghanistan and upbraided Islamabad for sheltering “agents of chaos”.

Islamabad has repeatedly denied the claims and accused Washington of ignoring the thousands of Pakistani lives lost in its struggle with militancy.

The recovery of Boyle, Coleman, and their children came weeks later, with Pakistan using its role in securing their freedom to urge the US to trust it is doing its best.

But — Pakistan's desire for strategic depth aside — a crackdown on the Haqqanis might not be easy in a tribal society where social relations matter, warned political analyst Imtiaz Gul.

“You can't simply pluck out somebody because they've gone politically incorrect,” he said.

dawn.com/news/1385656/who-are-the-haqqanis-afghanistans-most-feared-insurgents

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Growing Anger After Kabul Ambulance Bomb Kills Nearly 100

At least 95 people were killed and 191 wounded in the Kabul attack claimed by the Taliban.

World | Agence France-Presse | Updated: January 28, 2018

The Kabul bomb blast comes exactly week after Taliban terrorists stormed a luxury hotel in Kabul (AFP)

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN:  Anger was growing in Kabul Sunday, a day after a huge bomb hidden in an ambulance killed nearly 100 people and wounded scores more, highlighting the ability of insurgents to strike at the heart of Afghanistan.

At least 95 people were killed and 191 wounded in the lunchtime attack claimed by the Taliban, which caused panic in the war-torn capital and overwhelmed its hospitals.

US President Donald Trump called for "decisive action" against the Taliban over the assault -- the second it has carried out in the city in a week -- as other international leaders also condemned the attack.

"We have 95 dead and 191 wounded from yesterday's attack in Kabul," health ministry spokesman WaheedMajroh told reporters on Sunday.

Most of the injured were men, he added.

Ordinary Afghans took to social media to express their anguish and sorrow at rapidly worsening security, as the Taliban and the ISIS group step up attacks on Kabul, turning it into one of the deadliest places in Afghanistan for civilians.

Kabul ambulance blast reuters

"We are so heartbroken in Kabul that we don't know how to start our new day," Freshta Karim wrote on Twitter. 

"Shall we stay home or go to work, shall we meet our friends and cry or shall we force ourselves to create an illusion of hope? How are you starting your day in Kabul?"

NaserDanesh tweeted: "In Kabul starting a day without explosion, it would be a surprise. One could only imagine that kind of a day."

On Facebook, NaweedQaderi wrote: "It is a big shame for the government, they repeatedly fail to protect people. The leaders must lose a son or daughter to feel the pain of poor people."

The blast happened in a crowded area of the city where several high-profile organisations including the European Union have offices.

The force of the explosion shook the windows of buildings hundreds of metres away and caused some low-rise structures in the immediate vicinity to collapse.

The scene of the attack was scattered with body parts, blood and debris. Children were among the wounded.

Security alert

The government has blamed the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani Network, which Afghan and Western officials suspect of involvement in at least some of the recent attacks in the capital.

The suicide bomber passed through at least one checkpoint in the ambulance, saying he was taking a patient to Jamhuriat hospital, an interior ministry spokesman told AFP on Saturday.

kabul ambulance blast reuters

"At the second checkpoint he was recognised and blew (up) his explosive-laden car," NasratRahimi said.

Rahimi told a news conference later that most of the victims were civilians. Four suspects had been arrested.

The attack came exactly a week after Taliban insurgents stormed Kabul's landmark Intercontinental hotel and killed at least 25 people, the majority foreigners.

But there is still confusion over the true toll with conflicting figures given by officials and Afghan media reporting higher numbers.

A security alert issued on Sunday warned that ISIS militants were planning to attack supermarkets and shops in Kabul frequented by foreigners.

ome foreign organisations are reassessing their presence in Afghanistan following the spate of deadly violence, with at least one moving its foreign staff out of Kabul, a Western source told AFP.

ndtv.com/world-news/growing-anger-after-kabul-ambulance-bomb-kills-nearly-100-1805466

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Afghanistan declares national day of mourning over deadly attacks

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Jan 28 2018

The Afghan government has declared a nationwide national day of mourning over the recently deadly attacks including the brutal massacre of civilians in Kabul attack on Saturday.

The Cabinet Secretariat has said President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has instructed that the national flag should put at half mast across all governmental institutions as well as the diplomatic missions outside the country.

The Office of the President, ARG Palace, in a statement said the government declares a nationwide national day of mourning to mourn with the families of the deceased individuals who lost their lives in the attacks in Kabul, Nangarhar, and Kandahar.

The ARG Palace has also declared holiday in Kabul only for Monday in a bid to help the families of the victims as well as those who have suffered injuries.

The Ministry of Public Health of Afghanistan (MoPH) confirmed today that 95 people have been killed and 191 others have been wounded in Kabul bombing.

MoPH spokesman Dr. Wahid Majroh told reporters in Kabul on Sunday that the ministry can confirm the death of 95 people in the attack.

He said at least 191 others were also wounded in the attack which has also caused massive collateral damage to the surrounding properties.

According to Dr.Majroh, the Jamhoriat hospital is located close to the attack area and the hospital has sustained damages in the attack.

khaama.com/afghanistan-declares-national-day-of-mourning-over-deadly-attacks-04368

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Farah and Parwan provinces get new governors after violent Farah protests

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Jan 28 2018

The Afghan government has approved new provincial governors for the western Farah and northern Parwan provinces days after violent protests forced the former governor of Farah to step down.

The Independent Directorate of the Local Governance in a statement said Saturday that Abdul BasirSalangi was proposed as the new provincial governor of Farah and has been approved by the Office of the President.

The statement further added that the appointment of FazaluddinAyar as the new provincial govenroor of Parwan province was also approved by the presidential palace.

This comes as protests turned violent in western Farah province of Afghanistan last week leaving several people wounded during the clashes.

The former governor of the province Mohammad Arif Shah Jahan in reaction to the violent protests announced his resignation from the post.

He said the residents of the province were not happy from his performance and there he has decided to step down from the provincial political leadership.

Shah Jahan also added that the main motive behind his resignation was to help secure unity among the people.

khaama.com/farah-and-parwan-provinces-get-new-governors-after-violent-farah-protests-04364

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Trump reaffirms Washington’s commitment regarding Afghanistan

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sat Jan 27 2018

The US President Donald Trump on Friday reaffirmed Washington’s commitment regarding Afghanistan as he insisted that the United States is committed to ensure the country never becomes the safe haven for the terror groups.

Speaking during the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, President Trump said “I am pleased to report that the coalition to defeat ISIS has retaken almost 100 percent of the territory once held by these killers in Iraq and Syria.  There is still more fighting and work to be done and to consolidate our gains.”

He said “We are committed to ensuring that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists who want to commit mass murder to our civilian populations.  I want to thank those nations represented here today that have joined in these crucial efforts,”.

“You are not just securing your own citizens, but saving lives and restoring hope for millions and millions of people,” he added.

Unveiling his administration’s new national security strategy late in December, President Trump said “We are committed to supporting the Afghan government and security forces in their fight against the Taliban, al-Qa’ida, ISIS, and other terrorists.”

He has said “We will bolster the fighting strength of the Afghan security forces to convince the Taliban that they cannot win on the battlefield and to set the conditions for diplomatic efforts to achieve enduring peace.”

The US President has also added that the United States will give priority to strengthening states where state weaknesses or failure would magnify threats to the homeland. “For instance, engagement in Afghanistan seeks to prevent the reemergence of terrorist safe havens,” he added.

khaama.com/trump-reaffirms-washingtons-commitment-regarding-afghanistan-04363

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Arab World

Ansarullah Vows to Use New Missile to Change Equations in Yemen War

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- A senior Ansarullah official announced on Saturday that the movement will unveil a newly-developed missile in the near future to change the scene of the battle in favor of Yemen in the war against the Saudi aggressors.

"The missile will most likely change the military trend of the war," Abdolquds al-Shahari, a media official of Ansarullah, was quoted by the Russian Sputnik news agency as saying today.

Elsewhere, he blasted the Saudi-led coalition which has launched the devastating war against Yemen for destroying all the existing mechanisms for a negotiated settlement to the crisis.

"In our view, the solution to the crisis should be Yemeni-Yemeni talks without any foreign and regional pressures," Abdolquds said.

A senior Ansarullah movement leader warned in December that the capital cities of all the Saudi-led coalition member states are within the range of Yemen's missiles.

Zeifollah al-Shami, a senior Ansarullah politburo member, was quoted by the Iranian media as saying that the movement's missile strike against Abu Dhabi was "a message to other aggressive states".

"Ansarullah which has earlier targeted Riyadh once and Abu Dhabi in the UAE twice is able to target the capital of any other country that is a member of the aggressive coalition and has launched war against Yemen and occupied it," he added.

"Also, we gave a direct response to the UAE as the main supporter of militias affiliated to Abdullah Saleh (former Yemeni president who was killed on Monday while escaping from Sana'a to the UAE) as Saleh had strong ties with the UAE because he owns assets and properties in there and his children live there. Saleh and the UAE were fully coordinated but they were disgraced finally and their real being came under the spotlight," al-Shami said.

Saudi Arabia has been striking Yemen since March 2015 to restore power to fugitive President Mansour Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh. The Saudi-led aggression has so far killed at least 15,500 Yemenis, including hundreds of women and children.

Despite Riyadh's claims that it is bombing the positions of the Ansarullah fighters, Saudi bombers are flattening residential areas and civilian infrastructures.

The Saudi-led air campaign against Yemen has driven the impoverished country towards humanitarian disaster, as Saudi Arabia's deadly campaign prevented the patients from travelling abroad for treatment and blocked the entry of medicine into the war-torn country, according to several reports.

A UN panel has compiled a detailed report of civilian casualties caused by the Saudi military and its allies during their war against Yemen, saying the Riyadh-led coalition has used precision-guided munitions in its raids on civilian targets.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961107001720

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UAE, S. Arabia Intensify Power Struggle in Southern Yemen

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Conflicts between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi will intensify in the next few weeks as the UAE is determined to speed up implementation of its strategy to take control of Southern Yemen with all its islands and ports, media reports said on Saturday.

