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Gyanvapi Mosque Dispute Tests Centuries of Interfaith Culture in India's Varanasi

New Age Islam News Bureau

19 September 2023


An aerial view shows Gyanvapi mosque (left) and Kashi Vishwanath temple on the banks of the Ganges River in Varanasi, India.

Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP



·         Kokernag Operation Shows Limits of Sophisticated Technologies In Jammu And Kashmir

·         Asaduddin Owaisi: Only Muslims make sacrifices to save democracy, secularism

·         Old Parliament Building to Be Known As ‘Samvidhan Sadan’: PM Modi



·         Pakistan calls for ‘credible’ peace process leading to independent Palestinian state

·         UNGA session to help Pakistan present stance on core global issues: Munir Akram

·         Elahi in ACE custody on one-day transit remand

·         Audio leaks case: Agencies to be party if govt doesn’t submit reply: IHC


North America

·         Lawsuit By Islamic Rights Group Says U.S. Terror Watchlist Woes Continue Even After Names Removed

·         Canada Expresses Suspicions of Indian Involvement in Sikh Leader’s Murder

·         The US is trying to blackmail Egypt into ditching Russia

·         Five American citizens depart Qatar for US as part of Iran prisoner swap

·         CAIR-Chicago Celebrates Asylum Approval for Afghan Client



·         Sweden not doing enough to join NATO – Erdogan

·         Zelensky’s terror team: Why the West looks the other way when Ukraine’s secret murder squad kills journalists and activists

·         Seized Zelensky home could become anti-Nazi Museum


Arab World

·         In meeting with UN envoy, top Saudi diplomat stresses Riyadh's commitment to political solution for Syria

·         Saudi Arabia ditches allies, holds direct peace talks with Yemen: Report

·         Saudi Arabia, Partners Seek to Revitalize Palestinian-Israeli Peace Process at UN Meet

·         Drug dealers, qat smugglers arrested in Saudi Arabia

·         Third Saudi relief plane arrives in Libya


South Asia

·         Strengthening Islamic Government, Enlightening Public Mind is Responsibility of Scholars: Dy PM IEA

·         IEA Supreme Leader Decrees Establishment of Ulema Councils in 7 Provinces

·         Islamic Emirate Expects UN General Assembly to Lift Sanctions: Karimi

·         Pakistan’s JUI leader calls for Joint Commission with Afghanistan to resolve bilateral issues

·         Over 800 Afghan Refugees Detained in Pakistan in 1 Week

·         Peter Obi in Bangladesh, urges Commonwealth Nations to pay special attention to SMEs



·         Palestinian Journalists Syndicate Condemns Israel's 'Deliberate Targeting' Of Journalists

·         Hamas resistance movement says attacks on Israelis 'natural response' to al-Aqsa storming

·         Former officials warn Netanyahu's policies 'dismantling' Israel

·         UAE condemns storming of Al Aqsa Mosque courtyards by extremists

·         Iran’s president denies sending drones and other weapons to Russia and decries US meddling

·         Israeli Forces Attack Palestinian Protesters Near Gaza Fence

·         Palestinians Rally in Gaza to Support Hunger-Striking Prisoners


Southeast Asia

·         PM to explain Zahid’s case in Parliament

·         Singapore minister warns preschool operators against ‘hindering’ teachers from using mobile devices to report wrongdoing

·         Man who killed 2-year-old daughter and burnt her body in pot jailed 21.5 years

·         Suhaizan sworn in as Pulai MP, Nik Abduh as senator

·         Muhyiddin seeks to strike out remaining three money laundering charges

·         Zafrul’s aide to lodge police report over ex-Perdana Fellow fiasco

·         Witness denies lying in Guan Eng’s corruption case



·         Nigerian Military Probes Video Of Terrorists Holding 'Peace Meeting' With Soldiers In KatsinaMorocco Earthquake: Volunteer Doctors Mobilized In Devastated Regions

·         Burkina Faso Expels French Defence Attache

·         DRC: at least 17 dead in landslide

·         South Africa: at least 20 De Beers employees die on the road

·         African nation denies claims of coup attempt

·         Libya's flood survivors hold protest against authorities, demand accountability

·         Gunmen kidnap Catholic priest, six others

·         Nigerian troops kill more suspected IPOB members in South-east

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Gyanvapi Mosque Dispute Tests Centuries of Interfaith Culture In India’s Varanasi


An aerial view shows Gyanvapi mosque (left) and Kashi Vishwanath temple on the banks of the Ganges River in Varanasi, India.

Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP


September 16, 2023

By Sushmita Pathak

VARANASI, India — On a recent Friday afternoon in this holy city in northern India, scooters, pedestrians and cycle rickshaws jostled for space on a street leading to the city's most famous Hindu shrine. As Hindu pilgrims dressed in saffron clothes made their way, Muslim men in skull caps walked alongside them. Both sets of devotees were headed to the same place.

The Kashi Vishwanath temple and the Gyanvapi mosque stand side by side in the heart of Varanasi. The mosque was built in the 17th century by Mughal ruler Aurangzeb after demolishing a Hindu temple. Years later, a Hindu queen rebuilt the temple beside the mosque. For centuries, both communities have shared the space, but now, some Hindus say they want to reclaim it.

Over the decades, Hindu plaintiffs have filed petitions in multiple courts seeking access to the mosque. The ongoing legal proceedings stem from a petition that five Hindu women filed in 2021 seeking the right to worship inside the mosque premises, claiming that idols of deities still exist inside. Last year, the court allowed a video survey of the mosque and an archaeological survey of the structure began last month. The Islamic committee that manages the mosque has challenged the Hindu suit.

Meanwhile, Hindu groups have called for the mosque to be handed over to them and the site has become a flashpoint of religious tensions.

The dispute goes against Varanasi's history of interfaith harmony. With thousands of temples, it's the epicenter of Hinduism, but Muslims make up nearly 30% of the estimated population of over 1.5 million and the city has always been a mosaic of different faiths and cultures. "Varanasi is a confluence of multiple religions, everybody together make Varanasi a rich society," says the Rev. Anand Mathew, a Catholic priest and social activist. "We have a large number of Jains, ... we have many Buddhists here, this is the city where Buddha came first after his enlightenment. Christianity is here for many centuries," he says, adding that the city has a history of "joyful, peaceful coexistence" that is now getting affected.

In Varanasi, Muslim men in skull caps and Hindu pilgrims wearing saffron clothes make their way to a temple-mosque complex that's the subject of an ongoing dispute.

A religious dispute fueled by Hindu nationalism

For years, Abhinav Chaturvedi, a Hindu, has seen Muslim faithful make their way past his shop to pray at the Gyanvapi mosque. He remembers learning about its history as a child and approves of the legal action by Hindus to take the site. "What is ours must be returned to us," he says. "This should have happened much earlier."

Mathew says there's an "undercurrent of this sort of thinking" among Varanasi residents, which worries him. "A gradual change has been happening in the entire Varanasi city and all over [India] because of the fundamentalistic ideology of the Hindutva supremacy," he says, referring to the Hindu nationalist agenda that political observers say the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been pushing. Critics accuse Modi and his party of fueling religious disputes, particularly against Muslims and Christians, a charge that they deny. Sectarian violence breaks out sporadically in India. Clashes between Hindus and Muslims in the state of Haryana killed at least seven people in a week of violence starting July 31.

Varanasi is also the constituency of Modi and from where he has fought and won two national elections. In recent years, his government has undertaken major renovation of the Kashi Vishwanath temple, which includes building a wide corridor to connect the shrine to the banks of the Ganges River, which Hindus consider sacred. The government says it has done that to facilitate better access to the temple. But in doing so, "they've also exposed the mosque to greater view," says Michael Dodson, a historian of South Asia at Indiana University in Bloomington. This has made the mosque more vulnerable, some Muslim residents say.

The Ganges River flows through Varanasi, the cradle of Hinduism, and a city with a long history of interfaith harmony. But an ongoing religious dispute is testing its limits.

Many legal experts argue that the Gyanvapi lawsuit also goes against the spirit of the Places of Worship Act of 1991, which was passed "to prohibit conversion of any place of worship and to provide for the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed" when India became independent in 1947.

While observers say religious polarization and attacks on minorities are increasing under Modi, tensions have existed since long before he came to power. His party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, played a key role in the rise of the Hindu nationalist movement in the 1980s and 1990s. At the time, the focus was on a different temple-mosque dispute. Many Hindus believed the 16th century Babri mosque in the northern Indian city of Ayodhya stood on the spot where the Hindu deity Ram was born. And in December 1992, shortly after an inflammatory speech in Ayodhya by a top BJP leader, a Hindu mob tore down the Babri mosque. The incident sparked deadly riots across the subcontinent. Many fear that the Gyanvapi case could be heading toward a similar fate. In 2019, India's Supreme Court ruled that the contested site in Ayodhya belonged to Hindus and a grand temple is being constructed there.

A history of religious coexistence

At his home on the banks of the Ganges, as prayer bells reverberate into the night, Vishwambar Nath Mishra says that in Varanasi, every stone is believed to be a symbol of the Hindu god Shiva. The city, also known as Banaras, is thought to be the cradle of Hinduism, much like what Jerusalem and Mecca are to Judaism and Islam, respectively. But Banaras is also "a prototype model of India where people from all the states, from all the communities, they stay here and they have a mutual agreement," to live together in peace, he says. "So, that is the unique fabric of Banaras."

Mishra, who is the head priest of the famous Sankat Mochan temple in Varanasi, says Hindus and Muslims in the city have been taking part in each other's religious festivities for years. For example, the horseshoe used in religious processions during the Muslim holy month of Muharram is kept with a Hindu family, who are its custodians, he says. Muslims take part in Ramleela, a skit about the story of the Hindu god Ram performed during festivals, he adds. At the many mazaars, or Sufi shrines, dotting the city, the vast majority of visitors are Hindu, says Surendra Kumar, a Varanasi native.

Even the livelihoods of Hindus and Muslims are intertwined. In the handlooms of the famous Banaras silk sarees, weavers are mostly Muslim whereas clients and wholesalers are largely Hindu. "Muslims are traumatized by what is happening [with the Gyanvapi mosque], we are worried," says Haji Mukhtar Mahto, a leader of the weavers' community.

Hindu and Muslim livelihoods are intertwined in Varanasi — in handlooms of the city's famous silk sarees, weavers are mostly Muslim whereas wholesalers and customers are largely Hindu.

His son Ahmed Faisal laments that while everyone is focused on the religious issue, weavers in Varanasi are struggling to make ends meet. "I request Indian politicians to focus on ensuring employment and livelihood, instead of religious matters. Our interfaith culture is under attack but it will live on," he says. He recalls how his Hindu friends were at his side when his mother passed away a few weeks ago. Similarly, during the pandemic, he says Muslims helped carry the bodies of Hindus to the banks of the Ganges for cremation.

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To promote interfaith harmony, Mathew, the Catholic priest and social activist, has been organizing a series of interreligious prayers based on the prayers that Mahatma Gandhi held in his ashrams. "[The] majority of the common people, ordinary people, want this peaceful coexistence," says Mathew. "[We] pray that we get back that older time of respecting every faith, every culture. And this so-called supremacy of one religion that is getting into the minds of the people, that we are able to address that. That's a challenge for us."

In the past, Varanasi has shown resilience. In 2006, the situation was ripe for sectarian violence after a bomb blast at the temple where Mishra is the head priest. He remembers how the community came together to defuse tensions. "And the city was in peace even after the bomb blasts," he says. "So I think that was a litmus test for Banaras."

Every year the Sankat Mochan Hindu temple hosts a cultural music festival, which in recent times has become a symbol of inclusivity. Despite opposition from Hindu extremists, Mishra has managed to bring Muslim artists, even some from neighboring Pakistan, to perform in the temple. "Music doesn't belong to one community, it is a global language," he says.

A narrow lane in northern India's Varanasi or Banaras, as it's also called. The city is the epicenter of Hinduism but is a mixture of different cultures and faiths.

Mishra says Varanasi residents are generally very adaptive and calm. "This has been raked up by political people, they are just exploiting the situation," he says, hoping that things remain calm in the future.

These days, police stand guard near the entrance to the temple and mosque, surrounded by barricades, as lawyers argue over the fate of the mosque in court. Mosque or temple, shopkeeper Surendra Kumar says it doesn't make a difference to ordinary people like him. Both are houses of God, he says, if only the public can accept that.


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Intensify Efforts To Combat Islamophobia, Religious Intolerance Among Cultures And Societies: Pakistan Urges UNAOC


High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) Miguel Moratinos called on Caretaker Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani on the margins of the 78th UNGA Session in New York.


September 19, 2023

High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) Miguel Moratinos called on Caretaker Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani on the margins of the 78th UNGA Session in New York.

During the meeting, they discussed in detail the UNAOC's mandate, work and potential areas of collaboration, in particular combatting Islamophobia and intolerance that stems from religious beliefs and interfaith dialogue to foster harmony among cultures and societies. 

The Foreign Minister underscored that religious intolerance and Islamophobia are escalating globally, but the most vehement expression is evident in India.

He urged the UNAOC to intensify its initiatives to halt and reverse the tide of Islamophobia, bigotry, and discrimination grounded in religion and belief.

He also expressed his appreciation for the valuable work undertaken by the Alliance and the High Representative. In this context, he underscored the importance of unbiased and comprehensive reporting. 

While encouraging interfaith and intercultural dialogue and exchange of ideas at the local, national and international levels, the High Representative reiterated the UNAOC's readiness to promote continued dialogue and foster mutual respect and understanding, including on ways to combat Islamophobia. 


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US Under Secretary Uzra Zeya Reiterates USA’s Desire To See Free, Fair Election In Bangladesh


Uzra Zeya


Sep 19, 2023

The United States has reiterated its desire to see free and fair elections in Bangladesh.

US Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights Uzra Zeya met Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen in New York yesterday and discussed issues of mutual interest.

She described her meeting with the foreign secretary as a "productive conversation", on the margins of UNGA 78.

"Appreciated meeting again to discuss the importance of free and fair elections, freedom of expression, and continued humanitarian support for Rohingya and communities that host them," US Under Secretary Uzra Zeya tweeted after the meeting.


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France Sets Up Embassy Fund to Defend LGBTQ Rights


France last year became one of a small number of countries to appoint an ambassador dedicated to LGBTQ rights. (AFP)


19 Sep 2023

NEW YORK, Sept 19 ― France said yesterday that it would set up a fund through its embassies to promote the rights of LGBTQ people, as it met like-minded nations at the United Nations.

Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna made the announcement at the 15th anniversary of an LGBTQ group at the United Nations at the start of the annual General Assembly.

The fund of €2 million (RM10 million) will be used “for our embassies to support those who are defending LGBTQ rights on a daily basis around the world, sometimes at risk to their lives,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre said.

France last year became one of a small number of countries to appoint an ambassador dedicated to LGBTQ rights.

