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If Pakistan Attacks with One Nuclear Bomb, India Can Finish Us with 20, Says Pervez Musharraf

New Age Islam News Bureau

25 Feb 2019

Nadine Labaki, Rami Malek and Talal Derki - Facebook, 3 Arabs, 1 Muslim nominated for Oscars



 If Pakistan Attacks with One Nuclear Bomb, India Can Finish Us With 20, Says Pervez Musharraf

 Shia Central Waqf Board Chairman Demands Closure of 'Madrasas' Run By Wahhabis

 Pakistan Hindu MP Calls for Peace with India

 3 Arabs, 1 Muslim Nominated For Oscars; Shouldn’t We Be Proud?

 Nuclear Technology Sales to Saudi Linked to Trump’s Campaign: Analyst

 Internet Contributes To Radicalism among Young RI Muslims: Study

 Netanyahu Teams Up With Extremist Party Ahead Of Polls



 If Pakistan Attacks with One Nuclear Bomb, India Can Finish Us With 20, Says Pervez Musharraf

 Pakistan Hindu MP Calls For Peace With India

 ISI Devises New Plan to Shield Hafiz Saeed's Jud, Splits Terror Group Into 2 Parts: IB Sources

 Give peace a chance: Imran Khan to PM Modi

 Clerics warn of united front if India attacks

 Pakistan stations 2 officers at JeM HQ

 Fazl again threatens to launch million march

 Pakistan wants to change, says US envoy for religious freedom

 Nothing more sacred than defence of country, says army chief

 FM Qureshi tells India to dismiss thoughts of pressuring Pakistan with ‘war-mongering tactics’




 Shia Central Waqf Board Chairman Demands Closure of 'Madrasas' Run By Wahhabis

 India, France May Look Beyond Azhar to Rein In Jaish, Outwit China

 NIA Gets ‘Good Leads’ From CCTV Footage of Dar’s Car

 DSP & Jawan Lay Down Lives, 3 Terrorists Killed In J&K

 Pakistan’s house of cards: How its purported aces have been trumped

 Lucknow: Jaish suspects questioned, photo released



Arab World

 3 Arabs, 1 Muslim Nominated For Oscars; Shouldn’t We Be Proud?

 Iraqi Sources: Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Planning to Organize ISIL in Western Iraq

 Kurdish Source: US Army Transferring 50 Tons of ISIL's Gold to US

 Kurdish Official: ISIL Terrorists Enter Syria with Turkish Visas

 12 British, Pakistani Forces Killed in Southern Saudi Arabia

 Landmine left by ISIS kills 20 in Syria

 US-backed Syrian forces hand over another 150 ISIS militants to Iraq

 Arab, European leaders in joint pledge to fight terror


North America

 Nuclear Technology Sales to Saudi Linked to Trump’s Campaign: Analyst

 Meet Stuart Jolly, ex-Trump staffer now working as DC lobbyist for Qatar

 US senator tweets bloody Gaddafi picture

 US strategy in Syria is incoherent and dangerous


Southeast Asia

 Internet Contributes To Radicalism among Young RI Muslims: Study

 More Muslim prayer rooms open in Japan, but relatively few takers

 U.S. Muslim leaders call on China to end persecution of Uighurs

 Mujahid: Wrong to deny child’s welfare in Islam’s name

 PAS: ‘Monster’ rally if Putrajaya dithers over anti-Islam provocateurs

 Let Zakir Naik talk, but with conditions, says Penang mufti



 Netanyahu Teams Up With Extremist Party Ahead Of Polls

 Israel Releases Senior Palestinian Cleric Arrested After Al-Aqsa Unrest

 Israel bans 2 Muslim clerics from entering al-Aqsa for 1 week

 Yemeni Forces Kill Saudi Officer, 5 Bodyguards

 Palestinians demand Abbas resignation at Gaza protest rally

 Yemen’s Houthis to quit two ports Monday under peace deal

 Hezbollah: US main cause of persisting crisis in Syria


South Asia

 Qatar: Taliban Political Chief To Join Talks With US In Doha

 Bangladesh police say suspected plane hijacker had carried a toy pistol

 Taliban’s shadow district chief killed in NDS Special Forces raid in Nangarhar

 Taliban militants and commanders suffer heavy casualties in a premature IED explosion