Yemen's state-run news agency reported that Saudi Arabia and the UAE are each trying win a larger share in Yemen and kick the other outside its zone, although the two are partners in the coalition. While Riyadh is seeking to establish control over Northern Yemen to Sana'a, Abu Dhabi supports the militants supported by the coalition in the Southern provinces.

Abu Dhabi has also accused Saudi Arabia of shooting down its aircraft in 2016 and Riyadh claims that Abu Dhabi attacks the Saudi fighter jets in Yemen's Southern regions.

The UAE is attacking the government of fugitive president Mansour Hadi which is supported by Saudi Arabia and wants to empower Ahmed Ali Saleh, the son of the former Yemeni president.

Most analysts and observers believe that conflicts between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi will intensify in the next few weeks, the Yemeni news agency underlined.

Saudi Arabia has been striking Yemen since March 2015 to restore power to fugitive President Mansour Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh. The Saudi-led aggression has so far killed at least 15,500 Yemenis, including hundreds of women and children.

Despite Riyadh's claims that it is bombing the positions of the Ansarullah fighters, Saudi bombers are flattening residential areas and civilian infrastructures.

The Saudi-led air campaign against Yemen has driven the impoverished country towards humanitarian disaster, as Saudi Arabia's deadly campaign prevented the patients from travelling abroad for treatment and blocked the entry of medicine into the war-torn country, according to several reports.

A UN panel has compiled a detailed report of civilian casualties caused by the Saudi military and its allies during their war against Yemen, saying the Riyadh-led coalition has used precision-guided munitions in its raids on civilian targets.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961107001455

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Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal released after paying settlement

Published Jan 28, 2018

Riyadh: Saudi Arabian billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the kingdom’s top international businessmen, was released from detention on Saturday, more than two months after he was taken into custody in a sweeping crackdown on corruption.

His release came hours after he told Reuters in an interview at Riyadh’s opulent Ritz-Carlton hotel that he expected to be cleared of any wrongdoing and be freed within days.

A senior Saudi official said Prince Alwaleed was freed after he reached a financial settlement with the attorney general.

“The attorney general has approved this morning the settlement that was reached with Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, and the prince returned home at 11:00 a.m. (08:00 GMT),” the official told Reuters, without giving details of the terms.

The decision to free him, and the release of several other well-known tycoons on Friday, suggested the main part of the corruption probe was winding down after it sent shockwaves through Saudi Arabia’s business and political establishment.

In his first interview since being detained, conducted hours before his release, Prince Alwaleed told Reuters he maintained his innocence of any corruption in talks with the authorities.

He said he expected to keep full control of his global investment firm Kingdom Holding Co 4280.SE without being required to hand assets to the state. He said he had been able to communicate with executives at his business while detained.

Prince Alwaleed, who is in his early 60s, described his confinement as a “misunderstanding” and said he supported reform efforts by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“There are no charges. There are just some discussions between me and the government,” he said.

Prince Alwaleed had been confined at the Ritz-Carlton since early November, along with dozens of other senior officials and businessmen, part of the crown prince’s plan to reform oil superpower Saudi Arabia and consolidate his position.

Foreign investor concerns

When asked if the attorney general was convinced of Prince Alwaleed’s innocence, the senior Saudi official said:

“I will not negate or confirm what he says. Generally this falls back to those who concluded the settlement, and for sure there is no settlement unless there are violations, and they are not concluded without the accused admitting it in writing and promising not to repeat it.”

The source declined to give further details, but confirmed that Prince Alwaleed would remain head of Kingdom Holding.

A Gulf banker who deals with Saudi Arabia said the authorities appeared keen to conclude the probe partly because foreign investors were concerned their assets or local business partners could be targeted in the wide-ranging crackdown.

Prince Alwaleed’s detention was particularly worrying for foreigners because of his international prominence as an investor in top Western companies such as Twitter (TWTR.N) and Citigroup (C.N), and in top hotels including the George V in Paris and the Plaza in New York, the banker said.

“The government is signaling that it wants to move to a new phase now, away from the crackdown and into other economic reforms,” the banker said.

Outside Prince Alwaleed’s Riyadh palace, dozens of cars lined the entrances as a huge Saudi flag flapped above. Guards cracked jokes and drank coffee. His office said the prince was out visiting family, but declined to give any details.

The attorney general said earlier this week that 90 detainees had been released after their charges were dropped, while others traded cash, real estate and other assets for their freedom. The authorities were still holding 95 people, he said. Some are expected to be put on trial.

“Nothing to hide”

An official Saudi source said on Friday that several prominent businessmen had reached financial settlements with the authorities, including Waleed al-Ibrahim, owner of regional television network MBC, who was released. Terms of his settlement were not revealed.

Saudi authorities have said they expect to raise some $100 billion for the government through such settlements - a huge windfall for the state, which has seen its finances squeezed by low oil prices. Some private analysts think that target will be hard to hit, given how many suspects have seen charges dropped.

Allegations against Prince Alwaleed included money laundering, bribery and extorting officials, a Saudi official told Reuters in November. The prince’s net worth has been estimated by Forbes magazine at $17 billion.

While declaring his innocence in the Reuters interview, the prince appeared greyer and thinner than in his last public appearance, a television interview in October, and had grown a beard while in detention.

“I have nothing to hide at all. I‘m so comfortable, I‘m so relaxed. I shave here, like at home. My barber comes here. I‘m like at home, frankly speaking,” he said, adding he had been able to communicate with family members while in detention.

He granted the 30-minute interview to Reuters, including a tour of his suite, partly to disprove rumors about mistreatment and that he had been moved from the hotel to a prison.

Prince Alwaleed showed off the comforts of his gold-accented private office, dining room and kitchen, which was fully stocked with his preferred vegetarian meals.

In the corner of his office sat tennis shoes, which he said he used regularly for exercise. A television played business news programs, and a mug with an image of his own face on it was perched on the desk.

After being released, Prince Alwaleed said, he would stay in Saudi Arabia and would return to the challenge of juggling his global business interests.

“I will not leave Saudi Arabia, for sure. This is my country.”

deccanchronicle.com/world/asia/280118/saudi-arabia-prince-alwaleed-bin-talal-released-settlement-crackdown-o.html

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Leader's Top Aide: US Military Buildup in Syria Aimed at Disintegration Plot

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Supreme Leader's top aide for international affairs Ali Akbar Velayati blasted Washington for inflaming conflicts in the region, warning that the US military deployment in Syria is aimed at disintegrating the Arab country.

"The Americans, with the support of certain regional elements, the Zionists and the al-Saud, have made attempts since 7 years ago to occupy Syria, overthrow its legal government and disintegrate the country to establish security for the Zionist regime," Velayati said in a meeting with UN Special Representative for Iraq and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) Jan Kubis in Tehran on Saturday.

He stressed that most terrorists in Syria have been defeated by the Syrian army and its allies, and said, "The Americans have now directly stepped onto the scene and deployed their forces on Eastern Euphrates and want to disintegrate Syria by inciting certain groups."

Yet, Velayati stressed that the US is destined to experience defeat and failure again in Syria as Washington and its allies are much weaker than the past.

In similar remarks earlier this month, Velayati played down the US attempts to separate the Kurdish areas from Syria, stressing that the resistance front will prevent Syria's disintegration.

"The Americans have set up bases in the Eastern parts of the Euphrates and want to pave the ground for the separation of Syria's Kurdish areas from the country but it is a wish that will not come true," Velayati said in a joint press conference with Leader of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council HumamHamoudi in Tehran.

He said that the experience of war against Syria in the past 7 years has shown that the US will not succeed in implementing its plots, adding, "Syria will remain united and integrated and the resistance front will support Syria's territorial integrity."

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961107001636

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Several ISIL Terrorists Captured in Western Iran

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps ground forces have captured several ISIL terrorists after clashes in Western Iran, IRGC public relations declared on Saturday.

The public relations department of the IRGC Ground Force's 'Najaf Ashraf' base declared in a statement on Saturday that during the clashes with ISIL militants in Western Iran, most members of the terrorist group which consisted of 21 terrorists were arrested.

According to the statement, clashes still continue against the terrorists and the intelligence and security forces have also joined the IRGC Ground Force in the battle.

Earlier this week, the Iranian security and intelligence forces seized two large caches of explosives and powerful bombs belonging to separatist terrorist groups.

According to an Iranian intelligence ministry statement, the explosives and bombs were supposed to be detonated in populated areas as part of two terrorist plots, one of them directly designed and led by Saudi Arabia.

The statement added that in one operation, security forces discovered no less than 23 remote controlled bombs that terrorists were going to use in order to wreak havoc in the Eastern parts of the country.

Terrorists had managed to carry the bombs over Iran's Eastern borders and sneak them into the country using help from Saudi intelligence agencies, according to the statement.

The ministry said another shipment of explosives complete with bomb-making equipment were seized from a terrorist group in the Western province of Kurdistan.

The materials, captured from a "separatist" militant group in the border town of Marivan, included military-grade material such as TNT, C4, explosive kits and electronic charges.

The statement did not reveal further details about the identities of the terrorists or their possible targets.

Saudi officials have on several occasions made open calls for instability in Iran.

Hours before a series of terrorist acts that killed and injured several people in Tehran last June, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said, “Iran must be punished for its interference in the region.”

The ISIL terrorist group claimed responsibility for the near-simultaneous assaults at Iran’s Parliament and the Mausoleum of the late Founder of the Islamic Republic Imam Khomeini.

A month before that, then-Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman said in a televised interview with Arabic-language Al-Manar TV, "We will work to have the battle in Iran rather than in Saudi Arabia."

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961107001514

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Iraqi Popular Forces Preparing to Hunt Terrorists on Syrian Territory

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Iraqi volunteer forces of Hashd al-Shaabi announced on Saturday that its forces are on alert to carry out anti-terrorism operations on Syrian soil following coordination with Damascus officials.

