New Age Islam
Tue Dec 01 2020, 09:32 PM

Islamic World News ( 30 Jan 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

How Online Rivalry, Anti-Muslim Hate Radicalised Jamia Shooter







• Over 200 Hindu Families from Pakistan ‘Visiting’ Punjab Worry Agencies

• Pakistan Offers Higher Education, Technical Skills to Muslim World

• Iran Military Chief: Liberation Of Al-Quds Number One Priority Of Muslim World

• Researchers in Istanbul Discuss 'Indian Legal Discrimination against Muslims'

• Minnesota Priest Apologizes For Calling Islam ‘Greatest Threat’ To America

• French Politics Feeds off Muslim Bashing And Islamophobia

• Muslims Who Are Feeling Unwell Need Not Attend Friday Prayers: Islamic Religious Council of Singapore

• CAA Exposed Tensions with Bangladesh, But Ties Unaffected

• Rare Coins Reveal the Rise and Expansion of Islamic Faith In UAE

 

India

• How Online Rivalry, Anti-Muslim Hate Radicalised Jamia Shooter

• Over 200 Hindu Families from Pakistan ‘Visiting’ Punjab Worry Agencies

• Shooter’s FB suggests far-right radicalisation

• From Jamia Shooter Facebook Page: ‘Shaheen Bagh… Khatam, Deepika Padukone Will Be Beaten’

• Jamia firing: Agitating students detained, removed from outside Delhi Police headquarters

• Shooter was livestreaming just before attack at Jamia

• Three terrorists killed in encounter on Jammu-Srinagar highway, one cop injured

• Citizenship Act has provision for Muslims from Pakistan, says Rajnath Singh

• NIA arrests 2 in terror funding case of banned PLFI

• Politicians to meet PM Modi, Amit Shah on Jammu and Kashmir statehood

• The rise of Aijaz Dhebar, Chhattsigarh’s first Muslim Mayor

• Kashmiri Pandit colonies in Valley safe, fenced and gated: ‘It’s like dividing us again’

• Jamia student shot at as 20 Delhi cops watch, Proctor says MoS Anurag Thakur is to blame

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Pakistan

• Pakistan Offers Higher Education, Technical Skills to Muslim World

• FO rejects rumours govt planning AJK-Pakistan merger

• Honoured to see Indians happy over my exit, says DG ISPR before bowing out

• Court orders attachment of Altaf’s properties

• Iran envoy urges ways to bypass US sanctions

• MQM-P accuses PPP of fuelling communal hatred in Sindh

• PTM arrests: Interior minister says no impunity for law violators

• Two soldiers martyred, 5 militants killed in NW raid

• Terror attacks drop, but Pakistan ‘not out of the woods’

• Maryam received Rs560m kickbacks from Islamabad Airport contractor: Shahzad Akbar

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Mideast

• Researchers in Istanbul Discuss Indian Legal Discrimination against Muslims

• Iran Military Chief: Liberation Of Al-Quds Number One Priority Of Muslim World

• Balloons with possible explosives found in Dimona, home to Israeli nuke reactor

• Swiss humanitarian channel to Iran starts up with trial run

• Iranian regime does not allow negotiations with ‘enemies’ of Soleimani: Official

• Questions emerge on Israel’s West Bank annexation plans

• US imposes sanctions on Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, its chief

• Trump’s plan nothing but proposal of apartheid, Palestinian PM says

• Hamas leader: Palestinians will not forgive those who accept US plan

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North America

• Minnesota Priest Apologizes For Calling Islam ‘Greatest Threat’ To America

• US lawmakers vote to stop Trump warmongering with Iran

• Former US lawmaker registered as lobbyist for Emirates in Washington

• Jared Kushner ‘surprised almost to death’ Palestinians rejected deal they did not negotiate

• Abbas to rebuff Trump plan at UN meeting

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Europe

• French Politics Feeds off Muslim Bashing And Islamophobia

• UK releases fund of $10M for Rohingya in Bangladesh

• Greek lawmaker rips apart Turkish flag in EU Parliament

• France should stop supporting Haftar in Libya: Turkey

• Abdullah Quilliam: Sheikh-ul-Islam of Ottoman Empire in Victorian UK

• Turkey protests Greek lawmaker who tore up flag in European Parliament

• Men admit terrorism charges after MI5 surveillance

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Southeast Asia

• Muslims Who Are Feeling Unwell Need Not Attend Friday Prayers: Islamic Religious Council of Singapore

• Toward bolder presence of OIC on global arena

• Islamic foundation chairman says some don’t understand the term ‘propagation’

• Retract allegations and apologise, G25 tells PAS president over militant comparison

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South Asia

• CAA Exposed Tensions with Bangladesh, But Ties Unaffected

• Taliban kill at least 29 Afghan security personnel in renewed clashes

• Despite Calm in Afghan Cities, War in Villages Kills Dozens Daily

• Afghan forces rescue more than 60 hostages from Taliban prison in night raid

• 148 Bangladeshi migrants return from Libya via UN help

• Bangladeshi Police Probe Reported Abduction of Christian Rohingya Family

• Ten thousand ‘awaiting trial’ in custody in Afghanistan: Lawyers Network

• 2019 was the deadliest year for the Afghan children: Amnesty

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Arab World

• Rare Coins Reveal the Rise and Expansion of Islamic Faith In UAE

• US Awaits Iraq’s Okay to Deploy Patriots to Protect Troops amid Iran Tension

• Iraq resumes anti-ISIS operations with US-led coalition

• Assault on Syria’s Idlib pushes 700,000 to flee: US envoy

• Russian strikes kill 10 civilians in Syria’s Idlib: Monitor

• Iraq president says parliament has three days to come up with new PM

• Saudi Crown Prince discusses cultural initiatives with UNESCO director-general

• Iraqi govt. forms committees to ensure foreign troops withdrawal: Interior Minister

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Africa

• Governments are failing in the fight against jihadis in the Sahel

• Cameroon: Five Killed in Terror Attack by Boko Haram

• Three Chadian soldiers, one civilian killed in Takfiri attack

• Pakistan-Africa Trade Conference kicks off in Nairobi

• Minnesota Men Who Joined al-Shabab Now Remorseful

• Boko Haram kills two, steals fish at military checkpoint

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/how-online-rivalry,-anti-muslim-hate-radicalised-jamia-shooter/d/120945

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How Online Rivalry, Anti-Muslim Hate Radicalised Jamia Shooter

Ananya Bhattacharya

January 30, 2020

Main bakch**i nahi karta keval. The man who brandished his countrymade katta in Delhi's Jamia Millia Islamia this afternoon, had been asking his Facebook friends to not ignore his posts till January 31. This Jamia shooter also kept ruing that there were 'no notifications' on his Facebook. All of us have laughed at those notifications for women vs men on Facebook memes. But what none of us probably gauged is the lengths to which people can go to get fame on social media and hate a useful tool.

TikTok, the platform we know of as dubsmash offshoot of silly videos, is a glaring example here. Right wing nuts of all shades spew hate speeches on TikTok to gain followers of their kind. Radicalise and be radicalised, is the mantra. The influencers of this kind have poisoned their own minds and are poisoning those of others. The Jamia shooter was desperate to be one. And in this journey to instant fame, rabid Hindutva became his companion.

An update on the Jamia shooter's social media profile.

"Updesh Rana, agar tujhse aadhe bhi follower mere hote toh Shaheen Bagh ka Jallianwala Bagh bana deta ab tak." This person wrote in one of his posts on January 28. Updesh Rana has been a constant in his Facebook posts. The other person who has made many appearances on his Facebook timeline is Okender Rana.

Who are Updesh Rana and Okender Rana?

Both of them are social media 'celebrities'. They command a loyal fan following of millions. Updesh is the person who walked into Kolkata's Tipu Sultan Mosque and slapped the Imam. He is also the person who threatened Salman Khan, and Galaxy Apartments had to seek security from cops. Okender is known for his videos.

One thing is common between both these Ranas. The Rajputana pride.

"Anyone can hit someone if they come to his house. Ghar mein ghuske maarne ka kaleja sirf Rajput mein hai." And Updesh did it: he walked into a mosque and hit an Imam. While his act earned him days in prison, the number of his followers sky-rocketed. He is worshipped by his fans, who want to be like him. And some others, like the Jamia shooter, are jealous of him but want to be like him too.

The radicalisation of India is not just happening in Anurag Thakur's rallies. The bigger, more severe threat is online: on TikTok and YouTube. Facebook and Twitter are in this nasty game too.

In West Uttar Pradesh, where the shooter also is from, you see many community anthems flooding YouTube. The Jats, the Rajputs, the Gurjars are all in it. Some of these videos are amaturely shot; while some others have lavish 'sets', with white women dancing in the background as we see the 'hero' brandishing his rifle, twirling his moustache. The horses have been replaced by Royal Enfields and Thars now, but the pride in caste and sermons against Muslims are retained.

When this deadly cocktail of inter-caste rivalry and anti-Muslim hatred spills over from a mobile-phone screen on to the streets of Delhi, reality bites. Is your 'nameless, faceless' troll really just making videos and posting them online? They are also getting out on the streets and shooting people. All of it, for online fame.

The Jamia shooter's social media timeline is full of Okender and Updesh Rana mentions. One can see the streak of jealousy and rivalry. He wasn't a Rajput but wanted to beat them in this game of fame. Updesh Rana threatened to storm Shaheen Bagh if the protesters didn't leave the spot. "Aaj tak jo bola hai wo kia hai," Rana posted. He gave protesters a week to vacate.

A day later, the Jamia shooter wanted that glory for himself. The desire to be bhagwa hero. To prove that Rana was all fury and no fire, he walked to Jamia and fired a shot. After telling Rana, he wasn't into bakch**i but was ready to die in the process.

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/how-online-rivalry-anti-muslim-hate-radicalised-jamia-shooter-1641701-2020-01-30

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Over 200 Hindu Families from Pakistan ‘Visiting’ Punjab Worry Agencies

Jan 31, 2020

AMRITSAR: The arrival of over 200 Hindu families on foot from Pakistan, “with almost all their belongings”, via the Attari border after the new citizenship law was passed has taken security agencies by surprise.

The families started arriving in groups on visitor visas in mid-December, sources at the border told TOI. Visitor visas are generally issued to foreigners who wish to enter India to meet relatives or people known to them.

The families have remained “absolutely tight-lipped”, sources said. “Their silence is suspicious but it is too early to suspect that they will jump their visas and apply for Indian citizenship,” said another source.

Most Hindu ‘visitors’ arriving on foot

Sources added there was apprehension that these families were being sent into India in a systematic manner. The agencies suspect these people started applying for visas as soon as talk of CAA began. “For now, we can’t say anything about whether they are genuine tourists or have some other plans. This will be known only once their visas expire and they stay back or apply for Indian citizenship,” they added.

What seems bizarre is that most of these “visitors” were arriving on foot and carrying huge bundles of luggage wrapped in sheets and tied with strings, appearing to carry everything they owned. “Their belongings were not kept in travel bags or suitcases but they had wrapped them in sheets tied with ropes or strings, which is not normal for tourists,” explained the sources.

After Parliament passed the new citizenship law, Hindus and Sikhs living in Afghanistan and Pakistan are hopeful of obtaining Indian citizenship despite the cutoff date to qualify being December 31, 2014.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/hindus-from-pakistan-visiting-punjab-worry-agencies/articleshow/73783657.cms

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Pakistan Offers Higher Education, Technical Skills to Muslim World

January 31, 2020

Islamabad : Pakistan has offered higher education and technical skills to the residents of Muslim countries for their development.

The offer was made by Federal Education and Professional Training Secretary Dr Sajid Yoosufani during the two-day 40th session of the executive council of Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation in Abu Dhabi.

The event has been attended by the representatives of 54 member states of the organisation.

The secretary said to keep up pace with the new, changing world, the Muslim nations should adapt to innovations and technologies, especially in education and science.

He said Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan recently launched the Hunarmand Jawan programme, the country’s largest ever skilled development initiative, for the emancipation of youth through quality professional training.

“It is the need of the hour that Muslim countries take innovative measures to stay afloat with the modern world that has already stepped up in the world of artificial intelligence and cyberspace. We need to focus on human development by integrating new technologies and innovations in the education system,” he said.

Dr Yoosufani also supported the change of the name of the Islamic World Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (ISWESCO) and said the move was an effort to bring clarity to the title of the forum and making it exclusive.

Director-general of ISESCO Dr Salim bin Mohammed Al Malik said the Islamic world needed to develop an action mechanism for a new future.

“We have developed strategic plans to transform ISESCO into an excellent and efficient organisation in upholding Islamic values and principles and as a beacon of sustainable development worldwide,” he said, adding that the member states were actively supporting educational and cultural projects.

Dr Al Malik said the ISESCO would have an annual budget of $50 million by the end of 2020 and half a billion dollars by the end of 2025.

This meeting reviewed, over the course of two days, the organization’s new vision, action plan for 2020-2021, the new Medium-Term Strategic Plan for 2020-2030, and a number of organizational matters submitted by the General Directorate to the Council.

Notably, the ISESCO executive council also approved changing of the name of the organisation.

"Changing the name of the organisation aims to remove the common confusion regarding the nature of its non-advocacy tasks, and to open wider horizons for its presence at the international level," said ISWESCO director general Dr Salim.

He said the new name accurately reflected the nature of the civilisational mission that the organisation promotes in the fields of education, science, culture and communication, and the goals and objectives that it set.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/606798-pakistan-offers-higher-education-technical-skills-to-muslim-world

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Iran Military Chief: Liberation Of Al-Quds Number One Priority Of Muslim World

30 January 2020

Iran’s military chief urges the world’s Muslim countries to reinforce their solidarity and overcome their existing rifts in the face of the US and Israel’s attempts to prevent liberation of the occupied Palestinian territories, most importantly the holy city of Jerusalem al-Quds.

Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Baqeri made the remarks in a statement addressed to the Muslim world’s defense ministers and army chiefs that was published on Thursday. The message concerned US President Donald Trump’s recent announcement of the long-awaited outline of a US scheme purportedly seeking to remedy the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that his administration has controversially dubbed “the deal of the century.”

General Baqeri sternly warned about the implications of any laxity or silence in the face of the oppressive plot, urging Muslim nations to focus their efforts on healing their differences on the basis of Islamic guidelines amid the situation.

“The Muslim world’s first priority is liberation of the Palestinian nation and liberation of the Noble Quds, which is Muslims’ First Qibla (the direction towards which Muslims stand when saying their prayers),” he said.

Washington had announced the plan -- a brainchild of Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner and other key pro-Israeli figures, years ago -- but had withheld the details. Trump announced the general provisions of the scheme on Tuesday, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side and in the absence of whatever representative from the Palestinian sides, which have already dismissed the deal.

The US president repeated his hugely-controversial endorsement of al-Quds Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided capital,” although Palestinians have historically wanted the city’s eastern part as the capital of their future state.

He said the deal featured an economic portion that earmarks $50 billion in monetary allocations to Palestinians, Jordan, and Egypt. Palestinians have denounced this as a means of bribing them into selling their rights.

Still contentiously, Trump said that the settlers, who have been housed in illegal settlements built on occupied Palestinian land, would not be moved under the deal.

The US president, meanwhile, alleged that Israel would be freezing its settlement activities for four years “while Palestinian statehood is negotiated.” Tel Aviv has never fully committed to such freezes, causing any negotiation process to break down.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Iran's top general said, “By divine Grace, not only will the deal of the century fail to materialize, but it will also expedite Israel’s perdition and annihilation by putting the regime through a monumental vortex.”

He called the announcement “a historic and strategic error,” which seeks to pursue the main part of “Zionists’ 70-year-old defeated project in the region,” namely occupation of Palestine.

Iran's military chief noted that the scheme violated the sovereignty of an oppressed nation, and amounted to “declaration of war against its territorial entity and existence.”

Baqeri finally warned that any tacit agreement, inaction, negligence, or double standard approach in the face of the plot threatened to subject other Muslim countries to a yet larger scheme targeting their independence and national sovereignty.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/30/617478/Iran-military-chief-United-States-Israel-Deal-of-Century-Muslim-world

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Researchers in Istanbul discuss 'Indian legal discrimination against Muslims'

Jan 30 2020

Academics and researchers gathered in Istanbul to discuss a new citizenship law in India which has been criticised for discriminating against Muslims and strengthening Islamophobia, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported. 

The roundtable discussion was organised on Wednesday by the South Asia Strategic Research Center (GASAM), a think tank founded by Ali Şahin, a Turkish Islamist who studied in Pakistan and who now serves as the deputy minister for European Affairs on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s cabinet.

Mehmet Özay, an academic at Istanbul’s Ibn Haldun University and one of the speakers at the discussion, said that India’s new law violated the country’s constitution.

"Perhaps today we are witnessing a process in which India is turning from a multicultural, multi-ethnic, secular structure based on its 1947 constitution … to an Islamophobia-dominant country,” Özay said.

The Citizenship Amendment Act, which was approved on Dec. 12, fast-tracks Indian citizenship for non-Muslim minorities from three neighbouring countries, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

Protesters across India have taken to the streets since December to oppose the controversial law, which they say discriminates against Muslims.

Nedim Çavdari, a researcher and Istanbul-based medical doctor who is originally from Kashmir, said the law had been introduced to clean up Muslim culture from India.

“You can stay as a Muslim there, but you have to live Hindu culture socially,” he said.

Tensions between Hindu and Muslim populations have been close to the surface since India was partitioned in 1947. Rights group accuse the Indian government of pursuing a Hindu-nationalist agenda that aims to marginalise the country’s 200 million Muslims.

https://ahvalnews.com/india-turkey/researchers-istanbul-discuss-indian-legal-discrimination-against-muslims

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Minnesota priest apologizes for calling Islam ‘greatest threat’ to America

By Joshua Rhett Miller

January 30, 2020

A Roman Catholic priest in Minnesota has apologized for calling Islam the “greatest threat in the world” to the United States and Christianity.

The Rev. Nick VanDenBroeke apologized Wednesday in a statement posted on the website of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minnesota for the Jan. 5 comments during a 15-minute homily as pastor of the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Lonsdale.

“My homily on immigration contained words that were hurtful to Muslims,” the statement read. “I’m sorry for this. I realize now that my comments were not fully reflective of the Catholic Church’s teaching on Islam.”

The mea culpa followed a request by the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations to condemn the “hate-filled” remarks, including that congregants “must oppose” Muslims’ religion and worldview.

“Silence on this issue would send the troubling message that the church holds a negative view of Minnesota’s Muslim community,” the civil rights group said in a statement.

While characterizing Islam as the “greatest threat” worldwide to both the United States and Christianity, VanDenBroeke also claimed that Americans do “not need to pretend” that all immigrants seeking to enter the country should be treated equally, according to the civil rights group.

“I believe it is essential to consider the religion and worldview of the immigrants or refugees,” VanDenBroeke told parishioners, according to CAIR. “More specifically, we should not be allowing large numbers of Muslims asylum or immigration into our country.”

In a separate statement posted on the archdiocese’s website, Archbishop Bernard Hebda said he had discussed the matter with VanDenBroeke.

“He has expressed sorrow for his words and an openness to seeing more clearly the Church’s position on our relationship with Islam,” the statement read. “The teaching of the Catholic Church is clear.”

The church “looks with esteem to Muslims,” who worship God via prayer, fasting and the giving of alms, Hebda said, adding that Pope Francis has emphasized the need for enhanced dialogue between Christians and Muslims.

“I am grateful for the many examples of friendship that have been offered by the Muslim community in our region and we are committed to strengthening the relationship between the two communities,” Hebda’s statement continued.

The homily took place on a day declared as “Immigration Sunday” by Minnesota’s Catholic bishops. The date was first celebrated in Catholic parishes statewide in 2009 to welcome migrants and refugees into local communities, the Star Tribune reports.

https://nypost.com/2020/01/30/minnesota-priest-apologizes-for-calling-islam-greatest-threat-to-america/

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French politics feeds off Muslim bashing and Islamophobia

January 31, 2020

Many French Muslims have grown disillusioned with the government since they believe the country's politics, from the far-left to far-right camps, has become polluted with Islamophobic thinking.

The scourge of far-right extremism making Muslims the main target has increased manifold in Europe and recent reports reveal that France is worst hit by this climate of hatred.

With the largest Muslim population in Europe, France's five million Muslims have faced 154 attacks in 2019, a sharp 54 percent spike compared to the previous year.

