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Islamic World News ( 5 Jan 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Houthi Militias ‘Recruiting Children’ In Yemen

New Age Islam News Bureau

5 Jan 2017

Zafor Alam, a Rohingya refugee, told CNN his 16-month-old son Mohammed Shohayet drowned last month trying to cross the Naf River into Bangladesh.


 Houthi Militias ‘Recruiting Children’ In Yemen

 Christians, Muslims Unite In Central Africa To Heal Trauma

 Spatial Inequality A Glaring Reality In Mumbai’s Muslim-Dominated Areas

 Echoing Alan Kurdi, Toddler’s Death Highlights Plight Of Burma’s Rohingya Refugees

 Saudi Sentences Foreign Workers To Lashes, Jail Over Unpaid Wages Protest



 Houthi Militias ‘Recruiting Children’ In Yemen

 Al Saud After Eliminating Palestinian Cause: Hezbollah Official

 Turkish EU Minister to Muslim televangelist: I play and recommend chess

 Turkey says identity of Istanbul attacker established, manhunt goes on

 Three Yemeni soldiers killed in offensive against al Qaeda

 Thousands of Chinese construction workers headed for Israel

 Turkey using Incirlik airbase as leverage for US air support for Syria incursion

 Israeli soldier convicted of manslaughter for killing wounded Palestinian

 Yemeni Army Destroys Saudi-Led Military Speedboat



 Christians, Muslims Unite In Central Africa To Heal Trauma

 Radical Muslim Preacher Wants To Rebuild The Peulh Kingdom In Burkina Faso

 13-Member Terrorist Cell Dismantled In Tunisia

 Two UN peacekeepers killed in Central African Republic

 Somalia: Al Shabaab Raids Security Checkpoint Near Jowhar

 Three suicide bombers killed in Nigeria’s northeast

 Nigeria emerges as an unlikely example of progress, tolerance



 Spatial Inequality A Glaring Reality In Mumbai’s Muslim-Dominated Areas

 India Reminds China On Pak-Based Masood Azhar: ‘Terror Like Snake That Bites Hand That Feeds It’

 RSS Affiliate To Launch National Campaign Against Triple Talaq

 Terrorists have looted 66 weapons, 7000 rounds in Kashmir valley post Burhan Wani's death


South Asia

 Echoing Alan Kurdi, Toddler’s Death Highlights Plight Of Burma’s Rohingya Refugees

 Myanmar Faces Growing Danger From ISIS Supporters As Persecution Of Rohingya Muslims Continues

 Only Afghan-led process can bring peace to Afghanistan: US

 Myanmar commission plays down abuse against Rohingya

 Namaste Not: Buddhist and Islamist Extremists Wage War

 Taliban militants kill policewoman in Helmand province

 Hekmatyar to return to Kabul even before sanctions relief: HIA

 ARG Palace reacts at alleged communication of Dostum’s position

 Turkey extends its NATO mission in Afghanistan for another 2 years


Arab World

 Saudi Sentences Foreign Workers To Lashes, Jail Over Unpaid Wages Protest

 25 Senior Nusra Commanders, Terrorists Killed in Airstrike in Idlib

 ISIL Preparing for Large-Scale Operation against Kurds in Northeastern Syria

 70 Saudi-Led Coalition Troops Killed in Yemen War in 2 Days

 Iraqi forces gaining momentum in Mosul: US coalition chief

 US-led coalition doubles Mosul military advisors

 Bahrainis stage demonstrations in solidarity with Sheikh Qassim

 Syrian Army Allows Tens of Militants to Leave Western Damascus for Idlib

 Senior Nusra Commander Killed in Syrian Army Attacks in Northwestern Homs



 BBC Stirs Controversy With 'Real ISIS Housewives' Skit

 Anis Amri Travelled Through Amsterdam, Brussels Days After Berlin Attack

 US-led coalition pounding Syria infrastructure, not Daesh-held oil fields: Russia

 French Presidential Candidate Compares Holocaust to Anti-Muslim Bias



 Christian in Pakistan Jailed under Vindictive Blasphemy Charge, Sources Say

 After Nearly 70 Years, the India-Pakistan Partition Gets a Museum

 UKIP MEP hits out at "unaccountable" foreign aid to Pakistan

 200 participants of ‘Save Islam’ rallies held in Lahore

 15 injured in DI Khan bomb blast

 Christmas message leads to death threats, police case in Pakistan


Southeast Asia

 Rise In ISIS-Linked Arrests Raises Alert In Malaysia

 Muslim Environmentalists Give Their Religion — And Their Mosques — A Fresh Coat Of Green

 Muslim world getting a taste of halal-tagged farmed fish

 The international fallout from Najib’s 1MDB scandal


North America

 Hope, And Fear, As Us Gulf Allies Look To Trump

 Hanukkah Celebration Highlights Bahrain, Israel Ties: Analyst

 Turks turn down US military help, asks Russia for air support: US officials

 Muslim-owned restaurant offers free meals to needy in Canada

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Houthi Militias ‘Recruiting Children’ In Yemen

4 January 2017

Houthi militias forcefully recruited more than 450 children from al-Mahwit governorate west of Sanaa, in December, and sent them to war fronts despite their parents’ reluctance, it has been revealed.

Local sources say Houthi rebels in al-Mahwit governorate recruited children less than 13 years of age and sent them to various fronts, mainly Nahm.

Also read: Houthis commit 18,000 violations in Yemen’s Hajjah governorate

Meanwhile tribal sources told that Houthi militias recently opened camps to train hundreds of children in Mahwit, adding that other camps were also established in Amran.

They also said these children are either told they will be given weapons or kidnapped from their parents. According to them, dozens have been killed and their bodies returned to their families in Nahm. Yemeni human rights sources estimate that Houthi militias recruited around 10,000 children during 2016 alone.



Christians, Muslims unite in Central Africa to heal trauma

January 5, 2017

Bangui: Blindfolds secured tightly, more than a dozen men and women are led by their partners around leafy plants and trees in the compound of an international charity in the Central African Republic’s capital, Bangui.

The occasional stumble sends nervous laughter around the group of Christians and Muslims who have been paired up at random for the experiment — an exercise in building trust between communities torn apart by conflict.

At the end of the session, those guiding the ‘blind’ along cracked concrete and pebble paths spoke of having to be patient, responsible and compassionate.

“We all have a need for each other,” community worker Nicaise Gounoumoundjou told the group.

For a long time, Hada Katidja Siba was sceptical.

One of the participants, Siba saw her house burnt to the ground in 2013 when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels toppled the government in the majority Christian nation, sparking a backlash from Christian anti-balaka militias.

Thousands of people were killed in the ensuing ethnic cleansing and the country’s de facto partition between the Muslim northeast and Christian southwest.

For Siba, a Muslim, seeing her home disappear in flames caused her to anger ‘very easily’, and to distrust and fear Christians.

“I would see a Christian coming toward me and I would just think: ‘What is he coming to do to me? Is he coming to kill me or to do something to me?’” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

‘Ready for revenge’

Despite successful polls in 2016 — regarded as essential to ending the violence — and a new, elected government, reconciliation has barely been addressed in the country of 4.6 million save for grass roots efforts like last month’s workshop.

Florence Ntakarutimana, a trauma healing specialist from Burundi, who led the workshop, said most Central Africans have experienced some form of depression and shame from the crisis.

Many suffer from insomnia, loss of appetite and bad dreams.

Others react to trauma with anger and aggression.

Ntakarutimana said some people lose interest in activities that they previously cared about, like going to their church or mosque. “They say: ‘Where was God when we were suffering?’” She has conducted dozens of healing workshops across Central African Republic, starting each one with a song led by a participant, followed by prayers led by a minister or imam.

The Central Africans are given a chance to share stories of witnessing killings, experiencing sexual assault or losing their family, friends and homes.

Many tears are shed.

“When someone is not healed, he’s not ready for social cohesion. He’s not ready for reconciliation. He’s not ready for livelihood activities,” Ntakarutimana said.

Reverend Senjajbazia Nicolas Aime Simpliec, a 46-year-old Protestant, became ‘very nervous’ after a close friend was killed in 2014.

“I started making bad decisions,” he said. “Even though I was a pastor, I wanted to act. I was ready for revenge.” But he said the workshop has taught him that vengeance is not the solution — a lesson he plans to share with his community and congregation. “It’s about forgiving and living with what happened and going beyond it, so I can reconcile even with those who have killed my colleague,” Simpliec told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Moving toward trust

The workshop involves the participants sharing some characteristics they appreciate in each other, switching seamlessly between French and the local language Sangho.

It ends with discussions on how they could uproot mistrust in their communities. On an easel, the participants wrote that they planned to provide ‘sincere apologies,’ ‘love,’ ‘trust,’ and ‘dialogue’ in order to ‘search for common ground’.

These efforts are part of the CAR Interfaith Peacebuilding Partnership, funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

In partnership with the Catholic Relief Services, World Vision and Islamic Relief aid agencies and Palo Alto University, the five-year project aims to promote reconciliation by supporting local religious leaders, improving opportunities to make a living and providing psychosocial trauma healing.

“Religious actors are the bedrock of society in countries where institutions are fragile,” said Andreas Hipple of GHR Foundation, which co-funded the project.

“The religious leaders cannot just guide people in their faith but also help them deal with the challenges of life.” The workshop is just the start, Ntakarutimana said.

“They will continue to have those scars but it’s not really bleeding like a fresh wound,” she added.

After meeting and partnering with Christian victims of the conflict, Siba said she had renewed hope in the future.

“Even though the situation we have now is difficult, with God’s mercy, we can rebuild our country and reconcile with each other.”



Spatial Inequality A Glaring Reality In Mumbai’s Muslim-Dominated Areas


January 5, 2017

Shivaji Nagar is the microcosm of most of the Muslim-dominated localities in Mumbai. The squalid ghetto on Mumbai’s periphery, where over half the population is below the age of 30, has only one BMC-run higher secondary school. And their financial inclusion is limited to two small cooperative banks serving a population of over 6 lakh residents.

According to a yet-to-be-released survey by NGO Apnalaya, nearly 70 per cent residents of Shivaji Nagar are forced to purchase water from private vendors. Issues like these led to the rise of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM). Party president Asaduddin Owaisi says these areas have faced institutional discrimination with agencies like the BMC failing to fulfill their responsibilities.

With squalid conditions and crumbling infrastructure, spatial inequality is a visible reality in Muslim-dominated areas of the city. However, unlike Owaisi’s claim of institutional bias, local residents and activists blame the community’s own leadership for the conditions that they live in.

“I am not saying there is no discrimination against Muslims. But if the community’s leaders are incompetent, they will find resistance from officials who will push them back. I would like to ask people who are making these claims to show me projects that were shot down by authorities because they were meant for Muslim localities. If you do not ask for what is rightfully yours, more often than not you will not get them. You need competent leaders who are answerable to the public and know how to ask the administration,” says Samajwadi Party corporator Rais Shaikh.

Many Muslim residents believe the community has lacked leaders who would demand and ensure development work as well as capability building of the community.

Muslims, who have been an urban-centric community, have a substantial presence in Mumbai. With over 25 lakh Muslims in the city, every fifth Mumbaikar is from this minority community.

Nagpada, Byculla, Mazgaon, Mahim, Bharat Nagar, Behrampada, Jogeshwari, Millat Nagar, Kurla, Sonapur-Bhandup, Govandi, Cheeta Camp, and Kidwai Nagar (Wadala East) are areas that have a high concentration of Muslim population.

What sets the Muslims apart from other Mumbai-based communities is the lack of socioeconomic and spatial mobility, particularly after the 1992-93 riots. This over the years has turned these areas into ghettos. These areas are also far more accommodating towards the migrant population, creating dense space-starved neighbourhoods.

There are allegations that the alignments of ward boundaries ensure Muslims do not get proportional representation in the BMC. The community, which makes up 21 per cent of the city’s population, has only 23 corporators, who make up 10 per cent of the BMCs elected representatives. Interestingly, the community plays a key electoral role in close to 50 of the 227 BMC seats.

“There is a massive failure of the community leadership to get development work done. I believe that it is the failure of the community as well, as it has not been able to hold leaders it elects accountable for their work. The community has become so vulnerable fighting existential battles for its day-to-day survival that at times it doesn’t really care if the surrounding it lives in is developed or underdeveloped, clean or unclean,” says Association for Muslim Professionals president Aamir Edressy.

Activists say such segregated development is a reality of the country but also claim that not much seems to be happening from within the community to tackle this behaviour.

“You cannot write off the fact that development is segregated. If that is not the case, why do areas like Govandi, Mumbra, Malvani, Behrampada look different from the rest of Mumbai. It is years of institutional conditioning that has led to this scenario. But people are equally at fault for not pushing the system out of this slumber. There is a helplessness within the community to take on the system and their leaders,” says Dr Azimuddin, convenor of the Federation of Minority NGOs.

Azimuddin admits that the state machinery runs overtime to ensure the existing infrastructure of Muslim areas runs smoothly. However, he adds, nothing is done to improve the plight of localities and ensure their gentrification.

“The maintenance of existing infrastructure takes place in a proper way. However, very rarely do you have new development work started in Muslim areas. This is evident in the fact that you will hardly see gentrification of Muslim-dominated areas, unlike other parts of Mumbai,” says Azimuddin.

Many activists also feel there is a degree of truth in Asaduddin Owaisi’s claims. They believe even vocal and active leaders can fail to help the community in the face of institutional bias.

“For a long time, parts of Jogeshwari East, which had Muslim majority, did not have access to an ATM. Even politically aware communities or active vocal leader at times can find it very difficult to bring about change. It ultimately boils down to who is ruling the BMC. Years of conditioning have strengthened institutional bias,” says Dr Rama Shyam, social scientist and activist from Jogeshwari.

Activists claim the community needs to do its bit too to bring about change.

“You feel good and relieved when someone tells you that your plight is what it is because someone is not doing enough for you. It is a form of psychological projection where we deny our problems by attributing them to others, which in this case is the state. This is a mindset that we need to get out of,” says Kalim Shaikh, a resident of Nagpada where Asaduddin Owaisi gave his speech earlier this week.

Community watchers say Muslims lack capability building capacity to take advantage of emerging situations.

“What we need today is leadership which will foster capability building within the community to ensure that you have the ability to take advantage of opportunities. Why can’t a student who does not have access to education in Kurla travel till Byculla to get educated. We also need the willingness to engage and negotiate with the powers that be. Only when this happens will the condition of the community change,” says Dr Abdul Shaban, chairperson of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences Centre for Public Policy, Habitat and Human Development.



Echoing Alan Kurdi, toddler’s death highlights plight of Burma’s Rohingya refugees

Jan. 4, 2017

Face down in the mud, chubby arms in a water-soaked yellow T-shirt, feet tucked in — this image of a 16-month-old Rohingya baby circulating on social media delivers an unforgettably poignant message.

Mohammed Shohayet died trying to escape the country he was born in.

His father wants to share his tragedy with the world to highlight the plight of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority that is fleeing persecution in Burma into neighbouring Bangladesh.