Vice-Chairman of the Hashd al-Shaabi Committee Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes announced that his forces have been put on alert to chase terrorists in Syria if the militants in Syria launch attacks on Iraq.

He further said that Hashd al-Shaabi missions in Syria should be allowed and declared by the country's Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi and in coordination with the Damascus government.

An Arabic-language media reported last week that the Iraqi sources disclosed dispatch of forces and equipment to the border with Syria after the predominantly-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) withdraw from the region in a surprising move.

"The SDF forces who were stationed along DeirEzzur and Iraq's al-Qaem border region in Western Al-Anbar have retreated from their positions in a sudden move," the Arabic-language al-Maloumeh News quoted Iraqi Hashd al-Shaabi forces in Al-Anbar province Qatari al-Abidi as saying.

He noted that subsequent to the withdrawal, a large number of Iraqi army and Hashd al-Shaabi forces have been sent to the Iraq-Syria border region to prevent any possible penetration of the terrorists into Iraq's territories.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961107001430

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ISIL Drives Rival Terrorists out of Key Region in Southern Damascus

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The ISIL terrorists stormed the positions of Jeish al-Islam and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in the Southern countryside of Damascus city and captured a strategic region, field sources reported on Saturday.

The sources said that the ISIL pushed Jeish al-Islam and the FSA back from al-Zeinneighborhood between the settlements of Yalda and Hajar al-Aswad after more than a week of heavy fighting.

The sources said that 19 gunmen have been killed by ISIL terrorists who also captured a number of rival militants, adding that the ISIL will probably impose control over more lands in Southern Damascus after capturing al-Zein and growing disunity among its rival terrorists. 

Also, the ISIL is on the verge of entering the Southern Damascus settlement of Yalda after the group's latest advance inside the key settlement of Hajar Al-Aswad.

As the result of the Takfiriterrorists advances, the ISIL now controls almost all of Hajar Al-Aswad, including the entire Taqadam district West of Yalda.

Local sources said on Friday that the ISIL militants had launched another wave of attacks on rival groups in the Southern suburbs of Damascus city, targeting the positions of Jeish al-Islam, Al-Nusra Front (Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at or the Levant Liberation Board) and the Free Syrian Army throughout the district of Tadamun.

The sources added that ISIL managed to capture new points within the district and kill five rebel fighters of the Free Syrian Army.

Clashes were underway, the sources went on to say.

Thursday’s attack follows a week of protracted firefights during which ISIL has also managed to drive rival militants out of most of the al-Zein street between the Yalda and Babila districts, giving them considerable fire control over most of the former area where many civilians are known to live.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961107001097

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Several Iraqi Army Troops Killed in US Choppers' Raid in Anbar Province

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- A number of Iraqi army forces were killed and several more were wounded in an assault by a US military helicopter West of the town of al-Ramadi in Anbar province, an Iraqi media outlet reported on Saturday.

The Arabic-language Sumeriyeh news reported that the US chopper targeted al-Baghdadi region West of al-Ramadi in Anbar province, killing seven and wounding 11 others, including several Iraqi servicemen.

In the meantime, al-Mayadeen reported that 8 people, including an intelligence officers of al-Baghdadi center and 5 security forces, were killed and 20 more were injured in the US chopper attack.

A high-ranking Iraqi security official said earlier this month that the government troops, supported by allied fighters from Popular Mobilization Units, succeeded to purge more than half of the desert areas in the country’s Western province of Anbar of ISIL.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Arabic-language al-Sabah al-Jadid daily newspaper, Chairman of Anbar Provincial Security Council Naeem al-Kaoud said security forces and volunteer fighters, commonly known as Hashd al-Shaabi, cleansed over 80 percent of Anbar desert areas of the extremists following multi-pronged military operations there.

 “The troops also destroyed several ISIL hotbeds and remotely detonated four armored vehicles, which were used by the militant group,” he added.

Kaoud went on to say that ten more people were also arrested on suspicion of joining ISIL terror group.

 “Although the militants hotbeds were built underground, the troops were able to destroy them after receiving intelligence reports on their locations,” the senior security official pointed out.

 “The military operation, backed by the Iraqi Air Force, comes as part of ongoing efforts to eliminate ISIL militants on the country’s borders with Saudi Arabia and Jordan,” Kaoud noted.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has declared the end of military operations against the ISIL group in the Arab country.

ISIL began a terror campaign in Iraq in 2014, overrunning vast swathes in lightning attacks. Iraqi forces then launched operations to eliminate ISIL and retake lost territory.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961107000774

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Tribal Leaders Meet with Kurdish Fighters on Deployment of Syrian Army at Hasaka Borders

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Tribal leaders in Hasaka province have held an emergency meeting with the Kurdish militias to pave the ground for the deployment of the Syrian Army troops in Hasaka province's border towns following the Turkish Army's recent attacks on the Kurds in Aleppo province, local sources revealed on Saturday.

The sources said that one of the tribal leaders of Hasaka is negotiating with the Kurdish militias to prepare the bedrock for the dispatch of the Syrian army to Hasaka's border town.

The sources added that the talks are aimed at the deployment of the Syrian army in the border town of Ra'as al-Ein which will be likely agreed by the Kurds.

The Kurdish militants are afraid of a longsome war in Afrin and also expansion of the Turkish army operation along the borderline.

Local sources in NorthwesternHasaka reported earlier this month that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) asked tribal leaders in the province to mediate and assist them to end popular protests in the town of Manbij in Northeastern Aleppo.

The sources reported that SDF Commander ShahinShilo has asked Hamid al-Sheikh Shahazah, one of the senior tribal leaders in the town of Ra'as al-Ein to travel to Manbij along with a delegation of regional elites.

The sources further said that Shilo has asked Sheikh Shahazah to mediate between the SDF and tribal people in Manbij to restore calm again in the town.

Residents in Manbij have participated in vast demonstration in recent days, calling for expulsion of the Kurdish forces from the region. 

Reports said on Friday that the Kurdish officials in Afrin urged Damascus to send troops to protect Syria’s sovereignty from the Turkish occupier.

Ankara insists it will return the enclave to its “original owner” after its “liberation” from terrorists.

The self-administrated, Kurdish-held enclave in Northern Syria issued a plea for help to the Syrian government on Thursday, reiterating its commitment to the integrity of the country.

“We reaffirm that the Afrin region is an integral part of Syria and that our forces are the people’s protection units,” it wrote in a statement, arguing that the Turkish military operation in Afrin “threatens the territorial integrity of Syria and the security and lives of the civilians.”

While the Kurdish units will continue to repel the Turkish military offensive and resist attempts by the Turkish forces to overrun the city, the central Syrian government must dispatch its own forces to “protect its borders with Turkey from attacks of the Turkish occupier,” the Kurdish authorities suggested as operation “Olive Branch” went into its sixth day.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961107000644

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Northern Syria: Kurdish Fighters Ward off Turkey-Backed Militants' Heavy Offensive

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) repelled another heavy attack of the pro-Turkish militants in Afrin region in Northwestern Aleppo and managed to kill dozens of invaders, the YPG command reported on Saturday.

"Pro-Turkish militants attacked the villages of Ain Daqna and Belule where YPG and YPJ (female division) were lying in wait. Eighty-three militants were killed in a heavy fight," the command said.

The Kurdish forces have published videos that allegedly showed the bodies of the dead Ankara-backed militants. The militia did not disclose their casualties.

The Turkish army and allied rebels from the Free Syrian Army launched an operation codenamed the Olive Branch on Saturday, to crush YPG forces which Ankara accuses of ties to the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a pro-independence group in Turkey.

Since the beginning of the military operation, the Turkish military and Kurdish representatives have been sharing conflicting reports concerning the situation in the region.

The YPG said earlier that no more than 15-20 Kurdish militiamen had been killed, while the Turkish military reported that hundreds of militants had been killed in the campaign.

Reports said on Friday that the Kurdish officials in Afrin has started urging Damascus to send troops to protect the Kurds from the Turkish occupier.

Ankara insists it will return the enclave to its “original owner”, the Damascus government, after its “liberation” from terrorists.

The self-administrated, Kurdish-held enclave in Northern Syria issued a plea for help to the Syrian government on Thursday, reiterating its commitment to the integrity of the country.

“We reaffirm that the Afrin region is an integral part of Syria and that our forces are the people’s protection units,” it wrote in a statement, arguing that the Turkish military operation in Afrin “threatens the territorial integrity of Syria and the security and lives of the civilians.”

While the Kurdish units will continue to repel the Turkish military offensive and resist attempts by the Turkish forces to overrun the city, the central Syrian government must dispatch its own forces to “protect its borders with Turkey from attacks of the Turkish occupier,” the Kurdish authorities suggested as operation “Olive Branch” went into its sixth day.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961107000518

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Europe

Slovenia avoids recognizing Palestinian state, postponed to next month

January 28, 2018

Slovenian President BorutPahor has announced that his country will not recognize the Palestinian state at this stage, claiming that such move would aggravate the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

(AhlulBayt News Agency) - Slovenian President BorutPahor has announced that his country will not recognize the Palestinian state at this stage, claiming that such move would aggravate the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

This decision followed a statement by Slovenia's foreign minister, Karl Erjavec, last Monday that his country is in the process of recognizing the state of Palestine. However, the president later said that the right moment for the recognition has not come yet.

Following his meeting with the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, in Brussels, Erjavec said that the Slovenian government plans to recognize the Palestinian state next Spring.

The parliament's foreign affairs committee is scheduled to meet on Wednesday to approve the proposal and submit it to the parliament for a vote in March or April 2018, according to Slovenia's RTV channel.

Slovenia's ambassador to Israel, Barbara Sušnik, on Monday told Agence France-Presse that the US president Donald Trump's recent decision to recognize Al-Quds Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was one of the reasons that prompted Ljubljana to accelerate its plan to recognize the Palestinian state which was first put forward in 2014.