Abdallah Zekri, president of the National Observatory of Islamophobia, recently issued a written statement saying the years of misinformation and propaganda spread through international media linked Islam with individual or collective acts of terror, leaving Muslims all over the world in a precarious situation and threatening their existence on the planet.

One of the main reasons behind the rising hate crimes against Muslims has been the wave of terrorist attacks in recent years despite many officials in the French government asking people to not confuse the actions of radicalized individuals with the religion of Islam and turn Muslims into soft-targets for the far-right, white supremacist groups.

But facts have barely mattered to those who hate Muslims simply for their religious identity. As a result, French Muslims are reeling under the threat of radical anti-Muslim forces who over the years have felt emboldened to even take the law in their hands and engage in what can easily qualify as  acts of terrorism. Whenever terror groups such as Daesh and al-Qaida carry out attacks anywhere in the West, these anti-Muslim groups find an excuse to inflict violence upon French Muslims.

Yasser Louati, Human Rights Advocate and Head of the Justice & Liberties For All Committee, told TRT World that the climate has become "highly dangerous," with Islamophobic attitudes and narratives being "condoned by public institutions, political parties and the media."

"So much that it has become the most respectable form of racism. Islamophobia brings together the whole French political spectrum,” Louati said.

In French politics, Louati said, using Islamophobic reasoning is "a high return and lowrisk political positioning" that helps politicians from the far-left to far-right gain electoral advantage.

“For people, it means daily discrimination in schools, work places, neighbourhoods, prove that the far-right extremism is real in French society," he said. 

"Multiple attacks against Muslims have been fueled, and it is not a coincidence. The Australian attacker, Christchurch terrorist attack, matured his project in France. He decided to do it in France, in his manifesto he admitted it."

"It seems the government is doing nothing substantial to tackle Islamophobia. Macron has been playing on both sides. He will say that he is against discrimination. He is having his own government where his interior minister wants to criminalize the practice of Islam by calling it a religion of radicalization. The education minister wants to ban Muslim mothers from attending school trips, and police students whose parents wear traditional clothes.”

According to Farid Hafez, a PhD at the University of Salzburg's Department of Political Science and Sociology, Islamophobia in France is deeply entangled in a post-colonial structure, where black and brown and Muslim subjects have been otherized.

With the hegemonic idea of secularism, he argues, Muslims are further estranged from  society, especially when it comes to education.

“The government frames Islam as a security issue, as can be seen with the interior ministry’s approach to Islam. This is wrong at the starting point. A change in the current framing of secularism would be a good start to build an inclusive society. But anti-Muslim racism must be seen along with other forms of marginalisation such as the working poor in France,” Hafez said.

Louati said Muslims are not able to cope up as they feel stuck between a rock and hard place in France.

“On one hand we have Islamophobia, Muslims experience it in their private and social lives. On the other hand, Muslim organisations have no national plans to act seriously against Islamophobia.They want the government to act on their behalf instead of mobilizing Muslims to overcome their divisions and reach out to the broader French society,” Louati said.

https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/french-politics-feeds-off-muslim-bashing-and-islamophobia-33351

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Muslims Who Are Feeling Unwell Need Not Attend Friday Prayers: Islamic Religious Council of Singapore

SINGAPORE — The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) has issued an advisory urging Muslims who are not feeling well or have been placed under quarantine to not attend Friday prayers.

Under Islamic law, attending Friday prayers is compulsory for Muslim men, with some exceptions.

The advisory comes after the news that the Wuhan coronavirus has made its way to Singapore. Previously, Muis had issued similar advisories for the haze and the H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009.

On Wednesday (Jan 29), the Ministry of Health had announced that there are now 10 confirmed cases in the Republic.

Last week, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore said that the Catholic Church in Singapore would exempt members who are unwell or are experiencing flu-like symptoms from attending mass where crowds are present.

The Muis advisory, which was undated and posted on the organisation’s website, said: “If you are experiencing any above symptoms or are in quarantine, Islam has provided you with the flexibility of not attending Friday prayers.”

Read also: Govt to distribute masks to all 1.37 million Singapore households amid Wuhan virus outbreak

Muis also cautioned Muslims to not spread unverified news as it may “cause a stir and create confusion among members of the community”.

Instead, members of the Muslim community should ensure that their news comes from valid and legitimate sources.

“The Singapore Muslim community shares the responsibility of minimising the transmission of the virus and ensuring that the situation remains under control. Islam teaches us to place great importance to the community’s interest and wellbeing.”

Read also: Several public hospitals reschedule non-urgent procedures, outpatient appointments to manage Wuhan virus situation

“We should also follow the advice of healthcare professionals. This includes the necessary measure of putting ourselves in quarantine for our family’s and society’s wellbeing,” said Muis.

https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/muslims-who-are-feeling-unwell-need-not-attend-friday-prayers-muis

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CAA exposed tensions with Bangladesh, but ties unaffected

January 31, 2020

The enactment of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA), on December 12, by India might have embarrassed the Sheikh Hasina government in Dhaka. But, there is little evidence that it has affected the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

On the contrary, the development, or the series of developments over the last year, had tested the durability of the relationship and brought many undercurrents out in the open, which may help decision making in the days to come.

To start with, the CAA, didn’t come as a bolt from the blue to Bangladesh or any of India’s neighbours. This is due to the long political build-up over implementation of Assam NRC (National Register of Citizens) and the raging debate over the earlier version of the bill in early 2019.

Leaders of the two countries were in constant touch throughout this period and the Awami League government was consistent in describing the developments, including CAA, as India’s internal issues.

Long build-up

What had changed in the meantime were India’s strong response to the Pulwama terror attack in February last year; abrogation of Article 370 in the erstwhile State of Kashmir in August; and the Ram Mandir verdict on November 9.

Balakot airstrike didn’t please pro-Pakistan Islamists. They got an opportunity to come out in the open on Kashmir issue that had a wider appeal. Mass protests were staged in Dhaka. Social media, newspapers were full of anti-India commentaries.

The Supreme Court verdict on Ayodhya added fuel to the fire. Ayodhya had always been a sensitive issue in Bangladesh. So much so that a fake news invited widespread violence on minorities, in 1990. It is noteworthy that nothing of that sort happened this time, indicating the strong grip of law.

Reverse migration

With emotions running high, CAA added a new dimension to the debate in Dhaka, as illegal Bangladeshis started fleeing India. Bangladeshi media referred it as “infiltration” from India.

Migration from Bangladesh to India has long been studied in global academic circle. Pew Research identified that contrary to Bangladesh’s official statistics, India was the largest source ($4.03 billion) of remittance to Bangladesh as in 2017.

However, Dhaka never accepted this open secret, until January 1, when Maj Gen Md Shafeenul Islam, director of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), reported apprehending 445 people who crossed the border illegally to return ‘home’ (Bangladesh).

BNP saw opportunity

Meanwhile Hasina’s Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party saw opportunity to make hay from the debate. They played on both fronts. On December 23 Secretary-General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, referred to CAA as a threat to regional stability.

However, by mid-January, senior BNP leaders Amir Khusrau Mahmud Chowdhury and Iqbal Hasan Mahmud Tuku met a set of Bangladeshi journalists, who report for Indian media, at the prestigious Dhaka Club.

Chowdhury is a businessman and manages India affairs for BNP. Tuku is a former minister. According to sources, during the meeting the leaders reiterated the party’s keenness in improving relations with India, which has suffered a serious jolt during the Khaleda Zia-rule between 2001 and 2006.

‘Unnecessary’ controversy

Apparently, what prompted BNP’s image building exercise to India was a late decision by Bangladesh’s junior foreign minister Shariar Alam to skip the privately organised, Raisina Dialogue (January 16-18, 2020) in Delhi and join Hasina for a trip to the UAE (January 16-19).

Since Alam’s decision came on the back of cancellation of a scheduled visit by Bangladesh’s senior foreign minister, AK Abdul Momen, at the peak of anti-CAA protests, a wide cross section of media was quick to link it to CAA.

Sources close to Hasina rubbished such claims. According to them Alam was indeed needed to resolve long-pending labour issues with UAE that banned Bangladeshi workers for five years. The ban had hurt Dhaka as remittance is its second largest source of foreign exchange.

However, on January 18, within days of BNP’s pitch for Indian support, UAE-based Gulf News carried a report, wherein Hasina once again referred CAA was internal issue of India but added that it was “not necessary”. She also denied ‘reverse migration’ from India.

One interesting development during the whole period was China’s effort to improve connect with Bangladeshi media, particularly those reporting for Indian media.

China’s pitch

Observers in Dhaka feel it was coming considering the increasing presence of China in Bangladesh vis-à-vis India’s poor media strategy.

Most top Indian media houses, including government-run All India Radio, stopped sending Indian correspondents to Dhaka.

Bangladeshi observers are more critical of India’s failure in establishing strong business-to-business relationship. Complaints galore against Indian industry for lack of interest, leaving their Bangladeshi partners stranded.

The issue was pointed out by a professor of a reputed Bangladeshi university during a conference at Jagannath University in Dhaka last year. China, he said, established better relations with Bangladesh’s socially influence class, who are crucial to get contracts.

https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/national/caa-exposed-tensions-with-bangladesh-but-ties-unaffected/article30695065.ece

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Rare coins reveal the rise and expansion of Islamic faith in UAE

Ismail Sebugwaawo /Abu Dhabi

January 30, 2020

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is hosting the exhibition titled the Coins of Islam: History Revealed.

Rare coins dating from the pre-Islamic era to the rise and expansion of the Islam are being showcased at a unique exhibition in the Capital.

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is hosting the exhibition titled the Coins of Islam: History Revealed. This is the first time that the collection of the rare and precious coins are being brought together for public viewing.

Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, inaugurated the exhibition on Tuesday. The three-month exhibition that will run until April 28 is being held under the patronage of Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women's Union, President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation. Sheikha Fatima has also lent a selection of coins from her private collection to the exhibition.

The exhibition narrates the history of coinage across different Islamic eras and highlights the cultural interaction and exchange among cultures.

Coins of Islam exhibition consists of approximately 350 rare and precious coins dating from the time of Alexander and largely tracking the emergence of the Islamic empire from just after the time of the Prophet to the emergence of the Caliphates in Syria and its subsequent spread across North Africa into Al Andalus. The collection includes a complete set of 52 Umayyad gold dinars that have never been seen in public.

Abu Dhabi expat Dr Alain Baron, founder of Numismatica Genevensis SA, is the curator and organiser of the exhibition.

Sheikh Mansour said: "Hosting this exhibition at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Centre complements the full range of cultural programmes organised regularly, which reflect its status as a leading global cultural destination that plays a prominent role in supporting the cultural movement and enhancing national identity within the UAE."

ismail@khaleejtimes.com

https://www.khaleejtimes.com/uae/abu-dhabi/rare-coins-reveal-the-rise-and-expansion-of-islamic-faith-in-uae

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India

 

Shooter’s FB suggests far-right radicalisation

Jan 30, 2020

The gunman involved in Thursday’s shooting on anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protesters in the Jamia Nagar area identified himself as a member of right-wing group Bajrang Dal, according to information on his Facebook profile that also indicated that the incident was premeditated and meant to cause significant harm – in at least two posts, he said the “game is over” for the protesters.

The Bajrang Dal was quick to deny he was associated with it.

The man told reporters his name was Rambhakt Gopal – a nom de guerre with which he operated a Facebook profile with multiple signs of a far-right Hindu radicalisation. HT is not identifying him by the name released by police since investigations are yet to determine if he is an adult, and the law prohibits disclosure of a minor suspect’s identity. According to an Aadhaar card and exam mark sheet furnished by his family in Jewar, he was born orn April 8, 2002.

In photos and texts posted over the past month, the gunman calls for India to be turned into a Hindu nation and makes hateful posts targeting the Shaheen Bagh protesters as well as students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). In one post in Hindi on January 7, he makes a rape threat targeting actor Deepika Padukone on a day she visited JNU students and expressed support for them following violence on campus.

“Shaheen Bagh, the game is over,” the young man wrote on Thursday afternoon, referring to the protests against CAA in south-east Delhi. “In my funeral, wrap by body in saffron and there should be chants of ‘Jai Shri Ram’,” he wrote in later posts.

He then proceeded to broadcast multiple live videos, all of which show closeups of the anti-CAA protesters before he purportedly acts in what he says is “revenge for Chandan bhai”.

The reference to Chandan, based on older posts on the profile, appears to be to Chandan Gupta, who was killed when members of right-wing groups such as Bajrang Dal and Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) were on a motorcycle rally in Uttar Pradesh’s Kasganj on January 26, 2018. The group was confronted by locals for some of its slogans before a clash broke out and shots were fired. The incident led to communal tensions between Hindus and Muslims in the area.

The gunman, too, describes himself as a Bajrang Dal worker from Jewar, according to web.archive.org’s snapshot of his profile from Thursday morning. The reference to the outfit was removed later in the day. Around three hours after the firing, the profile was gone altogether, pulled down by Facebook.

“There is no place on Facebook for those who commit this kind of violence. We have removed the gunman’s Facebook account and are removing any content that praises, supports or represents the gunman or the shooting as soon as we identify it,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

Uma Nandan Kaushik, a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) official in Noida and Ghaziabad area, said that the suspect was not associated with the Bajrang Dal. “Bajrang Dal is youth wing of VHP. The minor has written his bio on Facebook and associated with Bajrang Dal and RSS and BJP. But in fact he is not associated with any of these organisations. We held a meeting with workers 20 days ago in Greater Noida. This person was not in the meeting and he is not known to us,” Kaushik said.

Thursday’s incident was possibly the first significant instance in India of a shooter using social media to spread radical political opinion through texts, images, videos, even live broadcasts during or before an attack.

In March last year, a man who gunned down 51 people at a mosque in New Zealand’s Christchurch live-streamed the attack for nearly 17 minutes before Facebook took the content down.

In both cases, the gunmen expressed that they were about to take drastic steps and may not make it out alive. “Till January 31, do not ignore my posts,” the Delhi suspect said in a post last week. On Thursday, he wrote: “Going to liberate people... look after my home”.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/shooter-s-fb-suggests-far-right-radicalisation/story-GelXFCFPzIByClG4OdRcbL.html

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From Jamia shooter Facebook page: ‘Shaheen Bagh… khatam, Deepika Padukone will be beaten’

By Amitava Chakraborty , Sourav Roy Barman

January 31, 2020

Around two hours before images of him brandishing a pistol at protesters outside Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi flashed across television screens, the 17-year-old from Jewar in Uttar Pradesh’s Gautam Buddh Nagar district posted on Facebook, “Shaheen Bagh… khel khatam (the game’s over)”. This was among at least nine posts and seven Facebook Live videos he shared on the social networking site in the hours leading up to the incident.

The Facebook account, created in July 2018, was deactivated following the incident. Another, older account of his, with a last post in May 2018, too was later deactivated. He has 3,626 ‘Friends’ in the new account and 504 in the older one.

It was the first known instance of Facebook Live being used by a gunman in India while carrying out an attack, and the company said it took down his accounts before any official police request.

The 17-year-old’s Facebook accounts offer a few clues about the man, including his claimed association with the Bajrang Dal and his fascination for guns. His profile picture has him with Deepak Sharma, against whom the Uttar Pradesh government invoked the National Security Act in 2018 for allegedly instigating Sharda University students against Afghan collegemates.

Among the several Facebook pages the 17-year-old has ‘liked’ are of Union Home Minister Amit Shah and ‘Manoj Tiwari for Delhi CM’.

Recently, he had been posting extensively on events surrounding the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. The Facebook Live videos, shot minutes before the incident, show him walking past protesters, occasionally looking down into his phone camera. The posts, in Hindi, talk of revenge and “turning Shaheen Bagh into Jallianwala Bagh”.

Minutes before he pulled out his pistol, he wrote, “Koi Hindu media nahi hain yaha (There is no Hindu media here)” and “M yha akela hindu hu (I am the only Hindu here)”, followed by muscle-flexing emojis.

Some of his other posts said, “Azadi de rha hu (I am giving you freedom)”; “mere antim yatra par… mujhe bhagwa mein le jaye… aur jai Shri Ram ke nare ho (In my final journey… take me in saffron… and let there be chants of Jai Shri Ram)”; and “mere ghar ka dhyan rakhna (Take care of my family)”.

On January 28, he posted, “Attention, kindly do not gloss over my posts till January 31” with folded hands emojis. On January 11, he wrote in a post, “I am also a BJP supporter but for me country comes first, party and its leaders are secondary”.

In a post uploaded on January 7, the day actor Deepika Padukone visited JNU in solidarity with the protesting students, he threatens her and warns that her film, Chhapaak, will flop. “Deepika Padukone pel diye jaoge, bhakto ko jante nahi ho, Salman Khan se pucch lo Dabaang-3 ki lagat bhi wasool nahi hui (You will be beaten up, you don’t know the bhakts. Ask Salman Khan, Dabaang-3 didn’t even recover its costs)”. In another post the same day, with a photo of Padukone with JNU Students’ Union president Aishe Ghosh, he asks if she visited the homes of soldiers killed in the Pulwama attack of 2019.

There are pictures and videos of him on his Facebook accounts holding guns and swords, including one shot in slow-motion in which he marches with a gun while a friend walks with a cartridge belt, a song on Maharana Pratap playing. The older Facebook account has pictures of him when much younger, many of these with guns.

While the ‘About Me’ section in the new account is sparse, reading ‘Bajrang Dal, Jewar Jai Shri Ram’, the old account says, “I am the member of (b.j.p, bajrang dall, or rss.)…” and adds that he is from Mathura, lives in Noida and studied in J.S.P.M. Pune. In one of the posts, addressing Updesh Rana, who was arrested in Jaipur in 2017 over a proposed rally in support of Shambulal Regar, accused of killing a Muslim labourer in Rajasthan and circulating the videos, Gopal writes, “#Updesh Rana agar tujhse adhe bhi followers mere hote toh Shaheen Bagh ka Jallianwala Bagh bana deta ab tak (If I had half the followers you have, I would have turned Shaheen Bagh into Jallianwala Bagh)”.

In another, he says he is “doing this” for Chandan Gupta, who was shot during communal violence in Kasganj district of Uttar Pradesh on Republic Day in 2018. “Chandan bhai yeh badla aap ke liye (this revenge is for you),” he writes.

Facebook India said the posts, which were in clear violation of its standards of hate speech, had come to its notice between 4 pm and 6 pm. By then, these had amassed a flurry of responses, including congratulatory messages.

“There is no place on Facebook for this kind of violence. We have removed the gunman’s Facebook account and are removing any content that praises, supports or represents the gunman or the shooting,” said a Facebook spokesperson.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/jamia-protest-shooting-facebook-page-shaheen-bagh-6243473/

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Jamia firing: Agitating students detained, removed from outside Delhi Police headquarters

Jan 31, 2020

NEW DELHI: Students who were agitating outside the Delhi Police headquarters (PHQ) at ITO after a man fired at anti-CAA protestors near the Jamia Millia Islamia were detained and removed from the area on Friday morning, police said.

The students were protesting since Thursday night against Delhi Police over the incident. The police later closed the road outside the headquarters.

"Due to the demonstration in front of PHQ, the road leading from W point to A point towards Vikas Marg has been closed by local police. Please refrain from using this route," the Delhi Traffic Police tweeted.

A man fired a pistol at a group of anti-CAA protesters near Jamia Millia Islamia on Thursday, injuring a student, before calmly walking away while waving the firearm above his head and shouting "Yeh lo aazadi" amid heavy police presence in the area.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/jamia-firing-agitating-students-detained-removed-from-outside-delhi-police-headquarters/articleshow/73791031.cms

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Shooter was livestreaming just before attack at Jamia

Jan 31, 2020

NEW DELHI: On the morning of January 30, the youth who opened fire around 1.30 pm at students gathered for a march in Jamia Millia Islamia wrote on Facebook: “I’m about to bring them azaadi”. And “You may have heard of tandav, now you will see…”.

Not just that, he livestreamed a video of himself walking around the Jamia neighbourhood before he took aim. The video had 16,000 views. A Facebook friend posted: “You are on the news and I recognised you. Serve them azaadi in a fitting manner.” Comments included several congratulatory messages.

The display photo on one of his Facebook profiles, in which the joining date is July 2018, shows him kissing a sword, the hilt wrapped in a red cloth with gold trims, with a saffron cloth around his neck. His posts are interspersed liberally with emojis of triangular red flags and flexed biceps.