In the United States, President Joe Biden has identified LGBTQ rights as a major diplomatic priority, with his administration appointing an envoy after taking office in 2021. ― AFP


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Saudi Arabia Condemns Al-Aqsa Storming By Extremists Under Protection Of Israeli Occupation Forces


Representative Image


September 18, 2023

RIYADH — Saudi Arabia has condemned and denounced the storming of Al-Aqsa mosque by a group of extremists under the protection of the Israeli occupation forces.

In a report issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Kingdom has confirmed that these acts and practices are considered a blatant violation of all international norms and conventions, indicating that they also represent a provocation to the feelings of Muslims around the world.

The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs holds the Israeli occupation forces fully responsible for the repercussions of the continuation of these violations.

The ministry also called on the international community to assume its responsibilities to end the escalation of the Israeli occupation, as well as to provide the necessary protection for civilians and make all efforts to end this conflict.


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Kokernag operation shows limits of sophisticated technologies in Jammu and Kashmir


Muzaffar Raina

The Kokernag operation seems to be showcasing the limits of the most sophisticated technologies in the rugged mountainous terrains of Jammu and Kashmir.

The operation continued for the sixth consecutive day on Monday without any clarity on the whereabouts of the militants.

Official sources said the firing halted for hours during the night and in the morning but resumed during the day. Both police and army offered no updates about the gunfight on their social media handles.

Multiple videos, released informally by forces, have shown them using the most sophisticated drones including Israel-manufactured Heron to track down militants. Some of them are weaponised with the capability to hit the targets.

The forces have also extensively used mortars, snipers, under-barrel grenade launchers, rockets and heavy machine guns to target the suspected cave-like militant hideouts.

Thousands of army personnel, including elite para commandos, the CRPF and policemen are part of the operations. Top army officers including Northern Command chief Lt General Upendra Dwivedi have personally visited the spot to monitor the operations.

“It is the first time you are finding such a public display of high-tech gadgets in any gunfight here but despite that, the operation has dragged on for six days. It is still not ending. It is true we have lost three officers and our forces are treading cautiously but six days is still a long time given the kind of cutting-edge technology being employed,” a former police officer told The Telegraph.

“Most of the gunfights, normally, take place in residential areas. Our forces have mastered the art of ending these operations quickly but operations in mountainous terrain show the limits of technology. Mind you we have plenty of mountains here,” he said.

The officer cautioned that the army was employing similar gadgets on LoC but they remain outside the public gaze.

Former officers claim the gunfight, along with several others that have taken place in Jammu’s Pir Panchal region in recent years, suggests a definite shift in militant strategy to take their battle against the security establishment from the plains to the hills.

“Much of our focus has been on towns and villages but they are shifting to mountainous regions, where the operations are difficult to execute. They seem to have logistics for a long haul, take positions in natural caves and are covered by thick vegetation,” the officer said.


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Asaduddin Owaisi: Only Muslims make sacrifices to save democracy, secularism

September 18, 2023

The Muslims must stand up to stake their claims democratically and try hard to be the part of the country’s political activities failing which they will further be pushed to wall, observed AIMIM president and MP Asadauddin Owaisi during the launch of “Absent in Politics and Power: Political Exclusion of Indian Muslims”, a book depicting socio-economic and political deprivation of Muslims written by Abdur Rahman in New Delhi.

In hard hitting words, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) president came down heavily on the secular parties, underscoring that Muslim-managed parties were not invited to be the part of the opposition INDIA alliance. “Go to hell,” said the Hyderabad MP referring to the recently formed opposition bloc. He also exposed the “secular” parties, citing several incidents where they succumbed to the pressure of saffron brigade. He charged that they rarely take communal forces head on. The parliamentarian strongly criticized the delimitation exercise carried out in Assam and Jammu and Kashmir.

He contested the narrative built by ‘secular’ political parties ahead of elections. “Only Muslims are fighting to preserve democracy and secularism,” he said implored the community to overcome the mentality of subjugation – of being ‘voters’ merely. “Stand up to stake your due claims in democracy,” he said.

Speaking on the occasion, IUML leader said that the situation is different in Kerala, underscoring that the Muslims keep fighting for their rights, and they have made their place by dint of their efforts. He said that the Muslims in Kerala are thriving because they have apt representation in politics.

RJD’s national spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP called upon the civil society organizations to take up the fight in order to protect the cherished values of the Constitution. He said: “The country has become worse than in pre-Partition times… It is becoming more and more communal.” He further anticipated that even the defeat of BJP in 2024 less likely make any significant change on the front of communalism. “Merely elections cannot change India’s political landscape. During partition, the communal hatred was like disease, but now it is pandemic which cannot be overcome easily.” He called the book a “document”.

The author, Abdur Rahman, the Maharshtra cadre IPS officer who had resigned from his job in protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in December 2020, has meticulously documented the factors responsible for the socio-political deprivation of Indian Muslims and calls for taking up measures to empower them. Remarkably, the book doesn’t make general statement that all political parties exclude Muslims from politics, underscoring that the most of the splinters from Janata Dal such as RJD, LJP, JD-U and others provided Muslims with a proportional representation of around 13.14 percent since 1998 till 2019. The highest nomination is from RJD – 17.36.

Rahman highlighted the flaws of the current first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system and called for a shift towards the proportional representation in order to ensure greater political inclusivity.

The author further observed other factors contributing to the political exclusion of Muslims, including prejudices within existing political parties, communalisation, and issues related to delimitation. Rahman also referred to late author Omar Khalidi’s suggestion that Muslims should initially focus on indirect political engagement, building pressure on secular parties, and nurturing Muslim leaders. The last work can be done by the Muslim-managed parties. Interestingly, the leaders of three Muslim-managed parties – AIMIM, IUML and AIUDF – were on the dais.

The book heavily relies on the Sachar Committee report for data, which extensively studied the socio-economic and political conditions of Indian Muslims, to support his arguments.

Rahman firmly emphasized that the issue of political exclusion faced by Indian Muslims should be recognized as a “national problem”, requiring concerted efforts from all segments of society to address the concerns.

The event witnessed a gathering of journalists, scholars, academicians and leaders from various hues and backgrounds. It ended with a call for continued dialogue and action towards achieving political empowerment and inclusivity for Muslims.


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Old Parliament building to be known as ‘Samvidhan Sadan’: PM Modi

19th September 2023

New Delhi: With the Parliament shifting from the old building to the new building on Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggested that the building, where meetings of the Constituent Assembly were held to frame the Constitution, should be known as ‘Samvidhan Sadan’.

Speaking at an event in the Central Hall attended by MPs from both Houses, PM Modi said every law made in the Parliament, every discussion held and every signal given should encourage the Indian aspiration.

Referring to Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, PM Modi made a suggestion for giving a new name to the old parliament building which has seen history being made.

“I have a suggestion. Now, when we are going to the New Parliament, its (Old Parliament building) dignity should never go down. This should not be left just as the Old Parliament building. So, I urge that if you agree, this should be known as ‘Samvidhan Sadan’,” he said.

PM Modi called upon political parties to make the right decisions about the country’s future and not think only of political benefits.

“We have to make the right decisions at the right time for the future. We cannot restrict ourselves to just thinking about the political benefits…Knowledge and innovation are the demands and we should focus on it. After Chandrayaan-3’s success, our youth is inspired by the science and technology sector. We do not have to miss this opportunity,” PM Modi said.

“Now, we have to walk towards being the best in the world in the manufacturing sector. I had said from the Red Fort – Zero Defect, Zero Effect. There should be no defects in our products and the process should not have an effect on the environment. We have to go before the world with this ‘Zero Defect, Zero Effect’,” he added.

The MP moved to the new Parliament building after the event ended in the central hall. The proceedings of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha will be held in the new building on Tuesday.

“Today, we are going to have the beginning of a new future in the new Parliament building. Today, we are going to the new building with the determination to fulfil the resolve of a developed India,” PM Modi said.

He said the country will need to work on a larger canvas to achieve the goal of becoming a developed nation.

“In the 25 years of Amrit Kaal, India will have to work on a larger canvas. The time for us to get caught up in smaller issues is over. First of all, we will have to meet the goal of becoming Atmanirbhar Bharat…It is the need of the hour, it is everyone’s duty. Parties do not come in its way. Sirf Dil chahiye, desh ke liye chahiye,” he said.

“Every law made in the Parliament, every discussion held in the Parliament, and every signal given by the Parliament should encourage the Indian aspiration. This is our responsibility and the expectation of each and every Indian. Whatever reforms are made here, Indian aspiration should be our priority.

“Can anyone ever make a big picture on a small canvas? Just as we cannot make a big picture on a small canvas, in the same way, if we cannot enlarge the canvas of our thinking, we will not be able to paint a picture of a grand India,” he added.

PM Modi said India is filled with a new energy and this can change the dreams of crores of people into reality.

“I had said from Red Fort – Yahi samay hai, sahi samay hai. If we look at the events one after the other, each one of them bears witness that today, India has reawakened with a new consciousness. India is filled with a new energy. This consciousness and energy can change the dreams of crores of people into resolutions and make those resolutions into a reality.”

The Prime Minister also spoke about the significant laws passed by his government in the past nine years.

“Muslim mothers and sisters got justice because of this Parliament, law opposing ‘triple talaq’ was unitedly passed from here. In the last few years, Parliament has also passed laws giving justice to the transgenders. We have unitedly passed laws that will guarantee a bright future for the specially-abled people. It is our privilege that we got the opportunity to abrogate Article 370 from the Parliament.,” he said.

Parliament moved to the new building in the Special Session of Parliament which began on Monday. The two Houses discussed 75 years of parliamentary journey on Monday. The Special Session of Parliament will continue till September 22.


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Pakistan calls for ‘credible’ peace process leading to independent Palestinian state

September 19, 2023

Pakistan has called on international community to push for rekindling the hopes of peace in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a meaningful negotiating process.

Speaking at a meeting on the sidelines of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly in New York, Foreign Minister Jalil Abbass Jilani said any meaningful and viable negotiation process must run in parallel with the improvement in the lives of the Palestinian people.

The meeting was sponsored by Saudi Arabia, the Arab League, Egypt and Jordan to reinvigorate the Middle East peace process.

Jalil Abbass Jilani said Pakistan strongly supports the revival of a credible peace process to achieve the objective of two-state formula, involving the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian State, living alongside Israel, within recognized and accepted pre-1967 boundaries and with Al Quds al Sharif as its capital.

He said the major hurdle for a long-term sustainable political process is the settlement activity by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

He said it violates international law, vitiates the atmosphere conducive for negotiations and mutes the voices of peace and compassion.


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UNGA session to help Pakistan present stance on core global issues: Munir Akram

September 19, 2023

Pakistan's Permanent Representative at the United Nations Ambassador Munir Akram says the 78th session of UNGA will help Pakistan present its viewpoint on the core world issues including Kashmir issue, Afghan crisis, Islamophobia, Middle East tensions, environment and economy.

In an exclusive interview with PTV, he said different conferences on the sidelines of UNGA, including Sustainable Development Goal Summit, Climate Ambition Summit and Health summits on pandemic prevention, universal health coverage and tuberculosis, will be beneficial for resolving these core issues.

The Ambassador said this is critical time in world's history as tensions have increased in Asia among big powers and due to COVID and climate change the economic situation of Asian states has worsened.

He said as a developing country, our focus at this world forum will be to ensure financial commitments from northern countries for the developing states, which are facing climate impacts.

Munir Akram said Climate Action Ambition summit will be helpful in putting our demand to the world nations for extending hand against climate adaptation. Being the vulnerable country for climate impacts, we can raise the issue of compensation for loss and damage against climate related deteriorations. In this regard, a decision was made last year and now we want its implementation.

To a question regarding financial pledges made by the world nations to help support Pakistan after the devastating flood of 2022, he said about half of the pledges are being disbursed under different reconstruction projects. He expressed hope that the remaining pledges will also be materialized once we will present the project details at the world forum this year.

The Ambassador said the presence of Prime Minister Anwaar ul Haq Kakar at this world forum and his meeting with the business community will help attract foreign investment.

He said we will reaffirm our longstanding position on Kashmir that it should be resolved on the basis of UN Security Council’s resolutions.

To another question, he said we will present our proposal on strengthening Security Council and role of the General Assembly. The preparatory meeting for the Summit of the Future to be held next year, will also held during this session, which will propose the role of multilateral organizations in dealing international challenges.

Replying to a question regarding Sustainable Development Goals, the ambassador said since the creation of these goals we have incorporated them in our development plans. He said under the legislation of National Assembly, we integrated them in our national development. However, due to climate impacts, pandemic and international inflation the progress on these goals was reversed specifically in developing countries.

On recent G-20 Summit, he said the proposed suggestion on a new corridor is not the proposal of G-20, but of a few states. He said contrary this, China's Belt and Road Initiative is under implementation process and this proposed corridor can't be considered as parallel project.


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Elahi in ACE custody on one-day transit remand

September 19, 2023

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: The Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) Monday handed former chief minister of Punjab Ch Pervaiz Elahi to the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) on a one-day transit remand.

The PTI president was presented before Judge Abul Hasnat Zulqarnain. The anti-corruption authorities, who arrested Elahi shortly after his release from the Adiala Jail, had filed an application requesting the transit remand.

Elahi’s counsel lawyer Sardar Abdul Razzaq argued that his client was accused of recruiting his own staff which was not a criminal act. “Can’t a chief minister appoint his own chief secretary?” he asked.

Razzaq argued that a CM had the authority to appoint his staff and that Elahi was discharged from a local court pertaining to this case. He further claimed that his client had been subjected to political revenge since January given how he’s arrested each time he is discharged from a courtroom.

“How appointing a person named Muhammad Khan as chief secretary is beyond his authority?” he asked. Upon which the judge requested the date for when this inquiry began. Elahi’s counsel stated that DG Anti-Corruption is “making cases overnight” against the PTI stalwart. The Lahore High Court directed that Elahi cannot be arrested again, and yet they’re arresting him in new cases.

A judge in Lahore also asked whether there’s any other registered case against Elahi and the prosecution said no, he said. Judge Zulqarnain further asked the prosecution to list down any other cases registered against Elahi.

The judge reserved his decision and subsequently handed Elahi over to the Punjab ACE on a one-day transit remand. PPP adds: Meanwhile, the Lahore High Court (LHC) Monday issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Islamabad Inspector General of Police (IGP) Dr Akbar Nisar Khan for not appearing in the court in a contempt plea hearing regarding arrest of former Punjab chief minister Pervaiz Elahi despite his release orders issued by the court.

Expressing its dissatisfaction with the answers of DIG Operations Syed Ali Nasir Rizvi and DIG Investigation Imran Kishwar, the court summoned both of them for October 2 for indictment. The court also issued bailable arrest warrants for the Islamabad chief commissioner. It also issued a show-cause notice to the superintendent of police (SP) concerned for not producing the Islamabad IGP. It also issued arrest warrants for the Attock jail superintendent over non-appearance.

