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Islamic World News ( 25 Jan 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Google Home knows Mohammed & Buddha, but not God or Jesus












Photo: Internet users are posting videos that show Google products refusing to answer questions about Christian figures, when the same products have no problem answering similar question about other religions and deities.

 

French Lawmakers Barred From Wearing Religious Symbols

Kerala Sunni Factions Start Mediations after Three-Decade Fight

Senate Panel Refers Issue of Public Hanging Of Child Rapists to Council of Islamic Ideology

Sufism Can Counter Extremist Tendencies: Vice President of Egypt’s Al-Azhar University

North America

Google Home knows Mohammed & Buddha, but not God or Jesus

Trump Says Palestinians 'Disrespected' US, Aid on Hold

US slaps sanctions on six Taliban, Haqqani terrorists

US asks Pakistan to restore operations of Radio Mashaal

2 US Forces Killed in Afrin

US-Led Coalition Airstrikes against DeirEzzur Take Civilian Tolls Again

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Europe

French Lawmakers Barred From Wearing Religious Symbols

Russia to Keep Supporting Muslim Education to Tackle ‘Destructive’ Ideas – Putin

Muslim drivers randomly stopping in road to pray face fines Joe Roberts

UK General calls for banning of Muslim Brotherhood

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India

Kerala Sunni Factions Start Mediations after Three-Decade Fight

No Muslim Youth Involved In Gurugram School Bus Case: Police

Suspected suicide bomber detained in Srinagar

Republic Day: BSF refuses to exchange sweets with Pak Rangers

Indian in Pakistan jail has to wait till January 31 to know his fate

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Pakistan

Senate Panel Refers Issue of Public Hanging Of Child Rapists to Council of Islamic Ideology

Pakistan Urges Repatriation of Refugees after Drone Strike on Haqqani Leader

Pakistan accuses India of exceeding its legitimate defence needs

Kashmir issue among causes of a fractured world: Pakistan

'No information on whereabouts of Raza,' Ahsan Iqbal tells Senate

IHC bench refuses to hear Musharraf’s counsel

Guilty in Naqeeb case will be punished, Durrani tells Sindhi-Pathan community of Shikarpur

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Arab World

Sufism Can Counter Extremist Tendencies: Vice President of Egypt’s Al-Azhar University

Saudi Arabia Jails Two Human Rights Defenders: Amnesty

Syrian Kurds seek Damascus’ protection as Turkey’s Erdogan vows to return Afrin to ‘owners’

One year after the rebels' defeat, life returns to Syria's war-wrecked Aleppo

Interpol hands over ex-minister wanted for corruption to Iraq

Syrian Gov't Paving Ground for Implementing Nationwide Reconciliation Plan in Dara'a

Militants in More Regions Endorse Peace Agreement with Syrian Army

Source: Kurds Welcome Syrian Army's Deployment in Afrin

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Mideast

Senior Cleric Warns against Enemies' Manipulation of Social Networks

SDF Forces Claim 308 Turkish Soldiers Have Died During Olive Branch Op in Afrin

UN Security Council to inspect 'Iranian-made' missile debris

Turkish Army Sends Forces from Jerablus to Battlefields in Afrin

Turkish Air Force Pounds Regions Hosting US Forces in Northern Syria

Kurdish, Turkish Civilians Killed amid Operations in Afrin

An unlikely alliance confronts Iran

Qatar in talks to buy Russian S-400 missile systems

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South Asia

Save The Children Suspends Programmes In Afghanistan After Attack

International community to regret for silence over Balkh issue: Noor

Two foreigners fighting for Taliban group killed in Nangarhar

Bangladesh jails two Rohingya for protesting repatriation

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Africa

UN Launches $330 Million Appeal for Libya

Malawi Muslims to Abolish Non-Islamic Wedding Activities: Zomba Sheikhs Question Some Nikkah

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Southeast Asia

UN official says not safe yet for Rohingya return to Myanmar

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/google-home-knows-mohammed---buddha,-but-not-god-or-jesus/d/114061

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Google Home Knows Mohammed & Buddha, but Not God or Jesus

Published time: 26 Jan, 2018

Internet users are posting videos that show Google products refusing to answer questions about Christian figures, when the same products have no problem answering similar question about other religions and deities.

In a Facebook live video uploaded Wednesday, television producer and author David Sams asked his Google Home personal assistant a simple question: “Who is Jesus?”

“Sorry, I don’t know how to help with that yet,” the smart audio assistant replied.

Sams then asked the same question about God, and received a similar answer.

“Sorry, I can’t help with that yet,” Google Home answered.

Sams said although Google Home “does not want to acknowledge Jesus,” he is able to offer answers about other religions.

When asked about Buddha and Mohammed, Google Home quickly read the opening sentence from each of their Wikipedia pages.

The audio assistant was even able to give a lengthy answer when Sams asked about his own name.

“So, my question is, is there somebody at Google that has something against Jesus, something against God? Is this a corporate mandate of some sort?” Sams asked.

Then, Sams asked Amazon’s Alexa “who is Jesus,” and the voice-controlled speaker immediately replied with the opening sentence from the Wikipedia page on Jesus.

“Amazon is Jesus friendly, Google, not so much,” Sams concluded.

Sams went on to urge his viewers to reach out to big box stores and tell them “please contact Google about getting the smart home products up to speed and include Jesus and God.”

“We have the power, ladies and gentlemen, to make sure that God – to make sure that Jesus is included in all of these smart audio platforms,” Sams said. “I don’t think Google needs any kind of controversy with retailers.”

Other Google Home owners have also posted videos showing their devices would provide answers about Hinduism and New Age religions, but would not answer any question related to the Christian faith.

An Android user also posted a video on Wednesday that showed how other Google products answered questions about Allah, Brahman, Krishna, Moses and Joseph Smith, but the personal assistant was silent when it came to question about Jesus.

“Here are some results from the web,” the device answered when asked about Jesus.

In another video posted in December, a Google Home owner showed how he was able to “trick” Google Home into mention Jesus, but only while answering questions about the last supper and the 12 disciples.

In November, a Google Home owner posted a video that showed how the personal assistant used to provide an answer to the question, “who is Jesus?”

“According to Google Books, a famed historian once noted that regardless of what you might think of him personally, Jesus Christ stands as the central figure in the history of Western Civilization,” Google Home replied.

However, the Christian who posted the video was not happy with that answer.

rt.com/usa/417026-google-home-jesus-answers/

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French lawmakers barred from wearing religious symbols

AFPUpdated January 26, 2018

PARIS: France’s parliament has banned lawmakers from wearing any religious symbols under a new “neutral” dress code, an extension of the country’s strict secular rules that is seen as going too far by some critics.

Under the change approved late on Wednesday, members of the National Assembly must avoid “the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols, uniforms, logos or commercial messages or political slogans.”

The regulation was brought in following an outcry over an MP wearing a football shirt in the parliament, but the inclusion of religious symbols in the new rules quickly became a talking point and a focus of attention.

Until now, lawmakers were instructed to simply “respect the institution”, which generally meant women wearing smart clothes and men sporting a suit and tie, though this latter requirement was relaxed last year.

Some 20th-century lawmakers included priests in religious garb, such as Henri Groues, better known as Abbe Pierre, and several Christian faith leaders were critical of the new restrictions on Wednesday.

The head of the Protestant Federation of France, Francois Clavairoly, said the change had been made “in the spirit of obsessive radical secularism.”

The speaker of the parliament, Francois de Rugy, defended the changes, saying they were in line with a 2004 law that banned schoolchildren and teachers from wearing conspicuous religious symbols.

That was seen by critics as penalising Muslims in particular by banning headscarves and veils, but Jewish kippas were also covered by the regulations.

“We’re adopting a framework and limits... to avoid any sort of provocation,” de Rugy said.

Schoolchildren, teachers — and now lawmakers — are allowed to wear small Christian crosses around their necks, while Jews are permitted to wear a Star of David and Muslims can carry a Hamsa amulet.

The laws and rules are intended to underline France’s commitment to the principle of secularism — the separation of church and state — which was enshrined in a flagship 1905 law.

dawn.com/news/1385309/french-lawmakers-barred-from-wearing-religious-symbols

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Kerala Sunni Factions Start Mediations After Three-Decade Fight

Asheem PK | News18Updated:January 26, 2018

The two warring factions of the Samastha Kerala JamiyyathulUlama, led by Syed JifriMuthukoyaThangal and Kanthapuram AP AboobakerMusliyar, have appointed a team of four-member mediators to end a three-decade-long fight. Samastha, post merger, would be the most influential Muslim organisation in Kerala.

From alleged ISIS exodus to the infamous Popular Front of India (PFI), Kerala Muslims have been at the centre of news for last few months. The Muslims in the state were unable to put their view out as the community was split in several factions. That may change soon with two warring factions of the Samastha Kerala JamiyyathulUlama, the largest Sunni organisation in the state, planning rapprochement.

Muslims constitute 28 percent of the total population in Kerala. Sunnis, followers of traditional Islam; Salafis, who are influenced by Wahabi form of Islam with its roots in Saudi Arabia; and JamaateIslami, who follow the reformist ideas propagated by Abul Ala Maududi, are the major groups.

Sunnis are the dominant sect while Shiites and Ahmadis have a meagre presence.

Kerala NadvathulMujahideen and IttihaaduShubbanilMujahideen — two Salafi organisations influenced by the ideologies of 18th century Islamic reformer Ibn Abdul Wahab — were the first to realise the need to be united.

After being criticised for their radical ideologies, the two factions of the Mujahideens led by Hussain Madavoor and Abdulla KoyaMadani joined hands after a fight which lasted for more than 14 years.

Taking a cue from the Mujahideens, now two warring factions of the Samastha Kerala JamiyyathulUlama, led by Syed JifriMuthukoyaThangal and Kanthapuram AP AboobakerMusliyar, have appointed a team of four-member mediators to end a three-decade-long fight.

Samastha, post merger, would be the most influential Muslim organisation in Kerala.

Interestingly, the AP faction supports the CPM-led left Democratic Front (LDF) while EK (named after late EK AboobakerMusliyar) Sunnis are traditionally supporters of the Muslim League who are part of Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF).

A united Samastha would get an increased bargaining power, especially with Muslim league, the fourth largest political party in Kerala. As for Muslim League, it is not in a position to endorse or disapprove any particular group since their vote bank is divided among both the groups, almost equally.

Both Samastha groups had parted ways in 1989 after differences among the 40-member Mushawara, the decision-making body.

The EK faction has control of over 9,500 of the total 12,500 madrasas in the Kerala. Around 12 lakh students are enrolled in these religious schools. Each group has formed their own mosques, madrasas, education boards and publications. Clashes between both the factions are quite common.

The major trigger for Sunnis to join hands is believed to be their opposition towards spreading of Salafi ideology, apart from the growing influence of religious extremist ideas propagated by Popular Front of India (PFI). They also feel necessary to stand together on issues like triple talaq and uniform civil code.

“We have decided that we are ready for talks on merger and will do whatever is needed from our side to ensure unity among Sunnis. We have also decided to set up a panel to go ahead with the talks,” said AP AboobakerMusliyar.

EK faction leader Umar FaizyMukkam told News18 that they are willing to go back to the pre-1989 state. “Hope the other faction would also agree on this. Both sides can compromise on certain matters for the broad benefit of the organisation,” he said. Faizy is also member of the mediation panel set up by EK faction.

Even though EK faction backs Muslim League, their leaders had locked horns with the party which has 18 representatives in the Kerala Assembly after two of its leaders attended a conference organised by KNM, a salafi organisation.

Sayyid Rasheed Ali and Munavvar Ali, members of the respected Panakkad family, despite warning from the Samastha. This led to an exchange of words between leaders from both the Muslim league and EK Sunnis and both leaders had to issue clarification eventually.

Both Samastha factions have a strong following in the Muslims community in Kerala. Political leaders often visit Samastha leaders.

Talking about recent talks, CM Muhammed Faisy of the AP faction said, “Samatha led by Kanthapuram has always stood for Sunni unity. Both the factions should work together to ensure unity among Sunnis. We are not working for the political gain of any particular party. We have to stand together against issues like terrorism with maligns the image of Islam.”

Faisy is the state secretary of Kerala muslimjamaat, a political offshoot of the AP Sunnis. Recently, the Congress had asked its leaders not to attend events organised by AP faction after alleged pressure from the Muslim league.

news18.com/news/india/kerala-sunni-factions-start-mediations-after-three-decade-fight-1642581.html

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Senate Panel Refers Issue of Public Hanging Of Child Rapists to Council of Islamic Ideology

Amir WasimUpdated January 26, 2018

ISLAMABAD: After having failed to reach a consensus, the Senate Standing Commit­tee on Law and Justice referred on Thursday a proposed amendment to the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) to provide for public hanging of criminals abducting children for murder to the Council of Islamic Ideology for its view.

The committee, headed by Senator JavedAbbasi of the ruling PML-N, also decided to hear representatives of provincial jail administrations at the next meeting before reaching a decision.

Former interior minister Senator Rehman Malik of the PPP had proposed the amendment to Section 364-A of the PPC, saying that the small amendment would send a strong message and help prevent to a large extent Zainab-like incidents in the country. He also said that this was the pressing demand of the people of Pakistan.

The idea was opposed by some members of the committee who said the amendment would not be appropriate as objections were already being raised over the death penalty in Pakistan.

Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani had referred the proposed bill to the house committee on law and directed the committees on interior and human rights to give their input on the matter.

dawn.com/news/1385331/senate-panel-refers-issue-of-public-hanging-of-child-rapists-to-cii

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Sufism Can Counter Extremist Tendencies: Vice President of Egypt’s Al-Azhar University

Mohammad Akhtar

 January 26, 2018

KARACHI: Prof Dr Mohammad Mahmoud Abu Hashim, vice president of Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, has said that Sufism can and is playing an effective role to counter extremist tendencies in the Muslim world because it teaches its adherents tolerance towards followers of all faiths and ideologies.

He rejected the western media’s portrayal of Islam as condoning if not encouraging extremism and emphasised that it should be borne in mind that “Islam is a religion of peace which has nothing to do with extremism and all acts of terrorism being committed in its pristine name.”

The scholar, who is visiting Pakistan on the invitation of organisers of the 27th ‘Annual spiritual workshop’ being organised in the city by Sufi order Silsila-i-Azeemia on Friday, was speaking at a dialogue on “Modern day challenges to the Muslim world” at the Karachi Press Club on Thursday.

He said that Al-Azhar University, 1,000-year-old seat of higher learning in the Islamic world, had on its part written several books and articles to educate Muslims in what constituted true Islam in order to save them from the prevalent extremist ideologies, which had inflicted more harm on religion than its external foes.

Asked why the university was no more playing its role to guide Muslims through today’s complex social and political problems, the scholar said the university had always tried to rise to the occasion and guide Muslims to the best course of action in the light of religion with regard to modern day problems.

On the question of Egyptian government’s policies towards Israel and the issue of Palestine, he said the issue of Palestine was the collective responsibility of the Muslim world.

Al-Azhar did not address individuals and groups and their actions, but it addressed collective issues and always strived hard to show the world true picture of pristine Islam and present a counter narrative against ‘Western propaganda’ through seminars and workshops, he said.

He disagreed with a question on how much influence Egypt’s military government wielded over the university and said that Al-Azhar was an independent institution, which formulated its own policies and never accepted intervention in its internal affairs by any regime.

Dr Abu Hashim rejected the notion that Muslim intelligentsia had failed to develop its own intellectual discourse on political Islam and said that it was wrong to say that Islamic scholars relied largely on western interpretations.

The scholar who was speaking through an interpreter posed a question to journalists before taking questions from them, saying “what role Pakistani media has played for Al Quds Al Sharif in the wake of the US president’s widely condemned move to relocate the country’s embassy to the occupied Jerusalem?”

The press club president, Ahmad Khan Malik, replied the country’s media gave ample airtime to reaction to the incendiary move because Pakistanis were very sensitive to the Palestine issue and they had always condemned every cruel act of Israeli occupation forces.

Dr Abu Hashim will attend the spiritual workshop of Silsila-i-Azeemia on Friday being organised as part of Urs celebrations of spiritual head of the Sufi order, Mohammad AzeemBurkhia.

dawn.com/news/1385289/sufism-can-counter-extremist-tendencies-egyptian-scholar

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North America

Google Home Knows Mohammed & Buddha, but Not God or Jesus

Published time: 26 Jan, 2018

Internet users are posting videos that show Google products refusing to answer questions about Christian figures, when the same products have no problem answering similar question about other religions and deities.

In a Facebook live video uploaded Wednesday, television producer and author David Sams asked his Google Home personal assistant a simple question: “Who is Jesus?”

“Sorry, I don’t know how to help with that yet,” the smart audio assistant replied.

Sams then asked the same question about God, and received a similar answer.

“Sorry, I can’t help with that yet,” Google Home answered.

Sams said although Google Home “does not want to acknowledge Jesus,” he is able to offer answers about other religions.

When asked about Buddha and Mohammed, Google Home quickly read the opening sentence from each of their Wikipedia pages.

The audio assistant was even able to give a lengthy answer when Sams asked about his own name.

“So, my question is, is there somebody at Google that has something against Jesus, something against God? Is this a corporate mandate of some sort?” Sams asked.

Then, Sams asked Amazon’s Alexa “who is Jesus,” and the voice-controlled speaker immediately replied with the opening sentence from the Wikipedia page on Jesus.

“Amazon is Jesus friendly, Google, not so much,” Sams concluded.

Sams went on to urge his viewers to reach out to big box stores and tell them “please contact Google about getting the smart home products up to speed and include Jesus and God.”

“We have the power, ladies and gentlemen, to make sure that God – to make sure that Jesus is included in all of these smart audio platforms,” Sams said. “I don’t think Google needs any kind of controversy with retailers.”

Other Google Home owners have also posted videos showing their devices would provide answers about Hinduism and New Age religions, but would not answer any question related to the Christian faith.

An Android user also posted a video on Wednesday that showed how other Google products answered questions about Allah, Brahman, Krishna, Moses and Joseph Smith, but the personal assistant was silent when it came to question about Jesus.

“Here are some results from the web,” the device answered when asked about Jesus.

In another video posted in December, a Google Home owner showed how he was able to “trick” Google Home into mention Jesus, but only while answering questions about the last supper and the 12 disciples.

In November, a Google Home owner posted a video that showed how the personal assistant used to provide an answer to the question, “who is Jesus?”

“According to Google Books, a famed historian once noted that regardless of what you might think of him personally, Jesus Christ stands as the central figure in the history of Western Civilization,” Google Home replied.

However, the Christian who posted the video was not happy with that answer.

rt.com/usa/417026-google-home-jesus-answers/

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Trump says Palestinians 'disrespected' US, aid on hold

AFP | Jan 25, 2018, 21:41 IST

DAVOS, SWITZERLAND: President Donald Trump insisted on Thursday that Palestinians had "disrespected" the United States and threatened to withhold aid worth hundreds of millions of dollars until they agree to US-brokered peace talks.

"They disrespected us a week ago by not allowing our great vice president to see them," Trump said during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Davos, Switzerland.

"We give them hundreds of millions," Trump added. "That money is not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace."

Palestinians were infuriated by Trump's recent decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital - which for decades both sides agreed would be the subject of negotiation.

Facing severe pressure at home, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas responded by cancelling a planned meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence.

Palestinians, who also consider the divided city their capital, took to the streets in deadly riots after Trump's decision.

During the meeting with Netanyahu in Davos, Trump tried to convince a deeply sceptical Arab world that he could still be an honest broker.

"We have a proposal for peace. It is a great proposal for the Palestinians," Trump claimed, adding that Israel would also be forced to make concessions.

But Trump also doubled down, saying he would move the US embassy to Jerusalem as soon as next year, despite no suitably sized building existing.

"We anticipate having a small version of it open sometime next year," Trump said.

Netanyahu warmly welcomed Trump's "historic decision", saying it "recognises history, recognizes a certain reality, built on the basis of truth."

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/trump-says-palestinians-disrespected-us-aid-on-hold/articleshow/62654686.cms

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US slaps sanctions on six Taliban, Haqqani terrorists

PTI | Updated: Jan 26, 2018

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration on Friday slapped sanctions on six Taliban and the Haqqani network leaders and pressed Pakistan to work with the US to deny terrorists safe havens on its soil and aggressively target their fund-raising activities.

The Haqqani network has carried out a number of kidnappings and attacks against US interests in Afghanistan. It has also been blamed for several deadly attacks against Indian interests in Afghanistan, including the 2008 bombing of the Indian mission in Kabul that killed 58 people.

In a scathing attack on Pakistan, US President Donald Trump, in his first tweet of 2018, had accused it of "lies and deceit" and of fooling US leaders while sheltering terrorists.

The latest action by the US was taken against four Taliban leaders -- Abdul Samad Sani, Abdul QadeerBasir Abdul Baseer, Hafiz Mohammed Popalzai and MaulawiInayatullah -- and two Haqqani leaders Faqir Muhammad and Gula Khan Hamidi.

All the six terrorists have been designated as global terrorists by the US' Department of Treasury.

As a result, all property and interests in property of these persons subject to US jurisdiction are blocked, and the US citizens are prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.

"We are targeting six individuals related to the Taliban or Haqqani network who have been involved in attacks on coalition troops, smuggling of individuals, or financing these terrorist groups," said SigalMandelker, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

The action supports Trump's South Asia Strategy by disrupting terrorist organisations and publically exposing individuals who facilitate their activities, he said.

Mandelker said: "The Pakistani government must work with us to deny the Taliban and the Haqqani network sanctuary and to aggressively target their terrorist fund raising."

In early 2017, Sani sent weapons to Taliban members who later attacked an Afghan National Police (ANP) patrol, killing an ANP officer and wounding two others.

In 2015, Sani was a member of the 'Taliban Senior Shura' and had received funding to purchase supplies and ammunition for Taliban commanders and fighters engaged in combat in Afghanistan. He was personally involved in appointing special representatives to serve as Taliban fundraisers abroad.

Sani served as the Taliban's deputy finance commissioner, and also as the governor for the Afghan Central Bank during the Taliban regime.

Last year, Baseer provided Taliban commanders with tens of thousands of dollars for attacks in Kunar province of Afghanistan. In 2016, he hosted meetings with leaders of the Taliban to convince them to support then supreme leader of the Taliban Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur. He served as the treasurer for the Taliban in Peshawar.

He was the financial advisor to the Taliban's Peshawar Military Council and head of the Taliban's Peshawar Financial Commission in 2010. He personally delivers money from the Taliban's leadership Shura to Taliban groups in Pakistan.

During the Taliban regime, Baseer was the general consul of the Taliban in Islamabad and according to the UN, he also served as the Taliban regime's military attache at the Taliban embassy in Islamabad.

Popalzai has served for several years at the Taliban Finance Commission and was in-charge of the Taliban's finances for southern and western Afghanistan, including Qandahar, Helmand, Nimroz, Herat, Zabul, Uruzgan and Farah provinces.

In mid-2011, the Taliban was paid 10 million euros for the release of hostages it was holding.

The Taliban arranged for money to be deposited into an account at an Afghan bank in Qandahar. The account, which ultimately belonged to Ishakzai, was held in a false name.

Inayatullah has been a Taliban military affairs member in charge of multiple Afghan provinces, and was a member of the Taliban Peshawar Shura. In 2016, he operated as the overall Taliban member responsible for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces in Kabul.

He received a large sum of money from a contact and gave it to a courier to provide it to al-Qaida terrorists.

For several years, Faqir has been a major fundraiser for the Haqqani network. He was designated for assisting in, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, the Haqqani network.

In 2014, Hamidi agreed to facilitate travel for a Haqqani network-affiliated Uzbek extremist and his associates from Pakistan to Turkey. In 2014, he likely facilitated the transfer of funds from the Haqqani network to a Pakistan-based Uzbek extremist. Hamidi planned to send funds to Germans located with the Haqqani network in Pakistan, US authorities said.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/us-slaps-sanctions-on-six-taliban-haqqani-terrorists/articleshow/62661822.cms

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US asks Pakistan to restore operations of Radio Mashaal

PTI | Updated: Jan 26, 2018, 14:17 IST

WASHINGTON: The US today urged Pakistan to restore operations of Radio Mashaal shut down by Islamabad for allegedly broadcasting programmes against the "interests" of the country.

The Pashto-language radio station of US Congress-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) was operating from the border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Last week Pakistan had shut down Islamabad bureau of Radio Mashaal after the ISI alleged that its programmes were "against the interest of Pakistan and in line with a hostile intelligence agency's agenda".

The allegations were denied by REF/RL.

"Radio Mashaal serves no intelligence agency or government," RFE/RL president Thomas Kent had said.

"We are very concerned about the Pakistani Ministry of Interior's decision to close the offices of Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Liberties, Radio Marshall in Islamabad on January 19th," State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters at the Washington DC Foreign Press Center.

She said the US has conveyed its concerns to Pakistan and urged them to "swiftly and unequivocally revoke the closure decision and restore Radio Marshall's operations".

In a separate statement, John F Lansing, CEO Broadcasting Board of Governors, said he was "troubled" by the decision of the Pakistani government.

"RFE/RL's dedicated reporters are Pakistani citizens providing unbiased and accurate local reporting. They should be permitted to do their jobs informing the Pakistan citizenry, and they should be guaranteed safety while they do it," he said.

"I call for the immediate reopening of its offices in Islamabad. The people of Pakistan deserve access to fact-based reporting," Lansing said.

The Pakistani move comes amid deteriorating US-Pakistan relations after Washington's decision to suspend military aid to Islamabad.

RFE/RL's Pashto language service, known locally as Radio Mashaal, is a public service broadcaster providing an alternative to extremist propaganda in Pakistan's tribal regions.

Kent demanded that RFE/RL journalists be allowed to resume their work "without fear or delay".

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/us-asks-pakistan-to-restore-operations-of-radio-mashaal/articleshow/62662423.cms

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2 US Forces Killed in Afrin

 

TEHRAN (FAN)- Media sources confirmed that 2 US military men have been killed in Turkey's airstrike on the town of Afrin in Syria's Aleppo province.

The Arabic service of Sputnik news agency quoted media outlets as reporting that the two US military advisors were killed in the Turkish fighter jets' attacks on areas near Afrin.

The sources said that no official source has yet confirmed the report, adding that Pentagon's procrastination in covering such incidents has become a normality.

Earlier this week, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister BekirBozdag said the US and Ankara may come face-to-face in Manbij, though the possibility is “small”, while earlier President RecepTayyip Erdogan said Ankara will “thwart games” on its borders and start with Manbij.

Turkey will also continue to use the airspace across Afrin region in Northern Syria, where it recently launched Operation ‘Olive Branch’, Bozdag told Reuters in an interview.

At the same time, he said, Ankara is ready for all types of cooperation with Russia and the US if these actions would bring peace to the region.

