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Islamic World News ( 2 Feb 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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From Migration to Relations with Islam, Pope Francis Sets Catholic Reform Agenda

New Age Islam News Bureau

2 Feb 2019

In this Jan. 22, 2019, photo, a girl walks past a poster of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, at a mosque where he made speeches, in northern Tehran, Iran. The memory of Khomeini, who died in 1989 at the age of 86, looms large over Tehran today. His image is on bank notes and in textbooks in Iran, often as an embodiment of the 1979 Islamic Revolution that swept aside the country’s shah and forever changed the nation. (Photo: Vahid Salemi / AP)



 From Migration to Relations with Islam, Pope Francis Sets Catholic Reform Agenda

 Judge Says Execution Can Proceed Without Imam Present

 Minister for Religious Affairs Says Govt Striving To Make Country Islamic Welfare State

 Jammu and Kashmir: Militants Kill Woman, Put Video Up On Social Media

 Indonesian Conservative Muslims Reject Anti-Rape Bill Over 'Pro-Adultery, LGBT' Concerns

 Iran Marks 40th Anniversary of Islamic Revolution

 Boko Haram Extremist Group Kills At Least 60 in Nigeria Attack

 Republican Ilhan Omar Says ‘Don’t Mind’ GOP Representative Calling Her ‘Anti-Semitic’



 From Migration to Relations with Islam, Pope Francis Sets Catholic Reform Agenda

 Judge Says Execution Can Proceed Without Imam Present

 We Are Losing a Generation of Children In Yemen: UNICEF

 Study shows UK arms sales to Saudis during Yemen war had no limits

 Romania voices strong support for Turkey's EU bid



 Minister for Religious Affairs Says Govt Striving To Make Country Islamic Welfare State

 Aasia Reportedly Moves To Canada; Protests Hit Pakistan

 Malaysian company ready to invest $250m in Pakistan

 Dozens detained as police use batons, tear gas to disperse violent TLP protest in Karachi

 TLP acting chief arrested from Charsadda

 Terrorism charges to remain in Fahad Malik murder case



 Jammu and Kashmir: Militants Kill Woman, Put Video Up On Social Media

 Ban on Students Islamic Movement of India extended for another 5 years

 Pulwama encounter: Two militants killed in early morning operation

 NIA arrests accused in 2006 Kozhikode twin blasts case

 Second person deported by Saudi Arabia in one week; arrested by NIA


Southeast Asia

 Indonesian Conservative Muslims Reject Anti-Rape Bill Over 'Pro-Adultery, LGBT' Concerns

 Indonesia should speak up for Xinjiang's Muslims

 Muslim Couple In Sabah Breaks Taboos With Piggie Craft For CNY

 Philippine minister 'certain' church bombers were Indonesian couple

 Ambiga: Pakatan failed in Cameron Highlands because they did not work as a coalition

 Philippines: Indonesians carried out Jolo cathedral suicide attack



 Iran Marks 40th Anniversary of Islamic Revolution

 Israel’s AG says can rule on Netanyahu corruption cases before election

 Yemen, Saudi Arabia and UAE ask UN to pressure Houthis on ceasefire deal

 Arab coalition strikes kill Houthi leader, other fighters in Hajjah

 One killed, five wounded in attack in southeast Iran

 Israeli forces shoot, injure 19 Palestinian protesters in West Bank

 Iran welcomes new Lebanese govt., vows support



 Boko Haram Extremist Group Kills At Least 60 in Nigeria Attack

 Nigerian army kills top Boko Haram militant, 3 others

 Clashes in southern Libya leave 4 people dead: Source

 Somalia: US airstrike kills some 24 al-Shabaab fighters

 Four Libyan soldiers die in first clash of force’s southward push


North America

 Republican Ilhan Omar Says ‘Don’t Mind’ GOP Representative Calling Her ‘Anti-Semitic’

 Amid Controversy, Premier Legault Admits Islamophobia Exists In Quebec

 Afghan peace talks result of US' military pressure on Taliban: Donald Trump

 US calls on new Lebanese government to block Hezbollah

 Facebook, Twitter delete accounts linked to Iran, Russia, Venezuela with anti-west content

 Muslim man hand delivers food to Chicago's homeless

 USAID Ends All Assistance To Palestinians In West Bank, Gaza


South Asia

 Up To 50 Militants Killed In Afghan, Coalition Forces Operations

 More security operations in Kandahar planned to clear it of Taliban, says Afghan acting Defence Minister

 Bangladesh Home Minister Calls On Hefazat Chief Shafi

 Human Rights Watch says Myanmar government using ‘abusive laws’ to punish critics

 Hasty withdrawal of U.S. troops to increase bloodshed in Afghanistan: Daudzai

 Afghan forces and Taliban suffer casualties in Sar-e-Pul clashes

 Iran reiterates support for Afghanistan peace process led by govt.

 Afghan Taliban: Trump administration ‘appears serious’ in talks


Arab World

 Saudis, UAE, Yemen Ask UN to Pressure Houthis

 Sunni Leader Urges Iraqis to Work with UN Investigation, Testify Against ISIS

 Building on Syria war gains, Hezbollah scores political win

 Ankara Sends Hundreds of Special Forces to Northern Syria

 Syrian Army Destroys Tahrir Al-Sham's Command Centres in Hama, Idlib

 The ‘Centre of al-Awamiyah’ injects fresh hope in Saudi Arabia’s al-Qatif

 Australia admits it has killed up to 18 civilians in Mosul air raid

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




From migration to relations with Islam, Pope Francis sets Catholic reform agenda

Damien McElroy

February 2, 2019

An institution with roots that stretch back 2,000 years, the Roman Catholic Church is in a watershed era as it faces the internal challenge of reform and external pressures of deepening global divisions.

Vatican observers see the major themes of Pope Francis’s tenure as his outreach to Islam, an appeal for social justice and the need to tackle abuse allegations as he overhauls the Church’s hierarchy.

The pontiff’s visit to the UAE is a symbolically significant act of outreach to a substantial slice of the global population.

In travelling to the Arabian Peninsula, Pope Francis is playing to the strengths of his papacy.

From the start, Pope Francis struck a starkly different pose when addressing relations with Islamic institutions and beliefs. Whereas Pope Benedict XVI, the Pope Emeritus, stoked dark fears, Pope Francis has made openness and mutual understanding his hallmark.

Pope Francis had a chance to make his mark almost as soon as he ascended to the papal throne, as Europe opened its borders to the millions of refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war and the rise of ISIS in the region.

At a time when fear of the other ignited a rise in nationalist politics, Pope Francis stood for welcoming the newcomers and called for refugees to be accommodated as equals, with human dignity at the forefront.

By backing the Catholic institutions that were offering help to those seeking new lives, he took risks to ensure that the Vatican’s message of compassion was heard. “In some respects the migrant crisis in Europe at that time put him at odds with the populist movements and governments that were emerging,” said David Gibson, director of the Centre for Religion and Culture at Fordham University, New York.

“He’s been misrepresented as having a position of ‘open all the borders and let everyone come in’ but instead what he stands for is a radical openness and of the idea of welcoming all the people who do come.”

The power of the migrant issue to change Europe is now well recognised. From the outset, Pope Francis set his own agenda. For Mr Gibson the pontiff is a reformist force not seen for decades.

“That really is his fundamental contribution – picking up on the promises of opening up the Church to the world that were seen in the 1960s,” said Mr Gibson.

“Not to go back to them but also not to try to recover a lost Christendom or revive an old Catholic culture or institutions.

“Pope Francis is about trying to meet people where they are in life and to engage with different ways of being. He has charted a new course.” The man born Jorge Mario Bergoglio has addressed the issues of inequality, climate change and poverty.

At a time when populist politics are on the rise, not only in Europe and America but also left-leaning bastions such as Brazil, Pope Francis provides a sympathetic voice not always heard from the Vatican.

“The Pope’s messages have been very important, particularly in his rejection of the nationalist politics that preys on people’s fears,” said one veteran Vatican observer.

“And as we will see in the trip to the UAE, he has prioritised issues like the protection of Christians in the Middle East and with his travels demonstrates his wish to learn from and grow relations with Islam.

“He’s going to Morocco in March and has been to Jordan and Egypt.”

Faced with a body of ageing priests and dwindling congregations, Pope Francis is thought by some to be contemplating radical steps, including the introduction of women deacons.

He follows a style of leadership in which the deliberative skills of discernment are summarised in three stages: see, judge and act.

“[Francis] does not see himself as the chief executive of the Catholic Church,” said Thomas Reese, an American priest and author. “He has a great respect for collegiality, the belief that the Pope should not act like an absolute monarch.

“At his first synod of bishops, he encouraged the bishops to speak boldly and not be afraid to disagree with him.”



Judge says execution can proceed without imam present

February 02, 2019

MONTGOMERY, Alabama: A federal judge on Friday ruled that a Muslim inmate’s scheduled lethal injection can proceed next week without an imam present but said Alabama must keep a Christian prison chaplain out of the execution chamber.

US District Judge Keith Watkins denied a stay requested by Dominique Ray, 42. Ray is scheduled to be executed Feb. 7 for the 1995 fatal stabbing of 15-year-old Tiffany Harville.

Ray says his religious rights are being violated because Alabama has a Christian prison chaplain present at lethal injections, but will not let him have an imam in the room with him as the lethal drugs are administered.

Ray’s lawyers argued that he has the same right to religious comfort in his final moments as a Christian inmate.

Watkins said for security reasons the state can limit death chamber access to prison employees.

The judge ordered the state to keep the prison chaplain out of the death chamber during Ray’s execution. The state already said it was willing to do so.

Condemned inmates in Alabama can visit with their spiritual adviser before their execution and have the person witness the procedure through the glass window of an adjoining room. However, only the prison chaplain and a correctional officer are in the room with the inmate during the lethal injection procedure.

The chaplain will sometimes kneel and pray with an inmate who is strapped to a gurney.

Court records indicate that Ray is appealing.

Ray’s lawyers are also seeking a new trial, saying prosecutors did not disclose records that showed a key witness was suffering from symptoms of schizophrenia before he testified against Ray.

Harville disappeared from her Selma home in July 1995. Her decomposing body was found in a field a month later.

Ray was convicted in 1999 after co-defendant Marcus Owden told police that they had picked the girl up for a night out on the town and then raped her. Owden said Ray cut the girl’s throat and they also took the girl’s purse, which had $6 or $7 in it.

Owden pleaded guilty to murder, testified against Ray and is serving a life sentence without parole.



Minister For Religious Affairs Says Govt Striving To Make Country Islamic Welfare State

February 2, 2019

PESHAWAR: Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri said on Friday that the government was striving to develop the country on the model of the Madina State.

He was addressing as chief guest at a seminar on “Religious Concept of Madina State.”

Council of Islamic Ideology Chairman Dr Qibla Ayaz presided over the seminar.

Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Women University Vice-Chancellor Dr Razia Sultana, Dr Khadeeja Aziz, Prof Shamsul Haq, Prof Dr Shamsul Haq, Bahadur Khan Shinwari and others attended it.

Qadri said the concept of Madina State was the underlying essence of the concept of Islamic Welfare State.

He said the Madina State that established was by our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) furnished us with the concept and principles of a true welfare state. The minister said that one could find the notions of religious and economic freedom besides a guarantee for peaceful coexistence in the Madina State. He said Islam is the religion that fulfills the criteria to ensure equal rights for the whole humanity including women and children on the basis of parity, adding that even the Jews of Madina were given rights.



Jammu and Kashmir: Militants Kill Woman, Put Video Up On Social Media

February 2, 2019

A 25-year-old woman was shot at point-blank range and killed in the Sugam area of Jammu and Kashmir’s Shopian. According to J&K police, militants shot the woman, identified as Ishrat Muneer, and recorded the incident on video before circulating it on social media.

“The dead body was retrieved by police from Dragad area of Zainapora in Shopian district. She has been identified as Ishrat Muneer, daughter of Muneer Ahmad Dar, resident of Dangerpora, Pulwama,” police said in a statement.

Police sources said Muneer was kidnapped while returning from a computer class in Pulwama and brought to Shopian, where she was killed. She was related to militant group Al-Badr’s Valley chief Zeenat-ul-Islam, who had been killed in an encounter with security forces on January 14 at Yaripora, Kulgam.

“She was his cousin and may have been killed for her alleged involvement in his killing,” a senior police officer told The Indian Express.

Zeenat-ul-Islam had formerly been associated with the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), and the involvement of HM militants is being suspected in the incident.

The incident came to light after a video of a woman being shot twice from close range surfaced on social media late on Thursday night. In the video, the woman is seen with her hands folded, a backpack by her side. The first shot was fired inches from her body, from the impact of which she fell on her side, before she was shot again.

Police have registered a case and have initiated an investigation. “Police investigation is focused on some credible leads and it is expected the culprits shall be brought before the law,” police said.



Indonesian Conservative Muslims Reject Anti-Rape Bill Over 'Pro-Adultery, LGBT' Concerns

Karina M. Tehusijarana

February 1, 2019

The passing of a bill on sexual violence, which has been deliberated on by the House of Representatives since 2016, is at risk of being delayed again, this time by those who consider it to be "pro-adultery" and “pro-LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender]” by omission.

The bill was first proposed after the gang rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl in Bengkulu in 2016 and gained traction again at the end of last year as the case of Baiq Nuril, a sexual harassment victim in West Nusa Nusa Tenggara (NTB) who was convicted for defaming her alleged harassed, came to light.

Public calls for the House to quickly pass the bill gained lawmakers’ attention and House Speaker Bambang Soesatyo said in his speech opening the current legislative session earlier this month that the House would prioritize passing the bill.