“When I see the picture, I feel like I would rather die,” Zafor Alam, Mohammed’s father, told CNN. “There is no point in me living in this world.”

The photo of Mohammed is being compared to that of Alan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler who was found dead on a Turkish beach in 2015, after a boat carrying his family to Europe capsized.

Kurdi’s image did much to draw the world’s attention to the Syrian refugee crisis, and Alam hopes his son’s photo will likewise galvanize the world to address the Rohingya crisis. He also hopes it will pressure Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s de facto leader, to address reports of state-sanctioned violence against Rohingya villages in Rakhine state.

Many Rohingya, who number about one million, have lived in Burma for generations, but many in Burma’s Buddhist majority consider them illegal immigrants, and Suu Kyi has seemed largely indifferent to their plight since her party won landmark elections last March.

Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 and earned international praise in the West for her pro-democracy activism as a political prisoner, has done little to halt, or even acknowledge, violence against the Rohingya. Last June, she told the United Nations her government will avoid using the term “Rohingya,” continuing the previous military government’s policy of using the term “Bengalis,” which implies the Rohingya are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Suu Kyi is not Burma’s president — she is its foreign minister — but she is widely considered the country’s true leader, although the military still wields some power.

The latest round of violence stems from an October attack that left nine border guards dead in Rakhine and sparked what Burmese authorities call a counterinsurgency campaign.

Human rights activists say that the scale of the campaign has been disproportionate to the threat and that hundreds of Rohingya have died in operations that included rapes and killings in their villages.

More than a dozen fellow Nobel laureates recently wrote an open letter to the UN Security Council calling on Suu Kyi to halt the bloody crackdown, warning of a tragedy “amounting to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.”

“Despite repeated appeals … we are frustrated that she has not taken any initiative to ensure full and equal citizenship rights of the Rohingyas,” noted the letter. “(Suu Kyi) is the leader and is the one with the primary responsibility to lead, and lead with courage, humanity and compassion.”

Alam told CNN the last words he heard his son say were “Abba, abba” — father, father — in a phone call on Dec. 4, before his family tried to make their escape into Bangladesh across the Naf River.

Alam said he and his family were forced to flee their home when soldiers opened fire in their village last month. After he made it across the river, which is on the border, Alam said he contacted a boatman asked him to bring his wife and two children into the country.

“When the (Burmese) police got a sense that people were preparing to cross the river, they opened fire,” Alam told CNN from a refugee camp in Teknaf, in southern Bangladesh. “Hurriedly, the boatman took all people on board to escape the firing. The boat became overloaded. Then it sank.”

The next day, someone sent him picture of his son’s body, Alam said. “It’s very difficult to for me to talk about my son. He was very fond of his father … In our village, everyone used to love him.”

A Burmese government spokesperson told CNN that Alam’s account was “propaganda.”

The New York Times reported Wednesday that the government has detained four border police officers after a video surfaced on Facebook that appears to show the officers beating unarmed men in Rakhine.

According to the Bangladeshi Foreign Ministry, about 50,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled and taken shelter in Bangladesh since October.

Human rights advocates accuse Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's de facto leader and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, of condoning a military campaign designed to drive the minority Rohingya off their land and out of the country.

Human rights advocates accuse Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's de facto leader and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, of condoning a military campaign designed to drive the minority Rohingya off their land and out of the country.  (AUNG SHINE OO) 

An Amnesty International report released last month found that Burma’s security forces are unlawfully killing, raping and burning down houses in a campaign of violence against the Rohingya.

“The deplorable actions of the military could be part of a widespread and systematic attack on a civilian population and may amount to crimes against humanity,” the report said. “Aung San Suu Kyi has failed to live up to both her political and moral responsibility to try to stop and condemn what is unfolding in Rakhine state.”

Suu Kyi’s party’s victory in last year’s elections ended decades of junta rule in Burma; however, under the army-drafted constitution, the military still controls the three most powerful government ministries: home, defence and border affairs.



Saudi Sentences Foreign Workers To Lashes, Jail Over Unpaid Wages Protest

Jan 4, 2017

Saudi Arabia has sentenced dozens of foreign construction workers to lashes and jail for a protest held several months ago over unpaid wages. 

A court in Mecca on Tuesday sentenced some of the workers to four months in prison and 300 lashes for staging the protest, during which public property was destroyed, and for allegedly inciting unrest during the demonstration. Others were jailed for 45 days.

The workers, employed by the Binladin Group and Saudi Oger, had not been paid for months following a fall in the kingdom’s oil revenues, which made Riyadh unable to pay private firms it had contracted to do building projects.

The unpaid workers had reportedly set fire to several buses belonging to the Binladin Group in Mecca last April, Saudi daily Arab News said.

Saudi Arabia, once known for its extravagant public spending, has been severely hit by the plunge in global oil prices. Petrodollars constitute the main part of the kingdom’s income.

Several protests by unpaid foreign workers have been reported across Saudi Arabia over the past months.

In December last year, Saudi Arabia sacked Labor Minister Mufarrej al-Haqbani after only seven months in office amid industrial firms’ failure to either pay or provide basic amenities for a large number of their workers for months on end.

Besides plunging oil revenues, Saudi Arabia’s multi-billion-dollar military campaign in its southern neighbor, Yemen, has also hit the kingdom’s budget, resulting in a huge deficit.





Al Saud After Eliminating Palestinian Cause: Hezbollah Official

Jan 4, 2017

The deputy secretary general of Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement says Saudi Arabia is seeking to eliminate the Palestinian cause through normalizing ties with Israel.

Sheikh Naim Qassim made the comments at a ceremony commemorating the first anniversary of the Riyadh regime’s execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, on Wednesday.

Qassim described Sheikh Nimr as a supporter of Palestine, resistance and Islamic values, saying he was killed due to his opposition to oppression.

The Saudi clergyman had accused Riyadh of being the major cause of the crisis in the region, and at the same time not tolerating others’ views and maintaining a tyranny at home and interfering in the domestic affairs of regional states, Qassim added.

Saudi Arabia executed Sheikh Nimr on January 2, 2016 in defiance of international calls to release him. The highly respected cleric was charged with undermining the kingdom’s security, making anti-government speeches, and defending political prisoners. Nimr had denied the accusations.

A Bahraini protester holds up a picture of Saudi Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr toward a police officer in Daih, Bahrain, on January 4, 2016. (Photo by AP)

The Saudi kingdom suppresses liberal movements and violates human rights and freedom of expression, the Hezbollah official noted, stressing that the Al Saud dynasty is involved in a crackdown on Bahraini anti-regime protesters.

He further accused the kingdom having the process of electing a new president in Lebanon postponed and causing chaos there.

Lebanese lawmakers approved the new cabinet last December, less than two months after the parliament elected Michel Aoun, a strong Hezbollah ally, as president. Aoun’s election ended a 29-month-long political stalemate in the country.



Turkish EU Minister to Muslim televangelist: I play and recommend chess

Jan 5, 2017

Turkish EU Minister Ömer Çelik has criticized the statement by televangelist Ahmet Mahmut Ünlü, popularly known as “Cübbeli Ahmet Hoca” (Robbed Ahmet Hoca), condemning chess as “sinful,” saying he himself plays chess and advises everyone to do so.

“Chess means the joy of wisdom. Chess is the challenge of wisdom. Chess has been attributed value by eastern culture,” Çelik said in broadcast interview on Jan. 4.

His words came in response to Ünlü’s recent claim that chess players are “cursed” and that “most people who played chess are liars.”

Full report at:



Turkey says identity of Istanbul attacker established, manhunt goes on

Jan 5, 2017

Turkey has established the identity of the gunman who killed 39 people in an attack on an Istanbul nightclub on New Year's Day, its foreign minister said, and further arrests were made on Wednesday, but the attacker himself remains at large.

The gunman shot dead a police officer and a civilian at the entrance to the exclusive Reina nightclub on Sunday then opened fire with an automatic rifle inside, reloading his weapon half a dozen times and shooting the wounded as they lay on the ground.

The militant Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was revenge for Turkish military involvement in Syria.

“The identity of the person carrying out the attack in Ortakoy has been determined,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a televised interview with the state-run Anadolu news agency. He gave no details.

The gunman appeared to have been well versed in guerrilla warfare and may have trained in Syria, a security source and a newspaper report said on Tuesday.

The Haberturk newspaper said police investigations revealed that the gunman had entered Turkey from Syria and went to the central city of Konya in November, travelling with his wife and two children so as not to attract attention.

Full report at:



Three Yemeni soldiers killed in offensive against al Qaeda

Jan 5, 2017

At least three soldiers were killed in clashes with al Qaeda militants in southern Yemen in an operation launched by the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabu Mansour Hadi, security sources said.

They said at least 10 other soldiers were wounded when troops were ambushed east of the coastal city of Shuqra on Tuesday. Intense clashes were continuing on Wednesday.

The sources said that Hadi forces, backed by aircraft of a Saudi-led coalition, were targeting Shuqra when they were surprised by the militants. One military vehicle overturned, another was destroyed and two were captured, they said.

The incident highlighted the obstacles facing Hadi's government as it struggles to wipe out al Qaeda while simultaneously trying to defeat Houthi fighters in a war that has lasted nearly two years and killed more than 10,000 people.

In August, the Yemeni army drove al Qaeda out of two strongholds in the same region in a campaign in which at least 40 militants were killed.

The United States, which sees the Yemeni branch of al Qaeda as a threat to its own security, said last month it had killed 28 militants in nine strikes in the Arab country since September.

The group has exploited the civil war between Hadi's Saudi-backed government and the Houthis, aligned with Iran, to recruit followers and expand its influence across the country, especially in the south and east.

Full report at:



Thousands of Chinese construction workers headed for Israel

Jan 5, 2017

Beijing and Tel Aviv have agreed on the dispatch of thousands of Chinese construction workers to Israel in an attempt to alleviate the regime's "housing crisis."

According to a joint statement released by Israel’s finance and interior ministries on Wednesday, based on the deal, expected to be officially signed by both parties in February, China will send around 6,000 workers to Israel over a six-month period.

Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon was quoted in the statement as saying that the workers’ arrival would “energize efforts to solve the housing crisis.” 

“The Chinese workers will reduce the construction time, and bring down prices for the benefit of the public,” said Israeli Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel.

Around some 9,000 foreign construction laborers are employed by the Tel Aviv regime, the majority of whom hail from Eastern European countries.

The announcement comes less than a week after the United Nations announced that Israel’s demolition campaign against Palestinian homes and structures across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds had reached unprecedented levels.

The Israeli leveling of Palestinian homes is usually meant to provide land for the construction of settlements.

Full report at:



Turkey using Incirlik airbase as leverage for US air support for Syria incursion

Jan 4, 2017

Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik says the lack of US air support for Ankara's military operations in Syria is giving rise to negative public sentiment over Washington’s use of Turkey’s Incirlik airbase.

For the past few weeks, Turkey has been voicing its dissatisfaction with the US-led coalition's refusal to provide air support for the operations which Ankara claims are aimed at liberating the Syrian town of al-Bab from the Daesh terrorist group.    

On Wednesday, Isik said that "this is leading to serious disappointment in the Turkish public opinion."

"We are telling our allies... that this is leading to questions over Incirlik," he said in reference to the airbase located in the city of Adana in southern Turkey, where the coalition keeps the planes involved in its alleged anti-Daesh campaign.

"It is thought-provoking that ally countries, especially countries with whom we have worked together in NATO for many years, countries who formed a coalition against Daesh,... don't give the support we asked for," Isik said.

He went on to voice hopes that the US and its allies would sooner start air support for Turkey’s operations.

Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also criticized Washington's lack of air support for the Turkish military operation in northern Syria and questioned the presence of US personnel at the Turkish airbase.

"If you are not supporting us in the most significant operation, then why are you based at the Incirlik airbase?" Cavusoglu asked, adding, however, that the US remained “an important ally.”

Back in August, Turkey launched an incursion into Syria, claiming that it was meant to engage both Daesh terrorists in the Syrian-Turkish border area and Kurdish forces, who were themselves fighting Daesh. Damascus has on multiple occasions condemned Turkey’s military intervention as a breach of its sovereignty.

In December, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stressed that the US had failed to keep its promise of air support in Ankara’s operations in the Arab country.

Full report at:



Israeli soldier convicted of manslaughter for killing wounded Palestinian

Jan 5, 2017

A young Israeli soldier who shot dead a Palestinian assailant lying wounded and motionless on the ground in the occupied West Bank was convicted of manslaughter on Wednesday in one of the most polarising cases in Israel's history.

The decision to court-martial Sergeant Elor Azaria, who shot the Palestinian after the assailant stabbed another Israeli soldier last March, stirred public controversy in Israel from the start, with right-wing politicians calling after the verdict on President Reuven Rivlin to pardon the 20-year-old defendant.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he supported pardoning Azaria in a post on his Facebook page. A poll published on Wednesday night by Israel's Channel 2 television showed that 67 per cent of respondents favouring a pardon.

“This is a difficult and painful day - first and foremost for Elor, his family, Israel's soldiers, many citizens and parents of soldiers, among them me ... I support granting a pardon to Elor Azaria,” Netanyahu said on his Facebook page.

As the decision was being read at a heavily guarded military court in Tel Aviv, several hundred far-right backers of Azaria - one of them carrying a Donald Trump “Make America Great Again” banner - clashed with police outside the facility.

Ten months ago, Azaria was an army medic serving in the Israeli-occupied city of Hebron when two Palestinians carried out the stabbing. Hebron has been a longtime flashpoint of violence, and the incident occurred during a wave of Palestinian street attacks on Israelis.

One of the two assailants was shot dead by troops. The other was shot and wounded. Eleven minutes later, as the wounded man, Abd Elfatah Ashareef, 21, lay on the ground incapacitated, Azaria shot him in the head with an assault rifle.

At the trial, Azaria contended that he believed the Palestinian, though motionless, still posed a danger because his knife was nearby, and that he might have been carrying explosives. “He deserves to die,” Azaria was quoted in the verdict as telling another soldier after pulling the trigger.

The three-judge panel rejected Azaria's argument.

“One cannot use this type of force, even if we're talking about an enemy's life,” the court said in its verdict.

“We unanimously convict the accused of manslaughter and of conduct unbecoming (a soldier).”

Azaria, who was smiling as he awaited the verdict with his parents beside him, sat emotionless as the chief judge read out the conviction. But his mother screamed “you should be ashamed of yourselves” as the panel left the bench. “Our hero!” relatives of Azaria chanted after the verdict was delivered.

Full report at:



Yemeni Army Destroys Saudi-Led Military Speedboat

Jan 04, 2017

The Saudi speedboat was destroyed in the port of al-Mukha in Ta'iz province with several missiles.

On November 27, the Yemeni army had also destroyed a number of Saudi speedboats in the coastal waters of Bab al-Mandab Strait in Zobab region.

Also on November 26, the Yemeni forces destroyed five Saudi military speedboats with Katyusha rockets in Mosalas al-Amri coasts in Zobab region.