Erdogan has criticized the administration of former US President Barack Obama for failing to keep its promises to Turkey in Syria.

“There was an operation during Mr. Obama’s administration. That operation aimed to clear terrorists from Manbij. But he failed to keep up to his promise and cheated us,” Erdogan said, adding that Ankara has done its part, but Washington has not.

“They [the Obama administration] promised they would send the terrorists in this area to the East of the Euphrates and leave Manbij,” he stressed.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961105000970

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US-Led Coalition Airstrikes against DeirEzzur Take Civilian Tolls Again

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Over 16 civilians were killed and several more were wounded in the US-led coalition fighter jets' attacks in SoutheasternDeirEzzur.

Local sources in SoutheasternDeirEzzur confirmed that the US warplanes targeted the town of al-Sha'afeh on the Eastern banks of the Euphrates River on Thursday, killing at least 13 people, including 7 women, and wounding several others.

The sources said that the airstrikes also killed 3 women in the town of Hajin.

Also, earlier this month, more than 50 civilians were killed and wounded during the US-led coalition's airstrikes against a town in Eastern DeirEzzur, local sources said.

The sources confirmed that over 20 civilians were killed and 30 others were wounded after the coalition's fighter jets pounded the town of Qaranij in Eastern DeirEzzur.

A number of injured people are in critical conditions, they added.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961105001028

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Europe

French lawmakers barred from wearing religious symbols

AFPUpdated January 26, 2018

PARIS: France’s parliament has banned lawmakers from wearing any religious symbols under a new “neutral” dress code, an extension of the country’s strict secular rules that is seen as going too far by some critics.

Under the change approved late on Wednesday, members of the National Assembly must avoid “the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols, uniforms, logos or commercial messages or political slogans.”

The regulation was brought in following an outcry over an MP wearing a football shirt in the parliament, but the inclusion of religious symbols in the new rules quickly became a talking point and a focus of attention.

Until now, lawmakers were instructed to simply “respect the institution”, which generally meant women wearing smart clothes and men sporting a suit and tie, though this latter requirement was relaxed last year.

Some 20th-century lawmakers included priests in religious garb, such as Henri Groues, better known as Abbe Pierre, and several Christian faith leaders were critical of the new restrictions on Wednesday.

The head of the Protestant Federation of France, Francois Clavairoly, said the change had been made “in the spirit of obsessive radical secularism.”

The speaker of the parliament, Francois de Rugy, defended the changes, saying they were in line with a 2004 law that banned schoolchildren and teachers from wearing conspicuous religious symbols.

That was seen by critics as penalising Muslims in particular by banning headscarves and veils, but Jewish kippas were also covered by the regulations.

“We’re adopting a framework and limits... to avoid any sort of provocation,” de Rugy said.

Schoolchildren, teachers — and now lawmakers — are allowed to wear small Christian crosses around their necks, while Jews are permitted to wear a Star of David and Muslims can carry a Hamsa amulet.

The laws and rules are intended to underline France’s commitment to the principle of secularism — the separation of church and state — which was enshrined in a flagship 1905 law.

dawn.com/news/1385309/french-lawmakers-barred-from-wearing-religious-symbols

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Russia to keep supporting Muslim education to tackle ‘destructive’ ideas – Putin

Published time: 25 Jan, 2018

Russia will continue to support Islamic education, which plays a key role in tackling the destructive ideas spread among Muslim youths in the country, President Vladimir Putin said.

The Russian authorities will “definitely support” Islamic education through “major state universities” and other means, the president said during a meeting with the country’s top Muslim clergy in Kazan on Wednesday.

The role of Muslim education among young people is paramount, as there are many problems and harmful ideas in this field, Putin said. Radical groups like Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) have been working to spread their ideology and recruit new members among young people in the Muslim regions of Russia.

“These ideas, even destructive ones, can only be tackled in one way – through other ideas. Those, which are being promoted and taught to the people in the Theological Academy, which was created here [in Kazan] and in other academies and educational institutions… in Moscow, Ufa and the Caucasus,” he said.

During the meeting, Putin stressed that “traditional Islam is an important part of Russia’s cultural code and that the Muslim community is, undoubtedly, a very important part of the Russian multinational population.” According to the 2002 census, there were 14.5 million Muslims in Russia, which accounted for around 10 percent of the population.

Putin also praised the Russian Muslim organizations for their work on the international level. “I think it’s a very interesting area of activity and a very rightful one. It’s no surprise that you’re being addressed for help and support,” he said.

Among other things, the Russian Muslim organizations stage the annual International Muslim Forum, which brings together Muslim leaders from Europe and elsewhere. “They hear us; they see how we develop; how good the relations of the Russian Muslims with the country’s authorities are and how we are being supported by our president,” Russian Grand Mufti RavilGainutdin said.

According to Gainutdin, Russian Muslims are “a sort of a ‘soft power’ in promoting our model of development of civil society… I recently accepted the US ambassador, then his counterpart from Spain. We’re not politicians and diplomats, but we have our own people’s diplomacy – we talk to them, turning them to our side.”

rt.com/politics/416980-putin-muslim-education-russia/

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Muslim drivers randomly stopping in road to pray face fines Joe Roberts

Friday 26 Jan 2018

Police in Abu Dhabi will fine drivers stopping at the roadside to pray (Picture: CEN) Exasperated police in Abu Dhabi will now fine drivers who randomly stop in the middle of a road to pray. Officers in the United Arab Emirates capital say they see far too many drivers risking serious accidents by praying at the roadside. Girl, 14, 'assaulted with pineapple during school lunch break' Abu Dhabi’s police force issued an official warning that drivers stopping in disallowed locations would be fined 1,000 AED (£190). Islam is the most prevalent religion in the UAE and it requires worshippers to pray five times a day – predawn, midday, afternoon, sunset and at night. Deputy director of the city’s traffic department Salah Abdullah Al Humairi pointed out that devoted drivers could use mosques at a wide variety of locations. Exasperated police want worshippers to wait until they find somewhere safe to pray (Picture: Getty) He said prayer facilities could be found at roadside rest rooms, petrol stations and residential areas. There was therefore no need for any driver to risk their own safety and that of other road users by stopping in undesignated places to pray, he said. Trump asks to borrow Van Gogh painting - museum offer him a gold toilet Under an amended traffic law, stopping a vehicle on a junction or corner or failing to take safety precautions in the event of a breakdown are both punishable by a 500 AED (£95) fine. Parking in a way that endangers other people can attract a fine of 400 AED (£76) Officers were particularly concerned about bus drivers

metro.co.uk/2018/01/26/muslim-drivers-randomly-stopping-road-pray-face-fines-7262176/?ito=cbshare

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UK General calls for banning of Muslim Brotherhood

 

LONDON, 26th January 2018 (WAM) -- A former senior British military commander, Lieutenant-General Sir Barney White-Spunner, called today for the British Government to declare the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates in the United Kingdom illegal.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, White-Spunner recalled that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson had said last month that the time had come to get tough with extremist organisations. "It is all too clear," he quoted Johnson as saying, "that Muslim Brotherhood parties are willing to turn a blind eye to terrorism or to condone it."

Welcoming this week’s announcement by the British Government that it had appointed a new Commissioner for Countering Extremism, Sara Khan, White-Spunner, a former senior commander in Afghanistan and Iraq, noted that Khan had said that she wanted her Commission "to build a Britain that defends our country while demonstrating zero tolerance to those who promote hate and seek to divide us."

"The next step," White-Spunner said, "must now be to follow the Foreign Secretary’s advice and proscribe the Muslim Brotherhood and its UK-based affiliates. There is little point in our Armed Forces and security services fighting at such cost over the past decades to contain Islamist extremism when we permit its embodiment to operate so freely in the UK. We are prepared to die to defend freedom of speech in this country – but we will die if we confuse that freedom with allowing extremism and hatred to continue unchecked."

wam.ae/en/details/1395302662641

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India

Kerala Sunni Factions Start Mediations After Three-Decade Fight

Asheem PK | News18Updated:January 26, 2018

The two warring factions of the Samastha Kerala JamiyyathulUlama, led by Syed JifriMuthukoyaThangal and Kanthapuram AP AboobakerMusliyar, have appointed a team of four-member mediators to end a three-decade-long fight. Samastha, post merger, would be the most influential Muslim organisation in Kerala.

From alleged ISIS exodus to the infamous Popular Front of India (PFI), Kerala Muslims have been at the centre of news for last few months. The Muslims in the state were unable to put their view out as the community was split in several factions. That may change soon with two warring factions of the Samastha Kerala JamiyyathulUlama, the largest Sunni organisation in the state, planning rapprochement.

Muslims constitute 28 percent of the total population in Kerala. Sunnis, followers of traditional Islam; Salafis, who are influenced by Wahabi form of Islam with its roots in Saudi Arabia; and JamaateIslami, who follow the reformist ideas propagated by Abul Ala Maududi, are the major groups.

Sunnis are the dominant sect while Shiites and Ahmadis have a meagre presence.

Kerala NadvathulMujahideen and IttihaaduShubbanilMujahideen — two Salafi organisations influenced by the ideologies of 18th century Islamic reformer Ibn Abdul Wahab — were the first to realise the need to be united.

After being criticised for their radical ideologies, the two factions of the Mujahideens led by Hussain Madavoor and Abdulla KoyaMadani joined hands after a fight which lasted for more than 14 years.

Taking a cue from the Mujahideens, now two warring factions of the Samastha Kerala JamiyyathulUlama, led by Syed JifriMuthukoyaThangal and Kanthapuram AP AboobakerMusliyar, have appointed a team of four-member mediators to end a three-decade-long fight.

Samastha, post merger, would be the most influential Muslim organisation in Kerala.

Interestingly, the AP faction supports the CPM-led left Democratic Front (LDF) while EK (named after late EK AboobakerMusliyar) Sunnis are traditionally supporters of the Muslim League who are part of Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF).

A united Samastha would get an increased bargaining power, especially with Muslim league, the fourth largest political party in Kerala. As for Muslim League, it is not in a position to endorse or disapprove any particular group since their vote bank is divided among both the groups, almost equally.

Both Samastha groups had parted ways in 1989 after differences among the 40-member Mushawara, the decision-making body.

The EK faction has control of over 9,500 of the total 12,500 madrasas in the Kerala. Around 12 lakh students are enrolled in these religious schools. Each group has formed their own mosques, madrasas, education boards and publications. Clashes between both the factions are quite common.

The major trigger for Sunnis to join hands is believed to be their opposition towards spreading of Salafi ideology, apart from the growing influence of religious extremist ideas propagated by Popular Front of India (PFI). They also feel necessary to stand together on issues like triple talaq and uniform civil code.

“We have decided that we are ready for talks on merger and will do whatever is needed from our side to ensure unity among Sunnis. We have also decided to set up a panel to go ahead with the talks,” said AP AboobakerMusliyar.

EK faction leader Umar FaizyMukkam told News18 that they are willing to go back to the pre-1989 state. “Hope the other faction would also agree on this. Both sides can compromise on certain matters for the broad benefit of the organisation,” he said. Faizy is also member of the mediation panel set up by EK faction.

Even though EK faction backs Muslim League, their leaders had locked horns with the party which has 18 representatives in the Kerala Assembly after two of its leaders attended a conference organised by KNM, a salafi organisation.

Sayyid Rasheed Ali and Munavvar Ali, members of the respected Panakkad family, despite warning from the Samastha. This led to an exchange of words between leaders from both the Muslim league and EK Sunnis and both leaders had to issue clarification eventually.

Both Samastha factions have a strong following in the Muslims community in Kerala. Political leaders often visit Samastha leaders.

Talking about recent talks, CM Muhammed Faisy of the AP faction said, “Samatha led by Kanthapuram has always stood for Sunni unity. Both the factions should work together to ensure unity among Sunnis. We are not working for the political gain of any particular party. We have to stand together against issues like terrorism with maligns the image of Islam.”

Faisy is the state secretary of Kerala muslimjamaat, a political offshoot of the AP Sunnis. Recently, the Congress had asked its leaders not to attend events organised by AP faction after alleged pressure from the Muslim league.

news18.com/news/india/kerala-sunni-factions-start-mediations-after-three-decade-fight-1642581.html

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No Muslim Youth Involved In Gurugram School Bus Case: Police

Updated: Jan 26, 2018

NEW DELHI: The Gurugram Police said today it wanted to make absolutely clear that no Muslim youth were involved in stoning a school bus full of children on Wednesday.

Social media has been awash with rumour that the anti-'Padmaavat' hooligans who stoned the bus were young Muslim men.

"This is to clarify that no Muslim boys have been detained in relation to the recent acts of vandalism on a Haryana Roadways bus and a school bus in Gurugram," said Gurugram Police today, according to ANI news agency.

On Wednesday, a rampaging anti-'Padmaavat' mob in Haryana's Bhondsi attacked school buses taking children home to Gurugram. As the group of 50-odd hooligans hurled bricks, stones and other projectiles on the bus, as many as 30 terrified children huddled under the seats to shield themselves from the missives and from glass shards flying at them as more and more windows shattered.

A day later, Gurugram police took 23 people into custody+ for the stone-pelting. They were charged with rioting and attempt to murder. Those apprehended include eight minor boys, some of whom were seen wearing what appeared to be school uniforms during the violence.