“We still have a lot of work to do to complete the bill and [eradicate] sexual violence, which has recently been in the public spotlight,” he said at the time.

But while concerns have been raised over whether lawmakers can work effectively in the lead-up to the 2019 General Elections, the bill has met another possible hurdle to its enactment into law: conservative criticism.

Maimon Herawati, a Padjajaran University lecturer who previously gained attention by starting an online petition demanding the ban of an ad featuring South Korean girlband BLACKPINK, started another petition on on Friday, calling on the House to reject the “pro-adultery” bill.

“The idea that women should be given the legal power to protect themselves is good, but there is a gap that was deliberately made to allow [loopholes],” the petition said. “There is no regulation on sexual crimes, such as sexual relations that violate moral and religious norms.”

In her petition, which has been signed by 120,000 people, Maimon further argues that the bill was incompatible with local norms as it allowed consensual sexual relations outside of marriage and criminalized marital rape.

“Consequently, a husband could be prosecuted if he touches his wife when the wife does not want to be touched,” she warns.

Euis Sunarti, a Bogor Agricultural Institute (IPB) professor who, along with the Family Love Alliance (AILA), previously petitioned the Constitutional Court (MK) to criminalize homosexual relationships, has expressed similar sentiments to the House’s Commission VIII, which is deliberating the bill.

“Most Indonesians do not want to separate a criminal act from the social norms that govern it,” she told The Jakarta Post on Thursday. “For example, the bill criminalizes forced prostitution but doesn’t say anything about prostitution itself, when our social norms are clearly against prostitution.”

The National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), which helped compose the bill, said it welcomed opinions from all members of the public but argued that critics did not understand the intention of the bill.

“We hope that we can meet with them to discuss the bill, because I’m sure that no woman would be against eradicating sexual violence,” Commissioner Mariana Amiruddin told the Post.

She said the bill was crafted to protect the interests of victims of sexual violence and provide them with a legal instrument to enforce their rights.

“Issues like adultery and sexual morality are already included in the KUHP [Criminal Code] bill,” she said. “This bill is the only one that looks out for the victims.”

Veni Siregar of Forum Pengada Layanan (FPL), a non-governmental organization that provides advocacy for victims of sexual violence across the country, echoed Mariana’s sentiments.

“The articles in the bill are consistent with our experience in accompanying and advocating for victims,” she said, adding that she hoped the recent criticism would not affect the House’s commitment to pass the bill.

“Our recent conversations and meetings with the bill’s working committee have been productive,” she said. “Hopefully, the petition will not change that.”

Maimon’s petition highlights the ongoing culture war between conservative Indonesians and their relatively more liberal fellow countrymen over the issue of sexuality and individual freedom. 

Komnas PA and AILA, for instance, are at odds over whether the state should criminalize any types of sexual relations outside of marriage.

Gerindra Party lawmaker and Commission VIII member Sodik Mudjahid said deliberations on the antirape bill were still on course and would intensify after the elections in April.

“The protests occur because of a lack of clarity in the process and details of the draft bill,” he told the Post. “We will invite more members of civil society to gather more suggestions later.”

He added that the bill focused on protecting and rehabilitating victims of violence and did not discuss matters such as adultery and LGBT relations.

“But if there are articles that leave room for the legalization of adultery, of course we will change that and close the gap,” he said.



Iran marks 40th anniversary of Islamic Revolution

1 February 2019

Iran is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its Islamic Revolution that toppled the US-backed shah, overturned 2,500 years of monarchical rule and brought hard-line Shiite clerics to power.

The anniversary starts every year on February 1 - the day Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979 returned from France after 14 years in exile to become the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Across the country on Friday, sirens rang out from trains and boats and church bells chimed at 9:33 am. - the exact time Khomeini’s chartered Air France Boeing 747 touched down 40 years ago at Tehran’s International Mehrabad airport.

The 10-day anniversary festivities, known as the “Ten Days of Dawn,” end on February 11, the date Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s government collapsed.



Boko Haram extremist group kills at least 60 in Nigeria attack

2 February 2019

Boko Haram has killed at least 60 people in a “devastating” attack on the northeastern Nigeria border town of Rann, Amnesty International said Friday, calling it one of the deadliest assaults by the extremist group in its nearly decade-long insurgency.

Fighters on motorcycles drove through the town near the Cameroon border on Monday morning, setting houses on fire and killing people left behind, the international rights group said in a series of Twitter posts.

The fighters also chased residents fleeing the “massive attack” and killed several outside town.

Amnesty published satellite imagery that it said showed “hundreds of burned structures.” Many likely served as shelters for displaced people who had arrived in recent months seeking protection. Most of Rann is “now destroyed,” the group said.

The attack came as Nigeria faces what it has called an extremist resurgence, posing a serious challenge for President Muhammadu Buhari as he seeks re-election in two weeks’ time.

His administration once claimed Boko Haram had been “crushed” or “technically defeated,” while the military has faced questions over low morale and support.

Rann also was attacked in mid-January, sending at least 9,000 people fleeing to Cameroon, according to aid agencies.

More than 30,000 joined them across the border in late January, the United Nations refugee agency said. Thousands more fled to nearby Chad, the refugee agency said.

“Many people were in a state of shock and were clearly distressed by what they had witnessed. Now they have lost all that they have and need absolutely everything,” Hugues Robert, the Nigeria program director for Doctors Without Borders, said following the mid-January attack.

A nurse with the medical charity said the normally bustling town was “like a graveyard” following that attack. “There was still smoke drifting in the sky and the fires were still burning in places,” Isa Sadq Bwala said. “All that’s left are piles of ashes.”

Far-flung Rann has played a tragic role in Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram.

In January 2017, Nigeria’s air force mistakenly launched an airstrike on a refugee camp in the town because it said the camp was not appropriately marked as a humanitarian base on its maps. Officials and community leaders said between 100 and 236 people were killed.

In March of last year, three workers for United Nations agencies were among 11 people killed in a Boko Haram attack on a military base in Rann.

Three health workers were abducted. Two have since been killed despite urgent pleas from the aid community to spare their lives.



Republican Ilhan Omar says ‘don’t mind’ GOP representative calling her ‘anti-semitic’

Feb 02, 2019

Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York gave one new colleague a less-than-warm welcome on Tuesday, leading to a bizarre scene played out over Twitter this week, the Huffington Post reported.

“Crazy to watch what House Dems are empowering/elevating,” he said of Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Muslim Democrat from Minnesota who will join him on the House Foreign Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, where he is the ranking member.

Her response came a day later, when NPR commentator Arsalan Iftikhar called out Zeldin for posting an “Islamophobic dog whistle.”

“Don’t mind him,” Omar told Iftikhar, “he is just waking up to the reality of having Muslim women as colleagues who know how to stand up to bullies!”

Zeldin then issued another tweet, this time directly attacking Omar for her foreign policy views. The freshman congresswoman, a critic of the Israeli government, has drawn the ire of conservatives attempting to paint her views as anti-Semitic. This week was no different after she said Americans should not be afraid to criticize Israeli policies, as Americans often criticize those of Iran ― another state with overt religious values.

“Those poor innocent ISIS fighters & Palestinian terrorists right? Give me a break! That’s a problem no matter your religion or gender Ilhan,” Zeldin wrote.

He continued, “Your anti-Semitic & anti-Israel hate is strong & wrong & those terrorists have US blood on their hands as well.”

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) has inspired similar criticisms from the right ― particularly when she rejected a traditional trip to Israel for newly elected members of Congress and suggested lawmakers visit the West Bank Palestinian territory. Tlaib and Omar were elected as the nation’s first Muslim congresswomen in November.

Zeldin and Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) would like members of their chamber to pass a formal resolution against anti-Semitism in the US ― which has spiked with the rise in far-right ideology ― tying it to what they call “a growing incidence of anti-Semitic rhetoric and association with anti-Semitic leaders from some Democrat Members of Congress.”

The House passed a formal resolution condemning white supremacy this month, after the white supremacist Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) wondered aloud why the hateful ideology was wrong.





We are losing a generation of children in Yemen: UNICEF

Feb 1, 2019

The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has expressed concern about the humanitarian conditions of Yemeni children, warning about the formation of a "lost generation".

More than half a million children have been forced to leave their homes in the past six months, most of which have fled a major Saudi-led military onslaught on Yemen's port city of Hudaydah during July and August, said the Yemen director of UNICEF, Meritxell Relano, on Thursday.

Facing no access to education and withstanding an increased risk of disease and hunger, Relano highlighted some of the conflict's long-term effects on the children.

“Without education they will not be able to find jobs... a generation that is not educated has a very bleak future,” said the UNICEF director.

“We are losing a generation - many children are losing on their education, and displacement makes it worse.”

The Save the Children charity reports that despite an ongoing ceasefire in Hudaydah, thousands of families are still fleeing the city in fear of a renewed Saudi siege. Many are struggling to afford basic items like food, fuel and medicine.

“Children forced to flee their homes often have to live in unsanitary and cramped conditions in camps or host communities with little access to clean drinking water or nutritious food,” said Save the Children spokesman Bhanu Bhatnagar.

Bhatnagar added that children are specifically vulnerable towards malnutrition, diarrhea, cholera, and diphtheria -- a serious bacterial infection that spreads as easily as a common cold. As much as 89 percent of Yemen's diphtheria deaths are related to children who are under 14.

Saudi Arabia and its allies unleashed the deadly military aggression against Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall the country’s former Riyadh-allied regime.

Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement, which runs state affairs in Sana’a in the absence of an effective government, has been defending the nation against the Saudi aggression.

In June last year, the Saudi-led coalition launched an offensive on Hudaydah despite international warnings that it would compound the country’s humanitarian crisis.

Hudaydah is known to be the point of entry for 80 percent of the country’s commercial imports and nearly all UN-supervised humanitarian aid.

The Saudi-led offensive has destroyed Yemen's infrastructure and led to famine in the import-dependent state.



Study shows UK arms sales to Saudis during Yemen war had no limits

Jan 31, 2019

A highly critical report has found extensive flaws in the British government’s arms sales strategy, urging a reduction in weapons exports to Saudi Arabia and other states involved in war crimes and human rights abuses.

The report was based on analysis of the Yemen conflict and submitted to the UK parliament’s watchdog on arms sales.

Results of the study by Control Arms UK, a coalition of non-governmental organizations, published on Thursday in the Guardian newspaper, showed that the British government authorized 18,107 open license deliveries of arms and dual-purpose equipment to Saudi Arabia between 2015 and 2017.

The study said there were no requirements in the contracts for disclosure of the quantities or value of the weapons involved which technically enabled the British government to swamp the Saudis with various types of heavy weaponry during the war on Yemen. Roy Isbister, a joint author of the report, said those open license contracts could range from a simple spare part for a military aircraft to 20 fighter jets valued more than two billion pounds.

“Are we talking a few nuts and bolts, or containers full of critical fighter aircraft components? We don’t know, and the government won’t tell. It’s not good enough, not by a long shot,” Isbister said, adding, “The reporting on the use of open licenses is wholly inadequate, as the type and quantities of equipment are a mystery.”

The damning report comes against the backstop of previous studies proving that London has been a major complicit in Saudi Arabia’s massive human rights violations in Yemen.

For decades, Britain has been a main supplier of modern arms and weapons to Saudi Arabia. However, rights campaigners have urged a revision of the policy since Riyadh started an illegal, multi-pronged war on its impoverished southern neighbor.

Full report at:



Romania voices strong support for Turkey's EU bid


Romania, the European Union’s current term president, on Friday voiced strong support for Turkey's bid to join the bloc.

"We will do our utmost to succeed and to give a very clear signal about the importance we are attaching to the negotiation process for Turkey's accession to the EU,” Teodor Melescanu, Romania’s foreign minister, told reporters when asked about Turkey's EU bid.

His remarks came at a press conference after Gymnich, an informal meeting of foreign ministers of EU member and candidate countries, in Bucharest on Friday.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu represented Ankara at the meeting.

Speaking alongside EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, Melescanu said an EU-Turkey Association Council meeting in Brussels on May 15 will focus on the functioning of the Association Council between Turkey and the Union.

EU member countries' ties with China and developments in Macedonia, Venezuela, and Syria were other topics addressed at the gathering.

"It is clear from all the data that the People's Republic of China remains the main economic partner of the European states," said Melescanu.

On the recent agreement between Greece and Macedonia to rename the latter, ending a nearly 30-year dispute, Melescanu said that he expects the renamed Republic of North Macedonia to be invited to join the EU when the deal is final.

EU candidate countries were also invited to the second part of the talks on Friday.

Turkey applied for EU membership in 1987 and accession talks began in 2005.

Full report at:





Aasia reportedly moves to Canada; protests hit Pakistan

Feb 02, 2019

Workers of religious parties on Friday staged protests in major cities over the Supreme Court’s (SC) verdict to uphold the acquittal of Aasia Bibi while reports circulating in foreign media claim that the Christian woman, who was sentenced to death in a blasphemy case, has reunited with her family in Canada.

Aasia has arrived in Canada with her husband, German media reported Friday, quoting her lawyer.

“She is united with her family,” Aasia’s lawyer Saif-ul-Malook told the German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper. She had earlier accepted the offer of asylum made by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Aasia’s two daughters already live in Canada. The lawyer did not disclose any further details about Aasia’s departure from Pakistan, citing security reasons. It was previously reported that she could not leave her native country aboard a regular flight.

Aasia was arrested in June 2009 on the complaints of her neighbours. A year later, she was sentenced to death despite strong opposition from human rights groups.


Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) held protests in the capital to voice their demands against the acquittal of Aasia.