In early October, the Yemeni navy and coast guard forces warned Saudi Arabia that they would target any vessel or warship of the Saudi-led Arab coalition that enters the country's territorial waters.

"In case of witnessing any uncoordinated movements near Yemen's territorial waters or trespass of our sea border, the vessels of Saudi Arabia and its allies will be destroyed," the Yemeni navy said in a statement.

The Yemeni navy's statement came after the Yemeni army and popular forces targeted and destroyed an Emirati warship in the waters near Bab al-Mandab Strait.

The UAE warship was targeted with Yemeni missiles in the Al-Mukha coastal waters in the province of Ta'iz. Some reports said the warship did not belong to the UAE army and had been rented from the US for the Yemen war.

Some 22 UAE navies were killed in the attack.

The sunken ship had repeatedly fired rockets at residential areas in Ta'iz province, inflicting casualties and destruction there.

Other Saudi-led battleships that were approaching Yemen's coasts retreated fast following the attack.

The coast of Al-Mukha is located in Bab al-Mandab strait and the Saudi-led forces have been trying hard for several months now to win control over the coastal regions near the waterway.

On February 24, the Yemeni army missiles targeted and destroyed another Saudi-led warship in the Red Sea in al-Mukha coastal waters.

"The missile fired by the army and popular forces destroyed the Saudi warship in al-Mukha coastal waters as it was heading towards the al-Faza coastal region in al-Hudayda province," Arabic-language media outlets quoted a military source as saying.

The military source reiterated that the Saudi vessel was the 10th of its kind sinking in waters offshore Yemen in the last six months.

On December 28, the Yemeni forces destroyed a Saudi-led coalition warship in al-Mukha coast.

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Radical Muslim Preacher Wants To Rebuild The Peulh Kingdom In Burkina Faso

January 4, 2017

Burkina Faso's northern province has been rocked by reprisal attacks carried out on New Year's Eve by commandos linked to radical Muslim preacher Malam Ibrahim Dicko and his al-Qaeda affiliated religious group.

The January 2016 attack on the luxury Splendid Hotel and restaurant, in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou, which was claimed by groups affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), sounded a warning that Islamist terrorists were moving into previously untouched parts of Africa. Indeed, it was Burkina Faso's first terror attack, and the first time that AQIM-linked groups had launched an attack of this type outside their bulwark in northern Mali.

As terror groups seek to gain exposure in the Sahel, a new face has appeared, Preacher Ibrahim Dicko. Local media report the cleric, in his forties, has one goal: reconquering and rebuilding the ancient Peulh kingdom, called Djeelgodji, lost through French colonisation during the late 19th century.

Formerly known as the Upper Volta, between 1896 and 1960 Burkina Faso was part of French West Africa, a grouping of French colonies including Mauritania, Senegal, now-Mali, French Guinea, Ivory Coast and Niger.

Initially dedicated to the "promotion of the word of God", Ibrahim Dicko began preaching on local radios in 2012 in the Soum Province's capital Djibo, a dusty town located around 125 miles north of Ouagadougou, and around 28 miles from the frontier with Mali. His family is originally from a village in the Togol deparment, in the Soum province of the Muslim-majority country.

After the recognition of its movement by the authorities, he sought to extend his organisation known as Ansar-ul-islam lil-ichad wal jihad (IRSAD) through meetings and ongoing preaching on local radio, especially important in a region with higher illiteracy rates and isolated communities.

Local residents who listened to him say that Ibrahim Dicko advocated a radical Islam. On marriage, for example, he said he was against parties and musical entertainment. According to Burkinabé journalist Ibrahim Zalle, the preacher's doctrine "was variously appreciated". "But, in spite of the tone of his speech, he gained more and more adepts every day. Thus he was able to build a mosque and a Koranic school where he gave his teachings".

Malam Ibrahim Dicko and Mali's radical preachers

Despite the radical nature of his sermons, he was not investigated by authorities, according to Burkina Online newspaper.

In 2015, the preacher crossed into neighbouring Mali where he is understood to have met with Amadou Koufa, another radical preacher. The cleric, originally from Mali's Mopti region, is described as a close ally of the leader of Islamist group Ansar Dine and leader of the Tuareg Rebellion, Iyad Ag Ghaly. Both men are known for their desire to impose Sharia law and wage a holy jihad.

The same year, Ibrahim Dicko was arrested in Mali and detained for the illegal possession of firearms, according to local reports, which described how the Burkinabé preacher is understood to have paid a large caution before he was released. Koufa, who goes by his nom de guerre Amadou Diallo, is wanted by the Malian authorities.

Ibrahim Dicko returned to his Djibo stronghold after his release, divorced one of his two wives, sold his piece of land and moved to a village in the north Malian desert, where he is allegedly training his followers to use of weapons and spreading his ideology, still according to journalist Zalle. The journalist explains that several of his devoted supporters followed him, where they also undergone training.

The preacher claimed responsibility for the December 2016 terror attack on an army outpost in Nassoumbou, Burkina Faso, that left 12 dead. The troops were part of the anti-terrorist battalion deployed in 2013 to counter the jihadist insurgency near the porous borders of Mali and Niger.

Burkina Faso's northern province was rocked again by reprisal attacks carried out on New Year's Eve by commandos linked to the preacher, after two commandos carried out simultaneous attacks against individuals believed to have deserted his group. At least one person was killed, and another critically injured.

While these attacks were the second on Burkinabé soil, Benjamin Nickels, academic chair for Transnational Threats and Counterterrorism at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, believes the recent violence may not shape prospects of a domestic terrorist threat emerging.

"The attack does not indicate or suggest the likely rise of a significant domestic terrorist threat coming from within Burkina Faso. If anything, the violence in Ouagadougou will likely further discredit AQIM and similar groups among ordinary Burkinabé," he said in an analysis.

"The recent attacks and kidnapping [of Australian surgeon Kenneth Elliott and wife Jocelyn] were externally based and akin to an incursion. That said, vigilance about possible indications of radicalisation and recruitment within Burkina is also merited."



13-member terrorist cell dismantled in Tunisia

Jan 4, 2017

Tunisia says its forces have managed to dismantle a 13-member "terrorist cell" with links to al-Qaeda in a northeastern town.

The Tunisian Interior Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that the suspects were arrested in Hergla, north of the coastal resort city of Sousse, on Tuesday.

According to the statement, the cell's members, aged between 22 and 43, used to hold "secret meetings in a mosque" and confessed to recruiting and sending 12 youths to operate within the ranks of terrorist groups abroad.

The ministry said the cell was linked to the Okba Ibn Nafaa Battalion, which is affiliated to al-Qaeda.

The announcement was the seventh of its kind in less than a week. Tunisian authorities have detained over 70 people in a growing crackdown on terrorists since December 25.

Tunisia has stepped up efforts following a truck attack claimed by the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group at a Christmas market in the German capital, Berlin, on December 19. Anis Amri, a Tunisian national, was identified as the main suspect in the ramming, which killed a dozen people.

The undated photo provided by Najoua Amri on December 22, 2016, shows his brother Anis, the Tunisian man suspected in Berlin's deadly Christmas market attack, posing at his parents' house in Oueslatia, central Tunisia. (Photo by AP)

Amri was killed in a shootout with police in the northern Italian city of Milan on December 23.

Tunisia has experienced violence since the 2011 uprising that ousted the country’s dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was in power for over two decades.

Full report at:



Two UN peacekeepers killed in Central African Republic


Two Moroccan peacekeepers serving under the United Nations in the troubled Central African Republic (CAR) have been killed, the UN mission confirmed Wednesday.

The U.N Peacekeeping Mission in CAR (MINUSCA) said in a statement Wednesday that the peacekeepers were ambushed on Tuesday as they escorted a convoy of trucks transporting fuel from the town of Zemio to Obo.

“Two peacekeepers lost their lives, while two others were injured and received appropriate care,” MINUSCA said.

Perfect Onanga-Anyanga, Special Representative of the Secretary-General in CAR, condemned the incident saying “every effort will be made to track down perpetrators of the attack so they can be brought to justice."

The diplomat further warned that no claim can justify that individuals direct their grievances against peacekeepers whose presence in the country is to help end violence.

"Harming the life of a peacekeeper can be considered a war crime and subject to prosecution,” he said.

The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic also known as MINUSCA, was established in 2014 and has 13,000 peacekeepers on the ground.

CAR, a mineral-rich landlocked country descended into anarchy in 2013, when ex-seleka rebels said to be mostly Muslims overthrew Christian president Francois Bozize, who had come to power in a 2003 coup.

Micheal Djotidia, was then installed, becoming the country’s first Muslim president since independence from France in 1960, but his reign was short-lived after regional leaders forced him to step down.

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Somalia: Al Shabaab Raids Security Checkpoint Near Jowhar

4 JANUARY 2017

Al shabaab militants have launched an overnight attack on a security checkpoint near Jowhar, the regional capital of middle Shabelle province in southern Somalia.

Residents in Jowhar reported heavy gunfire and thud of mortar shells during the attack on the army checkpoint by Al shabaab fighters.

The casualties of the attack is yet to be confirmed, as the security officials did not comment on the incident so far. Al shabaab has claimed killing several soldiers during the shoot-out.

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Three suicide bombers killed in Nigeria’s northeast

04 January 2017

Three female suicide bombers were shot dead Wednesday in Nigeria’s northeastern Adamawa state as they headed for a busy market in Gulak town, according to a local government and army officials.

Chairman of Madagali local government area, Yusuf Mohamed, told reporters that two of the bombers were sighted and shot by a local vigilante after they refused the order to stop for a routine search.

"The explosives on their bodies exploded after they were fired at. The third got killed in the explosion," Mohamed said, adding the trio "were apparently headed for the Gulak township market to kill innocent people."

An army spokesman in the area, Major Akintoye Badare confirmed the development to reporters, but said normalcy had since returned to the area.

Badare said troops were "always on alert" to thwart any attack.

The bombers were believed to be Boko Haram members who have waged a violent insurgent in the northeast since 2009. An estimated two million people have been displaced while over 20,000 are thought to have been killed in attacks linked to the militants.

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Nigeria emerges as an unlikely example of progress, tolerance

Jan 5, 2017

A trip is often defined by its surprises, so here are my biggest revelations from six days in Lagos, Nigeria.

Most of all, I found Lagos to be much safer than advertised. It is frequently described as one of the most dangerous cities on Earth. Many people told me I was crazy to go there, and some Nigerian expats warned me I might not get out of the airport alive. The reality is that I walked around freely and in many parts of town. I didn't try to go everywhere or at all hours, and I may have been lucky. Yet not once did I feel threatened, and I strongly suspect that a trip to Lagos is safer than a trip to Rio de Janeiro, a major tourist destination. (In my first trip to Rio I was attacked by children with pointed sticks. In my second I found myself caught in a gunfight between drug lords). Many Lagos residents credit the advent of closed-circuit television cameras for their safety improvements.

If you're an experienced traveler and tempted to visit Africa's largest and arguably most dynamic city, don't let safety concerns be a deal killer.

The surprises mount. For all the negative publicity, many parts of Nigeria, especially Lagos, could and should serve as exemplars for religious tolerance.

The reports of Boko Haram and terror killings are well-known, and they reflect the interlocking and sometimes deadly combinations of regional, religious, sectarian and ethnic identities in the country, not to mention extreme inequalities of income and opportunity. Yet Nigeria has about 180 million people and is larger than Texas. The violence is the most frequently reported story in the West, but the underlying reality is far more complex and shows positive features.

The city of Lagos is, in many regards, a marvel of religious tolerance. Nigeria is about 50 percent Muslim and 40 percent Christian, and the area surrounding Lagos is also highly mixed in terms of religion. That may sound like a recipe for trouble, but in matters of religion, Lagos is almost entirely peaceful. Religious intermarriage is common and usually not problematic, as is the case in many other parts of Nigeria as well. Many top Nigerian politicians have married outside their religion, kept two separate religions in the family and enjoyed continued political success.

Consider the scale and speed of this achievement. Lagos, with a population of about 20 million, is larger than many countries. It is the most commercially oriented part of Nigeria, and it grew so large only in the last few decades, as it attracted entrepreneurially minded people from many parts of Nigeria and other African countries. By one estimate, 85 new residents arrive every hour. That may sound chaotic, but in essence Nigeria has in a few decades created an almost entirely new, country-sized city built on the ideals and practice of religious tolerance.

The current president, Muhammadu Buhari, is a Muslim who was supported in his election by many Christian leaders, on the grounds that he would fight corruption more effectively. His running mate served as a Pentecostal pastor.

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India reminds China on Pak-based Masood Azhar: ‘Terror like snake that bites hand that feeds it’

by Anand Mishra

January 5, 2017

India on Wednesday voiced anguish over China’s move to block sanctions against Pakistan-based Pathankot attack mastermind Masood Azhar. “Terrorism is the snake that bites the hand that feeds it and quite decisively and you can see the situation in the neighbouring country,’’ said Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar. “There is such instability and uncertainty in that nation. These are self-inflicted wounds. And we hope that China, as a responsible and matured nation, will understand that double standards are simply self-defeating, even suicidal.’’

NIA Files Chargesheet Against Jaish-e-Muhammad Chief Masood Azhar

Akbar noted that China has its own terrorism problem. “We hope and we are sure that China can be persuaded to see the depth and evil of this menace. And we on our side are resolved that we shall not stop, never stop saying that we will continue to point out the absurdity of the UNSC’s decision… on Azhar.’’

Akbar, who was addressing a press meet with his ministerial colleague, V K Singh, made it clear that talks with Pakistan cannot happen under a “spray of bullets”. He hoped that “Pakistan’s friends” will make it see reason.

ALSO READ: China snubs India again, blocks proposal at UN to list Masood Azhar as terrorist

But Akbar underlined that engagement with Pakistan should continue and that “talk of inflammation does not necessarily help” as neighbours cannot be changed. He said this while replying to a question about BJP leader Subramanian Swamy’s remarks pointing out futility of talking to Pakistan.

Akbar quoted former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee to emphasise his point. “We deal with them with eyes open but we do not deal with them with minds closed,’’ he said. “We have always believed that the way forward is peaceful dialogue. Let there be peace, there will be a dialogue.’’

Masood Azhar, India Masood Azhar, MEA Masood Azhar, Masood Azhar UN,pathankot attack, china, pakistan, india,  India Masood Azhar UN, China masood Azhar Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar

He recalled Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to restart the peace process with Pakistan since the day he swore in. Akbar added that the intentions have not changed. “But the issue that disrupted that effort in the beginning… persists. You cannot have a peaceful conversation under the shadow of violence…’’ he said. “Terrorism is not conducive to conversation. As the Prime Minister said once and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has said as often as she could, talks and terrorism do not go together. They cannot go together. The people, who have indulged in terrorism, have to stop this evil and then we can take the rational path forward.’’

Akbar rejected suggestions that the surgical strikes against Pakistan had no impact. “One of the most important development has been the manner in which the message of terrorism, which was personally enunciated by the Prime Minister and all levels of government after that, has been heard across the world,’’ he said. “Everywhere there is absolutely near consensus that terrorism in all forms is unacceptable. The sponsorship of terrorism is as heinous as terrorism.’’ He hoped that the world will come out with a stronger criticism of terror in the new year.