 Top Taliban commanders among 9 killed, wounded in Sar-e-Pul operations

 More than 20 militants killed in Afghan Special Forces raids across the country

 Afghanistan launches new export route to India through Iran



 Russia Parades Syrian War Trophies On A Nationwide Tour In A Bid To Sell Intervention

 UN: 2018 saw highest number of Afghan civilian deaths

 EU, Arab League to hold 1st joint summit amid tensions

 Sisi urges joint Arab-European action on terrorism and migration



 French PM Urges Joint Stand To Drive Back Extremists In Sahel

 US says 4 airstrikes in Somalia kill 2 al-Shabab fighters

 Nigerian elders should speak on Boko Haram

 Buhari beats Atiku in seven Borno LGAs displaced by Boko Haram

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




If Pakistan Attacks with One Nuclear Bomb, India Can Finish Us with 20, Says Pervez Musharraf

February 25, 2019

New Delhi: India could "finish" Pakistan with 20 bombs if Islamabad decides to launch even a single nuclear attack on the neighbouring country, former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf has said.

Karachi-based newspaper Dawn quoted Musharraf as saying: "Indian and Pakistan relations have again reached a dangerous level. There will be no nuclear attack. If we would attack India with one atomic bomb, then the neighbouring country could finish us by attacking with 20 bombs. Then the only solution is that we should first attack them with 50 atom bombs so that they cannot hit us with 20 bombs. Are you ready to first launch an attack with 50 bombs?"

Addressing a press conference in UAE, Pakistan's former president further said that if India launched any attack in Kashmir, Pakistan could respond in other areas in Sindh and Punjab and "could teach them a lesson".

His comment comes over a week after the terror attack that killed 40 CRPF personnel in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama, claimed by Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed.

He also claimed that Israel wanted to establish relations with Pakistan. The chief of All-Pakistan Muslim League (APML), who is living in self-exile in the UAE, said he is ready to return to Pakistan as he sees the political environment in his country favourable.

"In my opinion, the political environment is good and favourable. Half of the ministers are mine. Law minister and the attorney general were my lawyers," said Musharraf.

Musharraf took power in 1999 following a military coup that ousted former President Nawaz Sharif. After being president for nine years, he was ousted from power in after another coup that rose Mr Sharif again to power.



Shia Central Waqf Board Chairman Demands Closure of 'Madrasas' Run By Wahhabis

16 February 2019

UP Shia Central Waqf Board chairman Wasim Rizvi demanded immediate closure of Islamic religious schools known as `madrasas’ run by Wahhabi sect of Sunni Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir.

In the backdrop of the Fidayeen attack on a CRPF convoy in Kashmir on Thursday, Rizvi said that Wahhabi madrasas were a huge threat to internal security and unity and integrity of the country as they were breeding ground of extremism and fanaticism.

Condemning the Fidayeen attack on the CRPF convoy that left 42 Jawans dead, Rizvi said that the extremists were anti-nationals and their sole aim was to spread hatred and bloodletting in the country.

The Shia Waqf Board chairman said that many Wahhabi madarsas were operating by concealing their identity. "The nation can never win the war against jihad spearheaded by Wahhabis unless their madrasas are banned immediately," he said.



Pakistan Hindu MP calls for peace with India

Feb 24, 2019

NEW DELHI: A Hindu parliamentarian from Pakistan Saturday made a fervent appeal to the governments of India and Pakistan to defuse tension in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack, saying New Delhi will benefit the most if the two neighbours joined hands.

Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, a member of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), offered to play the role of a mediator between the two governments and expressed hope that the two countries "don't indulge in any blame game and together move ahead on the path of peace and prosperity".

