New Age Islam
Fri Aug 14 2020, 07:42 AM

Islamic World News ( 11 Jan 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Hafiz Saeed Criticises Pak Govt for Not Ushering Islamic Rule in Country

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At present, madrassas in the state offer Maths, Science, Ayush and Social Science as optional subjects

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Hafiz Saeed Criticises Pak Govt for Not Ushering Islamic Rule in Country

Uttarakhand Madrassas to Teach Sanskrit and Computer Science

Hefazat Gives Ultimatum for Sending Kandhalvi to India by Evening

Opposition to Anti-Islamophobia Proposal Proves Its Merits

UK Govt. Rejects Pleas for Checks to Avoid Repeat Of Iraq War

 

Pakistan

Hafiz Saeed Criticises Pak Govt for Not Ushering Islamic Rule in Country

Council of Islamic Ideology Urges Seminaries to Produce Quality Prayer Leaders

Implementation of Islamic Principles Ensure Formation of Welfare Society: Zubair

Pakistan halts intelligence-sharing with US after aid suspension

Qadri says ‘Justice for Zainab’ now part of PAT’s protest movement

Spat aside, US-Pakistan dialogue channels remain open

Larkana DIG says TTP group has joined hands with BRA, JSMM

Pakistan free of terrorist safe havens: FO

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India

Uttarakhand Madrassas to Teach Sanskrit and Computer Science

Fertility Rate below Replacement Level for All But Hindus and Muslims

PDP MLA Calls Slain Terrorists ‘Martyrs’, Stokes Controversy

Eight Rohingya Families, Grateful For Being Settled In West Bengal

Syed Geelani’s son-in-law to be prosecuted under tough terror law

Talks on terror can go on, not terror and talks: India

US hails India's aid contribution to Afghanistan

Bengal’s Muslim Preservationist of Hindu Temples Is Ill and Seeks Your Help

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South Asia

Hefazat Gives Ultimatum for Sending Kandhalvi to India by Evening

Rohingya Survivors Dispute Myanmar Army Massacre Account

Rohingya Massacre: US envoy praises Myanmar's first admission

Government release 75 prisoners of Hezb-e-Islami from Kabul prison

Suspected militants killed in Bangladesh in security crackdown

China rejects report of funding construction of anti-terror base in Afghanistan

Peace in region contingent upon peace in Afghanistan: DG

Local uprising forces clash with US Special Forces in Nangarhar

Afghan Air Force carry out more raids on ISIS targets in Kunar

Quetta attack traced back to Afghanistan, claims Pakistani officials

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North America

Opposition to Anti-Islamophobia Proposal Proves Its Merits

Us Task Force to Probe Hezbollah ‘Narcoterror’

Quebec judge rejects bid to shut Muslim centre

Guantanamo prisoners sue Trump alleging anti-Muslim bias

How Trump tweet on Pakistan blindsided US officials

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Europe

UK Govt. Rejects Pleas for Checks to Avoid Repeat Of Iraq War

Greece's Muslim Minority Hails Change to Limit Power of Sharia Law

Germany urges US not to mix Iran nuclear deal with unrelated issues

Trump to extend Iran sanctions relief, keeping nuclear deal intact

Britain to join France in West Africa counter-terrorism mission

French president tells Trump all must respect Iran nuclear deal

Russia warns of 'real threat' of drone attacks by terrorists

Turkish families receive threat letters in Netherlands

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Arab World

Ex-Military Chief Of Staff to Run In Egyptian Presidential Election

SDF Releases Hundreds of ISIL Terrorists, Commanders in Deir Ezzur

Syrian rebels declare counter attack in Idlib province

Syrian Army Wins Back More Areas in Southwestern Aleppo

Terrorists Retreat Aleppo Battlefields as Army Continues March

Putin’s envoy, Assad hold talks on terror fight, peace process in Damascus

Qatar files complaint to UN over ‘airspace violation’ by UAE fighter jet

Bahraini regime forces jail Shia cleric for supporting Sheikh Isa Qassim

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Mideast

No Further Extraditions to US Unless Washington Hands Over Gulen: Erdogan

Houthi Prisoner Admits: ‘Hezbollah Expert Came To Train Us’

Israel approves over 1,100 new West Bank settlement homes

At least 8,000 people have been detained during Iran protests

Nephew of killed Yemeni president: We extend our hands to our brothers in Saudi

Israeli forces kill 2 Palestinians in Gaza Strip, West Bank

Turkish court gives life sentences to more than two dozen over 2016 botched putsch

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Southeast Asia

Malaysia's Islamic Insurance Outpacing Conventional Counterpart: Fitch

Report: Malaysia ranked among the safest nations in new US travel advisory

Why Ahok remains a man to watch in Indonesian politics

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Africa

Suspected Islamic State Bomber Surrenders at Libyan Checkpoint: Official

Tunisia deploys army, makes 300 arrests as violent unrest continues

Police arrest over 50 protesters in Nigerian capital

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/hafiz-saeed-criticises-pak-govt-for-not-ushering-islamic-rule-in-country/d/113912

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Hafiz Saeed criticises Pak govt for not ushering Islamic rule in country

Jan 12, 2018

Lahore [Pakistan], Jan. 12 (ANI): The Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) chief and UN-designated global terrorist Hafiz Saeed has lashed out at the Pakistan government for not ushering Islamic rule in the country.

"They have started this work by finishing the message of Prophet Muhammad. Let us unite and pledge that we would not let it happen," Saeed has said at an event.

Already at loggerheads with the United States (US), especially over its decision to suspend military aid to Pakistan, the 26/11">26/11 mastermind criticised both the U.S. and Israel for the political chaos in the country.

"This is Israel's agenda, which America is executing effectively. After losing in Afghanistan, it wants to wage a new war here in Pakistan. The unity that I am seeing today here is good but we need bigger and better unity and start a revolution. We have to stand up and do something better for Islam and Pakistan," Hafiz Saeed added.

The JuD chief is also looking to contest the 2018 general elections in Pakistan and has, thereby, formed a party by the name of Milli Muslim League (MML).

Earlier this week, Saeed invited all Islamic states to launch 'Jihad' against the United States and Israel.

Meanwhile, Pakistan recently prohibited Saeed's JuD and Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) from collecting donations.

Saeed has recently been released from house arrest after a Pakistani court cited lack of evidence against him in the 26/11">26/11 Mumbai attack case.

India has, time and again, protested against Pakistan for harbouring Saeed, who is wanted for plotting the Mumbai attacks. (ANI)

https://www.aninews.in/news/world/asia/hafiz-saeed-criticises-pak-govt-for-not-ushering-islamic-rule-in-country201801121010550001/

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Uttarakhand Madrassas to Teach Sanskrit and Computer Science

January 11, 2018

The lower committee of Uttarakhand Madrassa Education Board (UMEB) has given its nod to a proposal seeking inclusion of Sanskrit and Computer Science as optional subjects in madrassas all over the state from the next academic session.

At present, madrassas in the state offer Maths, Science, Ayush and Social Science as optional subjects. A six-member lower committee of the board yesterday cleared the proposal for inclusion of Sanskrit and Computer Science as optional subjects, UMEB Deputy Registrar Akhlaq Ahmad told PTI. The proposal will now be moved to the upper committee of the board for its approval, he said.

The approval to include Sanskrit in the syllabus comes days after the Madrassa Welfare Society of Uttarakhand approached the state government to include Sanskrit as one of the subjects in the syllabus.

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/uttarakhand-madrassas-to-teach-sanskrit-5020801/

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Hefazat Gives Ultimatum for Sending Kandhalvi to India by Evening

January 11, 2018

Hefazat-e Islam today threatened that if Maulana Saad Kandhalvi is not sent to India by this evening, “prevailing peace and mobility on roads in Dhaka might be hampered”.

Dhaka Metropolitan Hefazat Joint Member Secretary Fazlul Karim Kashemi declared the ultimatum while talking to the journalists after a meeting with a fraction of Hefazat members in front of Baitul Mukarram National Mosque in Dhaka this afternoon.

“A group of people are trying to ruin the peace in the country by bringing Maulana Saad in Bangladesh” Kashemi claimed.

When asked why they did not go to Kakrail mosque where Maulana Saad Kandhalvi is staying, the Hefazat leader said they went there in the morning but were not allowed to enter, that’s why they came to Baitul Mukarram.

A faction of the Tabligh Jamaat yesterday blocked the busy Airport Road protesting the arrival of the religious group's top scholar Maulana Saad Kandhalvi from India to attend BiswaIjtema.

Followers of the faction, mostly belonging to radical Islamist group Hefazat-e Islam, sat on the road and chanted slogans against Maulana Saad Kandhalvi for what they claimed were his "controversial comments about the Koran and Sunnah."

http://www.thedailystar.net/city/Hefazat-e-islam-gives-ultimatum-sending-maulana-saad-kandhalvi-india-evening-1518349

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Opposition To Anti-Islamophobia Proposal Proves Its Merits

Jan. 11, 2018

The Quebec politicians now fighting against a proposal to commemorate last year’s massacre of six Muslim men at a Quebec City mosque as an annual day of action against Islamophobia provide clear proof of the idea’s merit.

As with last year’s absurd debate over M-103, the federal anti-Islamophobia motion, the opposition to the National Council of Canadian Muslims’ proposal appears to be a proxy for, or an attempt to pander to, more disturbing views. The toxic political culture in which Islamophobia thrives – the culture this proposal seeks to expose and redress - is clearly alive and well.

Quebec’s two main opposition parties, the Parti Québécois and its surging right-wing rival, the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), both oppose the proposal on dubious grounds.

The CAQ says the anniversary should commemorate the victims, but not politicize their deaths by making mention of Islamophobia. What, then, would they say about the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, an annual commemoration of the murder by an anti-feminist zealot of 14 women at Montreal’s École Polytechnique?

On that day, we honour the victims not only by remembering their names, but also by considering the social ill that contributed to their tragic deaths. It is an annual opportunity, in remembrance of misogyny’s victims, to reflect on the progress we’ve made in the fight against abuse of women – and the work still to be done. No one suggests this is a disservice to those who were killed. Quite the contrary.

The Parti Québécois, meanwhile, claims that the term “Islamophobia” is “too controversial,” that it could be seen to denote the views not only of bigots, but also of well-intentioned people who hold legitimate concerns about the practices of radical Islam. But surely the fear that the word might be misunderstood should not preclude the denunciation of anti-Muslim bigotry.

The PQ also contends that the proposal is redundant, given that there is already an international day for the elimination of racism. In other words, why should Islamophobia get special treatment? This was one of the bogus arguments used against M-103 and, as the Star argued then, it sounds too much like the petty grievances of the All Lives Matter movement, Heterosexual Pride Day, the Men’s Rights movement and other crypto-bigoted counter-movements that seek to protect privilege in the guise of promoting equality.

Of course all religions deserve to be equally protected and racism of all kinds should be equally rebuked. But allowing these truisms to obscure the ways in which they remain unreflected in our society is perverse if we really mean them. By emphasizing a particular problem, we don’t deny that other problems exist. Inclusion is not a zero-sum game.

In fact, there’s good reason to specifically address Islamophobia when discussing intolerance in Canada today. It is true that Muslims are not the religious group most victimized by hate crimes (Jews continue to hold that unfortunate distinction), but crimes against Muslims have been rising at an alarming rate. Between 2012 and 2015, they doubled. And in the days after the mosque shooting, police in Quebec say they saw another sharp spike.

Especially as tens of thousands of Syrian and Iraqi refugees, mostly Muslims, settle into Canada, the message that this evidence of rising intolerance reflects a fringe view, explicitly rejected by government, is an important one. Yet these politicians, ostrich-like, refuse to acknowledge this real and emerging problem and in the process compound it.

In Quebec, in particular, politicians should know better. In the wake of the Quebec City massacre, the province’s Liberal premier, Philippe Couillard, made a powerful speech of rare cultural introspection. He said Quebec, like all societies, must deal with its “demons” – and “these demons are named xenophobia, racism, exclusion.” He spoke these words alongside his chief political rival, Parti Québécois leader Jean-François Lisée, who appropriately took some personal responsibility for the rising anti-Muslim sentiment.

Yet just a few days later the premier was pushing his niqab ban for those providing or receiving public services, a shameful sop to nativist voters that Lisée said at the time did not go far enough. Now Couillard says he’s not sure about commemorating last year’s murder of six Muslims in their place worship as a day of action against Islamophobia. His political rivals argue it’s a bad idea. Their flimsy pretexts prove the opposite.

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2018/01/11/opposition-to-anti-islamophobia-proposal-proves-its-merits.html

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UK govt. rejects pleas for checks to avoid repeat of Iraq War

Jan 10, 2018

The British government has rejected MPs’ pleas for stronger checks to prevent a repeat of the 2003 invasion of Iraq which occurred on the order of then US President George W. Bush and with the help of then UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Last year in March, a Commons committee concluded that it remained “too easy for a prime minister to disregard cabinet procedures” when it came to making decisions of national importance.

That conclusion was in response to the Chilcot report into the Iraq War, which found Blair had excluded senior colleagues from vital judgments and bypassed officials when he told Bush, “I will be with you, whatever.”

Now, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) says it is “disappointed” that the government had rebuffed key demands for greater scrutiny.

“The committee is disappointed with the Government’s response given the clear evidence of the need for improvements to public inquiries and government decision-making that the committee received,” the PACAC said.

“It is particularly concerned about the government’s failure to accept the case for stronger safeguards to ensure proper collective consideration by the Cabinet on decisions of national importance.”

A Commons report originally warned that the Iraq War left an “indelible scar on British politics,” noting that for many, “the Chilcot inquiry fails to provide closure on the Iraq issue.”

In addition, it called on MPs to reflect on how Parliament “could have been more critical and challenging of the government at the time,” highlighting the “seriousness” of the case made by Dr. Glen Rangwala, a Cambridge University politics lecturer, that the former prime minister “deliberately misled” the Commons.

According to the report, the cabinet secretary – the head of the civil service – should be able to formally object to a decision if made improperly, and request a prime minister to write a formal letter if they wanted to dodge proper procedure.

Other cabinet ministers or councilors then could see the letter and this would prevent leaders from acting inappropriately.

However, the government maintained there was “not an absence of safeguards” and that any extra checks could bring in “a degree of unnecessary antagonism between officials and the prime minister.”

It said that changes made since the Iraq War, such as the formation of the UN National Security Council, had made it easier to deal with situations like “group think.”

The US-led war and dismantling of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime plunged Iraq into chaos, resulting in years of deadly violence. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, more than 4,000 US troops and 179 British service members were killed in the lengthy conflict.

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/01/10/548438/UK-Iraq-war-US

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Pakistan

 

Council of Islamic Ideology Urges Seminaries to Produce Quality Prayer Leaders

Jan 12, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) chairman Dr Qibla Ayaz on Thursday urged seminaries to produce quality teachers and prayer leaders with melodious voices to attracting people to offer prayers with zeal and enthusiasm.

Addressing a book review titled “What is Madrassa: Deeni Madaris and Modern Demands” written by Dr Ibrahim Mussa, Notre Dame University, US, he stressed introducing “Madrasa Studies” in the curriculum.

Resource person, Dr Aamir Taseen, former chairman, Madrassa Education Board explained the history of madaris in Pakistan, the problems and solutions, the government education policy, statistics of the madaris, education board and Wafaq, modern education institutes, registration of madaris and their demands.

He said that there are 4 million students studying in religious seminaries.

According to a press release, only that change in madrasas could succeed which was routed from within the madaris, he added.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/01/12/cii-chairman-urges-seminaries-to-produce-quality-prayer-leaders/

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Implementation of Islamic principles ensure formation of welfare society: Zubair

Jan 12, 2018

KARACHI: The Sindh governor Muhammad Zubair on Thursday said that Islam is a code of life and the implementation of Islamic principles ensure the formation of a welfare society.