RSS affiliate to launch national campaign against triple talaq

January 5, 2017

by Lalmani Verma

The Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM), a group affiliated to the RSS, has announced a nationwide campaign to attract Muslim women voters by raising the issue of triple talaq. It will also implore its supporters to vote keeping the nation in mind and not caste or religion. MRM is going to hold ‘Jalsas’ in different districts of UP to speak to Muslim women and seek their support over the issue. RSS national executive member and MRM ‘margdarshak’ Indresh Kumar and MRM national convener Mohd Afzal will address these Jalsas.

“Two Jalsas are being started from UP and Muslim women will be told there that the triple talaq was not exercised during the period of Hazrat Mohammad because Hazarat Mohammad was against it,” said Afzal. He added that the group will spread awareness among Muslims that talaq should be done as per Quran only.

“Our objective is not political but we will appeal the Muslims to vote in the name of nation (in the upcoming election) instead of caste and religion. We will make them aware that some political leaders are misleading Muslims,” said Mahirajdhwaj Singh, MRM national co-convener. He said that Muslim voters would be asked to compare the performance of the previous governments and that of the Centre. All communities benefitted from the NDA rule, he said.

Full report at:



Terrorists have looted 66 weapons, 7000 rounds in Kashmir valley post Burhan Wani's death

Jan 4, 2017

JAMMU: As many as 66 weapons, including 17 AK rifles, and over 7,000 rounds of ammunition have been looted by terrorists and mobs in Kashmir Valley after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani on July 8 last year which had triggered protests.

As per the figures of the state Home Ministry, 66 weapons,17 AK rifles, 23 SLR rifles, 14 INSAS rifles, 6 pistols, one .303 rifle, one carbine, 3 UBGL thrower and one Taser gun, were looted by terrorists and other suspects from mobs who attacked police stations and cops.

Burhan was killed in a gunbattle with security forces in Kokernag belt of South Kashmir which had led to widespread protests in the Valley. Similarly, they looted and snatched 196 magazines of various types of weapons during the period, it said.

As many as 7,012 rounds of ammunition was also looted in these incidents, the data said, adding, four BP headgears were also looted. It began when an unruly mob attacked a guard post with petrol bombs and stones at Gudbug in Pulwama district and looted one SLR, one magazine and 20 rounds on July 11, it said.

The biggest loot took place when a mob and militants attacked DH Pora Police Station in South Kashmir's Kulgam district on July 9 and looted 5 INSAS rifles, 11 AK rifles, 7 SLRs, one Taser gun, 6 pistols, 3 UBGL throwers, 117 INSAS magazines, 2,474 INSAS rounds, 299 AK rounds, 4 SLR magazines, 1,763 SLR rounds, 268 carbine rounds, 5 pistols magazines, 133 rounds and 189 PIKA rounds.

Full report at:



South Asia


Myanmar faces growing danger from ISIS supporters as persecution of Rohingya Muslims continues

Jan 5, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Myanmar faces a growing danger of attacks by foreign supporters of Islamic State (IS) recruited from Southeast Asian networks in support of persecuted Muslim Rohingyas, Malaysia's top counter-terrorism official has said.

Malaysian authorities have detained a suspected IS follower planning to head to Myanmar to carry out attacks, the head of the Malaysian police counter-terrorism division, Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, said in an interview.

The suspect, an Indonesian whom he did not identify, was detained in Malaysia last month. The suspect was scheduled to be charged on Wednesday for possession of materials linked to terrorist groups, which carries a seven-year jail term or fine, Ayob Khan said.

More militants are likely to try to follow his lead in support of the Rohingya cause, Ayob Khan said. "He was planning to perform jihad in Myanmar, fighting against the Myanmar government for this Rohingya group in Rakhine State," Ayob Khan said.

A Myanmar army sweep since October in the north of Rakhine State, on its border with Bangladesh, has sent about 34,000 members of the Rohingya minority fleeing into Bangladesh, the United Nations says.

Residents and rights groups accuse security forces in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar of summary executions and rape in the army operation, launched in response to attacks on police posts on Oct. 9 that killed nine officers. The government of Aung San Suu Kyi denies the accusations of abuse.

Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay told Reuters an official report into October's violence in Rakhine state found no evidence of an IS presence there or that the attacks were linked to IS. 

Lightning rod

The conflict in Rakhine risks becoming a lightning rod for Islamists in a shadowy network stretching from the Philippines to Indonesia and Malaysia, with links to Islamic State in the Middle East, security analysts and officials say.

Scores of Southeast Asian Muslims, most from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, have traveled to the Middle East to join IS, counter-terrorism police in the region said.

Over the past year, IS has claimed several attacks - or been linked to foiled plots - in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

"There is a high possibility that Muslims, be it from IS or other groups, will find the ways and means to go to Myanmar to help their Rohingya Muslim brothers," Ayob Khan said.

The Indonesian suspect was among seven people arrested for suspected links to IS. The suspect was also involved in a plot to smuggle weapons to Indonesia's Poso region, on Sulawesi island, Ayob Khan said. Indonesian authorities have detained several suspected foreign militants trying to reach Poso.

Ayob Khan did not say what group the suspect, a factory worker who had been in Malaysia since 2014, was trying to link up with in Myanmar. He said the suspect, was in contact with Muhammad Wanndy Muhammad Jedi, a Syria-based Malaysian militant who claimed responsibility on behalf of IS for a grenade attack on a bar in June last year.

The International Crisis Group think-tank said in a report last month the coordinated attacks on Myanmar police in Rakhine State were carried out by a group called Harakah al-Yakin. While the group had links to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, it would be wrong to "over-interpret the significance of the international links", ICG said.

"Nevertheless, the longer violence continues, the greater the risks become of such links deepening and potentially becoming operational,” it said.

Large pool of recruits

Muslim-majority Malaysia and Indonesia, which has the world's biggest Muslim population, have led calls in Southeast Asia for Myanmar to stop the violence against the Rohingya.

Rohingya have for years been fleeing persecution in Myanmar, which denies them citizenship because it sees them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. They often wash up on Southeast Asian shores in rickety boats seeking asylum.

More than 55,000 Rohingyas are registered with the United Nations in Malaysia. Non-profit groups estimate as many as 200,000 Rohingyas are living in Malaysia, many working in restaurants and constructions sites. Analysts warn the large number of Rohingya migrants are a potential pool of recruits for militants.

"The network between Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and the Rohingyas is there," said Badrul Hisham Ismail, program executive director of the Malaysian counter-militancy group, Iman Research.

Ismail said his group had discovered Malaysian militants involved in recruiting Rohingyas and sending them to Poso for training.

Rohan Gunaratna, a security expert at Singapore's Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said Islamic State operatives in the region were "determined to mount attacks both inside Myanmar and against Myanmar targets overseas".

In November, Indonesian authorities detained an Islamic State-linked militant for planning an attack on the Myanmar embassy there. "The highest threat to Myanmar emanates from Islamic State networks," Rohan said.

"The Rohingya conflict is emerging as one of the rallying issues for IS. At a strategic level, Myanmar should resolve the Rohingya conflict to prevent IS influence and expansion."



Only Afghan-led process can bring peace to Afghanistan: US


Jan 5, 2017

WASHINGTON: The United States has noted Afghanistan’s absence from the three-nation Afghan peace talks held in Moscow last week but hoped the meeting would lead to peace.

Pakistan, China and Russia held the three-ways talks in Moscow but failed to invite Afghanistan, earning a strong protest from Kabul.

At a news briefing in Washington on Tuesday afternoon, State Department spokesman John Kirby said the United States recognised Afghanistan’s right to hold all negotiations with other nations on issues that concerned the country and its people.

The US support to the Afghan government remained steadfast and Washington still believed that only an Afghan-led reconciliation process could bring peace to Afghanistan, he said.

“What we welcome is any international effort to help Afghanistan become secure and more prosperous. And we continue to support, as we always have, an Afghan-led reconciliation process,” said Mr Kirby when asked if the US supported the three-way talks.

“We still believe that’s the right way to go here, going forward. That hasn’t changed. And our support for President [Ashraf] Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah [Abdullah] remains steadfast.”

Mr Kirby also noted that as a nation-state Afghanistan “has every right and every responsibility, quite frankly, for the betterment of their own people to have, whether it’s multilateral or bilateral, discussions with neighbouring nations and nations that aren’t neighbouring”.

While responding to another question, he noted that the United States was also kept out of those talks. “We obviously weren’t there either, so I can’t speak to the specifics of this meeting,” he said.

Full report at:



Myanmar commission plays down abuse against Rohingya

Jan 5, 2017

YANGON - A commission probing violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state on Wednesday denied security forces have carried out a genocidal campaign against the Rohingya, days after a video emerged showing police beating civilians from the Muslim minority.

Tens of thousands of Rohingya - a group loathed by many among Myanmar’s Buddhist majority - have fled a military operation in the northwestern state, launched after deadly attacks on police posts in October.

Dozens have died in the crackdown, while escapees now in neighbouring Bangladesh have claimed they suffered rape, arson, murder and torture at the hands of police or soldiers.

Myanmar’s government, led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, has said the allegations are invented and has resisted mounting international pressure to protect the minority. A state-appointed commission set up to investigate the violence released its interim report on Wednesday, dismissing claims troops and police have embarked on a campaign to force the Rohingya out of the country.

Its interim findings come days after the government detained multiple police officers over a video showing policemen beating and kicking Rohingya villagers. The footage, shot by one of officers, has sparked outrage and undermined the government’s blanket denials that soldiers and police have carried out rights abuses.

The size of the “Bengali” population, mosques and religious buildings in the unrest-hit area “are proof that there were no cases of genocide and religious persecution”, it said in a statement carried in state media.

Myanmar refuses to recognise the Rohingya as one of the country’s ethnic minorities, instead describing them as Bengalis - or illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh - even though many have lived in Myanmar for generations.

The commission also found “insufficient evidence” of rape but added it was still looking into claims security forces committed arson, illegal arrests and torture of the Rohingya.

It blamed the unrest on foreign-backed extremists, whom it said had attacked security forces in October to harm “the sovereignty of the state... with the intention of igniting riots and conflicts”.

Legal action has been taken against 485 people arrested during the army’s subsequent clearance operation, it added, without giving further details.

Chris Lewa, from the Arakan project, said the commission had failed to properly investigate the widespread allegations of rape and rights abuses.

“The methodology is not credible, it’s totally unprofessional,” she said.

“There is no corroboration from the villagers they are meant to have talked to. Their job was to verify the allegations and the report has not verified them.”

The commission has faced opposition from across the spectrum since it was announced last month - the second body created by Suu Kyi to try to heal the simmering religious divide in Rakhine state.

Rights activists dismissed the 13-member commission as toothless, pointing out it is headed by the vice-president, a former army general.

Rakhine nationalists and many of the state’s MPs have denounced it as a tool for government propaganda.

Full report at:



Namaste Not: Buddhist and Islamist Extremists Wage War

By Dr. Maha Hosain Aziz


In recent years, we’ve naturally been very aware of the spread of Islamist extremism globally, according to a University of Maryland report, from 2002 to 2015, ISIS and its allies murdered over 33,000 people in more than 4,900 attacks. Some of us (yes, in fact I do mean me) have also recurrently noted the gentle rise of Buddhist extremism in southern Asia, particularly since 2012. But we may not be realizing how these two forms of extremism might be set to clash. Is the world (or at least southern Asia) headed for a more pronounced battle of religious extremists – Buddhist vs Islamist – in 2017 and beyond?

First, let’s recap the obvious:

Islamist extremist violence is undoubtedly a global threat that has dramatically escalated in recent years. In fact, the 2016 Global Terrorism Index reveals fatal terrorist attacks rose by 650 percent in one year alone in the developed world. ISIS may be losing ground in Syria and Iraq, but its affiliates will keep at it in parts of the Middle East, Africa and South Asia; the same can be said of al Qaeda. And let’s not forget the chronic threat of lone wolf or coordinated attacks on Western soil–the new year’s nightclub shooting in Istanbul, the Christmas market attack in Berlin and the November 2015 attacks in Paris are likely just the beginning. Expect more violence organized by or inspired by Islamist extremist groups globally in 2017.

We could now be one step closer to an actual showdown between religious extremists – Buddhist vs Islamist – in Myanmar.

Now, the less obvious:

Buddhist extremism poses a growing threat to stability in southern Asia. Yes, Buddhist monks are key power players who impact politics in certain countries in this region. But in some cases they are also extremist, leading public campaigns against minority Muslim groups. Myanmar is the key example with Buddhist extremists (and apparently some Buddhist army men) openly attackingMuslim minorities, especially the Rohingya Muslim minority, verbally and even physically. Talk of genocide is back. But this Buddhist extremist-led hatred for Muslims has also been recurrently visible in Sri Lanka and Thailand (so be it to a lesser degree). In all three cases, governments have made a few efforts to tackle this problem, but are not fully acknowledging its severity. Look for more of this Buddhist extremist-led violence against Muslim minorities in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand in 2017.

And finally, the least obvious:

Islamist extremists have started to react to anti-Muslim violence orchestrated by Buddhist extremists in southern Asia. Back in 2014, the Buddhist extremist contingent in Myanmar and in Sri Lanka publicly formed a global anti-Islamist pact, vowing to fight the “jihadist threat”. The link between a religious group (Muslims) and religious extremists (Islamist extremists) was erroneously being made as we of course noted the rise in Buddhist extremist-led violence against Muslim minorities in these countries and elsewhere in southern Asia. We also noted how the usual suspects–the Pakistani Taliban, Afghan Taliban, Al Shabaab and ISIS–vowed jihad in response to the anti-Muslim violence led by these Buddhist extremists. But there wasn’t really any action taken–or so it seemed.

In fact, a closer look reveals Islamist extremists have recurrently been taking action against Buddhist extremism in the name of the Rohingyas by attacking Buddhist targets–again the link between a religious group (Buddhists) and religious extremists (Buddhist extremists) has been erroneously made. Back in 2013, there was an Islamist extremist attack on the Ekayana Buddhist Centre in Indonesia. But it’s really since 2016 that things have heated up: Islamist extremists in Indonesia and Malaysia called on followers to kill Buddhists in these countries; in Bangladesh, Islamist extremists hacked an elderly Buddhist monk at a temple to death; in Indonesia, an Islamist extremist cell attempted a bomb attack on Myanmar’s embassy (as another group planned back in 2013); and so on.

Full report at:



Taliban militants kill policewoman in Helmand province

Jan 05 2017

The Taliban insurgents have killed a policewoman in southern Helmand province of Afghanistan while another woman who was formerly serving with the police forces was killed in Uruzgan.

According to the local officials in Helmand, the policewoman was killed by the Taliban insurgents in Nawa district after she visited the province to meet her relatives.

The officials further added that the woman was accompanied by her husband and visited Nawa from Lashkargah city four days ago.

In the meantime, local officials in Uruzgan are saying a woman, former police member, was killed by her husband after she filed a divorce.