Of the 28 European Union (EU) countries, only nine recognize the state of Palestine. Sweden is the only country to recognize Palestine while it is a member of the EU. The rest of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Malta and Cyprus made this move before becoming EU members.

It is clear that Slovenia has backtracked on the recognition move in response to a US-Israeli request in order to pressure the Palestinians to accept Washington's "deal of the century".

en.abna24.com/news/europe/slovenia-avoids-recognizing-palestinian-state-postponed-to-next-month_879534.html

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Torfaen MP Nick Thomas-Symonds warns against banning Hezbollah

 

OUTLAWING the political wing of Islamic organisation Hezbollah could put peace talks in the Middle East at risk, Torfaen MP Nick Thomas-Symonds has warned.

The Labour MP was speaking during a debate on the Shi'a group, which is considered a terrorist organisation by countries including the USA, in Parliament earlier this week.

In 2008 the then-Labour government outlawed Hezbollah's military wing, but not its political section, which holds seats in the Lebanese parliament.

Mr Thomas-Symonds said: "We have to be careful about closing off diplomatic channels."

He added: "While I do not for a moment underplay the terrible violent acts, we should be careful about our maintenance of engagement in these difficult conflicts around the world."

But Conservative Chipping Barnet MP Theresa Villiers said: "Hezbollah is a violent, genocidal terrorist organisation dedicated to the destruction of the state of Israel, and I challenge (Mr Thomas-Symonds) to support the calls that have come from both sides of the house today to proscribe Hezbollah in its entirety."

Mr Thomas-Symonds replied: "Nobody supports terrible, violent, barbaric acts. We simply look at the situation as it is and try to strike a balance.

"The opposition absolutely condemn the violence, and we continue to support the proscription of the military wing of Hezbollah, which has been the government’s position.

"We believe that engagement with the government and Parliament of Lebanon is important for the wider Middle East peace process and we should be careful about damaging that engagement."

Responding to the debate security minister Ben Wallace said: "I pledge to the house that we constantly monitor these groups and individuals involved in them.

"We constantly review the use of proscription as a means to take action where we see fit."

MPs voted in favour of a motion calling on the government to include Hezbollah in its entirety on the list of banned organisations.

southwalesargus.co.uk/news/gwentnews/15902575.MP_warns_against_banning_Islamic_organisation/

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How did food from Britain end up in IS-controlled territory in Syria?

Robert FiskUpdated January 28, 2018

IT’S below zero degrees on the vast dirt hillside above Totah but through the mist and freezing rain, I can see the Syrian general’s target, a small militant Islamic State group-held village across a valley of mud.

There’s a crash of artillery fire from his Shilka guns, and you wait several seconds before the shells fall behind a clump of hillside trees.

The smoke billows into the cold air and it takes another few seconds before the sound of the explosions reaches back to us. Then another few seconds before IS shoots back at the Syrians. Heavy machine-gun fire that echoes and thumps up the wadis. IS is not beaten yet. It still has food. From the UK, no less.Of which, more later.

The general, I should add, is nicknamed “Caesar”. Military headquarters in Damascus have now forbidden officers to give their real names — because, they say, several have been assassinated after appearing by name in the Syrian media.

For myself, I wonder if they also want to prevent generals getting big heads.

Caesar — not to be confused with his friend, the even more aggressively named General “Nimr” (Tiger) — is indeed a large man, seemingly immune to the evening frost forming on the mud, a woollen hat on his head and shades strapped over it. He used to work at the presidential palace in Damascus. And he is a man who can reveal tantalising secrets.

He reckons there are two Brits among the IS fighters at Akerbat — his soldiers hear them on the radio — and he is certain there are two Chechen Islamists. He doesn’t speak Chechen “but our Russian friends tell us they can hear them talking on their radios”.

And then when I ask what he has found when he took territory from IS in this Islamist pocket of Syria south-east of Hama, he answers at once. “Six IS suicide bomb vehicles, a huge armoured car for carrying fighters and lots of food.”

Where did the food come from? “Italy — but my soldiers ate most of the food.” I asked to see what was left. And then comes an odd moment.

There’s no surprise about an army eating its enemy’s supplies. The Red Army did that at Stalingrad when they broke through the front lines of Hitler’s Italian and Romanian allies and found them well stocked with wine. But when a Syrian soldier walks up with two cans of peeled plum tomatoes captured in an IS food store, I’m in for a shock. Though the contents are from Italy, they were canned in the United Kingdom. In fact, the label says they were sold by “East End Foods” of West Bromwich. His soldiers do not read the English. But of course I can: “Specially packed for East End Foods, plc,” it says. “East End House, Kenrick Way.West Bromwich B71 4EA. Suitable for vegetarians.” The telephone number and the website of the company were also on the label.

“Caesar” guesses these products were smuggled in from Turkey but it would be interesting to know how those cans from the West Midlands reached this gaunt and frozen hill in central Syria. What is the East End Foods, plc, “Caesar” asked? His soldiers, I should add, said that they enjoyed the food.

Officially, IS is surrounded here — hence the so-called IS “pocket” — although the general, sometimes shouting to be heard above the gunfire, agrees that he cannot control every wadi in an IS enclave that is 14 miles wide and 30 miles long. The German lines at Stalingrad were only nine miles long at the end of the battle. In fact, Syrians fighting for IS in the enclave are supposedly given the option of crossing the lines and returning home if they wish after a “reconciliation” meeting.

“Even IS, if they want to get out of Syria — this can be made available for them. Not to their countries — but to the terrorist organisations that send them.”

But the most unexpected moment comes when “Caesar” says that 20 per cent of his own fighting units are former members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), one of the first armed opposition groups in which the West invested money and guns. It has been a spent force for many years — although David Cameron famously claimed in a parliamentary speech of deep fantasy that there were 70,000 of them — but according to three sources in Syria, the general’s statement is correct.

The ex-FSA men are paid the same wage as other regular Syrian military personnel, there are officers among them — none in “Caesar’s” force, he assures me — and some were actually Syrian regular troops before they defected to the opposition in 2011 and 2012. If they are “martyred” in battle, their parents will be paid compensation; a grim conclusion, no doubt, to their hectic side-changing lives.

“We open the door to any Daesh [IS] people, who want to come over,” “Caesar” insists. “A group of families came over three months ago, from the Hama countryside. Although it helps Daesh, we allow food across the lines, because there are families over there. They are not our people, but the families of the terrorists. Already, we have seized mobile phones from prisoners and they have given us the numbers of many of the senior people in the Daesh [the Arabic acronym for IS].”

In the surrounding countryside, IS’s huge earth revetments cross the landscape — newly captured by the army — that look like First World War trenches, miles of them, hilltop dugouts still complete with empty rocket cartridges. And apart from the six iron suicide cars, “Caesar”, who is the Syrian army’s field commander for this entire area, found an even more monstrous iron wagon in the newly captured village of Akerbat, perhaps the largest vehicle of its kind ever built by the Islamist cult.

It stands now in the forecourt of his headquarters, a most sinister vehicle with iron sides, iron roof, reinforced iron petrol tanks, its metal mesh rail shields painted brown and its entire hulk painted — of course — in black. It could hold up to 20 men, presumably individual suicide bombers for a mass attack. The reinforced iron flanks of this grim machine appear to be oil pipes from the petroleum industry, cut in half and then sealed onto the wagon in slices. The Syrians found that many of these vehicles had been made in an industrial estate constructed by IS several years ago. So much for the Iraqi prime minister’s claim in Davos on Thursday that IS was training suicide bombers in Syrian government-held territory.

And what of the IS dead? Are they buried? Or left for the dogs as I know they have been in northern Syria? IS does the same to the Syrian dead. “They blow themselves up rather than surrender to us,” “Caesar” announces. “They all have explosives on them.”

And with a sharp smile, he produced a Galaxy tablet of photographs of IS corpses, all of them blown in half, their heads partly torn, one of them perhaps Sudanese. IS does the same, of course. And in Hama later that same night, a younger officer showed me a picture of himself with one foot on the chest of a half-naked IS man’s dead body. Never before, I reflected to him, had I seen a war in which so many people took photographs of so many of their dead enemies. Another product, I guess, of the Facebook age.

As for “Caesar”, his last words were a trifle disturbing. “Everything you write,” he said to me on his chilling hilltop, “has two meanings.” A smart general.

—By arrangement with The Independent

dawn.com/news/1385741/how-did-food-from-britain-end-up-in-is-controlled-territory-in-syria

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Iran cultural days to be held in Bosnia on victory anniv.of Islamic Revolution

Sun 28 January 2018

TEHRAN, Jan. 27 (MNA) – On the occasion of commemorating the glorious victory of the Islamic Revolution [Ten-Day Dawn ceremonies], “Iran Cultural Days” will be held in Bosnia and Herzegovina on Feb. 5-11, 2018.

At the initiative taken by the Cultural Attaché of the Iranian Embassy to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran’s Cultural Days will be held in Bosnia with the aim of introducing brilliant culture and civilization of Iran with a focus on Tabriz as exemplary city in the Islamic World as nominated by the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) in 2018.

The prestigious event will also be held in cooperation with Tabriz Municipality, Islamic Art University of Tabriz, Sarajevo Municipality, Art Academy of Sarajevo University, etc.

An exhibition of Iran Cultural Days will be organized from Feb. 5-11, 2018 in Sarajevo and also in Banja Luka, capital of Serbia from Feb. 8-11.

Various programs of this cultural and artistic event include performance of Iranian traditional music, calligraphy, miniature, intarsia and ceramic exhibitions, exhibition of Iranian prominent handicrafts and screening documentary movies from cultural and tourist attractions of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the report added.

Of the other programs which will be showcased in this prestigious event, it should be referred to the presence of distinguished Iranian artists in various programs of TV channels in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

en.mehrnews.com/news/131674/Iran-cultural-days-to-be-held-in-Bosnia-on-victory-anniv-of

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Pakistan

Mardan jirga demands legal, financial aid for girl’s family

Mohammad Jamal HotiJanuary 28, 2018

MARDAN: A jirga of local political leaders and civil society activists here on Saturday demanded provision of financial and legal assistance to the family of four-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted before murder in Mardan on January 13. It also demanded early arrest of the perpetrators of the crime.