The JUI-F workers gathered outside the Islamabad Press Club while Section-144 was imposed in the capital after threats of possible protests by Labbaik.

Rangers were deployed on all entry points of Islamabad along with heavy contingents of police. The locals were asked to avoid unnecessary travel.

In Karachi, the police resorted to tear gas shelling and baton charge to disperse protesting activists of the TLP, officials and witnesses said.

At least 50 TLP workers were detained as the protesters demonstrated against the Supreme Court’s recent decision.

Following a protest call issued by the party, several TLP workers first started gathering at Sharfabad signal near Bahadurabad soon after Friday prayers.

DIG East Amir Farooqi said the police had already asked the party to desist from holding any protests. The officer claimed that the religious party’s workers pelted stones on moving vehicles, damaging the windows of many of them. They also allegedly damaged a police mobile.

“The police used baton charge and tear gas to disperse them,” he said.

DIG Farooqi confirmed that a total of 50 TLP workers were arrested after the violent protest was brought to an end.

“The police will register a case against them under Section 7 of the Anti Terrorism Act (ATA) over charges of terror and rioting as they resorted to pelting stones, and damaged private and public vehicles,” the senior official revealed.

In addition to Friday’s arrests, DIG Farooqi said 22 TLP workers were arrested from Korangi and six others from Gulistan-i-Jauhar area on Thursday night.

Police officials revealed that 12 more TLP workers were detained in the city’s West zone on Friday morning.

Around 1,500-2,000 TLP activists held a separate protest outside the Karachi Press Club (KPC) which resulted in prolonged traffic jams on the adjoining roads.

Artillery Maidan SHO Agha Aslam Pathan said no untoward incident was reported and the protesters dispersed from KPC peacefully.

Meanwhile, a TLP spokesperson claimed that the party had planned a “peaceful” protest march from Bahadurabad to KPC but that the police subjected their workers to “executive highhandedness” to foil their protest.

“However, hundreds of workers reached the press club and held a peaceful demonstration,” he added.


According to reports, Sindh Home Secretary Abdul Kabir Kazi had issued several orders, including the detention of TLP workers for 30 days under Section 3 (1) of the West Pakistan Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) of 1960.

According to the detention order, the TLP members were “in the habit [of] harass[ing] the general public and instigating mobs against the honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan in the judgEment of Aasia Bibi case and challenging the writ of the state by blocking public thoroughfares, damaging public property and creating panic among the masses”.

Therefore, the TLP workers, if not detained under the relevant law, will “create [an adverse] law and order situation and cause harassment amongst the general public, which will become [a] potential danger to public peace”, according to the orders.

The Sindh Inspector General of Police Dr Syed Kaleem Imam had recommended to the Sindh government to detain TLP workers for 30 days under MPO 1960, the orders further stated.



Malaysian company ready to invest $250m in Pakistan

Syed Irfan Raza

February 02, 2019

ISLAMABAD: A Mala­ysia-based company has pledged to make $250 million investment in the telecommunication sector in Pakistan during next five years.

Malaysia’s Edotco Group chairman of the board of directors, Datuk Azzat Kamaluddin, made this commitment during a meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan along with a delegation at Prime Minister Office (PMO) on Friday.

According to the media cell of the PMO, Mr Kamaluddin told the prime minister that the Edotco Group, with the existing investment of $100m in Pakistan, planned to further increase its investment in tower infrastructure in the telecommunication sector. “The group plans to add an investment of $250m in next five years,” he said.

The delegation included Nik Ramlah Nik Mehmood, the board member, Suresh Narain Singh Sidhu, CEO, and Arif Hussain, country MD. High Commissioner of Malaysia Ikram Mohammad Ibrahim also attended the meeting.

The Edotco Group chief appreciated the vision of Prime Minister Khan and the policies being pursued by his government which have restored confidence of the investors. He said that the Edotco Group wanted to become a partner in the Digital Pakistan Programme.

The prime minister, welcoming the delegation, said that all possible facilitation would be provided to the group in expansion of its business ventures in Pakistan.

He highlighted various steps being taken by the government to improve ease of doing business and ensure investor-friendly environment in the country.

In a separate meeting Zhang Chun, chairman, board of directors, China Machinery Engineering Corporation, and Huang Daoyuan, head of Huan D.R. Group, called on Prime Minister Khan.

Mr Zhang briefed the prime minister on various projects his company has undertaken in Pakistan in the past, most notably in the energy sector. He also spoke about the progress of work on 1263MW power plant in Jhang which is near completion.

Mr Zhangand Mr Huang expressed keen interest in making investments in the Naya Pakistan Housing Programme and agriculture sector.

Meeting on agriculture

Meanwhile, the federal government has asked the provinces to furnish proposals aimed at revival of crippling agriculture sector and getting better yield of crops.

The proposals were sought at meeting on agriculture and food processing chaired by the prime minister. He urged the provincial governments to send proposals based on their problems in a week to boost up agriculture production in the country.

Interestingly, after passage of 18th Amendment in 2010, like many other subjects, agriculture has also become a provincial subject and does not come under the domain of the federal government. However, international agreements with other countries are made at the federal government’s level.

The prime minister also urged the provinces to help increase export of agricultural products to generate more revenue. “The provincial governments must point out the hurdles and impediments coming in the way of export of agricultural products,” he said.

Prime Minister Khan was told that China was ready to provide technical support while some countries in the Middle East had agreed to extend financial support for revival of agriculture sector.

“The provinces should also give proposals how Pakistan can take advantage of technical support from China and financial support from Middle East countries,” the prime minister said.

He said during his recent visit to China, Chinese authorities had assured him of their technical assistance to Pakistan in agriculture sector so that Pakistan could enhance its agricultural production by working on modern lines.

It has been learnt that China is conducting research on Pakistani wheat, with the focus on yield increase through hybrid technology or other means.

Meeting with MNAs

Prime Minister Khan held another meeting with members of the National Assembly from Kohat and Dera Ismail Khan and vowed to solve basic problems confronting the people of the two cities.

During the meeting, the MNAs apprised the prime minister about problems of their respective areas.

The prime minister said brining real “change” in the life of people of the country was included in the priorities in the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf manifesto.

“The government will further enhance its plans in Khyber Pakhtunkwa to bring real change and provide better health, education and other facilities to the people,” he added.

The prime minister stressed the need for improvement in tourism sector and said: “KP has a big potential of tourism which can help stable the country’s economy.”

Full report at:



Dozens detained as police use batons, tear gas to disperse violent TLP protest in Karachi

Imtiaz Ali

February 01, 2019

Police on Friday resorted to tear gas shelling and baton charge to disperse protesting activists of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) in Karachi, officials and witnesses said.

At least 50 TLP workers were detained as the protesters demonstrated against the Supreme Court's recent decision to uphold the acquittal of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman who spent eight years wrongfully accused on death row in a blasphemy case.

Following a protest call issued by the party, several TLP workers first started gathering at Sharfabad signal near Bahadurabad soon after Friday prayers.

DIG East Amir Farooqi told Dawn that police had already asked the party to desist from holding any protests.

The officer claimed that the religious party's workers pelted stones on moving vehicles, damaging the windows of many of them. They also allegedly damaged a police mobile.

“The police used baton charge and tear gas to disperse them,” he said.

DIG Farooqi confirmed that a total of 50 TLP workers were arrested after the violent protest was brought to an end.

“The police will register a case against them under Section 7 of the Anti Terrorism Act (ATA) over charges of terror and rioting as they resorted to pelting stones, and damaged private and public vehicles,” the senior official revealed.

In addition to Friday's arrests, DIG Farooqi said 22 TLP workers were arrested from Korangi and six others from Gulistan-i-Jauhar area on Thursday night.

Police sources revealed that 12 more TLP workers were detained in the city's West zone on Friday morning.

Separately, around 1,500-2,000 activists of TLP also held a protest outside the Karachi Press Club (KPC) which resulted in prolonged traffic jams on the adjoining roads.

Artillery Maidan SHO Agha Aslam Pathan said no untoward incident was reported and the protesters dispersed from KPC peacefully.

'Peaceful protest'

Meanwhile, a TLP spokesperson told Dawn that the party had planned a "peaceful" protest march from Bahadurabad to KPC but that the police subjected their workers to "executive highhandedness" to foil their protest.

"However, hundreds of workers reached the press club and held a peaceful demonstration," he added.

Police sources revealed that Sindh Home Secretary Abdul Kabir Kazi had today issued several orders, including the detention of TLP workers for 30 days under Section 3 (1) of the West Pakistan Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) of 1960.

According to the detention order, the TLP members were “in the habit [of] harass[ing] the general public and instigating mobs against the honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan in the judgment of Aasia Bibi case and challenging the writ of the state by blocking public thoroughfares, damaging public property and creating panic among the masses”.

Therefore, the TLP workers, if not detained under the relevant law, will “create [an adverse] law and order situation and cause harassment amongst the general public, which will become [a] potential danger to public peace”, the orders issued by the home secretary said.

Full report at:



TLP acting chief arrested from Charsadda

Feb 02, 2019

SHABQADAR: Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan’s (TLP) absconding acting chief Dr Shafiq Ameeni was arrested from Charsadda’s Umarzai area on Friday, police said.

Charsadda District Police Officer (DPO) Irfanullah confirmed that Dr Ameeni was arrested during a protest rally held against the acquittal of Aasia Bibi – a Christian woman accused of blasphemy in 2010 and sentenced to death – by the Supreme Court (SC).

The suspect was wanted in connection with motorway blockage and an anti-government sit-in, among other cases relating to rioting and inflicting losses to the national exchequer, according to police.

The absconder was arrested while leading the protest rally, DPO Irfan added.

Since TLP chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi, leader Pir Afzal Qadri and others are in detention, Ameeni was serving as the party’s acting chief.

Full report at:



Terrorism charges to remain in Fahad Malik murder case

FEBRUARY 2, 2019

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has dismissed an appeal to remove terrorism charges from the murder case of Barrister Fahad Malik. The court ruled in favour of keeping Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act in the murder case of the Islamabad based lawyer murdered on Margalla Road three years ago. The deceased was working as a lawyer to reach a compromise between two parties when he was allegedly murdered by accused Noman Khokhar, Raja Arshad and Hashim Khan. Last year in July, the Islamabad High Court set aside anti-terrorism court (ATC)’s directives to remove terrorism charges and transfer Barrister Fahad Malik murder case to a district and sessions court. Previously, Anti-Terrorism Court Judge Kausar Abbas Zaidi had accepted a plea from the accused for removing terrorism clauses from the FIR.





Ban on Students Islamic Movement of India extended for another 5 years

by Syed Qayam Ali

Feb 02, 2019

New Delhi: The government has decided to continue its ban on the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) for another five years for indulging in “subversive activities”.

In a January 31 notification, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said that SIMI “has been indulging in activities, which are prejudicial to the security of the country and have the potential of disturbing the peace and communal harmony and disrupting the secular fabric of the country”.

The MHA said that if the “unlawful activities” of SIMI are not curbed and controlled immediately, it will take the opportunity to continue its subversive activities and re-organise its activists who are still absconding, disrupt the secular fabric of the country by “polluting” the minds of the people by creating communal disharmony.

The government stated that SIMI might continue to propagate anti-national sentiments, escalate secessionism by supporting militancy and undertake activities which are prejudicial to the integrity and security of the country.

SIMI activists and their known associates have been tried and convicted for a range of criminal activities like the killing of police officials, bomb blasts, jailbreaks, harbouring terrorists, etc. The group, founded in Aligarh in 1977, was first banned in 2001 and has been outlawed several times since, the last time being February 2014.



Pulwama encounter: Two militants killed in early morning operation

February 2, 2019

Two militants were killed in an encounter with security forces in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district early on Friday morning.

A J&K Police official said security forces launched a cordon and search operation (CASO) late on Thursday evening in Drabgam village. During the search, militants opened fire at security forces. Two militants were killed when personnel retaliated.

The police are trying to ascertain the identities of the militants and their affiliations.

“As the search operation was going on, hiding terrorists fired on the search party. The fire was retaliated leading to an encounter,” the official said.

The Jammu and Kashmir Police tweeted, “Two terrorists killed in the #Pulwama operation. Identity and affiliation being ascertained. Arms and ammunition recovered.”



NIA arrests accused in 2006 Kozhikode twin blasts case

February 2, 2019

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has arrested an accused in the 2006 Kozhikode twin blasts following his arrival from Saudi Arabia.

P P Yoosaf, 36, was arrested by the agency after a manhunt lasting over a decade as he fled to Saudi Arabia after the blasts. Yoosaf’s is the second arrest in the case in the last 10 days – last week, NIA had arrested his associate Mohammed Ashar after he landed in India from Saudi Arabia.

The Kozhikode blast was a rare case where the accused informed the city collectorate and the media about the location of the bombs after planting them and before they could explode.

NIA has already filed a chargesheet in the case against eight accused, including Yoosaf and Ashar, and two of the accused have also been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment by a special court.

According to NIA, Yoosaf’s is among the key accused in the twin blasts that left two people injured. He had not only helped assemble the IEDs, but had also planted one of the bombs at a bust stand.

Full report at:



Second person deported by Saudi Arabia in one week; arrested by NIA

Feb 1, 2019

New Delhi: A week after Saudi Arabia deported a Calicut twin bomb blasts accused – Mohammad Ashar, the gulf nation sent another accused –Yoosaf who had taken shelter there.

Yoosaf was arrested by National Investigation Agency on Friday upon his arrival at IGI airport in Delhi and taken into custody.