Deputy provincial governor Abdul Wahid Patan said the incident took place in Tarinkot city and the perpetrator, husband of the woman, has been arrested.

He said the woman was strangled to death after she filed for divorce on Wednesday.

According to the officials, the victim has been identified as Marwa and had served with provincial police commandment for several years.

This comes as the Taliban insurgents earlier beheaded a woman in northern Sar-e-Pul province of Afghanistan.

Full report at:



Hekmatyar to return to Kabul even before sanctions relief: HIA

Jan 05 2017

The leader of Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin Hekmatyar may return to Kabul even before sanctions relief or removal of party leaders’ name from the UN blacklist.

According to a statement released by Hezb-e-Islami party, Hekmatyar has called on the government to enforce the peace deal, slamming certain countries that attempt to hinder the peace agreement signed between the party and the Afghan government.

The statement further added that the government should release the prisoners of the party and assist the refugees with the arrangement of residence against Hekmatyar’s return to Kabul.

In regards to the alleged blocking of sanctions relief by Russia, the party said only the Afghan people have the right to decide regarding the affairs of the country and resolve their issues internally.

Full report at:



ARG Palace reacts at alleged communication of Dostum’s position

Jan 04 2017

The Afghan government has reacted towards the alleged communication of Vice President General Abdul Rashid Dostum’s position, saying no one from ARG has communicated Vice President’s position with any individual or entity.

President Ghani’s spokesman Haroon Chakhansuri said “No one from Arg has communicated VP position with any individual/entity – something you don’t see in entire interview of Mr. Noor with BBC.”

The statement by ARG Palace was issued after the Office of the First President reacted at Ata Mohammad Noor’s remarks.

Calling Noor’s remarks as ridiculous, a statement by Dostum’s office stated that Noor along with some others have started to act against their own party (Jamiat-e-Islami) during the recent days as well as Junbish-e-Millie party and against the First Vice President.

Noor was also accused of losing the illegal channels of income which has forced him to get closer to ARG Palace and even start targeting the Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.

Noor informed regarding the proposal by some officials in Kabul to replace Gen. Dostum as he was talking to BBC’s Afghanistan service during an interview.

Without disclosing the name of the officials who proposed Noor to replace Dostum, he said he will never accept ‘donations’ and suggested that Gen. Dostum is the First Vice President, ignoring that he has a good or bad personality.

Full report at:



Turkey extends its NATO mission in Afghanistan for another 2 years

Jan 04 2017

The parliament of Turkey has approved the presence of its forces to operate in Afghanistan for another two years in the framework of the NATO-led mission, it has been reported.

The Turkish lawmakers approved the extension of its armed forces mission during a session of the parliament on Tuesday.

According to the local media reports, the move empowers the government to continue to its mission which expires on 6th of this month.

A legislation put into effect on January 1, 2015 allowed the Turkish government to send troops to Afghanistan to support the NATO-led mission Resolute Support, according to Anadolu news agency.

This comes as the NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg said earlier in December last year that the alliance’s commitments to Afghanistan’s security are strong and steadfast.

Speaking after the conclusion of the meeting of North Atlantic Council with Resolute Support operational partner nations, Stoltenberg said “We have just finished a meeting on Afghanistan with our Resolute Support partners.”

Stoltenberg further added “And our commitments to Afghanistan’s security is strong and steadfast. At our Warsaw Summit, we agreed to sustain Resolute Support beyond 2016, to continue national funding of the Afghan Security Forces through 2020, and to work on our long-term political partnership and practical cooperation with Afghanistan.”

Later, a board of NATO partner countries reaffirmed their commitments to the Afghan National Army, approving about $390 million for projects advancing the wellness and capabilities of the Afghan force.

Full report at:



Arab World


25 Senior Nusra Commanders, Terrorists Killed in Airstrike in Idlib

Jan 04, 2017

"At least 25 Nusra terrorists, including their senior commanders attending a meeting in their command center, were killed in an airstrike by unidentified fighter jets on a main military base of Fatah al-Sham near the town of Sarmada in Northwestern Idlib," several local and media activists reported on Wednesday.

In a relevant development on Monday, two notorious commanders of Fatah al-Sham Front were also killed in a drone attack on their vehicle on Sarmada-Batbu road in Northern Idlib.

Abu Omar al-Turkistani, one of the most important commanders and a main nominee for presiding the Militants' Council, was killed in a drone attack.

In the meantime, Khatab al-Qahtani, one of the most notorious commanders of Fatah al-Sham and al-Qaeda that accompanied Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan's war, was also in the vehicle and was killed right on the spot.

It is not yet clear who operated the drone and launched the attack.

On Monday, local sources said that continuous air and bomb attacks against the commanders of Ahrar al-Sham, Faylaq al-Sham and Fatah al-Sham Front terrorist groups and insecurity in Idlib have pushed militants in the province into deep fear, accusing each other of treason.

"Unidentified people that had planted a large volume of explosive materials in one of the vehicles of Fatah al-Sham detonated it in the town of Khan al-Sabal in Southeastern Idlib, killing Abu Amyar al-Khorsani, a commander of Fatah al-Sham, and his assistant," the sources said.

They added that a bomb-laden vehicle of Ahrar al-Sham was also detonated in the town of al-Tah in Idlib countryside, injuring a group member.

The sources went on to say that Faylaq al-Sham's bases in the town of Kaftin in Idlib countryside were also raided by masked assailants who stole weapons and took the guards into captivity.

"Panic has spread among Fatah al-Sham members after the recent incidents. They are accusing each other of treason and mounting spying devices in their commanders' vehicles," the sources pointed out.



ISIL Preparing for Large-Scale Operation against Kurds in Northeastern Syria

Jan 04, 2017

The websites reported that a large number of ISIL militants have been dispatched to Merkadeh region to strengthen ISIL's positions in Merkadeh, a main battleground between the ISIL and the SDF.

The websites added that the ISIL has also forwarded a number of forces with their military equipment to the villages of al-Hariri and al-Fadqami in regions South and South-East of al-Shadadi city in Hasaka province, and also dispatched tens of fighters to the village of al-Maleha South-West of the same city.

In the meantime, the Arabic language al-Hadath news reported that ISIL is about to launch a large-scale offensive against SDF and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) with the help of its local forces.

Al-Hadath went on to say that Kurdish fighters are heavily engaged in the battles in Raqqa operation, and ISIL intends to take the chance to push the SDF back from lost lands in a large-scale attack in regions South of al-Shadadi.

On Tuesday, the ISIL terrorist group started evacuation of families of its foreign fighters (Mohajereen) from the villages that were near the battlefields and positions of the Kurdish forces in Southern Hasaka, a local source said.

Full report at:



70 Saudi-Led Coalition Troops Killed in Yemen War in 2 Days

Jan 04, 2017

At least 70 Saudi-led coalution members from different countries have been killed by the Yemeni forces over the past 48 hours, FNA dispatches from Yemen said.

The military ranks and the nationalities of the coalition casualties is not clear yet, but reports indicate that several Saudi troops, including high-ranking officers, are among them.

Saudi Arabia has been leading a coalition of 20 Arab countries and began its military aggression against Yemen in late March, 2015 in a bid to restore power to former fugitive president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.

Riyadh has been backed by Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain in the military campaign.

In mid-June 2016, United Arab Emirates’ Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash announced the end of his country military operations in Yemen.

Gargash announced the news in a statement during a lecture at the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi's court, and crown prince of Abu Dhabi confirmed the statement, Defense News reported.

Full report at:



Iraqi forces gaining momentum in Mosul: US coalition chief

Jan 5, 2017

MOSUL: Iraqi army and security forces are working better together in their battle against Islamic State militants and are gaining momentum in the 11-week campaign to retake Mosul, the commander of the US-led coalition backing them said on Wednesday.

During a helicopter tour over recently recaptured areas, US Army Lieutenant-General Steve Townsend said coordination had been largely absent in the first two months of the campaign, when Iraqi forces made slow progress after breaching the city.

Elite counter-terrorism troops entered Mosul from the east and seized a quarter of the city but troops on other fronts stalled, leading to a military pause last month.

Since resuming the offensive last week, the counter-terrorism service, rapid response division and federal police have retaken several eastern districts - despite fierce resistance - and joined flanks in areas that had been vulnerable to attack.

Townsend said Iraqi commanders, with guidance from the coalition, decided two weeks ago that the various pro-government forces would have to coordinate much more closely.

"For about two months ... what we saw is that there wasn't enough synchronization between each of the different attacking axes and forces," he told Reuters after visiting US troops and talking to Iraqi commanders at a coalition outpost north of Mosul.

"Right before Christmas was a decision to huddle a lot more frequently, so they're doing that more."

Townsend said the top Iraqi commanders now all come together every few days - something the US military does daily wherever it operates.

"Before... we were seeing progress mostly on one main axis and halting progress on the others. Now we're actually seeing forward movement on all of the axes in eastern Mosul," he said.

Townsend heads Operation Inherent Resolve, a coalition of military forces from Western and Arab countries that has been bombing Islamic State positions in Iraq and neighboring Syria since 2014.

It is now providing air support and some ground assistance to the Iraqi assault on Mosul, and has embedded officers with Iraqi commanders to help plan each step of the offensive.

The Mosul assault, involving a 100,000-strong ground force of Iraqi government troops, members of the autonomous Kurdish security forces and mainly Shi'ite militiamen, is the most complex battle in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003.


An Iraqi victory in Mosul would probably spell the end for Islamic State's self-styled caliphate, which leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared 2-1/2 years ago from the city's main mosque after Iraqi forces dropped their weapons and fled.

But in recent days, the militants have displayed the tactics to which they are likely to resort if they lose the city, killing dozens with bombs in Baghdad and attacking security forces elsewhere.

Though vastly outnumbered in Mosul, they have used the urban terrain and the cover of a civilian population to maneuver, launch attacks and avoid detection.

Townsend said Iraqi forces were doing a better job of defending against suicide car bombs. That had helped stem casualties, which the government does not report but sources said on some days reached a few dozen.

Full report at:



US-led coalition doubles Mosul military advisors

5 January 2017

The US-led coalition said Wednesday it has doubled to about 450 the number of military advisors assisting Iraqi troops engaged in the fight to retake Mosul from ISIS militants.

“We have increased the number of advice and assist forces that are there with the ISF (Iraqi Security Forces) command elements to help advise them as they move forward and to synchronize operations,” coalition spokesman Colonel John Dorrian said in a video conference from Baghdad.

Dorrian said the reinforcements were part of a series of measures taken to “accelerate the advance of the Iraqi security forces.” While military advisors are behind the frontlines, they have already entered the city several times, he added.

Also read: Writer Agatha Christie played role in unearthing ancient Nimrud in Iraq

American military forces are carrying out air and artillery strikes in Iraq as part of a US-led coalition against ISIS, and have provided training, advice and other assistance to Baghdad’s forces.

There are about 5,000 American military personnel in Iraq, according to the coalition, and US special forces personnel have also fought ISIS on the ground. A senior commander from the elite Counter-Terrorism Service that has done most of the front-line fighting inside the city told AFP on Sunday that Iraqi forces now controlled more than 60 percent of Mosul’s eastern half.

“There are more than 200,000 buildings in Mosul and ... you end up having to clear each one,” Dorrian said. “And that goes from rooftop level, often in four-story or higher buildings, through every single room, and every single closet, and into tunnels that have been dug between these buildings, and sometimes beneath them,” he added.

“It’s going to take time. It’s going to be extraordinarily dangerous.” Iraqi forces have yet to enter west Mosul, which is still completely held by ISIS fighters. “There’s been a lot of discussion about the losses that Iraqis are taking -- the enemy is taking an order of magnitude greater,” Dorrian said.

Full report at:



Bahrainis stage demonstrations in solidarity with Sheikh Qassim

Jan 5, 2017

Thousands of people have taken to the streets in Bahrain to express solidarity with prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim, whom the Al Khalifah regime has stripped of nationality and summoned to attend a court hearing.

Protesters marched along the streets near the residence of the 79-year-old clergyman in the village of Diraz on Wednesday evening to declare that they will not abandon support for him under any circumstances.

They also vowed to continue street rallies until their demands for the reversal of measures against Sheikh Qassim, the spiritual leader of the country’s dissolved opposition bloc the al-Wefaq, are met.

The marchers further called for the downfall of the ruling Al Khalifah regime, and chanted slogans against King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

A similar rally was staged in the northern village of Abu Saiba, where demonstrators chanted slogans and stated that Sheikh Qassim is their red line.

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

Full report at:



Syrian Army Allows Tens of Militants to Leave Western Damascus for Idlib

Jan 04, 2017

The sources said that after arrival of a number of green buses to Sa'asa'a region, at least 135 militants, who had not applied for government amnesty, along with their families were evacuated from the towns and villages of Sa'asa'a, al-Khazrajiyeh, Hasnou, Beir Timah, Kafr Hours and Beit Seber.

In the meantime, the government officials have given three days to militants in the towns of Yalda, Bebayla and Beit Saham in Southern Damascus to join the peace agreement.

Also, Damascus officials are carrying out final negotiations with the representative of militant groups in Beit Jin, Kanakar and al-Zakiyeh to take control of these towns without engagement in clashes.

On Tuesday, the army soldiers for the eleventh day in a row continued their heavy attacks on terrorists' positions in Western Ghouta to liberate at least 10 strategic villages in the region.

The army men intensified their offensives on terrorists' defense lines to free the villages of Basimeh, Ein al-Fijeh, Ein al-Khazra, Deir Moqren, Kafr al-Zeit, Deir Qanoun, al-Hosseiniyeh, Afrah, Kafr al-Awamid and Barhaliya in Wadi al-Bardi region.

A military source in the Syrian army said that villagers protested at the presence of militants in their villages, but the terrorist commanders ignored people's call and used the villagers as human shields.

Full report at:



Senior Nusra Commander Killed in Syrian Army Attacks in Northwestern Homs

Jan 04, 2017

The army men engaged in fierce clashes with terrorists in the villages of Jawalik, Seneisel and al-Mahatah, while the army's artillery units shelled the movements and gatherings of militants, killing at least seven militants in the villages of Jawalik and al-Mahatah and destroying a vehicle.

A military source said that Mohammad Qasim al-Hajj, the senior commander of terrorists, was killed in the clashes.

The army soldiers also targeted terrorists' centers in Qarnateh in Northern Homs and Borj Qaei in the Western part of the province, inflicting major losses on the militants. 

In relevant developments in the province on Tuesday, the army men engaged in fierce clashes with Fatah al-Sham North of the town of al-Rastan, while the artillery units targeted terrorists' positions and movements in the same region, killing and wounding several militants and destroying their vehicles and equipment.

The artillery units also shelled Fatah al-Sham's bases in the town of Um Sharshouh, killing a number of militants, including commander of the mortar units of Fatah al-Sham Mustafa Qalib al-Hadab.

Full report at:





BBC stirs controversy with 'real ISIS housewives' skit

Shafik Mandhai

Jan 5, 2017

A BBC sketch satirising British women who have left to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group has attracted controversy and praise alike online.