The same court Monday fixed October 2 for framing charges against DIG investigations and operations Lahore police in a contempt plea in former Chief Minister Punjab Pervaiz Elahi arrest case.

Both police officer submitted their written replies before the court which were rejected by the court.

The court issued orders while hearing a plea filed by petitioner Qaisara Elahi, wife of Pervaiz Elahi, seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against the top government officials over allegedly disobeying LHC’s order that had restrained NAB, any other authority, agency, and office from arresting and detaining the former CM under any law even relating to preventive detention.

However, Elahi was arrested shortly after his release by Islamabad police. The Lahore High Court Justice Mirza Waqas Rauf also issued bailable arrest warrants for chief commissioner Islamabad, superintendent Attock jail, and non-bailable arrest warrants for inspector general police (IGP) Islamabad after they did not appear before the court despite a clear order to ensure their presence.


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Audio leaks case: Agencies to be party if govt doesn’t submit reply: IHC

By Awais Yousafzai & Khalid Iqbal

September 19, 2023

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Monday said the federal government should answer the court’s questions in the audio leaks case or else sensitive institutions would be made direct parties and asked for answers.

These remarks came from Justice Babar Sattar while hearing Bushra Bibi’s petition against phone bugging and audio leaks. Justice Babar also made it clear that the court had no problem with the ISI, MI, IB or FIA.

The defence ministry told the court that it had no role in the audio recording and did not make any recording in the instant case.

Justice Babar remarked that it appeared that no one could record and no one had the facility to record telephonic conversations.

The interior ministry and the PTA submitted written replies which the court termed unsatisfactory and again sought detailed replies.

The written responses did not answer the court’s questions. “There are only two options: either the government responds or the agencies are made parties,” said the judge.

Advocate Latif Khosa on behalf of the petitioners said that the FIA called Bushra Bibi daily and asked her to record her voice so that they could do voice-matching.

He said the FIA sometimes called her for voice-matching and sometimes for other reasons. “Bushra Bibi is being repeatedly summoned and harassed; this should stop now,” he pleaded.

Justice Babar said, “I cannot stop an investigation agency from investigating. When there is any violation of law, you can challenge it.”

The hearing was adjourned by extending the order by one month. Meanwhile, the court issued a notice to the FIA on PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s petition challenging the Special Court’s decision in the cipher case and seeking post-arrest bail.

The Special Court had rejected the post-arrest bail pleas of Khan and his party’s Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

Chief Justice Aamer Farooq issued the notice in response to the plea filed by Khan’s counsel Salman Safdar.

The PTI chief’s legal team repeatedly urged an early hearing of the case, following which the IHC chief justice emphasised that there was a proper procedure in place, and the case would be decided accordingly.

The FIA has been directed to submit its response to the PTI chief’s petition.

On Monday, Special Court judge Abul Hasnat Zulqarnain sought a report from the Attock Jail superintendent on the jail administration’s failure to arrange former prime minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s telephonic talk with his sons despite the court orders.

The judge heard the petition filed by Khan seeking a court order for the jail superintendent to arrange his telephonic conversation with his sons, Qasim Khan and Suleman Khan. Prosecutor Raja Naveed and PTI lawyer Sheeraz Ranjha appeared in the court.

Speaking on the occasion, Ranjha said all prisoners in the jail, barring Imran Khan, had been provided with the facility to talk to their family members over telephone. “The former prime minister is not a convict in the cipher case yet. In fact, he is in the Attock Jail on a judicial remand,” he said.

He argued that the Punjab jail laws and those under the Secrets Act applied only to convicts, and not suspects. Calling it an injustice with Khan, his lawyer requested the court to initiate contempt of court proceedings against the jail superintendent.

The judge said he would himself talk to the superintendent on the subject. “The possibility that the matter would be settled in that meeting cannot be ruled out,” he remarked. The court adjourned the case hearing until September 28.


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North America


Lawsuit By Islamic Rights Group Says U.S. Terror Watchlist Woes Continue Even After Names Removed

September 18, 2023

WASHINGTON — Mohamed Khairullah, the longest-serving Muslim mayor in the U.S., thought he had finally resolved years of airport searches and border interrogations in 2021, when his name appeared to be removed from the government’s secret terror watchlist. Then, earlier this year, the discriminatory treatment renewed when Khairullah, the mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, found himself uninvited from a White House celebration of the Eid al-Fatr holiday marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, without explanation.

A lawsuit filed Monday by an Islamic civil rights group on behalf of Khairullah and other plaintiffs says his exclusion from the White House event demonstrates that Muslims face negative repercussions even after they are able to clear their name from the list.

The Secret Service declined to comment on the lawsuit. “As we stated in the past, we were not able to grant entry to the Mayor at the White House and we regret any inconvenience that may have caused,” the agency said in an emailed statement.

At a press conference in Newark, New Jersey, on Monday, Khairullah said his problems began in 2019, after he returned to his native Syria to document atrocities committed by the regime of Bashar Assad as Assad was engaged in a civil war to stay in power.

He said his apparent placement on the U.S. government’s watchlist has rendered him a second-class citizen in his adopted country, and that his apparent removal from the list has failed to fully restore his rights.

“If I don’t do something now, my children and their children will probably be second-class citizens based on their ethnic and religious background,” he said.


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Canada expresses suspicions of Indian involvement in Sikh leader’s murder

September 19, 2023

Fidel Rahmati

On Monday, Canada announced its “active pursuit of credible allegations” connecting Indian government agents to the June murder of a Sikh separatist leader in British Columbia. This development marks a significant setback in diplomatic relations between the two countries.

During an emergency statement delivered to the House of Commons, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unequivocally asserted that any foreign government’s involvement in the murder of a Canadian citizen constitutes an intolerable violation of Canada’s sovereignty, as reported by Reuters.

Hardeep Singh Nijjar, aged 45, was fatally shot on June 18 outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, a Vancouver suburb known for its substantial Sikh community. Najjar, a proponent of an independent Khalistani state, was labelled a “terrorist” by India in July 2020.

“Canadian security agencies have been actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the government of India” and Nijjar’s death, Trudeau said, as cited by Reuters.

He stated that during last week’s G20 summit in New Delhi, he discussed the murder with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He urged the Indian government to cooperate with Canada in thoroughly investigating the matter.

“Canada has declared its deep concerns to the top intelligence and security officials of the Indian government. Last week at the G20, I brought them personally and directly to Prime Minister Modi in no uncertain terms,” he said.

According to Foreign Minister Melanie Joly, Canada has expelled India’s chief intelligence agent within the country, although specific details still need to be provided. Meanwhile, the Indian High Commission in Ottawa has remained silent in response to inquiries. This move by Canada signifies a notable escalation in tensions between the two nations, mainly stemming from New Delhi’s concerns regarding Sikh separatist activities within Canada.

During the G20 summit, Modi expressed deep concerns to Trudeau about recent Sikh protests in Canada advocating for an independent state.

Diplomatic tensions endanger trade relations, leading to a freeze in discussions on a potential trade deal. Canada has offered limited information on the deadlock, while India has referenced “certain political developments.” According to Statistics Canada, in 2022, bilateral trade reached only C$13.7 billion ($10.2 billion) out of Canada’s overall C$1.52 trillion.

The U.S. National Security Council expressed deep concern about the allegations mentioned by Prime Minister Trudeau. Trudeau did not directly implicate India in the murder, and Foreign Minister Joly used cautious language, stating that the allegations would be unacceptable “if proven true.”

Canada hosts the most prominent Sikh population outside of Punjab, India, which has led to numerous demonstrations causing concerns in India. Additionally, Canada has a substantial Indian-origin community, numbering around 1.4 million within a total population of 40 million, with approximately 770,000 identifying as Sikhs in the 2021 census.


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The US is trying to blackmail Egypt into ditching Russia

18 Sep, 2023

The United States has decided to punish Egypt for its alleged non-compliance with human rights norms. It should be noted that the subject of human rights is traditionally used by the US to apply pressure on Egypt and many other countries in the region.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Washington will redirect $85 million in military aid, previously promised to Egypt, to Taiwan and Lebanon. And some American lawmakers insist on stripping Egypt of another $235 million in aid out of a total of $1.3 billion annually.

Not the first time

Last year, the US withheld $130 million to Cairo. The official reason was the same – human rights violations. Experts then started talking about putting a freeze on American-Egyptian relations, which had warmed under the administration of former US President Donald Trump. Trump had even called Egypt’s leader his “favorite dictator.”

But the current president, Joe Biden, has disliked Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi from the start. He criticized Egypt’s leadership during his presidential campaign, promising that there would be no more “blank checks for Trump’s ‘favorite dictator.’”

Egypt-US relationship: It’s complicated

The rift in relations between the US and Egypt arose with the arrival of the Arab Spring in 2011. Prior to that, Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, who ruled the country for 30 years (1981-2011), had established close ties with Washington. It was under him that the US started allocating more than a billion dollars of aid to Egypt annually, which began to be provided after the Camp David Accords of 1979. Only Israel received more from the Americans.

However, Mubarak’s pro-US orientation did not help him in 2011. Everything happened according to the classic scenario – friendship with America’s authorities did not guarantee security, and at the critical moment, the US turned away from its ally and supported the rebels. This can also be seen in reports sent from Cairo by American diplomats, which were published by WikiLeaks.

Although the Muslim Brotherhood, having seized power from Mubarak, held on to it for only a year, this was a bitter lesson for the Egyptian elites that they are unlikely to ever forget. After the Egyptian Army ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in the summer of 2013, US-Egyptian relations deteriorated even further. This became apparent when President Barack Obama canceled the then-upcoming iteration of the biannual Exercise Bright Star, which is the foundation of military cooperation between Washington and Cairo. It was also in 2013 that the US imposed sanctions on supplying military aid to Egypt, which further marred relations between the two countries.

However, while Obama’s policies led to a decline in relations with Egypt, as well as almost all the other countries in the region, Trump, who replaced him, took concrete steps to change the situation a month after his inauguration on January 20, 2017. On April 3, Sisi paid his first official visit to the White House. This was not his first meeting with Trump, as they had met once before on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Many experts who followed the meeting in the Oval Office stressed that both leaders took the security issue seriously and hated political Islamism. This was the beginning of a reset period for relations between the two countries. But Trump is gone, Biden has come, and it seems that the crisis in relations is growing again.

Russia is the main obstacle

While relations with the US were worsening under Sisi, Egypt’s interactions with Moscow took a rapid upturn. In fact, the foundation was laid for military-technical cooperation. Billion-dollar contracts for military supplies began to be agreed upon. This included Ka-52 Alligator multi-purpose attack helicopters, which have become the most powerful combat helicopters in Africa, according to Military Watch. The publication also stressed that this deal was the result of the deterioration of Russia’s relations with the West.

Russian-Egyptian joint military exercises have been held more than once since 2015. And despite a short period of warming in US-Egyptian relations, Russia has become a special partner for Egypt – a stable and predictable one, unlike the US.

The positions of Moscow and Cairo on many regional problems have converged 100%, be it with respect to Palestine, Syria, or Libya. A common history of cooperation also plays a part in this. Soviet-Egyptian relations enjoyed their heyday in the 1950s and 60s, when thousands of specialists from the USSR boosted Egyptian industry. It was during this period that the country’s largest enterprises were built, including the Aswan hydroelectric plant, with the help of engineer Nikolay Malyshev, and the Helwan Metallurgical Plant, which was decommissioned just a couple of years ago.

In addition, many generations of Egyptian elites studied at Soviet universities, including the aforementioned Mubarak.

Egyptians fought with Soviet weapons for many decades, studied Soviet literature, and enjoyed the fruits of Soviet engineering. Egypt is the largest importer of Russian grain.

All this cannot be ignored by Egypt’s current leadership when building a dialogue with Moscow and making key decisions. These circumstances cannot be forgotten under even very strong pressure from the US. Washington, however, is not giving up.

Egypt has drawn conclusions

Of course, the constant pressure and blackmail the American government resorts to could not but provoke a response. So, after the launch of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine, the Americans repeatedly tried to persuade the Egyptians to fully participate in the anti-Russian campaign. That is, to supply weapons to Kiev and join the economic sanctions against Moscow. Egypt flatly refused.

In August 2023, the WSJ reported that US officials, including Pentagon Chief Lloyd Austin, repeatedly called on Egypt to begin supplying arms to Ukraine and join the collective effort to assist the Ukrainian government in overcoming its ammunition shortage. The weapons required included artillery shells, anti-tank missiles, air defense systems, and small arms. Trying to maintain a balance in its relations with Russia, Cairo did not respond to the Americans’ demands. The WSJ emphasizes that, despite Egypt’s partnership with the US and America’s annual military assistance of $1.3 billion, Cairo is in no hurry to quarrel with Moscow, as it depends on Russian grain.

A difficult choice for Egypt

Although the current decision to deprive Egypt of part of its American military support is nothing new, this time it has been caused not only, and not so much, by Cairo’s “inability to make progress in the area of human rights,” as it is by its unwillingness to actively support the Ukrainian army.

Egyptian political scientist Amr Eldiib said that US pressure on the Egyptian government has always been associated with attempts to sever Egyptian-Russian ties.

“It was clear that our country’s entry into BRICS would provoke an immediate response from America. And withholding $85 million is not a final measure. The Americans can withhold much larger amounts.”

The expert notes that the United States is also putting pressure on the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to not provide Egypt with new tranches of loans until it begins helping Ukraine and publicly speaks out against Russia.

“Egypt and its leadership will certainly face a very difficult choice. The Egyptian economy, as well as most of the Egyptian army’s weapons, are American. In addition, the country is very economically dependent on the West. Since there are difficulties with Russian investments, the chances of forcing Egypt’s leadership to slow its development of relations with Moscow are increasing. The only thing that can support Russian-Egyptian cooperation is an increase in Russian investment in the Egyptian economy. Thus, the El-Dabaa nuclear project is in danger of being halted at the drop of a hat.

“Strategic relations between Cairo and Moscow will not be permitted to develop, especially given the economic and social situation in Egypt at this stage. Therefore, it’s necessary to act more decisively,” Eldiib said.


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Five American citizens depart Qatar for US as part of Iran prisoner swap

September 18, 2023

DOHA: Five US citizens left Doha for the US after arriving in Qatar from Iran on Monday in a prisoner swap for five Iranians held in the United States and the transfer of $6 billion in Iranian funds in a rare deal between the long-time antagonists.

“Today, five innocent Americans who were imprisoned in Iran are finally coming home,” US President Joe Biden said in a statement, adding they “will soon be reunited with their loved ones— after enduring years of agony, uncertainty, and suffering.”