The youth’s posts read as if he was on a suicide mission: “On my last journey (antim yatra), wrap me in saffron and let there be calls of Jai Shri Ram.” Another post at the same time read “Game over, Shaheen Bagh”. Another says, “Chandan bhai, this revenge is for you.” The reference seems to be to Chandan Gupta, a 22-year-old killed in a Tiranga Yatra in Kasganj, UP, in 2018.

His posts of the day earlier also reflect his thinking. “Some people say preaching Hindutva Hindutva will not feed, so listen you xxxx, if you are alive to earn bread alone there is no difference between you and a dog,” wrote the shooter, who TOI is not naming since he is a minor going by his Class X marksheet.

On January 28, when a gunman was overpowered at Shaheen Bagh, this young man posted at 3.20pm: “Dhandabagh, tera baap aaya.” Earlier that day, at 1.36pm, he had reacted to a post by an Updesh Rana, who runs a private Facebook page called Youth Brigade, which has over 1.25 lakh followers. The rules for members state they should only talk about “Hindu Samaj and nationalism.” The January 27, 10.50pm, post by Rana was: “In a week, Shaheen Bagh should fold up, or else one lakh people will squat on dharna at the very place to evict you. What we say, we have done so far (sic).”

The gunman disagreed: “By then administration itself would have evicted them, EC will evict them, what’s the point of going there later? Why no action so far????? If I had half your followers I would have made Shaheen Bagh Jallianwalah Bagh by now (sic).” He seems to have made up his mind by the evening. On January 28 at 9pm, he announced: “Attention! Till the 31st, do not ignore my posts.”

After the lone-wolf attack on January 30, his Facebook profile became off-limits for public viewing, but not before screenshots had been captured on various media and online platforms.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/shooter-was-livestreaming-just-before-attack-at-jamia/articleshow/73785525.cms

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Three terrorists killed in encounter on Jammu-Srinagar highway, one cop injured

Jan 31, 2020

JAMMU: A group of terrorists opened fire at a police team near a toll plaza on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway here on Friday, triggering a gunfight in which three ultras were killed and a policeman injured, police said. Valley.

Traffic was suspended on the highway after the attack, the officials said.

Authorities have ordered closure of schools in Nagrota as a precautionary measure.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/terrorists-open-fire-at-police-team-in-jammu-one-cop-injured/articleshow/73788753.cms

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Citizenship Act has provision for Muslims from Pakistan, says Rajnath Singh

Jan 30, 2020

NEW DELHI: Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday said that the Citizenship Act of the country has provision for Muslims from Pakistan who want to come and stay in India and as many as 600 such people have been given citizenship during the last five-six years.

"If any Muslim brother from Pakistan wants to come to India and wants to stay here, then we have a provision in our citizenship act, through which they can get Indian citizenship. And I wish to tell you, we have given citizenship to 600 such Muslim brothers who came from Pakistan during the last 5-6 years, still, attempts are made to provoke hatred," the Minister said while addressing a public meeting in Delhi.

The Minister further added that India is the only country that has given the message of 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam,' to the world. The phrase means the world is one family.

"People who are trying to spread hatred need to understand India's character. India is the only country whose saints and seers did not only treat the people of their country as their family but they also accepted the people of the world as their family and gave the message of 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam' to the world. India is the only country that gave the message," the Minister said.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/citizenship-act-has-provision-for-muslims-from-pakistan-says-rajnath-singh/articleshow/73779860.cms

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NIA arrests 2 in terror funding case of banned PLFI

Jan 30, 2020

NEW DELHI: The NIA on Thursday arrested two accused in a terror funding case of People's Liberation Front of India (PLFI), a proscribed Naxal organisation of Jharkhand.

Hira Devi and Shakuntala Kumari, wives of Dinesh Gope -- the chief of PLFI in Jharkhand, were arrested, an official of the premier investigating agency said.

The NIA also conducted search at their houses in Kolkata and seized incriminating documents.

Full report at:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/nia-arrests-2-in-terror-funding-case-of-banned-plfi/articleshow/73777288.cms

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Politicians to meet PM Modi, Amit Shah on Jammu and Kashmir statehood

Mir Ehsan & Sudhi Ranjan Sen

Jan 31, 2020

A group of politicians, including former ministers, from Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) will seek appointments to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah to discuss restoration of the region’s statehood and to raise concerns regarding government jobs and land ownership, according to people aware of the matter. If it materialises, it will be the first such meeting since the nullification of the Constitution’s Article 370 that stripped the region of its special status in August.

Around two dozen politicians, including Altaf Bukhari, met on Wednesday in Srinagar and decided to seek the appointments for the mitigation of the problems people have been facing since the erstwhile state was stripped of the special status that prevented non-residents from buying land and getting jobs there.

Three former chief ministers Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and Farooq Abdullah were among hundreds of people detained to prevent protests against the nullification and the division of J&K into two Union territories.

A lockdown and a communication blackout were also imposed ahead of the nullification in August. Most of the restrictions have since been eased but the three chief ministers remain under detention.

The people cited above said a team will be constituted before the appointments with the two are sought.

They added it was decided at the meeting held at former minister and Democratic Party Nationalist leader Ghulam Hassan Mir’s residence on Wednesday. Bukhari as well as rebel Congress leaders Shoaib Lone, Usman Majeed and Hilal Shah also attended the meeting.

The development comes in the backdrop of the Centre’s attempts to rope in Bukhari and another former minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig to restart political activity in J&K, according to officials in Delhi. The Centre last week conferred upon Baig the Padma Bhushan.

“Bukhari does not have political baggage unlike others and, therefore, is more acceptable to the people and New Delhi,” said an official in Delhi on condition of anonymity .

Officials said the government is working on a plan to allow political activity in the state and offer concessions like restrictions on the land sale. The officials indicated Bukhari is likely to take the leadership of this initiative. He has had several rounds of meetings with government functionaries, the officials said.

The government’s move to back Bukhari comes after offers to other political leaders, including those in detention, failed to make any progress. It feels political activity around statehood and promises of jobs, land rights have minimal chance of being “hijacked by Pakistan-backed moves”.

Bukhari and Baig have stressed on the need to look beyond Article 370 and advocate for the restoration of statehood and domicile laws that will protect employment and land rights. “Parliament and the Supreme Court are supreme. Once the court decides on the pleas on Article 370, we have to see how best to address the apprehensions of the people of J&K. Like the protection available to several northeastern states, we will also request the government for similar provisions,” Baig said. “Across ethnic lines–Dogras, Kashmiris and Gujjars–there is a feeling of insecurity.”

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/politicians-to-meet-pm-modi-amit-shah-on-jammu-and-kashmir-statehood/story-ibBaFKpQLhddZViiL83pLI.html

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The rise of Aijaz Dhebar, Chhattsigarh’s first Muslim Mayor

Ritesh Mishra

Jan 31, 2020

Thirty-years ago, while everyone would enjoy the conviviality of much awaited recess, a kid from Raipur used to sit alone. He did not have the luxury of bringing food due to his family’s penurious condition. One day, an empathetic lady teacher sensed the loneliness of the child and since then always handed over her tiffin-box to that kid.

That boy, Aijaz Dhebar, now 39, is Raipur Mayor, the first Muslim in Chhattisgarh to hold this post.

His teacher, Iccha Madam, now in her seventies, recalls Dhebar’s days of penury and says that in the last 30 years he has never missed teacher’s day. “He is among the first to ring door bell of my house and wish me teacher’s day,” she said.

“Those were difficult days for us...My father was just a worker in a shop and he had 10 children and therefore, we could not afford lunch in school. Every day, I used to pray to God before recess…..I felt humiliated,” Dhebar recalls, sitting in Mayor’s Chamber in the White House -- the municipal corporation building in Raipur.

“Later, my father opened a scarp shop in Muadhapara and then our family’s financial condition started improving,” he says.

Dhebar got interested in politics when he was 16.

“One day, my elder brother instructed me to help a candidate who was fighting for municipal election and it was my first foray in politics. My brother, Haneef Dhebar, was close to Ajit Jogi and later I came close to some of senior leaders of Congress... I was made Baijnathpara ward president of Congress in 1995-96,” Dhebar said.

Dhebar became close to Jogi, who appointed him state president of National Students Union of India in 2001. “In 2006-07, I moved away from Jogi family due to personal reasons,” he says.

“Then I got in touch with Charandas Mahant, who gave me a post in Congress. I worked across the state and organized protests and events against the BJP government,” Dhebar claims.

But, Dhebar earned an image of rowdy in Chhattisgarh politics, which he vehemently denies. “There is was only case against me, in which I have been exonerated,” he says.

But, his rivals in the Congress say he has an image of ‘nuisance’ creator in the party. “I am sure by next assembly election the party will realize its mistake of making Dhebar mayor. He will have a negative impact on all the four assembly seats of the city,” a says a senior Congress leader, preferring anonymity.

But, those close to Dhebar said his image of an “aggressor” is result of his political fight against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during the saffron party’s rule in the state for 15 years.

“He fought on the streets when BJP was in power and therefore he is often described as an aggressive person. Each and every protest organised by Congress was either led by Vikas Upadhyay (now an MLA) or Dhebar…I have seen him since he was ward president of Congress party in the city...He is always devoted towards for the party and its objective,” said Sandeep Sahu, a coordinator of Other Backward Classes wing of All Indian Congress Committee (AICC).

Dhebar claims that his image was “distorted” by some people for vested interest. “If my image was so bad, I would not have won by the highest margin in municipal election in the state,” he says in his defence.

BJP leaders alleged that Dhebar became Mayor because he was close to those in power in Chhattisgarh.

“During legislative elections, he threatened Congress leader PL Punia and was denied a party ticket after which he ransacked the Congress office. This shows that who has promoted him. He handles all the big mining projects for some important persons in Congress. His image is of a trader not a politician,” Gauri Shankar Srivas, BJP spokesperson, claiming that Dhebar got Mayor’s post because of CM Bhupesh Baghel.

Dhebar had no qualms in agreeing with Srivas on this. “In the era when there is big debate on Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register for Citizens (NRC) across the country, Bhupesh ji trusted me,” he said.

In his own words, Dhebar has seen meteoric financial rise. From a family, which was not able to provide him lunch in school, he now owns a lush hotel in Raipur and has invested in at least 10 construction projects in the city. “Ye sab apni mehnat se kiya hai (All this I have got through my hard work)... Not a single paisa is illegally earned,” he says, claiming that he delves in real estate and hospitability business.

Political commentator, Nand Kashyap, said he has earned his position.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/the-rise-of-aijaz-dhebar-chhattsigarh-s-first-muslim-mayor/story-Df82UWsnBkxQDTgc3Qt5VI.html

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Kashmiri Pandit colonies in Valley safe, fenced and gated: ‘It’s like dividing us again’

by Basharat Masood, Nirupama Subramanian

January 31, 2020

A high concrete wall, topped by a metal sheet running over its entire length. Concertina wire provides the finishing touch. The gates are shut and bolted from inside. J&K police and Special Operations Group personnel guard the premises. Inside are rows of small identical single-storey homes with red sloping roofs and painted yellow windows, all pre-fab structures made of asbestos sheets.

It is a gated community even realtors would hesitate to promote, but this, and five others across Kashmir Valley — three of them concrete three-storeyed structures — are the most visible experiments of “return” for Pandits who fled the Valley in 1990, threatened by a militancy that had just then turned full-blown.

And as migrants renew their demand that the government “resettle” them back in Kashmir and provide them security to live in the Valley, this might be the model that the government may find it easy to replicate.

This “Pandit colony”, which has 60 portacabins, is home to about 70 migrant Pandits – some are shared — who were employed by the government in Kashmir back in 2010 under the Prime Minister’s Return & Rehabilitation Scheme. It was meant to be transit accommodation until “returnees” reintegrated with the local community. At least in this respect, time has stood still these last 10 years.

On this Wednesday morning, the premises are deserted. Most returnees, who are employed as teachers, have returned to Jammu for the annual school vacation. The police guards say only a handful of others employed in other government departments in junior posts remain, but they are away at work. Only a few are originally from Haal. None of their families have shifted here. They come for a couple of months in the summer, say the guards. Then they go right back to Jammu, which has been their home for the last 30 years.

“Everything is normal. Those who live here go out to work everyday. They face no problems at all from the local residents,” a police guard said. In all, seven policemen and 10 SOG personnel guard the premises.

But local residents do not see the Pandit colony as a solution, and believe it could become part of the problem.

Sajjad Hussain Dar, a resident of Haal, says Pandits are welcome to return. “They should come back and stay in their homes. That is what we all want. But if they want to stay in colonies like this one, that is a different thing. Then they become separate. It is not like having neighbours. We are not able to meet and greet them as we would in the normal way. When people come and live in their own homes, we know who they are. Our parents and grandparents knew their’s. When they live in colonies, we don’t know who they are, where they are from,” Dar said.

For the Kashmiri Muslims of Haal, the ideal is Omkarnath Bhat, who is in his late 80s, and was the only one who did not leave with the other Pandits in 1990. He lives in his crumbling house with his son, daughter-in-law and their three sons, a few hundred metres away from the “Pandit colony”, in Haal’s original Pandit locality, once home to the most prosperous and well to do Kashmiri Pandit families until they all left.

Now, some two dozen houses rise silently from the snow, testimony to a past grandeur even in their dilapidated and crumbling condition. One belongs to a former judge of the Supreme Court, another to a well known Delhi doctor. Bhat’s eldest grandson Abhilash, 26, managed just last year to get a job in the PWD department in Pulwama, a rare third-generation non-migrant Pandit to have found government employment.

Abhilash, who has a BTech degree from a college in Ambala, Haryana, too sounds a cautious note on colonies. “From the migrants’ point of view, colonies are okay, but not from the point of view of locals. By living in colonies, they become separate. Outsiders are not allowed in. It becomes a barrier between people,” he said.

His grandfather said the family had lived here all these years “only with the support of our neighbours”. The only thing he complained about was the lack of water in his house, and loneliness, “because there are some matter, like religion, that you can discuss only with your own people”.

Opinion | Suvir Kaul writes: Both Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits will have to find empathy, generosity to overcome their political differences

Showkat Ahmad, a neighbour, speaks with affection about the Bhat family. “We have lived as brothers and we will continue to do so. All the other Pandits are welcome to return. It would be good if they settle back with us in our village. Settling them in separate colonies is not a good idea. It would be like dividing us again and that would not be good – not for them (Pandits) and not for us (Muslims). We want harmony, and separation would only create animosity,” Ahmad said.

Far from Pulwama, in Budgam district’s Sheikhpora is another Pandit colony, with multi-storeyed housing. Five hundred migrants, all employed in various government departments in Kashmir, live in this colony, with their families. Abhay Kaul, a 23-year-old, who was born and grew up in Jammu, studied there, and is now employed Village Level Worker in the Rural Development department, lives here with his mother who works in the Urban Development department. His father has a business in Jammu, and lives there. Kaul says the accommodation in Sheikhpora is better than what is available for migrants in Jammu. But it is clear that for him, home is Jammu, where his family has built their own house, even though he says, “Jammu people don’t like Kashmiri Pandits”.

Though the security situation is more relaxed here than in Pulwama, the CRPF guards this colony, and lets people in only after a scrutiny of their IDs.

There are also 31 non-migrant families living in Sheikhpora. “The police told us they cannot provide security to isolated families, and forcibly brought us here. The conditions here are awful, and because we are non-migrant, we get second class treatment even inside this colony,” said Deepak Bhat, who works as a technician with an electrical appliances company. He, his wife and daughter, his parents and his sister share a three-roomed apartment. “Even the attic at our home in Lalgam was better than this living room. Is this even a life? What’s the point of living like a refugee all your life” he said, adding “When I say these things, people say I’ve become anti-India”.

Sanjay Tickoo, who heads Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti, an association of non-migrants, called the colonies “an experiment that failed”. Tickoo lives in the Bar Bar Shah neighbourhood, a maze of lanes and houses in Habbakadal, once a hub of Kashmiri Pandits. Now there are only two or three Pandit families left here.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/kashmiri-pandit-colonies-valley-homeless-at-home-series-6243495/

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Jamia student shot at as 20 Delhi cops watch, Proctor says MoS Anurag Thakur is to blame

By Aranya Shankar , Jignasa Sinha , Somya Lakhani

January 31, 2020

As over 20 police personnel, including an SHO, watched, a youth fired at a protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act near Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi on Thursday, leaving one student injured.

Later said to be 17 and a juvenile, the teenager brandished a gun at the protest site around 1.45 pm, and shouted slogans of “Yeh lo azadi (Here, take azadi)”, “Desh mein jo rehna hoga, Vande Mataram kehna hoga (If you want to stay in the country, you have to say Vande Mataram)” and “Dilli Police zindabad”, before he fired. As he was being taken away by police, he identified himself as “Ram bhakt”.

The injured student, Shadab Farooq, belongs to Jammu & Kashmir and is a first-year student of mass communication at Jamia. He was part of the ‘Long March’ against the CAA planned by Jamia students from the university to Rajghat on Thursday, to mark Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. Farooq sustained a bullet wound in his left forearm, and was taken to AIIMS for surgery.

The gunman, who was eventually overpowered by a single policeman, had posted about his intentions on Facebook, and kept putting up videos till the end.

Police said while the youth had fired once, there was another round left in the gun. They said he had told them during interrogation that he “had taken the weapon from someone a few days ago”, and taken the bus to reach Jamia. He has been held under IPC Section 307 (attempt to murder) and the Arms Act.

Jamia Chief Proctor Waseem Ahmad Khan blamed the provocative poll speeches by BJP leaders Anurag Thakur and Kapil Mishra for the incident. “The students were trying to march to Rajghat, we were trying to stop them… It was a peaceful protest, why did the man fire? This incident took place because of the inflammatory speeches by Anurag Thakur and Kapil Mishra. They instigated people. We are suffering. Police and the government should act against them,” Khan said.

In a video message, Jamia Vice-Chancellor Najma Akhtar asked why police did not catch the gunman in time. While around two dozen personnel were standing around 30 metres from the gunman, more than 300 policemen and five companies of the CRPF had been stationed in the area in preparation for the march.

Praising the students for showing restraint and pointing out that things could have got out of hand, Akhtar said, “We are shaken by this incident. It cannot ever happen that a man brandishes a pistol in front of police and nobody is able to stop him. Then he shoots someone and is caught very coolly. This incident is shaking our trust. I hope that such an incident will not occur again. We need an assurance that it will not happen again.”

With its role under a cloud for the third time in two months over handling of situations around university campuses, Delhi Police claimed that things had happened too fast for it to act.

Said Special CP Crime Praveer Ranjan, “By the time police could react, the person had already fired. Everything happened in a split second. Investigation is on.” ACP-rank, SHO-rank and additional SHO-rank officers, as well as a constable present at the spot, reiterated the same.

Additional SHO (Jamia Nagar) Khalid Hussain said he was walking near the students when the gunman fired. “The man appeared suddenly and shot… I was the first person to hold Shadab.” SHO Jamia Nagar Upender Singh said, “The accused had his back towards us and we couldn’t see the gun. As soon as he fired the gun, we acted swiftly and caught him.” An ACP-rank officer said, “We couldn’t see anything as the accused’s back was towards us and there was a lot of distance between where police were and where he was. We acted as fast as we could.”

Additional DCP (Southeast) Kumar Gyanesh said police personnel were stationed at various points near Jamia and the accused emerged from the crowd. “It all happened so quickly and we acted swiftly.”

A senior police personnel said “it was a reporter’s scream for help followed by the sound of the gunshot that made clear what had happened”.

On Monday, Anurag Thakur, the Minister of State, Finance, addressing a rally for the February 8 Delhi Assembly elections, had repeatedly raised the slogan of “Desh ke gaddaron ko” as the crowd responded with “goli maaro saalon ko”. The next day, BJP MP Parvesh Sahib Singh Verma said protesters at Shaheen Bagh could “enter homes and rape our sisters and daughters”. Thakur has been banned from campaigning for 72 hours, and Verma for 96 hours.

Last month, the slogan to target “traitors” had been raised by Mishra, a BJP candidate, at a pro-CAA march in Connaught Place.