He was talking to Prof Dr Noor Ahmed, a member of the Islamic Ideology Council, who called on him at the Governor House.

The governor said that the recommendations of the Islamic Ideology Council are helpful in heading towards a welfare society.

He also said that Pakistan is ably playing its role for the world peace.

Zubair highlighted the public welfare projects initiated by the federal government for the betterment of the people of the country and uniform development in every sphere across Pakistan.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/01/11/implementation-of-islamic-principles-ensure-formation-of-islamic-society-zubair/

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Pakistan halts intelligence-sharing with US after aid suspension

Jan 12, 2018

Pakistan has stopped sharing key intelligence with the US in the first sign that Washington’s decision to suspend military aid to Islamabad could hamper its war effort in Afghanistan.

The country was no longer handing over information collected from sources on the ground in the border region with Afghanistan, Pakistani officials told the Financial Times, leaving the US reliant on air surveillance and intercepted communications.

“The human intelligence involves a range of sources, from suspects coming from Afghanistan who are caught by our forces to our own intelligence-gathering mechanisms. All that is on hold for now,” said one official.

“The US drones which fly over the Pakistani side of the border at times collect intelligence information. But no drone can do the 100 per cent job.”

The move follows the decision by Donald Trump, US president, last week to suspend around $2bn of annual military aid to Pakistan unless it does more to tackle Islamist militants in the Afghan border region.

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Washington has long been frustrated by what it sees as duplicity by Islamabad, which it says accepts billions of dollars of US aid to help it eliminate militancy while offering a haven to some extremist groups. But the US had been wary of cutting off funding in case Pakistan responded by hampering its operations in Afghanistan.

Khurram Dastgir Khan, Pakistan’s defence minister, this week said some intelligence-sharing with the US would be halted. But it had been unclear until now what that would entail.

Mr Khan said Islamabad was still considering the more radical option of preventing US forces using Pakistan as a land route to Afghanistan. Political leaders told the FT another option would be to increase the fee charged to use it to compensate for the lost aid.

“If the Americans choose to stop our aid, we can only raise the cost of the passage,” an MP from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party said.

US officials say they have developed alternative supply routes in recent years that do not rely on Islamabad, but acknowledge these are less convenient.

The US has received no formal notification that Islamabad has suspended co-operation, an embassy spokesman told the FT on Thursday.

But responding to concerns that Pakistan could limit intelligence-sharing following the suspension of aid, members of the Trump administration have been keen to point out that the move was not necessarily permanent.

“We would like Pakistan to come to the table and assist us,” said Steve Goldstein, state department under secretary, this week. “We’re hopeful for future co-operation from Pakistan.”

One effect of the US action might be to drive Pakistan closer to China, which is already investing $55bn in infrastructure in the country and is looking to increase arms sales there.

In the past week, senior Pakistani officials have referred to China as a “time-tested friend” and “reliable ally”, and military leaders say they are looking at buying Chinese fighter jets.

“The Americans have been blaming us for a number of years for their war going wrong in Afghanistan,” said a senior foreign ministry official in Islamabad. “We would have been fools of the highest order if we did not look at diversifying our [military equipment] options.”

Richard Ghiasy of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said the US decision to suspend military aid was “not geopolitically prudent, as Pakistan will rely even more on China”.

China insists it is not seeking to replace the US presence in the region, but says it is willing to to help Pakistan fight terrorism if needed, not least to protect its investments.

“We want to see a healthy and co-operative relationship between the US and Pakistan. The fight against terrorism is important to all the countries in the region,” said Lan Jianxue, an expert on South Asia for the Beijing-based China Institute of International Studies. But, he added: “China has its own channels to help Pakistan fight terrorism.”

Full report at:

https://www.ft.com/content/59969778-f6b1-11e7-88f7-5465a6ce1a00

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Qadri says ‘Justice for Zainab’ now part of PAT’s protest movement

BY HASSAAN AHMED

Jan 12, 2018

LAHORE: Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri has announced that a protest demonstration would be held by all the parties of the opposition at Lahore’s Mall Road on January 17 over the Model Town massacre, in which 14 people were killed by the brutal firing of the Punjab police.

He announced his plan of protest after chairing a meeting of the action committee that has the representation of almost all the major opposition parties, and it was unanimously decided in the meeting that the protest movement would be demanding the resignations of Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Law Minister Rana Sanaullah.

Moreover, it was also decided in the meeting that the protest movement would also seek justice for Zainab, who was murdered in Kasur after being raped the other day.

Besides Dr Qadri, PAT Secretary-General Khurram Nawaz Gandapur, Mian Manzoor Wattoo, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Jahangir Tareen, Aleem Khan, Senator Kamil Ali Agha, Sheikh Rasheed, Allama Nasir Sherazi and Shoaib Siddiqui were present in the meeting of action committee here at PAT’s secretariat.

After chairing the meeting, Dr Qadri said, “I am very hopeful that our protest on January 17 would be attended by the main leadership of the opposition parties, and it would be the last round of our protest movement to get justice for Model Town victims.” He further added that their protest would be staged within the parameters of the constitution and democracy, and also warned the Punjab government not to use the force against their peaceful protest; otherwise, it might be detrimental for the government.

Meanwhile, Dr Qadri also led a rally under the banner of ‘Justice for Zainab’ on Thursday, demanding that the culprits of her murder be booked immediately. He was of the view that the ‘Justice for Zainab’ has now become a part of PAT’s movement and it will be continued till the arrest of her killers.

Earlier on Wednesday, he tweeted: “Just attended the janaza of the innocent child Zainab in Kasur. I have no word to describe this barbarity and the scene was heart-wrenching. May Allah Almighty save Pakistan from these rulers.”

It is crucial to mention here that the deadline of January 7 was given by the Multi-Party Conference (MPC), which was attended by 40 religious and political parties held on December 30 at the headquarters of PAT, for the resignations of Rana Sanaullah and Shehbaz Sharif. However, both the powerful personalities of Punjab didn’t pay any heed to the demands of the MPC, and it has now been decided that the first protest demonstration would be held in Lahore on January 17.

It is also worth mentioning here that religious scholar and custodian of Sial Sharif shrine Pir Hameed-ud-Din Sialvi has also threatened to lead a long march from the shrine of Data Sahib in Lahore on January 13, if Sanaullah does not resign by then over his ‘controversial’ remarks about Ahmadis. Dr Qadri has also said that they might support the long march of Pir Sialvi if he approaches PAT.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/01/11/qadri-says-justice-for-zainab-now-part-of-pats-protest-movement/

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Spat aside, US-Pakistan dialogue channels remain open

Baqir Sajjad Syed

January 12, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the United States are keeping channels of communication open in a bid to cool the row over terror sanctuaries that worsened with President Trump’s baffling New Year Day Twitter tirade.

“The two sides continue to communicate with each other on various issues of mutual interest at different levels,” Foreign Office spokesman Dr Muhammad Faisal said at a briefing on Thursday.

The US State Department had after President Trump’s tweet about getting nothing from Pakistan except “lies and deceit” despite paying $33 billion over the past 15 years suspended all military assistance for Pakistan. The freeze is likely to affect up to $900 million that Pakistan was to get this year from US in security aid.

But, soon after the announcement of the aid suspension, US Defence Secretary James Mattis disclosed that the Centcom Commander, who oversees the war effort in Afghanistan, was talking to Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa.

FO clarifies Asif’s remarks, saying he was only expressing his frustration at unwarranted accusations against Islamabad

The FO spokesman refused to go into the details of the talks saying they were being kept out of media glare. He wouldn’t either say at what level the talks were currently being held.

The two sides had earlier initiated a dialogue after the announcement of the new US policy for the region. However, the engagement ended last month without breaking the impasse. The process had started with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s meeting with Vice President Mike Pence on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Later, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary Mattis visited Islamabad, while Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif travelled to Washington for talks.

Dr Faisal, however, went on to clarify Khawaja Asif’s comments that Pakistan and the US were not allies.

“The foreign minister was expressing his frustration at the unwarranted US accusations against Pakistan and the unilateral decision to suspend the security assistance, despite Pakistan’s extraordinary sacrifices and contribution in the war against terrorism,” he said, echoing the State Department which had while announcing the aid suspension maintained that the move reflected President Trump’s “immense frustration”.

The spokesman recalled that despite provocative statements by the US leadership, Pakistan’s response had been measured, as it believes that continued Pakistan-US cooperation was crucial for the region’s stability, particularly for settling Afghanistan.

Dr Faisal, on two occasions, emphasised that both the US and Pakistan recognised the importance of the “lines of communication” passing through Pakistani territory, which American and coalition forces in Afghanistan used for delivering supplies to their forces there.

The spokesman’s assertion, however, points to what was possibly being discussed in behind-the-scenes bilateral talks.

It has been long speculated that Pakistan in response to US coercive actions could squelch the coalition forces’ supply lines in retaliation.

Defense Minister Khurram Dastagir had earlier this week in his speech at the Institute of Strategic Studies said that Pakistan enjoyed several leverages including the Ground Lines of Communication and Air Lines of Communication and Pakistan would use them at an appropriate time.

The understanding in Islamabad is that Washington would incrementally ramp up pressure and hence the officials here have been careful in playing their cards.

Besides, the spokesman said that the 11th Pakistan-Saudi Arabia JMC would take place in Islamabad on Jan 16-17.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1382353/spat-aside-us-pakistan-dialogue-channels-remain-open

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Larkana DIG says TTP group has joined hands with BRA, JSMM

M.B. Kalhoro

January 12, 2018

LARKANA: An active faction of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Baloch Republican Army (BRA) have joined hands to disturb peace in Balochistan and Sindh, according to Larkana DIG Abdullah Shaikh, who told reporters here on Thursday that security had been beefed up in both provinces in the wake of the intelligence reports.

Giving details of the reports, the DIG said that TTP’s Sajna group had undertaken to provide suicide bombers to the BRA. The Taliban group has lately been operating from Afghanistan and its involvement in terrorist activities in Chaman (Balochistan) was being closely monitored.

The DIG said that the BRA had now offered the Sajna group to act as facilitator in such activities by identifying targets in Sindh and Balochistan. Balochistan is already in the grip of terrorism as a series of bomb and gun attacks had taken place over the past few weeks.

DIG Shaikh, accompanying Larkana SSP Tanveer Tunio at the press conference, said tat the TTP group and BRA had developed a chain of coordination with the [separatist group operating in Sindh] Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz (JSMM), led by Shafi Burfat.

“We are closely and effectively watching their links,” he said.

The senior police officer said that enemies of Pakistan were bent upon destabilising the country through such terrorist outfits “but our security forces are fully alert and ready to foil their nefarious designs”.

The enemies’ ultimate target, he said, was the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Giving a hit to the special measures to avert acts of terrorism and subversion in Sindh and Balochistan, the DIG said that stricter checking and patrolling along the Sindh-Balochistan border areas -- Jacobabad, Qambar-Shahdadkot and Kashmor-Kandhkot districts — in the entire Larkana [police] range had been intensified.

At a recent meeting between top provincial officials of police and the Rangers director general, it was decided that 59 more check points along “infrequent routes” be established in addition to regular posts along the National Highway, Indus Highway and other arterial roads so as to effectively check movement of anti-state elements, he said, and explained that these “infrequent routes” had previously been used by terrorists who had hit certain targets in Shikarpur and Jacobabad districts.

He pointed out that IBOs (information-based operations) were already under way in the Larkana range as police were playing a proactive role in pre-empting subversive or terrorist acts.

Anti-dacoit operation

DIG Shaikh also made mention of a surge in criminal activities in the katcha areas of Larkana range, saying that dacoits’ gangs in such areas had lately become active to some extent.

“Keeping his in view, we are planning an anti-dacoit operation which would be launched soon. This time, Rangers and Frontier Constabulary will provide back-up support to the police force as was decided in the Rangers director general’s meeting with senior police officers of the Larkana and Sukkur ranges,” he said.

He said a meeting of the inspector general and other senior officers of the Sindh police and Rangers officials with the corps commander of Sindh was scheduled for Tuesday (Jan 16) in Karachi to discuss the operation against outlaws in the katcha areas.

‘Police ill-equipped’

DIG Shaikh told reporters that the Larkana range police lacked essentially required speedboats to have access to certain katcha areas around the islands in the Indus River. The matter, along with other issues, would be discussed with the corps commander to ensure an effective operation against dacoits’ gangs, he added.

He said the police would suggest transportation of armoured personnel carriers (APCs) to the kutcha areas — the strongholds of dcoits’ gangs — to facilitate the proposed operation.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1382322/larkana-dig-says-ttp-group-has-joined-hands-with-bra-jsmm

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Pakistan free of terrorist safe havens: FO

Ijaz Kakakhel

JANUARY 12, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal on Thursday reiterated that Pakistan had sacrifices the most in the war on terror and there were no safe havens of terrorists and Taliban leadership in Pakistan.

In his weekly press briefing, the FO said that the war on terror cost Pakistan more than 120 billion dollars. He denied the presence of Daesh and Taliban leadership in the country. The recent terrorist attack in Quetta had been traced back to Afghanistan. He said this reinforces Pakistan stance that the terrorist safe havens in Afghanistan were being used for attacks on Pakistani territory.

The Spokesperson said there was concern over the activities of anti-Pakistan terrorists based in Afghanistan. He also refuted speculation regarding presence of any terrorist leadership on Pakistani soil. Faisal said that Pakistan had been facilitating the US-led mission in Afghanistan through air and ground lines of communication for the last sixteen years. He said Pakistan cooperation also helped to secure the region and reduce Al-Qaeda which had also been acknowledged by the US leadership.

He said Pakistan had conveyed to the US that actionable intelligence sharing could help in advancing the shared goals of defeating terror from the region. He said arbitrary deadlines, unilateral pronouncements and shifting goalposts were counterproductive in addressing the common threat.

The Foreign Office Spokesperson also said that Pakistan was in talks with the United States over matters of mutual interest, including security assistance, but it was too soon to reveal more at this point in time. The two countries were in talks over matters of mutual interest, including security assistance, details of which could not be revealed to media just now.

The FO spokesperson shared concern over India’s plan to send satellites into space, allegedly for spying purposes. India intended to send 31 satellites into space on Saturday (January 13), with reports suggesting that the satellites had been fitted with spying devices, he said. India should refrain from military use of space technology and such measures that could disrupt the balance of power in the region, Faisal maintained.

He also condemned the Quetta suicide bombing and the brutal rape and murder of the seven-year-old Zainab in Kasur. The recent terrorist attack in Quetta was traced back to Afghanistan.

He said that this development reinforces Pakistan’s stance regarding safe havens of terrorists in Afghanistan. The spokesperson said that terrorists’ sanctuaries in Afghanistan were being used for attacks on Pakistani territory and added that these attacks must stop. To a question, Dr Muhammad Faisal stated that Pakistan desired dignified and sustainable repatriation of Afghan refugees to their homeland.

The FO spokesperson informed that ambassadors/heads of mission of resident Missions in Islamabad were briefed on Wednesday by the country’s top civilian and military officials on Pakistan’s achievements and challenges in counter-terrorism efforts, and in combating violent extremism.

The ambassadors and heads of missions were also briefed on how “Indian belligerence and unhelpful posturing was distracting Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts and how an active RAW-NDS nexus was verifiably working to undermine Pakistan’s internal stability.

The Spokesperson said that the members of the diplomatic corps were also shown evidence of an Indian campaign of unprecedented ceasefire violations, provocations and insinuations including terrorism in the form of IED attacks against innocent civilians on the Pakistan side of the LoC and the WB, the FO statement had added.

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/179244/pakistan-free-terrorist-safe-havens-fo/

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India

 

Fertility Rate below Replacement Level for All But Hindus and Muslims

Jan 12, 2018

The average number of children born to a woman over her lifetime, or total fertility rate (TFR), has dropped below replacement for all religious communities barring Hindus and Muslims.