The two-minute-long skit titled The Real Housewives of ISIS features four British Muslim women who have left their homes in the UK to join the armed group in Syria.

First published online on Tuesday, the sketch has picked up millions of views on Facebook and has been shared widely on other social media platforms.

One scene portrays a woman undecided about what to wear to a beheading, and another shows two of the women angry at each other for wearing the same suicide vest.

The segment is part of a comedy show called Revolting, which directs its humour at lampooning current affairs issues.

READ MORE: ISIL ramps up fight with weaponised drones

Muslim sketch creator Faraz Ali described the BBC skit as "poor taste".

"For the few documented events where young girls, often under 18, have left the UK, there is no doubt this has been a result of dangerous grooming and misguidance," he said.

"Making light of this situation feels inherently wrong, almost capitalising on the suffering of these young girls who acted without proper insight," he added.

Ali said that while there was merit in mocking ISIL, doing so "runs the risk of making light of the very real and significant problems ISIL leaves in its wake".

British Muslim comedian Ali Shahalom was one of the many who welcomed the segment, describing it as "very funny" in a Facebook post, adding he was not offended by the material.

"The sketch ridicules online grooming and draws attention to an important topic," he said.

"From what I've seen, it doesn't offend religion. Satire like this highlights the absurdity of those that recruit and get recruited for ISIS," he added.

Shahalom acknowledged the sensitivities of covering the topic but said it was one writers should not be afraid to approach.

Debate played out in the comment section underneath the video on Facebook, with many not as impressed with the skit as Shahalom.

"Bad taste, not funny at all," said commenter Anna Butcher.

"I'm sure those who have been effected by ISIS, or [have] been victims of them, or the relatives of those killed in terrorists attacks, won't be laughing?" she added, using an alternate acronym for ISIL.

Warwick University academic Sara Salem said that while such comedy set out to show how "ridiculous" Islamophobic ideas were, it ended up reinforcing such stereotypes instead.

"The trouble with this type of humour is that it ignores the broader context in which it will be revived, namely British society," Salem said.

"While it may challenge some people's conceptions of Muslim women by making light of tropes we hear of constantly, for many others it won't serve as anything more than comedy based on things they already believe in and will continue believing in.

"Not only is it not a challenge to these stereotypes, it is using them to make light of what is ultimately not a very funny situation."

Previous pranks

The creators of Revolting, Heydon Prowse and Jolyon Rubinstein, have previously drawn controversy for their satire and daring political pranks.

Pro-Israel groups reacted angrily when the pair pretended to be building contractors and visited shops in London to tell them their businesses would be confiscated to expand the nearby Israeli embassy.

The pair also put up posters at the International Criminal Court demanding the arrest of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and in another stunt tried to present a plaque to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson for his purported talent for lying.



Anis Amri travelled through Amsterdam, Brussels days after Berlin attack

4 January 2017

CCTV footage shows Berlin attacker Anis Amri arriving from Amsterdam and spending nearly two hours at Brussels’ North train station, two days after the Berlin attack.

Dutch authorities announced that Amri travelled to Nijmegen railway station at roughly 11.30 AM on December 21 before making his way to Amsterdam train station at 1 PM.

He was seen on CCTV in Brussels between 7 PM and 9 PM later that day, according to Belgian authorities.

It has been confirmed that Amri has visited the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Italy after he committed the massacre in a crowded German market, which raises even more questions over security in the EU.

Amri entered Germany in 2015 and was on a temporary asylum permit, but in June a court ruling refused his asylum and demanded that he leave.

Full report at:



US-led coalition pounding Syria infrastructure, not Daesh-held oil fields: Russia

Jan 4, 2017

Russia has accused the US-led coalition of “systematically” bombing Syria’s economic infrastructure rather than oil production facilities seized by Takfiri Daesh terrorists.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov made the remarks on Wednesday, hours after CIA Director John Brennan claimed that Moscow was purusing a "scorched earth policy" in Syria.

“Brennan is well aware of the fact that long before the start of the Russian campaign, the… coalition had been systematically destroying Syria's economic infrastructure to weaken the legitimate government…, heedless of burdens for civilians resulting in millions of refugees," Konashenkov said.

He further accused the US-led coalition of not targeting the Daesh-held oil fields in their bombing campaign in the Arab country.

"Surprisingly, the coalition has not attacked oil facilities captured by Daesh, which allowed the terrorists to make tens of millions of dollars per month through illicit oil trade and recruit mercenaries from all over the world," Konashenkov said.

The Russian official also stressed that Washington would be held accountable for its conduct in Syria “sooner or later.”

Moscow launched its campaign against Daesh and other terror outfits in Syria at the Damascus government’s request in September 2015. Its airstrikes have helped Syrian forces advance counterterrorism operations against foreign-backed militants wreaking havoc in the Middle Eastern state since 2011.

A French Rafale fighter jet takes off from the deck of the Charles-de-Gaulle aircraft carrier operating in the eastern Mediterranean Sea on December 9, 2016, as part of a US-led coalition bombing campaign purportedly fighting Daesh terrorists. (Photo by AFP)

This is while the US-led coalition has also been conducting air raids against what are said to be Daesh terrorists inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from Damascus or a UN mandate. Analysts have assessed the strikes as unsuccessful as they have led to civilian deaths and failed to counter terrorism.

Full report at:



French Presidential Candidate Compares Holocaust to Anti-Muslim Bias

January 4, 2017

French Jews accused a left-wing presidential candidate of encouraging Holocaust denial following his comparison of the Nazi persecution of Jews to the situation of French Muslims today.

Vincent Peillon, who is running in the Socialist Party primaries ahead of the elections this year, made the analogy Tuesday during an interview aired by the France 2 television channel.

Peillon, a former education minister who has Jewish origins, was commenting on a question about France’s strict separation between state and religion, referred to in France as “laicite.”

“If some want to use laicite, as has been done in the past, against certain populations … Forty years ago it was the Jews who put on yellow stars. Today, some of our Muslim countrymen are often portrayed as radical Islamists. It is intolerable.”

In a statement Wednesday, CRIF, the umbrella group of French Jewish communities, accused Peillon of making “statements that only serve those trying to rewrite history.”

Peillon neither retracted his remark nor apologized in a statement published Wednesday on his website, but said he would wanted to elaborate on what he meant in light of the controversy it provoked and to “refine my view, which may have been misrepresented because of brevity.”

Peillon wrote that he “clearly did not want to say that laicite was the origin of anti-Semitism of Vichy France,” which was the part of the country run by a pro-Nazi collaborationist government. He also wrote that “what the Jews experienced under Vichy should not be banalized in any way” and that he was committed to fighting racism and anti-Semitism.

“I wanted to denounce the strategy of the far right, which always used the words of the French Republic or social issues to turn them against the population. It is doing so today with laicite against the Muslims,” Peillon wrote.

But in its statement condemning Peillon’s remark, CRIF wrote that the history concerning the deportation of more than 75,000 Jews from France to concentration camps and death and the looting of their property, “as well as discriminatory laws such as the one about wearing yellow stars, should not be instrumentalized to create a false equivalence of suffering.”

CRIF “demands a clarification and immediate correction on the part of Vincent Peillon,” it said.

Full report at:





Christian in Pakistan Jailed under Vindictive Blasphemy Charge, Sources Say

Jan 04, 2017

Muslims in Pakistan have filed a blasphemy charge against a Christian in retaliation for refusing their demand that he and others cede church land to them, sources said.

In a First Information Report (FIR) at Nishtar Police Station in Lahore, Haji Nadeem on Friday (Dec. 30) accused Babu Shahbaz of Kamaha village of desecrating the pages of the Koran to "hurt the religious sentiments of the Islamic world." Shahbaz was taken into custody the same day.

Nadeem stated that he and other Muslims were going to a mosque to offer early morning prayers last month when they saw Koranic pages strewn on the road.

"100 pages were completely desecrated, while 150 pages were partially destroyed," Nadeem claimed in the FIR. "The name of Babu Shahbaz was written on all the pages in blue ink ... We have strong suspicion that Babu Shahbaz and his unidentified accomplices are involved in this blasphemous act."

Shahbaz's brother, George Masih, told Morning Star News that the allegations were baseless and aimed at "teaching a lesson" to the local Christian community for refusing to allow a water treatment plant on church land some months ago.

"Local Muslims Rana Asif Rajpoot and Haji Nadeem have used the blasphemy law against my brother, as we had opposed their demand to vacate the church land eight or nine months ago," said Masih, adding that the case reeked of vengeance as his 40-year-old brother is illiterate and cannot write his own name.

Masih said that Rajpoot, Nadeem and other Muslims wanted to seize the Nasiri Pentecostal Church built on Shamlat village land. The land is reserved for common-use purposes.

"They said that they wanted to set up a water treatment plant there, but we asked them to find an alternate place for the plant and even offered to share the cost of the land and the plant as a community," Masih said.

Masih and his brother told them they would not allow the church to be displaced, as some 150 families are members of the Nasiri Pentecostal Church. Rajpoot and Nadeem continued issuing veiled threats to them over the months, but they paid them little attention, he said.

"On Dec. 11, they again tried to pick up a fight with us by playing loud music on the occasion of my niece's wedding," Masih said. "We requested them to turn down the volume as it was disturbing the wedding rituals, but they refused to comply. We avoided an altercation with them, as we did not want to disturb peace in the village."

Masih said that on Thursday (Dec. 29), he was summoned to an electronics shop owned by local Muslim Malik Akram. Some 100 to 150 Muslims had gathered there.

"When I asked them why they had called for me, they showed me the desecrated pages of the Koran and said my brother Shahbaz's name was written on all the pages," he said. "I was shocked to see the pages and told the gathering that no Christian could even think of doing such a heinous crime. I also offered them the cooperation of the entire Christian community living in the village in finding out the persons responsible."

Masih said that the Muslims told him to go home and ask his brother about the pages.

"I came home and told Shahbaz about the allegation being brought against him," he said. "He denied having anything to do with the incident and said he was even willing to swear by the holy book to clear his name."

Shahbaz's family believes God has granted him the gift of healing prayer, and he receives enough pay from healing people, including Muslims and Christians, to provide for his wife and three children, Masih said. He added that, as a result, his brother has had to face false accusations of practicing black magic.

The Muslims had arranged another meeting on Friday evening (Dec. 30) to discuss the matter, but Shahbaz and his relatives were surprised when police raided their place early in the morning and arrested him for alleged blasphemy.

Masih said that Christians had been living peacefully alongside area Muslims for years, and that this was the first such conflict in the village.

"Several Muslims are helping us in resolving the matter," he said. "Meetings are held every day between the village elders, elected representatives and police officials to find a solution to this problem. There is no evidence or witness against my brother, yet the police registered a blasphemy case without even investigating the matter properly. We don't know yet where Shahbaz is being kept by the police, as we haven't been allowed a meeting with him."

The Nasiri Pentecostal Church senior pastor, identified only as Jaidoon, told Morning Star News that in serving there for 17 years, he has never seen any religious tension in the village.

"There are some other churches here as well, and the local Christian community has been living peacefully with the Muslims," he said. "This is an unfortunate incident perpetrated by a few miscreants to drive a wedge between the two communities, but I'm sure God will help us in resolving the matter amicably, and Babu Shahbaz will be back with his family really soon."

Senior police officials did not respond to repeated efforts to reach them for comment. A sub-inspector of police investigation, however, told Morning Star News on condition of anonymity that initial investigation showed the case against Shahbaz might be politically motivated as well.

"Some local sources have told us that Shahbaz and other Christians supported a certain Muslim group in the local government elections, while the rival group was backed by the ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz [PML-N]," he said.

Shahbaz played a major role in garnering Christian support for the Malik Babar group, and this may be a reason some rivals may have wanted to target him, the official said.

Shaan Taseer Threatened

Separately, a Christmas message calling for prayers for those charged under the blasphemy laws led to death threats against the son of former Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer, gunned down five years ago for criticizing the internationally condemned statutes.

Islamist extremists have also called for mass protests if police do not charge Shaan Taseer with blasphemy against Islam, which in Pakistan is punishable by death.

Taseer's father was gunned down by this bodyguard for championing the case of a Christian woman, Aasiya Noreen (commonly called Asia Bibi), who was sentenced to death under the blasphemy laws, which he the former Punjab governor said needed to be reformed.

In a video message posted on his Facebook page, Shaan Taseer, a Muslim, wishes a happy holiday to Christians and, in solidarity, asks for prayers for Noreen and others victimized by what he called "inhumane" blasphemy laws.

Taseer said that he had received "very credible death threats" from supporters of his father's killer, bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri.

"They are sending me Mumtaz Qadri's photos with messages that there are several Mumtaz Qadris waiting for me," he said.

Tens of thousands of people attended Qadri's funeral last March after he was put to death for killing the governor, as they considered him a hero - showing the potential for this case to become another flashpoint.

More than 200 people in Pakistan were charged under blasphemy laws in 2015 - many of them minorities such as Christians, who make up 1 percent of Pakistan's population. The laws are often used to settle personal scores, and Islamist groups and lawyers advocating the harshest punishments often apply pressure for convictions on police and courts.

At least 65 people, including lawyers, defendants and judges, have been murdered over blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to figures from a Center for Research and Security Studies report and local media.

A spokesman for the hard-line Islamist movement Pakistan Sunni Tehreek said it was demanding police in Lahore charge Shaan Taseer with blasphemy against Islam.

Police declined to comment, and a copy of the police report on the complaint did not mention Shaan Taseer by name. The police report did reference the Christmas message and mentioned an investigation under Section 295-A, which bans hate speech against any religion.



After Nearly 70 Years, the India-Pakistan Partition Gets a Museum

JANUARY 4, 2017

In 1947, after years of anti-colonial resistance, Britain finally ended its rule of India. With independence came partition: the splitting of the Indian Empire into two countries, India and Pakistan. But dividing one heterogeneous country into two independent nations based on religion (India was majority Hindu and Pakistan majority Muslim) spurred history’s largest mass migration—and years of chaos, violence and murder. Now, reports Shashank Bengali for The Los Angeles Times, that brutal history is finally being commemorated in the world’s first museum devoted to the era.

It’s called the Partition Museum, and it’s located in the Indian city of Amritsar near the Pakistani border. Devoted to examining the years before and after the Partition, the museum was funded entirely by the public and the artifacts within were donated by people with memories to share.

Those memories are marked by horror. After the British Raj came to an end and India was divided in two, an estimated 14.5 million people became migrants within a four-year period. (That number could be even bigger since it is thought that millions were unaccounted for by census statistics.) This migration was accompanied by what The New Yorker’s William Dalrymple calls “a mutual genocide as unexpected as it was unprecedented”—sectarian violence between Hindus and Muslims that included huge riots, massacres and other forms of brutality.

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UKIP MEP hits out at "unaccountable" foreign aid to Pakistan

Jan 5, 2017

A WORCESTERSHIRE MEP has hit out at foreign aid for Pakistan - saying we should be forging free trade links rather than dishing out "unaccountable" handouts.