During his poll speeches, Union Home Minister Amit Shah has also continuously attacked Shaheen Bagh protesters and on Thursday, called the election as between “those who stand with the nation” and “those with Shaheen Bagh”. He also tweeted about the Jamia firing incident, saying, “I have spoken to the Delhi Police commissioner about the shooting incident and told him to take strictest action.”

Both the Aam Aadmi Party and Congress linked the gunman’s actions to the rallies and press conferences by BJP leaders.

The incident happened as a march of about 300 students was heading towards Rajghat. As police had put up barricades, a few of them went ahead to talk to the officers, with Farooq among them.

“Suddenly, out of nowhere, this guy came waving his country-made pistol and started shouting slogans such as ‘Delhi Police zindabad’ and ‘Hindustan zindabad’. He said ‘Aao main tumhe azadi dilaun (Come, I will give you azadi)’. He then fired at Shadab,” said Aamir Jahid, a Jamia alumnus who was present.

Midhat Samra, an economics student, who is seen in videos holding an injured Farooq, said, “Nobody knows where he came from. While he was shouting with his pistol pointed towards the sky, Shadab tried to calm him. He said ‘Bhai ruk jao, aaram se. Bandook neeche kar lo (Wait, take it easy, keep the gun down)’. We asked police for help, but they didn’t stop him. Then he fired. Even after that, when we were going to Holy Family Hospital, police didn’t move the barricades for Shadab. He had to climb on top of them.”

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/jamia-student-shot-at-as-20-cops-watch-proctor-says-mos-thakur-is-to-blame-6243470/

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Pakistan

 

FO rejects rumours govt planning AJK-Pakistan merger

Baqir Sajjad Syed

January 31, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Thursday categorically rejected rumours that the government intended to merge Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) region with mainland Pakistan.

“There is no such proposal under consideration,” FO spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said at the weekly media briefing.

The speculation about the merger had been doing the rounds for a little over six weeks now. It started with comments attributed to AJK Prime Minister Farooq Haider Khan that he had been told that he would be the last prime minister of the autonomous region. The rumours grew after the AJK government renamed one of the bureaucracy’s service group.

There were also rumours about the change in the status of Gilgit-Baltistan.

The spokesperson dismissed that too as “media speculation”.

India annexed occupied Kashmir in August 2019 and since then there have been assumptions that Pakistan too may change the status of the region in view of repeated threats from India.

Ms Farooqui said “unfortunately, it has become a pattern for the Indian leadership to create a war hysteria and jingoistic environment against Pakistan and its people”.

A day earlier, the Foreign Office, through a press release, rejected as irresponsible an assertion made by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that Indian armed forces could defeat Pakistan in 7 to 10 days in the event of a war. Mr Modi was reminded of the response to the aerial incursion in the aftermath of Pulwama stand-off last year when Indian Air Force lost two jets and one of its pilots was captured by Pakistani security forces.

“These remarks are another reflection of India’s incurable obsession with Pakistan and the BJP government and its leadership’s desperate attempts to divert attention from the growing domestic and international criticism of their discriminatory, anti-Kashmir and anti-minority policies. No one should underestimate the resolve of the people and armed forces of Pakistan to effectively thwart any aggressive action,” she said.

In reply to a question about the government’s campaign on Kashmir issue in the wake of upcoming Kashmir Solidarity Day on Feb 5, she said the drive would highlight Indian government’s atrocities and human rights violations in India-held Jammu and Kashmir. “The plan includes activities inside Pakistan as well as abroad. This is an ongoing process and national effort. Our missions in more than a hundred countries are planning a comprehensive strategy regarding the upcoming Kashmir Solidarity Day and the awareness campaign is not only restricted to Pakistan,” she said.

APP adds: The FO spokesperson announced opening Khunjerab Pass with China in April, instead of its previous decision for an early opening, following the outbreak of novel coronavirus.

She said the opening of the crossing point at Pak-China border would now take place according to the routine plan.

As per agreement between the two countries, the Khunjerab Pass is closed in November due to heavy snowfall and reopens in April.

The spokesperson said the change of decision for an early opening of border was part of health safety measures.

She said Pakistan was in constant touch with the Chinese authorities to ensure safety of its nationals and the contact persons of Pakistan embassy were available at hotline for any assistance.

Ms Farooqui mentioned the statement of Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who has extended every possible assistance to China to help deal with the aftermath of coronavirus.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1531563/fo-rejects-rumours-govt-planning-ajk-pakistan-merger

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Honoured to see Indians happy over my exit, says DG ISPR before bowing out

Naveed Siddiqui

January 30, 2020

The outgoing head of the Inter-Services Public Relations, Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, on Thursday said that he considers it "an honour that Indians are happy" on his exit from the role.

Maj Gen Ghafoor will be replaced by his successor Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar and will take charge as the General Officer Commanding Okara.

Addressing his last press conference as the ISPR chief in Islamabad — an off-camera event — he thanked reporters for their services over the years and hailed the role played by the media overall in Pakistan's war against terrorism.

With regard to the recent comments made by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi where he claimed that Indian forces were now capable of making Pakistan "bite the dust" in less than 10 days, Maj Gen Ghafoor said that the Pakistan Army "will always surprise the Indian armed forces".

"We have said this before, and I am saying it again: You may start a war, but we will be the ones to end it."

He said that the Indian government and leadership are once more making "irresponsible statements".

"How can an army which could not defeat 8 million Kashmiris in the past 71 years, defeat 207 million Pakistanis?" he asked.

Maj Gen Ghafoor said there was "no victory in war; humanity always loses". "We will give a befitting response if war is imposed upon us," he added.

On his last day as the military's spokesperson, Maj Gen Ghafoor recalled the events from last year when India and Pakistan were on the brink of war.

"In February 2019, a Pakistan-India war was knocking at our doors but the Pakistan Army's preparedness and effective response paved the way for peace. All three services proved themselves competent," he said.

The outgoing ISPR chief said that the Pakistani leadership had responded to the threat of war in an admirable manner and that Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa's "superior military strategy" had saved South Asia from a major conflict.

Maj Gen Ghafoor said that Pakistan desires peace in the region and the Indian civil and military leadership should also recognise its importance. He called on India to end the oppression of citizens in occupied Kashmir.

Appreciating the progress in Pakistan's standing in the international arena, Maj Gen Ghafoor said that the nation had moved from "negative relevance" 20 years ago to "positive relevance" in the world. He called on the nation to present a united front against the challenges the country faces, adding that "no world power" can defeat a united nation.

"A country does not fight with the force of its weapons, it does so with the might of its determination and the support of the people," he said.

Praise for Gen Bajwa

He said Gen Bajwa's "military diplomacy" had exalted Pakistan's standing among the nations of the world.

Praising Gen Bajwa's "historic measures" he said that the army chief had made "important and difficult decisions" for peace in the country.

"Raddul Fasaad has been the most challenging operation and is a crucial element to secure lasting peace."

He also spoke of Gen Bajwa's role in promoting religious harmony and madressah reforms as well as in securing the Pak-Afghan and Pak-Iran borders.

"The Bajwa doctrine is about bringing peace to the country and the region without compromising on national security," he said.

He said the nation owes a lot to the country's intelligence agencies. "ISI is among the most well recognised intelligence agencies in the world."

'Thank you all'

Maj Gen Ghafoor said that as the military media wing's spokesperson he never gave his personal opinion on any matter. "A military spokesperson can never speak in contrast to the policy [of the armed forces]."

He thanked the nation for their support, making a special mention of "youth on media".

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1531472/honoured-to-see-indians-happy-over-my-exit-says-dg-ispr-before-bowing-out

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Court orders attachment of Altaf’s properties

January 31, 2020

KARACHI: An antiterrorism court on Thursday ordered proclamation and attachment of properties of Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s London-based founder Altaf Hussain and four workers in a case pertaining to alleged murder of two activists of the rival Pak Sarzameen Party.

The MQM chief along with eight detained and absconding suspects has been booked for his alleged involvement in the killing of PSP workers Naeem Ramzan and Azhar Rehmatullah in a gun attack on the party’s office in Usmania Colony on Dec 23, 2018.

On Thursday, the matter came up before the ATC-XII judge. A total of 10 suspects were produced from prison.

The investigating officer submitted a compliance report stating that non-bailable warrants issued by the court against Altaf Hussain, Asif Mian Siddiqui, alias Badshah; M. Jameel, alias Kashif; M. Asad Khan, alias Umar; M. Saleem, alias Belgium and Junaid, alias Owais could not be executed since their whereabouts could not be ascertained and there was no likelihood of their arrest in the near future.

The judge took the report on record and directed the IO to initiate the process of proclamation and attachment of properties of the absconders under sections 87 and 88 of the Criminal Procedure Code to bifurcate the matter against them and initiate trial against the detained suspects, who were told the engage defence counsel.

The IO was told to submit a compliance report till Feb 3.

The court also issued a notice to IO Inspector Aijaz Ahmed Memon and the state prosecutor to argue on the bail application moved by suspect Bisma on Feb 10.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1531494/court-orders-attachment-of-altafs-properties

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Iran envoy urges ways to bypass US sanctions

January 31, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Iranian envoy on Thursday asked Pakistan to look for ways to bypass American sanctions for increasing its bilateral trade and economic cooperation with Iran.

Iranian Ambassador Seyyed Mohammed Ali Hosseini was delivering a lecture on ‘Pak-Iran Peace and Security Cooperation’ at the Islamabad Policy Institute (IPI).

The ambassador’s lecture covered a wide range of issues, including the bilateral agenda, the situation in the Middle East, efforts for peace in Afghanistan, and even issues rarely discussed publicly like the participation of certain Pakistanis in the fight against militant Islamic State group or Daesh in Syria.

The envoy said Iran wanted to expand ties with Pakistan in all spheres, especially trade. Iran, he said, has already expressed its desire to become a part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor either in the bilateral or trilateral format. US sanctions, he believed, were, however, the main factor preventing the progress on the economic front.

Iran had earlier worked out a financial mechanism with the European Union to circumvent sanctions, but that did not work.

Pakistan and Iran had committed to increase bilateral trade to $5 billion per annum, open banking channels for facilitating trade and initiate ferry service. However, there has been little progress in this direction because of the US sanctions on Iran. Similarly, Pakistan has not been able to activate the long due Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline.

He said the two countries have intensified cooperation on border security, the other thorny areas in the ties, and the situation at the borders was much better than before. “Pakistan and Iran are much closer now than before due to sincere efforts of Prime Minister Imran Khan,” he said.

The envoy appreciated Pakistan for not succumbing to pressures with regards to its relations with Iran. There have been a lot of pressure on Islamabad, and that continues even now, but Pakistan has withstood all of that, he said.

On efforts for peace in the Middle East and Pakistani mediation initiative, Mr Hosseini said Iran was ready to initiate dialogue with Saudi Arabia to address each other’s concerns, but so far there was no positive response from Riyadh. “However, we have not lost hope as yet,” he maintained.

He said Iran was open to participating in dialogue with the Saudis anywhere, including Riyadh. Mr Hosseini praised Pakistani role for peace in Afghanistan as positive and constructive.

Peace in Afghanistan

Responding to a question about US-Taliban talks, he cast aspersions on US intentions for peace in Afghanistan saying Iran expects no good from the US. He called for participation of all Afghan stakeholders in the peace process and said that Tehran considers the Afghan government as the “main axis of dialogue”.

He rejected US President Donald Trump’s Middle East initiative, also called as the Deal of Century, as a “heinous design”.

In response to a question about Iran’s involvement with Pakistani Shias, who allegedly travelled to Syria for defence of the shrine of Hazrat Syeda Zainab, granddaughter of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), the ambassador said that Tehran did not encourage anyone to go there for defending the shrine. Some people, he said, did go there out of their love for the family of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him).

Mr Hosseini said Iran otherwise did not need any human resource for the defence of the shrine from Daesh. “We had enough people to defend the shrine even without support of people from other countries,” he said.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1531562/iran-envoy-urges-ways-to-bypass-us-sanctions

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MQM-P accuses PPP of fuelling communal hatred in Sindh

January 31, 2020

KARACHI: The Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P) on Thursday accused the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of sowing hatred in the name of ethnicity in the province and mentioned several recent moves by the provincial government that proved its fears, including the fresh publication of a textbook of social studies that carried “controversial details” about those people who had migrated to Pakistan after the Fall of Dhaka in 1971.

The MQM leaders held a detailed meeting of its parliamentary party in the Sindh Assembly and then addressed the media at the assembly building mentioning the recent steps of the PPP government which had been a source of concern mainly in urban Sindh.

Senior MQM-P leader Kunwar Naveed, flanked by Khwaja Izharul Hasan, Mohammad Hussain and other MPAs of the party, said that the PPP leadership was exploiting the 18th Amendment for its vested interests.

“Ethnicity has become the core of the PPP’s politics dividing the province in urban and rural Sindh,” he said. “Among other several biased moves, the provincial government has recently made an attempt to spread its narrative of hatred in educational institutions. The Sindh Textbook Board has recently published a social studies book for students of Grade VII which carries extremely false and controversial content only to spread hatred and brainwash the schoolchildren.”

Demands recall of textbook carrying ‘controversial’ content

Mr Naveed showed the sample of the book and read out a chapter from it which called the migrants from East Pakistan after it became Bangladesh to Karachi as “escapees”, not Pakistanis. The MQM-P, he said, condemned the Sindh government’s move and demanded that the authorities recall all such books.

“It doesn’t end here. The book carries the photograph of Benazir Bhutto on its cover,” he said. “You would not find any national leader such as the Quaid-i-Azam, Allama Iqbal or Liaquat Ali Khan on the book’s cover. So should the people living in other parts of the country print the photograph of Nawaz Sharif in books for Punjab, Wali Khan for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Mr Mengal for Balochistan? We respect the deceased leader, but there should be no politics in education.”

He said the MQM-P had raised its point at the relevant forum and demanded immediate action for all its grievances leading to the politics of tolerance and democratic norms. However, he warned, the peaceful protest of the MQM-P based on argument should not be considered the party’s weakness.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1531493/mqm-p-accuses-ppp-of-fuelling-communal-hatred-in-sindh

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PTM arrests: Interior minister says no impunity for law violators

January 30, 2020

Days after the arrest of various leaders of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), including its chief Manzoor Pashteen, Interior Minister Ijaz Shah on Thursday categorically declared that those “who violate the land of the law will be arrested” without any distinction.

In an interview with BBC Urdu, Shah – while referring towards the arrested PTM activists – said: “They are Pakistani citizens. They have violated the law of the country, and they were arrested.”

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police on Monday arrested PTM chief Manzoor Pashteen on various charges, including sedition. The following day, the Islamabad police arrested at least 29 PTM activists, including its MNA Mohsin Dawar, for staging a protest for Pashteen’s release. Dawar was released within 24 hours of the arrest, however, other suspects were sent to jail.

Commenting upon the arrests, the interior reiterated that those “who violate the country’s law will be arrested”.

“It is the prime minister’s stance, that if you wish to resolve issues, you should come to the table. Nothing can be solved by fighting and going to war. This holds true for the entire nation including tribal areas,” Shah said.

However, when questioned why there was a need for the PTM to come to the table when they stage peaceful protests and there have been reports of ongoing talks between the group and the government, the minister said: “Talks [with them] are also being conducted on the table.

“I am talking to you right now. But if you go and say, kill someone or perhaps commit a crime, does that mean that no action will be taken against you?

However, Shah immediately clarified that he did not mean to insinuate that Pashteen had killed someone. “I am merely giving an example,” he cleared.

“Law enforcement agencies have their own task. If they are committing a crime they will be punished for it,” he maintained, implied responding yo PTM’s demand to put an end to allegedly enforced disappearances.

“As far as the Pashtuns are concerned, they stand with this government,” he said. “The [Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf] has a two-thirds majority [in KP]. [Prime Minister] Imran Khan is more popular in tribal and Pashtun areas than he is in his own district.

“No other political leader has done what he [Imran] has done for the merger of tribal districts and for bringing the Pashtun into the mainstream. So then who is their leader, Pashteen or Imran,” he questioned.

“There is a case registered against Pashteen in Dera Ismail Khan on the basis of which he was arrested. Yesterday or the day before, an MNA from his party, a very good person, was using foul language against the country and state institutions and he has been caught.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/01/30/no-impunity-for-law-violators-ijaz-shah-reacts-to-ptm-arrests/

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Two soldiers martyred, 5 militants killed in NW raid

January 30, 2020

RAWALPINDI: Two soldiers of the Pakistan Army were martyred while five terrorists were killed in an intelligence-based operation (IBO) on a terrorist hideout in Datta Khel area of North Waziristan on Thursday, an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) press release said.

According to the statement, Sepoy Muhammad Shamim and Sepoy Asad Khan embraced martyrdom in the exchange of fire.

Earlier on Dec 5 last year, two security officials were martyred in an IBO near Charkhel village of North Waziristan.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2020/01/30/5-militants-killed-2-soldiers-martyred-in-crackdown-on-terrorist-hideout/

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Terror attacks drop, but Pakistan ‘not out of the woods’

January 30, 2020

GUJRANWALA, Pakistan (AP) — Terror attacks in Pakistan plummeted by more than 85% over the last decade. It’s a welcome statistic for the country, but one that risks being overshadowed by international concern over its efforts to curb terror funding and lingering militant activity that could test any future peace agreement in neighboring Afghanistan.

The tally, put together by Pakistani think tanks, found terror attacks dropped from nearly 2,000 in 2009 to fewer than 250 in 2019, a steady decline that underscores the long-haul nature of fighting terror.

But a Paris-based international watchdog said in October that Pakistan was not doing enough to stop terror financing. The group meets next month to decide whether the country should be downgraded from a “gray” status to “black,” alongside Iran and North Korea, a step that could pose a challenge to Pakistan’s economy.

Pakistan’s militant groups are often interlinked with those across the border in Afghanistan, so its progress at reining in terror is critical, particularly as Washington seeks to secure a deal with the Afghan Taliban to bring an end to the 18-year war, America’s longest military engagement.

“The sharp decrease in terrorist violence, which we began to see in 2014, is nothing short of remarkable,” said Michael Kugelman, Asia Program Deputy Director at the Washington-based Wilson Center. But, he cautioned, “Pakistan is certainly not out of the woods yet.”

Last year, the Financial Action Task Force, or FATF, the watchdog that monitors terror financing, said Pakistan had fully implemented only one item from a list of 40 measures to curb terror financing and money laundering. The other 39 measures were either partially implemented or in some cases overlooked entirely.

If Pakistan is blacklisted, every financial transaction would be closely scrutinized, and doing business with the country would become costly and cumbersome. Pakistani officials say they are working to meet the task force’s demands and expect to avoid a black listing at the crucial meeting in Paris in February.

Earlier this month, Pakistan’s economic affairs minister held a preliminary meeting with an FATF regional affiliate to make a case for removal from the so-called “gray” list.

Pakistan’s military and intelligence have long been accused by Washington, as well as by Pakistan’s neighbors, of supporting some militants while attacking others. Over the last two decades, successive American administrations have pressed Islamabad to crack down on terror. Pakistan points to its more than 4,000 military casualties since the 2001 start of the so-called war on terror — higher than the U.S. and NATO deaths combined — as proof of its commitment.

Over the past decade, Pakistan has been home to a large array of militant groups with multiple and sometimes overlapping motives. Some have targeted the government or unleashed horrific bombings and attacks on the country’s religious minorities. Others are connected to anti-U.S. militant organizations in Afghanistan or have focused their attacks on Pakistan’s historic rival India, particularly in the disputed region of Kashmir.

Since early last year, Pakistan has banned 66 organizations declared as terrorist or terrorist-supporting groups and listed an estimated 7,600 individuals under its anti-terrorism act.

In a surprisingly tough ruling, a court last week handed jail sentences of more than 55 years to dozens of extremists who destroyed cars and storefronts protesting the acquittal of a Christian woman on blasphemy charges.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan promised “zero tolerance” for extremists after several attacked a Sikh shrine earlier this month in southern Punjab province.

Yet extremist groups and ideologies still find fertile ground in Pakistan.

Pakistan-based organizations like Lashkar-e-Taiba or Jaish-e-Mohammed, which claimed responsibility for a suicide attack last year in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir, have been banned only to be resurrected under new names.

“Radicalization and terrorism remain very real threats, even if the main perpetrators of terror have become shadows of their former selves,” Kugelman said.