A resident of Kannur district in Kerala, Yoosaf was involved in the March 2006 twin blasts conspiracy in Calicut (now Kozhikode) alongwith the mastermind T Naseer and Safas.

The agency had taken over the investigation of the cases on December 18, 2009 and chargesheet was filed against eight accused persons, including P. P. Yoosaf on August 1, 2010.

It was revealed during probe that Yoosaf had participated in the criminal conspiracy to carry out IED blasts in Kozhikode City, in protest over the denial of bail to Muslim accused persons involved in the Marad communal riots of 2003 at Kozhikode district.

Yoosaf, NIA says, along with the recently deported accused Ashar, had assisted T Naseer in preparing the IEDs and had planted the same at bus stands in Kozhikode city.

Full report at:



Southeast Asia


Indonesia should speak up for Xinjiang's Muslims

Maya Wang

February 1, 2019

The Chinese government has been on the offensive in recent weeks, dismissing claims of one million unlawful detentions and other human rights abuses against Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang in northwest China. In December, Beijing invited diplomats and journalists from mostly non-Western countries on a “guided tour” of Xinjiang, including visits to selected “political education” camps. Chinese state media portrayed the visit as a success, saying that the diplomats — including from Indonesia — had been “impressed” by these facilities.

But does that rhetoric accurately reflect Jakarta’s position?  And is Indonesia going to defend persecuted Muslims in China as it did for those in Myanmar?

Over the past two years, United Nations bodies and human rights groups have reported on Chinese government abuses in the name of fighting “religious extremism and terrorism.” Human Rights Watch has used witness accounts and Chinese government documents to detail arbitrary detention, political indoctrination, mass surveillance, and severe restrictions on religious practice and movement throughout the region.

For example, we published an official list of “75 behavioral indicators of religious extremism,” which reveals that the Chinese authorities consider suspect people who “store large amounts of food in their homes” and who “smoke and drink but quit doing so suddenly.”

Agence France-Presse also examined over 1,000 procurement documents issued by Xinjiang’s “political education” camp authorities and found that they were purchasing cattle prods, stun guns, and spiked clubs. These findings stand in stark contrast to the Chinese government’s claims that people held in these camps are “trainees” who had volunteered their time to learn a trade.

So far, the Indonesian government’s public response to this human rights crisis has been lackluster. Facing pressure from several Muslim groups to speak up about Xinjiang, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry summoned China’s ambassador to Indonesia, relaying its concerns and asking the ambassador to communicate directly with Indonesian Muslim groups. Meanwhile, the Indonesian government maintains its official line on Xinjiang: that Jakarta “would not interfere” in China’s “domestic affairs.”

China’s Xinjiang crisis is symptomatic of the deepening repression across China under President Xi Jinping, who assumed power in 2013. In March 2018, Xi scrapped term limits for the presidency and restructured the central government bureaucracy to give the Chinese Communist Party—and himself—greater power.

As Indonesia engages with the Chinese government’s ambitious “One Belt, One Road” infrastructure plan, it should be wary of this powerful neighbor whose policy toward minorities displays a disturbing mix of racism, Islamophobia, and broad-based repression both within and beyond its borders.

Indonesian government officials should speak up for Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang, both publicly and privately with senior Chinese government officials, not only because the violations are egregious, but also because Indonesia’s advocacy can be particularly effective coming from a multicultural Asian country. Indonesia can also be a champion among other Muslim-majority countries at the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and puncture the Chinese government’s claim that criticisms about Xinjiang is a Western conspiracy.

The Indonesian government should join other governments at the upcoming March session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva to press for independent access to Xinjiang. Although the OIC announced on Twitter on Jan. 20 that it will visit Xinjiang, it has provided few details. The Indonesian government should take all necessary steps to ensure that the visit will be truly independent.

Together with other concerned governments, Indonesia should establish an international coalition to maintain pressure on Beijing over Xinjiang. Even a “quiet” diplomacy focus should at least include a push for the release of wrongfully detained Muslim scholars and intellectuals.

A less robust approach risks creating the perception that Indonesia can be pushed to abandon its principles when defending them is difficult.


Maya Wang is senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch.



Muslim Couple In Sabah Breaks Taboos With Piggie Craft For CNY

01 February 2019

PETALING JAYA, Feb 1 — In Sabah, a Muslim couple became an instant hit on social media for selling pig-shaped artwork at the Jesselton Artisan Market last week, according to Sin Chew Daily.

Despite the criticism levelled against 32-year-old Adam Baderun and Yuslina Badrum for marketing pig-shaped artwork to their customers in violation of Islamic teachings, a number of Sabahans have been supportive of the couple including former state tourism, culture and environment minister Datuk Masidi Manjun.

Adam told the Chinese daily that the artwork designed by him and his studio’s creative director, Alicesia Pilus, was created to complement this year’s Chinese zodiac animal, the pig.

“To me, I am not exposed to pigs, pork or any pig-related products. I am merely selling pig-shaped artwork. I do not think there is a problem or whether it violates Islam.

“This is just made with acrylic and plywood. It is not a real pig at all. It is to supplement the art market’s theme and Chinese New Year artwork. I really don’t understand what the problem is,” he was quoted as saying.

As CEO & Co Art Studio’s creative director, he pointed out that they have designed several pig-themed artwork including key rings, acrylic furnishings and boxes in conjunction with the Chinese zodiac animal.

“I still stick to my religious beliefs and doctrines, but we must have a deeper understanding of Islamic teachings and what is forbidden.

“It does not matter whether it is dogs or pigs. Both are created by Allah and since God created them, there is a natural reason for their existence,” he said.

Adam, who worked as a full-time aircraft mechanic, pointed out that his wife is Kadazan and the couple are both Muslims.

“We must learn to respect and tolerate each other. There may be disagreements, but we should seek common ground while keeping any differences to ourselves. If that fails, it will affect national unity and harmony.

“As a matter of fact, both of our families have no objection to our approach,” he told Sin Chew Daily.

Meanwhile, former Radio Televisyen Malaysia deejay Chong Keat Aun took to Facebook to display his creativity by producing a Chinese calligraphy of a sow and her piglets.

“It’s the Year of the Pig. How can pigs be left out, right? Wishing all a great year ahead that has Pig in it!” he said in the posting on January 20.

Chong then added another posting on January 26, this time featuring a large painting that he had done near Petaling Street to the delight of passers-by.

“During a tea session with my Muslim friend, the question of why there was no pig-styled imagery appearing in shopping malls despite being this year’s Chinese zodiac animal emerged.

“I said many people were ‘afraid’ of causing trouble, to which my friend replied that this is a cultural and customary right that the nation possessed. As he spoke, he understood before shaking his head and smiling,” he said.

Chong said he was willing to shoulder the blame for the displayed artwork after several Chinese people voiced their concerns.

On January 28, he posted a picture of him in a Zhu Bajie costume modelled after the half- human, half-pig character in the Chinese epic Journey to the West.

He also thanked Bukit Bintang MP Fong Kui Lun for assisting him in applying for permission from the local authorities to allow him to depict the character in public.

Chong said although he had received official permission, some conservative Chinese had advised him to be mindful of the feelings from other groups and not to brazenly display pig imagery in public.

“The 12 Chinese zodiac animals form a complete list and none should be left out. I am left wondering, if the other animals can be publicly disseminated, why when it is the dog and pig’s turn it becomes a problem?

Full report at:



Philippine minister 'certain' church bombers were Indonesian couple

February 1, 2019

MANILA: A deadly church bombing that shook the southern Philippines at the weekend was a suicide attack carried out by an Indonesian couple, with help of an Islamic State-linked group, the Philippine interior minister said on Friday.

Citing information provided by witnesses and undisclosed sources, Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano said he was certain that an Indonesian man and wife were behind Sunday’s attack on the mainly Muslim island of Jolo, which killed 22 people and wounded more than 100, including civilians and soldiers.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for what it said were suicide bombings. Such attacks are almost unheard of in the Philippines.

“They are Indonesians,” Ano, a former military chief, told CNN Philippines. “I am certain that they are Indonesians.”

Ano’s remarks are the latest twist in a probe that has been fraught with inconsistent and sometimes contradictory accounts from authorities and, according to one investigator interviewed on television, complicated by a contaminated crime scene.

Security officials had initially said the two bombs were remote detonated, but by Tuesday, that changed after President Rodrigo Duterte said it may have been a suicide bomber, a view supported by his defence minister.

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Friday said bag checks at the entrance to the church would have made it difficult to plant a bomb there, so a device strapped to the body was more likely.

“According to the forensic investigators ... these body parts could belong to two persons: one inside the church and one outside,” Lorenzana told reporters.

Ano said the couple had received help from Abu Sayyaf, a militant organisation notorious for kidnappings and extremist factions. He said those who plotted the attack would have been under the instruction of an operative he said had been recognised by Islamic State.

The violence has rekindled fears about the extent of Islamic State’s influence in Southeast Asia, and the lure of Mindanao for extremists from Malaysia, Indonesia and elsewhere.

Martial law has been in place in Mindanao since domestic and foreign fighters dressed in black outfits overran Marawi City in 2017 and clung on through five months of air strikes and street battles reminiscent of scenes in Syria and Iraq.

The latest violence follow a peaceful Jan. 21 referendum that overwhelmingly approved autonomy for the predominantly Muslim parts of the Mindanao, following a peace accord that excluded the Abu Sayyaf.

Full report at:



Ambiga: Pakatan failed in Cameron Highlands because they did not work as a coalition

02 February 2019

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 2 — Lawyer Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan has attributed Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) defeat in the recent Cameron Highlands by-election to the failure of its component parties to work effectively together.

In a recent interview with Malay Mail, the former Malaysian Bar president said PH’s candidate M.Manogaran from DAP alone should not be blamed for the defeat.

Although the seat is a Barisan Nasional (BN) stronghold, she said PH can’t be lamenting that BN had the advantage after PAS collaborated with them.

“It cannot be just about the candidate. Manogaran did work hard to get to the ground. But the question is what happened to the party support?

“You say ‘oh look at BN, look at PAS joining together’. Well isn’t Amanah with you, Bersatu with you?,” she said referring to PH parties Parti Amanah Negara and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.

“Pakatan failed in Cameron Highlands because they did not work as a coalition and they can certainly learn one or two things from BN,” she said.

Ambiga also said PH failed to give a counter narrative when the race card was played by the federal Opposition to attract Malay voters.

“When the PAS president came out and said to the Malay voters that the candidate must be a Muslim, why couldn’t PH give a counter narrative?

“Where was the counter from Amanah? What help did the candidate get from fellow PH parties? That’s what I want to know,” she said.

Learn from BN’s people skills

Ambiga stressed that it is high time for PH to start going to the ground to meet voters instead of expecting the people to come and see them.

Ambiga gave BN credit for doing that and proving that it was still adept at it.

“Get down there. Start working from the ground and show the people. See that’s what BN did really well.

“Through their Umno Wanita programmes from those days and former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak riding four-wheel drive through muddy terrains...they are really good at those things. Why can’t you pick up some of their efforts?

“Their outreach is good. They (BN) know how to run these elections. So, I would say to all our ministers in PH, now that they have settled in that they should start doing this,” she said.

Ambiga said PH must start now and warned that if they are going to move slowly, the people are going to forget the reforms they have made.

“My worry is if they don’t do something in the first two years, in the third year voters are already looking at the next election. Everybody will forget about reform and what not.”

“It will take time. But you got to start you know, because right now you don’t have more than 4 years, you cannot assume you’re going to come back into power. Use your sliver of power.”

Voters think Dr M still in BN

Ambiga also said it is a fact that some voters in the rural areas in Cameron Highlands still think prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is with BN.

She said it was the reality though many people laughed it off when Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail reportedly said that one of the factors why PH was defeated was because voters believed PH chairman Dr Mahathir was still with BN. “It is a fact and we shouldn’t have such a situation. The population is not that huge that we cannot get in touch or ensure everybody is connected.

“So what I’m trying to say is there is a huge divide between them and that’s not a good thing,” she said.

BN broke its losing streak in the past four by-elections since the 14th General Election when its Orang Asli candidate Ramli Mohd Nor won the Cameron Highlands parliamentary seat on January 26.

With Ramli’s 12,038 votes sweeping 56.18 per cent, BN comfortably retained Cameron Highlands with a majority of more than 3,000 votes.

Full report at:



Philippines: Indonesians carried out Jolo cathedral suicide attack

February 01, 2019

MANILA: Two Indonesian suicide bombers, helped by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), carried out the Jan. 27 Jolo cathedral attack that killed 22 people and wounded more than 100, Philippine Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Ano said on Friday.

Mangled body parts recovered from the site of the explosion indicated a suicide attack, he added.

The ASG “acted as a guide and probably conducted preliminary surveillance prior to the bombing,” he said.

The bombers were an Indonesian couple, with the male’s alias identified as Abu Huda, Ano added. “I’m certain that they’re Indonesians,” he told CNN Philippines.

The two reportedly worked with ASG Commander Hatib (Hajjan) Sawadjaan, who has pledged allegiance to Daesh.

Reports cited witnesses as saying they saw a woman with a backpack sitting on the fourth row of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral.

That woman is believed to have been the first bomber, while her male companion, who was at the entrance, is believed to have carried out the second blast.

Ano said Abu Huda had been in Sulu province for a long time, while his wife had come just before the bombing.

Ano added that both the Jolo cathedral attack and last year’s suicide bombing in the city of Lamitan, perpetrated by a Moroccan, were projects of the ASG under Sawadjaan.

The ASG wants to “raise their terror war to a religious level; that’s why they chose the church,” Ano said, adding that there are still foreign militants in the area and working with Sawadjaan. One of them was described as an Arab-looking man.