It was unclear whether the exchange might bring progress on the many issues that divide the two nations, including Iran’s nuclear program, its support for regional Shiite militias, the presence of US troops in the Gulf and US sanctions on Iran.

A plane sent by mediator Qatar flew the five US citizens and two of their relatives out of Tehran after both sides got confirmation the funds had been transferred to accounts in Doha, a source briefed on the matter told Reuters.

A Reuters witness saw the plane land at Doha International Airport.

US officials received the five Americans after they disembarked from the Qatari plane at Doha, the Reuters witness said. Switzerland’s ambassador to Iran accompanied them on the plane to Doha, the witness added.

Earlier, two of the five Iranians landed in Qatar, a US official said. Three have opted not to return to Iran.

The five Iranian Americans — one of whom had been held for about eight years on charges the United States had rejected as baseless — were due to board a US government aircraft in Doha and then fly home to the United States.

The deal, after months of talks in Qatar, removes a major irritant between the US, which brands Tehran a sponsor of terrorism, and Iran, which calls Washington the “Great Satan.”

A senior US administration official said the deal did not change Washington’s adversarial relationship with Tehran, but the door was open for diplomacy on Iran’s nuclear program.

“If we see an opportunity, we will explore it but right now, I’ve really nothing to talk about,” the official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The US dual citizens released include Siamak Namazi, 51, and Emad Sharqi, 59, both businessmen, and Morad Tahbaz, 67, an environmentalist who also holds British nationality. They were released from prison and put under house arrest last month.

A fourth US citizen was also released into house arrest, while a fifth was already under house arrest. Their identities have not been disclosed.

Iranian officials have named the five Iranians released by the US as Mehrdad Moin-Ansari, Kambiz Attar-Kashani, Reza Sarhangpour-Kafrani, Amin Hassanzadeh and Kaveh Afrasiabi. Two Iranian officials previously said that Afrasiabi would remain in the United States but had not mentioned others.


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CAIR-Chicago Celebrates Asylum Approval for Afghan Client

Ismail Allison

September 18, 2023

(Chicago, IL – September 19, 2023) – The Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, is thrilled to announce the successful approval of asylum for Nazir Mohammadi, who fled persecution following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan. 

Mohammadi sought refuge in the United States after escaping Afghanistan. His journey was marked by unimaginable challenges, including grave threats to his life and freedom. 

In a statement, CAIR-Chicago’s staff attorney Joseph Milburn, Esq. expressed his gratitude and joy saying,

“We are happy that Mr. Mohammadi was approved for asylum. We believe that the ability to obtain asylum is a human right and that people should be able to obtain asylum due to fleeing unsafe conditions such as terrorism. We had several meetings with him, we gathered the documents to support his story and we put together a strong package to assert that he was entitled to asylum. Consequently, we are inspired to continue to help others apply for asylum.” 

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims. 


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Sweden not doing enough to join NATO – Erdogan

19 Sep, 2023

Sweden has not gone far enough to secure its place in NATO and guarantee the ratification of its bid by Türkiye, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said ahead of a parliamentary vote on the matter.

Speaking to PBS News on Monday, Erdogan confirmed that Sweden’s membership in NATO would eventually be on the agenda of the Turkish Grand National Assembly after it reconvenes in October. However, when pressed on whether the vote would take place soon, the Turkish president remarked that “for that to be happening, of course, Sweden should keep its promises.”

Erdogan stressed, in reference to Kurdish groups that Ankara considers terrorists, that those organizations “should immediately stop their demonstrations on the streets of Stockholm, and they should stop their activities because seeing this actually happening is going to be very important for the Turkish people.”

The Turkish leader also acknowledged that Sweden had seemingly amended its legislation to address the issue but added that “it’s not enough.”

Sweden and its Nordic neighbor, Finland, applied to join NATO in May 2022, following the start of the Ukraine conflict. However, while Helsinki became a member of the US-led military bloc in April, Stockholm’s bid remains in limbo due to Hungary and Türkiye’s reluctance to ratify its application.

While Budapest has repeatedly blasted Sweden for its criticism of the state of democracy in the Central European country, Ankara has demanded that Stockholm do more to crack down on Kurdish groups. Another point of contention for Türkiye stemmed from repeated Quran burnings in the Nordic nation.

In July, after months of back and forth, Erdogan agreed to move Sweden’s membership bid to the Turkish parliament after a meeting with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

In a statement after the summit, the three leaders underlined that Stockholm had changed its anti-terrorist laws, expanded counter-terrorism cooperation against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and restarted arms exports to Türkiye. In addition, the two countries agreed to create a “new bilateral Security Compact.” At the same time, Sweden pledged to present a “roadmap as the basis of its continued fight against terrorism in all its forms.”


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Zelensky’s terror team: Why the West looks the other way when Ukraine’s secret murder squad kills journalists and activists

18 Sep, 2023

As winter approaches and the scale of Kiev’s losses in its failing counteroffensive emerges, Ukraine’s transgender military spokesperson Sarah Ashton-Cirillo has deftly avoided the topic and instead delivered a cringeworthy threat-laden rant on social media.

The one-time American political campaigner and newfound “Face of free Ukraine” struggled to contain her hatred for Russia and all things Russian. In a particularly energetic monologue, she said “propagandists” (meaning journalists who don’t toe Kiev’s narrative line on the conflict) would be “hunted down,” and made to “pay” for their refusal to agree with the Kiev regime’s worldview, apparently a war crime in the court of Ashton-Cirillo’s imagination.

Amidst her over-the-top promises of “gnashing of teeth and foaming at the mouth” to come, it’s worth pointing out that in many ways this person defines the many moral contradictions of the West’s proxy war. This theatrically presented individual is routinely rolled out by the Kiev regime, presumably in an attempt to underline Ukraine’s apparent acceptance of transgender people. In this, Vladimir Zelensky’s PR priority to virtue signal to the West trumps reality: his country has a track record of oppression against LGBTQ rights, detailed in multiple human rights reports published prior to the start of Russia’s military operation in February 2022. In an apparent effort to memory-hole that history, Kiev is now parading one of the world’s best-known transgender personalities, a personality who seems all too happy to deliver the threats of a regime capable of deploying a well-resourced and deadly security service to kill, maim, and terrorize its political opponents at home and abroad.

Kiev’s threats against media are terrorism, Dutch journalist tells RTREAD MORE: Kiev’s threats against media are terrorism, Dutch journalist tells RT

Interestingly, and likewise prior to the latest phase of the conflict, the English-language megaphone of the Zelensky regime, the Kyiv Post, published a story outlining deep seated corruption and dysfunction in Kiev's main security and intelligence agency, the KGB successor known as the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU). In that article, which would be almost impossible to publish in today’s utterly repressed Ukrainian media landscape, the paper suggested that since the beginning of the Donbass conflict after the Maidan coup in 2014, the SBU had been abusing its powers, enriching itself while acting with absolute impunity as what amounted to a private security and enforcement army for the oligarch turned president, Pyotr Poroshenko.

Fast forward to 2023 and this controversial and secretive agency has cemented its position as the most feared element in an increasingly authoritarian and aggressive Ukrainian security infrastructure. The SBU is now central to the internal repression of all political opposition, the Orthodox Church, and control of all domestic challenges to the pro-Western government of Vladimir Zelensky. Six years ago, the Kyiv Post suggested that the SBU had “become effectively uncontrollable and unaccountable,” and given the scale of the conflict and dysfunction enveloping Ukraine today, we can presume that the SBU’s impunity and power has expanded to impact every element of Ukrainian society. With apparent assistance from the CIA, MI5 and other NATO intelligence services, it has now further expanded its access to data on “enemies of Ukraine,” whether real or imagined.

Most crucially, the SBU now projects its sinister capabilities well beyond the borders of its own state, targeting what it deems “propagandists” and “collaborators” in eastern Ukraine and Russia with terrorist attacks and intimidation via its network of agents and operatives. While never openly admitted, the SBU’s involvement in attacks on Russian soil is all but certain, with evidence ranging from a perpetrator’s confession and revelations by a former head of the service, to the sheer reach of the operations and the choice of targets themselves – taken straight from the notorious ‘Mirotvorets’ kill list, which had openly advertised its links to the SBU and Ukrainian police in the past.

Russia responds to transgender Ukrainian official’s death threats to journalistsREAD MORE: Russia responds to transgender Ukrainian official’s death threats to journalists

What’s perhaps more fascinating about the bloody operations the SBU has embarked upon since the beginning of Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine in 2022, isn’t the extrajudicial killings and assassinations themselves. What’s really fascinating is how Kiev’s Western funders and “partners” choose to actively ignore its routine use of what any objective observer would have to describe as terrorism, with “respectable” Western publications like The Economist publishing disturbingly complimentary articles about the SBU, describing its gruesome work against unarmed “targets” in articles stylized as adventurous escapades by a steely underdog. The Economist’s article “Inside Ukraine’s Assassination Programme,” blatantly attempts to legitimize the brutality of the covert assassination operations, only voicing concern that “a clear strategy is absent.”

Despite this, the glorification of this shady and corrupt organisation is evident across the Western media, with attempts to present the murder of a defenseless, unarmed young woman like Daria Dugina as legitimate, snidely implying that her brutal killing was in some way justified by her opposing political views. Another allegedly respectable news outlet, The New York Times, suggested that “since the beginning of the war, Ukraine’s security services have demonstrated their ability to reach into Russia to conduct sabotage operations.” Tellingly, rather than describe the killing of Dugina as what it was, murder, the NYT said it was “one of the boldest operations to date — showing Ukraine can get very close to prominent Russians.”

An American newspaper describing the killing of an innocent young woman, by a car bomb, near a European capital as “bold,” underlines the selective morality that Western media willfully deploys when it comes to the coverage of the conflict in Ukraine, an attitude that was similarly exposed when blogger and war reporter Vladlen Tatarsky was murdered in a targeted assassination in St. Petersburg in April. In the aftermath, Reuters suggested that “the killing is an attack on the hardline pro-war camp in Russia, and sends a warning to other members of this group that they could be targeted anywhere.” Again, there is no concern that it took place in a restaurant full of civilians, on a public street, with absolutely no warning being given. What would routinely be described by Reuters as terrorism anywhere else, is subliminally conjured into some form of heroic resistance operation targeting a “propagandist,” rather than the daylight murder of a private individual for disagreeing with the Kiev narrative on the conflict in Ukraine, a country of which he was once a citizen.

Ukraine's trans spokesperson issues death threats to Russian journalistsREAD MORE: Ukraine's trans spokesperson issues death threats to Russian journalists

So, as the Western media increasingly fails to suppress the gruesome reality of Ukraine’s military failures, it's unfortunately likely that Kiev will increase attempts to deliver some sort of impact elsewhere, and despite reports that Ukraine’s targeted assassinations have likely left a bad taste in their NATO handlers’ mouths, its equally unlikely that they are in any position to restrain the brutal apparatus they have been so instrumental in creating. While Kiev’s Western partners publicly evangelize values like freedom of speech, democracy, and the rights of the individual, privately they arm, train, and intimately collaborate with an organisation that now openly boasts of carrying out terror attacks against civilian infrastructure and political adversaries, cynically targeted for simply disagreeing. All things considered, it’s now absolutely obvious that Western moral outrage mysteriously evaporates at the Russian border, with no crime against Russians, or those calling for balanced debate, being unforgivable in the West. Sadly, it seems NATO’s proxies in Kiev are determined to license, facilitate, and then ignore increasingly sinister and brutal “operations” by the SBU and its paid accomplices, with Washington’s and Brussels’ willful “a-la-carte” attitude to morality remaining as stunning as it is indefensible.


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Seized Zelensky home could become anti-Nazi museum

18 Sep, 2023

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s former apartment in Crimea could be turned into a museum dedicated to the fight against Nazism, according to a proposal put forward by the head of the Crimean parliament, Vladimir Konstantinov.

Speaking on the TV channel Rossiya 24, the politician claimed that such a move would be a good way to “vaccinate against Nazism for centuries to come” and serve as a warning as to what can happen to “schemers who pushed it too far.“

Konstantinov explained that it was unlikely that the property would ever be purchased by a regular family since “no normal person could live there” as it would be akin to “purchasing Hitler’s apartment.”

He admitted, however, that the property, despite its ties to the Ukrainian leader and the subsequent hype around it, is not really a noteworthy asset for Zelensky. “This asset is perhaps more symbolic for him than actually valuable,” Konstantinov said, noting that while it could seem significant for the average person a billionaire would not find the property to be anything special.

The proposal comes after the Crimean parliament leader announced that some 100 nationalized properties formerly owned by Ukrainian oligarchs, businessmen, and politicians who have direct ties to the Kiev government or have become “unfriendly to Russia” would be auctioned off in the near future. Earlier this year, Konstantinov announced that over 700 such properties had been nationalized by the regional authorities.

Konstantinov also noted in a Telegram post on Saturday that eight of these estates have already been sold off to the tune of over 800 million rubles ($8.3 million) and stated that the Crimean counter-terrorism commission will continue to uncover assets belonging to Ukrainian oligarchs.

“We will not allow these people who sponsor the murder of Russian people and support the terrorist Kiev regime to make money off our residents. And then we will transfer the properties to new, decent owners,” Konstantinov wrote.

Crimea broke away from Ukraine after the Western-backed Maidan coup in Kiev in 2014. The peninsula held a public referendum where residents overwhelmingly voted to become a part of Russia. Kiev and its Western backers have continued to deny the legitimacy of that referendum and insist that the peninsula remains a part of Ukraine.


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Arab World


In meeting with UN envoy, top Saudi diplomat stresses Riyadh's commitment to political solution for Syria

18 September 2023

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister has underscored the necessity of finding a political solution for Syria, expressing Riyadh’s commitment to the stability and territorial integrity of the conflict-ravaged Arab country.

Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud made the remark in a meeting with Geir Pedersen, the United Nations special envoy for Syria, on the sidelines of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday.

“During the meeting, they discussed the latest developments on [a] political solution to the Syrian crisis and the efforts exerted by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UN in this regard,” the state-run Saudi Press Agency said on its website.

“Prince Faisal reiterated the kingdom’s keenness to exert all efforts to reach a political solution to the Syrian crisis to preserve its unity, security, stability and Arab affiliation, and achieve progress and prosperity for its people,” the agency added.

Since 2014, the US has deployed forces and military equipment in Syria without any authorization from Damascus or a UN mandate under the pretext of fighting Daesh, which emerged as Washington was running out of excuses to extend its regional meddling or enlarge it in scale.

American forces sustain their illegal presence on the Syrian soil although Damascus and its allies defeated the Takfiri terrorist group in late 2019.

Saudi Arabia’s commitment to the preservation of Syrian sovereignty comes as Riyadh and Damascus agreed in March to resume diplomatic relations and re-open embassies after more than a decade.

The move prompted other Arab countries to race for the re-establishment of ties with Syria.