Amir Rana, executive director of the Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies, one of the groups which released a report on the decreasing attacks, said the decline was indicative of the long-haul nature of fighting terror and those who perpetrate it. He said it involves years of surveillance, military counterterrorism offensives and a counterterrorism strategy that seeks to identify and curb funding.

Still, Pakistan has a way to go in making the institutional changes necessary to curb terror financing and the militant groups still operating, Rana said. Less than 1% of Pakistanis pay taxes, revenues are routinely undocumented and the so-called hawala system of informally sending money around the globe still flourishes, all of which bedevils efforts to curtail terror financing.

Pakistan’s success in tackling terror is essential amid American attempts to wind down the war in Afghanistan and withdraw U.S. troops.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed a desire to bring home the roughly 13,000 U.S. soldiers still in Afghanistan and last November gave his peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, the go-ahead to resume talks with the Taliban. Last week, the insurgent group handed Khalilzad a seven- to 10-day cease fire offer, which could pave the way for American troops to withdraw and jumpstart peace negotiations between Afghans on both sides of the conflict.

Khalilzad said previously that any agreement will require the Taliban to abandon terror groups like al-Qaida with which they have longstanding ties that some analysts say could prove difficult to sever.

Links still bind the militant groups operating between Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to Abdullah Khan, of the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, which also released a report documenting the declining attacks in Pakistan.

Al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent, which emerged in 2014 as a rival to the Islamic State affiliate that set up shop in Afghanistan the same year, might be vastly degraded, yet it still has cells in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, as does IS.

Earlier this month, 15 people, including a police official tracking militants, died in an attack on a mosque in Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province, for which the IS affiliate claimed responsibility.

Full report at:

https://apnews.com/fca536aebf9b70141f22d99d4f94ba9b

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Maryam received Rs560m kickbacks from Islamabad Airport contractor: Shahzad Akbar

Jan 31 2020

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Maryam Nawaz received kickbacks worth Rs560 million from the Islamabad International Airport's (IIAP) contractor, Prime Minister Imran Khan's special assistant on accountability, Shahzad Akbar, claimed on Thursday.

Addressing a press conference here in the federal capital, Akbar said Mian Munir, the father-in-law of Maryam's daughter and an IIAP contractor, transferred kickbacks worth Rs 560 million to the bank accounts of the PML-N leader's Chaudhry Sugar Mills.

Maryam owns 45 percent shares in Chaudhry Sugar Mills.

In June 2015, Munir’s Technical Associates — which was among the IIAP's three contractors — also transferred Rs50 million to the account of Shujaat Azeem, the adviser to the then-PM Nawaz Sharif, the special assistant said.

Akbar added that Chaudhry Sugar Mills benefited further in May 2017 when Technical Associates transferred another Rs310 million into its accounts using various bank accounts. Likewise, in December 2017, Rs250 million was transferred into its account, he added.

He said Nawaz Sharif, Maryam's father who had declared assets worth Rs1.3 million, had established Chaudhry Sugar Mills with over Rs5.6-billion assets in 1991. How had the former premier set up the mill with meagre assets, he asked.

Akbar said Chadron Jersey Limited, an offshore company established by former finance minister Ishaq Dar in 1991 in the UK and France, had obtained $15 million in loan from Faysal Investment Bank to import plants and machinery for Chaudhry Sugar Mills.

However, machinery manufactured by Ittefaq Foundry was installed at Chaudhry Sugar Mills and Rs398 million was loaned again by Faysal Investment Bank for it.

Akbar said a special permission had been obtained from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to transfer $20 million abroad into Chadron Jersey's accounts. According to the investigation agencies, transactions to the effect were made to the UK between 1995 and 1999.

The Chaudhry Sugar Mills apparently had no resources to pay back such huge loans, while that amount was stashed abroad, he added.

According to the website of World Bank’s Star Programme, Nawaz was the real owner of Chadron Jersey Limited, which had the same address as his nine other offshore companies involved in money laundering that surfaced in the Panama Papers, the SAPM said.

The special assistant said Dar had opened six fake accounts in Bank of America — now Standard Chartered Bank — by using the Qazi family's passports and deposited $15.37 million (from Nawaz) in them. Those accounts were shifted to Faysal Bank in 1994 and were used as collateral to obtain another loan worth Rs80 million for Chaudhry Sugar Mills.

Dar also received a loan worth Rs35 million loan from the same bank that had also financed Rs70 million to Hamza Board Mills Limited, he said, adding that the former finance minister had confessed in 2000 that the Qazi family had no links to the accounts opened in their names.

Akbar said Khawaja Zubair Ahmed of Pak Punjab Carpets had obtained from the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) and Mehran Bank a loan worth Rs65 million, which was then transferred to Chaudhry Sugar Mills' accounts. It later swelled to Rs105 million owing to the mark-up and was written off by the SBP in 1998, he added.

The SAPM said the $15.37-million sum deposited in the Qazi family’s fake accounts was laundered to Dubai while former NBP president Saeed Ahmed had also laundered $3.75 million to Dubai, he added.

A fake foreign telegraphic transfer (TT) worth $19 million in the name of Siddiqua Syed was credited to Chaudhry Sugar Mills' accounts in 1998, he said. Likewise, another TT worth $1.25 million in the name of a Saudi national, Hani Ahmed, was also transferred to the Mills' accounts in 2001.

Similarly, he said, a TT of $1.25 million in the name of Nasir Abdullah Lootha was credited to Ramzan Sugar Mills' accounts in 2001. It was transferred into Chaudhry Sugar Mills' accounts in 2008.

A Rs33-million TT using the name of Makhdoom Umer Shehryar from Lahore was also transferred into Chaudhry Sugar Mills' accounts in 2011, he added. It was sent in the name of Umer from Dubai.

Akbar said investigators had detected that proceeds from three fake loans had been transferred into the accounts of Chaudhry Sugar Mills' director in 2010.

He said Nawaz's younger son, Hassan, in 2010 obtained a $1-million loan from Chaudhry Sugar Mills; however, he was not qualified for it as he had tendered his resignation as its director in 1995. Despite no resources, Yousaf Abbas Sharif transferred Rs1 billion from 2010 to 2018 and Abdul Aziz Abbas Sharif transferred Rs30 million in 2013 into Chaudhry Sugar Mills' accounts as loans.

Full report at:

https://www.geo.tv/latest/269931-maryam-received-rs560m-kickbacks-from-islamabad-airport-contractor-shahzad-akbar

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Mideast

 

Balloons with possible explosives found in Dimona, home to Israeli nuke reactor

30 January 2020

Balloons with a possible explosive charge have been found in the city of Dimona, home to Israel’s secretive nuclear arms facility.

Israeli media reported on Thursday that police sappers had arrived at the scene in order to dispose of the “suspicious” object.

Dimona lies in heart of the Negev Desert, over 70 kilometers from the Gaza Strip.

The Tel Aviv regime is widely assumed to have produced nuclear weapons at the Dimona nuclear reactor, which was renamed after former Israeli president Shimon Peres in August 2018.

Israel is the only possessor of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, but maintains a policy of ambiguity, neither confirming nor denying its atomic bombs. But it is widely estimated to have between 200 and 400 atomic warheads in its arsenal.

The regime is not a signatory to the Treaty of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), whose aim is to prevent the spread of nuclear arms and weapons technology.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/30/617443/Israel-Dimona-balloons

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Swiss humanitarian channel to Iran starts up with trial run

30 January 2020

A humanitarian channel to bring food and medicine to Iran has started trial operations, the Swiss government said on Thursday, helping supply Swiss goods to the struggling population without tripping over US sanctions.

The project, in the works since late 2018, has begun as a trial run with an initial payment for a shipment of cancer drugs and drugs required for organ transplants to Iran worth 2.3 million euros ($2.55 million), the government said.

Swiss and US officials had told Reuters last month that the humanitarian channel could be up and running within months.

Food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies are exempt from sanctions that Washington reimposed last year after US President Donald Trump walked away from a 2015 international deal over Iran’s nuclear program.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/30/Swiss-humanitarian-channel-to-Iran-starts-up-with-trial-run.html

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Iranian regime does not allow negotiations with ‘enemies’ of Soleimani: Official

30 January 2020

Iran will not allow anyone to enter negotiations with the “enemies” of slain military commander Qassem Soleimani, according to a representative of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

“We do not negotiate with the enemies of Qassem Soleimani and do not allow anyone to do so,” said Ali Shirazi, the Supreme Leader’s representative in Iran’s elite Quds Force – the overseas arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Shirazi’s remarks came in response to Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s interview with German news outlet Der Spiegel last week, during which Zarif stated that Iran does not rule out negotiations with the US, even after killing Soleimani.

Soleimani, who headed the Quds Force was killed in a US airstrike in Baghdad on January 3.

“Neither the regime nor the people of Iran, and not even the Resistance Front, allow negotiations with the enemies of General Soleimani,” Shirazi, who was visiting Soleimani’s grave in the city of Kerman, said.

The “Resistance Front” is a term used by Iran to refer to its regional allies and proxies.

Other top IRGC figures have also voiced their displeasure at Zarif’s remarks.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/30/Iranian-regime-does-not-allow-negotiations-with-enemies-of-Soleimani-Official.html

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Questions emerge on Israel’s West Bank annexation plans

January 30, 2020

JERUSALEM: Questions surfaced Thursday over whether Israel would immediately seek to annex parts of the West Bank, after US President Donald Trump’s controversial peace plan called for extending Israeli sovereignty to the area.

The plan, seen as overwhelmingly supportive of Israeli goals, has been firmly rejected by the Palestinians.

It gives the Jewish state a US green light to annex key parts of the occupied West Bank, including in the strategic Jordan Valley.

But uncertainty was mounting over Israel’s next moves.

After Trump unveiled his long-awaited plan in Washington on Tuesday, his ambassador to Israel David Friedman said the Jewish state “does not have to wait at all.”

Israeli officials then said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a staunch Trump ally, would seek cabinet approval on Sunday to annex settlements and territory that would be part of Israel under the US plan.

But Jared Kushner — Trump’s adviser and son-in-law who spearheaded the Middle East initiative — said that Washington does not want any moves made before Israel’s March 2 election.

Asked about the timing of any annexations in an interview with Gzero media, Kushner said: “The hope is they will wait until after the election.

“We’ll start working on the technical stuff now, but I think we’d need an Israeli government in place in order to move forward,” he added.

Netanyahu currently heads a caretaker government after his Likud failed to win a majority in two elections over the past year.

Likud is again running neck-and-neck in the polls with the centrist Blue and White party led by ex-military chief Benny Gantz and it remains unclear if either bloc will be able to form a government following a new election scheduled for March.

The Israeli premier also faces graft charges as he battles for re-election.

Netanyahu’s office declined to comment when asked if the annexation issue remained on the agenda for Sunday’s cabinet meeting.

The international community views Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank as illegal and an attempt to formally place them under Israeli sovereignty would likely trigger further global uproar.

Netanyahu was however facing calls from the Israeli right to act.

“Whatever will be delayed until after the election won’t ever happen. Everyone understands that. Every settlement, every yard of land that will be postponed to after the election will remain out (of Israel) for another 50 years,” Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said Wednesday.

“If we delay or diminish applying sovereignty, the opportunity of the century will become the miss of the century.”

Netanyahu was in Moscow on Thursday seeking to broaden international support for Israel’s ambitions.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, who was traveling with him, told army radio that the government wanted to move on annexation “as quickly as possible, in a number of days.”

At the start of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Netanyahu said Trump’s initiative offered “a new and perhaps unique opportunity,” without mentioning annexation.

The Russian leader did not mention the peace plan at all in his public remarks.

Meanwhile, Israel’s army announced that it had deployed extra troops to the West Bank and around the Gaza Strip ahead of any further Palestinian demonstrations against the Trump plan.

The protests have been relatively muted since the Trump announcement, with only isolated clashes reported.

But one rocket was fired from the Hamas-controlled Gaza strip on Wednesday evening.

In response, Israeli aircraft struck a “number of Hamas terror targets” in the southern Gaza Strip, the army said.

An Israeli military official told AFP the decision to deploy extra troops to the West Bank and the Gaza border was made “to minimize the risk of a flareup.”

Full report at:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1620521/middle-east

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US imposes sanctions on Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, its chief

30 January 2020

The US Treasury Department says Washington has imposed sanctions on the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) and its top official, Ali Akbar Salehi.

However, sources said the US will once again waive its sanctions on Russian, Chinese and European firms that work at four Iranian nuclear facilities.

The US Treasury will issue waivers to sanctions that bar non-US firms from dealing with the AEOI, the sources told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The waivers will allow those countries to continue working at the heavy water reactor in Arak, the Fordow enrichment facility, the Bushehr nuclear power plant and the Tehran research reactor.

The US State Department is expected to make an announcement about the new sanctions later on Thursday.

In May 2018, US President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled his country out of the Iran nuclear deal in defiance of global criticism, and later re-imposed the sanctions that had been lifted against Tehran as part of the agreement.

Trump is a stern critic of the deal, which was clinched in 2015 by Iran and six world powers, including the United States, France, Britain, China, Russia, and Germany. Under the agreement, nuclear-related sanctions put in place against Iran were lifted in exchange for curbs on Tehran's nuclear program.

Washington’s unilateral exit has left the future of the historic deal in limbo.

The Trump administration has slapped a series of what it calls paralyzing bans on Iranian exports, entities and officials as part of its "maximum pressure" campaign against Tehran.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/30/617474/US-Treasury-Department-sanctions-Salehi-Atomic-Energy-Organization-Iran-AEOI-

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Trump’s plan nothing but proposal of apartheid, Palestinian PM says

30 January 2020

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has roundly dismissed US President Donald Trump’s so-called deal of the century on the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, stating that the initiative was only a proposal for an apartheid system that legitimizes the Israeli regime’s colonial project in Palestinian territories.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with CNN television news network on Thursday, Shtayyeh said the Palestinian people and leadership have rejected the deal because it “simply gives al-Quds (Jerusalem) completely to the Israelis, creates a temporal and spatial division of the al-Aqsa Mosque, and keeps settlements on Palestinian land, where 720,000 settlers would remain illegally on our lands.”

Wafa News Agency - English

@WAFANewsEnglish

“This plan is 100% biased with the Israelis, and it is in complete harmony with what Netanyahu wants, because he is the real author [of the plan]."http://english.wafa.ps/page.aspx?id=0B6e3ta114908946702a0B6e3t …

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He also rejected Trump’s claim that his proposal "could be the last opportunity" for Palestinians, noting, “This is not an opportunity, nor a prelude to negotiation, but rather the maintenance of the fait accompli while calling it a Palestinian state."

“This plan is 100% biased with the Israelis, and it is in complete harmony with what [Israeli PM Benjamin] Netanyahu wants, because he is the real author [of the plan]. The plan carries his same language, ideas and speeches that we heard and read previously,” Shtayyeh pointed out.

The Palestinian prime minister underlined that “Israel should not be allowed to be above the law. It violates human rights, seizes Palestinian lands, and illegally builds settlements.”

“The United States cannot grant things it does not possess. These are Palestinian lands, and Israel cannot annex any part of them… What is happening now is that the US administration is trying to create a new reference for the [peace] solution and give legitimacy to this annexation. This is a very dangerous situation,” Shtayyeh said.

He also rejected Trump’s plan that envisages the proposed Palestinian capital be located in Abu Dis, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Jerusalem al-Quds.

“Al-Quds (Jerusalem) is not any part of Jerusalem; al-Quds is the old town and the surrounding area and the entire basin of the Holy City, where 300,000 people live. Al-Quds is the city that was occupied in 1967,” Shtayyeh said.

Jerusalem al-Quds is not for sale, says Erdogan

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Trump’s proposal is an “occupation project.”

Speaking at the 5th Anatolian Media Awards ceremony in the capital Ankara on Thursday, Erdogan said, “Al-Quds (Jerusalem) is not for sale. Al-Quds is a red line for us.”

On Tuesday, Trump unveiled his so-called deal of the century, negotiated with Israel but without the Palestinians.

Palestinian leaders, who severed all ties with Washington in late 2017 after Trump controversially recognized Jerusalem al-Quds as the capital of the Israeli regime, immediately rejected the plan, with President Mahmoud Abbas saying it “belongs to the dustbin of history.”

Thousands of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip poured out onto the street in immediate condemnation of the plan.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani condemned Trump's so-called 'peace plan' for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as 'the most despicable plan of the century.'

"Enough of these foolish attempts," Rouhani wrote on his Twitter account on Wednesday.

"The Most Despicable Plan of the Century," he added.

Hassan Rouhani

@HassanRouhani

Enough of these foolish attempts. The Most Despicable Plan of the Century.#DespicablePlan

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Iran's Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani also referred to Trump's deal as a dangerous plan for the West Asia region which, describing it as a ploy devised to make up for the failures of the United States and the Israeli regime.

"We have to try to make all Muslim countries united against this illegal and inhuman agreement," Larijani said while speaking in a phone conversation with Syrian Parliament Speaker Hammouda Sabbagh on Wednesday.

"In fact, this deal and treasonous conspiracy is designed to fulfill the wishes of the Israeli regime in the region," Larijani noted, adding that despite the claims of the US officials, the plan has nothing to do with the interests of the Palestinian people.  

Abbas said "a thousand no's" to the plan.

"After the nonsense that we heard today, we say a thousand no's to the deal of the century," Abbas said at a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where the Palestinian Authority is headquartered.

He said the Palestinians remain committed to ending the Israeli occupation and establishing a state with its capital in east Jerusalem.

"We will not kneel and we will not surrender," Abbas said, adding that the Palestinians would resist the plan through "peaceful, popular means".

Lebanon's Hezbollah resistance movement has called the plan a “deal of shame,” said it was a very dangerous step which would have negative consequences on the region's future.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/30/617498/Trump%E2%80%99s-plan-nothing-but-proposal-of-apartheid,-Palestinian-PM-says

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Hamas leader: Palestinians will not forgive those who accept US plan

30 January 2020

Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the Hamas political bureau, has called on the heads of Muslim and Arab states to “categorically reject” US President Donald Trump’s Middle East scheme.

In a letter to the heads of the Islamic states, Haniyeh warned that the Palestinian people “will never forgive any kind of participation or support” for Trump's "Deal of the Century".

The letter was sent to Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit, head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Yusuf bin Ahmed al-Uthaymeen and head of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat. 

The Palestinian leader raised alarms against “the danger of leniency in endorsing such an ill-fated deal, or participating in its implementation”.

He said any backing for the Trump plan will be considered an “irremovable stain and could indeed amount to committing a historical sin against Palestinian nation”.

Haniyeh also stressed the total rejection or invalidity of all the provisions of the deal, which detracts from the historical and legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and national constants.

He stressed the need “to take a firm stand against the scandalous bias practiced by the US administration in favor of Zionist settlers and occupation schemes against the land and the holy sanctuaries".

Separately, Haniyeh said he had contacted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas "in order to unify the Palestinian ranks in the face of this aggressive deal.".

"We discussed with him agreement on joint action to address this disastrous announcement," he said.

"All options have become legitimate for our Palestinian people and their forces in the face of the decisions of this aggressive and unfair deal which targets the Palestinian presence, land, people, history and identity," Haniyeh added.

Trump released his proposed deal during an event at the White House alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington on Tuesday.

The so-called 'Vision for Peace' — which all Palestinian groups have unanimously rejected — would, among other contentious terms, enshrine Jerusalem al-Quds as “Israel’s undivided capital” and allow the regime to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank and the Jordan Valley.

Within just hours since its launch, Trump’s proposed deal has aroused a storm of indignation and opposition among Middle East people and politicians as well as international organizations.

The plan has been described such as the treason of the century, nightmare, conspiracy, catastrophe, new Balfour Declaration, an annexation plan, a stillborn agreement, a handbook for more suffering, and a deal for the garbage can of history among others.  Contrary to Trump’s claim who sought to sell his proposal as a win-win opportunity for both sides, political leaders and activists view it as being hugely skewed in favor of Israel.

The plan totally ignores the rights and demands of up to 15 million Palestinians around the world, leaving them out of a process that is expected to decide their fate and their future.

Opponents argue that the highly pro-Israel scheme offers no prescription for peace because it blatantly violates international law.

It strips Palestinians of their basic rights on a number of sensitive issues, including the state of Jerusalem al-Quds, the future borders of a sovereign Palestinian state, the return of Palestinian refugees driven from their homeland, security responsibility, as well as Israeli settlements built on occupied land.