UKIP's James Carver has called upon the Government to reconsider its aid to the Asian country, saying UK taxpayers have stumped up £1 billion over the last five years.

The remarks have not gone down well with Worcester's Muslim Welfare Association, which says Pakistan's poverty problems are still incredibly bad.

Families in Pakistan get bank cards loaded with British money to withdraw from cashpoints and boost their incomes under the foreign aid deal, which saw £374 million handed over last year.

Figures show 235,000 people benefit, and it is planned to rise to 441,000 by 2020 under the UK's foreign aid programme.

Mr Carver, who represents the West Midlands region in the European Parliament, said: "How can this be good use of our bloated foreign aid budget?

"Naturally, I'm all in favour of doing our best to assist our Commonwealth kith and kin.

"We have to ensure we utilise our links to these countries, including Pakistan, for mutually beneficial free trade deals after we escape the EU.

"But handing over £1 billion during the last five years in unaccountable cash to individuals cannot be justified.

"Priority should be given for that budget to be used for emergency aid, health programmes and initiatives that provide sanitation and clean water.

"Giving such cash payments in a country that has its own nuclear weapons and space programmes is just not right.

"As UK taxpayers face more and more cuts, we are providing cash benefits to the citizens of Pakistan.

"Giving handouts is never a proper solution to poverty - only trade and jobs will provide the financial security and growth needed."

Worcester News: CHALLENGE: Worcester-based West Midlands MEP James Carver wants to publicly debate the EU referendum with Worcestershire's MPs.

He said UKIP wants the foreign aid budget to be cut by £9 billion, with some of the money used to help adult social care in Britain.

Harris Saleem, from Worcester's Muslim Welfare Association, said: "I understand what he is saying about Pakistan, I am not in a position to say there are not billionaires there.

"But there is also corruption and serious poverty in Pakistan, as well as Bangladesh and India.

"If the money goes towards relieving poverty and can make a difference, then we should keep on doing it.

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200 participants of ‘Save Islam’ rallies held in Lahore

January 05, 2017

LAHORE - Police yesterday thwarted pro-blasphemy laws rallies in Lahore, seizing no less than 200 demonstrators and shoving them into trucks yesterday.

Two major rallies were planned by different religious groups from Kalima Chowk to Liberty Market and from Data Darbar to Faisal Chowk on The Mall. The police fired tear-gas shells and used water cannons to disperse the protesters.

Religious leaders said more than 200 people, including senior clerics, were detained around the provincial capital, but police sources put the number at 166. Negotiations were taking place between police and protesters till yesterday night. The religious groups, in the evening, threatened with a province-wide protest movement if the police did not release their leaders and workers.

Police threw a massive security blanket in the city in an attempt to prevent the hardline Sunni Tehreek and its allied groups from participating in the “Save Islam” rallies. Several leading roads were blocked by placing heavy containers to foil the protest march.

Clashes erupted between anti-riot police and demonstrators as cops fired tear-gas shells to disperse the mob when they tried to march on The Mall. The protesters pelted stones at the police. Over a dozen people, including four policemen, were injured during the clash.

A senior police officer told The Nation that at least 166 people were arrested in police action. The officer, who preferred his name not to be mentioned, said the arrests were made when the religious groups tried to take out rallies without getting prior permission.

Yesterday’s protests did not coincide with the death anniversary of slain governor Salman Taseer who was gunned down by his bodyguard on January 4 five years ago for criticising the blasphemy laws, but it comes days after his son Shaan Taseer termed blasphemy laws “inhumane” in a video message posted on his Facebook page.

Clerics called for mass protests if police did not charge Shaan Taseer with blasphemy - a crime punishable by death. The governor had been gunned down by a policeman, Mumtaz Qadri, for championing the case of a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death under the blasphemy laws. Shaan Taseer in the video message wished a happy holiday to Christians, in solidarity, and also asked for prayers for the woman and others victimised by what he called “inhumane” blasphemy laws.

Tens of thousands attended Qadri’s funeral last March after he was executed for killing the governor.

Last week, Lahore police filed a blasphemy case under Section 295-C (blasphemy against Islam). The case was registered on the complaint of a police officer and the FIR did not mention Shaan Taseer’s name.

The religious workers appeared in groups at different points throughout the day in their attempt to reach The Mall, outside the Punjab Assembly.

The police managed to make arrests at different places like Kalima Chowk, PGM Chowk, Lower Mall and Ferozpur Road.

The followers and workers of the religious parties belonging to Brelvi school of thought held protest demonstrations and took out rallies in different parts of the city. Idara Seerat-e-Mustaqeem, Sunni Tehreek Pakistan, Tehreek-e-Khatm-e-Nabuwwat and Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah organised the protests.

The purpose of the demonstrations on the death anniversary of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer was to pay tribute to his killer Mumtaz Qadri and raise voice in favour of blasphemy laws. The banners and placards held by the protestors, however, did not read the pro-blasphemy law slogan as the law-enforcement agencies did not allow the organisers to do so.

The main rally was taken out by the religious parties from Data Darbar to Faisal Chowk at The Mall. Around 1,000 protestors took part in the rally and held a sit-in outside the Punjab Assembly where they were addressed by prominent religious clerics. The participants of the rallies also condemned the atrocities against Muslims in Barma, Held Kashmir, Palestine and Syria. The pictures of Mumtaz Qadri had also been placed on the banners and placards.

Addressing the protesters, Dr Ashraf Asif Jalali, Hafiz Khadim Hussain Rizvi and others announce to defend blasphemy laws in the country. They also paid tribute to Mumtaz Qadri.

The religious parties also tried to take out a rally from Kalima Chowk to Liberty Roundabout, but were barred from doing so as the police erected blockades at different sites leading to the venue. Main Gulberg and all arteries leading to it were blocked from Barkat Market to Main Market.

Full report at:



15 injured in DI Khan bomb blast

January 05, 2017

DERA ISMAIL KHAN - At 15 people including five policemen were injured in a bomb blast near Bannu Adda here on Wednesday.

According to police sources, a bomb exploded when police mobile van was passing through Bannu Road. Police said that the blast was carried out by remote control device.

The injured were shifted to hospital where one injured was stated to be in critical condition.

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Christmas message leads to death threats, police case in Pakistan

Jan 4, 2017

A Christmas message calling for prayers for those charged under Pakistan's blasphemy laws has led to death threats against the son of a provincial governor killed five years ago for criticising the same laws.

The case highlights the continuing influence in Pakistan of Muslim hardliners who praise violence in the name of defending Islam, despite a government vow to crack down on religious extremism.

The hardliners have called for mass protests if police do not charge activist Shaan Taseer with blasphemy against Islam - a crime punishable by death.

Taseer's father, Punjab governor Salman Taseer, was gunned down by his bodyguard for championing the case of a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death under the blasphemy laws, which he said needed to be reformed.

In a video message posted on his Facebook page, Taseer, a Muslim, wishes a happy holiday to Christians, in solidarity, and also asked for prayers for the woman and others victimised by what he called "inhumane" blasphemy laws.

Taseer said on Monday that he had received "very credible death threats" from supporters of the hardline Muslim philosophy that inspired his father's killer, bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri.

"They are sending me Mumtaz Qadri's photos with messages that there are several Mumtaz Qadris waiting for me," he told Reuters late on Monday.

Tens of thousands people attended Qadri's funeral last March after he was put to death for killing the governor because they considered him a hero - showing the potential for this case to become another flashpoint. [nL3N169435]

More than 200 people in Pakistan were charged under blasphemy laws in 2015 - many of them minorities such as Christians, who make up 1 percent of the population.

Critics say the laws are often used to settle personal scores, and pressure for convictions is often applied on police and courts from religious groups and lawyers dedicated to pushing the harshest blasphemy punishments.[nL8N16A25T]

At least 65 people, including lawyers, defendants and judges, have been murdered over blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to figures from a Center for Research and Security Studies report and local media.

A spokesman for the hardline Islamist movement Sunni Tehreek said it was demanding police in Lahore charge Shaan Taseer with blasphemy against Islam.

Police declined to comment, and a copy of the police report on the complaint did not mention Shaan Taseer by name.

The police report did reference the Christmas message and opened an investigation the blasphemy laws' Section 295-A, which bans hate speech against any religion.

However, Sunni Tehreek has threatened mass street protests unless the younger Taseer is charged under Section 295-C - blasphemy against Islam or the Prophet Mohammad.

Sunni Tehreek figure Mujahid Abdur Rasool told Reuters the group was in negotiations with the government over the case.

Full report at:



Southeast Asia


Rise in ISIS-linked arrests raises alert in Malaysia

Jan 5, 2017

From four in 2013, the number of people arrested in Malaysia for involvement with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) ballooned to 119 last year, in sync with a rising level of alarm.

Malaysian police are calling on religious authorities to play their part in stemming the rise of extremist ideology after last year saw the first attack on Malaysian soil.

Eight people were injured when a grenade was lobbed at a nightspot near Kuala Lumpur last June.

Still, counter-terrorism forces are concerned that despite having foiled 14 planned attacks - 122 people charged, with 62 found guilty - since 2013, their efforts could be overwhelmed if the number of ISIS agents and sympathisers continues to mushroom.

The term "jihad" has long been a convenient one used by national leaders, both political and religious, when seeking to convince Muslims to vote a particular way or support a particular cause.

It is also used in Friday sermons at state-run mosques by clerics warning against Western and liberal influences.

Local authorities now say "experts" are teaching in mosques and even Islamic schools and universities that supporting an armed struggle is justified when a fellow Muslim is being oppressed.

Although a religious edict banning involvement in ISIS was issued in 2014 by the National Fatwa Council, the country's top body of clerics, religious authorities seem unable to keep tabs on what is being taught in mosques, madrasahs and Islamic centres, thousands of them built by the government itself.

Given the porous nature of digital communications, which allow users in different countries to chat with each other, militant Islam could spread uncontrollably in the region.

There are already intelligence reports of terrorist networks, such as ISIS, seeking to bring together splinter groups and cells in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, whose members are willing to give life and limb for a "righteous" cause.



Muslim environmentalists give their religion — and their mosques — a fresh coat of green

Jan 5, 2017

The Koutoubia Mosque is one of the iconic landmarks of Marrakech’s old city. Its first stone was laid in 1150, and almost 900 years later, renovations continue.

The latest can be found up a flight of stairs off the sahn, or courtyard, where the mosque's visitors wash their feet before they pray. On top of the north riwaq, or arcade, a sleek array of solar panels stretches along the roof to the base of the mosque's 253-foot, red stone minaret.

“This is enough for 100 percent of the consumption of the mosque, including also for the house of the imam," says Ahmed Bouzid, head of energy efficiency for SIE, Morocco’s national energy investment company. “So this mosque is 100 percent powered by solar energy.”

The 8-kilowatt panels were installed just before Marrakech played host to the latest United Nations climate summit in November, and Koutoubia is just one of 600 Moroccan mosques slated for similar solar installations over the next three years. Morocco’s government owns 15,000 mosques, and eventually it wants to retrofit all of them with solar panels and energy efficient technology.

Bouzid says investments in solar power are an easy call here in Morocco. The payback period is typically less than five years. After that, the energy is essentially free.

But he says it’s not just about saving the mosques money.

“We are increasing the awareness by showing some real solutions,” Bouzid says. “When you try to sensibilize somebody, first of all you try to get his brain. And from his brain you try to get his heart. When you go to a mosque, the first thing that you open is your heart.”

Morocco is almost completely dependent on imported fossil fuels, but it has a lot of wind and sun. It’s also already being hit by the effects of climate change, through droughts, floods and sea-level rise.

Overall, Morocco has pledged to get more than half of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, and to cultivate more awareness about energy and climate change in general.

That's why the solar panels on Koutoubia's roof are about more than just cutting the state-funded mosque's energy bills. In this almost entirely Muslim country, the government believes that Islam could be a powerful vehicle for its environmental message.

Green mosques

You can see the effort at work in other ways here as well, like in a classroom on the outskirts of Marrakech where 27 imams and mourchidates, female Muslim clerics, are huddled in small groups, poring over copies of the Quran.

That’s hardly unusual in Morocco, but the subject of their study is. They’re scouring the text for passages about environmental stewardship.

About 300 Muslim leaders from around Morocco have signed up in the last year for the government’s “green mosques” program.

After this study group breaks up, a few imams take turns practicing khutbahs, or sermons, about environmentalism that they’ll deliver to their congregations across the country during Friday prayers, stressing verses from the Quran and other Muslim holy texts.

Often-invoked passages include “corruption has appeared on the land and in the sea because of what the hands of humans have wrought,” and “the servants of [Allah], the Most Gracious, are only those who walk upon the Earth softly.”

Morocco's state-sponsored program to preach environmental stewardship through Islam may be unique, but Muslims in many countries are starting to connect their faith with climate change.

Nana Firman is from Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim country, and is a co-founder of the Global Muslim Climate Network. Firman came to Marrakech for the UN climate summit, and she believes that connecting Islam and environmental consciousness isn’t a stretch.

“Over 700 verses in the Quran talk about nature and environment,” Firman says. “For example there’s a verse that says ‘the human is the khalifa upon this earth. The word khalifa means guardian, so you’re the maintainer, the protector, the one who takes care of the Earth.”

Firman and her organization are trying to do globally what the Moroccan government is trying to do locally — encourage Muslims to take steps to reduce their own carbon footprints. But she also has a bigger goal. She wants Muslims to lead the global transition away from fossil fuels.

Making that happen won't be easy, of course. Like a lot of devout Christians, many Muslims don’t believe that climate change is even happening, that humans could be responsible, or that their holy texts preach environmentalism.

“There’s some deniers,” Firman says, but hundreds of millions of Muslims also live in places that are already feeling the effects of climate change. And she says that’s where her message is catching on.

“A lot of us are the victims of climate change, so they see it. When the disaster happens, when the drought happens, when the flood happens, they actually understand. Maybe they don’t call it climate change, but farmers know they can’t harvest.”

In her native Indonesia, Firman worked on recovery efforts after the 2004 tsunami in the religiously conservative region of Aceh. She says it was hard to convince local people of the benefits of planting mangroves to reduce the impact of storm surges, until she remembered a verse in the Quran about planting trees. Firman says that's when she first realized Islam could help her increase environmental awareness in Indonesia.

Since then she's taken that message worldwide. Last year Firman helped draft the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change. It calls on Muslims everywhere to take action, from conserving water during the cleaning rituals of wudu to reducing plastic waste during the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

The Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change came out not long after Pope Francis’ climate encyclical, which said that Catholics have a “duty to protect the Earth … for coming generations.”

Saffet Catovic, an imam and teacher of religious studies from New Jersey, says the efforts among Muslims globally are part of a broad religious awakening on the climate crisis.

“Faith plays an important role not just for Muslim communities but for other communities, as well,” Catovic says. His Noor Ul-Iman school and mosque in Central New Jersey are part of the Islamic Society of North America, which recently announced it would divest from fossil fuels and is pushing other Muslim organizations to do the same.

Catovic also helped write the Islamic declaration on climate change. Since then, he says he’s heard from priests, rabbis and all kinds of religious leaders.