Two months later, Arab government representatives in Cairo voted to return Syria to the Arab League after a 12-year suspension and all 13 of the 22 member states that attended the session endorsed the decision.

The Arab League suspended Syria’s membership in November 2011, citing an alleged crackdown by Damascus on opposition protests, with Syria denouncing the move as “illegal and a violation of the organization’s charter.”


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Saudi Arabia ditches allies, holds direct peace talks with Yemen: Report

19 September 2023

Saudi officials have reportedly held direct talks with a delegation from Yemen’s Ansarullah resistance movement over a permanent ceasefire to end the war, leaving its allied parties in the cold.

Citing informed sources, the Lebanese al-Akhbar daily reported on Monday that the Omani-mediated negotiations have been taking place between Saudi Arabia and the Sana’a government in Riyadh.

It said the Saudi-appointed Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) in Yemen and the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC) “appear to have no role in the negotiations,” predicting that the pair’s role “will not go beyond signing and attending the [upcoming] ceremony.”

Saudi Arabia, the report added, is ignoring the STC’s secessionist aspirations and has rejected its demands to be included in the Riyadh talks.

The discussions are almost at a “final” stage with “great progress,” particularly in relation to humanitarian issues, it noted. 

Representatives of Yemen’s Ansarullah movement and members of a meditation team from Oman have left for Riyadh to negotiate a permanent ceasefire with Saudi officials, news agencies say.

Also recently, a delegation from Oman arrived in Sana’a.

“Optimism exists regarding the mediation and the Omani efforts to achieve peace in Yemen,” Ali al-Qhoom, a member of Ansarullah's political bureau, said on social media.

The peace talks will be focused a range of issues, including the full reopening of Yemeni ports and Sana’a airport, as well as the payment of public sector wages from oil revenues and rebuilding efforts, in addition to a timeline for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Yemen, he emphasized.

Meanwhile, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met a delegation from the Sana’a government in Muscat.

The main topics discussed were “the state’s general budget, movement between provinces, and lifting the blockade on ports,” al-Akhbar reported.

“Bin Salman provided guarantees to Sana’a regarding all points of disagreement, including the American position opposing peace.”

Speaking on Sunday, Tawfiq al-Humairi, an advisor to Yemen’s Information Ministry, said Riyadh had agreed to lift the siege on Yemen and return its looted funds.

“The pressures directed towards Saudi Arabia from Sana’a today outweigh the American pressures on Riyadh,” he said, referring to Ansarallah’s threats to target Saudi Arabia and the UAE in retaliation for the protracted war on Yemen.

Saudi Arabia initiated a brutal war of aggression against Yemen in March 2015, enlisting the assistance of some of its regional allies, as well as massive shipments of advanced weaponry from the US and Western Europe.

The Western governments further extended their political and logistical support to Riyadh in their failed bid to restore power in Yemen to the country’s former Saudi-installed government.

The former Yemeni government’s president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, resigned from the presidency in late 2014 and later fled to Riyadh amid a political conflict with Ansarullah. The movement has been running Yemen’s affairs in the absence of a functioning administration.

The war further led to the killing of tens of thousands of Yemenis and turned the entire nation into the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

A UN-brokered ceasefire, which was reached last year, is still largely in place despite its official expiry. It has significantly reduced clashes over the past months.


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Saudi Arabia, partners seek to revitalize Palestinian-Israeli peace process at UN meet

September 19, 2023

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia, the EU and along with Egypt and Jordan have issued a statement to revitalize the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, state news SPA reported on Tuesday.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Saudi foreign minister, co-chaired a meeting that also including the Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the secretary-general of the Arab League; Josep Borrell, EU’s high representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy; Ayman Safadi, deputy prime minister and foreign minister of Jordan; Sameh Shoukry, Egypt’s foreign minister.

The meeting was attended by representatives from nearly 70 countries and international organizations, and included around 50 speakers from diverse nations.

The meeting sought to produce a Peace Supporting Package that “will maximize peace dividends for the Palestinians and Israelis once they reach a peace agreement,” report noted.

“It seeks to produce detailed programs and contributions, conditional upon achieving a final status agreement, that will support the peace, and ensure that all peoples of the region reap its benefits. The effort seeks to ensure that Peace Day is a day of opportunity and promise, thus incentivizing earnest efforts to reach it.”

The statement noted that Israeli-Palestinian peace continued to be elusive since the peace process was launched in Madrid in 1991 as signed agreements, including the Oslo accords, have not been fully honored.

“The occupation continues and with it come a number of complications and difficulties that lead the parties further away from a possible agreement. The situation on the ground is proving to be untenable and the status quo is becoming impossible to accept, all the more in an international situation plagued with conflicts. Ignoring the need to revitalize the peace process is neither helpful to the parties nor to the present and future of the Middle East.”

The renewed effort is based on the urgent need to preserve the Two State Solution ensuring a viable sovereign independent and contiguous Palestinian state based on the June 4, 1967 lines, the SPA report added.

“The need to revitalize a meaningful peace process to achieve the Two State Solution, in accordance with international law, UNSC resolutions, the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative and the 2013 EU peace supporting offer cannot be overemphasized. The alternative is further deterioration that will threaten regional and international security,” the statement added.

“The Peace Day Effort builds, among others, on the Arab Peace Initiative (API), which was adopted by the Arab States to lay out their vision for a comprehensive regional peace and its terms and requirements. Predicated on the full withdrawal from all Palestinian and Arab territories occupied since 1967 in exchange for full normalization, the API was later endorsed by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and welcomed by the European Union and the United Nations.

“The Peace Day Effort also builds on the 2013 EU offer to provide an “unprecedented package of political, security and economic support” to both parties in the context of a final status agreement.”

The conveners also launched working groups charged with elaborating the components of the comprehensive Peace Supporting Package, and all participants were invited to contribute to the working groups.

The Working Groups will focus on identifying substantive elements of the Peace Supporting Package, and will convene in principle at Special Envoy or Ambassadorial level and will benefit from input by experts.


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Drug dealers, qat smugglers arrested in Saudi Arabia

September 19, 2023

RIYADH: Saudi authorities arrested two people in separate operations for selling narcotics, state news agency SPA reported on Tuesday.

The General Directorate of Narcotics Control (GDNC) arrested a Saudi national in Qassim for selling hashish and amphetamines.

Another was arrested in Riyadh for selling hashish and pills subject to regulation of medical use. 

Both people have been referred to the Public Prosecution.

Elsewhere border guards in the Al-Dayer sector of the Jazan region thwarted an attempt to smuggle 68kg of qat.

The seized individuals were handed over to authorities.


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Third Saudi relief plane arrives in Libya

September 18, 2023

BENGHAZI — A third Saudi relief plane carrying 50 tons of food assistance arrived at Benghazi's Benina International Airport Monday.

The aid will be distributed to the victims of the floods that hit Libya recently.

The aid comes in implementation of the directives of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed Bin Salman to the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) to provide food and shelter material to those affected.

These efforts are testimony to the Kingdom's unwavering support to friendly countries in times of crisis and hardship. — SPA


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South Asia


Strengthening Islamic Government, Enlightening Public Mind is Responsibility of Scholars: Dy PM IEA


KABUL (BNA): In a meeting with a number of scholars, Mawlavi Abdul Salam Hanafi, Deputy Prime Minister for Administrative Affairs of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, underlined that it is the role of ulema to strengthen the Islamic government, enlighten the public mind, and promote unity among the people.

According to a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office, Mawlavi Hanafi stated in a meeting with a number of scholars and influential people based in Saudi Arabia that the Islamic Emirate considers providing nationwide security and prosperity to be one of its obligations.

Scholars should actively work to strengthen the Islamic system, create unity among the people, and enlighten the public minds, the statement said.

Haji Qari Makhdoom Mohammad and Haji Qari Ehsanullah, talking on behalf of these scholars, said after the return of Islamic Emirate in the country, countrywide security and better living conditions have been provided for the citizens of the country, which is a great achievement for the people of Afghanistan.

He said that scholars are always working to prevent propaganda of biased people, enlighten people and convey truth to the public.

The Islamic Emirate regained its sovereignty as a result of huge sacrifices by thousands of scholars and mujahideen in the country and scholars have the responsibility in protecting it. Source:

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IEA Supreme Leader Decrees Establishment of Ulema Councils in 7 Provinces


Kabul (BNA): Based on the decree of Amir -al-Mumineen, the Supreme Leader of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Ulema councils in seven provinces including Laghman, Sar-e-Pol, Ghor, Daikundi, Maidan Wardak, Bamyan and Nuristan have been established.

The spokesman of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Zabihullah Mujahid, issued a statement on the occasion, noting that the objective of these councils is to improve and develop Islamic governance by consulting religious scholars.

These councils would also enhance coordination in government affairs.

The decree emphasizes that the officials and members of the Ulema councils of the aforementioned provinces are required to coordinate the affairs of these provinces in accordance with their bill of responsibilities and in light of Sharia, and provincial officials are obliged to implement the advises of Ulema councils.


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Islamic Emirate Expects UN General Assembly to Lift Sanctions: Karimi

September 18, 2023

Heads of state and national representatives gather in New York to attend the UN General Assembly, which is September 18-19, and a spokesman for the Islamic Emirate said that they expect the summit to lift sanctions from the interim government.

The deputy spokesman for the Islamic Emirate, Bilal Karimi, said that the summit should also consider the achievements of the Islamic Emirate.

“The realities of Afghanistan, the improvements made, there are achievements in economic and security issues. They should understand these realities. They should fulfil their responsibilities regarding the removal of sanctions and establishment of diplomatic relations,” he said.

There will be no representative from Afghanistan at the UNGA summit.

Political analysts meanwhile said that the Islamic Emirate and the international community need to engage in order to address the existing crisis in Afghanistan.

“They (Islamic Emirate) through back to back decrees restricted the rights of women and girls of Afghanistan, which caused serious concerns among the people of Afghanistan and the international community,”said Ahmad Khan Andar, a political analyst.

“There is a need for the people of Afghanistan and Afghanistan to take its position back in the UN General Assembly,” said Fazal Rahman Oria, a political analyst. 

Previously, the Secretary General of the United Nations announced that the situation of Afghan women will be discussed in the meeting.


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Pakistan’s JUI leader calls for Joint Commission with Afghanistan to resolve bilateral issues

Fidel Rahmati

September 18, 2023

 Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, leader of Pakistan’s Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) party, called for the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan to establish a joint commission through mutual discussions to address bilateral issues effectively.

During a meeting in Peshawar, Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman expressed readiness to mediate between Afghanistan and Pakistan, proposing the establishment of a joint commission through mutual consent. His offer aims to help alleviate escalating tensions from security concerns between the two neighbouring countries.

Earlier in the day, Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister, Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar, invited the Taliban administration, encouraging cooperation with Islamabad to strengthen their bilateral ties.

In a diplomatic move, Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar contacted Afghanistan’s de facto administration Prime Minister Mullah Hasan Akhund in a written communication.

In the letter, Kakar emphasized the solid historical, cultural, religious, and heritage bonds between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

He conveyed Pakistan’s eagerness to deepen these fraternal ties, indicating a readiness to work closely with the Taliban administration to advance peace and stability in the region.

Pakistan alleges that attacks on its soil originate from Afghanistan, a claim denied by the Taliban administration.

About two weeks ago, Pakistani and Afghan forces clashed near the Torkham crossing due to a dispute over a construction project.

As a result of the altercation, the crossing remained closed for nine days,

escalating tensions between the two nations.

Amidst the ongoing border tensions with Afghanistan, Pakistan faces the additional challenge of conducting general elections.

Ensuring security and stability along the border is crucial for a smooth and peaceful electoral process within the country. The Pakistani government is likely prioritizing diplomatic efforts to resolve these disputes, safeguarding the country’s electoral integrity and overall stability.


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Over 800 Afghan Refugees Detained in Pakistan in 1 Week

September 18, 2023

The consulate of the Islamic Emirate in Karachi, Abdul Jabar Takhari, said that more than 800 Afghan refugees including children have been detained in Sindh province of Pakistan within one week.

The detention of the Afghan refugees comes as the Pakistan Prime Minister said that a new policy was going into effect based on which foreign nationals without legal documents will be deported.

“The detentions are being continued and those who have documents, they have also been detained and they have released some of the Afghans with legal documents for money,” Takhari said.

Meanwhile, the Afghan refugees in Pakistan reported mistreatment by Pakistani police, and they called on the Islamic Emirate to take immediate action in this regard.

“There is no doubt there are now detentions in Karachi, Quetta, Chitral and Peshawar as well as other areas. In Islamabad they came with men and women police and conducted a crackdown on the fruit market and detained some people,” said Mir Ahmad Rauf, head of an Afghan refugee’s council in Pakistan.

“The detention of the refugees has been increasing day by day and they are facing problems,” said Abdul Basir Wisal, an Afghan refugee in Pakistan.

“This issue needs serious negotiations and I think the central government of Afghanistan has an important role in this regard. They need to travel to Pakistan to discuss why this issue has risen and how it can be solved,” said Tahir Khan, a Pakistani journalist.

The Islamic Emirate meanwhile called on Pakistan to treat the Afghan refugees well.

“We want Pakistan to have normal engagement with the refugees because Pakistan and Afghanistan have a lot in common. There is a lot of commuting and also there are some related issues along the Durand Line,” said Zabiullah Mujahid, Islamic Emirate’s Spokesman.

The Afghan refugees have repeatedly voiced concern over their mistreatment by Pakistani police.


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Peter Obi in Bangladesh, urges Commonwealth Nations to pay special attention to SMEs

 September 19, 2023

The presidential candidate of Labour Party (LP) in the 2023 elections, Peter Obi, has urged the Commonwealth nations to pay special attention to small businesses.

This, he said, will enable them to achieve sustainable growth and development across its countries.

Mr Obi, a former governor of Anambra State, underscored the importance of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to global economic growth and rapid expansion.

He made the remarks in a statement in Lagos on Monday.

He said this at a global conference organised by the Bangladesh Government in conjunction with the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council, in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Mr Obi also explained why small businesses were the engine of growth across the globe, especially in areas of job creation, innovation, and domestic investment.

“If we enhance the functionality and impacts of SMEs across Commonwealth countries through formalisation and internationalisation, we would have done it across the world with lives, communities, and economies positively impacted.

“Endowed with a population of about 2.5 billion people, a home to over a billion young consumers and exports of over $1 trillion, the need for better support for SMEs cannot be over-emphasised.

“The small businesses, especially in developing and emerging markets, face many challenges arising from a lack of formalisation and internationalization.

“Therefore, many small businesses are not registered and licensed and lack international affiliations and barely exploit the benefits of international trade, which limits the growth opportunities of both the SMEs and the countries.

“To harness the full contributions and impacts of SMEs, proper reforms such as formalisation and internationalization are needed to address the identified challenges,” he said.