The fertility rate of Hindu households fell from 2.8 in the last survey in 2004-05 to 2.1, the level at which a population is said to be able to replace itself from generation to generation without migration.

The fertility rate of Muslim households fell from 3.4 to 2.6. This was revealed in the latest religion-wise data from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) of 2015-16.

The community with the lowest fertility rate, 1.2, was the one with the highest level of education, the Jains. This was followed by Sikhs (1.6), Buddhists or Neo Buddhists (1.7) and Christians (2). India's overall TFR was 2.2.

Predictably, when looking at the fertility rate of the different wealth quintiles (onefifths of the population), the section with the lowest income had the highest number of children at 3.2 and the richest had the least, 1.5. Scheduled tribes, the least developed among social categories, had the highest fertility rate of 2.5, followed by 2.3 for scheduled castes and 2.2 for other backward classes. The upper castes had the lowest fertility rate of 1.9.

The younger the women, the lower the mean number of children born to them, evidence of the progress over the last two decades in bringing down the total fertility rate. The TFR for Muslim women aged 40-49 was the highest at 4.2 and it was the lowest for Jain women of the same age at 2.2. Hindu women of this age group had the second highest TFR of 3.1.

The median age at first birth among women aged 25-49 years was lowest for Muslim and Hindu women, 21.3 years and 21.6 years respectively.

It was highest among Sikhs at 23.8 years. Among the different wealth quintiles, the median age at first birth was lowest among the poorest women at 20.3, steadily rising with rising affluence to touch 24.4 years among women in the richest one-fifth of the population.

The survey showed that almost 30% women with one child had got sterilised, suggesting that they had decided they did not want any more. Almost 84% of women with two children had got sterilised. This was the case for 77% of the poorest women who had two children and almost 89% of women in the highest wealth quintile with two kids.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/fertility-rate-below-replacement-level-for-all-but-hindus-muslims/articleshow/62465588.cms

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PDP MLA calls slain terrorists ‘martyrs’, stokes controversy

Jan 11, 2018

JAMMU: Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) MLA from Wachi stirred a political storm when he referred to slain terrorists as "martyrs" and said that Centre-appointed interlocutor to Jammu and Kashmir should hold talks with Hurriyat and terrorists to resolve the Kashmir issue.

Aijaz Ahmad Mir, while addressing reporters outside the legislative assembly, said, "Jo Kashmir ke hain, chahey kisi bhi halat mein marein, woh martyr hain (Those who hail from Kashmir are martyrs, irrespective of circumstances under which they get killed)."

He also asserted that Kashmir is a political issue, which could be resolved with dialogue.

"I feel that interlocutor (Dineshwar Sharma) should hold talks with Hurriyat and also the terrorists... People have different opinions about the terrorists like how many of them are killed. But, where do they (terrorists) come from ... they are residents of Jammu and Kashmir," he said.

Referring to 'Operation All Out', where 200 militants were killed, Mir said, "We beat the drum about eliminating 200 terrorists but how long will this process continue? It has to stop somewhere."

The statement left the party's ally - the BJP - red-faced, which condemned it as "absolutely intolerable."

Reacting to the controversy, BJP MLA Sunil Sharma said, "No one can describe a slain militant as a martyr. If a sitting legislator has said it, it certainly calls for an enquiry."

BJP MLA from Nowshera, Ravinder Raina, said glorifying terrorists is like playing with fire and he will take up the matter with the speaker and also ask Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to reprimand her legislator for such a "sensational" statement.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pdp-mla-calls-slain-terrorists-martyrs-stokes-controversy/articleshow/62462663.cms

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Eight Rohingya families, grateful for being settled in West Bengal

By Ravik Bhattacharya

January 12, 2018

With rows of two-room houses made of tin and asbestos with semi-concrete flooring, an under-construction common toilet and a tubewell, the new colony stands in sharp contrast to the fading homes that dot Kulari village. The new residents of these tin homes, with their broken Bengali, stand out, too.

With eight families, 29 adults and 11 children aged 75 days to six years, this colony for Rohingya refugees has come up over the last few weeks in this village under the Baruipur police station area in South 24-Parganas.

Although the central government has described the Rohingya as a “national security threat”, local residents say the new colony has come up under the West Bengal government with contributions from individuals and local welfare organisations. Local police say they have informed the state government about the colony and that the new arrivals possess refugee cards from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

In Kulari, meanwhile, one of the most visible supporters of the Rohingya is the Desh Bachao Samajik Committee, headed by a local paint supplier Hussain Gaji.

“There are 16 rooms and eight Rohingya families. My organisation constructed the colony on 15 cottahs of land, which belong to me. All of this has been built with donations from individuals and various organisations in West Bengal. More such colonies are being set up. At present, there are around 4,000 Rohingya in Bengal and many others, who do not have any documents, are in jail,” says Gaji.

Inside the colony, the refugees are reluctant to speak about their refugee cards or produce them. What they are eager to speak about, instead, is how they have been provided jobs with welfare organisations taking care of their medical needs, too.

“I have a 75-day-old baby and have to take care of two other children. It is difficult and we are grateful to these people. They are providing us rice, pulses, vegetables, eggs and occasionally meat. They also gave us warm clothes and medicine. They have said that this will continue until my husband earns enough for us. We feel safe here than anywhere else,” says Momena Akhtar, busy cooking on a earthen stove while holding her baby girl in one hand.

Momena arrived in Kulari via Bangladesh last month with her husband Mohammed Sahidul Islam, mother-in-law Amina Begum, brother-in-law Mohammed Anwar, and her three children, Saiful, 6, Tahidul, 3, and little Rumana.

“We have also made arrangements for their children to go to local madrasas and their youths to get jobs. Some have already started working as labourers. The young ones will also work as interns in various leather factories here,” says Gaji, claiming that he has spent nearly Rs 3.5 lakh on the eight Rohingya families, with help “pouring in every day”.

According to Gaji, his organisation coordinated with “people in Bangladesh”, where he had visited once, and other Rohingyas in Delhi to get these families to Kulari.

“There is no government aid, but we have spoken to various MLAs who have extended moral support. Also, I sent a list of refugees here to the SP of South 24-Parganas district, and policemen came here to enquire once. I told them we are saving people,” says Gaji.

When contacted, Arijit Sinha, SP, Baruipur police district, said, “We are aware of the colony. We checked them and found that the adults have refugee cards from UNHCR. We have also found out that they have been to Haryana and Delhi before settling here. We have written to UNHCR for further clarification and are waiting for their response. We have also informed the state government.”

Gazi says the welfare organisations will now seek an appointment with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. “She is sympathetic to the cause of the Rohingya and has said that they will not be driven out. A number of Muslim and human rights organisations in Bengal have joined hands. Soon, we will start a campaign for granting citizenship to Rohingya refugees,” he says.

Inside the colony, meanwhile, residents recall the pain of their journey from Myanmar to Bengal, and separation from family and friends.

“I have no news of my father and brother. We lost touch when we set out for Bangladesh on different boats. Can you please find them? Here, we are trying for a fresh start. I am working as a daily wage labourer. If we go back to Myanmar, we fear we will be killed,” says Momena’s husband Sahidul Islam.

The 27-year-old says he is a resident of Segompara in Myanmar’s Bushida area, and that his family was forced to leave due to atrocities committed on Rohingya in the area.”I worked as a daily labourer in Bangladesh before paying a tout some money to helped us enter Bengal. Then, we went to Delhi. A few months later, we were offered this home by this organisation and we came here to stay,” said Sahidul.

Another refugee, Jubaida, 55, says she got separated from almost her entire family, except one daughter. “I have lost contact with my husband Mohammed Hussan and daughters Manira and Hazara. Only Rahima, another daughters of mine, was able to come to India with me. She is now married and staying in Delhi,” says Jubaida.

It’s not just organisations like Desh Bachao Samajik Committee, Bangiya Imam Parishad, Biswa Manab Kalyan Islamic Trust, Bandi Mukti Committee and All Bengal Minority Youth Federation who lining up to help the Rohingya. Many local residents are ready to help, too.

“The children suffer from cold and fever. They are new here and many of them are falling ill. I give them medicines. This is for a noble cause,” says Maulana Masikur Rehman, imam of Uttar Sahapur Masjid-e-Alibakar, who is also the local pharmacist.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/kulari-south-24-parganas-eight-rohingya-families-grateful-for-being-settled-in-west-bengal-5021161/

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Syed Geelani’s son-in-law to be prosecuted under tough terror law

By Rahul Tripathi

January 12, 2018

THE MINISTRY of Home Affairs is set to grant sanction for prosecution of nine separatist leaders, including Hurriyat chief SAS Geelani’s son-in-law Altaf Fantosh, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, within the next week. Fantosh and eight others were arrested for allegedly receiving funds from Pakistan to carry out terrorist activities and stone-pelting in 2016 after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani in Kashmir.

The MHA, it is learnt, received a request for prosecution sanction from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) last week, which was forwarded to a two-member authority comprising former Allahabad High Court judge Dr Satish Chandra and former law secretary T K Viswanathan.

Sources said the sanction, mandatory under Section 45 of the UAPA, is likely to be cleared by next week, failing which the separatists leaders will be eligible for bail.

The NIA arrested Fantosh and eight others in July last year and son-in-law to be prosecuted under tough terror law is expected to file a chargesheet by the end of the month after obtaining the sanction, said agency officials. The chargesheet may also name Pakistan-based Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed, they said.

The sanction request comes just months after the central government appointed former Intelligence Bureau chief, Dineshwar Sharma, as interlocutor to initiate dialogue in the Valley with all stakeholders, including the Hurriyat. The Hurriyat leadership has, so far, rejected any talks with the interlocutor.

Besides Fantosh, others likely to be named in the NIA’s chargesheet are Kashmiri businessman Zahoor Ahmed Shah Watali, Naeem Khan, Raja Mehrajudin Kalwal, Bashir Ahmed Bhat alias Peer Saifullah, Aftab Hilali Shah alias Shahid ul Islam, Farooq Ahmed Dar alias Bitta Karate, Mohammad Akbar Khandey alias Ayaz Akbar and Javed Ahmed Bhat.

The NIA chargesheet is likely to include the amount (Rs 2.20 crore), which was allegedly recovered during searches, and reports from experts on seized electronic equipment and call details records among others. The NIA had, in May 2017, registered a case against separatist and secessionist leaders in Jammu and Kashmir.

Fantosh, according to NIA, is the founding member of Tehrik-e-Hurriyat (TeH). With Geelani under house arrest, the NIA believes Fantosh allegedly ensured that the leader’s messages and instructions were relayed outside. As the public relations strategist, Fantosh was also allegedly in touch with nationals from the UK and residents of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), according to the NIA.

The chargesheet is also likely to cite diaries, which include contacts of hawala operators and traders, ledger books containing accounts of companies involved in cross border trade, details of Jammu and Kashmir bank accounts and travel documents of certain entities showing their visits to the UAE.

Watali, arrested after several rounds of questioning, is considered the key behind remitting funds to terrorists and stone pelters, sources said. The chargesheet also likely to mention that the Jammu and Kashmir police had arrested Watali in 1990, when some anti-national activists were allegedly found in his house in Bagat Barzulla, Srinagar.

Full report at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/terror-funding-syed-geelanis-son-in-law-to-be-prosecuted-under-tough-terror-law-5021253/

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Talks on terror can go on, not terror and talks: India

Jan 12, 2018

NEW DELHI: Confirming for the first time that NSA Ajit Doval met his Pakistan counterpart Nasir Janjua in Bangkok in December, India said while terror and talks cannot go together, talks on terror can definitely carry on — a formulation that keeps the window for engagement open. The meeting took place days after the visit to Pakistan by the kin of Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav.

MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said the NSA-level engagement is part of "operationallevel talks" and that while India maintains terror and talks cannot go together, talks on terror can definitely go ahead. Despite its position that there cannot be any substantive dialogue with Pakistan until Islamabad acts against India-specific terror groups, the government has continued to maintain contact through its mission in Islamabad and also the Pakistan mission here. Pakistan high commissioner Sohail Mahmood has had "informal" meetings with Sushma Swaraj and also foreign secretary S Jaishankar in which both sides agreed that some channel of communication should remain open.

The channel of communication has been maintained even though the view in the Indian government is that the prospects of any substantial progress remain weak given the assertive mood of the Pakistan military that engineered the ouster of Nawaz Sharif for defying its views on India and other strategic issues.

Remarks by Pakistan army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa apparently supporting talks have failed to translate into action on the ground when it comes to terror activities along the line of control.

The Pakistan army and the much weakened civilian government are seen to have taken some token measures in response to US threats to cut aid but simultaneously the release from house detention of LeT chief Hafiz Saeed and his ability to deliver speeches invoking hate against India shows that he continues to be a close ally of the Pakistan army and the ISI.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/talks-on-terror-can-go-on-not-terror-and-talks-india/articleshow/62466040.cms

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US hails India's aid contribution to Afghanistan

Jan 12, 2018

WASHINGTON: India has contributed a great deal in terms of developmental aid to Afghanistan, the Pentagon said on Thursday, adding that the US wants to work with India in the region.

"We're excited about the opportunities for India to participate in the South Asia strategy, and how we secure that region. They're an important player and in 2018 we look forward to doing more with them," Pentagon chief spokesperson Dana White said at a news conference.

"India has contributed a great deal in terms of developmental aid in Afghanistan," White said.

He also said Pakistan has the ability to address terrorist threats inside the country.

The US reaction comes days after Pakistan's defence minister said his country had suspended military and intelligence co-operation with the US in retaliation for the latter's decision to freeze all security assistance.

"We believe that Pakistan has the ability to address this threat," White said.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/us-hails-indias-aid-contribution-to-afghanistan/articleshow/62468529.cms

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Bengal’s Muslim Preservationist of Hindu Temples Is Ill and Seeks Your Help

12th January 2018

KOLKATA: West Bengal’s famed Hindu temple preservationist Yeasin Pathan, who had been awarded the Kabir Puraskar for protecting 34 ancient Hindu temples at Pathra in Paschim Medinipur district for more than 40 years despite being termed ‘kafir’ (infidel) by Muslims and beaten up by Hindus for protesting theft of the temple bricks, is severely ill with heart and kidney blockages and needs your help.

Six year ago, the 64-year-old former peon was detected with a destroyed aortic valve in the heart and 90 per cent block in another valve and 72 per cent and 42 per cent blocks in two veins of the kidney.

Pathan had to rush to several doctors in south India and was finally told by doctors in Chennai that surgeries were out of question and could be life threatening. Since then, he has to visit Apollo Hospital in Chennai every six months for complete check-up and lead a life on medicines and a restricted diet. However, with even the West Bengal government turning away, Pathan is finding it difficult to carry on with the expenses of the treatment and seeks public help.

Speaking to The New Indian Express, Pathan, the founder secretary of Pathra Archaeological Preservation Society said: “Cardiologists at Apollo Hospital in Chennai ordered half-yearly visits for check-up

and said that without the check-ups, I could die any moment. Despite several requests, the West Bengal government has not helped. Hence, I urge the common people to help me survive this battle. I require some Rs 15,000 during every visit to Chennai which I am no longer able to pay after this six-year-long battle.”

“My battle for conservation of the Hindu temples at Pathra has also got stuck over the past three years due to Centre-state clash. The state government is not ready to hand over land to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) which has taken over the temple clusters,” he added. Pathan has written several books on the Pathra temples in Bengali and even a Hindi-language 19-minute-long short film ‘Musallam-Imaan’ was

made on his life..

Full report at:

http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2018/jan/12/bengals-muslim-preservationist-of-hindu-temples-is-ill-and-seeks-your-help-1751545.html

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South Asia

 

Rohingya survivors dispute Myanmar army massacre account

12 Jan 2018

BALUKHALI, Bangladesh: Rohingya Muslims who fled a village where Myanmar has admitted its forces helped massacre 10 people said Thursday the victims were all civilians, not fighters as asserted by the army.