District nazimHimayatullahMayar chaired the jirga held here at the district council secretariat, which was attended by political leaders, civil society members and traders.

Those who attended the meeting included district naib nazimAsad Ali, PTI MPA IftikharMashwani, PPP district general secretary Aurangzeb Khan, QWP leader Babar Yousafzai, JUI-F’s Habib Ahmad, ANP leader ShaziaAurangzib, JUI-P provincial president Fayaz Khan, Jamaat-i-Islami leader Ata-ur-Rahman, Public Safety Commission chairman Abdul Aziz Khan, Traders union president Ihsan Bacha and area elders.

Shows concern over police failure to trace Asma’s killer

While issuing a joint statement, Mr Mayar claimed that all political parties and members of the civil society in the district were on the same page on the issue of Asma. The jirga expressed concern over failure of the police to trace and arrest the accused in the case despite passage of 15 days.

It demanded of both the provincial and federal governments to take assistance of the expert officials of ISI and MI for proper investigation of the case.

Expressing its dissatisfaction over the police investigation, the jirga participants demanded of the authorities concerned to establish a training institute for the police so they could work on scientific lines.

The jirga members demanded of the quarters concerned to arrest perpetrators of the incident as soon as possible and include sections of rape and terrorism in the FIR registered in the rape and murder case. It also called for sending blood samples of 208 suspects in the case to the forensic laboratory. It demanded establishment of forensic labs in all divisions of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The district nazim welcomed the suomotu action taken by the Supreme Court chief justice in the case and said that the jirga would extend full cooperation to the apex court, whenever required. He also demanded speedy legislations regarding protection of the child rights.

Mr Mashwani claimed that the provincial government would provide financial and legal aid to the affected family. He added that the PTI-led provincial government was taking steps to stop occurrence of such incidents in future.

dawn.com/news/1385720/mardan-jirga-demands-legal-financial-aid-for-girls-family?preview

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Pakistani peacekeeper killed 'by members of an armed group' in Congo

AFP | Dawn.com | Naveed SiddiquiJanuary 28, 2018

A Pakistani UN peacekeeper, NaikNaeem Raza, was killed and another was injured when their covoy was ambushed by “members of an armed group” in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday, a statement published on the United Nations website said.

Raza's murder was confirmed by Pakistan's Ambassador to the UN MaleehaLodhi.

"One of our UN peacekeepers NaikNaeem Raza embraced [martyrdom] today in Congo. May Allah rest his soul in peace. And we pray that another of our soldiers who was injured fully recovers," the ambassador said in a tweet.

@LodhiMaleeha

One of our UN peacekeepers NaikNaeem Raza  embraced shahadat today in Congo. May Allah rest  his soul in peace   And we pray that another of our soldiers who was injured fully recovers

12:25 AM - Jan 28, 2018

 73 73 Replies   322 322 Retweets   869 869 likes

"Pakistan's peacekeepers will continue their efforts to uphold international peace and security," she added.

@LodhiMaleeha

Pakistan's peacekeepers will continue their efforts to uphold international peace and security twitter.com/UN_Spokesperson/status/957346909064257536 …

1:56 AM - Jan 28, 2018

 8 8 Replies   28 28 Retweets   87 87 likes

Inter-Services Public Relations, the military's media wing, said in a statement that Raza was killed when "the Pakistani peacekeeping convoy was ambushed by armed rebels near Lulimba, 96 kilometre south West of Baraka, South Kivu Province."

The statement added that one other peacekeeper, Bilal, was injured in the attack.

"Pakistani peacekeepers effectively responded to fail the armed rebels," the military's statement added.

"Pakistan is a permanent contributor to global peace under UN flag. To date, 156 brave Pakistanis including 23 officers have sacrificed their lives for global peace and stability under UN auspices," ISPR added. "As of today, over 6000 Pakistani officers and men are performing their duties as part of UN peace keeping assignments."

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres “condemns the killing of a peacekeeper from Pakistan... following an ambush” in the troubled eastern province of South Kivu, a UN spokesman said in a tweet. One other person was killed in the attack.

@UN_Spokesperson

.@antonioguterres condemns the killing of a peacekeeper from Pakistan deployed with @MONUSCO and extends condolences to the family of the deceased and to the people and government of Pakistan. bit.ly/2DPEBWi

1:47 AM - Jan 28, 2018

 5 5 Replies   35 35 Retweets   53 53 likes

He reaffirmed the UN's willingness to continue to address the country's security challenges, despite tensions with the government.

On Friday, Congolese President Joseph Kabila claimed the UN's peacekeeping mission in the country, Monusco, had “eradicated” no armed group in nearly 20 years.

He warned the mission not to consider the country “under the care of the United Nations” and said he would “clarify in the coming days our relations” with the world body.

Monusco, the largest of the UN missions, has been present in the country since 1999.

Sprawling, mineral-rich but mired in poverty, DR Congo is in the grip of overlapping political and ethnic crises, and much of the country's east is in the hands of rival militia groups competing over resources.

dawn.com/news/1385817/pakistani-peacekeeper-killed-by-members-of-an-armed-group-in-congo

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PM Abbasi says Pakistan, US are fighting the same enemy

Dawn.comJanuary 27, 2018

Prime Minister ShahidKhaqanAbbasi, according to an interview published by the Washington Post, continues to believe that Pakistan and the United States are partners in fighting terrorism, which is their "common enemy."

He also believes that if US President Donald Trump looks at Afghanistan from Pakistan's perspective, he will understand that "the reality of Pakistan is very different from the perception he has. Pakistan is a US ally."

"Pakistan and the United States have had a very strong relationship, but in the last 15 years, it has kind of gone downhill," Abbasi told the American publication, maintaining that while the US policy statement in August said that Pakistan provides sanctuaries to Afghan terrorist, no such sanctuaries are left in Pakistan.

"There are no sanctuaries in Pakistan. If someone provides us with a location, we take action against that," he said, insisting that that there has not been a single instance where if actual intelligence has been provided to Pakistan, it has not been acted upon.

Abbasi also said during the interview that Pakistan has not responded to the US president's New Year's tweet which accuses Pakistan of lies and deceit, "because we feel it does not constitute official policy of the US ... It has to come through an official document or an official meeting to constitute official policy, in our opinion."

Speaking of the relationship between Pakistan and the US, Abbasi said: "This has been a relationship that has not been one of trust or stability. It [has] kept changing with the presidents and the Congresses."

"If you say that Pakistan was given money, then let us have accounting ... Since September 11th, when President (George W) Bush called President (Pervez) Musharraf and he immediately promised full and unconditional support to the US, we have been supporting the US effort in Afghanistan."

Recounting Pakistan's continuous assistance in the ongoing war, Abbasi said, "We have assisted the US forces and will continue to assist them. There have been over 1.1 million overflights within our airspace — US aircraft going to Afghanistan and fighting the war there. There have been millions of tons of equipment and cargo going there.

He also said that this will continue as Pakistan believes that these measures helps in the war against terror.

"It helps bring stability to Pakistan, so we support that effort."

"Even today, Pakistan is fighting the largest war on terror in the world. We have 200,000 troops fighting a war against terror today on the western border. We have lost 6,500 troops. We have defeated the same enemy the rest of the world failed to defeat in Afghanistan, on the same terrain — with our own resources," the prime minister said.

Answering a question regarding the discontinuation of US 'aid', PM Abbasi explained, "There is no economic aid. There is a coalition support fund, which basically reimburses Pakistan for the expenses that are made in support of US forces in Afghanistan."

dawn.com/news/1385613/pm-abbasi-says-pakistan-us-are-fighting-the-same-enemy

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Pakistani minister emphasizes Iran, Pakistan cooperation to facilitate pilgrims travels

January 28, 2018

Sardar Muhammad Yousaf said Iran and Pakistan are brotherly states and both countries should enhance their cooperation in the field of tourism especially the religious tourism.

(AhlulBayt News Agency) - Pakistan’s Minister for Religious Affairs and Inter-faith Harmony has underlined the need for more cooperation between Iran and Pakistan to facilitate pilgrims travel.

Sardar Muhammad Yousaf said Iran and Pakistan are brotherly states and both countries should enhance their cooperation in the field of tourism especially the religious tourism.

He said that the government of Pakistan has been taking steps to make the arrangements of the pilgrims going to Iran better and for this the ministry of religious affairs is holding regular meetings.

“We want to organize tours of the Pakistani pilgrims for Iran with better facilities and for this, we are giving extra focus to facilitate more and more pilgrims with good arrangements,” he said.

The minister was of the view that private tour operators recommended by the Pakistani government should be involved in arranging the tours for Pakistani pilgrims going to Iran.

“Whether the pilgrims go by road, by air or by ship, we want to give them excellent facilities,” said Sardar Muhammad Yousaf.

He added that embassy of Iran has assured that they are ready to cooperate with us to facilitate the pilgrims' affairs and making their journey more comfortable and hassle free.

He went on to say that governments of both Iran and Pakistan are sincerely taking steps for the facilitation of pilgrimage.

The official said people of the two countries desire to go into each other’s country without any difficulty which would also enhance the bilateral ties. “We also want to enhance our ties with Iran in commercial tourism,” he said.

He called for promotion of people-to-people contacts between Iran and Pakistan.

en.abna24.com/news/central-asia-subcontinent/pakistani-minister-emphasizes-iran-pakistan-cooperation-to-facilitate-pilgrims-travels_879545.html

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Mideast

Israeli occupied soldiers storm mosque in al-Khalil

January 28, 2018

Zionist forces besieged the holy site after Maghreb prayer and carried out an inspection operation inside the mosque.

(AhlulBayt News Agency) - Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) on Saturday evening broke into Shabbat Raoul Allah mosque in Abu Esnainehneighborhood in the Old City of al-Khalil in the southern West Bank.