“That’s very alarming. That’s why we have to watch out. The military and the police are doing everything (they can). In fact, they’re conducting massive military operations,” Ano said.

Full report at:





Israel’s AG says can rule on Netanyahu corruption cases before election

1 February 2019

Israel’s Attorney General said on Friday that he had informed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu there was nothing preventing him from making a decision in corruption cases against the Israeli leader ahead of an April 9 election.

Netanyahu is facing possible charges in three graft cases.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said in a statement he had informed Netanyahu’s lawyers “there is no impediment to making and publishing a decision, if there is any, to consider filing an indictment in the cases relating to the prime minister, or part of them, subject to a hearing, even before the election date.”

Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing and called the cases a witch-hunt.



Yemen, Saudi Arabia and UAE ask UN to pressure Houthis on ceasefire deal

1 February 2019

Yemen’s government and its allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates asked the UN Security Council on Thursday to turn up the pressure on Houthi rebels to uphold a ceasefire deal.

In a letter sent to the council, the three governments accused the Houthis of violating the ceasefire in the port city of Hodeida 970 times since it came into force on December 18.

They asked the council to “impress upon the Houthis, and their Iranian backers, that they will be held responsible if their continued failure to comply... leads to the collapse of the Stockholm agreement,” said the letter seen by AFP.

Yemen’s Saudi-backed government and the Houthis agreed to the ceasefire and a redeployment of forces from Hodeida during UN-brokered talks in Sweden last month. But deadlines for the pullback of forces and a prisoner swap have slipped, fueling worries that the Stockholm agreement may be in jeopardy.

UAE minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday to discuss problems in implementing the Stockholm deal. “We understand that we need to exercise patience, but it can't be infinite,” Gargash told reporters after this meeting.

Gargash raised concerns of a flare-up on the ground, triggered by a Houthi provocation. “We do not want to launch an offensive” in Hodeida, said the minister.

“What we want is for the UN and the international community to exert influence and to do that work” and create pressure on the Houthis to comply with the ceasefire deal, he said. The Houthis have accused the Saudi-led coalition of violating its commitments under the Stockholm agreement.

The council met behind closed doors to hear a report from UN envoy Martin Griffiths who has wrapped up a new round of shuttle diplomacy. For nearly four years, Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels have been locked in a war with a regional pro-government alliance led by Riyadh.

The conflict has triggered what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with millions of people at risk of starvation.

Houthi drone storage site attacked

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen has attacked a site east of the capital Sanaa which the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement used to store drones, Saudi news agency SPA said on Thursday.

Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki was quoted as saying the bombardment was part of a two-week-old operation to destroy the Houthis’ drone capabilities following a deadly drone attack on a Yemeni government military parade.

A senior official of the United Arab Emirates said on Wednesday the coalition, which also includes the UAE, was prepared to use “calibrated force” to push the Houthis to withdraw from Hodeidah port city under a UN-sponsored deal

Yemen’s civil war pits the Houthis against the Saudi-backed government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, which was ousted from power in late 2014. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of Yemenis and left millions on the brink of starvation.

The United Nations is trying to implement a ceasefire and troop withdrawal agreement in Hodeidah, the main entry point for most of Yemen’s imports and aid.

Full report at:



Arab coalition strikes kill Houthi leader, other fighters in Hajjah

1 February 2019

In the latest development in Yemen, tribal sources reported that Abdullah Abbas Jahhaf, a Houthi leader, was killed along with a number of other Houthi fighters following two airstrikes by the Arab coalition backing the Yemeni legitimate government.

The sources said the airstrikes targeted a gathering of the militias in Hajour tribal areas in the northern governorate of Hajjah, according to the Al Arabiya correspondent.

Sources close to the Houthi militias said that the coalition airstrikes destroyed the Houthi militia positions in Kashar district, besieged by the Houthis for several days.

In the meantime, tribal sources in Hajour were quoted by the media as saying that the Houthi militias continue to shell al-Abysa and neighboring areas indiscriminately with heavy artillery, from the west, with the militias stationed in Jabal al-Mandala, in the middle of the directorate of Mustabaa.

Since last September, the Houthis had imposed a blockade on Hajour, according to local sources, in an attempt to subdue them.

The Hajour tribes with a population of around 200,000 are spread over more than 10 districts in Hajjah Governorate .

Full report at:



One killed, five wounded in attack in southeast Iran

2 February 2019

One person was killed and five wounded in an attack on a paramilitary Basij base in southeastern Iran, state television reported on Saturday.

The report gave no further details about what it described as a “terrorist incident” in the city of Nik Shahr in the Sistan-Baluchestan province, which has long been plagued by unrest from both drug smuggling gangs and militants.

The province is also where Pakistan-based Baluchi separatists and extremists carry out cross-border raids.

It has a large, mainly Sunni Muslim ethnic Baluchi community, which straddles the border.

The assailants struck a base of the Basij militia in the town of Nikshahr, some way from the border, IRNA said.

“Morteza Ali-Mohammadi was martyred in the incident and the five critically injured have been transferred to the hospital,” Nikshahr's prosecutor Mohsen Golmohammadi told the semi-official YJC news agency.

The extremist Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice), which is blacklisted as a terrorist group by Iran, claimed responsibility for the raid on social media.

State media said only that it was a “terrorist” attack, and held no particular group responsible.

Jaish al-Adl was formed in 2012 as a successor to the Sunni extremist group Jundallah (Soldiers of God), which waged a deadly insurgency against Iranian targets over the previous decade.

Full report at:



Israeli forces shoot, injure 19 Palestinian protesters in West Bank

Feb 1, 2019

Nearly two dozen Palestinians have sustained gunshot wounds when Israeli military forces opened fire at a group of demonstrators participating in a protest rally against the protracted and extremely violent attacks being carried out by the extremist settlers across the occupied West Bank.

Dozens of protesters converged in an open field near al-Mughayyir village, located 27 kilometers northeast of Ramallah, following Friday prayers to express their resentment over repeated attacks by settlers.

Israeli troops then shot live and rubber-coated steel bullets to disperse the non-violent protesters.

At least 15 Palestinians were struck by live bullets, while another four were injured by rubber rounds.

On January 26, a Palestinian man was shot dead and dozens others were wounded during a confrontation with Israeli soldiers and settlers in al-Mughayyir.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said the 38-year-old, identified as Hamdi Na’san, was shot in the back and succumbed to his wounds shortly after at a hospital in the central West Bank city of Ramallah. He is survived by his wife and four children.

At least 30 others were also wounded during confrontations, according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society.

Amin Abu Alya, head of the Mughayyir village council, said settlers opened fire before the Israeli military moved in.

“At the beginning, it was settlers shooting, then the army came and fired tear gas,” he said.

More than half a million Israelis live in over 120 settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank in 1967. This is while much of the international community considers the settler units illegal and subject to the Geneva Conventions, which forbid construction on occupied land.

In Gaza Strip, Israeli soldiers injure nearly three dozen Palestinians

Separately, dozens of Palestinians were injured during clashes between thousands of Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers stationed on the border between the eastern Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied territories.

The spokesman for the Gaza Ministry of Health, Ashraf al-Qidra, said in a statement on Friday that 32 civilians were struck with live bullets during “The Great March of Return” protests east of Gaza City.

Qidra went on to say that a Palestinian paramedic suffered injuries when a tear gas canister struck him in the face east of the border town of Rafah.

Medical sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said a boy and a teenage girl were critically injured while participating in a protest rally in Khuza'a town in the southern Gaza Strip.

Palestinians have held weekly protests on the Gaza border, over the siege on the enclave and the right for refugees to return to their homes they were forcibly expelled from during the 1948 creation of Israel.

Nearly 250 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces ever since anti-occupation protest rallies began in the Gaza Strip on March 30. Over 26,000 Palestinians have also sustained injuries.

Full report at:



Iran welcomes new Lebanese govt., vows support

Feb 1, 2019

Iran has welcomed the formation of a new government headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Lebanon after a nine-month deadlock and reiterated its support for the country's security.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran congratulates the Lebanese government and people on the formation of a new government in Lebanon, which is the result of empathy and understanding among all Lebanese tribes and groups," Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on Friday.

The breakthrough came after rival factions worked out a compromise allowing representation of Sunni lawmakers backed by the Hezbollah resistance movement.

Rival political groups had been locked in disagreement over the make-up of a new government since May, after the country’s first parliamentary elections in nine years.

Qassemi said the present success is not limited to the formation of the government.

"It is rather a sign of the will of a nation and its leaders to draw their future within the framework of independence with unity, consensus and empathy and without any foreign coercion and pressure," he said.

Iran, he said, "reiterates its support for Lebanon's stability and security and hopes that the formation of the Lebanese government will open a new stage in the country and lead to further proximity among all political currents and pave the way for Lebanon's development and prosperity." 

Lebanon's presidency announced a new government make-up on Thursday, marking an increase in the number of ministries affiliated with the Lebanese national resistance.

Hariri, who has headed the outgoing government since 2016, called the new government “a reflection of Lebanon’s image in 2019.”

Lawmakers had failed to form a government since the May parliamentary elections which saw Hezbollah and its political allies secure over half the seats and parties close to Saudi-backed Hariri make major losses. 

The new cabinet is now expected to introduce reforms aimed at dealing with corruption and fixing its ailing electricity sector.

Full report at:





Nigerian army kills top Boko Haram militant, 3 others


The Nigerian army said Friday that a top Boko Haram commander had been killed alongside three other militants in the strife-ridden northeast.

Army spokesman Col. Ado Isa said in a statement that Adamu RuguRugu and the other militants were killed in an encounter with troops along the Gwoza-Yamteke road in Borno state.

Isa said RuguRugu's death sparked jubilation around Gwoza in the state, where he has been notorious for hit-and-run attacks that have killed several locals.

The army spokesman said troops also recovered two machine guns and two AK-47 rifles.

In a statement earlier Friday, Amnesty International claimed that up to 60 civilians were killed in a recent Boko Haram attack on a displaced persons’ camp in the northeastern town of Rann.

The army has yet to respond to the claim.

The news came hours after the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said some 7.1 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance across the states of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe, which have been worst hit by the insurgency.



Clashes in southern Libya leave 4 people dead: Source


By Walid Abdullah


At least four people were killed Friday after clashes erupted between forces loyal to Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar and “Chadian mercenaries” in the southern town of Ghadduwah, according to a local security source.

After Haftar’s forces captured the town, which is located south of the city of Sabha, they came under attack by unknown elements, the source, who insisted on anonymity, told Anadolu Agency.

Four members of Haftar’s 128th Brigade were killed in the fighting, the same source said, adding that warplanes affiliated with Haftar’s forces were patrolling the skies over the region.

The source could not provide further information about the forces that clashed with Haftar’s 128th Brigade, but the Sabha Municipality on its Facebook page described them as “Chadian mercenaries”.

Libya’s UN-backed unity government in Tripoli, for its part, which is administratively responsible for Sabha, has yet to issue a comment about the incident.

Last month, pro-Haftar forces arrived at the Sabha Airbase (known locally as the Tamanhant Airbase) in advance of planned operations along Libya’s borders with Sudan, Chad and Niger.

Libya has remained dogged by turmoil since 2011, when a bloody NATO-backed uprising led to the ouster and death of President Muammar Gaddafi after more than four decades in power.

Full report at:



Somalia: US airstrike kills some 24 al-Shabaab fighters


By Mohammed Dhaysane


At least 24 al-Shabaab militants were killed in a U.S. airstrike in central Somalia on Wednesday, according to the U.S. military.

The airstrike hit near Shebeeley in the central region of Hiran, said a statement by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM).

“At this time, it was assessed no civilians were injured or killed in this airstrike,” Africom said on Twitter.

It added that the airstrikes in the Horn of African country are part of a larger effort to support the Somali National Army as it increases pressure on the terrorist network and its recruiting efforts in the region.

Government officials in Baledwayne, the capital of the Hiran region, also confirmed the incident to Anadolu Agency over the phone.

Full report at:



Four Libyan soldiers die in first clash of force’s southward push

February 02, 2019

BENGHAZI, Libya: At least four Libyan soldiers were killed on Friday when forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar fought with a local armed group as they sought to expand south, military officials said, with the World Health Organization putting the overall death toll at 14.

Libya has been in turmoil since the NATO-backed toppling of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, with parallel administrations and armed groups carving the nation into swathes of control.

Friday’s clashes were the first real resistance the Libyan National Army (LNA) faction faced since arriving in the south two weeks ago from its main eastern stronghold of Benghazi.

An official at the WHO said the fighting had killed 14 and wounded 64, mostly from the LNA’s opponents. No more information was immediately available.

LNA officials said clashes began when soldiers left the main southern city of Sabha and arrived in the nearby town of Ghudduwah. It backed troops with air strikes on the “terrorists” and “Chadian mercenaries,” the officials said, using a pejorative for Chadian opposition groups active in south Libya.

As well as the four LNA fatalities, several of its soldiers were wounded, the officials said.

A WHO official said on Twitter the organization had delivered emergency supplies to a local hospital.

The LNA spent the last two weeks securing Sabha, which had been nominally under the control of the internationally-recognized government in Tripoli but was in practice run by local groups including tribes.

The LNA says its campaign is intended to combat militants and secure oil facilities in the south, which include El Sharara oilfield, Libya’s biggest. It has been closed since December when tribesmen and state guards seized it.

Full report at:



North America


Amid controversy, Premier Legault admits Islamophobia exists in Quebec

February 1, 2019

Premier François Legault has backed away from his remarks on Islamophobia, after sparking a controversy by saying it does not exist in Quebec.