Inn Din villager Hossain Ahammad said the slain men were "fishermen, farmers, lumberjacks and clerics".

The Myanmar army chief's office confirmed Wednesday that security forces took part in killing "Bengali terrorists" on Sept 2 in the village of Inn Din in Rakhine state, using a pejorative term for Rohingya.

It was the first time Myanmar had admitted abuses during an army-led crackdown on Rohingya militants from late August that sparked a mass exodus of the Muslim minority.

But displaced Rohingya inside Bangladesh have angrily denied the army's account, with survivors who fled Inn Din insisting those killed were not militants but civilians murdered in cold blood.

Inn Din villager Wal Marjan, 30, said they were attacked by Buddhist mobs flanked by soldiers, who later "selected 10 to 15 men to attend a meeting".

They were never seen again, said Marjan, who was later told by another man that her husband and the others were slaughtered.

"He said his body was thrown into a mass grave with the other men," Marjan told a reporter at a refugee camp in southeast Bangladesh, adding her husband had no connections with Rohingya rebels.

Meanwhile, the US ambassador to Myanmar described the army's statement on the massacre as "an important step".

The US hopes it will be followed by more transparency and accountability, said Ambassador, Scot Marciel said during a forum on media freedom with journalism students and reporters in Yangon.

"We hope it is followed up by more transparency and by holding those responsible accountable. I would stress this should be done, not as a favour to the international community, but because it's good for the health of Myanmar's democracy."

The United States has previously said the sweeping military counteroffensive amounted to "ethnic cleansing". Myanmar denies that, saying its forces were carrying out legitimate "clearance operations" against insurgents.

The European Union and representatives of Muslim nations renewed calls for a broader international investigation into violence in the western state of Rakhine, after the military said on Wednesday its soldiers had killed 10 captured Rohingya Muslim "terrorists" at the beginning of September.

But the villagers' interviews indicated that the army account of the massacre is deeply flawed and defensive, rather than an admission of misconduct.

In its account of the massacre the army chief's office said security forces captured 10 Rohingya militants before killing them as violence engulfed the village and its surrounding area.

The post on Facebook also gave the first confirmation of a mass Rohingya grave inside Rakhine state.

Hossain Ahammad said the slain men were all simple workers.

"They were not part of any movement. They are simply victims of the Burmese army's wrath," he said.

Refugees who have fled in their hundreds of thousands to Bangladesh have given consistent accounts of massacres, rape and torture by Myanmar security forces flanked by ethnic Rakhine mobs.

Those allegations, which have been cross-checked by media and rights groups, have seen Myanmar accused of ethnic cleansing by the US and UN and prompted questions over whether the crackdown may have amounted to genocide.

Until Wednesday, Myanmar army has vigorously denied any abuses, instead locking down access to Rakhine state and accusing critics -- including the UN -- of pro-Rohingya bias and spreading "fake news".

The army chief's office said "action" would be taken against villagers and security members involved in the violence at Inn Din.

Last month Doctors Without Borders said at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed in the first month of the army crackdown on rebels in Rakhine -- the highest estimated death toll yet of violence that erupted on Aug 25.

https://www.bangkokpost.com/news/world/1394166/rohingya-survivors-dispute-myanmar-army-massacre-account

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Rohingya Massacre: US envoy praises Myanmar's first admission

January 12, 2018

Myanmar's admission that soldiers were involved in the murder of 10 Muslims in September was an important step and the United States hoped it would be followed by more transparency and accountability, the US ambassador said yesterday.

The military said on Wednesday its soldiers had killed 10 captured Rohingya Muslim "terrorists" at the beginning of September, after Buddhist villagers had forced the men into a grave they had dug.

It was a rare acknowledgment of wrongdoing by the Myanmar military during its operations in the western state of Rakhine.

"The military's acknowledgment that the security forces were involved in the killing of these 10 individuals is an important step," Ambassador Scot Marciel said in a forum on media freedom with journalism students and reporters in the main city Yangon.

The army launched a sweeping counteroffensive in northern Rakhine in response to Rohingya militant attacks on Aug. 25, triggering an exodus of more than 650,000 Muslim villagers to Bangladesh.

The United States has previously said the operation amounted to "ethnic cleansing". Myanmar denies that, saying its forces were carrying out legitimate counterinsurgency operations.

The military announced on Dec. 18 that a mass grave containing 10 bodies had been found at the coastal village of Inn Din, about 50 km (30 miles) north of the state capital Sittwe. The army appointed a senior officer to investigate.

A statement from the military on Wednesday said its investigation had found that members of the security forces had killed the 10 and that action would be taken against them.

Marciel denounced the coordinated attacks by Rohingya militants that sparked the latest violence, but said the United States had information suggesting the response by Myanmar's military "involved a lot of human rights violations".

'GOOD FOR DEMOCRACY'

The US ambassador said he hoped the acknowledgment by the military that soldiers were involved in the killings at Inn Din would bring more openness and action against perpetrators of abuses.

"We hope it is followed up by more transparency and by holding those responsible accountable," said Marciel.

"I would stress this should be done, not as a favour to the international community but because it's good for the health of Myanmar's democracy."

The military said legal action would be taken against members of the security forces who violated their rules of engagement in killing the 10 suspected insurgents, and against the villagers involved.

It said the 10 had been captured after security forces had come under attack from around 200 insurgents.

The captives should have been handed over to police, the army statement said, but with militants mounting continuous attacks and destroying two military vehicles, "there were no conditions to transfer the 10 Bengali terrorists to the police station and so it was decided to kill them".

The military investigation was led by Lieutenant General Aye Win. The same officer had been in charge of a wider inquiry into the conduct of troops in the conflict that concluded in a report in November that no atrocities had taken place.

Myanmar's armed forces have for decades been accused by human rights groups and Western governments of abuses in the country's myriad ethnic conflicts, but it has been rare for soldiers to be held accountable.

Full report at:

http://www.thedailystar.net/backpage/rohingya-massacre-us-envoy-praises-myanmars-first-admission-1518574

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Government release 75 prisoners of Hezb-e-Islami from Kabul prison

Jan 11 2018

The Afghan government on Thursday released scores of prisoners of Hezb-e-Islami from prison in Kabul in a bid to help implement the articles of peace deal between Gulbuddin Hekmatayr and the government.

The officials confirmed that the prisoners were released during a ceremony from Pul-e-Charkhi prison in East of capital Kabul.

The officials further added that a total of 75 prisoners were released from the jail as per the peace agreement signed between the government and the leader of Hezb-e-Islami.

The peace deal between the Afghan government and Hekmatyar was signed late in 2016 and Hezb-e-Islami was expecting the immediate release of scores of its prisoners from the jails.

However, the process of delayed for a long period of time due to some issues the process was facing and as reports regarding the release of the prisoners sparked an uproar among the rights activists.

According to reports, the human rights advocates and certain organizations supporting human rights had stepped up efforts to stop the release of the prisoners.

The peace deal between Hezb-e-Islami and the government was signed amid optimisms that the other militant groups will follow Hekmayar to opt the reconciliation process.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/government-release-75-prisoners-of-hezb-e-islami-from-kabul-prison-04244

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Suspected militants killed in Bangladesh in security crackdown

12 January 2018

DHAKA: Three suspected Islamist militants were killed inside a building after security forces cordoned it off and opened fire Friday in Bangladesh’s capital, officials said.

The bodies and explosives were found inside the building near the office of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, said Benazir Ahmed, head of the Rapid Action Battalion. The operation was carried out in Dhaka’s Tejgaon area following information that some of the suspects were staying in a rented apartment.

Two members of the battalion were injured by grenades the suspects hurled from the building, said Mufti Mahmud Khan, a spokesman for the battalion.

A bomb disposal team was searching the building.

Details of the suspects’ identities were not clear immediately.

Bangladesh has been battling a rise of Islamic militancy for the last few years as the militants targeted liberals including atheist bloggers, foreigners and minority groups. In July 2016, five militants stormed a restaurant and killed 20 hostages including 17 foreigners in Dhaka’s Gulshan diplomatic area. The Daesh group claimed responsibility for the attack but the government rejected it, saying that they belonged to domestic group Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1223911/world

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China rejects report of funding construction of anti-terror base in Afghanistan

Jan 12, 2018

BEIJING: China on Thursday rejected a media report that it plans to fund the construction of an anti-terror base in Afghanistan.

“I have not heard what you said,” Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Lu Kang told a reporter while replying to a question in this regard during his regular press briefing.

He said that China has always supported international anti-terrorism cooperation on the basis of mutual respect.

To a question about an Indian investment in the exclusive economic zone of oil and gas field in South China Sea of Vietnam and the visit of an Indian Navy warship to a Vietnamese port, he commented that the Chinese side had no disagreement on the development of the neighbouring countries.

“However, China firmly opposes the opportunity taken by the parties concerned to infringe upon the legitimate rights and interests of China in the South China Sea and undermine peace and stability in the region,” he added.

On the United States’ willingness to engage in dialogue with North Korea, he said that there was some sign of positive interaction between North Korea and the South Korean peninsula which was receiving the great attention of the international community.

The spokesperson said that the Chinese side had said many times that the United States and North Korea were the direct parties to the nuclear issue on the peninsula.

“Like the international community, we hope that the United States and North Korea will take the opposite direction and take meaningful steps towards dialogue and engagement,” he added.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/01/12/china-rejects-report-of-funding-construction-of-anti-terror-base-in-afghanistan/

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Peace in region contingent upon peace in Afghanistan: DG

Jan 12, 2018

Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) DG Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor has said that lasting peace in the region is contingent upon ensuring security and stability in Afghanistan.

Speaking to a private news channel in an interview on Thursday, military’s top spokesman said that “peace has returned to Pakistan and its future is prosperous”.

“The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) could never have defeated al Qaeda in Afghanistan without Pakistan’s support,” the DG said when asked about US President Trump’s recent tirade against Pakistan.

In his tweet on January 1, Trump had lashed out Pakistan, accusing the country of “lying and deceit” in return for billions of dollars. He had also accused the country of harbouring terrorists and providing safe havens to them.

DG ISPR further said that Pakistan provided ISAF with all logistical and intelligence support to overcome terrorism in Afghanistan. “Pakistan, with significantly fewer resources, achieved what the security forces in Afghanistan couldn’t with all of their resources,” he added.

“There was no terrorism in Pakistan before the Afghan war and our target is to take Pakistan to the pre-war peaceful era,” Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said.

“Pakistan proposed to Afghanistan a bilateral border control mechanism. The issues at the border can be improved through better coordination,” he said.

He went on to say that Pakistan successfully defeated terrorism through Operation Zarb-e-Azb. “It was decided that the terrorists will not be allowed to flee to Afghanistan.”

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2018/01/11/peace-in-region-contingent-upon-peace-in-afghanistan-dg-ispr/

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Local uprising forces clash with US Special Forces in Nangarhar

Jan 12 2018

A clash broke out between the local uprising forces and the US Special Forces in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan on Thursday, the local officials said.

The incident took place in the vicinity of Achin district where an operation is underway to eliminate the loyalists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group.

Achin district administrative chief Ismail Shinwari confirmed the incident but did not elaborate further saying still there is no information available regarding the cause of the incident and possible casualties.

However, another security official in the area said the clash broke out after a verbal clash and as a result at least eight public uprising forces members have been killed.

On the other hand, the Taliban group claims that the attack was carried out by one their fighters who had managed to infiltrate among the public uprising forces ranks.

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

However, since the year 2014, reports continue to emerge regarding the growing insurgency activities of the ISIS terrorist groups in some remote parts of the province, including Achin.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/local-uprising-forces-clash-with-us-special-forces-in-nangarhar-04248

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Afghan Air Force carry out more raids on ISIS targets in Kunar

Jan 11 2018

The Afghan Air Force continues to pound the ISIS targets in eastern Kunar province of Afghanistan in response to a large scale attack which was repulsed earlier this week.

The 201st Silab Corps of the Afghan army said the latest airstrikes were carried out in the vicinity of Suki district.

A statement by the Silab Corps said at least three ISIS militants were killed and a 82mm rocket launcher, 2 Ak-47s rifles were destroyed in the airstrikes.

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

Kunar is among the relatively volatile provinces in East of Afghanistan where the anti-government armed militants including the Taliban and ISIS insurgents are actively operating in some of its and often carry out insurgency activities.

This comes as the 201st Silab Corps of the Afghan army in the East said Monday that the ISIS militants launched a coordinated attack on public uprising and Afghan local Police forces in Suki district.

A statement by the Silab Corps said the Afghan armed forces launched artillery and airstrikes in response to the ISIS attacks in Deriwa Gul valley.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/afghan-air-force-carry-out-more-raids-on-isis-targets-in-kunar-04249

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Quetta attack traced back to Afghanistan, claims Pakistani officials

Jan 11 2018

The Pakistani officials have claimed that Tuesday’s deadly suicide attack has been traced back to Afghanistan as tensions remain high between the two neighboring countries who are often blaming each other for remaining reckless to act against the terror group.

“The Chief of General Staff thanked them and informed the diplomatic corps that yesterday’s terrorist attack had been traced back to Afghanistan,” according to a statement by the foreign ministry of Pakistan.

No further details have been given regarding the claims made by the Chief of General Staff of Pakistan  who reportedly made the remarks during a meeting attended by the foreign ambassadors and diplomats on Wednesday.

According to the Pakistani officials, the meeting was organized in response to the recent US decisions for blocking aid to Pakistan and with an aim to brief the diplomats regarding the steps Pakistan has taken in the fight against terrorism.

Tuesday’s incident in Quetta took place in the vicinity of Zarghoon Road close to the General Assembly of Balochistan, leaving seven people dead and sixteen others wounded.

Balochistan’s Inspector General of Police Moazam Jah Ansari told reporters that eight policemen were also injured in the attack.

The Afghan and Pakistani officials often blame the attacks on the anti-government armed elements having safe havens on the two sides of the Durand Line.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/quetta-attack-traced-back-to-afghanistan-claims-pakistani-officials-04246

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North America

 

US task force to probe Hezbollah ‘narcoterror’

January 12, 2018

WASHINGTON - The US Justice Department announced Thursday creation of a special task force to investigate what it called “narcoterrorism” by the powerful Lebanese movement Hezbollah .

The unit will comprise specialists on money-laundering, drug trafficking, terrorism and organized crime, targeting Iran ally Hezbollah’s sprawling network, whose reach extends across Africa and into Central and South America, the department said.

“The Justice Department will leave no stone unturned in order to eliminate threats to our citizens from terrorist organizations and to stem the tide of the devastating drug crisis,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“The team will initiate prosecutions that will restrict the flow of money to foreign terrorist organizations as well as disrupt violent international drug trafficking operations.”

The move comes amid a stepped-up effort to battle Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East and expanded military capabilities of Hezbollah , one of the dominant forces in Lebanese politics.

But Sessions said the creation of the Hezbollah Financing and Narcoterrorism Team was also a response to criticisms that former president Barack Obama held back from cracking down on Hezbollah’s global networks, investigated under the previous Project Cassandra, in order to achieve the nuclear deal with Iran.

“The HFNT will begin by assessing the evidence in existing investigations, including cases stemming from Project Cassandra, a law enforcement initiative targeting Hezbollah’s drug trafficking and related operations,” the department said.

Officials in Washington and US allies Saudi Arabia and Israel, have increasingly raised the alarm over Hezbollah’s growing power in Lebanon and around the world.

On Wednesday, former top Treasury Department sanctions official Juan Zarate told Congress that Hezbollah’s drug smuggling and money laundering operations are global in scale.