Zionist forces besieged the holy site after Maghreb prayer and carried out an inspection operation inside the mosque.

According to Hebrew website, the IOF claimed that they found an automatic rifle within the Mosque.

IOF soldiers questioned the Imam along with his assistant at the mosque about the allegedly found gun. 

en.abna24.com/news/middle-east/israeli-occupied-soldiers-storm-mosque-in-al-khalil_879530.html

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Turkey urges US to withdraw from Syria's Manbij

 

Turkey has called on the United States to withdraw its military personnel from northern Syria's Manbij region after announcing Ankara's plan to push the Syrian Kurdish fighters from the area, according to local media.

MevlutCavusoglu, Turkey's foreign minister, said on Saturday that it was "necessary for them [US] to immediately withdraw from Manbij" as well as take "more concrete steps rather than words" to end its support for the Syrian Kurdish armed group, People's Protection Units (YPG).

"The US must cut ties with the terrorist organisation," he told reporters in Turkey's Mediterranean province, Antalya, the Turkish daily Hurriyet reported.

The remarks came a day after, according to the Turkish presidency, US National Security Advisor HR McMaster assured Ankara in a phone call on Friday that Washington would no longer give weapons to YPG, Hurriyet reported.

Turkey considers YPG, the military wing of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is outlawed in Turkey. Ankara says pushing Syrian Kurdish fighters away from northern Syria is essential for Turkey's national security.

Military operation

On January 20, Turkey launched a military operation along with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) - a Syrian rebel group - to drive YPG from Syria's northwestern district of Afrin.

On Friday, Turkey's President RecepTayyip Erdogan said Turkish troops could push YPG all the way east to the frontier with Iraq, including Manbij, Hurriyet reported.

According a statement published by the Turkish armed forces on Saturday, about 394 fighters were "neutralised" since the start of the Afrin operation.

"340 targets of the PKK [outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party], KCK [Kurdistan Communities Union], PYD/YPG [Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party/People's protection Units], and ISIL [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] terror organisations have been destroyed," the army said.

It also said that three Turkish soldiers and 13 members of the allied FSA were killed in the operation.

Also on Saturday, a rocket was fired from Afrin hit Turkey's border province of Kilis, injuring two people after hitting a five-story building in the neighbourhood of 7 Aralik, according to Turkey's state-run news agency, Anadolu Agency.

aljazeera.com/news/2018/01/turkey-urges-withdraw-syria-manbij-180128055728720.html

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Nato's second biggest army is commanding a 'jihad' in Afrin, Turkish parliamentary speaker

by The Region  28/01/2018  

Turkish parliamentary speaker, Ismail Kahraman, named Turkey's military offensive  against Kurdish forces in northern Syria’s Afrin as “jihad.”

Kahraman’s use of the Islamic definition of “holy war” came as no surprise.

For many decades Turkey, a Muslim but pro-Western and secular state, was considered by many politicians and researchers to be a “model” or “inspiration” for other Muslim countries. In recent years, that “model” function has been challenged by the ruling AKP government’s new and pro-active foreign policy, which stokes fear of a “turning away” of Turkey from the “West”.

The Islamic rhetoric employed by the government circles in the last 13 years shows that the shifts in discourse were to manage the support it received by conservative Turks, rather than as upfront to the secular establishment.

The same religious rhetoric targets Kurdish movement and leftists in  Turkey and Syria as well.

“Look, we are now in Afrin. We are a big state. Without jihad, there can be no progress, one cannot stand on their feet,” Kahraman said, praising the campaign against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) which is the presider force of the war against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria.

Kahraman had created a heated debate in 2016 when he told a convention of Muslim scholars that secularism would have no place in a new constitution for the country.

Meanwhile, Turkish President RecepTayyip Erdogan, later in the day, said the YPG, Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), as well as IS have no “religion, faith, or God.”

During Friday prayers this week, speeches held across some 90,000 mosques in the country. Imams prayed for the Turkish army's victory in Afrin.

Last week, when Ankara launched its “Operation Olive Branch” to capture Afrin from the YPG, Turkey’s top Islamic body, Diyanet, ordered clerics across the county to read aloud the 48th chapter of the Quran, Surah al-Fath (the chapter of Islamic Conquest).

Himself a scholar of Islam, HDP lawmaker NimetullahErdogmus accused Diyanet of turning Quranic verses into “a motto of invasion and wars,” stating that the chapter in question was in fact related to a peace agreement—the seventh-century Treaty of Hudaybiyyah—between Islam’s Prophet Mohammad and his pagan Arab opponents.

theregion.org/article/12635-nato-039-s-second-biggest-army-is-commanding-a-039-jihad-039-in-afrin-turkish-parliamentary-speaker

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Israel slams bill to outlaw blaming Poles for crimes of WWII

AP | Jan 28, 2018

JERUSALEM: Israeli leaders angrily criticized pending legislation in Poland that would outlaw blaming Poles for the crimes of the Holocaust, with some accusing the Polish government of outright denial Saturday as the world marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the proposed law "baseless" and ordered his country's ambassador to Poland to meet with Polish leaders to express his strong opposition.

"One cannot change history, and the Holocaust cannot be denied," he said.

The lower house of the Polish parliament on Friday passed the bill, which prescribes prison time for using phrases such as "Polish death camps" to refer to the killing sites Nazi Germany operated in occupied Poland during World War II.

Many Poles fear such phrasing makes some people incorrectly conclude that Poles had a role in running the camps. But critics say the legislation could have a chilling effect on debating history, harming freedom of expression and opening a window to Holocaust denial.

The bill still needs approval from Poland's Senate and president. However, it marks a dramatic step by the country's current nationalist government to target anyone who tries to undermine its official stance that Poles only were heroes during the war, not Nazi collaborators who committed heinous crimes.

Netanyahu's government generally has had good relations with Poland, which has been recently voting with Israel in international organizations.

At Auschwitz on Saturday evening, Israel's ambassador to Poland, Anna Azari, abandoned a prepared speech to criticize the bill, saying that "everyone in Israel was revolted at this news."

In Israel, which was established three years after the Holocaust and is home to the world's largest community of survivors, the legislation provoked outrage.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, noting that exactly 73 years had passed since the Auschwitz death camp on Polish soil was liberated, cited the words of a former Polish president about how history could not be faked and the truth could not be hidden.

"The Jewish people, the State of Israel, and the entire world must ensure that the Holocaust is recognized for its horrors and atrocities," Rivlin said. "Also among the Polish people, there were those who aided the Nazis in their crimes. Every crime, every offense, must be condemned. They must be examined and revealed."

Today's Poles have been raised on stories of their people's wartime suffering and heroism. Many react viscerally when confronted with the growing body of scholarship about Polish involvement in the killing of Jews.

In a sign of the sensitivities on both sides, YairLapid, head of Israel's centrist YeshAtid party and the son of a survivor, got into a heated Twitter spat Saturday with the Polish Embassy in Israel.

"I utterly condemn the new Polish law which tries to deny Polish complicity in the Holocaust. It was conceived in Germany but hundreds of thousands of Jews were murdered without ever meeting a German soldier. There were Polish death camps and no law can ever change that," Lapid wrote.

That sparked the Embassy to respond: "Your unsupportable claims show how badly Holocaust education is needed, even here in Israel."

"My grandmother was murdered in Poland by Germans and Poles," Lapid responded. "I don't need Holocaust education from you. We live with the consequences every day in our collective memory. Your embassy should offer an immediate apology."

To which the embassy retorted: "Shameless."

Israel's foreign ministry said the deputy Polish ambassador to Israel had been summoned for a clarification.

For decades, Polish society avoided discussing the killing of Jews by civilians or denied that anti-Semitism motivated the slayings, blaming all atrocities on the Germans.

A turning point was the publication in 2000 of a book, "Neighbors," by Polish-American sociologist Jan Tomasz Gross, which explored the murder of Jews by their Polish neighbors in the village of Jedwabne. The book resulted in widespread soul-searching and official state apologies.

But since the conservative and nationalistic Law and Justice party consolidated power in 2015, it has sought to stamp out discussions and research on the topic. It demonized Gross and investigated whether he had slandered Poland by asserting that Poles killed more Jews than they killed Germans during the war.

Holocaust researchers have collected ample evidence of Polish villagers who murdered Jews fleeing the Nazis. According to one scholar at Israel's YadVashem Holocaust memorial, of the 160,000-250,000 Jews who escaped and sought help from fellow Poles, about 10 percent to 20 percent survived. The rest were rejected, informed upon or killed by rural Poles, according to the Tel Aviv University scholar, HaviDreifuss.

At Auschwitz, however, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki stressed the Poles who helped Jews risking their own lives, noting that some 7,000 had been recognized by YadVashem but suggesting that the Polish sacrifices have not been acknowledged adequately.

"Jews, Poles, and all victims should be guardians of the memory of all who were murdered by German Nazis. Auschwitz-Birkenau is not a Polish name, and ArbeitMacht Frei is not a Polish phrase," Morawiecki said later on Twitter.

YadVashem issued a statement Saturday night opposing the Polish legislation and trying to put into historical context the "complex truth" regarding the Polish population's attitude toward its Jews.

"There is no doubt that the term `Polish death camps' is a historical misrepresentation," the YadVashem memorial said. "However, restrictions on statements by scholars and others regarding the Polish people's direct or indirect complicity with the crimes committed on their land during the Holocaust are a serious distortion."

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/israel-slams-bill-to-outlaw-blaming-poles-for-crimes-of-wwii/articleshow/62678859.cms

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Bahrain Celebrates Muharraq as Capital of Islamic Culture for the Arab Region

Sunday, 28 January, 2018

Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) named Bahraini city of al-Muharraq as the 2018 Capital of Islamic Culture for the Arab region in recognition of its rich culture, heritage and historical importance to the Gulf region as a political, trading and economic center.

Under the patronage of King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Arad Fort in Muharraq will hold a special celebration on Sunday which will be attended by Islamic culture ministers and leading dignitaries.