Mr Obi explained that formalisation involved bringing SMEs into the formal economy through registration of their businesses and complying with legal and regulatory requirements.

He said expectedly, the process of formalisation would be beneficial not only to the SMEs but the overall business environment and economic stability.

The former governor added that such significant segments of SMEs operated in the informal sector due to a lack of resources or awareness of the formalization benefits.

The LP presidential candidate argued in his address at the international conference that SMEs were emerging as the undisputed engine of rapid economic expansion and growth globally.

Mr Obi noted that “World Bank records (2020) showed that SMEs account for roughly 90 per cent of businesses and more than 50 per cent of jobs created globally.”

He said while the formal SMEs contributed up to 40 per cent of national income (GDP) in Developing and Emerging Markets (DEMs) their impact and contribution were significantly higher when informal ones were included.

According to him, in Bangladesh, SMEs contribute about 40 per cent to GDP, in Nigeria 48 per cent and China 60 per cent with about seven out of every 10 formal jobs created by SMEs.

The former Anambra governor said the same immense impact in India where SMEs accounted for over 40 per cent of the total workforce.

Mr Obi noted that this limited their access to credit, markets, and government support which consequently results in reduced investment, innovation, and growth opportunities.

The former governor further explained that this was critical, especially to commonwealth nations, as the commonwealth controlled a combined wealth of about $150 trillion.

He said: “This is over 10 times their combined GDP of about $14.5 trillion today, and over 30 times the global trade and export value of about $4.8 trillion.

“Hence, these untapped benefits the Commonwealth despite controlling one-third of the global population only contributes below 15 per cent of the World GDP of $100 trillion and with a global GDP per capita of $10,700.

“While that of the commonwealth is 3,500 dollars, this shows a huge growth potential, which can be enhanced by investment in SMEs where the bulk of the youths are domiciled, especially within the commonwealth family.

“SMEs in Commonwealth countries are essential drivers of economic development and poverty reduction. Formalisation and internationalization are crucial pathways to unlocking their potential, fostering innovation, and increasing competitiveness.

“Even though challenges are many supportive policies, capacity-building initiatives, and strategic partnerships can empower SMEs to thrive in the global economy.

“And by investing in the formalisation and internationalization of SMEs, the sustainable socio-economic growth and development of Commonwealth Organisation and Countries can be significantly enhanced.”

Mr Obi said to achieve this, it would require a high level of involvement of all stakeholders particularly the Commonwealth organisation and the governments of Commonwealth countries.


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Palestinian Journalists Syndicate condemns Israel's 'deliberate targeting' of journalists, civilians in Gaza

18 September, 2023

On Monday, 18 September, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate condemned what they described as the "deliberate targeting" by Israeli soldiers of Palestinian journalists during recent coverage of protests in the eastern Gaza Strip.

In a press statement sent to The New Arab, the syndicate condemned "the direct targeting of fellow journalists for the second time while they were performing their professional duty to cover the marches on the border."

"The deliberate targeting led to the injury of three journalists, namely fellow photographer Fadi Al-Danaf, photographer Bilal Al-Sabaa, and colleague Mustafa Hassouna," the syndicate said.

The syndicate stressed "the need to stop all these attacks...launched by [Israel] against journalists to attempt to prevent media coverage of the occupation's crimes and the direct targeting of civilians and young people on the border."

The Journalists Syndicate called on the International Federation of Journalists and all international institutions concerned with freedom of journalistic work to "clearly reject and condemn the occupation's practices".


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Hamas resistance movement says attacks on Israelis 'natural response' to al-Aqsa storming

18 September 2023

The Palestinian resistance movement Hamas says Monday’s attacks on gatherings and checkpoints of Israelis in the occupied West Bank were a response to the storming of the al-Aqsa Mosque compound a day before by Israeli extremists.

Hamas spokesman Muhammad Hamadeh made the remarks hours after shooting attacks were carried out against Israeli military forces and settlers in various parts of the occupied West Bank.

Hamadeh said the attacks were “a natural response” to the criminal acts of the occupiers who had stormed al-Aqsa Mosque on Sunday.

The Hamas official said the attacks on the Israelis should be viewed as part of a mobilization campaign in Palestine to defend holy Muslim sites in the occupied city of al-Quds against storming attacks by the settlers.

Israeli forces brutally assaulted Muslim worshipers at one of the main entrances to the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the occupied Old City of al-Quds.

Extremist Israelis have been storming al-Aqsa Mosque in recent months as part of what many experts believe to be a plot to make a regular presence in the holy sites to turn it to a temple.

Supported by the Israeli regime and its security forces, settlers have made calls for gatherings of the extremists at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound concurrent with Jewish New Year holidays that began on September 17.

Palestinians have reacted angrily to the presence of Israelis in the Mosque by staging protests and carrying out attacks on regime forces and extremist settlers.

Separately on Monday, Saudi Arabia condemned the latest act of incursion by Israeli extremists against al-Aqsa Mosque, holding the regime in Tel Aviv directly responsible for repercussions of such provocations.

In a statement, the Saudi Foreign Ministry said the Sunday storming of al-Aqsa Mosque by a group of Israeli extremists, which took place under the protection of the Israeli forces, constituted “a provocation to the feelings of Muslims around the world.”

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs holds the Israeli occupation forces fully responsible for the repercussions of these continued violations,” said the statement.

Saudi Arabia says the Israeli regime is responsible for storming al-Aqsa Mosque by extremists.

The al-Aqsa Mosque compound is regarded as a holy place where only Muslims can hold prayers and religious rituals.


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Former officials warn Netanyahu's policies 'dismantling' Israel

 19 September 2023

A group of former Israeli officials has warned that the policies of the incumbent far-right regime led by prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu are “dismantling” Israel's military, economy and social fabric.

According to a damning letter, signed by 51 former officials from the Israeli military, Mossad spy agency, so-called internal security service Shin Bet, police, and the ministry of military affairs, Netanyahu is “leading acts aimed at harming the Israeli judicial system and the supreme court in a way that will nullify its independence, and subordinate it to Netanyahu and his fellow politicians.”

The Israeli officials said Netanyahu’s efforts were “transforming Israel into an autocracy that harms its strength through dismantling the army, its military establishment, economy, and risks the social fabric of the people”.

Among the dozens of signatories to the letter are former Israeli minister of military affairs and military chief of staff, Moshe Ya'alon; former Mossad chief, Tamir Pardo; and former prime minister, minister of military affairs, and Israeli army chief of staff, Ehud Barak.

Thousands rally across the occupied territories for the 37th consecutive week in protest at Israeli cabinet

Pardo, who was in charge of Mossad from 2011 to 2016, made headlines on September 6 when he said Israel is enforcing an apartheid system against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, equating the treatment of Palestinians to the racial separation implemented in South Africa that ended in 1994.

The letter came as Netanyahu set off for a visit to the US. Netanyahu has yet to secure a visit to the White House, and two far-right members of his coalition, Itamar Ben-Gvir, and Bezalel Smotrich, have so far been snubbed by the Biden administration.

The Biden administration has also voiced increased frustration with the Israeli regime’s settlement growth in the occupied West Bank.

Earlier this month, hundreds of Israeli high school students announced that they will refuse to serve in the military in protest against the policies of the incumbent far-right regime, including the controversial judicial overhaul.

Youth Against Dictatorship, in a statement released at the Herzliya Hebrew Gymnasium high school in central Tel Aviv, also explicitly tied their cause to opposition to the oppression of Palestinians across the occupied West Bank.

Critics have accused Netanyahu of using the judicial overhaul plan to remain in power. They say he, who is on trial on several counts of corruption charges, is also attempting to use the scheme to quash possible judgments against him.

Dozens of leading British rabbis have warned against the existential threat that the far-right Israeli administration of Benjamin Netanyahu poses to the “survival” of the regime.

The protests have gained momentum since the end of July, when the Knesset passed the first bill of the overhaul plan, which restricted the supreme court's ability to declare the cabinet's decisions "unreasonable."

More than 10,000 reservist soldiers, including members of the elite intelligence unit 8200 and air force pilots, have said they would no longer show up for duty on a voluntary basis in protest.

Former politicians and members of the security establishment have also declared support for the boycott.

Former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin said at a demonstration in Tel Aviv in July that the time had come “to decide on the suspension of volunteering for the reserves until the legislation is completely stopped.”


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UAE condemns storming of Al Aqsa Mosque courtyards by extremists

 September 19, 2023

Abu Dhabi: The UAE has strongly condemned the storming of Al Aqsa Mosque courtyards by extremists under the protection of the Israeli police.

In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) reaffirmed the UAE’s firm position on the need to provide full protection for Al Aqsa Mosque, and halt serious and provocative violations taking place there.

The Ministry underscored the need to respect the custodial role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan over the holy sites in accordance with international law and the historical context at hand, and not to compromise the authority of the Jerusalem Endowment Administration that manages the affairs of Al Aqsa Mosque.

The Ministry called upon Israeli authorities to halt escalation, and avoid exacerbating tension and instability in the region, affirming the UAE's rejection of all practices that violate resolutions on international legitimacy and threaten further escalation.

Moreover, the Ministry stressed the need to support all regional and international efforts to advance the peace process in the Middle East, end illegal practices that threaten the two-state solution and establish an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.


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Iran’s president denies sending drones and other weapons to Russia and decries US meddling

September 19, 2023

NEW YORK: Iran’s president on Monday denied his country had sent drones to Russia for use in the war in Ukraine, even as the United States accuses Iran of not only providing the weapons but helping Russia build a plant to manufacture them.

“We are against the war in Ukraine,” President Ebrahim Raisi said as he met with media executives on the sidelines of the world’s premier global conference, the high-level leaders’ meeting at the UN General Assembly.

The Iranian leader spoke just hours after five Americans who had been held in Iranian custody arrived in Qatar, freed in a deal that saw President Joe Biden agree to unlock nearly $6 billion in frozen Iranian assets.

Known as a hard-liner, Raisi seemingly sought to strike a diplomatic tone. He reiterated offers to mediate the Russia-Ukraine war despite being one of the Kremlin’s strongest backers. And he suggested that the just-concluded deal with the United States that led to the prisoner exchange and assets release could “help build trust” between the longtime foes.

Raisi acknowledged that Iran and Russia have long had strong ties, including defense cooperation. But he denied sending weapons to Moscow since the war began. “If they have a document that Iran gave weapons or drones to the Russians after the war,” he said, then they should produce it.

Iranian officials have made a series of contradictory comments about the drones. US and European officials say the sheer number of Iranian drones being used in the war in Ukraine shows that the flow of such weapons has not only continued but intensified after hostilities began.

Despite his remarks about trust, Raisi’s tone toward the United States wasn’t all conciliatory; he had harsh words at other moments.

Raisi said his country “sought good relations with all neighboring countries” in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

“We believe that if the Americans stop interfering in the countries of the Arabian Gulf and other regions in the world, and mind their own business … the situation of the countries and their relations will improve,” Raisi said.

The United Arab Emirates first sought to reengage diplomatically with Tehran after attacks on ships off their coasts that were attributed to Iran. Saudi Arabia, with Chinese mediation, reached a détente in March to re-establish diplomatic ties after years of tensions, including over the kingdom’s war on Yemen, Riyadh’s opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad and fears over Iran’s nuclear program.

Raisi warned other countries in the region not to get too close with US ally Israel, saying: “The normalization of relations with the Zionist regime does not create security.”

As a prosecutor, Raisi took part in the 1988 mass executions that killed some 5,000 dissidents in Iran.

The Iranian leader was dismissive of Western criticism of his country’s treatment of women, its crackdown on dissent and its nuclear program, including over protests that began just over a year ago over the death in police custody last year of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman arrested for allegedly violating Iran’s mandatory headscarf law.

He compared the protests in Iran to labor strikes and demonstrations by ethnic minorities in the United States and Western Europe. He noted that many people are killed each year in the US at the hands of police, and criticized the media for not focusing on those deaths as much as the treatment of demonstrators in his country. The deaths of Americans at the hands of police are widely covered in US media.

Raisi has sought, without evidence, to portray the popular nationwide demonstrations in Iran as a Western plot.

“The issue(s) of women, hijab, human rights and the nuclear issue,” he said, “are all pretexts by the Americans and Westerners to damage the Islamic republic as an independent country.”


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Israeli Forces Attack Palestinian Protesters Near Gaza Fence

September 18, 2023

Israeli occupation forces attacked today evening Monday, September 18, hundreds of Palestinians, who were engaged in peaceful protests alongside the separation fence east of the besieged Gaza Strip.

Local Palestinian sources reported that Israeli troops fired live bullets and toxic tear gas bombs at the protesters near the separation fence.

The protesters reportedly raised the Palestine flag and chanted slogans condemning Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people.

They also called for resistance to the Israeli occupation and support for the Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem who are suffering escalating Israeli attacks and restrictions while defending the city and Al-Aqsa Mosque.

In a call to action, the Palestinian Media Association urges international organizations dedicated to journalism to break their silence and adopt more assertive measures to hold the occupation accountable, calling for its removal from global press platforms.

On Friday, Israeli occupation forces attacked Palestinian demonstrators near the Gaza Strip’s eastern separation fence. The protests responded to the ongoing Israeli blockade on the Strip and in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners incarcerated in Israeli prisons.


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Palestinians Rally in Gaza to Support Hunger-Striking Prisoners

September 18, 2023

Palestinians gathered in Gaza City on Monday, September 18, 2023, to stage a demonstration in solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners held in Israeli detention facilities.

The protesters held images of the incarcerated men and women and carried banners demanding their release, particularly those who are suffering from illnesses or detained without trial.

Muntasir Al-Naouq, spokesperson for the Ministry of Prisoners, stated that a series of rallies and support initiatives are being organized to advocate for the plight of prisoners in Israeli custody.

He emphasized that this rally sends a strong message to international organizations to pay attention to the prisoners’ conditions.

Urgent Call for International Action

Al-Naouq called on international institutions to take urgent action to address the threats facing the prisoners before it is too late.

He highlighted the importance of these interactive programs that help bolster and support the resilience of the prisoners, ensuring that the Israeli occupation does not isolate them.

On the other hand, Mohammed Al-Shaqaqi, spokesperson for the Muhjat Al-Quds institution, said that the Israeli authorities’ disregard for the health conditions of the prisoners constitutes a grave threat, particularly in light of their neglect and illnesses.

Al-Shaqaqi warned that the crime of neglecting the prisoners is a matter that the international community should urgently intervene in to save their lives without further delay.

Currently, the Israeli occupation detains approximately 5,200 Palestinian prisoners in 23 prisons, detention centers, and interrogation facilities.

Among them are 36 female prisoners and 170 underage children.

Additionally, there are 700 sick prisoners suffering due to medical neglect and 1,264 administrative detainees held without charge or trial.


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Southeast Asia


PM to explain Zahid’s case in Parliament

19 Sep 2023

KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is expected to explain to Parliament the outcome of the graft case involving Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi today.