The others, all residents of Rajput-dominated Bhondsi, were sent to judicial custody and booked for rioting, attempt to murder and various other sections of the IPC. Nine more people were detained for roles in other incidents of violence in the city on Wednesday. Among them were Nitin Sharma and Umesh Kumar, members of a group calling itself 'Royal Youth Swaraj' who went to a mall on MG Road and threatened officials against screening the film.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/hindi/bollywood/news/no-muslim-youth-involved-in-gurugram-school-bus-case-police/articleshow/62661551.cms

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Suspected suicide bomber detained in Srinagar

ANI | Updated: Jan 26, 2018

SRINAGAR: A woman was detained by the Jammu and Kashmir police in Srinagar on Friday, on suspicious grounds of being a suicide bomber.

The Jammu and Kashmir Police said they will verify the fact before coming to any conclusion.

Speaking to media here, additional director general of Police (ADG), Muneer Khan said, "We had received an input that there is a lady who has come to the valley and is a suicide bomber. Yesterday, we were able to apprehend the suspect and now we will be talking to her. We will be talking to our sister agencies and every other lead to know about the issue. After proper investigations, we will come to the conclusion".

He added that militant outfits especially, Lashkar, Jaish and HizbulMujahideen (HM) are trying to lure the youth to militancy.

"We are trying to educate the youth. My appeal to the youth who have gone to militancy is to please come back as there will be no apprehensions and surrender," Khan stated.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/suspected-suicide-bomber-detained-in-srinagar/articleshow/62662786.cms

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Republic Day: BSF refuses to exchange sweets with Pak Rangers

TIMESOFINDIA.COM | Jan 26, 2018

NEW DELHI: Months after a warm exchange of greetings and sweets on Diwali, the Border Security Force (BSF) on Friday refused to share sweets with Pakistan Rangers on the occasion of India's 69th Republic Day.

Sweets were, however, exchanged between the BSF and Bangladesh's Border Guards at Fulbari post, reported ANI.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

@ANI

West Bengal: Sweets exchanged between troops of the Border Security Force and Border Guards, Bangladesh at Fulbari post. #RepublicDay

12:07 PM - Jan 26, 2018

 2 2 Replies   21 21 Retweets   122 122 likes

According to prevalent tradition, the border forces of both India and Pakistan exchange sweets and greet each other on various festivals and events of national importance, like Independent Day and Republic Day. This is expected to create an atmosphere conducive to harmony and coordination between the two sides.

"Sweets and greetings are exchanged on border if there isn't anything serious between the two nations and the practice comes to halt if there is bitterness in relations," a BSF officer had told TOI during Diwali.

Earlier, the tradition was suspended during Diwali 2016, when the BSF decided to protest the killing of its jawans in unprovoked firing along the international border and LoC in Jammu and Kashmir by the neighbour's forces.

A similar thing happened in August 2015, when the BSF did not exchange sweets with its Pakistani counterparts on the occasion of India's Independence Day, following the Dinanagar terror attack.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/republic-day-bsf-refuses-to-exchange-sweets-with-pak-rangers/articleshow/62663120.cms

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Indian in Pakistan jail has to wait till January 31 to know his fate

PTI | Jan 25, 2018

PESHAWAR: Indian national Hamid Nehal Ansari, languishing in a Pakistani jail, even after serving a 3-year prison term, has failed to secure his release as authorities did not submit the record of his conviction by a military court and his jail warrant to a top court here.

Ansari, a Mumbai resident, was arrested in 2012 for illegally entering Pakistan from Afghanistan reportedly to meet a girl he had befriended online. He was tried in a military court and was given three years' rigorous imprisonment.

In November last year, he had filed a petition in the Peshawar High Court, pleading that he should not be treated as a "spy" as he was not involved in "anti-state activities".

Though India has sought consular access to Ansari, Pakistan has not yet provided it, the Ministry of External Affairs had said in New Delhi earlier this month.

Resuming the hearing in the case, the two-judge Peshawar High Court (PHC) bench, comprising Chief justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Mohammad Ghazanfar, asked the respondents about production of Ansari's conviction order by the military court as well as details of his jail warrant.

However, the respondents did not submit the record of his conviction and his jail warrant that the court had earlier directed to produce today, the Express Tribune reported.

Later, the court strongly directed the authorities to produce the records by January 31 and adjourned the case.

Ansari's legal woes comes at a time when India has legally challenged at the International Court of Justice the death sentence given by a Pakistani military court to Indian national KulbhushanJadhav, for alleged spying.

During the hearing of Ansari's case, the court was told that the security agencies had recovered some photographs of Pakistan's sensitive locations from his possession, especially of the military related areas, the Express Tribune said.

However, the authorities did not provide any details to support their claim, the report said.

Lawyer for Ansari, Qazi Muhammad Anwar, argued in the court that the Indian national was investigated by the security forces and tried by the military court.

He was sentenced to three-year imprisonment only for his illegal entry into Pakistan as nothing else was found against him to prove him a spy.

"Under the law, he has already completed the three-year jail term as he is behind bars in Pakistan since 2012 and should be released now," he said.

The counsel told the court that in Mardan prison Ansari is being treated like a spy as his jail warrant is also stamped with phrase 'anti-state activities' despite the fact he was not found to be involved in any such activities.

"Nehal Ansari is not a spy. He was tried by the military court and was awarded three-year imprisonment, which he has already completed," Anwar told the court.

Ansari was arrested by security agencies in 2012 from a hotel in Kohat, allegedly with a fake ID. According to his petition, he had come to Pakistan to meet a girl he had befriended on social media.

Ansari was tried in a military court and was given a three-year rigorous imprisonment that started from December 15, 2015.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/indian-in-pakistan-jail-has-to-wait-till-january-31-to-know-his-fate/articleshow/62653564.cms

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Pakistan

Senate Panel Refers Issue of Public Hanging Of Child Rapists to Council of Islamic Ideology

Amir WasimUpdated January 26, 2018

ISLAMABAD: After having failed to reach a consensus, the Senate Standing Commit­tee on Law and Justice referred on Thursday a proposed amendment to the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) to provide for public hanging of criminals abducting children for murder to the Council of Islamic Ideology for its view.

The committee, headed by Senator JavedAbbasi of the ruling PML-N, also decided to hear representatives of provincial jail administrations at the next meeting before reaching a decision.

Former interior minister Senator Rehman Malik of the PPP had proposed the amendment to Section 364-A of the PPC, saying that the small amendment would send a strong message and help prevent to a large extent Zainab-like incidents in the country. He also said that this was the pressing demand of the people of Pakistan.

The idea was opposed by some members of the committee who said the amendment would not be appropriate as objections were already being raised over the death penalty in Pakistan.

Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani had referred the proposed bill to the house committee on law and directed the committees on interior and human rights to give their input on the matter.

dawn.com/news/1385331/senate-panel-refers-issue-of-public-hanging-of-child-rapists-to-cii

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Pakistan urges repatriation of refugees after drone strike on Haqqani leader

By KHAAMA PRESS - Thu Jan 25 2018

In reaction to the US airstrike on Haqqani network leader in North Waziristan, the government of Pakistan has urged the early repatriation of the refugees, claiming that the presence of the refugees provide facilities for the terrorists to find sanctuaries.

The foreign ministry of Pakistan condemned the airstrike and urged the US for intelligence sharing instead of further raids so that the country’s security forces can act instead.

“Pakistan has also been stressing the need of early repatriation of Afghan refugees as their presence in Pakistan helps Afghan terrorists to melt and morph among them,” according to an official statement.

The statement further added “Such unilateral actions, as that of today, are detrimental to the spirit of cooperation between the two countries in the fight against terrorism.”

The Afghan and US officials have long been insisting that the leadership councils of the Taliban and the notorious Haqqani terrorist network are based in the key cities of Pakistan where from they plan and coordinate attacks in Afghanistan.

The director of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) earlier had warned that the United States will take necessary steps if Pakistan fails to destroy terror safe havens in its soil.

khaama.com/pakistan-urges-repatriation-of-refugees-after-drone-strike-on-haqqani-leader-04351

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Pakistan accuses India of exceeding its legitimate defence needs

PTI | Updated: Jan 25, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday accused India of exceeding its legitimate defence needs and said New Delhi's buildup of advanced weapons would negatively impact strategic stability in South Asia and beyond.

Foreign Office (FO) spokesman Mohammad Faisal said there was a clear disconnect between India's declared policy of restraint and its relentless pursuit of an ambitious missile programme.

He alleged that the development of Agni V intercontinental ballistic missile showed India's real designs of pursuing hegemony. He termed it an "exercise in power projection".

"While every state has a right to its security, the buildup of sophisticated and advanced weapons and delivery systems by India far exceeds its legitimate defence needs," he said.

"Seen in the backdrop of other acquisitions of advanced capabilities in both the conventional and non-conventional domains, these developments will negatively impact strategic stability in the South Asian region and beyond," he said.

Faisal said Pakistan will continue to adhere to a policy of restraint and a responsible defence posture but will also take steps to ensure its defence.

Faisal said Pakistan believed in a peaceful neighbourhood, which is essential for peace and development. He said that cooperation instead of conflict was the only way forward but it should be reciprocated by actions and not words.

To a question about sharing of test reports of the shoes of Indian prisoner KulbhushanJadhav's wife, he said "the report will be shared at an appropriate time."

Jadhav, 47, was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of espionage and terrorism in April.

India had hit out at Pakistan for the way it treated the wife and mother of Jadhav when they met him in Pakistan on December 25.

He also accused India of launching a malicious propaganda campaign against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-accuses-india-of-exceeding-its-legitimate-defence-needs/articleshow/62654005.cms

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Kashmir issue among causes of a fractured world: Pakistan

PTI | Jan 26, 2018

DAVOS: Pakistan has said Kashmir and Rohingya issues are among the "causes of a fractured world" being witnessed today and they also need to be discussed at the international level.

Addressing a press conference along with his several cabinet colleagues who are here for the World Economic Forum (WEF), Pakistan Prime Minister ShahidKhaqanAbbasi said his country expects relationships to remain strong with China as well as the US.

He, however, acknowledged that the relationship with China has improved in recent past due to projects like Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

In reply to a question, Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif said, "Kashmir and Rohingya are also among the causes of fractured world and they also need (to be) addressed at international level".

His comments were in reference to the theme of this year's WEF annual meeting -- 'Creating a shared future in a fractured world'.

Asked whether Pakistan was feeling the warmth of friendship from the East or the West, Abbasi said, "For our country warmth has been blowing from both East and from the West and we hope it continues to blow from both sides. We have excellent relationships with China and with the US also."

He said the relationship with China has further strengthened with BRI and CPEC.

Asif said these relationships have been there since the birth of the country.

The Chinese initiatives in a region that is politically and otherwise fractured is something that shows and manifests China's commitment to strive for a shared future, the foreign minister said.

He also noted that Pakistan has praised China's BRI and President Xi Jinping's vision at every platform in Davos.

"We would like our friends to view their relationship with Pakistan as an independent relationship and not through the prism of a third country. I am referring to our relationship with the US and they have (been) in the last few years viewing the relationship through the prism of Afghanistan," Asif said.

The prime minister and his cabinet colleagues also listed out various steps being taken to attract investments and how the government was trying to improve the country's global image.

Abbasi said Pakistan is an open market and ready to do business as he invited global businesses to come and invest in the country.

The decision to attend the WEF annual meeting was mainly driven by its theme, shared future in a fractured world, he said.

"In Pakistan, we are carving out a shared future for everyone without leaving any one and we are doing this despite facing fractures internally and externally," he noted.

Pakistan is at the cusp of making history by making a peaceful transition by completing a decade of continued democracy, he said.

According to him, the country is playing a key role in connecting people of the region also by participating in the CPEC which is part of the BRI project of China.

"Here at the WEF, we have engaged with leaders of various sectors and the platform has allowed us to present our potential," Abbasi said.

He also said BRI would benefit the region and the world at large for decades and millenniums to come.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/kashmir-issue-among-causes-of-a-fractured-world-pakistan/articleshow/62663384.cms

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'No information on whereabouts of Raza,' Ahsan Iqbal tells Senate

Nadir GuramaniJanuary 26, 2018

Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal on Friday told the Senate that his ministry has no information regarding the disappearance of peace activist Raza Mahmood Khan, who went missing on December 2 last year.

He said that efforts to recover Khan were underway but no headway has been made so far. Iqbal also informed the Senate that the Inquiry Commission for Missing Persons will hear the missing activist's case on February 9. "Representatives of all agencies will appear before the commission and will be questioned."

On Chairman Senate Raza Rabbani's question on the agencies' version on whether Khan is in their custody, the interior minister said that no agency has so far confirmed anything on the matter.

Khan, a convener of Aghaz-i-Dosti, a friendship initiative between the youth of India and Pakistan, was picked up from his residence in Model Colony, Lahore. The area falls under the ambit of the Naseerabad Police Station.

Activists belonging to various rights groups, along with friends and family, have been agitating for the activist's release. They have condemned the ‘enforced disappearance’ of activists and attempts to silence and harass those speaking up for peace and human rights.

International rights organisation, Amnesty International, has also demanded that the Pakistani government immediately ensure Raza's recovery.

"Scarcely does a week go by without Amnesty International receiving reports of people going missing in Pakistan," a statement issued by the organisation said. "Many of them may have been subjected to enforced disappearances, which is a crime under international law."

Find Raza: Civil society calls for recovery of missing activist on Human Rights Day

A petition seeking his recovery is also being heard by the Lahore High Court.

In January 2017, five bloggers and social media activists had gone missing after which blasphemy allegations were levelled against them on social media. The allegations were later proven to be untrue and four of the five missing persons returned. Samar Abbas, president of the Civil Progressive Alliance Pakistan, however, has still not been recovered.

dawn.com/news/1385404/no-information-on-whereabouts-of-raza-ahsan-iqbal-tells-senate

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IHC bench refuses to hear Musharraf’s counsel

Malik AsadUpdated January 26, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) did not permit the counsel for former military dictator, retired Gen Pervez Musharraf, to argue a petition seeking directions to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to probe the alleged “wrongdoings” of the former military ruler.