In a statement issued by his office Friday in the wake of the storm of angry responses sparked by his remarks Thursday, Legault clarified, saying it exists but is not commonplace.

“Mr. Legault wanted to say there is no current of Islamophobia in Quebec,” the statement said. “Islamophobia exists in Quebec, xenophobia, racism and hatred but not a current of Islamophobia. Quebec is not Islamophobic or racist.”

Reached later, Ewan Sauves, a spokesperson for Legault, further clarified.

“Unfortunately, there are still too many racist acts that occur in our society and we have to do all that is possible to denounce and fight hatred and intolerance,” Sauves said.

“However, there is no trend or culture of Islamophobia in Quebec. Quebecers are open and tolerant and they shall continue to exhibit these qualities.

Legault’s clarification follows a chorus of complaints from all quarters.

On Friday morning, the executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) called on Legault to retract the comment, which he made after a caucus meeting of Coalition Avenir Québec MNAs in Gatineau.

He had been explaining why he felt there was no reason to designate Jan. 29 — the date six Muslim men were murdered in a mass shooting in Quebec City in 2017 — as anti-Islamophobia Day in Quebec.

NCCM executive director Ihsaan Gardee said in a statement that the comments were insulting to the families of the victims and the Muslim communities in Quebec and Canada who are still mourning the lives lost in the attack.

He was blasted by other politicians, too.

In a tweet posted on the same day as the Liberals entered the second day of a pre-session caucus, interim leader Pierre Arcand said Islamophobia exists in Quebec as it does elsewhere and Legault should reverse his statement.

Later, at a news conference, Arcand said he accepted Legault’s clarification.

“I think he recognized that he made a mistake and corrected it,” Arcand said. “I asked him to apologize and that’s pretty much what he did. I am satisfied.”

Québec solidaire co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois also pounced, urging Legault to have a look at comments posted on his public Facebook page after he made the remarks.

Boufeldja Benabdallah, president of the Quebec City mosque, released a letter he sent to Legault in which he expressed his disappointment.

“I felt a heavy blow and on top to that I felt betrayed since what you said (in Gatineau) was the exact opposite of what you said at Université Laval (during the recent memorial),” Benabdallah says in the letter he released to the media.

Benabdallah said he accepts that the government does not want to have an annual anti-Islamophobia day, but added:

“With all due respect to you, premier, you did not measure the gravity of this sentence that came barely 48 hours after the commemoration of the shooting at the Grand Mosque. I fear your sentence gives credence to the active fringe of society that is feeding Islamophobia.”

Friday night, Legault took to Twitter to say he called Benabdallah and assured him that the CAQ government would fight racism, hatred and intolerance.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said Friday there are Islamophobic acts in Quebec.

“We can’t deny this. We can’t forget that two years ago, some men were killed in cold blood when they were praying in a mosque. This is the reality,” she said. “Is this what defines the Quebec people? No, but there are Islamophobic acts, and we have to be able to call it out, and act, and to raise awareness. This is for sure.”

Plante said she recognizes that for some people, creating a day against Islamophobia is the way to tackle the problem. She said she is looking at other possible actions.

“Raising awareness is very important,” she said. “How can we make sure that in the public discourse, we don’t allow Islamophobic words and actions? To me, that’s the first thing that needs to be done. It’s not acceptable to say things specifically that are Islamophobic.”

NCCM’s Gardee wrote that, in his opinion, Legault is clearly disconnected from the reality of Islamophobia on the ground in Quebec. The NCCM said Legault’s original statement pandered to populist and reactionary sentiment to the detriment of Muslims.

Statistics Canada reported in November that the number of hate motivated crimes reported to police increased sharply in Canada in 2017, with incidents targeting black people, Jews and Muslims accounting for most of the events.

Toronto Mayor John Tory, meanwhile, has designated Jan. 29 as a day of action against Islamophobia in his city.



Afghan peace talks result of US' military pressure on Taliban: Donald Trump

Feb 1, 2019

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Friday claimed that the Afghan peace talks, which is expected to bring a breakthrough in the 18- year conflict, are the result of America's military pressure on the Taliban.

Last month, Trump had said regional countries like Russia and India should play a more active role in resolving the Afghan conflict.

"We spend $50 billion a year in Afghanistan and have hit them so hard that we are now talking peace after 18 long years," Trump tweeted.

Reiterating that the wars in Syria and Afghanistan must end, he said, "I inherited a total mess in Syria and Afghanistan, the "Endless Wars" of unlimited spending and death...these wars must finally end."

Trump's comments came hours after US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad defended his talks with the Taliban and cautioned against a rush to judgment.

While Khalilzad said his nearly week-long meeting with Taliban officials yielded "significant progress," Afghan President Ghani expressed concerns about the US troop withdrawal from the war-torn country.

Though Trump has not announced a timeline for withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, he has repeatedly said in the past that he wants to get the soldiers back.

"Syria was loaded with ISIS until I came along. We will soon have destroyed 100% of the Caliphate, but will be watching them closely. It is now time to start coming home and, after many years, spending our money wisely. Certain people must get smart!" the president said.

Backing Trump, Senator Rand Paul also sought quick withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.

"I stand with you. Time to declare victory, end these wars and focus on rebuilding our own homeland. Don't listen to the naysayers in the swamp, you are making the right decision!” Paul tweeted.

According to Scott Worden, Director of Afghanistan and Central Asia Programmes at the US Institute of Peace (USIP), the reports of a possible troop withdrawal added urgency to negotiations with the Taliban and demonstrated that the US was serious about offers to remove troops in exchange for counterterrorism security guarantees.

"On the other hand, troop withdrawal rumours created a perception in the region that the US may be willing to withdraw even without a peace deal, which reduced the value of that bargaining chip," he said.

Khalilzad has made it clear that there is no formal agreement in place yet, and that "nothing is agreed until all issues are agreed", including a ceasefire and direct talks between the Taliban and the Afghangovernment, Wordon said.

Full report at:



US calls on new Lebanese government to block Hezbollah

Feb 1, 2019

The United States has urged Lebanon to deprive the Hezbollah resistance movement of all official funds following the formation of a new government headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

On Thursday, Lebanon's presidency announced the formation of a new national unity government, with Hezbollah taking three cabinet posts in the new government.

The breakthrough came after rival factions worked out a compromise allowing representation of Sunni lawmakers backed by Hezbollah. The movement chose three people, including Jamil Jabak, as the new health minister, despite the fact that he is not a member.

On Friday, Washington said it was ready to work with Hariri's new government, noting that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hoped to visit Beirut.

"Nevertheless, we are concerned that Hezbollah, a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, will continue to occupy ministerial positions and was allowed to name the minister of public health," State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said.

"We call on the new government to ensure the resources and services of these ministries do not provide support to Hezbollah," Palladino added in a statement.

Washington claims that the resistance movement condones terrorism despite the fact that Hezbollah has been involved in a fierce fight against Takfiri terror groups, including Daesh and al-Nusra Front, thus preventing the spillover of the militancy gripping neighboring Syria into Lebanon.

In addition, Washington has for long accused Hezbollah of being behind the 1983 bombing attack, in which 241 US Marines were killed.

In October, the administration of President Donald Trump imposed a new round of sanctions on the movement, targeting individuals and international organizations that do business with the group.

The sanctions legislation Trump signed is known as the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act 2018.

Full report at:



Facebook, Twitter delete accounts linked to Iran, Russia, Venezuela with anti-west content

Feb 1, 2019

Facebook and Twitter say they have taken down hundreds of accounts they claim have been part of “coordinated influence operations” from Iran, Russia and Venezuela.

Facebook said it had removed 783 pages, groups, and accounts for "engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior tied to Iran."

The accounts, some of which had been active since 2010, had garnered about 2 million followers on Facebook and more than 250,000 followers on Instagram.

The decision came after the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab said the accounts had been designed to amplify views “in line with Iranian government’s international stances.”

“The pages posted content with strong bias for the government in Tehran and against the ‘West’ and regional neighbors, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel,” the center wrote in a blog post.

Several of the accounts focused on sharing content supporting Palestinians and condemning Israeli crimes in French, English, Spanish and Hebrew, while others were critical of Saudi policies, it said.

Twitter separately announced that it had deleted thousands of “malicious” accounts from Russia, Iran and Venezuela. The accounts had “limited operations” targeting the US midterm elections in November, the company alleged, and the majority were suspended prior to election day.

Back in August 2018, Facebook targeted hundreds of accounts allegedly tied to Iran and Russia under the pretext of fighting what it calls “misinformation” campaigns.

Among the accounts was one belonging to the Quest 4 Truth (Q4T) Iranian media organization, which promotes Islamic values.

A similar move was taken by Google against 39 YouTube channels at the time.

The channels reportedly belonged to the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), which condemned the move as a “coordinated” campaign and a "clear example of censorship" aimed at preventing the dissemination of truth and alternative viewpoints online.

Three months later in October, Facebook deleted 82 more Iranian accounts, claiming that it had detected “coordinated activity” between the accounts earlier in the month.

In September 2018, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif harshly criticized Twitter for blocking the accounts of "real Iranians" but overlooking the "regime change" propaganda spewing out of Washington.

He said the accounts of real Iranians, including TV presenters and students, have been shuttered for allegedly being part of an "influence operation."

Earlier in January, the detention of Press TV anchor Marzieh Hashemi in the United States rose deep concerns among the world’s media activists and journalists, who launched a social media campaign with the hashtags #FreeMarziehHashemi and #Pray4MarziehHashemi in support of the detained journalist.

Hashemi's long detention without charge finally ended last Wednesday when she was released from a Washington jail. The newscaster’s ordeal is apparently over but Hashemi is taking a firm stance against the practices of the US judicial system.

Full report at:



Muslim man hand delivers food to Chicago's homeless


By Servet Gunerigok


On a frigid night in Chicago, Illinois, with the temperature hovering around - 40F (-40C), a 59-year-old Turkish-American Muslim man stepped out on the streets to help the homeless.

Halil Demir, executive director of the Zakat Foundation of America, along with 20 of its staff distributed bags Wednesday to hundreds of homeless people on the city’s South Side.

They contained a sandwich, beverage and a granola bar.

"I am so glad that you guys are here. Thank you, thank you for coming," said Demir in a video that went viral on social media.

Blankets, coats, gloves, socks, hats and adult diapers were also among the aid handed out to the needy on the streets.

Demir said the foundation delivered food to 10 police stations as well as homeless shelters in the brutal weather when many shops were closed.

"We have no worldly expectations. It is the duty of a Muslim to help hungry and homeless people, regardless of their views or religion," he told Anadolu Agency.

Demir, originally from Sanliurfa province in southeastern Turkey, has been living in the United States for 20 years.

"In this country, where Muslims are a minority and anti-Islamism is increasing, such activities are becoming more important," he said.

Demir described a heart-warming experience when he and his staff were on their way to the foundation's Chicago headquarters and made an unplanned stop at a library.

The moment he stepped in, Demir said he saw a lady librarian scanning a list of phone numbers on her table.

"She was overjoyed," said Demir when he told her they were from an aid organization and asked whether she needed anything.

The lady, named Alvira, was searching for an institution to help a dozen homeless people who were sheltering in the library before it was time to close. She said there wasn’t even food to offer them.

"God sent you. I know God sent you for us," said Alvira, according to Demir, who said he was "indescribably moved” by the experience.

Demir and his friends brought them to the foundation's headquarters and are providing them accommodation and meeting all their needs until the weather warms up.

Full report at:



USAID ends all assistance to Palestinians in West Bank, Gaza

1 February 2019

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) has ended all assistance to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, a US official said on Friday.

The decision was linked to a January 31 deadline set by new US legislation under which foreign aid recipients would be more exposed to anti-terrorism lawsuits.

The deadline also sees the end of some $60 million in US aid for the Palestinian security forces, whose cooperation with Israeli forces helps maintain relative quiet in the West Bank.

Congress’ Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA) empowers Americans to sue foreign aid recipients in US courts over alleged complicity in “acts of war.” The Palestinians have declined further US funding, worried about legal jeopardy.

“At the request of the Palestinian Authority, we have wound down certain projects and programs funded with assistance under the authorities specified in ATCA in the West Bank and Gaza,” a US official told Reuters on Friday.

“All USAID assistance in the West Bank and Gaza has ceased.”

The official said no steps were being taken to close the USAID mission in the Palestinian territories, and no decision had been made about future staffing at the USAID mission in the US Embassy in Jerusalem.

Suspension of aid will create a ‘negative atmosphere’

USAID is the main agency administering US foreign assistance in the Palestinian territories.

According to its website, the agency spent $268 million on public projects in the West Bank and Gaza as well as Palestinian private sector debt repayment in 2017, but there were significant cuts to all new funding through the end of June 2018.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said: “The suspension of aid to our people, which included critical sectors such as health and education, will have a negative impact on all, create a negative atmosphere, and increase instability.”

The Palestinian Authority is an interim self-government body set up following the 1993 Oslo peace accords. The peace process, aimed at finding a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has been stalled since 2014.

Full report at:



South Asia


Up to 50 militants killed in Afghan, Coalition Forces operations

01 Feb 2019

Up to 50 militants have been killed during the operations conducted by the Afghan and Coalition Forces in various provinces of the country in the past 24 hours.

According to the informed military sources, the Afghan Special Forces conducted a raid in Khak-e district of Farah province killing 5 Taliban fighters and wounding 2 others.

The sources further added that the Afghan Special Forces conducted a raid in Zarghun district of Herat province killing 11 Taliban fighters responsible for facilitating IED attacks.