“God willing, the Prime Minister will be in the Dewan Rakyat tomorrow (today) to answer questions between 2.30pm and 3pm,” Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said told the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.

Opposition chief Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan had earlier made claims of selective prosecution and wanted an update on efforts to separate the roles of the Attorney General (AG) and Public Prosecutor (PP).

Takyiddun, who is the Perikatan Nasional MP for Kota Baru, had asked whether the Prime Minister would be in Parliament to explain the discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) granted to Ahmad Zahid by the High Court.

On Sept 4, the court granted a DNAA to Ahmad Zahid over 47 charges of graft over funds from the Akal Budi foundation.

The court’s decision came after the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) had applied to grant Ahmad Zahid a DNAA based on 11 reasons that included the necessity for more thorough investigations into the charges.

The AGC’s decision to apply for a DNAA had upset supporters of the government and civil society groups such as the Bar Council and Lawyers for Liberty.

Opposition parties have alleged that it smacked of political pressure on the AGC.

Anwar has repeatedly refuted these allegations, saying he does not interfere in the AGC’s operations or decisions.

The court decision had also intensified calls for the government to expedite its plan to separate the roles of the AG and PP so as to increase the independence of criminal prosecutions.

Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Azalina said the administration was committed to separating the offices of the AG and PP as part of its agenda for institutional reforms.

She said that two special bipartisan task forces have been formed to study and expedite the matter, and it may take between one year and two years to finalise the amendments to the Federal Constitution.

Azalina said such an initiative required political stability and support from the Opposition.

“(The question of) whether the separation is mandatory has to be brought to Parliament because it is Parliament that decides whether there are to be amendments to the Federal Constitution.

“It is us as MPs who decide on the direction and system of justice in the country,” said Azalina during ministerial replies on issues raised during debates on the 12th Malaysia Plan mid-term review.

Azalina, who is in charge of law and institutional reforms, said that 148 or two-thirds out of 222 votes in Parliament were needed to amend the Constitution to enable this reform.

“But if we can’t even cross 148, how am I going to carry out institutional reforms?

“What I am to do when all of a sudden this number decreases to 147 if MPs are courted by either side the following day?

“How are we to carry out institutional reforms if Parliament is not stable and the government cannot amend the Constitution?” she said.

She then asked Opposition MPs whether they would support the amendments that would be necessary for separating the roles of AG and PP.

“This Madani government is committed towards good governance which is fair. That is why this government’s hashtag is ‘we walk the talk’ and not the hashtag ‘we don’t talk and we don’t walk,’ Azalina said, drawing laughter from backbenchers.


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Singapore minister warns preschool operators against ‘hindering’ teachers from using mobile devices to report wrongdoing

18 Sep 2023

SINGAPORE, Sept 18 — In the wake of the alleged abuse of children by an ex-Kinderland teacher, preschool operators have been warned not to hinder teachers from reporting wrongdoing through their policy on the use of personal mobile devices.

The warning came from Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sun Xueling during exchanges on the issue in Parliament today. Various Members of Parliament (MPs) had filed questions and then asked supplementary questions of Ms Sun.

She said any policy on the use of personal mobile devices that hindered the reporting of wrongdoing that teachers may observe was not acceptable.

“This is a clear breach of the operator’s duty to implement an effective reporting mechanism and the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) will take action against the operator,” she said.

Ms Sun also said that the agency will not impose mandatory psychological screenings for preschool teachers so that such individuals will “not be excluded”, despite some calls for it from several MPs, who said that this could better protect children.

In a session which took around an hour, Ms Sun addressed 19 parliamentary questions filed by MPs on child abuse at preschools, in light of the recent alleged Kinderland incident.

A preschool teacher from the school was allegedly caught rough handling and hitting children in a series of viral video clips. She was later arrested and charged on August 30 with abusing a 23-month-old girl at the Woodlands Mart centre.

In her response, Ms Sun said that the recent spate of child mismanagement incidents are not “reflective of the wider preschool sector”.

“Many preschool educators have expressed shock and dismay, they have been dedicating their time and energies in caring and nurturing for our children,” she said.

Addressing questions from Ms Mariam Jaafar of Sembawang Group Representation Constituency (GRC) and Nominated MP Assoc Prof Razwana Begum Abdul Rahim about the frequency of child mismanagement cases, Ms Sun said that there are about 10 substantiated cases per 100,000 enrolled children each year.

“And this figure has remained low and stable over recent years. But of course every case is one too many,” said Ms Sun.

What ECDA is doing

To prevent such incidents from happening, Ms Sun said that ECDA will work closely with the preschool sector to strengthen its system of “multi-layered” safeguards it has built up over the years.

“There are explicit provisions in the Early Childhood Development Centres Act which make clear what actions educators cannot subject children to,” she said.

This includes force feeding, corporal punishment for example striking a child or any other form of aggressive contact, neglecting the child and causing psychological trauma.

Ms Sun added that the agency has issued a code of practice to further detail what preschools have to do to meet these requirements by stipulating that educators’ interactions with children must be “respectful, responsive and reciprocal to support children’s learning and development”.

However, she said that ECDA cannot work alone to safeguard children’s safety in preschools and this multi-layered system requires operators, centres and educators to do their part as well.

For instance, all operators have to put in place appropriate policies to maintain a safe environment for children, as well as ensure that staff are aware of these rules.

Educators who have been assessed to “pose a risk to children’s safety” such as those with previous criminal offences will also not be allowed to be deployed, said Ms Sun.

She added that those with a history of mental illness must declare this and obtain a certification that he or she is suitable to work with young children.

On this point, Ms Carrie Tan of Nee Soon GRC asked if ECDA would consider making mental screening mandatory for future or existing operators and principals to ensure they are in line with a culture of respect for children.

However, Ms Sun cautioned against doing so as there are those who may be struggling with mental health conditions but their conditions can be well-managed with proper advice and medications from doctors.

Ms Sun added that there is already a declaration form that potential educators must fill up regarding any existing mental health conditions and a need for a psychiatrist’s certification that he or she can work with children.

“So I think that is the balance that we have to put in place to ensure child safety while ensuring that we do not stigmatise mental health conditions in our society,’” she said.

‘Not for a lack of policies’

Ms Sun also reiterated the point that ECDA has mandated all preschools to install CCTV cameras by July 2024.

However, Non-Constituency MP Hazel Poa questioned the “excessive” one-year time frame and asked if it was possible to implement it within three to four months.

Ms Sun responded that operators will need time to procure their CCTV systems and identify where are the appropriate places to install them.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development announced in August that more than 60 per cent of preschools and 100 per cent of EI centres have already installed CCTV cameras on their premises.

Ms Joan Pereira of Tanjong Pagar GRC also asked for the ministry’s view on the installation of audio recorders instead of CCTVs to cover blind spots in preschools such as bathrooms and changing rooms.

To this, Ms Sun said that some parents and teachers may feel that having audio recorders in the toilet is “an invasion of privacy”.

“I would rather that we spend time educating our teachers, be it pre service or in service, rather than overly rely on digital means to monitor actions,” she added.

Mr Gerald Giam of Aljunied GRC also asked if Ecda can require all preschools to adopt a Child Protection Policy.

Holding up a thick file of paper, Ms Sun said that these are three sets of documents consisting of 206 pages, that govern early childhood development as well as the various policies that are in place to protect children.

“All these are policies, which we constantly review, which we constantly engage industry and operators on. It is not for a lack of policies,” she said.

“We can have all the policies under the sun in the world but what is important is how well it is executed on the ground.” — TODAY


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Man who killed 2-year-old daughter and burnt her body in pot jailed 21.5 years

19 Sep 2023

SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): After taking drugs, a man fatally slapped his two-year-old daughter, then he and his wife burnt the body in a metal pot to destroy the evidence.

They put the burnt remains in a cardboard box, sealed it with masking tape and cling wrap, before putting the box under the kitchen stove.

Over the years, they lied to their family and the authorities about the girl’s whereabouts.

More than five years later, in 2019, the woman’s younger brother, who had become increasingly curious about the contents of the box, opened it, despite her warning him not to touch it.

He showed his find to the woman’s friends, who called the police because they felt uneasy with what they saw.

On Tuesday, the girl’s father was sentenced to a total of 21½ years’ jail and 18 strokes of the cane after pleading guilty to a charge of culpable homicide for causing her death by slapping her and failing to provide her with medical aid.

He also pleaded guilty to three other charges - one for ill-treating his six-year-old stepson, rioting and consumption of methamphetamine.

Five other charges were taken into consideration.

High Court judge Aedit Abdullah described the man’s act in slapping his two-year-old daughter as callous, vicious and heinous.

Justice Abdullah also lifted a gag order on the girl’s given name - Umaisyah.

“It is important that we remember her by her name,” he said, noting that she was robbed of any opportunity of growing up and leading a fulfilling life.

“Umaisyah deserves so much more.”

Details such as the names of the couple and the address of the flat, which could lead to the identification of the surviving children, cannot be published.

The couple were initially charged with murder.

On March 2, 2021, the woman was granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal for her murder charge.

It means she can still be prosecuted for the offence later, depending on the evidence that emerges.


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Suhaizan sworn in as Pulai MP, Nik Abduh as senator

19 Sep 2023

Suhaizan sworn in as Pulai MP, Nik Abduh as senator


KUALA LUMPUR: Suhaizan Kayat has been sworn in as a member of the Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday (Sept 19).

The newly elected Pulai MP took his oath in front of Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Johari Abdul.

On Sept 9, Pakatan Harapan defended the Pulai parliamentary and Simpang Jeram state seats in the by-elections, triggered by the death of Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub, who was the elected representative for both constituencies.

Suhaizan secured 48,283 votes, an 18,641-vote majority over his opponents Zulkifli Jaafar from Perikatan Nasional-Bersatu (29,642 votes) and Independent Samsudin Mohamad Fauzi (465).

Salahuddin, 61, who was also domestic trade and cost of living minister, suffered a brain haemorrhage on July 22 and underwent surgery the following morning. He passed away on July 23.

Concurrently, former Bachok MP Nik Mohamad Abduh Nik Abdul Aziz took his oath as a senator in the Dewan Negara in front of Senate president Tan Sri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

He was nominated by the Kelantan state assembly.

Nik Abduh will replace Mohamad Affandi Mohamad, whose term as senator ended on July 7.

The son of former PAS spiritual leader, the late Tan Sri Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, was dropped by PAS as a candidate for the 15th General Election.


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Muhyiddin seeks to strike out remaining three money laundering charges

19 Sep 2023

KUALA LUMPUR – Former prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is seeking to strike out his three money laundering charges related to the Jana Wibawa scandal.

The lead defence counsel to the Perikatan Nasional (PN) chairman, Datuk Hisyam TehPoh Teik, told the sessions court that they would be filing the application soon.

“The application to set aside (the charges) will be made under Section 173(g) of the Criminal Procedure Code,” he said.

On August 15, the Kuala Lumpur High Court allowed Muhyidin’s application to nullify the four abuse of power charges against him linked to Jana Wibawa.

Earlier, the defence team contended that the money laundering charges against the Pagoh MP would not stand as they were predicated to the main ones which were already nullified.

Muhyiddin was charged with two counts of receiving RM195 million in funds that were allegedly proceeds from unlawful activities between February 25 and July 16, 2021 and February 8 and July 8, last year.

The Bersatu president was also charged with one count of receiving RM5 million in funds from Bukhary Equity SdnBhd, which were allegedly proceeds from unlawful activities, on January 7 last year.

The charge is framed under Section 4(1)(b) of the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001. – The Vibes, September 19, 2023


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Zafrul’s aide to lodge police report over ex-Perdana Fellow fiasco

18 Sep 2023

PETALING JAYA – Thrust into the spotlight after several Instagram screenshots went viral on a former Perdana Fellow with suspicious credentials, a minister’s aide said she will be lodging a police report over the matter.

International Trade and Industry Ministry (Miti) director of media and strategic communications Suria Zainal, who is currently overseas for official duties, said on X (formerly Twitter) that she will do so upon her return.

Suria's name came up yesterday after a Twitter account, @BN4everTN50, shared a few Instagram screenshots purportedly made by a former Perdana Fellow, Muhammad Azhar Ali.

Azhar made headlines last week after netizens scrutinised his credentials and discovered various discrepancies concerning his list of achievements.

The Perdana Fellowship programme, under the purview of the Youth and Sports Ministry, is made up of successful applicants who are placed at various ministries.

Miti had earlier announced on social media that it would be receiving two Perdana Fellows, one of whom is Azhar.

Netizens were quick to recall that Azhar had gone viral three years ago for his alleged Nasa scholarship offer, which turned out to be untrue.

Azhar, at the time, claimed he was the victim of an online scam after the matter went viral where even the prime minister at the time, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, congratulated him.

When Azhar resurfaced, netizens immediately began to investigate the list of achievements listed in the Perdana Fellow social media poster shared by Miti.

After many claimed that the achievements were dubious, the Youth and Sports Ministry issued a statement saying that based on its checks, it found that one certificate submitted by a Perdana Fellow was not genuine.

The ministry informed in the same press statement the Perdana Fellow in question had been dropped from the programme and will be offered counselling.

While the Youth and Sports Ministry did not name the Perdana Fellow in their statement, it was safe to assume they were referring to Azhar.

As the issue appeared to have died down, it made waves again yesterday following the Twitter post made by @BN4everTN50.

The Instagram screenshots shared were alleged to have been made by Azhar under the name @azharsturtle.

The account, however, is not available on Instagram, upon checking.

In the screenshot, Azhar had allegedly lamented his fate and shared a WhatsApp conversation between him and Suria, in which Suria had said: “YB has requested for you to come to Miti tomorrow and carry out as usual.”

In the conversation, Suria had also said that the statement issued by the Youth and Sports Ministry was just to keep the public quiet.

Netizens immediately scrutinised the screenshot and pointed out several issues, among them being that the messages did not share the same font.

They had also raised spacing between one text and the next in the same screenshot.

This led many to believe the WhatsApp conversation had been doctored.

Suria today clarified the matter on her Twitter account.

“I would like to clarify that regarding the screenshot of my alleged conversation with a Perdana Fellow, the statement ‘KBS had to issue a statement to keep the public quiet. YB has requested for you to come to Miti tomorrow and carry out as usual’ is totally fabricated.

“I never said this, and will make a police report as soon as I am back from my overseas official duties on September 27.

“For the record, following the official announcement by YB @hannahyeoh last week, that particular Perdana Fellow is no longer with Miti,” she said.

It is, however, unclear as at press time if Azhar is the person behind the @azharsturtle Instagram account. – The Vibes, September 18, 2023


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Witness denies lying in Guan Eng’s corruption case

18 Sep 2023

KUALA LUMPUR – A former director of Consortium Zenith Construction SdnBhd (CZCSB) told the sessions court here today that he did not lie under oath while testifying in Lim Guan Eng’s corruption case.