The patron of the Pakistan Hindu Council was in India as part of a 220-member delegation from 185 countries who attended the Kumbh Mela on an invite of the government.

The two countries should not allow the use of their soils against each other, Vankwani said, adding that India would benefit the most if the two countries joined hands.

On the rising tension post the terror attack, the lawmaker from Pakistan premier Imran Khan's party said his government "does not want such a situation".

"If you have any apprehension, tell me about it. I will share it with my government. I will also speak to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in this regard," he said.

Vankwani said he shares a spiritual connection with India and visits the country twice every year, even if it's not a governmentsponsored trip.

Forty CRPF personnel were killed and many wounded when a suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden vehicle into their bus in Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir on February 14.

The Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Indian government has been working diplomatic channels to "isolate Pakistan" at international forums for providing support to terrorism.



3 Arabs, 1 Muslim Nominated For Oscars; Shouldn’t We Be Proud?

Feb. 24, 2019

CAIRO – 24 February 2019: Filmmakers, audience and cinema critics are eager to see who will win the most acclaimed cinematic awards.

The 91st Academy Awards is somehow special for Arabs and Muslims as three Arabs and one Muslim are among the Oscar nominees and are about to make history.

Egyptian American actor Rami Malek is nominated for Best Actor award, Lebanese film "Capernaum" directed by Nadine Labaki is nominated for Best Foreign Film award and Syrian director Talal Derki’s “Of Father and Sons” is nominated for Best Documentary award.

Muslim American actor Mahershala Ali is also nominated for Best Supporting Actor award.

Rami Malek

Malek has won all the awards preceding the 91st Academy Awards: The Golden Globes, the BAFTAs and SAG, so it will be frustrating if he doesn't win an Oscar after his brilliant portrayal of Queen's main vocalist, the legendary Freddie Mercury, in "Bohemian Rhapsody".

Malek is an Egyptian-American actor, who was born in Los Angeles on May 12, 1981, to Egyptian immigrant parents who are Saeed Malek and Nelly Abdel Malek.

Originally from Minya's Samalut, Malek's parents immigrated to the US in the 1970s. Malek's journey from Upper Egypt to the Golden Globes was both difficult and interesting.

The 37-year-old actor grabbed the award after a tough competition with acclaimed stars, Bradley Cooper for "A Star is Born", Willem Dafoe for "At Eternity's Gate", John David Washington for "BlacKkKlansman" and Lucas Hedges for "Boy Erased".

Malek has been nominated before for a Golden Globe for his performance in the TV series "Mr. Robot". Malek was the first non-white actor to take home the Emmy for Best Actor in a Drama Series in over 18 years in 2016 for his role in "Mr. Robot".

Malek's win, along with the film's win of Best Motion Picture Drama, were the most tweeted-about incidents at the Golden Globe.

“Thank you to Freddie Mercury for giving me the joy of a lifetime. I love you, you beautiful man. This is for and because of you, gorgeous,” Malek said dedicating his great win to the legendary singer.

Malek elaborated that he drew personal connections with Mercury after depicting him. “I tried to find the humanity in him,” he said during a press room speech after the film's win.

“I related to him being an immigrant struggling to discover his identity," he added. "I tried to take everything he was struggling with, his complication, his chaos, his turmoil and this beauty inside of him. He lifted me up to be everything I could be in this film.”

"Bohemian Rhapsody" was actually what the Egyptian-American actor needed to shift from acclaimed actor to established movie star.

"Bohemian Rhapsody" also winning Best Drama, further stabilised Malek's outstanding performance in the movie that succeeded both critically and commercially, yielding over $700 million and becoming the highest grossing biopic of all time.

Being provided the golden chance to perform the role of the iconic Mercury, Malek was aware of the huge responsibility and took it very seriously.

"I was very cognizant of the work it was going to take to get anywhere close to becoming Freddy Mercury. I flew myself to London and put myself up and just got hammering away," Malek explained to E News.