“Recent actions by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Treasury to dismantle networks of Hezbollah’s ‘Business Affairs Component’ have exposed financial and trade nodes that the Hezbollah operates and led to arrests and enforcement actions around the world,” he told a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

https://nation.com.pk/12-Jan-2018/us-task-force-to-probe-hezbollah-narcoterror

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Quebec judge rejects bid to shut Muslim centre

Jan 12, 2018

Just because a municipal official saw men praying at a community hall doesn't make that place a mosque, a Quebec judge has ruled, thwarting a bid by the city of Mascouche, a suburb outside Montreal, to shut down a Muslim centre.

The judgment is the latest twist in a series of disputes where municipal officials in Quebec have tried to curtail the operations of mosques and Islamic centres by citing zoning regulations.

Mascouche was trying to shut down the Essalam community centre, saying that the building, in a strip mall, had a zoning that forbids places of worship.

"This ruling will have a significant reach for all municipalities in Quebec that have to deal with this kind of situation," Mascouche Mayor Guillaume Tremblay said in a statement sent to The Globe and Mail.

In his ruling, Quebec Superior Court Justice Pierre Labelle said that Mascouche had engaged in a fallacious form of reasoning – "a sophism," he said – when it argued that since people pray in a place of worship, a community centre that allows prayers must be a place of worship.

"To that extent, any individual or collective prayer held in a residence, school or workplace would turn that location into a place of worship," Justice Labelle said in his decision released Wednesday.

Similar stories have been public controversies for years in Quebec.

A year ago for example, Quebec Superior Court Justice Jean-Yves Lalonde decided in favour of the Badr Islamic Centre in its dispute against the city of Montreal. The city had told the Badr centre that it could no longer hold religious activities after a zoning amendment in the Saint-Léonard borough. However, the judge found that city employees had acted in bad faith and he ruled that the centre had an acquired right.

Justice Lalonde noted that the new locations where Montreal allowed places of worship tended to be in industrial areas, which was inconvenient to Muslims. "The move by the city … creates ghettoization, access problems and is a form of discrimination compared to traditional Catholic churches, which are generally in residential areas," the judge wrote.

In the Mascouche case, Justice Labelle said the city had not acted in bad faith but held a rudimentary, ill-informed grasp of religious rights.

The problem began in the spring of 2015, when Mascouche Muslims sought a permit to use a hall for community events that included prayers and religious conferences. At the time, several Quebec municipalities were dealing with mosque controversies.

In Montreal, then-mayor Denis Coderre used a zoning change to block the polarizing imam Hamza Chaoui from opening an Islamic community hall in the city's east end.

In Shawinigan, a Muslim cultural centre relocated after town council initially allowed a zoning change, then rescinded its decision after a public backlash.

By the end of the year, the Mascouche Muslims amended their application, removing mentions of religious activities. They were granted a permit in March of 2016.

Some residents then complained that the hall was being used like a mosque, alleging that more than a 100 people gathered in the evening to pray, Justice Labelle said in his ruling.

The city took action the night of June 29, 2016. It was during the month of Ramadan, when observant Muslims fast during the day and gather for communal meals and prayers after sunset.

Around 11:30 p.m., a city bureaucrat and two police officers showed up. They reported finding about 30 men praying in a room. Others who were in the room and outside were not praying. A week later, the city rescinded Essalam's permit, saying that the hall's use for religious activities contravened zoning. Essalam hired the high-profile constitutional lawyer Julius Grey and challenged the decision.

Justice Labelle noted that the zoning bylaw only talked about prohibiting places of worship but other city documents talked about a ban on religious activities. "The court is of the opinion that city cannot extend its ban beyond the very words of its bylaw," he wrote.

He also said Mascouche engaged in sophism when it equated holding prayers with the presence of a place of worship. "The initial premise is not universal because prayers can be uttered in all places and not exclusively in a place of worship."

Full report at:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/quebec-judge-rejects-bid-to-shut-muslim-centre/article37587083/

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Guantanamo prisoners sue Trump alleging anti-Muslim bias

12 January 2018

Eleven detainees at the US military's Guantanamo Bay prison sued President Donald Trump Thursday saying they were being illegally held on the basis of being Muslims.

Following a strategy previously used by opponents of Trump's travel ban on visitors from six mostly-Muslim countries, the detainees cited Trump's tweets and other comments expressing anti-Islam sentiments as evidence.

They also cited his comments that no Guantanamo detainees should ever be released, a shift from previous administrations' stances that the 41 detainees there should still face status reviews or be tried by military tribunals - even if few of those proceedings have begun.

"The president's opposition to prisoner releases from Guantanamo tracks other indiscriminate policy initiatives of his - which have been struck down by the courts - including the iterative bans on travel to the United States from certain majority-Muslim countries and the ban on transgendered Americans serving in the armed forces," the suit said.

"His stance on Guantanamo calls for no less searching judicial scrutiny."

It took note of recent mass murder attacks inside the United States to underscore Trump's alleged anti-Muslim views.

Trump "more recently called for a Muslim man who killed several people in New York to be sent to Guantanamo and denied constitutional process, though he has never suggested that white male mass killers should ever be denied due process," it said.

Sixteen years of Guantanamo

The suit, filed in federal court in Washington on the 16th anniversary of the establishment of the Guantanamo facility, demanded the prisoners be granted habeas corpus rights to be charged or released.

They argued that Trump's administration has signalled that it does not intend to ever release them, in violation of US and international law.

"President Trump, in contrast to his predecessors, has declared and is carrying out his intention to keep all remaining detainees in Guantanamo, regardless of their individual circumstances - presumably even those the executive branch previously determined need no longer be detained," it said.

"It is a demonstration of his antipathy toward this prisoner population, all foreign-born Muslim men, and toward Muslims more broadly, of the kind courts have properly rejected in recent months."

Novel legal approach

Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School, called the habeas petition a novel new approach for the detainees, some in the prison since 2002.

The approach is taking cues from news and events during the Trump administration.

Speaking at the New America think tank, Greenberg, noted a new challenge that surfaced in the pre-trial hearing in Guantanamo on Wednesday of alleged September 11 attacks planner Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Sheikh Mohammed alleged Guantanamo prisoners were victims of persistent "sexual harassment" because guards were submitting them to repeated physical "groin searches" rather than using scanners.

Greenberg and other activists speaking at New America said the Trump administration had changed government policy to essentially close the doors for any possible exit from the Guantanamo camp, which at its peak had 775 detainees.

Full report at:

https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/world/2018-01-12-guantanamo-prisoners-sue-trump-alleging-anti-muslim-bias/

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How Trump tweet on Pakistan blindsided US officials

January 12, 2018

A surprise New Year’s Day tweet by President Donald Trump in which he appeared to decree an end to U.S. aid for Pakistan , sent U.S. officials scrambling to suspend security assistance without even knowing how much aid they were freezing, four U.S. officials said.

The decision to freeze up to about $2 billion in security aid, according to a later estimate by U.S. officials, to a nuclear-armed ally is the latest example of how, nearly a year into Trump’s presidency, U.S. officials sometimes have to scurry to turn his tweets into policy.

The Trump administration had been weighing an aid freeze for months, including in a meeting of top national security advisers before Christmas. Washington has for years demanded that Islamabad stop providing sanctuary and other support for the Afghan Taliban and the allied Haqqani network.

At the time of Trump’s tweet, a U.S. assessment of Pakistani compliance with those demands was still under way. A cohesive U.S. policy - including preparations for possible Pakistani reaction - was not expected to be completed until March or April, three U.S. officials interviewed said.

“None of the elements of a coherent policy was in place, or even close at hand, when the president, in effect, made a policy announcement,” said one U.S. official, who like others spoke on condition of anonymity. “Despite a mad scramble to backfill a tweet, we still don’t have ... an effective policy in place.”

Michael Anton, a spokesman for the National Security Council, did not address whether the tweet had sped up the policy process, saying Trump had made clear his intent to take a new, tougher stance toward Pakistan as part of the Afghanistan war strategy he unveiled in August.

“This action is being taken after months of careful interagency review. Any suggestion to the contrary is false,” he said.

The State Department declined to comment.

Trump was at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida when he posted his tweet at 7:12 a.m. on Jan. 1, after hosting a lavish New Year’s Eve party. Until then he had kept a relatively low public profile while he mostly golfed.

The United States, he tweeted, had “foolishly” given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid and “they have given us nothing but lies and deceit, thinking our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”

It is not clear what prompted Trump to issue the tweet, which infuriated Pakistani officials. Pakistan’s National Security Committee of senior civilian and military chiefs denounced it as “completely incomprehensible.” U.S. Ambassador David Hale was summoned to the foreign ministry for an explanation.

Caught by surprise on their New Year’s Day holiday, a small group of White House aides and other top officials scrambled to make good on the president’s unexpected statement, said a senior U.S. official who was part of the consultations.

There was no time to issue a formal White House policy directive outlining the amount of frozen funds, four officials said.

When the administration confirmed that it was suspending security aid to Pakistan four days after Trump’s tweet, the State Department was still not able to quantify how much aid was at stake, underscoring how far U.S. officials had been from implementing any policy before the president’s statement.

U.S. officials later said the decision could affect about $1 billion in planned security assistance and $900 million to reimburse Pakistan for counter-terrorism operations.

Another sign of the haste was the failure to give Pakistan the usual diplomatic courtesy of a warning before the president’s tweet, U.S. officials said.

Perhaps most seriously, they said, there was no time to prepare for possible retaliation.

TWEET IN SEARCH OF STRATEGY

The Pentagon and State Department were especially concerned that the Pakistani army, which effectively runs foreign policy, might close the air and land corridors on which U.S.-led troops and Afghan forces in landlocked Afghanistan depend for supplies, the officials said. So far, Pakistan has not done so.

At the time the decision was made, there was no agreement with neighboring countries for alternative routes, five U.S. officials said.

“It appeared to be a tweet in search of a strategy,” said Dan Feldman, a former U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan .

“There seemed to be a flurry of inter-agency activity after that tweet to arrive at some sort of policy to frame it ... to prove it wasn’t just an impulsive tweet.”

It was not the first time that U.S. officials have been caught off guard by Trump’s fondness for formulating policy by tweet.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/12-Jan-2018/how-trump-tweet-on-pakistan-blindsided-us-officials

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Europe

 

Greece's Muslim minority hails change to limit power of sharia law

11 Jan ‘18

Members of Greece’s Muslim minority have hailed new legislation that will enable citizens to sidestep sharia law in family disputes, but says the measure fails to go far enough in Europe’s only country where Islamic jurists still hold sway.

In a move described as a “historic step” by the prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, the leftist-led government announced on Tuesday that members of Greece’s 120,000-strong Muslim community would be able to seek recourse in Greek courts in divorce, child custody and inheritance matters rather than take their case to Islamic jurists – a century-old legacy of legislation drafted with the collapse of the Ottoman empire.

Human rights groups have long said the laws discriminate against women.

But while welcomed, Muslim MPs said the new law had not “fully abolished” sharia courts in the sole EU member state where they had been compulsory.

“There is no doubt this is an important step and a positive one that will open the way to further freedom for our community,” MP Mustafa Mustafa told the Guardian. “But I would have liked it to be fully abolished. No other EU country has sharia.”

A member of Tsipras’ Syriza party, Mustafa said leftists had been campaigning for state-appointed muftis “to be religious leaders and not jurists” since the collapse of military rule in Greece in 1974.

Islamic court hearings, in accordance with laws first drafted in 1914, have until now been presided over by a single Muslim cleric. Under the new law Muslims will have the right to opt for a Greek court although Islamic jurists will still be available upon request.

“That is why it is a half measure,” said law professor Yannis Ktistakis, speaking from Komotini in Thrace, where Greece’s Muslim minority mainly resides. “We have a situation where laws drafted in 1914 still apply ... this new legislation doesn’t go far enough as it still gives muftis (Muslim legal experts) the right to intervene.”

Inequities associated with sharia were highlighted when Hatijah Molla Salli, a 67-year-old widow locked in an inheritance dispute with her late husband’s sisters, took the case to the European court of human rights after Greece’s supreme court overturned an earlier court verdict in her favour. The tribunal is expected to cast its ruling in June.

“The government knows that the ruling will not be in its favour and is only acting to prevent condemnation by the court,” said Ktistakis, Salli’s lawyer. “This is a political move. The laws governing sharia should be abolished altogether.”

The new legislation, passed with overwhelming support, has been seen as long overdue. The education and religious affairs minister, Constantine Gavroglou, praised its passage as “not just a technical adjustment [but] a very important day for parliament. Sharia, he said, had stemmed “from policies that were hostile toward the minority and sought to create second-class citizens”.

Greece’s Muslim minority is embraced by Turkey and is often the cause for tensions between the two Nato rivals. Previous government had hesitated to change the law for fear of further straining ties.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/10/historic-step-greek-pm-hails-change-to-limit-power-of-sharia-law

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Germany urges US not to mix Iran nuclear deal with unrelated issues

Jan 11, 2018

The German foreign minister says the European Union seeks to maintain the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, calling on the US not to link the multilateral accord to other unrelated issues.

Sigmar Gabriel made the comments ahead of a meeting with his counterparts from Iran, Britain and France and the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, in Brussels on Thursday about the nuclear deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Gabriel, an outspoken critic of US President Donald Trump’s polices, said, “We should separate two things from each other: we want to preserve the nuclear deal with Iran... and the difficult role Iran has in the region.”

He also said Washington should separate the Iran deal from other issues, including the Islamic Republic’s Middle East strategy as well as its national missile program.

Earlier, Iranian Mohammad Javad Zarif sat down for bilateral talks with his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, ahead of the meeting with the top European diplomats.

During the meeting, Zarif stressed that all parties to the nuclear deal should remain committed to their obligations under the agreement, calling for a more active role on behalf of the European signatories.

Le Drian, for his part, underlined Paris’ determination to honor its obligations under the JCPOA.

The two sides also stressed the need for the establishment of stability and security in the Middle East and called for peaceful solutions to achieve that aim.

A day earlier, Zarif paid a visit to Moscow, where he discussed the JCPOA with his Russian opposite number, Sergei Lavrov.

The high-level talks in Brussels come as US President Donald is expected to decide on Friday whether to extend waivers on nuclear-related sanctions against Tehran.

Trump had in October 2016 refused to certify Iran’s compliance with the deal in defiance of several reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirming Tehran’s full commitment.

He stopped short of withdrawing from the deal, leaving it to Congress to decide whether to re-impose nuclear-relations sanctions on Iran within a 60-day period.

Congress, however, passed the ball back to Trump by letting a mid-December deadline pass without making a decision on the issue.

While the JCPOA is solely about Iran’s nuclear program, the Trump administration claims that Tehran’s growing regional influence and achievements in its conventional missile program violate the “spirit” of the nuclear deal.

Iran and other signatories to the JCPOA have warned against the adverse consequences of a possible US move to step away from the landmark nuclear deal, saying it would be counterproductive.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/01/11/548564/Iran-germany-US-nuclear

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Trump to extend Iran sanctions relief, keeping nuclear deal intact

12 January 2018

US President Donald Trump will extend sanctions relief granted to Iran under its 2015 nuclear deal with the United States and other world powers, leaving the accord intact for now, according to a person familiar with the decision.

However, Trump, who has vowed to scrap the pact, was expected to give the US Congress and European allies a deadline for improving it, the person said. Without improvements, Trump would renew his threat to withdraw from the agreement.

Trump had faced a Friday deadline to decide on whether to waive the sanctions. A decision to withhold a waiver would have effectively ended the deal that limits Iran's nuclear program. The White House is expected to announce the decision on Friday.

While Trump approved a sanctions waiver, he also decided to impose new, targeted sanctions on Iran, the person said. Two senior Trump administration officials told Reuters on Wednesday that the president, a Republican, had privately expressed reluctance to heed the advice of top advisers recommending he not re-impose the suspended sanctions.

Trump has argued that his predecessor, President Barack Obama, a Democrat, negotiated a bad deal for the United States in agreeing to the nuclear accord.