Muharraq is located on the eastern shore of Bahrain and it was formerly the capital of the country and is considered the home to many architectural landmarks and ancient artifacts that pay testament to its heritage and historical importance. The city is also known as an established center for contemporary and ancient Islamic art.

Following the announcement, President of Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, Sheikha Mai Bint Mohammed Al Khalifa declared that the recognition of Muharraq for its rich heritage and contemporary and ancient Islamic art sheds light on one of the many hidden cultural gems inside the country.

"Bahrain welcomes all visitors to visit our mix of authentic culture, ancient heritage, traditions and modern infrastructure. We have an exciting diversity of attractions to offer visitors from all around the world," she stated.

One of the most famous landmarks in the city is the Pearling Path, a UNESCO world heritage site and 3.5 kilometers trail which is home to numerous historical buildings, Arad Fort, the house of Sheikh Isa bin Ali, and many other historical buildings that reflect the story of Muharraq.

During 2018, Bahrain’s tradition as a regional destination will be further enhanced with year-long cultural events that will include the hosting of the 2018 UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting.

aawsat.com/english/home/article/1157276/bahrain-celebrates-muharraq-capital-islamic-culture-arab-region

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Southeast Asia

Citing Islam, Duterte jokes he could offer '42 virgins' to boost Philippines' tourism industry

January 28, 2018

Philippines' tough-talking President Rodrigo Duterte is a man who always seems to be in the news. In his latest casual jibe, he said he would be willing to offer "virgins" to boost his country's tourism sector if Islamist extremists can lure followers with a similar proposition.

This is not the first time the firebrand leader has made contentious remarks which have landed him in trouble. He has joked about rape and sexual assaults on several occasions in the past as well, putting him at loggerheads with women's rights groups.

Speaking in New Delhi, India, on Friday, 26 January, to business leaders in a bid to attract investors and tourists towards Philippines, he told the gathering to avoid southern Mindanao region because of the imposed martial law. He then went on to bizarrely quip in his address that if offering "virgins" to dying martyrs could be an attraction for Islamic followers, he could very well do the same in the Philippines to entice tourists to his country.

"The come-on is that if you die a martyr, you go to heaven with 42 virgins waiting for you," said Duterte during the first leg of his three-day India tour. "Well, if I could just make it a come-on also for those who'd like to go to my country," he added, evoking a dry laughter from the audience.

He went on to say, "And I said, one of the most is promising virgins when you go to heaven. I'd like to have the virgins here, not in heaven. God may not allow it."

Duterte continued by saying that he is "half-Muslim" and the Islamic extremists – who have launched a bloody insurgency in the southern region of the Philippines – do not have "the monopoly of discourse in this field".

Not surprisingly, Duterte's comments have angered women's rights groups. Condemning the remarks, activist organisation Akbayan Women issued a statement, "Duterte dismisses Filipinas as mere goods for trade, that women are just sights for tourists. This insults millions of women who work hard to build our nation with honour only to be represented as virgin fodder for tourists by the president himself. This insults million of overseas Filipino workers who have created a name in Filipino workmanship abroad."

Calling these controversial statements "extremely worrying", the Philippines rights group futher added, "We deserve a president who can represent Filipinos: men, women and LGBT alike abroad. We deserve a president who has a regard for women's rights and dignity."

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Indonesian president in Bangladesh to discuss Rohingya

AP | Jan 28, 2018

DHAKA: Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo is in Bangladesh on a visit to sprawling refugee camps for hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who have fled Myanmar.

Jokowi is expected to fly Sunday to Cox's Bazar, the main town where the camps are located. On Saturday, he met Bangladesh's President M. Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Nearly 700,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar since August, after Myanmar security forces began ``clearance operations'' in the wake of attacks by Rohingya insurgents on police posts. The UN has described the campaign as ethnic cleansing.

Bangladesh and Myanmar have signed a deal to repatriate the Rohingya, though international agencies say few are likely to return voluntarily due to safety concerns. According to the deal, the return must be voluntary and global rights groups say the refugees, including many children, are still traumatized.

UNICEF deputy executive director Justin Forsyth said last week that the conditions for their return have not been met yet.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/indonesian-president-in-bangladesh-to-discuss-rohingya/articleshow/62678918.cms

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Africa

At least 10 Malian soldiers killed in attack on camp: Officials

AFP | Jan 27, 2018

BAMAKO: At least 10 Malian soldiers were killed on Saturday in an attack on their camp in the restive north blamed on jihadists, military sources and a local official told AFP.

The camp in Soumpi, Timbuktu region, was targeted this morning by armed men, they said.

"Ten of our men were killed in action this Saturday during a cowardly terrorist attack on the Soumpi camp. There are 17 wounded," a military source reached in Bamako told AFP.

The local official confirmed the death toll of the attack, and said five wounded men were transferred to the town of Niafunke for medical treatment.

A foreign military source described the attack as "complex", adding there were "several victims".

Mali's deteriorating security situation is of growing concern as Al-Qaida-linked groups mount increasingly deadly attacks on domestic and foreign forces.

The latest attack comes two days after 26 civilians including mothers and babies were killed when their vehicle ran over a landmine in Boni, central Mali, according to a UN death toll.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/rest-of-world/at-least-10-malian-soldiers-killed-in-attack-on-camp-officials/articleshow/62673939.cms

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Boko Haram, Muslim herders and Christian farmers clash leave 6 dead in Adamawa

ON JANUARY 27, 2018    

Separate outbreaks of violence attributed to a Boko Haram attack and clashes between Muslim herders and Christian farmers left at least six people dead in Nigeria, police and local authorities said Saturday.

At least three people were killed late Friday when Boko Haram attacked the Hyambula village in northeast Adamawa state, police and a community leader told AFP after the latest in a spate of jihadist raids targeting civilians.

“There was an attack at Hyambula last night. Three people were killed and three others kidnapped,” Adamawa state police spokesman Othman Abubakar said, blaming Boko Haram for the attack.

The suspected jihadists had shot dead one man, before a suicide bomber blew himself up among residents gathered at the scene, killing two and leaving five injured.

“They shot a resident who was resting under a tree outside his house,” Community leader MainaUlaramu said.

“When residents had gathered around him a suicide bomber hiding in the tree jumped off and detonated his explosives among the crowd.”

Adamawa was said to have been cleared of Boko Haram in late 2015.

But attacks have continued in the north of the state, particularly around Madagali, which borders Borno state and the militants’ Sambisa Forest stronghold.

In separate clashes, at least three people were killed in central Plateau state when Fulani herders attacked Jebu-Bassa, a farming village of Irigwe tribesmen.

“Three persons were killed and eight injured in renewed hostilities in Jebu-Bassa,” Plateau state police spokesman TyopevTerna said, saying herdsmen were suspected of the killings on Thursday night.

A youth leader of the Muslim ethnic Hausa RafinBauna community said the attack may have been in reprisal for recent attacks on Fulani and Hausa communities by Irigwe militia which left one dead and several homes burnt.

Inter-community violence has left an estimated 100 people dead in central Nigeria since the turn of the year, leaving the government of President Muhammadu Buhari under fire for not dealing with the spiralling unrest.

A September report by the International Crisis Group estimated the death toll since 2016 at some 2,500.

Plateau state lies in Nigeria’s so-called Middle Belt that separates the predominantly Muslim north from the largely Christian south and has long been a hotbed of ethnic, sectarian and religious tensions.

vanguardngr.com/2018/01/boko-haram-muslim-herders-christian-farmers-clash-leave-6-dead-adamawa/

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Egypt election appears to follow an old formula

AP | Jan 28, 2018

With one potential challenger after another arrested, quitting or being forced out of the race, the March presidential election is increasingly taking on the character of the one-candidate referendums held for decades by Egypt's authoritarian rulers.

What's startling is how general-turned-President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi seems to have dropped any pretense of holding a truly democratic vote.

He has shrugged off any accusations of a return to the kind of authoritarianism that was supposed to have been buried in the past after the popular uprising that erupted seven years ago and brought down longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Some critics already are speculating that the next move may be to amend the constitution to remove altogether the condition that no president serves more than two four-year terms.

With not a single serious challenger left in the race, pressure mounted on one political party that already declared its support for el-Sissi to field a face-saving candidate. Doing so, said some party leaders and public figures loyal to el-Sissi, would enrich the country's democratic experience and counter doubts about the election's credibility.

But after two days of intense deliberations, the Wafd party, one of Egypt's oldest, decided Saturday not to do so and instead renewed its support for the incumbent, saying only he would be able to handle the "challenges" facing the nation.

"The people in el-Sissi's circle have been trying to find a way out of an embarrassing one-candidate election," said HishamKassem, an analyst and a publisher. "But in doing so, they risked broadening what's already a tragicomedy."

In his final years, Mubarak allowed other candidates to run against him, and el-Sissi faced a challenger in 2014. This time around, he did not seem to feel the need to allow even a weak, unknown opponent to stand as a symbolic challenger.

The possibility of a single-candidate election has raised scathing criticism and mockery on social media, with some newspaper columnists in the pro-government media politely warning against the strategy.

But el-Sissi appears to see little danger of a public backlash, or a serious rebuke from his allies in the West, who once urged democratic reforms.

The overwhelmingly pro-el-Sissi media depict him as the only figure able to solve Egypt's problems, and the president himself often says the need to rebuild the country outweighs concerns over democracy and rights.

A significant sector of the population likely agrees with the argument — though how much is unknown, since authorities prevent most polling and have outlawed all unauthorized protests.

"With the departure of one more hopeful from the presidential race, the election is on the brink of losing its spirit, credibility and respect before society and the outside world," Abdullah el-Sinnawy, a one-time supporter of el-Sissi, wrote Thursday in the independent Al-Shorouk newspaper.

"Regardless of the circumstances and context, the general picture is very alarming," he said.

El-Sissi has often said he wants to establish a modern civil state in Egypt, but his policies have raised questions over whether he actually believes in democratic principles. His public discourse has almost exclusively been focused on the fight against Islamic militants, efforts to revive an ailing economy and the infrastructure "mega projects" he has overseen.