"Piano lessons and worked with a movement coach and singing lessons—everything I could possibly do. And then I watched copious amounts of Freddie Mercury performances," he reiterated.

Malek is now dating his "Bohemian Rhapsody" co-star Lucy Boynton, 24, who plays Mary Austin, Mercury's first fiancée.

Malek and Bonyton had never talked about their relationship in public until recently when Malek confirmed their relation at the Palm Springs International Film Festival where he accepted the Breakthrough Performance Award.

"Thank you, Lucy Boynton," Malek said to Billboard. "You have been my ally, my confidant, my love. Thank you so much," he added.

Malek who used to sell falafel and deliver pizza to support himself financially at the beginning of his career is now enjoying his newfound fame and saying goodbye forever to anonymity, giving a true example that it is never impossible.

Mahershala Ali

Mahershala Ali is nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the historical drama “Green Book”.

In 2016, Ali played a drug dealer in "Moonlight", a role for which he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, becoming the first Muslim actor to win such an award.


Acclaimed American presenter Oprah Winfrey who is at the same time a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said that "Capernaum" is a must-see movie.

"Capernaum" has previously won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, drawing much attention to Labaki as a distinguished filmmaker.

The movie tells the story of a rebellious child who lives in a poor area and decides to file a suit against his parents for bringing him into this cruel world.

"Of Father and Sons"

"Of Father and Sons" is the only non-American film nominated for Best Documentary at the 91st Academy Awards. Derki risked his life to make this documentary.

Derki lived for two and a half years in northern Syria with Abu Osama, a member of Al-Nusra Front (an ISIS family).

He pretended to be sympathetic to their cause so that he could film them in an attempt to learn, first-hand, how young men become radicalized.

Focusing on a father and his sons, the film lays bare in terrifying details how young boys with kindness in their hearts find themselves in an Al-Qaeda training camp at a tender young age, all to gain the approval of their beloved patriarch.



Nuclear technology sales to Saudi linked to Trump’s campaign: Analyst

Feb 24, 2019

The United States is rushing to give Saudi sensitive nuclear technology because President Donald Trump does not want to lose the “biggest financial contributors” to his campaign, says a political analyst.

James Petras made the remarks in an interview with Press TV about a congressional report that shows the United States is rushing to transfer “highly sensitive nuclear technology” to Saudi Arabia, with Trump being “directly engaged” in the push.

The House of Representatives’ Oversight and Reform Committee released the 24-page report on Tuesday, listing the actions taken by the Trump administration in an attempt to win government support for American firms to construct nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia, in what could increase the risk of spreading nuclear weapons technology.

Petras said, “Washington is engaged in rushing the sale of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia …..because many of the biggest financial contributors to Trump’s campaign are involved in the nuclear industry.”

“Trump is rushing this through because he suspects in congressional hearings the technological sales will not go through and this would adversely affect the big business supporters of Trump,” added Petras, a retired professor who has published on political issues with particular focus on Latin America, the Middle East and imperialism.

“So there is a financial dimension to the rush and it has to do with the elections in the United States and the importance of big business in financing Trump’s next election.”

He went on to say that “Trump has decided that the profits coming from Saudi Arabia are more important than the human rights issues that Saudi is violating.”

Saudi Arabia has lately stepped up politically-motivated arrests, prosecution and conviction of peaceful dissident writers and human rights campaigners.

In the most recent instance of persecution of dissidents by the Saudi regime, journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was a Washington Post columnist known for his critical writing on the Riyadh regime, was killed on October 2, 2018, after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. His body was reportedly dismembered and has not yet been found.



Internet contributes to radicalism among young RI Muslims: Study

February 24, 2019

A study suggests that young Indonesian Muslims who use the internet more often tend to have radical and intolerant views compared to their peers who rarely go online.

Conducted by the Syarif Hidayatullah Islamic State University (UIN Syarif Hidayatullah) in cooperation with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in late 2017, the study found that 88.55 percent of 1,859 respondents believed the government should ban religious minority groups altogether.