Hailed by Obama as key to stopping Iran from building a nuclear bomb, the deal lifted economic sanctions in exchange for Tehran limiting its nuclear ambitions. It was also signed by China, France, Russia, Britain, Germany and the European Union.

Trump had come under heavy pressure from European allies to issue the sanctions waiver.

Differing views

Iran says its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes. It has said it will stick to the accord as long as the other signatories respect it, but will “shred” the deal if Washington pulls out.

The US Congress requires the president to decide periodically whether to certify Iran's compliance with the deal and issue a waiver to allow US sanctions to remain suspended.

Trump in October chose not to certify compliance and warned he might ultimately terminate the accord. He accused Iran of “not living up to the spirit” of the agreement even though the International Atomic Energy Agency says Tehran is complying.

Hardliners on Iran in the US Congress have called for the re-imposition of the suspended sanctions and an end to the nuclear deal, while some liberal Democrats want to pass legislation that would make it harder for Trump to pull Washington out without congressional consent.

Trump and his top advisers have been negotiating with US lawmakers on Capitol Hill to try to change sanctions legislation so that he does not face a deadline on whether to recertify Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal every 90 days.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/01/12/Trump-to-extend-Iran-sanctions-relief-keeping-nuclear-deal-intact.html

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Britain to join France in West Africa counter-terrorism mission

12 January 2018

Britain is in talks with France to join a French-led campaign in West Africa, with British deployment looking set to include military helicopters and surveillance aircrafts, according to a British government source.

British deployment would bolster French ground forces that have been sent to quell militancy across the restive Sahel region. British troops are not thought to be on the cards.

“We are looking at rotary support or Istar [Intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, reconnaissance],” a Whitehall source said to the Times. “The effort is counter-terrorism, to counter organised crime and to help re-establish state authority.”

The talks come amid French efforts to secure funding and military support for Operation Barkhane, which includes 4,500 French troops deployed across the former French colonies of Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania, known collectively as the G5.

According to the Times report, Paris is also considering whether to increase its commitment to the US-led campaign against the Islamic State (IS) group in Iraq and Syria in return.

British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron are expected to announce the agreement at a Franco-British summit next week in London.

Government sources said the move will build on the close military cooperation enjoyed by the two countries, who possess the leading armed forces in the EU, as Brexit approaches.

Hundreds of millions have been pledged to assist operations from the European Union, the Saudis and the Americans.

Founded in 2014, the mission is a successor to the one that dislodged militants from northern Mali earlier that year, with groups such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and its network of Mali-based affiliates now presenting the main danger.

Boko Haram is also known to pose a threat, roaming across Nigeria’s porous border regions into Niger and Chad.

Bolstering French efforts

British forces - which could include Chinook helicopters and the army’s Watchkeeper surveillance drones in what would be their first deployment overseas - would benefit French forces stretched to their limit across a vast area, said Andrew Lebovich, visiting fellow with the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

"The French definitely could benefit from logistical, intelligence, and other support given the constraints on French assets, and have at different times tried to adapt to the changing circumstances in the region," Lebovich told Middle East Eye.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said in November last year that transnational and climate hazards continue to blight the Sahel, triggering a perfect storm of poverty and food shortages.

Lebovich, who has argued for a holistic response, promoting good governance, food security, and the needs of human development, added that a purely military solution would fail on its own.

“It is clear from the increase in military activity over the past several years that Barkhane itself and strictly military solutions more broadly are not sufficient to decrease militancy in the Sahel.”

Akinyemi Oyawale, a researcher at the University of East Anglia, said that the French and British alliance is borne out of fears over militant attacks on home soil which have increased in intensity in recent years.

"The partnership is primarily meant to prevent obscure countries from becoming sanctuaries and breeding grounds for militants which could serve as a launch pad for an attack on a Western homeland," Oyawale told MEE.

Lebovich added that foreign interventions carry a risk of blowback from a region where American forces also known to operate, battling insurgencies through ground operations and drone strikes launched from a sprawling military base in Niger. But he said the "the Sahel is not as important an issue to international jihadists as others, such as Iraq and Syria or Libya”.

Full report at:

http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/britain-expected-join-french-west-africa-counter-terror-mission-1931687346

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French president tells Trump all must respect Iran nuclear deal

Jan 11, 2018

French President Emmanuel Macron has told his US counterpart Donald Trump that all the signatories to the Iran nuclear deal should respect the terms of the agreement.

In a Thursday phone conversation with Trump, Macron reaffirmed France's determination to see "the strict application of the deal and the importance of all the signatories to respect it," AFP quoted the Elysee Palace as saying in a statement.

Trump, for his part, said Iran must stop what he called "its destabilizing activity in the region," the White House said.

Earlier in the day, European powers reaffirmed their determination to preserve Iran’s nuclear agreement against the backdrop of US efforts to undermine the landmark multinational deal.

After a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Brussels, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Britain took turns to deliver a statement in defense of the 2015 nuclear agreement, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

In a post on his Twitter account, Zarif said there was "strong consensus" in Brussels about Iran's full commitment to its side of the bargain, but further adherence was conditional to Washington's compliance with the JCPOA.

The high-level talks in Brussels came as the US president is expected to decide on Friday whether to extend waivers on nuclear-related sanctions against Tehran.

Trump had in October 2016 refused to certify Iran’s compliance with the deal in defiance of several reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirming Tehran’s full commitment.

He stopped short of withdrawing from the deal, leaving it to Congress to decide whether to re-impose nuclear-relations sanctions on Iran within a 60-day period.

Congress, however, passed the ball back to Trump by letting a mid-December deadline pass without making a decision on the issue.

While the JCPOA is solely about Iran’s nuclear program, the Trump administration claims that Tehran’s growing regional influence and achievements in its conventional missile program violate the “spirit” of the nuclear deal.

Iran and other signatories to the JCPOA have warned against the adverse consequences of a possible US move to step away from the landmark agreement, saying it would be counterproductive.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/01/11/548620/Iran-Macron-Turmp-nuclear-deal-JCPOA-sanctions-

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Russia warns of 'real threat' of drone attacks by terrorists

Jan 11, 2018

Russia has warned that terrorists have acquired advanced technologies on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and can conduct drone strikes all over the world.

The head of the UAV department of the Russian General Staff said on Thursday that the threat of terrorists using drones for attacks was not an unlikely scenario, citing strikes on two Russian bases in Syria earlier this month.

Major General Aleksander Novikov said a technical assessment of the drones used in the assaults showed the “emergence of a real threat of the UAV use for terrorist purposes anywhere in the world, which requires the adoption of appropriate measures for its neutralization."

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, 13 drones targeted the Hmeimim airbase in Latakia Province and the naval facility in the port city of Tartus on January 6.

It said Russian forces repelled the assaults by shooting down seven of the drones and gaining electronic control over six others and safely landing them. The drone attacks caused no damage.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Novikov pointed out that the coordinates used for the drone attacks were much more precise than those available on the internet.

"The production of such deadly machines requires superior professional knowledge, practical skills and experience in operating drones," he said.

The Russian general further stressed that until recently, terrorists used "primitive" drones only for reconnaissance activities, but they began to employ foreign-made quadcopters for different purposes in Syria in mid-2016.

“The research showed that the avionics equipment mounted on the drones [used in the Syria attacks] facilitated their fully automated preprogrammed flight and bombing, ruling out any jamming,” Novikov said.

The explosives carried by the drones could have been manufactured in a number of countries, including Ukraine, he added.

Putin: Moscow knows "provocateurs" of drone raids

In a relevant development on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow knew the "provocateurs" of drone raids, noting that Turkey had nothing to do with the attacks.

"There were provocateurs there but they were not Turks, we know who was that… We know, how much and whom they have paid for this provocation," Putin said.

The strikes, he stressed, were "well prepared" and meant to undermine Russia's relations with its partners.

"Firstly, these are provocations aimed at the collapse of the earlier reached agreements. Secondly, that is also an attempt to destroy our relations with partners — Turkey and Iran," Putin said, adding that Russia has taken additional measures to protect its military facilities in Syria.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Russian Defense Ministry said it had detected an American spy aircraft circling in the skies over the Russian facilities in Syria during the January 6 drone strikes.

The ministry also said data for the drone attacks could have only been obtained “from one of the countries that possesses knowhow in satellite navigation,” without naming any particular country.

In a relevant development on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow knows the "provocateurs" of drone raids, noting that Turkey had nothing to do with the attacks.

"There were provocateurs there but they were not Turks, we know who was that… We know, how much and whom they have paid for this provocation," Putin said.

The strikes, he stressed, were "well prepared" and meant to undermine Russia's relations with its partners.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/01/11/548584/Russia-Syria-Hmeimim-Alexander-Novikov

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Turkish families receive threat letters in Netherlands

11 January 2018

Two Turkish families living in the northwestern Zaandam city of Netherlands have received threatening letters with Islamophobic content, local police confirmed Thursday.

According to the Dutch media, the families, who are also neighbors, found the letters on their doorsteps along with swastika symbols.

The letters, written in red paint said: "If you ever go to a mosque again, this will be your end."

District police spokeswoman Wendy Boudewijn said an investigation had been launched into the incident following a complaint filed by the families.

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/europe/197745/turkish-families-receive-threat-letters-in-netherlands

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Arab World

 

Ex-military chief of staff to run in Egyptian presidential election

12 January 2018

Former armed forces chief of staff General Sami Anan is to run in Egypt's presidential election in March, his party said on Thursday.

"The party leaders took a decision for General Sami Anan’s candidacy and informed him of the decision and there was no problem at all and no objection," from him, said Sami Balah, the secretary general of the Arabism Egypt Party.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is expected to seek a second term, but has yet to announce his candidacy.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/01/12/Ex-military-chief-of-staff-to-run-in-Egyptian-presidential-election.html

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SDF Releases Hundreds of ISIL Terrorists, Commanders in Deir Ezzur

Jan 11, 2018

Local sources in Deir Ezzur confirmed that the SDF has released 400 ISIL members, among them tens of senior terrorist commanders in Deir Ezzur as well as their security, economic, military and religious leaders.

Meantime, over 120 ISIL terrorists joined the SDF in Deir Ezzur.

The sources said that the SDF measure will possibly lead to heavy clashes with the people and tribes of Deir Ezzur and Hasaka as the ISIL terrorists have committed many crimes against them during the terrorist group's control over the region.

Relevant reports said earlier this month that the SDF released over 25 ISIL members, and started a fresh wave of arrests against civilians in camps under their control in Raqqa province.

The local sources said that the SDF has freed 26 ISIL members that had been previously captured in the town of Ein Issa in Northern Raqqa.

The sources further said that SDF has, instead, started arresting civilians in a camp near Ein Issa.

The arrests were launched after an SDF members was attacked by unknown raiders at the entrance of Ein Issa. 

The pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported early in January  that the SDF transferred over 40 ISIL terrorists in Deir Ezzur to Hasaka province in Northeastern Syria.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961021000449

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Syrian rebels declare counter attack in Idlib province

11 January 2018

Rebels launched a counter attack against Syrian government forces and their allies in Idlib province on Thursday, seeking to roll back an advance that is fueling tension with neighboring Turkey.

Fighting raged in the area, where a government offensive backed by Iran-backed militia has gathered pace in the last two weeks, according to rebels and a military news service run by the Lebanese group Hezbollah, which is fighting on the government side.

Idlib province is the biggest chunk of Syria still held by rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad, with a population swollen by Syrians who have fled government advances in other parts of the country. Assad has defeated rebels in many parts of western Syria with critical help from Russia and Iran.

The recent military escalation in western Syria has included an unprecedented attack by a squadron of drones on Russian military bases and has cast a shadow over Moscow’s efforts to convene a Syria peace congress later this month.

The Hezbollah-run news service said the army and its allies were repelling a “fierce assault” by the Nusra Front, formerly ISIS affiliate in the Syrian war, and groups linked to it.

Rebels fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) said in a statement they had set up a joint operations room to repel the offensive and to take back areas seized by the government in northeastern Hama and southern Idlib.

“The operation is to hit the belly of the regime deep into liberated territories and to encircle their advancing forces,” said Abdul Hakim al Rahamon, a senior official in Jaish al Nasr, an FSA faction taking part.

Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an alliance led by the Nusra Front, the dominant force in Idlib, said it had already made gains.

“With Allah’s blessings we drew plans and prepared ourselves and are encircling them,” said Abu al Naji, a commander from Tahrir al Sham. “We have killed many.”

Rebels said they had captured some 15 villages and seized 60 government fighters. A Syrian military source denied this and dismissed rebel talk of a counter attack as propaganda. The source said fierce battles were however underway in the area and army advances were continuing.

Rebel sources said warplanes had struck Khan Sheikhoun and Saraqeb, two major population centers in Idlib province that are among several towns that have been targeted in the latest offensive.

The latest push by the army and its allies has alarmed Turkey which has been deploying forces inside northern Idlib and setting up bases which it says are part of agreements with Iran and Russia over a de-escalation zone in Idlib.

The Turkish government said the Idlib offensive was endangering the effort to reach a resolution of the conflict and accused the Syrian government of using the pretext of fighting militants to wage a wide scale attack.

Ankara is concerned that wider fighting in the province could bring tens of thousands of Syrians fleeing from the battlefields on its borders far beyond the numbers now fleeing.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/01/11/Syrian-rebels-declare-counter-attack-in-Idlib-province.html

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Syrian Army Wins Back More Areas in Southwestern Aleppo

Jan 11, 2018

The army forces continued clashes with terrorists in Southwestern Aleppo, regaining control of the two villages of Um Khan in the Western parts of Tal Sabhah and Um al-Amad Qabali in the Northwestern parts of Tal Sabhah in Southwest of the town of Khanasser.

The Syrian army forces are 7km away before they could lay siege on the terrorists in Aleppo, Hama and Idlib as they are advancing from Southeastern Idlib and Western Aleppo.

Government sources disclosed on Wednesday that the Syrian army troops are advancing rapidly against terrorists in Hama, Aleppo and Idlib provinces, besieging the militants in a vast region that covers over 300 villages.

The sources said that the army units have carried out rapid and heliborne operations as part of their major assault on the Al-Nusra Front (Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at or the Levant Liberation Board) in the last several hours and managed to capture large territories in Southeastern Idlib.

The sources pointed to the Al-Nusra's heavy casualties, and said that the army forces targeted terrorists' main strongholds, military vehicles, anti-tank TOW missile launchers in the battlefield and pushed the terrorist front into complete failure.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961021000910

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Terrorists Retreat Aleppo Battlefields as Army Continues March

Jan 11, 2018

A field source said on Thursday that the army forces have advanced South-West of Khanasser in Southwestern Aleppo, adding that the Syrian army soldiers are 7km away from their comrades deployed South of the strategic Abu al-Dhohour airbase in Idlib.

He added that when the two groups of the Syrian army reach each other, the terrorists will be surrounded in a vast area among Aleppo, Hama and Idlib provinces from Tal al-Sabhah in Southwestern Aleppo to the Southern parts of al-Shakousiyah in Northeastern Hama.

Government sources disclosed on Wednesday that the Syrian army troops are advancing rapidly against terrorists in Hama, Aleppo and Idlib provinces, besieging the militants in a vast region that covers over 300 villages.

The sources said that the army units have carried out rapid and heliborne operations as part of their major assault on the Al-Nusra Front (Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at or the Levant Liberation Board) in the last several hours and managed to capture large territories in Southeastern Idlib.

The sources pointed to the Al-Nusra's heavy casualties, and said that the army forces targeted terrorists' main strongholds, military vehicles, anti-tank TOW missile launchers in the battlefield and pushed the terrorist front into complete failure.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961021000855

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Putin’s envoy, Assad hold talks on terror fight, peace process in Damascus

Jan 12, 2018

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s point man has met with Syrian President Assad for talks on counterterrorism fight and the Arab country’s path towards peace and reconstruction.