After hearing brief arguments of the petitioner on Thursday, the two-member IHC bench reserved order on the maintainability of the petition.

The petition was filed by an ex-serviceman, retired Lt Col Inamur Rahim in Jan 2014 and was pending for adjudication since.

The petitioner had in Dec 2017 written to the chief justice and requested him to appoint a supervisory judge, as had been appointed to monitor the progress on the trial against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, for the swift disposal of the cases in which Mr Musharraf is nominated as an accused.

Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb heard the petition on Thursday. The bench refused to hear the arguments of Mr Musharraf’s lawyer, retired Maj Akhtar Shah, saying that his client is an absconder and fugitive of the law and that the counsel may therefore not be given the right of audience till the surrender of the former military ruler.

The petitioner alleged that as the chief of army staff as well as the president of Pakistan, Mr Musharraf violated his oath according to which he was duty bound to defend the country and protect its citizens. Referring to Musharraf’s book, ‘In the Line of Fire’, page 237 and a chapter titled ‘Man Hunt’, the petitioner said the former military ruler has admitted to handing over a large number of people to the US in order to make money.

In his book, Mr Musharraf has written: “We have caught many others, some are known to the world, some are not known; we have captured 689 and handed over 369 to the United States. We have earned bounties by taking millions of dollars”.

The petitioner also alleged that Mr Musharraf “injected corruption into the senior hierarchy of the armed forces by allotting them plots over and above their entitlements”.

According to the petitioner, when he approached NAB against the alleged corruption, the bureau did not entertain his application with the observation that these allegations pertain to the tenure of retired General Pervez Musharraf as chief of army staff and president of Pakistan which do not fall under the ambit of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999.

In 2014, Mr Musharraf’s counsel Akhtar Shah submitted a reply on behalf of former military ruler saying that NAB Ordinance 1999 does not cover the acts of corruption of any army officer during his tenure of service therefore the complaint was rightly returned by NAB.

During Thursday’s hearing, the petitioner requested the court to direct NAB to initiate proceeding against Mr Musharraf.

The bench asked how the court could pass such directions to NAB as under NAO 1999, there is a certain procedure for dealing with complaints.

In response, the petitioner’s counsel Laeeq Swati said that in a July 28, 2017 verdict of the Supreme Court, there is precedent that directions may be given to NAB for preparing and filing of a reference.

He said he is not asking directions for filing a reference but the matter may be referred to the anti-corruption body for a just and transparent inquiry.

The bench reserved the order on the maintainability of the petition which was not announced till the filing of this report.

Talking to Dawn, Mr Musharraf’s counsel said he is confident the court will dismiss the petition since it is frivolous. He said the former military dictator is considering filing a defamation suit against the petitioner for filing a derogatory petition.

dawn.com/news/1385367/ihc-bench-refuses-to-hear-musharrafs-counsel

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Guilty in Naqeeb case will be punished, Durrani tells Sindhi-Pathan community of Shikarpur

The Newspaper's CorrespondentUpdated January 26, 2018

SHIKARPUR: Sindh Ass­e­­mbly Speaker Agha Siraj Khan Durrani has said that no party in the province is strong enough to challenge Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in the next general election.

He was speaking at a tea party hosted for him jointly by the Shikarpur Sindhi-PathanBradary and All Sindhi-Pathan Youth at the residence of Special People Foundation chairman Agha Muneer Khan Pathan near Kiri Nawab Khan locality on Thursday. He also res­pon­ded to questions posed by local reporters who were present at the party.

He observed that PPP opponents were trying to create the impression that the party had lost its roots in Sindh but the factual position was that it was mere a propaganda as even all anti-PPP parties together could not give a tough time to it in the election.

Mr Durrani claimed that the PPP would sweep election not only in Sindh but all other provinces because it had been serving the masses for decades and had the honour of restoring and defending democracy in the country. Great sacrifices had been rendered by the Bhutto family and thousands of PPP workers in their struggle for the restoration of democracy and were continuing it to defend the democratic process, he added.

In reply to a question about reports of former provincial minister Agha Taim­oor Khan Pathan’s defection, he said the party was yet to confirm or deny such reports but it was every citizen’s democratic right to work for a party of his choice.

He, however, ack­now­ledged having heard rum­ours about AghanTaim­oor’s intention to join the anti-PPP Grand Demo­cratic Alliance (GDA).

Endorsing PPP’s handling of the death of Naqee­bullahMehsud in which is alleged to be a “fake enco­un­ter” involving (suspended) Malir SSP Rao Anwar, the Sindh Assembly speaker said the police offi­cer and his team were facing an investigation under the supervision of his high-ups.

Mr Durrani also noted that PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah had also taken serious notice of the episode and they were not interfering in the legal course. He was of the view that the impression that the investigators were being pressured by the provincial government or the party was wrong.

“A proper and fair investigation into the allegations against the SSP and his team was under way to ensure justice to the aggrie­ved side,” he said, adding that if it turned out to be a fake encounter, the police officers found guilty would definitely be punished in accordance with the law.

Mr Durrani said police were supposed to protect the life, property and honour of citizens but no one could be given licence to kill innocent people. “Killing a man in fake encounter is a very serious allegation and must be investigated thoroughly,” he said, adding that the guilty of such an act must be taken to task.

In reply to a question about delimitation, the PA spea­ker said that the Elec­tion Commission of Pakistan wanted to retain the current constituencies for the next general election but no such notification had been issued as yet. However, it any chan­ges were carried out and they appeared to be against the interests of the general public, such moves would obviously be resisted by political forces.

Appropriate forums including the floor of the assembly could be used to raise voice against such ill-advised moves, he added.Earlier, speaking to the audience at the tea party, Mr Durrani urged the Pathan community living in Sindh to forge unity in their ranks to ensure rights of its every individual. He made it clear that the Sindhi-Pathan alliance and affiliated outfits were purely social organisations which had nothing to do with politics.

“They are meant to ensure resolution of civic and social issues at local level in coordination with the authorities concerned and work for the welfare of communities,” he said.

Agha AsadPathan, Agha Muneer Khan Pathan, Agha Sanaullah, Dado Khan Pathan and other notables of the area attended the party.

dawn.com/news/1385279/guilty-in-naqeeb-case-will-be-punished-durrani-tells-sindhi-pathan-community-of-shikarpur

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Arab World

Sufism Can Counter Extremist Tendencies: Vice President of Egypt’s Al-Azhar University

January 26, 2018

KARACHI: Prof Dr Mohammad Mahmoud Abu Hashim, vice president of Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, has said that Sufism can and is playing an effective role to counter extremist tendencies in the Muslim world because it teaches its adherents tolerance towards followers of all faiths and ideologies.

He rejected the western media’s portrayal of Islam as condoning if not encouraging extremism and emphasised that it should be borne in mind that “Islam is a religion of peace which has nothing to do with extremism and all acts of terrorism being committed in its pristine name.”

The scholar, who is visiting Pakistan on the invitation of organisers of the 27th ‘Annual spiritual workshop’ being organised in the city by Sufi order Silsila-i-Azeemia on Friday, was speaking at a dialogue on “Modern day challenges to the Muslim world” at the Karachi Press Club on Thursday.

He said that Al-Azhar University, 1,000-year-old seat of higher learning in the Islamic world, had on its part written several books and articles to educate Muslims in what constituted true Islam in order to save them from the prevalent extremist ideologies, which had inflicted more harm on religion than its external foes.

Asked why the university was no more playing its role to guide Muslims through today’s complex social and political problems, the scholar said the university had always tried to rise to the occasion and guide Muslims to the best course of action in the light of religion with regard to modern day problems.

On the question of Egyptian government’s policies towards Israel and the issue of Palestine, he said the issue of Palestine was the collective responsibility of the Muslim world.

Al-Azhar did not address individuals and groups and their actions, but it addressed collective issues and always strived hard to show the world true picture of pristine Islam and present a counter narrative against ‘Western propaganda’ through seminars and workshops, he said.

He disagreed with a question on how much influence Egypt’s military government wielded over the university and said that Al-Azhar was an independent institution, which formulated its own policies and never accepted intervention in its internal affairs by any regime.

Dr Abu Hashim rejected the notion that Muslim intelligentsia had failed to develop its own intellectual discourse on political Islam and said that it was wrong to say that Islamic scholars relied largely on western interpretations.

The scholar who was speaking through an interpreter posed a question to journalists before taking questions from them, saying “what role Pakistani media has played for Al Quds Al Sharif in the wake of the US president’s widely condemned move to relocate the country’s embassy to the occupied Jerusalem?”

The press club president, Ahmad Khan Malik, replied the country’s media gave ample airtime to reaction to the incendiary move because Pakistanis were very sensitive to the Palestine issue and they had always condemned every cruel act of Israeli occupation forces.

Dr Abu Hashim will attend the spiritual workshop of Silsila-i-Azeemia on Friday being organised as part of Urs celebrations of spiritual head of the Sufi order, Mohammad AzeemBurkhia.

dawn.com/news/1385289/sufism-can-counter-extremist-tendencies-egyptian-scholar

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Saudi Arabia jails two human rights defenders: Amnesty

AFPJanuary 26, 2018

A Saudi court on Thursday issued harsh jail terms against two human rights defenders despite reforms touted by the kingdom's crown prince, Amnesty International said.

The court in Riyadh sentenced Mohammad al-Otaibi and Abdullah al-Attawi to 14 and seven years imprisonment, respectively, the rights group said.

“The harsh sentencing... confirms our fears that the new leadership of [Crown Prince] Mohamed bin Salman is determined to silence civil society and human rights defenders in the kingdom,” said Samir Hadid, director of campaigns for the Middle East at Amnesty.

“The crackdown on members of the human rights community has continued unabated, with almost all the country's most prominent human rights defenders now behind bars,” she said.

Otaibi and Attawi were charged with participating in setting up an organisation and announcing it before securing an authorisation. They were also accused of dividing national unity, spreading chaos and inciting public opinion by publishing statements harmful to the kingdom's image and its judicial and security agencies, Amnesty said.

Otaibi, 49, fled to neighbouring Qatar in March last year and was extradited to the kingdom two months later. He co-founded the Union for Human Rights in Riyadh in 2013 and authorities ordered it shut after about one month, but he continued his work.

“If Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is truly intent on bringing reforms to Saudi Arabia, he must ensure the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience, including human rights defenders, detained solely for peacefully exercising their human rights,” Hadid said.

dawn.com/news/1385247/saudi-arabia-jails-two-human-rights-defenders-amnesty

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Syrian Kurds seek Damascus’ protection as Turkey’s Erdogan vows to return Afrin to ‘owners’

Published time: 26 Jan

Syrian Kurds seek Damascus’ protection as Turkey’s Erdogan vows to return Afrin to ‘owners’

Fighters from the self-defence forces of the Kurdish-led north hold their weapons during a rally in Hasaka, northeastern Syria, January 23, 2018. © Rodi Said / Reuters

Kurdish officials in Afrin have urged Damascus to send troops to protect Syria’s sovereignty from the “Turkish occupier.” Ankara insists it will return the enclave to its “original owner” after its “liberation” from “terrorists.”

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

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

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

Turkish President RecepTayyip Erdogan, meanwhile, dismissed the allegations of Turkey’s encroachment on Syrian territory, stressing that Ankara is not interested in land grabs but merely in ensuring its border security. Erdogan argued that as soon as the Turkish Army forces “terrorists” out of Afrin, it will be quick to return the city to its “original owners.”

A major aerial and ground military operation launched by Turkey in the border area has already strained relations between Turkey and its key NATO ally the US. The latter has been supporting the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) which Ankara sees as an extension of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), which is outlawed as a terrorist entity in Turkey.

Ankara says the operation is aimed at fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) and preventing Kurdish “terrorists” from gaining a permanent foothold and subsequent autonomy. It was launched amid reports of a US plan to create a 30,000-strong Border Security Force (BSF), half of which number would be drawn from the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Tensions flared even more following a phone call between Erdogan and US President Donald Trump on Wednesday, as Turkish officials disputed the transcript of the conversation, saying that at no point had the US leader voiced any “concerns” about “escalating violence” in Afrin.

Earlier, the White House reported in its summary of the conversation that Trump “relayed concerns that escalating violence in Afrin… risks undercutting our shared goals in Syria,” while calling on his Turkish counterpart to deescalate the situation and “limit” its military drive.

@RT_com

URGENT: 'Small possibility’ that US & Ankara will come face-to-face in Manbij – Turkish deputy PM on.rt.com/8xmo

16:28 - 24 янв. 2018 г.

 26 26 ответов   80 80 Ретвитов   78 78 отметок «Нравится»

Despite that, Erdogan announced that the operation may spread into another Kurdish-held enclave, Manbij. Later, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister BekirBozdagt said that there may even be a face-to-face confrontation between the US and Ankara in Manbij, though the possibility of such an eventuality is “small.”

On Thursday, the Turkish military announced it has so far killed at least 306 IS and Kurdish “terrorists” since the onset of the offensive on Saturday, noting that it targets exclusively militants and places the “utmost importance” on not hurting any civilians.

rt.com/news/417028-afrin-kurds-help-assad-deploy-troops/

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One year after the rebels' defeat, life returns to Syria's war-wrecked Aleppo

Updated January 26, 2018

Aleppo’s largest square was packed with people of all ages: young men performing a folk dance, children playing, others buying ice cream, popcorn, peanuts and salted pumpkin seeds. A giant sign spells out in colourful English letters, “I love Aleppo".