The Afghan Special Forces also conducted a search and clearance operation in Kunduz province killing 24 Taliban fighters, the sources said.

In the meantime, a coalition air strike targeted a Taliban operation center and killed 6 fighters and destroying a weapons cache, the military sources added.

The anti-government armed militant groups have not commented regarding the operations so far.



More security operations in Kandahar planned to clear it of Taliban, says Afghan acting Defence Minister

by Syed Qayam Ali

Feb 02, 2019

Kandahar: Afghan and NATO forces are planning to launch more operations in Kandahar to clear it of the Taliban, said Afghanistan’s acting Defence Minister Assadullah Khalid after touring the province along with NATO forces commander General Scott Miller.

Khalid, after a meeting with Scott Miller, said, “The purpose of our today’s (Friday) visit is to assess the security situation and the military operations which have been launched in Maiwand and Ghorak districts as well as the operations which will be launched in other areas in the near future.”

Khalid and Miller met Afghan National Army and Police force members as well as the provincial Police Chief Gen. Tadeen Khan, Kandahar tribal elders and commanders leading the military operations against militants and discussed issues relating to security and the operations, reported TOLO News.

This was Miller’s second visit to Kandahar after being appointed in September 2. The NATO chief first visited the province last October when former Kandahar police chief General Abdul Raziq was assassinated in an attack by an armed man.

Recently, the United States and Taliban agreed in principle to chalk out a framework for a deal that could eventually end the 17-year conflict in Afghanistan.

Full report at:



Bangladesh Home Minister Calls On Hefazat Chief Shafi

February 2nd, 2019

The minister enquired about his health and sought blessings from him for the Bishwa Ijtema

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal has paid a courtesy call on the Islamic hardliner Hefazat-e-Islam chief Shah Ahmed Shafi.

The meeting was held at Al-Jamiatul Ahlia Darul Ulum Moinul Islam, also known as Hathazari Madrasa, in Hathazari of Chittagong on Friday after Jumma prayers.

During the meeting, the home minister enquired about his health and sought blessings from him for the successful hosting of the Bishwa Ijtema.

Bishwa Ijtema, the second largest congregation of Muslims after Hajj, will be holding its first phase from February 15 to 17.

After emerging from the meeting, the home minister told reporters that he had come to seek blessings from the senior Islamic scholar so that the grand congregation of the Bishwa Ijtema could be hosted properly.

“[Shafi] is very senior figure among the country's Islamic scholars. All respect and obey him. [Shafi] also offered a special prayer and requested us to make full-fledged preparations for hosting the Bishwa Ijtema without any delay or hindrance,” said Kamal. 

Awami League lawmaker from Chittagong 15 (Satkani) constituency Abu Reza Md Nezamuddin Nadvi, Chittagong Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Elius Hossain, Deputy Inspector General Rokon Uddin, Chittagong Additional SP Mosiuddowla Reza, Hathazari UNO Ruhul Amin, and Hefazat leaders Moinuddin Ruhi and Anas Madani were among the group that accompanied the home minister during the meeting.

The home minister came to Chittagong to attend an annual program of Obaidia Madrasa in Fatikchhari upazila.

On his way back, the minister went to Hathazari Madrasa and met Shafi.      

Full report at:



Human Rights Watch says Myanmar government using ‘abusive laws’ to punish critics

February 01, 2019

YANGON: Myanmar's government under Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has used repressive laws to prosecute peaceful critics, dashing hopes that its first democratic leader in decades would safeguard free speech, Human Rights Watch said on Friday.

Freedom of expression has been deteriorating since her administration came to power in 2016, with prosecutions creating a "climate of fear" among journalists, the rights group said in its report, "Dashed Hopes: The Criminalization of Peaceful Expression in Myanmar".

"Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy promised a new Myanmar but the government still prosecutes peaceful speech and protests and has failed to revise old oppressive laws," Linda Lakhdhir, Asia legal adviser at Human Rights Watch and the report's author, said in a statement.

A government spokesman could not be reached for comment.

The military governments that ruled Myanmar for decades placed severe restrictions on free speech. Reforms undertaken by the quasi-civilian administration that came to power in 2010, including the abolition of censorship, had "positive implications for speech and assembly", HRW said.

However, the Suu Kyi-led government had made "only marginal changes" to oppressive legislation and continued to use "overly broad, vague, and abusive laws" to prosecute peaceful speech and assembly, it said.

Myanmar free speech group Athan, whose report was quoted by HRW, said some 140 cases had been filed since 2016 under the Telecommunications Act, at least half of which involved prosecution for peaceful speech.

Parliament made some amendments to section 66(d) of the act, which punishes anyone who "defames" someone using a telecommunications network with up to two years in prison, but rejected calls to repeal the provision.

Reporters were especially vulnerable to prosecution and attacks, HRW said, with threats coming from authorities as well as nationalists and militant supporters of the government or army.

"The result has been a climate of fear among local journalists," the HRW report said.

Laws criminalising defamation, the Official Secrets Act, the Unlawful Associations Act, the 1934 Aircraft Act, and section 131 of the Myanmar Penal Code have all been used against journalists in recent years.

Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were sentenced to seven years in prison in September 2018 under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act. They had been working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys in Rakhine state.

"Aung San Suu Kyi's government has had a real opportunity to abolish the tools of oppression used by the military juntas, but has instead used them against peaceful critics and protesters,” Lakhdhir said.

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Hasty withdrawal of U.S. troops to increase bloodshed in Afghanistan: Daudzai

02 Feb 2019

The Secretariat Chief of High Peace Council of Afghanistan Mohammad Omar Daudzai has warned that a hasty withdrawal of the foreign forces would result into increasing bloodshed in Afghanistan.

“If it happened in a matter that’s not orderly … if it happens that it leaves a vacuum behind, then obviously bloodshed would increase,” Daudzai said in an interview with CNN’s Nic Robertson.

The U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed that he would bring American troops home if a peace deal was reached with the Taliban to end the war in Afghanistan.

Speaking to reporters in Oval Office late on Thursday, President Trump said negotiations are underway regarding an agreement for peace in Afghanistan.

Full report at:



Afghan forces and Taliban suffer casualties in Sar-e-Pul clashes

01 Feb 2019

The Afghan forces and Taliban militants suffered casualties during a clash in northern Sari-e-Pul province of Afghanistan late on Thursday night.

The 209th Shaheen Corps of the Afghan Military in the North in a statement said the clash between the security forces and Taliban erupted at around 10:00pm and continued until 2:00am on Friday.

The statement further added that the clash broke out after a large group of Taliban militants launched attacks in Gurkab area of Suzma Qala district.

At least 9 Taliban militants were killed during the clash and 13 others sustained injuries, the 209th Shaheen Corps said, adding that 6 Afghan soldiers also lost their lives and 7 others were wounded during the clash.

Full report at:



Iran reiterates support for Afghanistan peace process led by govt.

Feb 2, 2019

Iran’s envoy to a meeting of the International Contact Group on Afghanistan has reiterated Tehran’s support for the Afghan peace process, praising the key role played by the Kabul government in restoring peace to the war-torn country.

Rassoul Eslami made the comments in a Thursday address to the meeting hosted by London and attended by about 80 representatives from over 50 countries, international and regional organizations, and the Afghan government, IRNA reported on Saturday.

The government of Afghanistan, as the representative of the Afghan people, plays a pivotal role in peace efforts, the Iranian envoy said, calling for the cooperation of various political factions with the Kabul government on the process.

He also urged all neighbors of Afghanistan to lend their support to the Afghan peace efforts.

Eslami further noted that a military approach to the crisis in Afghanistan has failed to restore peace and security to the country, and the timeframe announced for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan will be a wise move to prepare the grounds for the beginning of peace talks.

More than 17 years of the United States’ presence in Afghanistan at the top of a military coalition have brought nothing but chaos and insecurity to the country as a result of which all forms of organized crimes, especially production of illicit drugs, have been skyrocketing. The country has also turned into a hotbed of violent acts by major terror outfits, especially Daesh.

The Thursday meeting in London was attended by US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad who has been heading separate talks with the Taliban militant group.

After several rounds of talks between the two sides, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters on Friday that “an agreement was reached on a principle framework…which, if implemented, and if the Americans take honest steps and stick to it truthfully, then God willing we are hopeful that the Americans will end the occupation of Afghanistan.”

He claimed a complete foreign troop pullout would pave the way for “the establishment of an Islamic system,” which would be sought through “negotiations with different political sides, even if they have so far been under the umbrella of the invaders.”

The spokesperson said the next round of the talks with the US would take place in the Qatari capital of Doha on February 25.

Iran has been engaged in separate talks with the militant group as well. Speaking to reporters late in December, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi confirmed Iran had hosted a delegation from the Taliban to discuss possible ways to end hostilities in Afghanistan.

“Since the Taliban are in control of more than 50 percent of Afghanistan, and given the insecurity, instability and other issues that the country is dealing with, they [the Taliban] were interested in talks with Iran,” Qassemi said.

Back in November, Russia hosted multilateral talks on Afghanistan peace, with the participation of the Taliban and the Afghanistan High Peace Council (HPC). While the HPC, a government body overseeing peace efforts, says it represents the Kabul government, the Afghan Foreign Ministry denies it.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani rejected an invitation to attend the Moscow summit on the grounds that talks with the Taliban should be led by the Kabul government.

Russia is to host a similar meeting on February 5, but Kabul says the Russian government should respect an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

“Holding such meetings will not help us in reaching peace. We did not and do not see such meetings necessary and will not attend this meeting,” Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Sebghat Ahmadi said.

“We hope that Russia like other countries will express its commitment on recognizing Afghanistan’s role as leader and owner of the peace process,” Ahmadi said.

Full report at:



Afghan Taliban: Trump administration ‘appears serious’ in talks

Feb 1, 2019

The Taliban militant group in Afghanistan says the administration of United States President Donald Trump “appears” to be “serious” in its negotiations with the group on bringing an end to the war in the Asian country.

“An agreement was reached on a principle framework…which, if implemented, and if the Americans take honest steps and stick to it truthfully, then God willing we are hopeful that the Americans will end the occupation of Afghanistan,” a spokesman for the Taliban who goes by the name Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters on Friday.

“It appears that Trump is serious,” the spokesman added.

He claimed a complete foreign troop pullout would pave the way for “the establishment of an Islamic system,” which would be sought through “negotiations with different political sides, even if they have so far been under the umbrella of the invaders.”

Mujahid said that, in the group’s planned system, “all Afghans, including different political sides,” could take part. He denied that the Taliban would want to monopolize power and said that if the Kabul government collaborated, “there will be no need for war and conflict.”

The spokesperson said the next round of the talks with the US would take place in the Qatari capital of Doha on February 25.

Mujahid’s comments came only a day after Trump expressed hope that an eventual agreement with the group could lead to a complete troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Washington and the Taliban ended six days of negotiations in Doha last week, with Kabul saying that the US had assured Afghan officials that the focus of the talks was on finding a way to facilitate peace and ensure foreign troop withdrawal not on the establishment of a government.

A senior US government official told Reuters the talks had made “significant progress.”

Some observers have, however, been less optimistic about the talks.

Speaking to the CNN on Thursday, former US Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker expressed concern that the US has engaged in talks with the Taliban without the involvement of the Kabul government, describing it as a “dangerous concession” to the militant group.

“If this is a course we’re going to continue on, this is very much a surrender negotiation,” Crocker said.

The US has nearly 14,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of a NATO mission.

The US and its NATO allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to topple a Taliban regime that ruled over much of the country. But the militancy that ensued continues to this day.

According to a report by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) published in October last year, the Afghan government only controls 55 percent of the country’s territory, while the militants control 12 percent.

Full report at:



Arab World


Saudis, UAE, Yemen ask UN to pressure Houthis

February 01, 2019

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Yemen on Thursday asked the UN Security Council to increase pressure on Houthi militias to respect a cease-fire deal. In a letter, the three governments accused the militias of violating the agreement in the port city of Hodeidah 970 times since it came into force on Dec. 18, 2018.

They asked the council to “impress upon the Houthis, and their Iranian backers, that they will be held responsible if their continued failure to comply... leads to the collapse of the Stockholm agreement.”

Yemen’s coalition-backed government and Houthi leaders agreed to the cease-fire and a redeployment of forces from Hodeidah during UN-brokered talks in Sweden last month.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres separately on Thursday to discuss problems in implementing the Stockholm deal.

“We understand that we need to exercise patience, but it can’t be infinite,” Gargash said. “We do not want to launch an offensive. What we want is for the UN and the international community to exert influence.”

The council also met behind closed doors to hear a report from UN envoy Martin Griffiths, after a fresh round of diplomatic talks with both sides.

A Yemeni army spokesman, Brig. Abdo Majali, said that the militias had violated the cease-fire in Hodeidah more than 760 times in the two weeks after it went into effect alone, including bombing residential neighborhoods, hospitals and schools.

He also accused Iran of complicity, saying it supported the militias by providing them with illegal munitions and land mines, later planted in populated areas.

Extensive air raid

Houthi commander Abdullah Jahaf, meanwhile, was killed in a coalition airstrike in the northwestern province of Hajjah, Al Arabiya reported on Friday.

The coalition also attacked a site east of the capital Sanaa on Thursday, which the Houthis had used to store drones, coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said.

The operation came after extensive intelligence gathering revealed a network of Houthi operational infrastructure, he explained, including workshops and launch sites, and came in the wake of a drone being shot down in Saudi airspace on Wednesday.

Military operation

The Yemeni army, with support from the Arab coalition, launched a new operation on Thursday to retake strategic sites taken by Houthi militias in Kataf in Saada province.