Assad received Alexander Lavrentiev in Damascus on Thursday, where the two sides discussed bilateral anti-terror cooperation, the peace process between the Syrian government and opposition in the Kazakh capital of Astana and the upcoming Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi, the official SANA news agency reported.

At the request of Damascus, Russia has been providing airpower to the Syrian army’s ground operations against terrorists.

The support, alongside Iranian military advisory assistance, enabled Syria to liberate all the territories captured by the Takfiri Daesh terrorists and reverse many militant gains across the country.

Russia, together with Iran and Turkey, has been mediating the Astana peace process aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the crisis in Syria.

As part of the Astana format, the Russian resort city of Sochi is to host a congress towards the end of January to pave the way for constitutional reforms in Syria.

During Thursday’s talks, Assad and Lavrentiev agreed that the Sochi event’s potential outcomes had to “meet the aspirations of the Syrian people in preserving their homeland and restoring security and stability to its territory,” SANA said.

Assad said the cooperation among Syria and its allies, including Russia, against terrorism was a “decisive factor in foiling the hegemony and division plots put by the West and its tools against Syria and the region.”

Lavrentiev, for his part, said Moscow would keep up its support for the Syrian nation in all areas, adding that various economic sectors of Russia are ready to actively participate in the reconstruction process of Syria.

The senior Russian official also said his country would stand by Syria in its anti-terrorism battles and efforts to find a peaceful way of the crisis.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/01/12/548635/Russia-Syria-Assad-Lavrentiev

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Qatar files complaint to UN over ‘airspace violation’ by UAE fighter jet

Jan 12, 2018

Qatar has lodged a complaint with the United Nations about what it calls a violation of its airspace last month by a United Arab Emirates (UAE) fighter jet, warning that Doha reserves the right to defend its skies and borders under international law.

The Qatar News Agency (QNA) said Friday that the country’s UN envoy, Sheikha Alia Ahmed bin Saif Al Thani, sent a message to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the Security Council’s president regarding the reported violation, which it said occurred on December 21 at 9:45 a.m. local time and lasted one minute.

She “confirmed that the UAE plane entered the airspace of the State of Qatar without the prior knowledge or approval of the competent Qatari authorities,” the QNA quoted the ambassador as saying.

The envoy “considered that the incident was a flagrant violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the State of Qatar, as well as a flagrant violation of the provisions of international law, conventions, charters and international norms.”

The senior diplomat said her country is “keen to main good relations with its neighbors,” but does not accept any breach of its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“In the event of a repeat of such violation, the State of Qatar will take, in order to preserve its legitimate sovereign right, all necessary measures to defend its borders and airspace and national security, in accordance with international laws and regulations,” the envoy warned.

UAE officials were not immediately available to comment on the report.

The United Arab Emirates is one of four Arab countries, namely Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt, that imposed in June a trade and diplomatic embargo on Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism, an allegation strongly denied by Doha.

The quartet of boycotters have also barred Qatari aircraft from using their airspace. Qatar’s only land border with Saudi Arabia has also been blocked as a result.

The Saudi-led bloc then presented Qatar with a list of demands, among them downgrading ties with Iran, and gave it an ultimatum to comply with them or face consequences.

Doha, however, refused to meet the demands and said that they were meant to force the country to surrender its sovereignty. Qatar has also said it had too many financial resources at its disposal to be afraid of the financial assault.

Amid the diplomatic crisis, Abu Dhabi has taken an especially tough line towards Doha.

The Qatari former deputy prime minister, Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah, told the Spanish daily ABC last October that the UAE planned a military invasion of Qatar with thousands of US-trained mercenaries, but it failed to secure the support of Washington.

A series of leaked documents revealed in November 2017 that the UAE had a stunning detailed plot to launch an economic war on Qatar.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/01/12/548631/Qatar-UN-envoy-complaint-UAE-airspace-violation

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Bahraini regime forces jail Shia cleric for supporting Sheikh Isa Qassim

Jan 11, 2018

Bahraini regime officials have sentenced a Shia clergyman to one year in prison over his support for prominent Shia cleric, Sheikh Isa Qassim, who has been stripped of citizenship by the Al Khalifah regime and is suffering from deteriorating health.

Bahrain's Court of Appeals upheld a ruling against Sheikh Hamza al-Dairi over his participation in a sit-in near Sheikh Qassim's residence in the northwestern village of Diraz, situated some 12 kilometers west of the capital Manama, in late May last year. Bahraini troopers arrested the clergyman as soon as he left the court building.

Last year, a court in Bahrain handed down a one-year jail term to Sheikh Dairi, and ordered him to pay a fine of 500 Bahraini dinars ($1,326.15).

Meanwhile, Bahraini regime officials deported a young man to neighboring Saudi Arabia earlier this week over his support for Sheikh Qassim.

Ahmed Ali al-Attiya, born to a Saudi father and a Bahraini mother, was handed over to Saudi authorities.

On May 21, a Bahraini court convicted Sheikh Qassim of illegal collection of funds and money laundering and sentenced him to one year in jail suspended for three years.

It also ordered him to pay $265,266 in fines. The court ruling sparked widespread demonstrations across the kingdom.

Bahraini authorities stripped the cleric of his citizenship on June 20, 2016. They later dissolved the Islamic Enlightenment Institution, founded by him, in addition to the opposition al-Risala Islamic Association.

Sheikh Qassim is reportedly suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.

United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric demanded last November that the top Shia cleric be released, and asked for immediate medical attention for him.

Thousands of anti-regime protesters have held demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the country in mid-February 2011.

They are demanding that the Al Khalifah dynasty relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established.

Manama has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to assist Bahrain in its crackdown.

Scores of people have lost their lives and hundreds of others sustained injuries or got arrested as a result of the Al Khalifah regime’s crackdown.

On March 5, 2017, Bahrain’s parliament approved the trial of civilians at military tribunals in a measure blasted by human rights campaigners as being tantamount to imposition of an undeclared martial law countrywide.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/01/11/548575/Bahraini-regime-forces-jail-Shia-cleric-for-supporting-Sheikh-Qassim

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Mideast

 

No further extraditions to US unless Washington hands over Gulen: Erdogan

Jan 11, 2018

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Ankara will not extradite any suspects to the US as long as Washington refuses to hand over Pennsylvania-based opposition figure Fethullah Gulen, whom the Turkish government accuses of having masterminded the mid-July 2016 coup attempt.

“If you're not giving him (Gulen) to us, then excuse us, but from now on whenever you ask us for another terrorist, as long as I am in office, you will not get them,” Erdogan told local administrators at a conference in his presidential palace in the capital Ankara on Thursday.

The Turkish leader further said that Ankara had so far extradited a dozen “terrorists” to US authorities, “but they have not given us back the one we want. They made up excuses from thin air.”

Gulen has strongly rejected any involvement in the botched putsch against Erdogan, but Ankara has labeled his transnational religious and social movement, Gulen Hareketi, as the Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO).

The Turkish government has so far submitted a total of seven requests to US officials concerning the extradition of the 76-year-old cleric, but all to no avail. Washington argues that it has not yet received any sufficient evidence, required by US courts, to extradite the figure.

Turkey, a NATO member, and the US have been at loggerheads over a range of issues in recent months. Ankara, among others, is infuriated by the US arms support for and training of Kurdish militants in Syria, who are seen by Turkey as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The two countries also halted issuing visas for months last year over a dispute following the detention of two locally employed US consulate employees in Turkey on suspicion of having links to the coup attempt.

The Turkish authorities have so far detained more than 50,000 people, including security officials, military personnel and civil servants, over alleged links to Gulen’s movement and the failed coup. More than 110,000 others, including military staff, civil servants and journalists, have also been sacked or suspended from work over the same accusations.

The international community and rights groups have been highly critical of the Turkish president over the massive dismissals and the crackdown.

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/01/11/548595/Turkey-Erdogan-US-Gulen-FETO-Extradition

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Houthi prisoner admits: ‘Hezbollah expert came to train us’

11 January 2018

LONDON: The Yemeni National Army released a video on Thursday of a Houthi militia prisoner in the Al-Jawf region who confessed to receiving training along with dozens of others at the hands of Lebanese Hezbollah soldiers.

He confirmed on the tape distributed by Al-Hadath that he was given training by an artillery and rocket expert along with 39 Houthi soldiers. After this, the group were posted on the Al-Jawf, Sa’da and Hajjah fronts in areas that border Saudi Arabia.

He also revealed that theoretical training took place in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a whilst practical training took place in another area. He said that the expert, only known as “Sajid”, used to come to train them weekly and added that he was Lebanese and had fought in Iraq.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1223831/middle-east

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Israel approves over 1,100 new West Bank settlement homes

January 12, 2018

JERUSALEM - Israel has approved more than 1,100 new settlement homes in the occupied West Bank , the Peace Now NGO said Thursday, the latest in a raft of such moves by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

The approvals were given on Wednesday by a defence ministry committee with authority over settlement construction.

Three hundred and fifty-two homes received final approval, while the others are at an earlier stage in the process, Hagit Ofran of Peace Now, which monitors settlement building, told AFP.

A total of 1,122 housing units were advanced, including seven already existing homes given retroactive approval.

According to Ofran, the majority of the approvals are for settlements deep in the West Bank that Israel would probably need to evacuate as part of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“It’s a part of the general trend that the government is doing, which is to build all over the West Bank , even more in places that Israel would need to evict, and in this way to torpedo the possibility for a two-state solution,” she said.

Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, said Israel “continues with its plan to bury all the chances of a political settlement”, while alleging that it is being “encouraged” by US President Donald Trump’s administration.

A shooting that killed an Israeli settler on Tuesday in the West Bank led to new calls for further settlement building, though the plans approved on Wednesday were already in the works.

According to Peace Now, 6,742 housing projects were approved in the settlements last year, the highest figure since 2013.

Israeli settlements are seen as illegal under international law and major obstacles to peace as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.

Prominent members of Netanyahu’s right-wing government openly oppose Palestinian statehood.

Israel faced sharp criticism from the administration of former US president Barack Obama over settlement construction, but that has not been the case with Trump’s White House and Israeli officials have sought to take advantage.

European nations have maintained their strong opposition to settlement building, and France on Thursday condemned the latest Israeli approvals.

A French foreign ministry spokesman reiterated the country’s call for a freeze on settlement building.

“France’s priority is to work to preserve the two-state solution and to contribute to a resumption of decisive negotiations,” the spokesman said.

The UN envoy for the Middle East peace process also condemned the approvals, saying “settlement-related activities undermine the chances for the establishment of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state as part of a negotiated two-state solution”.

“They entrench a one-state reality that is incompatible with realising the national aspirations of both peoples,” Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement.

Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6 sparked Palestinian anger and led president Mahmud Abbas to say Washington could no longer play any role in the peace process.

Sporadic unrest since then has cost the lives of 14 Palestinians, most killed in clashes with Israeli forces.

The settler shot dead on Tuesday night, Raziel Shevah, 35, was the first Israeli killed since Trump’s announcement, though it was unclear if there was any link.

US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, a supporter of West Bank settlements, said on Twitter after the murder: “An Israeli father of six was killed last night in cold blood by Palestinian terrorists.”

“Hamas praises the killers and PA (Palestinian Authority) laws will provide them financial rewards. Look no further to why there is no peace.”

The Palestinian foreign ministry in response accused Friedman of a “prejudiced” stance on the conflict, saying he has yet to criticise Israel for settlement building or its 50-year occupation of the West Bank .

Israeli authorities have been searching for the attackers behind the settler’s shooting near the major Palestinian city of Nablus in the northern West Bank .

Roadblocks have been set up in the Nablus area.

At the victim’s funeral on Wednesday at the wildcat settlement of Havat Gilad where he lived, there were calls for “revenge” during a speech by Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the far-right Jewish Home party.

Full report at:

https://nation.com.pk/12-Jan-2018/israel-approves-over-1-100-new-west-bank-settlement-homes

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At least 8,000 people have been detained during Iran protests

11 January 2018

The massive and widespread arrests of young people in different Iranian cities continue since the people took to the streets on December 28.

According to reports from inside Iran and from within the regime, the number of detainees has mounted to at least 8,000 by the end of the second week of the Iranian people's uprising.

In recent days, several of these prisoners were martyred under the regime’s medieval tortures.

Despite the regime’s attempts to keep hidden the number of arrests, it admitted to parts of it due to the high rise in numbers.

A week ago Mahmoud Sadeghi, a member of parliament, said the number of arrestees amounted to 3,700.

On January 2, political-security deputy governor of Tehran said 450 people were arrested in Tehran in only three days (December 30 - January 1).

On December 30 and 31, 396 people were arrested in events in Arak and other cities of the Central Province, 65 of whom were teenagers under the age of 18, said the Chief Justice of the Central province on January 4.

The deputy governor of Golestan said on January 3, “With the arrest of about 150 of insurgents in Gorgan, calm returned to this city.”

“In recent days, when there was some rioting and turmoil in Hamadan, more than 150 people were arrested in Hamadan,” Hamedan Governor said on January 2.

Mashhad deputy prosecutor said on January 3, “A total of 138 people were arrested in Mashhad disturbances”.

The commander of Kerman Provincial Guard Corps (Sarallah) said on January 2, “During the recent turmoil, more than 80 rioters were arrested and handed over to the competent authorities.”

“In the illegal gatherings of Kashan, about 50 to 60 people were arrested,” Kashan Prosecutor said on January 1.

According to Bahman Taherkhani, a parliamentarian from Takistan, on January 2, “Some 50 people with ominous intentions caused unrest in this city who should be punished according to their crimes”. He added, “The presence of individuals with a leading role in recent riots is another sign that these disturbances are organized.”

According to reports from the prisons in Ahwaz and other cities in Khuzestan, the number of arrestees in the province is 1,600.

The parliamentarian from Izeh said he does not have an accurate number of the detainees. He added that they were mostly teenagers and young people aged 16 to 24 years old. Hundreds have been arrested in Izeh, according to reports.

The Iranian Resistance called on all the people, especially the youth, to support the detainees and their families, and to rise up for the release of prisoners.

It also called on the Security Council and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the European Union, and the member-states, and the US government, as well as all human rights organizations, to strongly condemn the clerics’ regime for these blatant anti-human crimes, and to adopt effective measures to free the detainees.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/01/12/Sudan-split-after-a-university-president-assaults-a-student-on-video.html

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Nephew of killed Yemeni president: We extend our hands to our brothers in Saudi

12 January 2018

The nephew of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh has called for an end to the Yemen war, in his first public appearance since his uncle was killed by his former Houthi allies last month.

Brigadier-General Tareq Mohammed Saleh, who led a brigade of an elite Yemeni army unit before his uncle was forced to step down in 2012, had been expected to help lead Saleh’s supporters in a fresh fight against the Iran-aligned Houthis, who control most of northern Yemen, including the capital Sanaa.

Addressing supporters in the southern Shabwa province where he had travelled to offer condolences to the family of Aref al-Zouka, who was killed along with Saleh in the attack on Saleh’s residence in Sanaa, Tareq said he remained committed to his uncle’s quest for peace in Yemen.

“We are with what the leader had willed, especially his demand to stop the war,” said Tareq, who survived the attack by Houthi forces.

“We also extend our hands to our brothers, particularly the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to work to end the war and to restore stability and security to Yemen,” he added.

Initial reports said Tareq was killed in the fighting that erupted after Saleh called on the Saudi-led coalition to end the war, a move interpreted by the Houthis as a betrayal.

But it later emerged that he had survived and had made his way to a safe location.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/01/12/Nephew-of-killed-Yemeni-president-We-extend-our-hands-to-our-brothers-in-Saudi.html

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Israeli forces kill 2 Palestinians in Gaza Strip, West Bank

Jan 11, 2018

Israeli forces have separately shot dead two Palestinian teenage boys in the central part of the besieged Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank during clashes in protest at US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as the capital of Israel.