Amnesty International has criticized the proposal as “a handbook for more suffering and abuses” in the occupied territories, urging the global community to reject measures set out in the deal in contravention of international law.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/30/617473/Trump-Palestine-Hamas-%C2%A0Ismail-Haniyeh-OIC-Arab-League-%C2%A0Ismail-Haniyeh--Deal-of-the-Century

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North America

 

US lawmakers vote to stop Trump warmongering with Iran

James Reinl  

31.01.2020

NEW YORK

The Democrat-led House of Representatives on Thursday voted to markedly curtail the ability of President Donald Trump, a Republican, to launch a military strike against Iran.

House lawmakers voted 228-to-175 to approve a bill that would block Trump from using any federal government money for "military force against Iran" that had not been authorized by Congress.

They then voted 236-to-166 for a bill to repeal a 2002 authorization for then-President George W. Bush’s war against Iraq, which is known by the acronym AUMF and has been used since as a legal basis for other U.S. military operations.

The bills have yet to clear the Republican-led Senate and can be quashed by Trump’s veto.

Democratic lawmakers accused Trump of reckless warmongering with the Islamic Republic and criticized as provocative his decision to launch the drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad on Jan. 2.

Writing on Twitter, Democratic lawmaker Ro Khanna said the bill will “use the power of the purse to prevent war with Iran”.

“The executive branch has used the AUMF to get us involved in military conflicts without a vote in Congress for far too long,” wrote Khanna.

“Our new foreign policy consensus will reject interventionism.”

Republican lawmakers, however, said the measure would only serve to tie the hands of their commander-in-chief and limit his ability to conduct operations that could be vital to national security.

Objecting to the measure, Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said it would leave the U.S. “unable to fire a shot” in retaliation to aggression from long-term foe Iran.

“The Iranian regime orchestrated over a dozen attacks against Americans in Iraq over the last three months, killing a U.S. citizen and wounding four U.S. service members, and they also hit the embassy of the United States, ordering a fiery attack on the U.S. Embassy and launched a ballistic missile attack on the United States forces,” said McCaul.

“What can our military do if Iran attacks American civilians or diplomats or commercial shipping overseas? Under this reckless amendment, the answer is absolutely nothing.”

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/us-lawmakers-vote-to-stop-trump-warmongering-with-iran/1719669

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Former US lawmaker registered as lobbyist for Emirates in Washington

30 January 2020

A former US congresswoman has been registered as a foreign agent for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to lobby US officials regarding “export controls and sanctions, and foreign and defense policies.”

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s registration comes as the United Arab Emirates has managed so far to stave off US congressional restrictions on arms sales over its controversial role in the deadly Saudi war on Yemen.

The former chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee was registered as lobbyist to represent Abu Dhabi earlier this month.

She will "provide outreach to US government officials and counsel on policy issues,” according to a Justice Department filing.

According to the document, she will also be counseling officials on “human rights, trade policies, foreign media registration, and strengthening trilateral relations and regional security.”

Ros-Lehtinen, who is known as a pro-Israel hawk on Iran and Latin America, has passed her one-year cooling-off period for retired lawmakers and became eligible to lobby her former colleagues.

She was registered on Jan. 21 by US lobby firm — Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld — which is one of over a dozen lobbying firms the UAE has under contract, according to al-Monitor.

Akin Gump, which has been lobbying for Abu Dhabi since 2007, campaigned last year for more US sanctions against Iran, the UAE’s role in Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen and arms sale.

The United Arab Emirates has been among the major buyers of US weapons, clinching a $1.8-billion arms deal with Washington last year.

Many countries, including Denmark, Finland, Germany and Belgium, have suspended arms exports to UAE either upon court orders or receiving evidence that the weapons were indeed used against civilians in Yemen.

According to a December 2018 report by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, the Saudi war has claimed the lives of more than 60,000 Yemenis since March 2015.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/30/617447/US-politics-Emirates-lobby-congress

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Jared Kushner ‘surprised almost to death’ Palestinians rejected deal they did not negotiate

30 January 2020

Political satire: US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, who is believed to be the architect of a recently proposed “peace plan” for Israel and Palestine, says he was “surprised almost to death” when Palestinians of all factions rejected the deal “merely because they had not negotiated it.”

“The Palestinians have a perfect track record of blowing every opportunity President Trump has offered them in the past,” said a visibly angry Kushner on CNN on Wednesday. “Still, I was surprised almost to death when their leaders dismissed the deal merely because they had not negotiated it!”

Kushner, who had no political or foreign policy record until he was named senior White House adviser when Trump took office in 2017, said he was “very well-informed” on the Israeli-Palestinian subject.

“I’ve read 25 books on it. They were so hard I’ve decided I will never read again,” he said. “I’ve also spoken to every leader in the region, I’ve spoken to everyone who’s been involved in this — well, except for the Palestinians — I was very tired from reading the books.”

Kushner said he had been expecting Palestinian gratitude for “all the effort Ivanka and I put into this,” referring to his wife Ivanka Trump, who is also a White House adviser.

“It took us three years to put almost everything — everything — Israel wanted in the deal. It was no Iran nuclear deal!” he said mockingly, referring to a multilateral nuclear agreement with Iran that Trump withdrew America from in 2018.

The peace plan was unveiled by Trump with much fanfare at the White House on Tuesday. He was flanked by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and no Palestinian leader during the unveiling ceremony, where Trump in a speech framed the agreement as a “win-win” and where dozens of US officials and a handful of foreign ambassadors frantically clapped their hands at every other sentence Trump said in the speech.

Kushner, who was present at the event, said he had been moved by all the applause.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/30/617437/Trump-deal-of-the-century-Jared-Kushner-satire

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Abbas to rebuff Trump plan at UN meeting

James Reinl  

30.01.2020

UNITED NATIONS

Palestinian officials will seek to galvanize opposition to U.S. President Donald Trump’s controversial plan for Middle East peace at the UN Security Council in the coming weeks, Palestine’s ambassador to the UN said Wednesday.

Speaking with reporters in New York, Riyad Mansour said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would address the Security Council in the next two weeks and outlined plans for a draft resolution to oppose the peace plan that Trump unveiled Tuesday.

Mansour offered few details of what would appear in the draft resolution, saying only that it would use the “strongest possible” language and that Palestinian officials "would like to see strong, large opposition to this Trump plan."

On Tuesday, Trump, standing beside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington, unveiled a long-awaited plan for Middle East peace that was quickly criticized for favoring Israel and dashing Palestinian hopes of one day running their own country.

According to Mansour, the proposed deal gives Israelis the “upper hand” and “is not a recipe for peace or justice. It is a recipe for the destruction of the national right of the Palestinian people, and it will not fly.”

“It is not acceptable, and those who think the Palestinian people will evaporate -- they will not. Those who think the Palestinian people will pack up and leave -- they will not,” said Mansour, flanked by Tunisia’s UN ambassador.

Earlier, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the world body’s position on Israeli-Palestinian peace had not changed after the announcement of the U.S. peace plan and referred back to previous Security Council resolutions.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/abbas-to-rebuff-trump-plan-at-un-meeting/1718572

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Europe

 

UK releases fund of $10M for Rohingya in Bangladesh

SM Najmus Sakib

30.01.2020

DHAKA, Bangladesh

The U.K. has provided a fresh fund of £8 million ($10 million) to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) to support Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya people taking refuge in Bangladesh, according to a statement.

The WFP in Bangladesh welcomed the new contribution from the Department for International Development (DFID) of the U.K. to support the Rohingya refugees in the southeast coast of Bangladesh, the UN body said.

The new financial contribution will support WFP to provide 270,600 Rohingya refugees with life-saving assistance over three months through electronic vouchers, it added.

Under the program, Rohingya refugees can purchase a variety of food items from 25 WFP e-voucher outlets across the Rohingya refugee camps, it said, adding Rohingya families receive an allocation of $9 per person a month to spend at the e-voucher outlets.

Persecuted people

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, pushing the number of persecuted people in Bangladesh above 1.2 million.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience".

Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down while 113,000 others vandalized, it added.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/uk-releases-fund-of-10m-for-rohingya-in-bangladesh/1719537

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Islamic foundation chairman says some don’t understand the term ‘propagation’

Sean Augustin

January 30, 2020

PUTRAJAYA: The Islamic Propagation Foundation of Malaysia, or Yadim, has said those who criticised two of its religious programmes aimed at teenagers and university students as being a form of Islamisation did not understand the definition of “propagation”.

Its chairman Nik Omar Nik Abd Aziz said there was no hidden agenda behind its Rakan Siswa Yadim – designed as a leadership course for Muslim students – and Rakan Remaja Yadim.

“We find there are those who do not comprehend the meaning of propagation,” he told reporters at an event here.

The issue came to light last month after a letter allowing a government religious foundation to carry out Islamic programmes was leaked.

The MCA and the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) expressed concerns over the Islamisation of students in public schools and universities.

The education ministry denied the charge, saying it was only meant for Muslim students and would not involve vernacular and mission schools.

Nik Omar also said there were those who were easily offended by the word “propagation” and accused them of being Islamophobic.

Yadim, he said, would explain that “propagation” was not about assessing if someone was a Muslim or not or categorising Muslims.

He also said that students were matured enough to think for themselves.

“We just want to create harmony among the different races and religions in Malaysian universities.”

Religious practices in government schools

Nik Omar, whose father is the late PAS spiritual adviser Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, also disagreed with some parents who complained that there was an over-emphasis on religious practices in reputable government residential schools.

Nik Omar said there was a possibility that the parents had a false impression of how such institutions were run.

Mara Junior Science Colleges, or MRSMs, he said, have in general, produced many excellent students.

“Quran recital sessions and special prayers have been held since a long time ago and they have not affected the performance of the students.”

On Jan 21, FMT reported that parents and relatives of children enrolled in MRSM Johor were questioning an alleged overemphasis on religious practices.

They said these activities took up too much of the students’ time and energy, causing them to be lethargic during regular classes and revision periods.

They said students were frequently compelled to attend congregational prayers and other non-obligatory rituals and that many of these sessions required them to get up as early as 3am.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/01/30/islamic-foundation-chairman-says-some-dont-understand-the-term-propagation/

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Retract allegations and apologise, G25 tells PAS president over militant comparison

31 Jan 2020

BY SOO WERN JUN

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 31 — Pro-moderation group G25 has demanded that PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang retract his remarks comparing the group and Al-Maunah, a militant group that sparked a major security alert back in 2000.

The group also demanded he issue a public apology over the remarks published on January 17 on Harakahdaily.

“The PAS president’s unacceptable slander of G25 in branding us as worse than terrorist group Al-Maunah is defamatory and has the tendency to incite or provoke hatred or discontent towards G25 which are offences under sections 503 and 505(c) of the Penal Code.

“In view of the above, we demand that Abdul Hadi retract his unfounded allegations against G25 and issue a public apology. We reserve all our rights, including taking legal action,” the group said in a statement today.

It accused Hadi of slandering the G25 and that his motive was political.

“G25 is perplexed by the contents of the said article and its title which is highly defamatory of G25 and is replete with false accusations and misstatements.

“The said article purports to be a response to the G25 report Administration of Matters Pertaining to Islam in Malaysia (SAIM report).

“Yet it is evident that Datuk Seri Hadi Awang has neither read nor understood the SAIM report, but uses this opportunity to level extremely irresponsible and serious allegations against G25,” the group said.

In the said Harakahdaily article titled “G25 Membahayakan Akidah Umat Islam” or G25 Threatens the Islam Faith claimed the group of retired senior civil servants posed an intellectual threat to Muslims, following its release of a report on the administration of Islam in the country which sparked criticism over its call to review shariah provisions on apostasy.

Full report at:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/01/31/retract-allegations-and-apologise-g25-tells-pas-president-over-militant-com/1833186

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South Asia

 

Taliban kill at least 29 Afghan security personnel in renewed clashes

JANUARY 29, 2020

KABUL (Reuters) - At least 29 members of the Afghan security forces have been killed in Taliban attacks that followed air and ground assaults by government forces on the Islamist group at the weekend.

The surge in hostilities signals deadlock at stop-start peace talks involving U.S and Taliban negotiators in Doha.

The Defense Ministry said on Sunday government forces had killed 51 Taliban fighters in the weekend assaults.

But the Taliban hit back, carrying out attacks on security checkpoints in the northern province of Kunduz on Tuesday night in which a security official who declined to be identified said 15 members of the Afghan army were killed.

The Taliban also attacked a police station on Monday night in Pul-e Khomri, capital of the neighboring Baghlan province, killing 14 policemen, said Safdar Muhseni, head of the provincial council.

Taliban said it was responsible for both attacks. The group’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said 35 members of the Afghan security forces had been killed in the attack in Kunduz and 17 in Baghlan.

Sources close to the talks in Doha said the Taliban had agreed internally to halt attacks against U.S. forces and “reduce” assaults against Afghan government interests, but clashes between the Taliban and Afghan forces have risen.

Afghan forces and the Taliban also clashed on Tuesday when security personnel tried to access the site of a crashed U.S. military plane in central Afghanistan. U.S. forces were later able to access the site and recover the remains of two personnel and what is believed to be the flight data recorder.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-afghanistan-attacks/taliban-kill-at-least-29-afghan-security-personnel-in-renewed-clashes-idUSKBN1ZS2DL

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Despite Calm in Afghan Cities, War in Villages Kills Dozens Daily

By Mujib Mashal and Najim Rahim

Jan. 29, 2020

KABUL, Afghanistan — Over the past couple of months, as American and Taliban negotiators have resumed talks to try to complete a peace deal, an unusual calm has settled over major Afghan cities. Deadly terrorism attacks, once frequent, have suddenly dropped in urban centers.

But a series of bloody assaults in the countryside suggests that the calm in the cities could be misleading. The war continues to kill dozens daily. And the patterns of violence in recent months have been tied closely to how negotiations between the United States and the Taliban, held in the Gulf state of Qatar, have played out.

With talks now seeming to bog down, some diplomats and political leaders fear that violence could grow deadlier — even if much of it plays out in the countryside, away from the headlines.

The sticking point in the negotiations: What reduction in violence is needed to move the peace process forward? The negotiators’ ultimate goal is the gradual withdrawal of American troops, and the establishment of talks between the Taliban and other Afghans over power-sharing.

The drop in urban attacks most likely stems from an unacknowledged understanding with the Taliban to reduce high-profile violence in order to pave the way for an agreement. Improvements in security measures, with new leadership introduced over the past year, have also played a role.

But as the Taliban have held back on urban assaults, they are attacking in rural areas.

At least 40 Afghan security personnel were killed in the 24 hours before Wednesday, security officials said, with most of the losses coming in a couple of attacks in northern provinces.

The Taliban have long resisted American demands for a cease-fire, seeking to push the issue later in the peace process, when they sit down with other Afghans on sharing power. Doing so earlier, they fear, will divide their ranks.

Instead, they have answered the demands with a proposal for “violence reduction” — what could amount to the insurgents holding fire on United States forces as they close down their bases and withdraw, and avoiding dramatic attacks in major cities.

The Afghan government, so far excluded from the talks, has asked the United States to agree to nothing but an extensive cease-fire. Its fear is that if the United States signs an initial deal with violence levels reduced only in the cities, the war will simply continue to rage in the countryside.

As the United States has pushed for more from the Taliban at the negotiating table in recent weeks, the insurgents are growing mistrustful, accusing the Americans of moving the goal posts.

Taliban officials say the United States had recently asked for violence reduction, which they brought to the table after a month of consultations all the way down to battlefield commanders.

The American side found the Taliban offer inadequate. One Taliban official said that now the United States is seeking something closer to a cease-fire, which it hadn’t demanded earlier. Some Afghan officials and diplomats said negotiators want the reduction of violence to extend from the cities into the districts and along the highways.

But stagnation in the talks has raised fears that the quest for a more expansive truce could break the fragile negotiations at a sensitive time, thrusting the country back into greater violence.

Mohammed Arif Rahmani, a member of the Afghan Parliament’s national security committee, said that during past winters the Taliban would expand their attacks in the cities and reduce their activities in the rural areas because of harsh weather.

“But now it feels like the Taliban have only tactically reduced attacks in the cities and expanded attacks in the countryside,” Mr. Rahmani said. “In the past week, we have seen an increase in such attacks in the rural areas, and I think it has to do with the stalemate in the talks over the past month.”

A large number of the recent fatalities have come in the north — despite extreme cold temperatures.

In an overnight attack in Baghlan Province on Tuesday, the Taliban killed between 11 and 18 security personnel, according to different official accounts, nearly wiping out an entire outpost with the help of an infiltrator. In neighboring Kunduz Province early on Wednesday, at least 12 security personnel were killed.

In the meantime, the Afghan government and its American allies, largely relying on airstrikes, have continued killing Taliban forces at rates of dozens daily. The Afghan government reports — which are difficult to verify and prone to exaggeration — claim its soldiers have killed an as many as 30 Taliban daily over the past week.

The United States has continued airstrikes across the country at high rates. Data released by the United States Air Force showed that American military aircraft dropped 7,423 bombs in Afghanistan in 2019 — the most in any year since the United States began tracking the strikes in 2006 — and have pursued the recent trend of increasing airstrikes.

The expanded air campaign, by both United States and Afghan Air Forces, has also come with reports of increased civilian casualties. In the latest episode, on Saturday, at least seven civilians, all members of the same family, were killed in an airstrike in the Borka area of northern Balkh Province.

Full report at:

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/29/world/asia/afghanistan-taliban-peace-talks.html

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Afghan forces rescue more than 60 hostages from Taliban prison in night raid

By Sharif Hassan and

Susannah George

Jan. 30, 2020

KABUL — Late Tuesday night, four helicopters carrying 50 Afghan special forces commandos touched down just outside a Taliban compound on Afghanistan’s western edge. Intelligence collected by U.S. and Afghan forces indicated the buildings were being used as a prison, holding dozens of Afghan security forces.

The Afghan commandos were launching an attempt to rescue more than 60 hostages held by the Taliban.

“We took positions on the hilltops and sealed off the area,” said Maj. Sayed Rahimullah, the Afghan special forces commando who led the raid. As his men moved down into the compound, he said, they caught the Taliban guards by surprise.

“We didn’t give them enough time to use heavy weaponry. They were firing light weapons as they were fleeing the scene,” he said in an interview Wednesday. As Taliban fighters fled, American aircraft circling above the scene targeted the men with at least four airstrikes, he said.

U.S. and Afghan officials hailed the operation as a major success for Afghanistan’s special forces, who have struggled to regularly conduct operations without close American support.

In all, 62 prisoners were freed from the compound in Bala Murghab, a district of Badghis province heavily contested by Taliban forces. Five Taliban fighters were taken into custody and at least eight were killed, Rahimullah said.

A U.S. defense official confirmed the number of hostages freed and Taliban taken into custody. But the official, who was authorized to disclose details of the operation on the condition of anonymity, said there were no U.S. strikes in the area at that time and that no Taliban fighters were reported killed in the raid.

The operation comes amid an uptick in violence across Afghanistan as peace talks stall. U.S. negotiators are demanding a reduction in violence from the Taliban before formal talks can resume, but in the meantime violence across the country has increased in recent months as both sides seek to gain leverage.

Also overnight Tuesday, a Taliban attack in Kunduz killed six Afghan security forces, according to a senior Afghan official speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release death tolls to the media. A local lawmaker from Kunduz, Muhammaddin Hamdard, said 13 Afghan troops were killed.

After the operation in Badghis, acting Afghan defense minister Asadullah Khalid pledged his troops would “increase their efforts to maintain the people’s security,” according to a defense ministry statement.

The commander of the Afghan special forces, Lt. Gen. Farid Ahmadi, said in an interview that the operation showed that his troops are acting with greater independence and “sent a strong message to (the) enemy that anywhere, anytime we can hit you in the heart of your stronghold.”

American support during the raid was limited to intelligence sharing and air support, the U.S. defense official said, describing the operation as complex and “dicey,” because of the presence of such a large number of hostages.

Bill Roggio, an Afghan military analyst and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the raid displayed improvement on the operational level for Afghanistan’s special forces.

“I would say three to four years ago you wouldn’t have seen Afghan special forces conducting missions like that,” he said.

But he said the success of the operation doesn’t address the larger issue of the force’s ability to retake and hold territory. “When it comes to holding districts, generally we’ve seen they’re not too good at that,” he said.