He has meanwhile overseen one of the harshest crackdowns in memory, jailing thousands of Islamists along with activists behind the 2011 uprising. He also has silenced most of his critics, severely restricted the work of rights groups and blocked scores of online news sites.

The circumstances of how the would-be candidates have quit or were forced to drop out of the race offer insights into Egypt's political machinations:

AHMED SHAFIQ

A former air force general and Mubarak's last prime minister, Shafiq lived in self-imposed exile in the United Arab Emirates since shortly after finishing a close second in the 2012 presidential election won by the Islamist Mohammed Morsi. Last month, he was deported from the Emirates, a close Egyptian ally, and flown back to Cairo after he announced he intended to run. He was met at the airport by unidentified security men and whisked away to a suburban hotel. Government representatives persuaded him to abandon his presidential ambitions, raising the specter of legal proceedings over alleged corruption during his tenure as civil aviation minister, according to numerous, unconfirmed reports. He was viciously attacked in pro-government media, with unsubstantiated accusations leveled against him. Earlier this month, he issued a statement saying his years in exile left him out of touch with reality in Egypt and he did not believe himself to be the "ideal" man to lead the country at this stage.

SAMI ANNAN

The former general quietly served as the military's chief of staff under Mubarak, drawing national attention only in the 17 months of military rule after Mubarak's ouster. As the deputy head of the then-ruling Supreme Military Council, he negotiated the transfer of power to Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in June 2012. Two months later, Morsi removed him. He has since stayed in the background, seldom heard of in the media but not concealing his presidential ambitions. This month, he announced his intent to challenge el-Sissi and posted a video on social media that berated the president for involving the military in civilian affairs and urging civilian and military institutions to stay neutral in the race. One of the two top deputies he chose for his campaign is widely suspected of being close to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was outlawed by el-Sissi after he ousted Morsi in 2013. Annan's video had something for everyone in Egypt and he instantly appeared to have an outside chance to win. But on Tuesday, the military hit him with a slate of charges, including incitement against the armed forces, forgery and breaching military regulations. He has been detained for questioning.

KHALED ALI

The prominent rights lawyer was the last potentially serious challenger until Wednesday, when he announced he was quitting the race. He complained that authorities targeted his supporters, and that the election commission was ignoring his complaints and requests. He also charged that poor Egyptians had been bribed by el-Sissi loyalists to sign documents supporting his candidacy. His own supporters faced delays and intimidation at notary offices where they needed to register 25,000 "recommendations" for him to qualify as a candidate. "All indications pointed to a premeditated intention to poison the entire process and empty it of its supposed democratic content," he said. A key left-leaning figure in the 2011 uprising, Ali had the potential to win protest votes and, perhaps more importantly, revive interest in street politics by fellow "revolutionaries" whose ranks have been depleted by imprisonment, exile or marginalization. He could have also tapped into the deep frustratio n of millions of voters hit hard by el-Sissi's austerity measures and other economic reforms. His campaign was put at risk after he was convicted in September of an immoral act in public — allegedly making a gesture with his middle finger — a charge that he described as ridiculous and meant to tarnish his image in Egypt's conservative society.

MOHAMMED ANWAR SADAT

The former lawmaker said he quit the race because the climate was not conducive for campaigning and because he feared for the safety of his supporters. A nephew of Egypt's assassinated leader Anwar Sadat, he was thrown out of parliament amid allegations of leaking sensitive documents to foreign diplomats. Many believe, however, that he was the victim of a witch hunt by el-Sissi's supporters in the chamber after he questioned the legality of financial perks enjoyed by army officers who take up full-time government jobs after retirement.

AHMED KONSOWA

The army colonel declared his intention to run, only to be court- martialed and convicted of breaching military regulations prohibiting political activism. He was sentenced to six years in prison last month.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/egypt-election-appears-to-follow-an-old-formula/articleshow/62680925.cms

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North America

Trump says will not allow the Taliban to win

By KHAAMA PRESS - Sun Jan 28 2018

The US President Donald Trump in reaction to the deadly Kabul bombing has said that the Taliban group will not be allowed to win.

“Taliban targeted innocent Afghans, brave police in Kabul today. Our thoughts and prayers go to the victims, and first responders,” he said in a statement.

President Trump further added that “We will not allow the Taliban to win!”

A Taliban suicide bomber on Saturday detonated a vehicle packed with explosives near the old compound of the ministry of interior.

The ministry of public health says around 95 dead bodies and 158 people who have sustained injuries have been shifted to the hospitals so far with the Kabul Emergency Hospital saying around 50 were shifted to this hospital only.

Saturday’s attack was the second deadly incident that took place in the city over a period of almost one week.

A group of insurgents launched a coordinated attack on Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul city on the night of 20th January sparking a clash that lasted for almost 15 hours, leaving several people dead including many foreigners.

khaama.com/trump-says-will-not-allow-the-taliban-to-win-04367

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US Muslim, Non-Muslim protesters criticize Trump Travel Ban

January 28, 2018

US Muslim and non-Muslim protestors have condemned ongoing efforts by the Trump administration to institute a ban on travel by residents of a number of Muslim-majority countries.

(AhlulBayt News Agency) - US Muslim and non-Muslim protestors have condemned ongoing efforts by the Trump administration to institute a ban on travel by residents of a number of Muslim-majority countries.

The interfaith demonstration in New York's Washington Square Park took place on Friday a year after Donald Trump's first executive order setting out the ban, which has been blocked by the courts.

The US Supreme Court has agreed to decide the legality of the latest version of Trump's ban, which affects residents from six countries instead of the original seven.

It pits an administration that considers the restrictions necessary for Americans' security against challengers who claim it is illegally aimed at Muslims and stems from Trump's campaign call for a "complete shutdown of Muslims" entering the US.

The policy blocks entry into the US of most people from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

The justices plan to hear arguments in April and issue a final ruling by late June on a Trump policy that has been repeatedly blocked and struck down in the lower courts.

On Friday protesters linked arms around a group of Muslim demonstrators who knelt to pray in Washington Square Park.

Trump has said the restrictions are needed to tighten security and prevent terrorist attacks. Opponents say the ban violates the US Constitution because it discriminates against Muslims and certain nationalities.

During the 2016 presidential race, Trump campaigned for "a total and complete shutdown" of Muslims entering the United States on the pretext of preventing terrorist attacks.

en.abna24.com/news/america/us-muslim-non-muslim-protesters-criticize-trump-travel-ban_879554.html

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Rex Tillerson insists Russia to blame for Syria chemical attacks

AFP | Updated: Jan 27, 2018, 20:23 IST

WARSAW: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday said he stands by his claim that Russia bears responsibility for recent chemical attacks in Syria, despite strong denials from Moscow.

"These are just unacceptable deployments of chemicals in ways that violate all conventions which Russia itself has signed up for. It violates agreements that Russia undertook to be responsible for identifying and eliminating the chemical weapons inside of Syria," Tillerson said during a visit to Warsaw.

"The chemical weapons are clearly there, they're being used against civilian populations -- and the most vulnerable are children -- inside of Syria," Tillerson told reporters, in a joint press conference with Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz.

"So we are holding Russia responsible for addressing this. They are (Syrian President Bashar al-) Assad's ally. They are members of those conventions and they made commitments. They need to deliver on those commitments."

Tillerson first made the accusations on Tuesday, as diplomats from 29 countries met in Paris to push for sanctions and criminal charges against the perpetrators of the chemical attacks in Syria.

Russia and China have blocked Western-backed efforts at the UN to impose sanctions on Damascus over their use.

On Wednesday, Russia lashed out at Tillerson for having "hastily accused the Syrian -- as they call it -- 'regime' for the attack in Eastern Ghouta," adding "now they are trying to drag Russia into this as well."

Damascus has been repeatedly accused of using chemical weapons, with the United Nations among those blaming government forces for an April 2017 sarin gas attack on the opposition-held village of Khan Sheikhun that left scores dead.

There have been at least 130 separate chemical weapons attacks in Syria since 2012, according to French estimates, with the Islamic State group also accused of using mustard gas in Syria and Iraq.

Next week, Moscow will hold negotiations in the Russian city of Sochi aimed at ending Syria's civil war.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/rex-tillerson-insists-russia-to-blame-for-syria-chemical-attacks/articleshow/62673609.cms

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US air strike kill Iraqi security personnel by 'mistake'

AFPJanuary 27, 2018

Eight Iraqis were killed on Saturday, most of them security personnel, in a United States (US) air strike that apparently targeted them by mistake, a provincial official said.

“Eight people — a senior intelligence official, five policemen and a woman — were killed by a US strike on the centre of Al-Baghdadi,” a town in western Iraq, the official said, asking not to be identified.

“It seems the strike was a mistake,” the official said of the incident in the Euphrates Valley town, adjacent to the Ain al-Asad airbase 250 kilometres west of the capital.

The dead were travelling in a convoy which had been deployed to support an operation against suspected Islamic State (IS) group militants in the area.

The strike destroyed most of the vehicles in the convoy and also wounded 20 people, including the town's police chief, who was in a serious condition, the provincial official said.

Iraq's Joint Operations Command, which coordinates the campaign against IS, said it had ordered a special forces raid in the town after receiving intelligence of a “meeting to be attended by terrorist commander Karim al-Samarmad”.

It said it had requested “air support from the international coalition”.

“Once the terrorist was arrested and while troops were carrying out searches, a grenade was thrown from an adjacent building.”

As the special forces troops returned to base, they ran into a convoy of police and paramilitaries of the Hashed al-Shaabi auxiliary force that had been sent to support them.

The convoy was composed of pick-up trucks and the returning forces mistook them for terrorists and called in a coalition air strike, the JOC said.

“An inquiry has been opened."

dawn.com/news/1385612/us-air-strike-kill-iraqi-security-personnel-by-mistake

 

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/friday-first--woman-who-led-prayer-in-kerala-faces-backlash/d/114078

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