Ibrahim Sahari, 59, was responding to Lim’s lawyer Gobind Singh Deo, who was cross-examining him on the inconsistencies of his witness statements between the Shah Alam Sessions Court and the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court.

The issue was raised by Gobind because while testifying in businessman G. Gnanaraja’s cheating case at the Shah Alam sessions court, Ibrahim said that Zarul Ahmad had told him of being cheated by Gnanaraja, who asked him for RM19 million.

Gnanaraja allegedly demanded RM19 million as an inducement to help close the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) money-laundering case against Zarul Ahmad.

During proceedings in the sessions court here on June 28, 2022, Ibrahim told the court that Zarul Ahmad had confessed to him and MACC that he made a payment to Lim after being freed by the agency.

Ibrahim also admitted to falsifying invoices and vouchers, for funds that were later purportedly used to bribe Lim.

Earlier, during cross-examination by Tiara Katrina Fuad, who is also representing Lim, Ibrahim agreed with his statement in the Shah Alam court that the RM19 million given to Gnanaraja was for helping to close the money-laundering case against Zarul Ahmad.

During examination-in-chief by Deputy Public Prosecutor Mahadi Abdul last Friday, Ibrahim said his Shah Alam court statement differed from the one in the sessions court here because they involved different charges and individuals. 

Lim, 62, is facing an amended charge of using his position as the then Penang chief minister to accept a bribe of RM3.3 million to help a company owned by Zarul Ahmad obtain a construction project worth RM6,341,383,702 at the Office of the Chief Minister of Penang, 28th Floor, Komtar, George Town between January 2011 and August 2017.

On the second amended charge, Lim is accused of soliciting a bribe from Zarul Ahmad, namely 10% of the company’s profits, as an inducement for obtaining the project, allegedly committing the act near The Gardens Hotel, Lingkaran Syed Putra, Mid Valley City here in March 2011.

He is also facing two charges of disposing two plots of land worth RM208.8 million owned by the Penang government to companies allegedly linked to the undersea tunnel project.

The hearing before Judge Azura Alwi resumes on October 23. – Bernama, September 18, 2023


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Nigerian Military Probes Video Of Terrorists Holding 'Peace Meeting' With Soldiers In Katsina After SaharaReporters' Story

September 19, 2023

The Defence Headquarters, Abuja, the Nigerian military high command, has said it has launched an investigation into a video clip on social media of some soldiers engaging with bandits somewhere in Katsina State.

SaharaReporters had exclusively reported on Sunday that terrorists held a peace parley with residents in Fankama village in the Faskari Local Government Area of Katsina State.

"Yesterday, Saturday 16/09/2023, there was a meeting between terrorists and people of town in Fankama village in Faskari Local Government Area of Katsina State.

“As seen in the pictures here is the young man with the weapons and military equipment. No regret but the joy is that there was peace and understanding," a source had revealed.

Terrorists Hold Peace Parley With Katsina Community In Northwest Nigeria

Meanwhile the DHQ, Abuja, in a release by its spokesperson, Brig Gen Tukur Gusau, said the probe was to ascertain the authenticity of the clips as regards the soldiers seen in uniform.

The statement added that the military high command was aware of the resolve of some bandits to repent and hand over their weapons to the authorities.

The military stated that the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Christopher Musa, had assured Nigerians that the military would “engage in every lawful means possible to ensure peace and stability reign in our dear nation."

The DHQ said, "The attention of the Defence Headquarters was drawn to a video clip in circulation across the social media handles of some soldiers engaging with bandits somewhere in Katsina State.

"The DHQ is investigating the video to confirm its authenticity as regards the soldiers seen in uniform. The DHQ is aware of the resolve of some bandits to repent and hand over their weapons to the authority. This is yeilding good results and is ongoing.

"The Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Gwabin Musa assures Nigerians that the AFN will engage in every lawful means possible to ensure peace and stability reign in our dear nation.

"The DHQ assures Nigerians that it's non-kinetic measures aimed at restoration of peace is yielding results, with several bandits and other criminal elements surrendering to authority.

"Governments at all levels are encouraged to allow bandits genuinely willing to surrender to do so while the window is still open. Defence Headquarters is doing everything possible to restore peace and tranquility all over the country and urge all citizens to remain calm and be law abiding."


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Burkina Faso expels French defense attache

18 Sep, 2023

French defense attache Emmanuel Pasquier and his team have been told to leave Burkina Faso, according to Reuters. France recalled its ambassador from the country, following his expulsion by leaders of the coup who took power in September 2022.

“The government of Burkina Faso has decided… to withdraw the approval of Mr. Emmanuel Pasquier, defense attache at the French embassy in Burkina Faso for subversive activities,” the Burkinabe Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote in a letter to Paris on Thursday, granting “a period of two weeks to leave Burkinabe territory,” Reuters reported.

According to the letter, the French military mission in the capital, Ouagadougou, will be closed while Burkina Faso will also close its defense office in Paris.

“The accusation of subversive activities is obviously fanciful,” a spokesperson for the French Foreign Ministry told AFP in Paris.

French television channels La Chaine Info and France24, as well as Radio France Internationale, have been suspended by authorities in Burkina Faso and correspondents from French newspapers Liberation and Le Monde have been expelled, local journalist Kader Nalima Bado told RT on Saturday. Nalima Bado claimed that the news has been perceived in his country as a "good sign" because of local perceptions that French media companies were one-sided in their reporting.


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DRC: at least 17 dead in landslide

18 Sep 2023

Torrential rains in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) caused a landslide that killed at least 17 people overnight, authorities said on Sunday, warning that the toll could rise as Rescuers search through the rubble of collapsed houses.

The disaster occurred along the Congo River in the town of Lisal, in northwestern Mongala province, according to Matthieu Mole, president of the civil society organization Forces Vives. The victims lived in houses built at the foot of a mountain.

“Torrential rain caused a lot of damage, including a landslide which engulfed several houses,” he said. “The results are still provisional because bodies are still under the rubble. ”

Governor Cesar LimbayaMbangisa said there was an urgent need for machines to help clear debris and try to save survivors. The governor also offered his condolences to the families of the victims and declared three days of morning throughout the province.


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South Africa: at least 20 De Beers employees die on the road

18 Sep 2023

At least 20 employees of the mining giant De Beers died on Sunday in South Africa in a road accident, aboard a bus providing connections with the Venetia diamond mine, one of the largest in the country.

“A bus transporting employees of the Venetia mine was involved in an accident on Sunday afternoon ,” the Transport Department of Limpopo province (north) said in a statement. The accident “cost the lives of at least 20 mine employees” .

The cause has not yet been determined.

According to a spokesperson for the department contacted by AFP, the accident occurred around 4 p.m. GMT, about 25 km from the mine, in the town of Musina , located on the border with Zimbabwe in the far north of the country. “The bus collided with a truck ,” Vongani Chauke said.

South Africa has one of the most developed road networks on the continent but is among the worst performers in terms of road safety .

The Venetia mine, located in the bush near the border with Botswana and Zimbabwe, has been operated for more than 30 years by the De Beers group . It represents 40% of South Africa's annual diamond production and has more than 4,300 employees, many of whom come from neighboring communities.

Formerly the largest open-cast mine in the country, the site has undergone a transformation aimed at making up for the scarcity of diamonds. De Beers invested two billion dollars in a mega underground mining project and ended open pit mining in December.

The group, which plans to extract four million carats per year, announced in July the start of diamond production from underground mines dug under the old open-air mine, providing access to rocks buried some thousand meters away. depth.


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African nation denies claims of coup attempt

18 Sep, 2023

The government of the Republic of the Congo has denied reports of an attempted military coup against President Denis Sassou Nguesso, who has been in power for almost four decades.

“Fanciful information suggests serious events taking place in Brazzaville. The Government denies this fake news. We reassure public opinion about the calm that reigns and invite people to calmly go about their activities,” the government said in a statement on Sunday.

Rumors of a military takeover in the Central African country began circulating on social media on Sunday, while Nguesso was in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.

These claims suggested that military forces began seizing critical facilities and government installations in the nation’s capital, Brazzaville.

Last month, soldiers in neighboring Gabon, a former French colony, overthrew the Central African country’s president, Ali Bongo, who had served in office for 14 years. This followed the July coup in Niger, which deposed President Mohamed Bazoum, causing tensions between the putschists and the French government, the West African country’s former colonial ruler.

Burkina Faso expels French defense attacheREAD MORE: Burkina Faso expels French defense attache

Nguesso, 79, assumed the presidency of the Republic of Congo, another former French colony, in 1979 and held office until 1992. The Congolese leader, ranking as Africa’s third-longest-serving president after Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea and Paul Biya of Cameroon, returned to power following a civil war in 1997 after initially losing Congo’s inaugural multi-party elections in 1992.

In 2015, an amendment to the constitution in the oil-rich nation eliminated age restrictions for presidential candidates above 70 and removed the two-term limit, enabling Nguesso to seek reelection. He secured his fourth presidential term in the 2021 elections, receiving another five years in office.


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Libya's flood survivors hold protest against authorities, demand accountability

 19 September 2023

Hundreds of people have taken to the streets in the northeastern Libyan city of Derna a week after flooding killed thousands of people, blaming authorities for the disaster’s high death toll.

The protest took place on Monday, with participants demanding accountability on the part of the officials, whom they accused of neglect, including the head of the eastern-based Libyan parliament, Aguila Saleh.

"Aguila we don't want you! All Libyans are brothers!" "The people want parliament to fall," "Aguila is the enemy of God," the protesters chanted.

Gathering outside the city's grand mosque, the demonstrators also called for the punishment of government officials responsible for the catastrophe, chanting "Thieves and betrayers must hang."

A statement read on behalf of the protesters urged "a speedy investigation and legal action against those responsible for the disaster."

One of the demonstrators told Reuters that the protest was a message that "the governments have failed to manage the crisis," adding that the parliament was especially to blame. He called for an international inquiry into the disaster and "for reconstruction under international supervision."

The calamity struck Derna and the villages around it last Sunday after heavy rainfall from Mediterranean Storm Daniel caused two dams to collapse in the city.

Citing the Libyan Red Crescent, the United Nations said in an update on Saturday that the death toll from catastrophic flooding had climbed to 11,300.

The death toll from catastrophic flooding in Libya

More than 10,000 people are still missing in the city, the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said, quoting Red Crescent's figures.

The flooding has also devastated whole swathes of the coastal city.

UN agencies have warned that tens of thousands of Derna's residents are homeless and badly in need of clean water, food and basic supplies, amid a growing risk of cholera, diarrhea, dehydration and malnutrition.

Last week, Saleh sought to deflect blame from authorities by describing the flood as an “unprecedented natural disaster,” and saying that people should not focus on what could or should have been done.

But commentators have drawn attention to warnings given in advance, including an academic paper published last year by a hydrologist outlining the city's vulnerability to floods and the urgent need to maintain the dams that protected it.

According to Libyan media, some protesters marched on a house reportedly owned by Derna's unpopular mayor, Abdulmonem al-Ghaithi, and set it on fire.

Hichem Abu Chkiouat, a minister in the eastern Libyan government, said Ghaithi has been suspended from his post.


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Gunmen kidnap Catholic priest, six others

Chinagorom Ugwu

September 18, 2023

Gunmen have abducted a Catholic priest in Enugu State, South-east Nigeria.

The victim, Marcellinus Okide, was kidnapped alongside six other persons at about 5 p.m. on Sunday along Eke-Egede-Affa-AKpakwumeNze Road in Udi Local Government Area of the state.

MrOkide, the parish priest at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Amofia-Agu Affa, was said to be on his way to the parish when he was abducted by the hoodlums.

The kidnappers had contacted families of the abducted victims demanding N100 million ransom to release the cleric and the six others, PREMIUM TIMES gathered.

The police spokesperson in Enugu State, Daniel Ndukwe, did not respond to calls and a WhatsApp message seeking his comments.

But the spokesperson of the Catholic Diocese of Enugu, Anthony Aneke, confirmed the incident to PREMIUM TIMES on Monday.

Mr Aneke, also a Catholic priest, said the hoodlums blocked the road and forced the cleric into their vehicle alongside “some others.”

The spokesperson also confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that the kidnappers contacted the church authority for ransom, but did not mention the amount being demanded by the hoodlums.

This newspaper learnt that some police operatives in the state have been searching several bushes around the area to track down the hoodlums and rescue the abducted victims.

Increased kidnap attacks

There have been increased attacks by kidnappers in Enugu State in recent times.

Several people, including university students and government officials, have been kidnapped lately in the state.

Earlier this month, a police officer was killed when suspected kidnappers attempted to abduct some travellers in Ogbeke-Nike, along Ugwogo/Opi/Nsukka Road in Enugu East Local Government Area of the state.

The attack occurred about one month after suspected kidnappers killed one person and abducted many travellers along Ugwogo-Neke Odenigbo Road in the council area.


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Nigerian troops kill more suspected IPOB members in South-east

Chinagorom Ugwu 

September 18, 2023

Troops of the Nigerian Army have killed three more suspected members of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and its militant wing, Eastern Security Network (ESN) in Abia State, Nigeria’s South-east.

The hoodlums were killed at early hours of Monday when a joint security team raided some hideouts of the suspected IPOB members, the army spokesperson, Onyema Nwachukwu, said in a statement, Monday afternoon.

The hideouts were at Igboro Forest, which is between Arochukwu and Ohafia Local Government Areas of the state.

Mr Nwachukwu, a brigadier-general, said the joint team comprised the troops and personnel of the Nigeria Police Force.

“The joint troops of 82 Division of the Nigerian army and the Nigeria Police have neutralised three combatants of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and its armed affiliate, Eastern Security Network (ESN) in a fierce encounter that ensued during a clearance operation,” he said.

The army spokesperson said the troops quickly destroyed several hideouts of the separatists allegedly used to perfect plans before launching attacks.

He said the hideouts were uncovered after weeks of intelligence-gathering operation revealed that the hoodlums were using the forest as a combatant training ground for their members.

The hideouts were also being used as a base for planning and launching attacks on residents of the state, security operatives and government facilities in the state, he said.

One improvised 16 multi barrel rocket launcher, gun mounted on a vehicle, one improvised 12 multi barrel rocket launcher gun and one improvised six multi barrel rocket launcher gun were among the items recovered from the suspects, according to the army.

Others are one AK-47 rifle, one dane gun, six locally made rocket launchers, four improvised explosive devices, five fragmental jackets, a baofeng radio set, military camouflage uniforms and assorted charms.

PREMIUM TIMES earlier reported how the troops and police operatives killed three other suspected IPOB members in a separate operation in Enugu State, still in the South-east.

IPOB is leading the agitation for an independent state of Biafra, which it wants carved out from the South-east and some parts of the South-south Nigeria.


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