In a statement to the Yemeni News Agency, a Yemeni army spokesman said that troops from the 82nd Infantry Brigade had retaken the strategic Jabal Al-Qahar mountains, as well as the villages of Rafqua, Al-Halfa’, Al-Akimi, and Al-Markib, that had previously witnessed large scale displacement of local residents.

He added that a number of Houthi militants, including two senior commanders, had been killed, while three more had been captured.



Sunni leader urges Iraqis to work with UN investigation, testify against ISIS

Feb 02, 2019

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – An influential Sunni leader is urging Iraqis to work with the United Nations team investigating ISIS crimes, and not be afraid to share their testimony.

Sheikh Ahmed Hasan Al-Taha is chairman of the Iraqi Jurisprudence Council, an organization of Sunni scholars. He received British lawyer Karim Asad Ahmad Khan this week. Khan is heading up the UN’s investigation into ISIS crimes in Iraq (UNITAD) and is seeking out the support of religious leaders.

Taha and his fellow senior clerics gave their support to Khan’s mission, according to a statement from the UN.

“A promise was given, that from the pulpits of the mosques, among the communities, the message will go out that members of the Sunni community who have suffered at the hands of Da’esh [ISIS], or have knowledge relevant to Da’esh crimes, should give statements or information to the investigative team, so that there may be accountability,” the statement detailed.

Shiite leader Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has given a similar statement of support for UNITAD.

The investigation team, which works with the authorization of the Iraqi government, has vowed that all witnesses will be protected to international standards “so that proper criminal cases can be built to ensure that those who are responsible in Da’esh are properly identified, and then subject to fair trials.”

Full report at:



Building on Syria war gains, Hezbollah scores political win


BEIRUT (Reuters) - Hezbollah's bigger role in Lebanon's new unity government points to a growing appetite to shape state affairs and builds on unprecedented military clout the group is wielding after helping turn the tide in Syria's war.

Hezbollah's expanding power in Lebanon reflects a deepening of Iranian influence in an arc of territory from Tehran through Baghdad and Damascus that its foes Saudi Arabia and Israel have struggled to counter.

Deemed a terrorist organisation by the United States, Iran-backed Hezbollah has assumed control of three ministries in the government led by the Western-backed Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, the largest number of portfolios it has ever held.

The new government was formed on Thursday, ending nine months of wrangling.

The most significant portfolio under Hezbollah control is the Health Ministry, the first time Hezbollah has controlled a ministry with a big budget, though the Shi'ite doctor it picked for the job is not a party member.

More broadly, Hezbollah and its political allies from across Lebanon's sectarian spectrum have emerged with more than half of cabinet's 30 seats, reflecting a May parliamentary election which the group declared a victory.

Salem Zahran, an analyst with links to Hezbollah leaders, said the government would go down in its history as the "first big shift and the first step along a long road" towards more influence in government.

"This transformation is because Hezbollah has accumulated an excess of power after it has nearly finished with the military battles in Syria," he said. "I believe that Hezbollah will build up even more involvement in the Lebanese state."

Hezbollah, founded by Iran's Revolutionary Guards in 1982, is by far the most powerful group in Lebanon. Its clout in the region has grown since it joined the war in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad.

Lebanese government posts are parcelled out according to a complicated sectarian system, capping how many any one group can hold. The post of prime minister is reserved for a Sunni Muslim, a job Hariri has now held three times because of his status as Lebanon's leading Sunni.

But Hariri's Sunni dominance was shaken by the May election in which he lost more than one third of his seats in parliament, many of them to Hezbollah-allied Sunnis. Hezbollah managed to secure a cabinet seat for one of its Sunni allies.

This is a big gain for Hezbollah and its allies who have long sought to erode the Sunni dominance built by the Hariri family after Lebanon's civil war, with the backing of Riyadh.

As Hezbollah's clout has grown, Saudi Arabia has turned its focus away from Lebanon to other parts of the region, weakening Hezbollah's opponents who had benefited from its backing.

Hariri's ally, the staunchly anti-Hezbollah Christian Lebanese Forces (LF) party, was forced to cede significant ground during nine months of political wrangling over government portfolios, though it gained seats in parliament.

Hezbollah's biggest Christian ally, President Michel Aoun and his Free Patriotic Movement, made fewer concessions.

The most significant was giving the ground needed for Hezbollah's Sunni ally to join the cabinet - a point of friction between the allies. But Aoun, who backs Hezbollah's possession of weapons, still controls one third of the cabinet.


Nabil Boumonsef, a Hezbollah critic and An-Nahar newspaper columnist, said Hezbollah's role was "growing very clearly" and noted that Hariri allies failed to secure all their demands.

"This strategic imbalance confirms that Hezbollah's influence in this government is stronger than in the previous one for sure. This absolutely cannot be denied," he said.

This poses questions for the United States, whose Lebanon policy twins military aid to the Lebanese army and support for Hariri with growing pressure on Hezbollah through sanctions.

The U.S. State Department said in a statement it was concerned that Hezbollah would continue to occupy ministerial positions and was allowed to name the health minister.

"We call on the new government to ensure the resources and services of these ministries do not provide support to Hezbollah ... We look to all parties in the new government to uphold Lebanon's policy of disassociation from regional conflicts and its international obligations," it said.

The United States has imposed new sanctions on Hezbollah as part of its strategy to counter Iran.

The frontpage headline of the pro-Hezbollah newspaper al-Akhbar said Hezbollah needed "a government amid the storm".

"Hezbollah benefits today from the government led by Hariri specifically ... because Hariri, with his Western and Gulf (Arab) facade could be a safety net or helper, keeping options open, when it comes to escalating American sanctions", al-Akhbar wrote in its main story on the government.

A senior Western diplomat said Hezbollah's opponents would keep a close eye on how Hezbollah manages the Health Ministry.

"The other parties will closely monitor the funds Hezbollah has in the ministry and will cry foul when something is happening, because they know the Americans are looking in the same direction."

Full report at:



Ankara Sends Hundreds of Special Forces to Northern Syria

Feb 01, 2019

The Kurdish-language Hawar News reported that a sum of 200 of Special Forces of the Turkish Army have arrived in Afrin region in Northwestern Aleppo as some of them have been stationed in Afrin and some others in the villages of Shirva and Jandariseh regions.

The Kurdish media pointed to the rising infighting among Ankara-backed terrorists over their share of assets and properties stolen from the citizens, and said that fierce clashes have erupted between Jeish al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sharqieh militants in the center of Afrin and its surrounding areas over their share of war booties.

In a relevant development on Wednesday, several Turkish Army soldiers and their allied militants were killed in two military operations by the Kurdish forces in Afrin in Western Aleppo, media reports said.

The Hawar News reported that military vehicles, carrying Turkish Army soldiers and Ankara-backed terrorists, was destroyed in the village of Koubeleh in the Center of Afrin during the Syrian Democratic Forces' military operations against the Turkish Army and Ankara-backed militants.

It noted that two Turkish soldiers were killed and four others were wounded while a military vehicle and military equipment were also destroyed.

Full report at:



Syrian Army Destroys Tahrir Al-Sham's Command Centres in Hama, Idlib

Feb 01, 2019

The Syrian Army's missile and artillery units heavily pounded the military positions of Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front) terrorists in the outskirts of al-Hobait town in Southern Idlib, destroying several positions as well as killing and injuring a number of militants.

In Northern Hama, the army's artillery and missile units hit the terrorists' positions near Qaleh al-Maziq town, killing several terrorists and destroying their military equipment and hardware.

The army troops also annihilated the military positions and movements of the terrorists in al-Jisat town in Northern Hama in response to the militants' attacks on the government troops' military positions there.

Meantime, the Syrian army's artillery units also pounded the military positions of Jeish al-Izza terrorists at al-Arbaeem village in Northern Hama.

In a relevant development on Tuesday, the Syrian Army pounded the military positions and movements of Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay'at, destroying terrorists' arms and ammunition depot in Northern Hama.

The Syrian Army's missile and artillery units targeted and pounded the military positions and movements of Jeish al-Izza terrorirsts in the surrounding areas of the towns of Kafar Zita, Hasraya, al-Arbaeen near Moharadeh region in Northwestern Hama, destroying their arms cache and military equipment.

The Syrian Army forces also pounded the military positions of Tahrir al-Sham terrorists and their movements in the town of al-Boyzeh after militants attacked the government troops' military positions in the surrounding areas of Tayebeh al-Imam and Souran towns in Northern Hama, killing and injuring a large number of terrorists.

Meantime, the Syrian Army's artillery units pounded Tahrir al-Sham's positions in the outskirts of the town of Mourek, destroying several key positions and military equipment of the terrorists.

Full report at:



The ‘Centre of al-Awamiyah’ injects fresh hope in Saudi Arabia’s al-Qatif

1 February 2019

Residents in al-Awamiyah district in the Saudi Arabian Province of al-Qatif returned to their new homes with renewed hope less than a year after security forces quelled armed riots in the eastern coastal village.

The 'Center of al-Awamiyah', previously called al-Mosawara, has been the site of an ongoing project, which entailed demolishing old buildings to ensure citizens’ livelihood and promote local economy and culture.

“The development of the ‘Center of al-Awamiyah’ shows the different ways the government addresses the problems of violence and terrorism, which have plagued the area for a long time,” said Hasan al-Mustafa, a Saudi journalist and writer native to the area of al-Qatif, where al-Awamiyah is located.

“By employing social and economic development, the project creates a social and cultural space for the citizens of al-Awamiyah that will reduce tensions and make extremist ideology isolated,” he said.

“The ‘Center of al-Awamiyah’ had been transformed to a lively city center. Previously, the old houses in the area were used by terrorists to hide after the region witnessed clashes between terrorists and security forces,” al-Mustafa added.

Governor Prince Saud bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz inaugurated the project and said: “I was honored to lay the foundation stone a year ago. Today, I return to the inauguration of the project, which had preserved and repaired the old houses and monuments in the ‘Center of al-Awamiyah’.”

On June 10, 2017, security forces had entered al-Awamiyah to lay down safety procedures for contractors to continue their work. This resulted in clashes with terrorists, which caused the neighborhood’s residents to flee.

Almost a month later, security forces announced that the situation was under control following which residents began to return gradually. Temporary housing arrangements were also made for owners of demolished houses. Over 1,200 personnel on this project “worked day and night” until it was completed in about eight months, one of the engineers involved in the project said.

Homeowners in the area were compensated for the period it took to complete the project. The previous acting mayor of the Eastern Province Essam Abdullatif al-Mulla, said during a press conference late 2017 that “the compensation to residents for the demolished properties was estimated at more than 800 million Saudi riyals” ($213 million).

More development projects to be launched

Fahd al-Jubeir, Mayor of the Eastern Province, said that more development projects will be launched to achieve comprehensive development in Qatif and its ancient cities.

The projects will include construction of a number of buildings comprising a commercial center, a heritage center, a conference and exhibitions hall, as well as a library.

“The joint efforts by the Emirate of Eastern Province, state security, and the people of al-Awamiyah have contributed toward isolating extremists that used to seek refuge in the area,” said journalist al-Mustafa.

“This collective work was reflected in the architecture and spirit of the place. The cultural activities that are being planned will positively contribute to the society of al-Awamiya,” he said.

Prince Saud gifted ‘wooden heritage door’

During the opening ceremony, Prince Saud bin Nayef, Governor of the Eastern Province was seen admiring the details of a “wooden heritage door” presented to him.

The traditional door, similar to the ones that were used in the past in the houses in al-Awamiyah area, especially those with traditional architecture inspired by the palms, oases and the sea.

Mohammed Turki, head of the Qatif Heritage Group which manufactured the door, explained that “the door is a masterpiece made by two Saudi craftsmen - Habib al-Salis and Abbas al-AbdulGhani - from the city of Qatif.”

Full report at:



Australia admits it has killed up to 18 civilians in Mosul air raid

Feb 2, 2019

Australian Defense Force officials admit that a 2017 airstrike by the country's jet fighters on the northern Iraqi city of Mosul has claimed the lives of six to 18 civilians.

The defense minister, Christopher Pyne, described the deaths as “deeply regrettable” but said a 12-month investigation into the airstrike on June 13, 2017 could not come to a conclusion over who was at fault.

“After a thorough investigation conducted by the Australian Defense Force it’s been determined that between six and 18 civilians were killed in a coalition airstrike and that an Australian platform may have been part of that airstrike [and] may have been responsible,” Pyne told the Nine Network.

He said it was “not possible” to determine which missiles were responsible and if the casualties “occurred as a result of the Australian airstrike, the nearby Coalition airstrikes, or from other actors.”

In a briefing, the chief of joint operations, Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, said there was no “specific intelligence” indicating civilians were present at the targeted site but admitted there was “a degree of uncertainty surrounding this incident.”

“We know that the Australian strike does not precisely correspond with the information provided in the claim, however it was close by. We do not definitively know how these people were killed,” he said.

“Ultimately we have determined that it is possible civilians were unintentionally killed by the Coalition during these strikes.”

Australia has previously announced “involvement” in three separate reports where civilians were among the death toll from airstrikes which formed part of the Mosul offensive, Operation Okra, in March, May and June 2017.

Australia was part of a US-led coalition which has been carrying out airstrikes in Iraq and Syria since 2014 allegedly targeting Daesh and other Takfiri terrorists. The raids, which did little to dislodge the terror outfits, on numerous occasions claimed many civilian lives and inflicted damage on the two countries’ infrastructure.

In a report released on December 30, 2018, the US military admitted killing over 1,100 civilians in airstrikes over the last four years.

War monitoring groups, however, estimate that the raids have killed thousands of civilians.

Full report at:




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