The Pentagon’s December report to Congress on security in Afghanistan said “terrorist and insurgent groups continued to present a formidable challenge to Afghan, U.S. and Coalition forces.”

And while the Afghan special forces are “the most capable force” in Afghanistan’s military, “sustained levels of violence” and security force casualties have resulted in military attrition rates that outpace recruitment and retention, the report said.

George reported from Islamabad. Sayed Salahuddin in Kabul contributed to this report.

Full report at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/afghan-forces-rescue-more-than-60-hostages-from-taliban-prison-in-night-raid/2020/01/29/86ae33f6-42b8-11ea-b5fc-eefa848cde99_story.html

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148 Bangladeshi migrants return from Libya via UN help

SM Najmus Sakib  

30.01.2020

DHAKA, Bangladesh

A total of 148 migrants who had left for Libya from Bangladesh in search of better employment opportunities, returned Wednesday to Dhaka via voluntary humanitarian return (VHR) by the UN migration agency.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) charted a flight carrying the migrants, the National Communication Officer for the IOM in Dhaka, Md. Sariful Islam, confirmed to Anadolu Agency.

The flight included people who were wounded in conflict, survivors of failed sea crossings to Europe and former detainees.

It left Tuesday from Misrata Airport in Libya and arrived in Dhaka’s Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, he said.

Md. Tuhin, 26, went to Libya nine years ago through a middleman in the Faridpur district of Dhaka. He worked as cleaner. In 2014, he wanted to return to Bangladesh but could not afford the price of a airline ticket and stayed in war-torn Libya.

“I passed awful days there, I could not go for work often because of a strike as the country was in a war mood. I failed to make any savings for my family even after years of staying in Libya to support after my return to Bangladesh,” he told the Anadolu Agency, adding that there are more Bangladeshis in Libya who want to go back home.

Md Akbor, another returnee, narrated to the IOM he got a job in a factory but the salary was not enough to survive. One day an airstrike hit his factor. Thirteen people, including four Bangladeshis, died in the strike.

“It was a horrible experience. I saw people dying. Fortunately, I was alive,” he said.

Md Tuhind and Md Akbor, among others, communicated with the IOM in Libya through the Bangladesh Embassy and finally returned to home.

“As hostilities continue in Libya, we spare no effort in protecting and assisting the most vulnerable Bangladeshi migrants who find themselves stranded in most precarious conditions. We also make sure that there is a support system available for them upon return home to address the immediate humanitarian and longer-term reintegration needs,” said IOM Bangladesh Chief of Mission Giorgi Gigauri

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/world/148-bangladeshi-migrants-return-from-libya-via-un-help/1718537

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Bangladeshi Police Probe Reported Abduction of Christian Rohingya Family

2020-01-30

Bangladeshi authorities opened an investigation Thursday into the alleged abduction of a Christian Rohingya family after two groups of refugees filed police complaints accusing each other of launching attacks that wounded at least 12 people.

An alleged attack on Jan. 27 by machete-wielding Muslim Rohingya men on a Christian community at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar district led to the temporary relocation of at least 17 Christian Rohingya families to a U.N. shelter.

“Christian Rohingya people filed a case about the disappearance of a Christian family after the attack. We have been investigating the allegations,” Samir Chandra Sarker, an inspector at the Kutupalong police station, told BenarNews on Thursday.

Mohammad Abul Mansur, officer-in-charge of the police for the Ukhia sub-district, said members of the Christian Rohingya community had lodged a case against 59 Muslim men, accusing their fellow refugees of perpetrating the attack.

He said a group of Muslims also filed a separate complaint late Wednesday, alleging that the violence was an offshoot of a purported incident in which a group of Christians assaulted a Rohingya Muslim man.

But one of the alleged victims, Saiful Islam Peter, a Christian Rohingya, told BenarNews that members of the militant group Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) were behind the attack.

Police, however, dismissed his claims, saying that only four Christians and one Muslim were wounded and that the violence was the result of an “ordinary law-and-order incident.”

Peter said the attackers had destroyed the victims’ homes and stolen their ration cards, computers and documents.

Police earlier said they were unaware of the alleged abduction of a Christian family.

“We have been trying to arrest the people accused by both sides,” Mansur said.

ARSA, an armed insurgent group, carried out attacks on police and army posts in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August 2017.

In response to those attacks, Myanmar’s security forces launched a brutal crackdown that forced 740,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee their homes and cross into neighboring Bangladesh.

Police unaware of alleged abduction

Laila Begum, 45, lodged the case against 13 Christians, while a 38-year-old man named Si Thwe filed a complaint on behalf of the Christians, police told BenarNews.

Begum told BenarNews that she filed the case because her son, Shukkur, was not involved in the attack against the Christians but was himself a victim.

“I want justice for the attack on him. I demand the arrest of the attackers,” she said.

Police said violence erupted after a Christian Rohingya man beat up a Rohingya Muslim whose angry relatives retaliated by attacking Christians.

But Peter, the Christian man, alleged that Begum’s son was an ARSA member.

“It was ARSA that carried out the attack. Shukkur is one of the ARSA members who attacked us,” Peter said. “We caught him during the attack and handed him over to the police.”

Mansur, the police officer-in-charge, shrugged off claims that the Christians had handed over any attacker. He also said there were no militants involved in the attack.

“There is no ARSA in Bangladesh,” he said.

Si Thwe, who filed the case against the Muslim Rohingya, told BenarNews that police had assured him that they were pursuing the suspects.

“But the Christians have been in constant fear,” he said.

Two Christian women interviewed by BenarNews confirmed that they had been receiving telephoned death threats from unidentified men.

“We have been in fear,” said Nuru Fakir, a Christian who was relocated to the UNHCR camp after the attack. “Four more Christian families Wednesday night took refuge at the transit camp,” she said.

In an email sent to Radio Free Asia, an online news service affiliated with BenarNews, a Christian group identified the missing family members as Taher, Khurshida, Mizan and Mariam.

The group alleged that the abductors wore face masks.

“The hallmark of an ARSA attack is the attackers cover their faces while abducting and killing,” said Rana Dasgupta, general secretary of Bangladesh’s minority association known as Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Oikya Parishad.

Government agencies are expected to discuss the attack against the Christian refugees on Sunday, Khalilur Rahman, a deputy secretary at the refugee relief and repatriation commissioner’s office, told BenarNews.

Mostafa Mohammad Sazzad Hossain, UNHCR’s local spokesman, told BenarNews that the U.N. refugee agency was aware of the attack.

Full report at:

https://www.benarnews.org/english/news/bengali/Rohingya-refugees-01302020175958.html

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Ten thousand ‘awaiting trial’ in custody in Afghanistan: Lawyers Network

30 Jan 2020

There are thirty-two thousand prisoners in Afghanistan, 10,000 of whom are ‘awaiting trial’, said Afghanistan Attorneys Network on Wednesday.

Afghanistan Attorneys Network organized a conference on Professional Litigation and Coordination with the Afghan juridical authorities for the purpose of reducing detentions and financial costs.

A statement published by the Afghan Legal Aid Network and Lawyers said the pre-trial detentions are one of the biggest challenges in Afghanistan wherein the rights of suspects and accused are not respected.

The conference members said that pre-trial litigation is practiced in the region and worldwide, but there are serious problems with the justice institutions in Afghanistan.

This comes as President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has recently signed a decree saying the prisons and custody centers must be operated and managed by an independent authority.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/ten-thousand-awaiting-trial-in-custody-in-afghanistan-attorneys-network-said-868965/

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2019 was the deadliest year for the Afghan children: Amnesty

30 Jan 2020

Amnesty International published its annual report on Asia pacific on Wednesday stating that 2019 has been the deadliest year for the Afghanistan children.

In 2019, Afghan civilians continued to pay the price of the ongoing conflict as justice proved elusive for the victims, Amnesty International said as the human rights organization released its annual report on events in the Asia-Pacific region.

Civilian casualties remained high throughout the year, with July marking the deadliest month on record and Afghanistan remaining the deadliest conflict in the world for children. Hundreds of thousands were internally displaced. Half a million Afghans were forcibly returned from neighboring countries, and several thousand more from Europe, especially Turkey. Journalists and human rights defenders continued to face intimidation, threats, detention and even death for their work.

Justice continued to prove elusive for the victims, as the International Criminal Court refused to authorize an investigation into crimes under international law in the country and the authorities failed to investigate other serious human rights violations, including violence against women and attacks on human rights defenders.

“The armed conflict in Afghanistan is not winding down, it is widening, and the people who continue to pay the price are Afghan civilians. Throughout 2019, they were killed, injured, forcibly displaced and subject to other serious human rights violations by both the government and armed groups,” said Omar Waraich, Deputy South Asia Director at Amnesty International.

“In 2020, the world must shake off its indifference to this long-running conflict, and provide the people of Afghanistan with the protection they need and the justice they are owed.”

The world’s deadliest conflict for children

In the first nine months of 2019, more than 2,400 children were killed or injured in Afghanistan, making it the deadliest conflict in the world for children, Amnesty International said in a statement.

Over the same period, 2,563 people were killed in total and 5,676 injured. The period between July and September was the deadliest on record, with July being the single deadliest month, the statement added.

Most of the attacks were carried out by armed groups, including the Taliban and the armed group calling itself the “Islamic State in Khorasan” (IS-K). In August, a suicide attack claimed by IS-K killed at least 63 people and wounded more than 200.

In the first six months of the year, pro-government and international forces were responsible for the highest number of civilian deaths, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. In December, a USA-operated drone strike killed five people, including a mother who had just given birth.

“There continues to be a shocking disregard for human life from all sides. There are armed groups who have carried out war crimes, and pro-government forces who are responsible for the deaths of the very people they are supposed to be protecting,” said Omar Waraich.

“The Afghan authorities and the international community have a responsibility to ensure that civilians are protected and that the perpetrators of attacks on them are held accountable.”

Human rights defenders under threat

Human rights defenders in Afghanistan faced threats, intimidation, detention and even death.

In September, the Taliban abducted and killed Abdul Samad Amir of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. No one has been held accountable for his murder, which amounted to a war crime.

In December, Afghanistan’s National Directorate for Security, the country’s top intelligence agency, arbitrarily detained Musa Mahmudi and Ehsanullah Hamidi, two human rights defenders who had exposed a pedophile ring operating in Logar province.

“Faced with threats from both the state and non-state actors, Afghanistan’s human rights defenders are operating in some of the most hazardous conditions anywhere in the world. The Afghan government and the international community have long paid tribute their bravery, but they must now recognize their achievements, offer them effective support, and ensure that they are respected and protected,” said Omar Waraich.

Forced returns

In 2019, the world continued to turn its back on Afghans who had sought sanctuary from the continuing conflict. Neighboring countries Iran and Pakistan forcibly returned half a million people last year, with more than 476,000 of them being sent back from Iran.

European countries continued to forcibly return Afghan asylum-seekers in the hundreds under various agreements made with the Afghan government, despite the grave risks that they would face upon their return to the country.

Turkey forcibly returned at least 19,000 Afghans as of September 2019 after keeping them in poor detention conditions.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/2019-was-the-deadliest-year-for-the-afghan-children-amnesty-79879780/

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Arab World

 

US awaits Iraq’s okay to deploy Patriots to protect troops amid Iran tension

30 January 2020

The United States is awaiting a green light from the Iraqi government to deploy Patriot missile defense systems to protect US troops from Iranian missile attacks, Pentagon chief Mark Esper said on Thursday.

Iran launched 11 missiles at a US air base at Ain al-Assad and another at a base in Erbil on January 8 in retaliation for the killing days earlier of Iranian General Qassim Soleimani in a US drone strike in Baghdad.

No US troops were killed but dozens suffered traumatic brain injuries from the explosions, and Washington wants to deploy Patriot missiles to better protect the bases, which house some of the 5,200 US military personnel deployed in Iraq.

The Patriot systems are composed of high performance radars and interceptor missiles capable of destroying incoming ballistic missiles in flight.

Questioned Thursday about the delay in deploying the system, Esper told reporters the Iraqi government, which apparently is divided over the US military presence in the country, has yet to give it the go-ahead.

“We need the permission of the Iraqis,” he said. “That’s one issue. There may be others with regard to placement and things like that.”

General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted that a Patriot battalion is a relatively large organization, and the mechanics of deploying one to Iraq “will have to be worked out. And that is, in fact, ongoing.”

Iraq denounced Soleimani’s killing as an assault on its sovereignty and charged that the international coalition in Iraq had overstepped its mandate.

The US-led coalition was formed in 2014 to fight ISIS, which at the time had seized control of a third of Iraq’s territory and large swaths of Syria. The coalition includes troops from 76 countries.

On January 5, the Iraqi parliament voted in favor of the withdrawal of US forces from the country. Coalition operations have been suspended since then.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/30/US-awaits-Iraq-s-okay-to-deploy-patriots-to-protect-troops-amid-Iran-tension.html

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Iraq resumes anti-ISIS operations with US-led coalition

30 January 2020

Iraq’s military said on Thursday it was resuming operations with the US-led coalition against ISIS, which it had halted after the killing of Iranian General Qassim Soleimani by US forces and Iran’s retaliatory attacks on bases hosting those forces.

The coalition battling ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria suspended most of its operations on January 5 to focus on protecting coalition forces and bases, as tensions with Iran grew.

Iraq’s parliament also passed a resolution telling the government to end the presence of foreign troops in the country and ensure they not use its territory for any reason.

“In order to exploit the time that remains for the international coalition before the new relationship is set up... It was decided to carry out joint actions,” an Iraqi military statement said.

The joint operations include aerial backing for the Iraqi forces depending on their needs, the statement said.

Baghdad condemned both the killing of Soleimani and Iran’s missile attacks on two Iraqi bases housing US troops as acts of aggression on Iraq and a breach of its sovereignty.

Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi has asked Washington to prepare for a US troop withdrawal in line with the request by Iraq’s parliament. So far, the US government has rebuffed the call to withdraw.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/30/Iraq-resumes-anti-ISIS-operations-with-US-led-coalition.html

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Assault on Syria’s Idlib pushes 700,000 to flee: US envoy

30 January 2020

An assault on opposition-held northwest Syria by government forces in recent days has pushed some 700,000 people to flee toward the Turkish border, raising the specter of an international crisis, US Special Envoy for Syria James Jeffrey said on Thursday.

Backed by Russian air power, government forces have rapidly advanced on Idlib since last week, upending an area where millions have taken refugee since the start of Syria’s nearly nine-year war.

Jeffrey told a news briefing that Syrian government and Russian warplanes had hit Idlib with 200 air strikes “mainly against civilians” in the past three days.

He said the assault had set “700,000 people who are already internally displaced on the move once again toward the Turkish border, which will then create an international crisis.”

Moscow and Damascus say they are fighting extremist militants who have stepped up attacks on civilians in Aleppo, but rights

groups and rescue workers say airstrikes have demolished hospitals, schools and hit other civilian areas.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that Ankara was losing patience with the Idlib assault and would retaliate against any attack on its 12 observation posts in the area.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/30/Assault-on-Syria-s-Idlib-pushes-700-000-to-flee-US-envoy.html

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Russian strikes kill 10 civilians in Syria’s Idlib: Monitor

30 January 2020

Air strikes by government ally Russia hit near a bakery and a medical clinic in Syria’s opposition-held Idlib region early on Thursday, killing 10 civilians, a war monitor said.

However, Russia later denied boming the locations, AFP reported.

“The Russian aviation did not carry out any combat tasks in this area of Syria,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

At least five women were among the dead in the town of Ariha in Idlib province, where Russian-backed government forces are conducting an offensive against the country’s last major opposition bastion, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

A dust-covered doctor ran out of the Al-Shami clinic screaming following the attack, which partially damaged the facility’s walls, an AFP correspondent reported.

Nearby, three entire buildings had collapsed.

The wailing of women and children rang out as rescue workers searched for corpses beneath the rubble, the correspondent added.

The latest deaths brings the total number of civilians killed by Russian air strikes in Idlib over the past 24 hours to 21, the Observatory said.

Earlier this month, Russia denied launching any combat operations in the Idlib region since a ceasefire it agreed with opposition supporter Turkey went into effect on January 12.

But the truce has since become a dead letter and the number of reported Russian raids has risen sharply.

Thousands of Russian troops are deployed across Syria in support of the army, while a contingent of Russian private security personnel also operates on the ground.

Moscow’s military intervention in 2015, four years into the Syrian conflict, helped keep President Bashar al-Assad in power and started a long, bloody reconquest of territory lost to rebels in the early stages of the war.

The fierce bombardment coincides with a ground push by government forces in the south of Idlib province, where they captured the strategic highway town of Maaret al-Numan on Wednesday.

They are now pushing on towards the town of Saraqib, whose residents have mostly fled in recent days in the face of heavy bombardment.

Both towns lie on the key M5 highway connecting the capital Damascus to second city Aleppo.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/30/Russian-strikes-kill-10-civilians-in-Syria-s-Idlib-Monitor-.html

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Iraq president says parliament has three days to come up with new PM

30 January 2020

Iraq’s president on Wednesday threatened to unilaterally name a successor to the country’s premier, who resigned in December, if parliament did not nominate a candidate within three days.

“If the concerned blocs are unable to resolve the nomination issue by no later than Saturday, February 1... I see an obligation to exercise my constitutional powers by tasking whomever I find most acceptable to parliament and the people,” Barham Saleh wrote in a letter seen by AFP.

Prime Minister Adil Abdel Mahdi resigned in December after two months of deadly protests against his government, but he has stayed on in a caretaker role, as deeply divided political parties have failed to agree on a replacement.

According to Iraq’s constitution, parliament’s largest bloc must nominate a prime minister within 15 days of legislative elections.

The candidate is then appointed by the president and tasked with forming a government within one month.

But Iraq is in uncharted waters, as the constitution makes no provisions for the prime minister’s resignation and the 15-day period since Abdel Mahdi stepped down has long expired.

Any candidate would need stamps of approval from not only the fractured political class but also the Shia religious authority, neighboring Iran, its rival the US and the anti-government civil campaign that has gripped Iraq since October.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2020/01/30/Iraq-president-says-parliament-has-three-days-to-come-up-with-new-PM.html

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Saudi Crown Prince discusses cultural initiatives with UNESCO director-general

31 January 2020

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the director-general of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) discussed the Kingdom’s upcoming cultural initiatives and programs in a meeting on Thursday, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

The Crown Prince and Director-General Audrey Azoulay reviewed the plans and discussed ways to enhance cooperation between the country and the organization.

The meeting was in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan, the sweeping set of programs and reforms announced in 2016 which are set to liberalize the economy and reduce dependence on oil revenues, as well as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals 2030.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2020/01/31/Saudi-Crown-Prince-discusses-cultural-initiatives-with-UNESCO-Director-General.html

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Iraqi govt. forms committees to ensure foreign troops withdrawal: Interior Minister

31 January 2020

Iraqi Interior Minister Yassin al-Yasiri says the Baghdad government has formed a number of committees tasked with the implements of a parliamentary bill, which demands the withdrawal of all US-led foreign troops from the country.

“The decision about the removal of foreign forces was made by a casting vote in the parliament. The (Iraqi) government, therefore, set up committees to carry out the decision in a manner that safeguards the country's security and sovereignty,” the official Iraqi News Agency quoted Yasiri as saying in a meeting with British Ambassador to Iraq Stephen Hickey in Baghdad on Thursday.

The top Iraqi official also called for the enhancement of bilateral cooperation between Baghdad and London in various areas, and in consistency with the principles of mutual respect and common interests.

Yasiri and the British envoy also discussed the ongoing anti-government protests across Iraq, where demonstrators are demanding basic services, employment opportunities, and an end to corruption.

The Iraqi interior minister highlighted that caretaker Prime Minister Adel Andul-Madi, who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Iraqi Armed Forces, has issued directives, preventing troops from opening fire on peaceful demonstrators.

Hickey, for his part, asserted that the withdrawal of US-led foreign soldiers from Iraq will help the re-emergence of Daesh Takfiri terrorist group, calling for a review of the Iraqi parliament bill.

He also called for an upgrade in the level of cooperation between the Iraqi Interior Ministry and British the Home Department through a memorandum of understanding between the two sides.

On January 5, Iraqi lawmakers unanimously approved a bill demanding the withdrawal.

Later on January 9, Abdul-Mahdi called on the United States to dispatch a delegation to Baghdad tasked with formulating a mechanism for the move.