The scene in Saadallah al-Jabiri Square on a recent day was a complete turnaround from what it was during nearly four years of warfare that wracked the Syrian city. Rebel sniper fire and shelling — and a triple car bombing that killed dozens — made it a no-go zone. For much of the fighting, the square stood near the front line dividing the government-held western half of Aleppo from the rebel-held eastern half.

Thirteen months after government forces captured the east, crushing rebels, there have been some improvements in Aleppo. The guns are silent, allowing life to return to the streets. Water and electricity networks are improving. But the city has barely begun to recover from devastation so great and a civilian flight so big that residents find it difficult to imagine it could ever return to what it was.

Aleppo’s eastern half remains in ruins. Its streets have been cleared of rubble but there’s been little rebuilding of the blocks of destroyed or badly damaged buildings.

Though some residents have trickled back, hundreds of thousands still have not returned to their homes in the east, either because their homes are wrecked or because they fear reprisals for their opposition loyalties.

Also, after the victory by the forces of President Bashar Assad, there’s little sign of attempts at reconciliation in Syria’s largest city or talk of how part of the city rose up trying to bring down Assad’s rule.

To reporters, residents — whether out of genuine sentiment or fear of state reprisals — express only pro-Assad sentiment and dismiss the rebels as militants backed by foreign powers.

Die-hard opposition sympathisers likely have not returned or keep it to themselves, and everyone is more focused on grappling with the destruction in the city.

“I feel very sad, I cry. Sometimes I cry in the morning because this was a very good neighbourhood,” said Adnan Sabbagh, standing on a balcony in his building in the once rebel-held eastern district of Sukkari.

The view from his balcony is a landscape of wreckage. Across the street is a pile of rubble a block long that used to be the EinJalout school compound that his three daughters and two sons once attended. Beyond it stand apartment buildings that have been sheared in half, their internal staircases jutting out exposed. The building adjacent to Sabbagh’s has been levelled to a hill of broken concrete, rebar and stone.

Sabbagh’s own six-story building still stands but the top three floors have had all their walls blasted away, leaving slabs of concrete floor dangling precariously.

The 47-year-old construction worker fled to live in the coastal town of Jableh five years ago as soon as the rebels overran Aleppo’s east. All three of his daughters are married to soldiers in Assad’s army, so he feared the fighters would not tolerate his presence.

In the autumn of last year, he returned home and fixed up his apartment on the second floor where he now lives with his wife and youngest son, Hamza.

He relies on generators set up in the neighbourhood because like most other parts of east Aleppo, there’s no electricity in Sukkari — the government is still working to reinstall electricity poles. But running water has been restored — though it’s available only every other day, as is the case throughout the city east and west.

Aleppo, with a pre-war population of 2.3 million, was Syria’s largest city and its commercial centre. More than that, it was a culture all its own within Syria. Aleppans take enormous pride in their own accent of Syrian Arabic and their city’s famed cuisine with its own styles of roast meats and mezze appetizers. The city’s history spans millennia, and tourists were drawn by its historic citadel, Ummayad Mosque and covered bazaar.

But it became one of the most vicious battlegrounds of Syria’s still ongoing war.

In July 2012, rebels stormed eastern parts of the city where they found a welcome among many of its poorer residents. For the next few years, the opposition fighting Assad around the country saw their enclave in Aleppo as the jewel of their uprising, their strongest urban centre. It tore Aleppo in two, however, with destructive battles between the two halves as tens of thousands fled the city.

In 2016, government forces backed by Russian airstrikes surrounded the enclave, besieging it for months, pounding it with barrages. By the end, the rebels and residents trapped with them in a shrinking area of neighbourhoods faced either being crushed or starving.

In December 2016, they surrendered. The rebels were sent to opposition territory elsewhere, while the few remaining residents were evacuated, leaving the eastern sector — once home to well over one million people — a shattered, empty shell.

Since then, some have filtered back. The top United Nations (UN) official in Syria, Ali Al-Za’tari, said the numbers are uncertain but that the UN is aware of close to 200,000 now living in the east, based on those who have registered for assistance.

Most of the factories in Aleppo’s 15 industrial districts are still closed, many of them damaged either from looting or from bombardment by government forces when they were held by rebels. Despite the relative peace, insurgents on Aleppo’s western outskirts fire shells occasionally. That has slowed the return of production at Lairamoun, an industrial district only few hundred metres from rebel positions.

Ghassan Nazi, the owner of a textile factory in Lairamoun, said that once the rebels are pushed back, he will reopen his business. Touring the now silent factory, he said it was used as a prison by a rebel faction called the Badr Martyrs. He said he’s suffered almost $5 million in losses.

He blames everything that tore apart his city on “neighbouring countries” that he said plotted to destroy Aleppo as an economic engine. He didn’t say which countries but many government supporters use the phrase to refer to opposition-backer Turkey.

“They simply want to turn us from producers to consumers,” he said.

In western Aleppo, where damage was much less, there’s a feeling of liberation from life under warfare. Power comes several hours a day and will soon run around the clock. Sand berms that had been set up on many streets have been removed, and security checkpoints have been pulled from the heart of the city to its entrances, freeing traffic.

Im el-Nour, a 51-year-old woman who drives a taxi — the only female cab driver in the city, she says — has seen a boost in work. She can now operate in the east, where conservative women call her for their errands to avoid riding with a male driver. El-Nour also works as a DJ at women-only parties or weddings, which have become more frequent now with the relative peace.

“One of the songs that I play a lot is Cheb Khaled’s Cest La Vie,” she said, referring to a popular Algerian singer.

She added that Aleppo’s women also like to dance to Canadian singer Celine Dion, Shakira and Lebanon’s NajwaKaram.

Between her two jobs, el-Nour — who is divorced and who lost a son, killed while fighting as a soldier in Assad’s army — makes more than $100 a month, a bit more than a typical civil servant’s salary.

“Aleppo will again become the jewel of the Middle East,” she boasted.

At Saadallah al-Jabiri Square, Mustafa Khodor churned out popcorn as parents lined up to buy from him. He said his sales have tripled.

“The liberation of Aleppo was a turning point for us in this city. People now feel safe and go out,” said the father of five.

Nearby, Abdullatif Maslawi, a 21-year-old law student, performed a traditional dance known as dabke with a group of his friends.

“Aleppo is my soul,” he said. “Aleppo was wounded and now it is being cured.”

dawn.com/news/1385402/one-year-after-the-rebels-defeat-life-returns-to-syrias-war-wrecked-aleppo

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Interpol hands over ex-minister wanted for corruption to Iraq

AFPUpdated January 26, 2018

BAGHDAD: Interpol on Thursday handed over to Iraq a former minister arrested in Beirut over a conviction for corruption, in a first such collaboration with the international police body, a government source said.

“Former trade minister Abdel Falah al-Sudani has landed in Baghdad after having been handed over by Interpol,” the source said.

“It’s the first time that Interpol responds to a government request at that level.” Sudani, who is now aged 70 and also holds citizenship of Britain where he studied, served as trade minister from 2006 to 2009, following the 2003 US-led invasion which toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.

Placed on an Interpol wanted list in June 2014, he was arrested at Beirut airport in September last year.

In 2012, the former minister, who belongs to the Dawa party of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, was sentenced in absentia to seven years imprisonment for corruption.

He was linked to a scandal over the import of adulterated tea products during his mandate.

In 2009, he was arrested as he tried to flee the country after having been sacked and charged. He was released on payment of a bail of $43,000 but again fled.

Iraq’s Commission of Public Integrity, in a statement, welcomed what it called “years of efforts which led to his extradition” following contacts with Interpol and Britain over fraud involving overpriced imports.

Under an amnesty law, Iraqi officials can escape jail terms if they pay sums which have allegedly been pilfered from public coffers.

Abadi, whose country ranks as the world’s 10th most corrupt, said he met on Thursday with Interpol’s secretary general, Juergen Stock, at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos.

dawn.com/news/1385312/interpol-hands-over-ex-minister-wanted-for-corruption-to-iraq

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Syrian Gov't Paving Ground for Implementing Nationwide Reconciliation Plan in Dara'a

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Local sources reported on Friday that talks are underway between the Syrian government and Dara'a militants with the mediation of the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria to pave the ground for the latter's endorsement of the nationwide peace agreement.

The sources said that government's delegation and the Russian center have held several rounds of talks with local representatives in Dara'a to pave the way for militants in a number of villages and towns to join the peace agreement with the Syrian Army.   

Dissident-affiliated websites reported on Tuesday that two large terrorist groups affiliated to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) engaged in fierce clashes in Dara'a province after a terrorist commander was assassinated.

The websites disclosed that Commander of Shabab al-Sunna Nasim Abu Arah was assassinated by unknown attackers in front of a checkpoint in Northern Dara'a.

The websites further said that Shabab al-Sunna terrorists later accused Jeish al-Thowra rival terrorists of the attack and engaged in heavy fighting with them.

Shabab al-Sunna and Jeish al-Thowra clashed with each other last week after the latter group's commander was assassinated. 

The Russian Defense Ministry reported earlier this month that representatives of militants in a region in Aleppo endorsed peace agreement with the Syrian Army troops.

The ministry reported that militants in the village of Taljabin in Aleppo province laid down arms and joined the nationwide reconciliation plan with the army, adding that the total number of towns, regions and villages that have thus far ended battle against the army stands at 2,330.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961106000114

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Militants in More Regions Endorse Peace Agreement with Syrian Army

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Russian Defense Ministry reported on Friday that representatives of militants in a region in Aleppo have endorsed the peace agreement with the Syrian Army troops in the last 24 hours.

The ministry reported that militants in the village of Tal Anbar in Aleppo province have laid down arms and joined the nationwide reconciliation plan with the army, adding that the total number of towns, regions and villages that have thus far ended battle against the army stands at 2,337.

The ministry said that peace talks are underway with the representatives of militants in the provinces of Aleppo, Damascus, Idlib, Hama, Homs and Quneitra.

Field sources confirmed last month that over 160 gunmen that had laid down their weapons and joined peace with the Syrian army in Aleppo and DeirEzzur provinces received government amnesty.

The sources reported that 164 militants in Aleppo and the Eastern and Southern parts of DeirEzzur had handed over their arms to the army soldiers and were pardoned by the Damascus government.

The gunmen received amnesty and returned to normal life, the sources said.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961106000119

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Source: Kurds Welcome Syrian Army's Deployment in Afrin

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- A senior Kurdish official said that the Syrian army forces' deployment in Afrin is welcomed as war is ravaging between the Kurds and the Turkish army.

The Arabic-language al-Mayadeen news channel quoted the source as saying on Thursday that the Kurds welcome the Syrian army's presence in Afrin after the Syrian government proposed some solutions and made an agreement with them.

He said that the Kurds are prepared to defend themselves, adding, "We are not enemies of the Syrian government but we want to be a part of the political process in the country; we will also deliver our weapons to the Syrian army once we reach a political solution."

Meantime, the Iran-based Arabic-language al-Alam news channel quoted BehjatAbdou, the head of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) committee in Afrin, as saying that no agreement has been made to deploy the Syrian army soldiers in Afrin, adding that the Kurds are highly prepared to repel the Turkish army attacks.

In relevant remarks on Wednesday, a senior Kurdish official said that the Kurds are now seeking negotiations with Damascus as they resist against Turkey's attacks.

"Turkey has deepened the crisis in Syria and supported terrorism financially. When it failed in its policies, it sent its army to launch attack against Afrin," Fouzeh Yousef, the head of the executive board of democratic federalism in Northern Syria, was quoted as saying by the Arabic-language al-Akhbar newspaper.

He stressed that the Kurds will stand against Turkey's attacks and occupation of Afrin, noting, "The Syrian Kurds want negotiations with the Syrian government but consider federalism as a better solution."

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961105000708

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Mideast

Senior Cleric Warns against Enemies' Manipulation of Social Networks

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Tehran's provisional Friday Prayers Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ahmad Khatami strongly blasted Washington and Tel Aviv for their plots to manipulate social networks and the cyberspace to hatch their conspiracies.

Addressing a large and fervent congregation of the people on Tehran University campus on Friday, Ayatollah Khatami said, "We are not against cyberspace; we are in agreement with sound cyberspace using the internal capacities and without enemies' interference."

The cleric cautioned people and officials about enemy's conspiracies, and said that the enemy is misusing the new communication tools, including telegram and Instagram to achieve its goals.

His remarks came after unrests in Iran last month. Iranians in a number of major cities started to protest against economic situation and shortcomings on December 28, 2017, but the protests turned violent in some parts due to the provocations orchestrated from outside the country.

US President Donald Trump in several tweets supported the recent unrests in Iran.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961106000622

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SDF Forces Claim 308 Turkish Soldiers Have Died During Olive Branch Op in Afrin © REUTERS/ Khalil Ashawi

26.01.2018

ANKARA (Sputnik) – The Syrian Defense Forces' press service reported of 308 Turkish servicemen killed since the start of the Olive Branch operation in Afrin. This number contradicts Ankara's reports.

"We have 43 victims among our fighters, including eight women from the YPJ (women's self-defense forces). 134 civilians were wounded and 59 are dead," the statement said.

According to the Syrian Defense Forces, since January 20, the Turkish Air Forces have carried out 191 sorties and dropped 699 shells on the territory in the north of Syria. During the operation, there have been 136 clashes between the SDF and the advancing forces. The SDF even mentions seven more clashes, "the results of which have not been not confirmed."