Spokesman for the Gaza Ministry of Health, Ashraf al-Qidra, said in a statement on Thursday evening that 16-year-old Amir Abdelhamid Abu Mousaed sustained grave gunshot wounds in the chest near the border fence east of al-Bureij camp.

The Palestinian teen succumbed to his wounds after he was taken to al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in Deir al-Balah city, located over 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) south of Gaza City, the statement added.

Shortly afterward, Israeli troopers opened fire on a group of Palestinian protesters in Burin village, located 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) southwest of Nablus in the occupied West Bank, killing 17-year-old Ali Omar Nimr Qino.

On December 6, Trump announced his decision to recognize Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s capital and relocate the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the occupied city.

The dramatic shift in Washington’s policy vis-à-vis the city triggered demonstrations in the occupied Palestinian territories, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Morocco and other Muslim countries.

On December 21, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly voted in favor of a resolution that called on the US to withdraw its controversial recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israeli “capital.”

In an attempt to prevent the resolution from being passed by UN members, Trump had warned that “we’re watching,” thus threatening reprisals against countries that would back the measure, which had earlier faced a US veto at the UN Security Council.

Israel, however, rejected the world body’s resolution while thanking Trump for his decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem al-Quds.

Jerusalem al-Quds remains at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with Palestinians hoping that the eastern part of the city would eventually serve as the capital of a future independent Palestinian state.

In a series of tweets on January 2, Trump said the US paid “the Palestinians hundreds of millions of dollars a year” and yet gets “no appreciation or respect.”

“But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?” he asked.

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, stated on Wednesday that “Palestinians' rights are not for sale.”

She added, “By recognizing occupied al-Quds as Israel's capital, Donald Trump has not only violated international law, but has also singlehandedly destroyed the very foundations of peace and condoned Israel's illegal annexation of the city."

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/01/11/548593/Israeli-forces-kill-Palestinian-man-in-besieged-Gaza-Strip-West-Bank

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Turkish court gives life sentences to more than two dozen over 2016 botched putsch

Jan 11, 2018

A court in Turkey has sentenced more than two dozen people to life imprisonment on charges of affiliation to a movement led by US-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom the Ankara government accuses of having masterminded the July 2016 coup attempt.

A judicial source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Thursday that a high criminal court in the capital Ankara had handed down 13 defendants aggravated life sentences, while 15 others would serve life imprisonment for attempted takeover of Turk Telekom building in Istanbul during the putsch.

The source added that the convicts were also given a total of 1,519-year jail term for “deprivation of people's freedom.”

During the botched putsch, a faction of the Turkish military declared that it had seized control of the country and the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was no more in charge. The attempt was, however, suppressed a few hours later.

Ankara has since accused Gulen of having orchestrated the coup. The opposition figure is also accused of being behind a long-running campaign to topple the government via infiltrating the country’s institutions, particularly the army, police and the judiciary.

Additionally, the Ankara government has outlawed his movement, and has branded it as the Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO).

Gulen has denounced the “despicable putsch” and reiterated that he had no role in it.

“Accusations against me related to the coup attempt are baseless and politically-motivated slanders,” he said in a statement.

The 76-year-old cleric has also called on Ankara to end its “witch hunt” of his followers, a move he said is aimed at “weeding out anyone it deems disloyal to President Erdogan and his regime.”

Turkish officials have frequently called on their US counterparts to extradite Gulen, but their demands have not been taken heed of.

Turkey, which remains in a state of emergency since the coup, has been engaged in suppressing the media and opposition groups suspected to have played a role in the failed coup.

Tens of thousands of people have been arrested in Turkey on suspicion of having links to Gulen and the failed coup. More than 110,000 others, including military staff, civil servants and journalists have been sacked or suspended from work over the same accusations.

Full report at:

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/01/11/548587/Turkish-court-gives-life-sentence-to-over-two-dozen-over-botched-putsch

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Southeast Asia

 

Malaysia's Islamic insurance outpacing conventional counterpart: Fitch

January 11, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR -- Growth of Malaysia's takaful, or Islamic insurance, continued to rise faster than the conventional insurance sector in 2017, led by burgeoning domestic consumption and a government push for greater penetration, Fitch Ratings said on Wednesday.

Family and general takaful grew by 7.5% and 5.9%, respectively, in the first half of 2017, compared with 5.2% and -1.8% in life and general insurance respectively.

Family takaful accounted for 30.5% of the total life market, while general takaful made up 12.8% during the same period, suggesting that there is room for growth.

The central bank is pushing for the industry to offer affordable premiums to raise the overall life insurance coverage from 56% in 2016 to 75% by 2020, reaching out to the untapped market of the Muslim-majority population. This entails making changes to regulatory frameworks to encourage innovations in product offerings and competition.

The rating agency said an upcoming rule that requires takaful operators to split their composite license into family and general insurance separately by July may lead to mergers-and-acquisitions activities within the sector. There are eight composite license holders out of a total of 11 takaful operators in the country, and smaller players may want to divest to avoid incurring additional capital and start-up costs as a result of the split, Fitch said.

Another key development is the gradual removal of commission limits for health insurance products starting in January and the establishment of direct channels offering these products on a commission-free basis.

The central bank, along with industry players, recently rolled out affordable insurance schemes, targeting 8 million people, a quarter of the population, and 700,000 micro enterprises. Under the schemes, instead of being served upfront by agents, customers can buy both life and general insurance directly online or through selected bank branches and mobile phone operators.

In July, the country also removed fixed tariffs for vehicle insurance, paving the way for premium calculations that include driver risk factors such as age and accident record.

Full report at:

https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/Economy/Malaysia-s-Islamic-insurance-outpacing-conventional-counterpart-Fitch

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Report: Malaysia ranked among the safest nations in new US travel advisory

January 12, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 12 ? In a new travel advisory issued by the United States, Malaysia is now placed in Level One or the lowest level for safety and security risks among other countries like Canada and Australia.

New Straits Times reported that the US’ improved version of the four-level travel advisory programme based its ranking on the security situation in each country.

According to the report, the department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs categorised Level One as “exercise normal precaution” on US travellers, Level Two is “exercise increase caution”, Level Three is “reconsider travel”, and Level Four is “do not travel”.

“Levels One and Two will be reviewed every year, if not more frequently, depending on circumstances. Levels Three and Four we review every six months just as we did Travel Warnings,” the bureau’s acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Overseas Citizen Services, Michelle Bernier-Toth was quoted as saying.

“In the process of that review, we will look very carefully and we wanted to make sure that we were being consistent across the globe as to how we were assessing and ranking countries.” she added.

Besides Malaysia, Canada and Australia, other countries in the same category include Brunei, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea, Kazakhstan, and New Zealand.

China, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Nepal, Bangladesh, United Kingdom, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico and Saudi Arabia are among the nations classified under Level Two of the advisory travel programme.

And Level Three include Cuba, Dominica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Lebanon, Sudan, Nigeria, Turkey, Pakistan, Russia and Venezuela.

Full report at:

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/report-malaysia-ranked-among-the-safest-nations-in-new-us-travel-advisory#QHpLS8QtYYtmw8JG.97

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Why Ahok remains a man to watch in Indonesian politics

January 12, 2018

In hindsight, it may appear that Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama has become the Kim Kardashian of Indonesian politics. Nearly a year after his upset defeat in the capital’s gubernatorial election and his controversial blasphemy conviction, the former Jakarta governor has never been completely out of the spotlight.

So it was no surprise that when news broke that Ahok had filed for divorce from his wife, Veronica Tan, the Indonesian Twittersphere went crazy.

This newspaper is obviously no place for gossiping about Ahok’s private life, but the continual limelight given to him may provide a glimpse into what lies ahead for arguably one of the most popular politicians in the country today, and why his potential comeback could change Indonesian politics in years to come.

Many would have argued that Ahok’s political career was over when hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in Jakarta to demand his incarceration for blasphemy. That is a fair assessment, given all the doom and gloom foreign analysts repeated like a mantra about Indonesia’s dramatic turn to conservatism.

But I argue that Ahok remains one of the few people to watch in Indonesia. There are at least three reasons why.

First, his long political career has shown that Ahok is no quitter; second, his conviction, while it was undeniably damaging politically, remains widely disputed; third and most importantly, the man who became the most talked-about political figure on Twitter last year could benefit from a generational shift among Indonesian voters.

Ahok has built a stellar political career since his election in 2005 as Bangka Belitung regent. His popularity peaked when he was sworn in as Jakarta governor in 2014 to replace Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, offering a new type of leadership that has made political establishments look irrelevant at best and incompetent at worst in the eyes of voters.

True, he lost the gubernatorial election, but his defeat came after a series of rallies filled with hateful sectarian rhetoric and even death threats. The man, regardless of his flaws, did not back down, despite all the intimidation he faced.

The Chinese-Christian politician will struggle to fight the penista agama (blasphemer) stigma, but many are aware that he was a victim of an ancient draconian law. His conviction was challenged not only by human rights activists, but also a number of Muslim scholars who believed he had done nothing wrong.

Ahok accepted his conviction and dropped any legal attempts to have it overturned. This does not mean that he has admitted guilt, and if anything, it could send the right message to Muslim voters that he wanted to put the issue to rest.

That said, Ahok still has a chance to make a political comeback. And given the possible change in behavior as a result of a generational shift among Indonesian voters, Ahok could outdo many of his rivals.

According to an August 2017 survey by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), millennials are looking for new faces in politics. Jokowi, Prabowo Subianto and Ridwan Kamil are now still the most popular presidential candidates among voters aged between 17 and 29, the survey showed.

Ahok ranks seventh after Tri Rismaharini, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Gatot Nurmantyo. Of the top seven, only Ahok and Ridwan were born after 1965, have an army of online supporters and are widely seen as political outsiders.

At this point, Ridwan seems poised to grab most of the millennial votes, but pitting Ahok and Ridwan against each other is unfair at the present time, when Ridwan is running for governor in West Java while Ahok is incarcerated.

The CSIS survey would yield different results if it were carried out after Ahok had completed his sentence and launched a political campaign.

Assuming that he is granted Christmas and Independence Day remissions and is considered eligible for conditional release, Ahok could be free by this August.

Ahok has a chance to surpass Ridwan’s electability, as the former has built a political base that is ready to take on the political establishment. Ridwan’s supporters are not as militant and organized as “Ahokers,” the most prominent of whom have been consolidating and setting up a political party to contest the 2019 legislative election.

The party in question, the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI), is openly and aggressively trying to grab the millennial vote. The party, naturally, is filled with novice politicians with little to no experience and lacks a symbolic figure to rally support. It is wishful thinking to believe that the political rookies in the PSI would be able to shake up patron-client politics in 2019, but Ahok could change the equation for them if the maverick politician decided to mount it as his political vehicle.

Still, millennials are notoriously unpredictable and hard to please. There is no guarantee they could be more progressive and less sectarian, but the fact is that the old voters who voted for the old parties and their old politicians will be gone soon, and the generational shift is moving voters to favoring newer parties.

Full report at:

http://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2018/01/12/why-ahok-remains-a-man-to-watch-in-indonesian-politics.html

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Africa

 

Suspected Islamic State Bomber Surrenders at Libyan Checkpoint: Official

Jan. 11, 2018

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - A suspected Islamic State militant driving a car laden with explosives surrendered to Libyan security forces at a checkpoint on Thursday rather than go ahead with an attack in the city of Misrata, a security official said.

The Misratan counter-terrorism official, who asked not to be named for security reasons, said he had surrendered at a checkpoint near Abu Grain town, but it was not immediately clear why he had handed himself in.

Abu Grain is about 100 km (60 miles) south of Misrata and 140 km west of Sirte, a city that Islamic State controlled until they were driven out by a Misratan-led military campaign in 2016.

"The suspect handed himself in to the security forces early morning on Thursday," the official told Reuters. "The car bomb is now being dismantled by explosives experts."

Since Islamic State's defeat in Sirte, Libyan and Western security officials say militants have been trying to regroup in desert areas to the south, where they were targeted last year by several U.S. air strikes.

They have occasionally set up temporary checkpoints, and had done so in two places on a remote road in the area early on Wednesday, the Misratan official said.

Islamic State also claimed a deadly attack on a courthouse complex in Misrata last year.

https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2018-01-11/suspected-islamic-state-bomber-surrenders-at-libyan-checkpoint-official

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Tunisia deploys army, makes 300 arrests as violent unrest continues

11 January 2018

Tunisian protesters burned down a regional national security headquarters near the Algerian border, prompting authorities to send in troops after police retreated, witnesses said, as unrest over prices and taxes continued nationwide.

Over 300 protesters were arrested overnight and the army was deployed in several cities to help quell violent protests in Tunisia seven years after the overthrow of Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in the first of the Arab Spring revolts.

In Thala, near the Algerian border, soldiers deployed after crowds torched the region’s national security building, forcing police to retreat from the town, witnesses told Reuters.

Tunisia’s unity government - which includes Islamists, secular parties and independents - has portrayed the unrest as driven by criminal elements, and Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has accused the opposition of fuelling dissent.

Opposition rejects accusation

Rejecting that accusation, Tunisia’s main opposition bloc, the Popular Front, called for a major protest in Tunis on Sunday to coincide with the seventh anniversary of Ben Ali’s fall.

Tunisia’s Football Association said it was postponing all weekend matches because of the disturbances.

Anti-government protests have flared in a number of Tunisian cities and towns - including the tourist resort of Sousse, since Monday against price and tax rises imposed to cut a ballooning deficit and satisfy international lenders.

While Tunisia is regarded as the only democratic success story in the Arab world, it has also had nine governments since Ben Ali’s overthrow, none of which have been able to deal with growing economic problems.

The army has been deployed in several cities, including Sousse, Kebeli and Bizerte, to protect government buildings that have become a target for protesters.

“Three hundred and thirty people involved in acts of sabotage and robbery were arrested last night,” Interior Ministry spokesman Khelifa Chibani said. That brought the total number of detainees since the protests began to around 600.

“What is happening is crime, not protests. They steal, intimidate people and threaten private and public property,” he added.

Many of the protests have been peaceful, however, with demonstrators expressing their anger and frustration over deepening economic hardship since the 2011 uprising.

“It is true that some protesters burned and stole during last night’s protests, but the rulers steal and destroy Tunisia in the morning and at night with their frustrating decisions,” said a teacher who was shopping in the capital and only gave his first name, Mohamed.

“We expected things to improve after Ben Ali was ousted, but it seems that after seven years of the revolution, we’ll give our salaries each month to Prime Minister Chahed for him to spend them,” he said.

The 2011 revolt and two major Islamist militant attacks in 2015 damaged foreign investment and tourism, which accounts for eight percent of Tunisia’s economic activity.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/north-africa/2018/01/11/Tunisia-deploys-army-makes-300-arrests-as-violent-unrest-continues.html

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Police arrest over 50 protesters in Nigerian capital

11 January 2018

More than 50 protesters were arrested in capital Abuja Wednesday during a demonstration organized by the Shia organization, Islamic Movement of Nigeria.

Police called the protest violent during which protesters allegedly targeted “innocent citizens and police operatives".

In a statement, police spokesman Anjuguri Manzah said: “The Federal Capital Territory Police Command has arrested some [52] members of the sect and recovered some bottles of improvised petrol-bomb, stones and catapult used by members of the sect to attack police operatives and damage police operational vehicles.”

Police had fired teargas and live bullets in the air to disperse the hundreds of protesters in the afternoon, local media reported, which led to multiple injuries.

Islamic Movement of Nigeria members began a fresh round of protest on Monday, seeking immediate release of their leader Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife who have been under detention since 2015.

Full report at:

http://www.worldbulletin.net/africa/197732/algeria-issues-first-statement-in-amazigh-language

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