According to a statement released by the Iraqi premier’s office, Abdul-Mahdi “requested that delegates be sent to Iraq to set the mechanisms to implement the parliament's decision for the secure withdrawal of (foreign) forces from Iraq” in a phone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The prime minister said Iraq rejects violation of its sovereignty, particularly the US military's violation of Iraqi airspace in the January 3 vicious airstrike that assassinated Iran's Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, and the deputy head of the Popular Mobilization Units (better known by the Arabic word Hashd al-Sha'abi), Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, along with their companions.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/31/617503/Iraqi-govt.-forms-committees-to-ensure-foreign-troops-withdrawal:-Interior-Minister

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Africa

 

Governments are failing in the fight against jihadis in the Sahel

DAVID PILLING

January 31, 2020

It must be the least known epicentre of global terrorism. Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in west Africa, is now home to the world’s fastest-growing Islamist insurgency. Only last weekend, suspected militants attacked a market not far from the lightly patrolled border with Mali, killing some 50 people.

That was merely the latest in a gruesome string of attacks on targets soft and hard. Thousands of people were killed last year and some 560,000 displaced in a country of 19m. On Christmas Eve, 35 civilians — 31 of them women — were slaughtered when dozens of militants on motorbikes rode into town in Soum province, where last weekend’s attack took place. A few days later, 11 soldiers were killed at a military base, again in Soum. As the crisis escalates, the Norwegian Refugee Council predicts the number of displaced people will rise to 900,000.

Burkina Faso borders six countries. Two of them, Niger and especially Mali, are centres of Islamist insurgencies themselves. They are home to a potpourri of homegrown rebellions, foreign fighters linked to al-Qaeda and

Isis, criminal gangs and weapons pouring out of Libya. The lure of fundamentalism, with its promise of order, is strong in parts of the country where traces of the state are as wispy as gun smoke.

The other four countries — Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo and Benin — are coastal nations that have mostly been spared terrorist attention. That is likely to change. Geography and circumstance have rendered Burkina Faso a potential conduit for a jihadi insurgency that now menaces much of west Africa.

The country is the latest battleground in a war that first announced itself in 2012. Then, local Tuareg rebels joined forces with al-Qaeda affiliated foreign fighters. They quickly took over much of northern Mali, imposing a sharia regime in a region previously known for tolerance, music and ancient learning centred on Timbuktu. It took a 2013 invasion by French forces wielding formidable air power to dislodge them.

Operation Serval, as it was called, was a swift success. As so often in military interventions, the follow-up has been less impressive. The French, rightly, had no plans for nation building. Unfortunately, it seems, neither did the Malian government.

The Islamist threat has since metastasised. In Mali, central towns such as Mopti and Gao are in effect beyond government influence. Fighting has spread to Niger and Burkina Faso. The region has drawn fighters fleeing the crumbled caliphate in Syria and Iraq.

On paper, the response is joined up. On the ground, it has been piecemeal. The so-called G5 group of five Sahelian countries — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger — has formed a combined force to battle the insurgency. Signs of strain are everywhere.

Too often, government troops — poorly trained, poorly equipped and poorly paid — commit their own atrocities, stoking further resentment. The title of a Human Rights Watch report on Burkina Faso — “During the day, we are afraid of the army, and at night of the jihadis” — tells you much of what you need to know.

The western response is almost as shaky. France has 4,500 troops in Mali under the umbrella of Operation Barkhane. The US has several hundred personnel and two drone bases in Niger. But nerves are jangling. Last month, Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, angered by anti-French sentiment — some of it coming from government officials themselves — threatened to draw down his troops. He is right. Regional governments need to back the French or sack them. They cannot have it both ways.

In the end, Mr Macron agreed to bolster the French presence with 220 extra troops. Coalition forces will, at least in theory, be under joint French-G5 command. Mr Macron has urged the US not to quit, as has been floated, calling its presence “irreplaceable”.

Irreplaceable or not, a military response alone is not enough. Mishandled, it could be counterproductive.

Insecurity loves an institutional vacuum. In much of the Sahel, that is precisely what the insurgents have found. The most urgent need is for a functioning state. That means spreading the public goods — schools, healthcare, infrastructure, economic opportunity and security — that are the gift of good governance.

While this is primarily the responsibility of national governments, they are mostly failing in their task. They urgently need to build a social contract between themselves and those in whose names they govern. If outsiders can help in that cause, that is where their priority should lie.

Military intervention is no long-term solution. Judging by the recent escalation in violence, it may not even be a short-term one.

https://www.ft.com/content/1ccc58b4-41f0-11ea-bdb5-169ba7be433d

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Cameroon: Five Killed in Terror Attack by Boko Haram

29 January, 2020

Boko Haram militants carried out overnight attack in north Cameron killing five people. The militants were hunting for soldiers in a village near Lake Chad.

"Five civilians were killed by Boko Haram in Blaram," a village in the Blangoua district of Cameroon's Far North region, a local official said.

Two soldiers were also injured in the assault and a military base set on fire, the officer said, AFP reported.

"Boko Haram fighters attacked the post around 1 am. Fighting erupted between them and the soldiers, but the troops made a strategic retreat because they were outnumbered," a Blangoua district official said.

The civilians were killed in their homes by attackers searching for soldiers, the official said.

The village of Blaram is located on dry land near Lake Chad.

Based in neighbouring Nigeria, Boko Haram has stepped up attacks from bases hidden in the Lake Chad area, where the borders of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria converge.

Cameroon says the group has carried out nearly 13,000 attacks on its territory since 2014, with the loss of "several thousand" lives.

The insurgency has forced more than 250,000 people to flee their homes and triggered an influx of 60,000 people from Nigeria.

Full report at:

https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/2105491/cameroon-five-killed-terror-attack-boko-haram

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Three Chadian soldiers, one civilian killed in Takfiri attack

30 January 2020

Three Chadian troops and a female civilian were killed early Thursday when Takfiri terrorists attacked a military position on an island in Lake Chad, the military said.

"We neutralized 21" assailants, armed forces chief of staff General Taher Erda told AFP. He attributed the attack to the Nigerian-based Boko Haram.

"Our forces are currently sweeping the area looking for Boko Haram elements which were able to flee."

The attack is part of a mounting campaign by Takfiri terrorists in the vast, marshy Lake Chad area, where the borders of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria converge.

Boko Haram launched an insurgency in Nigeria in 2009 before beginning incursions in its neighboring countries to the east.

A group called ISWAP that is affiliated to the so-called Daesh and split from Boko Haram in 2016 is notoriously active in the Lake Chad area.

Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria have set up a multinational joint task aimed at rolling back Takfiris in the region with the help of local self-defense units.

In early January, all 1,200 Chadians in this force who had been deployed in Nigeria were pulled back to the Chadian side of the lake.

On Monday, six troops were killed in an ambush on the island of Tetewa on Lake Chad. Last week, a suicide bomber killed nine civilians in a village in the same province.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/30/617466/Chadian-Soldiers-Civilian-Jihadist-Attack

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Pakistan-Africa Trade Conference kicks off in Nairobi

Andrew Wasike  

30.01.2020

NAIROBI, Kenya

With the aim of boosting trade and development between the African continent and Pakistan, the first-ever Pakistan-Africa Trade Development Conference 2020 kicked off in Nairobi on Thursday.

Hosted jointly by Kenya and Pakistan, the conference has attracted over 500 delegates from the South Asian country and African states.

Executives of over 100 leading Pakistani companies, Pakistan's trade and foreign ministers, government officials as well as business people and investors from African states are participating in the two-day conference to explore the untapped African market often dubbed as world’s “next big growth market”.

In his opening remarks, Pakistan’s Secretary of Commerce Ahmad Nawaz Sukhera said trade and commerce could solve many of the challenges faced by Africa today.

“The conference would augur well for enhancing trade and investment between African countries and Pakistan,” he said. “I hope you find these two days of meeting between B2B [Business to Business], B2G [Business to government] and G2G [Government to Government] very productive.”

EU’s Ambassador to Kenya Simon Mordue lauded Pakistan’s initiative of seeking business with Africa.

“This is an important development, and we have to be positive about this," he said.

A pharmaceutical company executive said he hoped for better prices from Pakistani markets.

“So far I have been promised good things [...] turning to Pakistani markets will save me a lot,” John Njoroge told Anadolu Agency.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who formally opened the conference, welcomed Pakistani investors to its markets and the greater Africa.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said trade with Africa, which had remained stagnant at $3 billion a year from 2012-13 to 2016-17, had increased to $4.6 billion in 2018-19.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/pakistan-africa-trade-conference-kicks-off-in-nairobi/1719269

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Minnesota Men Who Joined al-Shabab Now Remorseful

By Harun Maruf

January 29, 2020

More than a decade ago, some 20 young Somali-Americans shocked their families when they left behind jobs and schools and returned to their native Somalia to join jihadist group al-Shabab. Now at least two of them have defected, and say their deadly adventure ruined their future.

Ahmed Ali Omar and Abdulkadir Ali Abdi left al-Shabab 16 months ago, but are now hiding in the Somali capital, afraid of being hunted down by the group's assassins.

In an exclusive interview the two men gave to the VOA Somali program Investigative Dossier, Omar says he would have been killed or jailed if he stayed with the group.

"They found out we were going against their extremist, rigid views and they were plotting to arrest us," he said.

Investigative Dossier confirmed Omar's and Abdi's defections with government officials and other defectors. The two men are now living in a house in Mogadishu.

Omar sounded remorseful in the over one-hour phone interview conducted last week. He said their future is ruined but wants to warn others from joining jihadist groups.

"We are expressing our opinion so that the problem we faced doesn't happen to other young Somali youth," he said. "We can be an example, so that they don't get brainwashed and their heads turned around in the same way they did to us, so that their future is not jeopardized, so that they take advantage of the opportunities they have."

Turning point

Omar said there were a series of incidents that turned him and Abdi against al-Shabab.

The last was the truck bomb explosion at a Mogadishu Zobe's intersection on Oct. 14, 2017, that killed at least 587 people and injured hundreds more. The attack is the single largest terrorist attack in African history.

The attack was so indiscriminate that even some members of al-Shabab lost wives and relatives in the blast, Omar said.

"It impacted me especially when I saw the pictures," he told VOA. "We discussed, we asked, but there was no clear reason to convince the people [to accept what happened]."

Omar said other reasons he and Abdi left the group were al-Shabab's harsh treatment of Somalis, including the "senseless" killing of civilians, looting people's wealth, and "apostatizing people," meaning the group designated Muslims as non-believers in order to justify their killing.

The two could not leave the group right away. "We have been planning to leave al-Shabab but the conditions didn't permit," Abdi said.  "It was like you can't leave them and you can't live among them."

Omar and Abdi finally defected to the Somali government in September 2018. They were put into a rehabilitation program. They said they benefited from the program and have renounced violence, and they want to be placed in a position where they can support security programs.

Abandoned lives

Both Omar and Abdi were born in Somalia but moved to the United States with their families in the 1990s as Somalia sunk into chaos and violence after its civil war. They settled in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which has the largest Somali-American community in the U.S.

Abdi, who arrived in the U.S. in 1998 as a refugee, had just finished high school when Ethiopia sent tens of thousands of troops into Somalia in 2006 to stop a takeover of the country by the Islamic Courts Union.

"Most of the Somali community were against the Ethiopia intervention, they used to hold events condemning and fundraising and I participated," he said. He said he also heard Friday sermons denouncing the Ethiopians and watched videos showing alleged Ethiopian atrocities in Somalia.

"This produced young men who are being influenced by the situation," Abdi said. "Youth is more like action, not talk, so we thought money is not enough, so we have to do action."

Recruiters for al-Shabab persuaded Abdi and Omar to return home and take up arms. Omar, who initially wanted to be a doctor after graduating high school, arrived in Somalia in late 2007 at age 19. Abdi came a year later, at age 17. 

Their departure and others put the community under a harsh spotlight, as the FBI and law enforcement agencies hunted for the recruiters. Some Minnesota Somalis described them as brainwashed young men, but others said pro-al-Shabab locals manipulated them. Community leaders say they are relieved young men are seeing the light even after such a long time and are turning their back on al-Shabab.

"It affected the community negatively," said Abdirahman Mukhtar, a community activist who knew many of the Minnesota men who traveled to join al-Shabab. "We attracted unwanted attention at airports during travels, in mosques and events.

"Even [then-presidential candidate Donald] Trump came to Minnesota and put Somalis under the spotlight," he said, referring to a 2016 campaign visit where the future president said Minnesotans had "suffered enough" from the influx of Somali refugees.

Other Minnesotans detained 

Omar and Abdi said several of their Minnesota colleagues are in al-Shabab detentions because the group accused them of having intentions to defect.

They gave Investigative Dossier the names of seven people they say are now in al-Shabab prisons. The relatives of some of the men have separately confirmed their detention.

Among the detained is Khalid Mohamud Abshir, known within al-Shabab as "Abdalla Qannas," who left Minnesota in September 2007. Also detained are Abdullahi Ahmed Farah, aka "Adaki"; Mustafa Ali Salad, known as "Zubayr"; Abdisalaan Hussein Ali, known as "Uhud"; and Farhan Isse.

Omar and Abdi have also given details of an incident in June 2009 where one of the Minnesota recruits, 17-year-old Burhan Ibrahim Hassan, was shot and killed by another al-Shabab fighter.

Abdi said Hassan was walking near the house of a top al-Shabab commander, Yusuf Isse Kabakutukade, when he was shot dead by a bodyguard, who said Hassan had "compromised" the safety of an official.

According to Omar and Abdi, who said they arrived at the scene of the shooting within minutes, Kabakutukade promised to pay blood money to Hassan's family. But family members say they have never received any money, and say their choice was that the person who pulled the trigger is put to death by the group.

"We heard he did not die in fighting, said Hassan's uncle, Abdirizak Bihi. "He was ill and we heard he was killed by people within the group."

Point of no return

At this point, it would be hard for either Omar or Abdi to return to the United States. U.S. federal prosecutors have charged them and other al-Shabab recruits with offenses that include conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and foreign terrorist organizations; conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim and injure people outside the United States; possessing and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence; and solicitation to commit a crime of violence.

Omar's brother Guled is already in a U.S. prison. He was convicted for conspiring to commit murder in Syria on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and to provide material support to the designated foreign terrorist organization. He is serving a 35-year sentence.

Full report at:

https://www.voanews.com/usa/minnesota-men-who-joined-al-shabab-now-remorseful

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Minnesota Men Who Joined al-Shabab Now Remorseful

By Harun Maruf

January 29, 2020

More than a decade ago, some 20 young Somali-Americans shocked their families when they left behind jobs and schools and returned to their native Somalia to join jihadist group al-Shabab. Now at least two of them have defected, and say their deadly adventure ruined their future.

Ahmed Ali Omar and Abdulkadir Ali Abdi left al-Shabab 16 months ago, but are now hiding in the Somali capital, afraid of being hunted down by the group's assassins.

In an exclusive interview the two men gave to the VOA Somali program Investigative Dossier, Omar says he would have been killed or jailed if he stayed with the group.

"They found out we were going against their extremist, rigid views and they were plotting to arrest us," he said.

Investigative Dossier confirmed Omar's and Abdi's defections with government officials and other defectors. The two men are now living in a house in Mogadishu.

Omar sounded remorseful in the over one-hour phone interview conducted last week. He said their future is ruined but wants to warn others from joining jihadist groups.

"We are expressing our opinion so that the problem we faced doesn't happen to other young Somali youth," he said. "We can be an example, so that they don't get brainwashed and their heads turned around in the same way they did to us, so that their future is not jeopardized, so that they take advantage of the opportunities they have."

Turning point

Omar said there were a series of incidents that turned him and Abdi against al-Shabab.

The last was the truck bomb explosion at a Mogadishu Zobe's intersection on Oct. 14, 2017, that killed at least 587 people and injured hundreds more. The attack is the single largest terrorist attack in African history.

The attack was so indiscriminate that even some members of al-Shabab lost wives and relatives in the blast, Omar said.

"It impacted me especially when I saw the pictures," he told VOA. "We discussed, we asked, but there was no clear reason to convince the people [to accept what happened]."

Omar said other reasons he and Abdi left the group were al-Shabab's harsh treatment of Somalis, including the "senseless" killing of civilians, looting people's wealth, and "apostatizing people," meaning the group designated Muslims as non-believers in order to justify their killing.

The two could not leave the group right away. "We have been planning to leave al-Shabab but the conditions didn't permit," Abdi said.  "It was like you can't leave them and you can't live among them."

Omar and Abdi finally defected to the Somali government in September 2018. They were put into a rehabilitation program. They said they benefited from the program and have renounced violence, and they want to be placed in a position where they can support security programs.

Abandoned lives

Both Omar and Abdi were born in Somalia but moved to the United States with their families in the 1990s as Somalia sunk into chaos and violence after its civil war. They settled in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which has the largest Somali-American community in the U.S.

Abdi, who arrived in the U.S. in 1998 as a refugee, had just finished high school when Ethiopia sent tens of thousands of troops into Somalia in 2006 to stop a takeover of the country by the Islamic Courts Union.

"Most of the Somali community were against the Ethiopia intervention, they used to hold events condemning and fundraising and I participated," he said. He said he also heard Friday sermons denouncing the Ethiopians and watched videos showing alleged Ethiopian atrocities in Somalia.

"This produced young men who are being influenced by the situation," Abdi said. "Youth is more like action, not talk, so we thought money is not enough, so we have to do action."

Recruiters for al-Shabab persuaded Abdi and Omar to return home and take up arms. Omar, who initially wanted to be a doctor after graduating high school, arrived in Somalia in late 2007 at age 19. Abdi came a year later, at age 17. 

Their departure and others put the community under a harsh spotlight, as the FBI and law enforcement agencies hunted for the recruiters. Some Minnesota Somalis described them as brainwashed young men, but others said pro-al-Shabab locals manipulated them. Community leaders say they are relieved young men are seeing the light even after such a long time and are turning their back on al-Shabab.

"It affected the community negatively," said Abdirahman Mukhtar, a community activist who knew many of the Minnesota men who traveled to join al-Shabab. "We attracted unwanted attention at airports during travels, in mosques and events.

"Even [then-presidential candidate Donald] Trump came to Minnesota and put Somalis under the spotlight," he said, referring to a 2016 campaign visit where the future president said Minnesotans had "suffered enough" from the influx of Somali refugees.

Other Minnesotans detained 

Omar and Abdi said several of their Minnesota colleagues are in al-Shabab detentions because the group accused them of having intentions to defect.

They gave Investigative Dossier the names of seven people they say are now in al-Shabab prisons. The relatives of some of the men have separately confirmed their detention.

Among the detained is Khalid Mohamud Abshir, known within al-Shabab as "Abdalla Qannas," who left Minnesota in September 2007. Also detained are Abdullahi Ahmed Farah, aka "Adaki"; Mustafa Ali Salad, known as "Zubayr"; Abdisalaan Hussein Ali, known as "Uhud"; and Farhan Isse.

Omar and Abdi have also given details of an incident in June 2009 where one of the Minnesota recruits, 17-year-old Burhan Ibrahim Hassan, was shot and killed by another al-Shabab fighter.

Abdi said Hassan was walking near the house of a top al-Shabab commander, Yusuf Isse Kabakutukade, when he was shot dead by a bodyguard, who said Hassan had "compromised" the safety of an official.

According to Omar and Abdi, who said they arrived at the scene of the shooting within minutes, Kabakutukade promised to pay blood money to Hassan's family. But family members say they have never received any money, and say their choice was that the person who pulled the trigger is put to death by the group.

"We heard he did not die in fighting, said Hassan's uncle, Abdirizak Bihi. "He was ill and we heard he was killed by people within the group."

Point of no return

At this point, it would be hard for either Omar or Abdi to return to the United States. U.S. federal prosecutors have charged them and other al-Shabab recruits with offenses that include conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and foreign terrorist organizations; conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim and injure people outside the United States; possessing and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence; and solicitation to commit a crime of violence.

Omar's brother Guled is already in a U.S. prison. He was convicted for conspiring to commit murder in Syria on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and to provide material support to the designated foreign terrorist organization. He is serving a 35-year sentence.

Full report at:

https://www.voanews.com/usa/minnesota-men-who-joined-al-shabab-now-remorseful

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URL: https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/how-online-rivalry,-anti-muslim-hate-radicalised-jamia-shooter/d/120945

 

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