"Turkish aggression led to… the deaths of 308 members of various offensive troops, with four officers and a general among them," the SDF stated. 

However, the Turkish Health Ministry has refuted the number of its servicemen killed, claiming that only three have died since the start of the operation.

"Three Turkish servicemen were killed during the country’s operation in Syria’s Afrin and 16 remain hospitalized, a spokesperson of the Turkish Health Ministry told Sputnik on Friday.

"To date, three Turkish servicemen have been killed during the operation in Afrin …Several dozen have been injured, most of them received medical assistance on site. As many as 16 are in the hospital, their condition is not critical," the spokesperson said.

According to the latest data released by the Turkish military, a total of 343 "terrorists" have been eliminated since the beginning of the Olive Branch operation, which was launched on January 20.

Meanwhile, Turkish President RecepTayyip Erdogan has vowed that Ankara could extend its third military advance in Syria all the way east to the border with Iraq, emphasizing that the country would "completely clear the region of terrorists, beginning with Manbij and throughout our entire border [with Syria]."

The Olive Branch offensive was launched on January 20 in the Kurdish-dominated Syrian city of Afrin, controlled by the US-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG). The latter is considered to be an affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), designated as a terrorist group in Turkey and some other countries.

Despite Moscow and Washington's opposition to the operation, Ankara stresses that the advance is not aimed against the Syrian government, calling the territorial integrity of Syria its common goal with Damascus.

The operation hasn't come as a surprise, as Turkey has been mulling it over since the US announcement of plans to train a 30,000-strong border force in northern Syria mostly from YPG fighters, which was strongly criticized by Turkey. Within a week after the plans had been declared, Ankara launched an offensive in Syria's Kurdish enclave of Afrin code-named Olive Branch and aimed at eliminating terrorists in the region.

sputniknews.com/middleeast/201801261061089115-three-turkish-servicemen-killed-afrin/

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UN Security Council to inspect 'Iranian-made' missile debris

PTI | Updated: Jan 26, 2018

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council will travel to Washington on Monday to inspect debris from missiles allegedly provided by Iran to Yemen's Huthi rebels and hold meetings at the White House, diplomats said.

The ambassadors are expected to meet with US President Donald Trump as the US administration seeks international action against Iran, diplomats said.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley last month presented the fragments as "undeniable" evidence that a ballistic missile fired by Yemen's Huthi rebels at Saudi Arabia in November was Iranian-made.

That claim was bolstered when a UN panel of experts concluded in a recent report to the council that Iran had violated the arms embargo on Yemen by failing to block supplies of missiles to the rebels.

Haley has invited her UN counterparts to see the missile debris stored in a warehouse at a Washington military base.

"The evidence is undeniable. The weapons might as well have had 'Made in Iran' stickers all over it," Haley told a press conference last month.

The "evidence" stored in Washington includes other pieces of military material allegedly provided by Iran including fragments of an anti-tank missile and drones.

Iran has strongly denied arming the Huthis and last month accused Haley of presenting "fabricated" evidence that the November 4 missile fired at Riyadh airport was Iranian-made.

Haley is seeking to persuade the Security Council to take action against Iran, possibly by imposing sanctions, but will likely face opposition from Russia, which has friendly ties with Tehran.

A separate report last month said UN officials had examined the missile fragments and found that they were of "common origin" but they were unable to reach any firm conclusions about whether Iran was the source.

The US mission did not immediately respond to a request for information about the council visit to Washington.

It will be the second time that the top UN envoys meet with Trump, who sat down for a lunch meeting with the ambassadors in April last year.

Relations between the United Nations and the US administration have been strained over Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, his threats to scrap the Iran nuclear deal and funding cuts.

The council voted 14-1 to reject Trump's Jerusalem decision, prompting Haley to resort to the US veto to block the condemnation.

The General Assembly later approved by a vote of 128 to 9, with 35 abstentions, the same resolution. (AFP) CPS

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/un-security-council-to-inspect-iranian-made-missile-debris/articleshow/62661908.cms

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Turkish Army Sends Forces from Jerablus to Battlefields in Afrin

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Ankara-backed forces have been sent from Jerablus in Aleppo to Afrin as tensions and clashes intensified between the Turkish army and the Kurds in the region.

Hawar news reported on Thursday that the Turkish army has evacuated the forces fighting within the framework of the Euphrates Shield and stationed in Jerablus in Northeastern Aleppo to Afrin after sustaining defeats against the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

It added that the checkpoints in and outside Jerablus have been evacuated from the so-called Police forces and several tanks have entered Afrin from the Turkish corridor of the town.

Military vehicles and ambulances were seen crossing the Turkish-Syrian border in Oncupinar, in both directions, during the ongoing operations against the Kurdish forces in Syria on Wednesday.

Turkish sources disclosed on Wednesday that the Turkish Army has temporarily halted the Olive Branch Operation to fortify newly-captured positions and later kick off fresh attacks on Kurds to go directly towards the Central part of Afrin region,.

The Turkish-language YeniSafak daily quoted the sources as saying that military operations along the borderline with Hatay, Hasa, KakhanSakisli and Kilis has been halted to resume a fresh ground operation towards the town of Afrin after recent advances of the Ankara forces and allied militants against Kurds within the framework of the Olive Branch Operation in Northwestern Aleppo.

The daily further said that the Turkish troops have captured seven regions in clashes with the Kurds in Afrin, adding that the army forces are about to fortify their position in the seven newly-captured regions and later push towards the town of Afrin.

It added that the new strategy will prevent the Kurds from prevailing over the positions of the Ankara forces.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961105000630

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Turkish Air Force Pounds Regions Hosting US Forces in Northern Syria

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Clashes between the US and Turkish sides are possible as Ankara launched strikes on areas hosting the special American forces in Northern Syria.

The Russian, Turkish and Kurdish media reported that the Turkish air force and army have launched offensives on regions near Manbij and Tal Abyadh at the Northern borders of Syria with Turkey.

The Arabic service of Sputnik news agency quoted Ali Uzbek, a Turkish journalist, as saying that the Turkish air force has attacked several facilities of the Kurdish forces near the two towns of Manbij and Arima.

He referred to the presence of the US special forces in Manbij, raising the possibility for clashes and complication of relations between Ankara and Washington.

Manbij is currently under the control of the Kurdish forces who are supported by the US, and the American and NATO special forces and advisers are permanently present among them.

Earlier this week, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister BekirBozdag said the US and Ankara may come face-to-face in Manbij, though the possibility is “small”, while earlier President RecepTayyip Erdogan said Ankara will “thwart games” on its borders and start with Manbij.

Turkey will also continue to use the airspace across Afrin region in Northern Syria, where it recently launched Operation ‘Olive Branch’, Bozdag told Reuters in an interview.

At the same time, he said, Ankara is ready for all types of cooperation with Russia and the US if these actions would bring peace to the region.

Erdogan has criticized the administration of former US President Barack Obama for failing to keep its promises to Turkey in Syria.

“There was an operation during Mr. Obama’s administration. That operation aimed to clear terrorists from Manbij. But he failed to keep up to his promise and cheated us,” Erdogan said, adding that Ankara has done its part, but Washington has not.

“They [the Obama administration] promised they would send the terrorists in this area to the East of the Euphrates and leave Manbij,” he stressed.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961105000925

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Turkish Army, Tahrir Al-Sham Forces Approach Areas Controlled by Syrian Army in Western Aleppo

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Field sources confirmed deployment of a military convoy of the Turkish army and Tahrir al-Sham Hayat (the Levant Liberation Board) terrorist group in Western Aleppo to prevent the Syrian army's advance in Idlib.

The sources said on Thursday that a military convoy of the Turkish army, consisting of 6 vehicles crossed KafrLousin corridor at the borders with Turkey along with a number of Tahrir al-Sham terrorists and entered the town of al-Ais in Southern Aleppo, bordering the regions controlled by the Syrian army.

Sources affiliated to the dissidents said that the military convoy has patrolled in the region to check the military plans to prevent the Syrian army's advance from al-Ais to Idlib.

Meantime, some sources have claimed that the convoy has been sent to the region within the framework of implementing the agreement to create de-escalation zones and set up checkpoints.

In a relevant development on Wednesday, the Syrian army troops continued attacking terrorists' positions in regions near Abu al-Dhohour airbase and captured one more settlement in SoutheasternIdlib.

The army men, backed up by artillery units and Air Force, managed to beat terrorists back from the settlement of Khafiyeh West of the town of Abu al-Dhohour.

A number of terrorists were killed and their military hardware were destroyed in the attacks.

The army's engineering units started defusing bombs and landmines in the newly-freed settlement.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961105000531

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Kurdish, Turkish Civilians Killed amid Operations in Afrin

 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Heavy clashes between the Turkish-backed militants and the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) forces in Afrin killed and wounded a number of civilians.

Turkey's Anadolu news agency reported on Thursday that the Kurds' missile attacks against a mosque in the border province of Kilis in Turkey killed 2 civilians and wounded 6 others. Also missile attacks on the region ruined a house, wounding 5 people, including 4 children.

The Turkish-language Daily Sabah newspaper reported that the missiles were fired from Afrin region, adding that a number of those wounded are in critical conditions.

On Wednesday, Afrin region’s health department was quoted by Kurdish news agency Hawar as reporting that civilian casualties had climbed to 35 amid Turkish shelling of populated areas, with more than 100 others sent to hospital.

UN Secretary-General Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said on Wednesday that the United Nations expresses its deep concern over Turkey's ongoing operation in the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in Northern Syria, which has already claimed lives of civilians and forced about 6,000 of people leave their homes.

The UN representative also added that more than 120,000 displaced people currently reside in the targeted district.

Turkey’s Operation ‘Olive Branch’ kicked off on Saturday from air and ground around the area of Afrin in Syria's Aleppo to oust the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara views as a terror organization and the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK).

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday stressed that Turkish offensive in Afrin is part of Ankara's strategy based on supporting terrorists.

The Syrian government has condemned the “brutal Turkish aggression” against the Kurdish-controlled enclave of Afrin, rejecting Ankara’s claim about having informed Damascus of the operation.

The Damascus government had made clear to Ankara that it considers Turkey’s military presence on its territory as a violation of its sovereignty, and warned that it will shoot down Turkish bombers in Syrian airspace.

en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961105000431

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An unlikely alliance confronts Iran

ReutersJanuary 26, 2018

SHORTLY after protesters took to the streets on Dec 28, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted a video on his Facebook page wishing the Iranian people success in their noble quest for freedom. In Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, state-run media hailed the protesting Iranians with such joyful hysteria that Saudis could be forgiven for believing that the government in Tehran was on the verge of collapse.

Israel and Saudi Arabia have no formal diplomatic ties and decades of enmity behind them. However, their mutual pleasure over the grassroots demonstrations in Iran is the latest manifestation of a growing convergence of political interests, between the two Middle Eastern countries against their shared regional nemesis: Iran.

If the Saudi-Israeli rapprochement continues, their collaboration could lead to improved Israeli relations with other Arab states, removing Iran’s security buffer and possibly making Tehran more vulnerable to direct Israeli military action.

Read: Saudi-Iran dispute unlikely to take Israel to war: analysts

The first signs of the thaw between Saudi Arabia and Israel appeared in 2015, when both nations opposed the nuclear deal struck between Iran and the six world powers known as the P5+1. According to the terms of the deal, Tehran would cut back its nuclear programme in return for relief from economic sanctions.

To compensate for its nuclear concessions and concerned that Washington might not honour its commitment to the agreement, Iran followed its signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) by intensifying the consolidation of its regional power base.

To that end, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and their overseas operations arm, the Quds Force, doubled down on their support for like-minded and mostly Shia paramilitary groups across the Middle East. In Syria, Iranian intervention in favour of Bashar al Assad, coupled with a relentless Russian air campaign against the rebels, finally turned the tide of civil war and kept Assad in power.

Tehran also took the opportunity to help oust extremist anti-Shia groups like the militant Islamic State (IS) from Syria. Iranian leaders insisted their intent was to nip terrorism in the bud, but their tacit goal was also and more importantly to maintain land access and supply lines to their main proxy, Lebanons Hezbollah, as part of Iran’s commitment to the axis of resistance and its strategic depth policy in the region.

The recapture of Aleppo by Syrian government forces in Dec 2016 relieved Iranian-backed militia forces stationed in northwestern Syria of a formidable battlefield challenge, enabling them to concentrate their manpower and firepower on the southwestern and eastern fronts.

This sounded alarm bells for the Israeli government, which feared entrenchment of Iran’s military foothold in its immediate neighbourhood.

Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader, has spoken figuratively of a resistance highway that starts in Tehran and continues through Mosul, Damascus and Beirut to the Mediterranean.

Similarly, with the expulsion of IS from Syria’s eastern province of Deir al Zor, IRGC-affiliated media outlets such as Mashregh News and Javan Online have promoted the establishment of a land corridor, linking Iran to the Mediterranean and potentially useful for military as well as trade purposes.

Israel’s response

Israel has responded to this perceived threat militarily and politically. On the military front, it has embarked on a sustained campaign of targeted air strikes against arms convoys believed to be delivering game-changing weapons to Hezbollah as well as a reported Iranian military base in Syria. On the political front, Israel has sought to build an anti-Iran coalition with the Arab bloc led by Saudi Arabia.

In an unprecedented Nov 16 interview with Elaph, the popular independent Arabic news site, Israel’s army chief of staff Lt Gen GadiEizenkot offered to cooperate with Saudi Arabia against Tehran, which he labelled the biggest threat in the Middle East.