“With this climate change issue, especially these last two years, religious leaders around the world are not praying against each other,” says Catovic, “they’re praying with one another for a common cause. Because the realization has set in that we’re gonna have nothing left.”

So far most of the steps are small, like Morocco's green sermons and solar-powered mosques.

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Muslim world getting a taste of halal-tagged farmed fish

January 5, 2017

UWAJIMA, Ehime Prefecture--A seafood products company here has its sights set on a growing appetite for fish among Muslim nations after winning halal certification for its farmed bluefin and eastern little tuna.

Uwajima Project has already started exporting its fish to Malaysia, which maintains stricter standards than those in other nations, company officials said.

Working with a fish farmer in Ainan, also in the prefecture, Uwajima Project's farmed fish and processed fish products were given halal certification from the Malaysian government-recognized Japan Halal Association in Osaka in May.

This is the first such occurrence in Japan, according to the company and the Ehime prefectural government.

The halal designation means that the products conform to Islamic teachings and do not contain ingredients that Muslims would find offensive. A typical concern is whether pork is used as a food additive, as Muslims consider the flesh of hogs to be unclean. Uwajima Project decided to export its products to Malaysia, because the Malaysian government approves certification authorities by itself and its standards are stricter.

In the screening process, Uwajima Project was examined in hundreds of categories, for example, whether its food for fish contained pig-derived ingredients, the officials said. Because of that, the seafood maker even checked components of packing materials and bristles of brushes to clean its equipment.

Uwajima Project said it took 18 months for the company to devise a system to win halal certification and obtain the certificate.

While Japanese firms can export fish to the Islamic world even if they have not obtained halal certification, the criteria for doing so is getting tighter, according to the agriculture, forestry, fisheries and food department of the Japan External Trade Organization.

For example, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates in 2013 started requiring companies to submit written certificates to confirm that exported farmed fish are not fed with animal proteins other than those from marine creatures.

“Obtaining halal certification will bolster consumption (of Japanese food products) among Muslims,” a JETRO official said.

On Oct. 26, Uwajima Project shipped a farmed bluefin tuna weighing 47 kilograms to Malaysia for the first time.

The container with the tuna was purified in accordance with Islamic rules and the package bore the word “halal.”

The huge tuna drew considerable attention in Malaysia when it was sold, Uwajima Project officials said.

Full report at:



The international fallout from Najib’s 1MDB scandal

4 January 2017

Amrita Malhi

The international consequences of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s handling of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal will likely continue to escalate. The affair concerns US$800 million from the development fund that investigators believe to have passed through Najib’s personal bank accounts, in addition to other funds believed to have moved through foreign intermediaries and investment vehicles.

US Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch answers reporters' questions after announcing the filing of civil forfeiture complaints associated with an international conspiracy to launder funds misappropriated from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB in Washington, 20 July 2016 (Photo: Reuters/James Lawler Duggan)

In addition to ongoing domestic tensions, the 1MDB scandal has now internationalised the contest around Najib’s leadership to the point that he cannot control where the next threat to his position might come from. Nor can he prevent international developments from undermining the coherence of the message his United Malays National Organisation (UNMO) party is sending to its domestic supporters in preparation for the upcoming general election in 2017.

One factor behind this internationalisation is a number of foreign investigations into 1MDB. Under its Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, the US Department of Justice has begun proceedings aimed at seizing around US$1 billion in US-based assets that it believes were acquired using 1MDB funds. UMNO figures have tried to portray these investigations as US neo-colonialism, but Singapore too has recently acted against individuals and bank accounts linked to 1MDB transactions.

Nor can Singapore’s actions be denounced as ethnic Chinese manipulations against Malay Muslims, as UMNO might be tempted to allege. Najib’s capacity to insinuate that Chinese are a threat is somewhat curtailed by the 1MDB bailout he recently secured while on a visit to China. Under the terms of this bailout, a Chinese nuclear company is buying all of 1MDB’s power assets for US$2.3 billion, while other deals struck between Najib and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will see China buy Malaysian government bonds, build several rail projects and construct a port.

These developments have led to criticisms that Malaysia has invited Chinese intervention in its affairs to the detriment of its relationships with its neighbours. A Chinese–Malaysian joint venture is already building up to 500,000 apartments in a housing development called Forest City on reclaimed land between Malaysia and Singapore, with mainland Chinese as the target buyers.

China has previously demonstrated that it is willing to intervene in Malaysian politics, including when the Red Shirts — a UNMO-affiliated group that has organised protests directed at pro-democracy activists — threatened to hold an anti-Chinese riot in September 2015. The threat was directed at Malaysian Chinese — not Chinese nationals — but this did not prevent China’s ambassador Huang Huikang from declaring it ‘an infringement on China’s national interests’.

For his part, former prime minister and now-opposition figure Mahathir Mohamad is working to turn Najib’s Chinese bailout back against him by spreading rumours that his new Forest City development project will soon house 700,000 Chinese nationals — who UMNO will allegedly mobilise to vote illegally in the coming election. Similar rumours about Bangladeshi foreign workers underpinned a highly successful — if xenophobic — opposition get out the vote campaign in 2013.

The nature of its relationship with China has also raised questions about Malaysia’s commitment to its ‘special relationship’ with the United States — a relationship that has also potentially been destabilised by 1MDB and the resulting Justice Department investigation. Since Donald Trump’s election, Najib has been talking himself up as Trump’s ‘favourite prime minister’, leading to concerns that Najib is playing China and the United States against each other so the 1MDB matter will be dropped when Trump’s administration begins.

Whatever his motivations, Najib’s international moves are fraught with risk, especially considering the prospect that Trump may expand the US military presence in the region in a bid to contain China. The possibility of such an escalation has ASEAN nations considering strategies to safeguard their futures.

Yet Najib’s electoral position is potentially problematic for ASEAN cooperation as well. Domestically, Najib has made efforts to secure a Malay Muslim ‘unity’ bloc with the Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS), on which UNMO might have to rely to form a governing coalition at the next election. Earlier this month, Najib and PAS leader Abdul Hadi Awang appeared together at a rally for Muslims to protest Myanmar’s alleged ethnic cleansing of its Rohingya minority.

Arguing that Myanmar’s treatment of Rohingya is ‘an insult to Islam’, Najib also called for the United Nations and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to intervene to restrain Myanmar, whose violence he denounced as ‘uncivilised’. Yet Malaysia hosts many Rohingya people, whose treatment by people smugglers has also attracted international concern. Najib’s own government does not recognise them as refugees, let alone afford them the legal right to work or participate in education.

Full report at:



North America


Hope, and fear, as US Gulf allies look to Trump

Jan 5, 2017

DUBAI: US Gulf allies are looking at Donald Trump to tilt Washington in their favour, analysts say, but fear a dangerous void if the incoming president goes so far as to tear up the Iran nuclear deal.

Still fuming after the nuclear agreement was brokered over their objections, Saudi Arabia and its fellow Sunni Arab states in the Gulf hope Trump will rebalance ties at the expense of their regional rival Tehran.

Washington's traditional allies in the Middle East are concerned, however, over the potential uncertainty of a radical move to go back on the deal with Iran.

"Eight years of (President Barack) Obama's administration destroyed the balance of power in the region completely," says Mustafa Alani, a senior adviser to the Gulf Research Centre.

Gulf states "hope now that under Trump the regional balance of power is going to be restored" after Obama "just ignored Iran's expansionist policy" in the Middle East, Alani says.

The oil-rich Gulf states have been highly critical of the nuclear deal, fearing it would lead to more regional "interference" by Tehran.

The Sunni Gulf monarchies oppose predominantly Shiite Iran in a range of conflict-ridden countries across the Middle East, from Syria and Iraq to Yemen and Lebanon.

Trump has also opposed the agreement, which lifted sanctions in exchange for curbs on Tehran's nuclear programme.

He called it the "worst deal ever negotiated".

The deal is a centrepiece of President Hassan Rouhani's expected re-election bid in May, and experts say Tehran is unlikely to be willing to make any concessions to Trump.

"If the Trump administration takes a strong stand and the Iranians refuse, the agreement collapses and there is no replacement," Alani says.

Given the potential for uncertainty, many experts expect the deal to survive, despite Trump's rhetoric.

"I believe all the Gulf states will counsel Trump to maintain the agreement rather than introduce a huge new uncertainty into the region," says Richard LeBaron, an analyst associated with the Atlantic Council in Washington.

Trump may "choose to live with" the Iran accord and focus "on other aspects of the Iranian threat like its missile build-up", says Anthony Cordesman, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Analysts say Trump is likely to rebalance relations in other ways, however.

Cordesman noted that three figures known for their distrust of Tehran figure prominently in Trump's team.

They are retired lieutenant general Michael Flynn, national security adviser; retired Marine general James Mattis, nominated as defence secretary; and former ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson, Trump's choice for secretary of state.

"All three see Iran as a serious potential threat, recognise the strategic importance of Iraq, and the role Arab states play in deterring Iran," Cordesman says.

Ties with Obama became especially strained when he suggested in a magazine interview last year that the Saudis needed to "share" the Middle East with Iran.

His criticism of the kingdom for exporting its fundamentalist "Wahhabist" version of Islam also struck at the heart of the ruling family's legitimacy.

Saudi Arabia is regularly accused in the West of financing radical mosques and of fuelling extremism, even though the kingdom is part of a US-led coalition against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

Such concerns could impede Gulf ties with the new administration, which has faced accusations of Islamophobia over comments made by incoming officials including Trump.

During the campaign he proposed a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States.

"There is a lack of understanding" in the Trump team "of the Gulf's effort" against radical Islam, Alani says, noting that Gulf states have themselves suffered attacks.

For LeBaron, "the targeting of Muslims as the source of the security problem will inevitably darken Saudi-American relations".

Another stumbling block may come in the form of energy policy, a crucial question for the Gulf and Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter.

Trump will certainly be "very favourable to the development" of shale oil and gas in the United States, says Jean-Francois Seznec of the Atlantic Council's Global Energy Center, putting Washington in potential conflict with Gulf producers.



Hanukkah celebration highlights Bahrain, Israel ties: Analyst

Jan 5, 2017

Bahrain has come under criticism from judicial activists for hosting an Israeli celebration in the capital Manama. The activists have called on the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry to punish its members, who took part in the Hanukkah ceremony, and to make them apologize for their participation in the event. The ceremony, which was held on Saturday, was also reportedly attended by members of the country’s small Jewish population, foreign businessmen and local Bahrainis.

Press TV has spoken to Scott Rickard, political analyst and former American intelligence linguist, as well as Maxine Dovere, journalist and political commentator, to discuss the issue.

Rickard believes the political relationship between Bahrain, the United States and Israel, alongside the intelligence ties, is a fact worthy of attention in the Hanukkah event which was held in the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom.

He also noted the Al Khalifah regime does not represent the Bahraini people, adding that Bahrain has been a “complete” ally of the United States since 1929.

The analyst further stated that American Jewish millionaire Lazer Scheiner, who organized the Hanukkah ceremony in Bahrain, is a prominent pro-Israel lobbyist in the US representing an extreme type of anti-Islam mentality.

He also said the idea of people celebrating their respective religions together is “fantastic.” However, he argued, because of the nature of Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah and the fact that Lazer Scheiner neither represents peace in the Middle East nor any type of legitimate business; this is not a situation that should be celebrated.

“So it is an interesting situation because the Americans have used Bahrain for their Fifth Fleet since World War II, they have obviously been very close to Bahrain and very close with Israel at that time, intelligence flows freely between the United States, Israel, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia even, so obviously when it comes to the political and the religious dogma of the Judeo-Christian societies, the Jewish societies, there is this sort of anti-Islam, destroy-Islam type mentality,” he said.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Rickard criticized the international community for not helping the people who rose up peacefully against the monarchy in Bahrain.

Rather, he said, the United States and its allies absolutely supported the monarchy while many Bahrainis were “murdered, incarcerated, tried and put to death.”

According to the analyst, the West overlooks the human rights violations of such oppressive monarchies because they are strategic not only economically but also militarily and politically.

He concluded by saying that the Western countries should not support any of these oppressive governments, but unfortunately that has been the status quo of both the US and European foreign policy.

Meanwhile, the other panelist on Press TV’s program, Maxine Dovere, said the fact that the Hanukkah celebration was held in Bahrain is not so strange because of a Jewish population who lives in the country.

Full report at:



Turks turn down US military help, asks Russia for air support: US officials

Jan 5, 2017

Turkey has declined the US military’s offer to provide air support for its troops in Syria, asking Russia to take on the role instead, American officials say.

Two US military officials said Wednesday that Ankara, which has been fighting militants inside the Syrian territories, has accepted air power from Moscow over the past few days, the NBC News reported Wednesday.

This is while, the Turks have turned down the US-led coalition’s help, the officials claimed.

Back in August, Turkey launched an incursion into Syria, claiming that the military operation was meant to engage both Daesh terrorists in the Syrian-Turkish border area and Kurdish forces, who were themselves fighting Daesh.

Damascus has on multiple occasions condemned Ankara’s intervention as a breach of its sovereignty.

In December, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stressed that the US had failed to keep its promise of air support in Ankara’s operations in the Arab country, mainly in the city of al-Bab, which has proven a tough battle for the Turks.

"Even though the US-led coalition has failed to keep its promises [pledging air support] in our operation to liberate al-Bab, we will rid the city of Daesh terrorists, no matter what," Erdogan said back then.

The complaints continued on Wednesday, with Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik saying that he lack of US air support was fueling negative public sentiments over Washington’s use of Turkey’s Incirlik airbase.

This is while the American military forces have conducted flights over the city as a show of force without dropping any bombs.

According to NBC, when one of the military officials was asked whether Russia was pounding Daesh in the city, he said “for now they are.”

Al-Bab sits between Aleppo and Manbij, the city that was liberated last year with help from the US-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).

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Muslim-owned restaurant offers free meals to needy in Canada

Jan 5, 2017

A Muslim-owned Montreal restaurant in Montréal is offering free meals to anyone unable to buy food.

After noticing a large number of homeless people in the neighbourhood, restaurant co-owner Yahya Hashemi and his staff at Marché Ferdous decided to give a free warm meal to those in need.

“We do not ask any questions, we do not judge people,” Hashemi told Global News. “They want to eat, [we] give them the food. That’s it, that’s all.”

“It doesn’t matter,”chef Abdelkader Bejaoui told CTV News. “Because at night, if you still have leftover food, you end up throwing it [out]. So why not give it to those in need? It’s not a big deal,” he said.

The restaurant’s front window sports a sign welcoming people to eat for free in English and French. The sign caught the attention of a Montréal resident Sean Jalbert four months after it had been put up and he decided to see if it was actually true.

On Monday, he visited the restaurant pretending he had no money. To his surprise, one of the staff members said he was welcome to pick anything he pleased.

Inspired and touched by this, he shared his experience in a Facebook post that went viral. “Curious enough I walked in and pretend I had no money and asked for food. She didn’t ask anything but said we welcome you and pick whatever you like, including anything I wanted to drink,” the post read.

Full report at:




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