“We are ready to exchange experiences with moderate Arab countries and to exchange intelligence to confront Iran,” he said, adding that in this matter there is complete agreement between the Jewish state and Saudi Arabia. Less than two months later, in a Dec 28 BBC interview, Israeli education minister Naftali Bennett echoed Eizenkot, explaining that Israel hoped to form coalitions with moderate Arabs in order to contain Iran.

Riyadh, too, has been cautiously building closer ties with Tel Aviv. In the summer of 2016, one year after Iran’s nuclear deal, an unofficial Saudi delegation, headed by retired general Anwar Eshki, met Israeli foreign ministry officials and Knesset members in an unusual visit to Jerusalem.

During the meeting, Eshki tried to persuade the Israelis to accept the Arab peace initiative, arguing that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would foil Iran’s attempts to exploit the Palestinian cause and delegitimise its support for anti-Israeli groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah. Israel made no commitments, but welcomed the improvement of ties with Arab states.

The growth of Iranian power and influence in the region, however, is not the only driver of Saudi-Israeli entente. The Trump administration’s determination to counter Iran, along with Washington’s close relations with Saudi Arabia and Israel, have facilitated bilateral efforts to form such an alliance.

In November, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman summoned Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas to Riyadh and presented him with the blueprint for a US-devised peace plan that favoured Israelis.

The powerful prince then demanded that Abbas either accept the scheme or resign. Tellingly, the Palestinian leader’s urgent trip to Riyadh came less than two weeks after Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser on the Middle East, visited the Saudi capital to discuss the plan with Mohammed bin Salman.

As delegates gathered in Davos this week, there were no official Saudi-Israel meetings reflected on the public programme. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and top Saudi officials, including Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir, are at the summit and have already made it clear that their governments view countering the threat from Iran as a primary foreign policy goal.

Iranian leaders are clearly worried about the emerging Saudi-Israeli alliance, which is likely to bring Riyadh’s Sunni allies, including the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, into its fold as well. In a recent address to the Iranian parliament, President Hassan Rouhani declared that Iran would not resume its ties with Saudi Arabia unless Riyadh ended its friendship with Israel.

The new realpolitik of the Middle East means that Tehran may face even greater strategic challenges in the future.

dawn.com/news/1385275/an-unlikely-alliance-confronts-iran

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Qatar in talks to buy Russian S-400 missile systems

AFPJanuary 25, 2018

Qatar is finalising a deal to buy Russian S-400 air defence systems, the isolated Gulf state's ambassador to Moscow said on Thursday.

“Negotiations in this direction are in an advanced stage,” Fahad bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah told Russia's TASS state news agency. Talks were also ongoing for the purchase of “ground force technologies,” he added.

The announcement came after the historic visit of Saudi Arabia's King Salman to Moscow last year, when Riyadh signed preliminary agreements to buy S-400 air defence systems and anti-tank guided missile systems.

Led by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar last June over Doha's alleged ties to extremists and Iran. Qatar denies the charges.

It has stepped up diplomatic and trade efforts elsewhere in a bid to counter its regional isolation.

Last month, Russia announced it had completed negotiations with Turkey for the sale of an S-400 air defence missile system, raising eyebrows among Turkey's NATO partners.

dawn.com/news/1385221/qatar-in-talks-to-buy-russian-s-400-missile-systems

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South Asia

Save the Children suspends programmes in Afghanistan after attack

Reuters | Jan 24, 2018, 18:04 IST

KABUL: Save the Children closed its offices in Afghanistan and temporarily suspended operations on Wednesday following an attack on its office in the eastern city of Jalalabad, the international aid organisation said.

"In response to this, all of our programmes across Afghanistan have been temporarily suspended and our offices are closed," a spokesman said in an emailed statement. "We remain committed to resuming our operations and lifesaving work as quickly as possible, as soon as we can be assured that it is safe to do so."

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/save-the-children-suspends-programmes-in-afghanistan-after-attack/articleshow/62636653.cms

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International community to regret for silence over Balkh issue: Noor

By KHAAMA PRESS - Thu Jan 25 2018

The chief executive of Jamiat-e-Islami Ata Mohammad Noor has warned that the international community will regret for the silence over the political deadlock between him and the government over the political leadership of northern Balkh province.

Speaking during another gathering in Balkh province, Noor said the international community should intervene as per the commitments they have for the country in the fight against the terror and ensuring good governance and rule of law and justice.

However, Noor claims that the international community is apparently testing the patience and will of the Afghan people, warning that such an approach would have negative consequences and that the international community will regret.

This comes as a deadlock still persists between Noor and the government over the controversies surrounding his dismissal from the Balkh government.

In the meantime, the White House in a statement said  “We believe that this dispute should be resolved in a way that gives Afghan citizens confidence that the appointment of a new governor strengthens security and the Government of National Unity’s ability to fulfill its obligations to them.  There is no space for violence in resolving this matter – or for any party to delay a resolution by putting their own interests before those of Afghanistan.”

“This is an issue for Afghans to decide within the framework of their constitution, and in accordance with the rule of law and the principle of equality before the law,” White House said.

khaama.com/international-community-to-regret-for-silence-over-balkh-issue-noor-04349

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Two foreigners fighting for Taliban group killed in Nangarhar

By KHAAMA PRESS - Fri Jan 26 2018

At least two foreign insurgents fighting in Taliban militants ranks were killed during the operations in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

The Nangarhar governor’s office in a statement said the militants were killed late on Thursday night during an operation of the Afghan Special Operations Forces.

The statement further added that two other militant identified as Nsrullah and Pahlwan were also arrested during the operation.

The operation was conducted in the vicinity of Lalpur district of Nangarhar, the statement said, adding that two motorcycles, one vehicle and some explosives were also confiscated.

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

Nangarhar is among the relatively calm provinces in East of Afghanistan where fewer incidents have been reported since the fall of the Taliban regime.

However, since the year 2014, reports continue to emerge regarding the growing insurgency activities of the anti-government armed militant groups in some remote parts of the province, including Achin.

The ISIS militants are also active in some districts of Nangarhar and often carry out insurgency activities despite operations underway to suppress their activities.

khaama.com/two-foreigners-fighting-for-taliban-group-killed-in-nangarhar-04353

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Bangladesh jails two Rohingya for protesting repatriation

AFP | Jan 24, 2018COX'S BAZAR: Two Rohingya men have been jailed for a week for protesting against a controversial plan to repatriate the persecuted minority back to Myanmar, Bangladesh police said Wednesday.

Rohingya have erected banners, chanted slogans and staged angry rallies in crowded camps near the border in Cox's Bazar as tension mounts over the looming relocation of hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled a crackdown by the Myanmar military.

Bangladesh insists the repatriation process will be voluntary but police have ramped up security in the camps.

Abdul Jabbar and Ali Hossain, both in their 60s, were sentenced Tuesday after being charged with creating a public nuisance.

Another man held for questioning at the protest was released Wednesday afternoon without charge on condition he will not "engage in any anti-government activities" or incite further protests, a police officer said.

Bangladesh had been due to start repatriating hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees this week after agreeing to a two-year timeline with Myanmar.

But it was delayed when Bangladesh said neither side was ready. Myanmar later blamed its neighbour for a lack of preparation, a charge Bangladesh has rejected.

Nearly 690,000 Rohingya have fled a campaign of violence in Myanmar since August, and many of the displaced Muslims living in Bangladesh fear returning to their conflict-scarred homeland in Rakhine state.

Police are also investigating the murder of two Rohingya representatives in the past week. Local media suggested one man was targeted for his support for the repatriation.

Bangladesh's Rapid Action Battalion said two Rohingya had been arrested and a knife had been seized in raids on the camps where the men were murdered, a spokesman for the elite security forces said.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/bangladesh-jails-two-rohingya-for-protesting-repatriation/articleshow/62636158.cms

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Africa

UN launches $330 million appeal for Libya

AFP | Jan 25, 2018, 22:52 IST

TRIPOLI: The United Nations launched an international appeal Thursday for $330 million dollars to fund humanitarian aid projects for almost one million people in Libya, a country plunged in chaos and a hub of illegal migration.

Maria Ribeiro, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Libya, outlined the priorities for a Humanitarian Response Plan for 2018 at a news conference in Tripoli.

The target is "to reach at least 940,000 people" through 71 projects at a cost of $330 million to be carried out in partnership with municipalities, civil society and ministries, she said.

In 2017, the international community contributed $98 million, 68 percent of the funding requested, she said, adding that the European Union, United States and Japan were the top donors.

Ribeiro said that last year's aid reached "540,000 people across Libya... whether Libyans, migrants or asylum seekers", adding that the number in need of humanitarian aid has climbed to 1.1 million people, a third of them children.

Libya has been wracked by chaos since its 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator MoamerKadhafi, with rival authorities and militias battling for control of its oil riches.

The North African country has long been a transit hub for migrants seeking a better life in Europe, but people smugglers have stepped up their lucrative business since the revolution

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/un-launches-330-million-appeal-for-libya/articleshow/62655816.cms

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Malawi Muslims to abolish non-Islamic wedding activities: Zomba sheikhs question some Nikkah

January 26, 2018 

Muslims have agreed to abolish reception activities dominating most wedding (Nikkah) setups after noticing various irregularities which are contrary to Islamic teachings.

Muslim community during the meeting

The agreement was made during a meeting which attracted sheikhs from different areas of the district held Monday at Zomba Development and Education Centre (ZODEC).

According to one of the sheikhs who led the gathering, Sheikh Muhammad Amani Matola, Muslims were concerned with various irregularities in various marriage ceremonies taking place in the district.

He said the only requirement for a Muslim wedding is the signing of a marriage contract.

However, he explained that marriage traditions may differ depending on culture, Islamic sect and observance of gender separation rules.

Sheikh Matola said nowadays most Nikkahs (wedding ceremonies) accommodate a lot of things during reception time which are not in line with the Islamic teachings.

“The way Nikkahs (Islamic marriages) are conducted in Malawi is contrary to the teachings of our prophet looking at the songs used, use of veil for a bride and mixing of men and women during the celebration time. These are all contrary to the Islamic teaching,” Sheikh Matola said.

The Sheikh then said it was the wish of the Sheikhs in Zomba to have the abolition of wedding receptions extended to other districts as the problem was all over the country (Malawi).

On his part, one of the participants to the meeting, Sheikh HashimKapinga of Malosa area, hailed the committee for the meeting.

Sheikh Kapinga admitted that most marriage ceremonies were contradicting the Islamic teachings, saying the issue would be jointly addressed as all the sheikhs in the district had a common code on how to conduct the nikkah.

“I am very much glad with this meeting, in fact, there have been many irregularities and coming in together will help to come up with uniformity on how the marriages should be handled,” Sheikh Kapinga said.

He said the next step would be for leaders to sensitize community members on the agreed changes.

Among notable sheikhs who attended the meeting    are Abdu Rahman Kalako, Mufti Abbas Nkumba and Brother Ibrahim Milanzi just to mention a few.

nyasatimes.com/malawi-muslims-abolish-non-islamic-wedding-activities-zomba-sheikhs-question-nikkah/

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Southeast Asia

UN official says not safe yet for Rohingya return to Myanmar

AFP | Updated: Jan 25, 2018, 18:44 IST

DHAKA: It is not yet safe for the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims living in refugee camps in Bangladesh to begin returning to Myanmar, a senior United Nations official said on Thursday.

While many Rohingya want to eventually return to their villages, UNICEF deputy executive director Justin Forsyth said that no one he met during visits to Bangladesh's refugee camps said they would go back now.

"This moment is not safe to go back," he said. "We have to improve the security situation inside Myanmar to send them back."

More than 680,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar's Rakhine state beginning in August, after Myanmar security forces began "clearance operations'' in their villages in the wake of attacks by Rohingya insurgents on police posts. While most of the refugees left Myanmar in the first weeks of the crisis, Rohingya are continuing to trickle across the border into Bangladesh, complaining of mistreatment at home.

Forsyth spoke one day after former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson resigned suddenly from an advisory panel on the crisis, calling it a "whitewash and a cheerleading operation'' for Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

"She blames all the problems that Myanmar is having on the international media, on the UN, on human rights groups, on other governments, and I think this is caused by the bubble that is around her, by individuals that are not giving her frank advice,'' Richardson, once a close friend of Suu Kyi, said on Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press in Yangon, Myanmar's largest city.

Richardson said Suu Kyi appeared to want the 10-member international advisory group, one in a string of Rohingya commissions set up by the Myanmar government, to endorse her policies.

"I'm not going to be part of it because I think there are serious issues of human rights violations, safety, citizenship, peace and stability that need to be addressed,'' said Richardson, who often works as an international troubleshooter. "I just felt that my advice and counsel would not be heeded.''

Forsyth said he didn't know the details of the resignation but that "I understand his frustration."

Gradual repatriations of Rohingya were to begin on Tuesday under agreements signed by Myanmar and Bangladesh, but Bangladeshi officials delayed the returns at the last minute, saying more time was needed amid questions about safety and whether the refugees were returning voluntarily.

Forsyth urged Myanmar authorities to allow international organizations access to all the areas affected by the crisis.

Rohingya have long faced repression in Myanmar. They are widely dismissed as having migrated illegally from Bangladesh and are denied some of the most basic rights, including the freedom of movement. In 1982, nearly all Rohingya were stripped of their citizenship rights.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/un-official-says-not-safe-yet-for-rohingya-return-to-myanmar/articleshow/62652341.cms

 

URL: http://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/google-home-knows-mohammed---buddha,-but-not-god-or-jesus/d/114061

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