In addition, 49 percent of respondents — comprising students from hundreds of schools and universities across the country — disagreed with the government’s protection of Islamic minority groups like the Ahmadiyah and Shia.

Nearly 85 percent has access to the internet.

The study’s lead researcher, Jamhari Makruf of UIN Syarif Hidayatullah, explained that there was one positive correlation between internet use among young Muslims and the way they perceive religious diversity.

"We found that religious websites are dominated by exclusive and intolerant views," Jamhari said on Wednesday.

The study further revealed that preachers popular among Muslim youths included those who often conveyed radical narratives, like controversial Indian ulema Zakir Naik and Indonesian preacher Khalid Basalamah. Meanwhile, Muslim figures who promote tolerant and moderate views, including Quraish Syihab, Ahmad Syafii Maarif, Mustafa Bisri and Haedar Nasir, did not interest them.

Jamhari called on large Islamic organizations such as Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah to promote moderate values and create more youth-friendly religious content on social media platforms like YouTube and Instagram to counter more extreme narratives.

"The youths want to access religious knowledge as easily as they access information about food; we have to accommodate them," he emphasized.

Another researcher from UIN Syarif Hidayatullah, Irfan Abubakar, revealed on a separate occasion that learning from the internet was not enough for young Muslims to gain a thorough understanding of Islam.

UIN Syarif Hidayatullah's Center for the Study of Religion and Culture (CSRC), led by Irfan, revealed that more young Muslims who are digital-savvy are abandoning mosques as they preferred to study religion via social media.

Low religious literacy, as the result of learning religion only from the internet, can lead to absolutism, which refers to an attitude of regarding one's own beliefs as the absolute truth.

"Absolutism is a threat to the country's pluralistic society," he said.

Therefore, he urged the younger generation of Muslims to learn Islam through legitimate forums, such as pengajian (Quran reading).

Muhammadiyah leader Haedar Nashir separately conceded that ignorance among large Islamic Organizations had contributed to the rising radicalism and intolerance in the country.

He added that Indonesia’s second-largest Islamic organization was committed to preparing its members to be "social-media preachers" and spread al-wasatiyyah (religious tolerance) and Islamic moderation as counter-narratives to extremism.

"Muhammadiyah has a strong network in society, including among the younger generations. We will turn [al-wasatiyyah] into a massive movement," Haedar said.



Netanyahu teams up with extremist party ahead of polls

February 25, 2019

David M. Halbfinger

Occupied Jerusalem: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made something of an art form of cutting deals with small Israeli political parties, but his latest alliance has earned him denunciations from quarters where he has usually been able to count on unshakable support.

Netanyahu, his future imperiled by prosecutors and political challengers alike, has enraged Jewish leaders in Israel and the United States by striking a bargain with a racist anti-Palestinian party whose ideology was likened by one influential rabbi to Nazism.

Even pro-Israel groups in the United States that prefer to air their disagreements quietly have issued public condemnations.

The embattled Netanyahu, grasping for every potential vote, has turned to the extremist party Otzma Yehudit, or Jewish Power, whose leaders have a long history of expressing support for violence against Palestinians, expulsion of Palestinians from Israel and the occupied territories, and a ban on intermarriage or sex between Jews and Palestinians.

The prime minister arranged for the organisation to merge into a somewhat more mainstream party of religious Zionists, the Jewish Home.

That pact, announced last week, could easily catapult Otzma Yehudit from the disreputable fringe into Israel’s next governing coalition.

Otzma Yehudit’s leaders proudly call themselves disciples of Meir Kahane, the New York City-born anti-Palestinian militant who served a term in Israel’s parliament in the 1980s before his Kach party was outlawed in Israel and declared a terrorist group by the United States. He was assassinated in 1990.

Call to expel Palestinians

Much as Kach did, Otzma Yehudit’s platform calls for annexing the occupied territories, rejecting a Palestinian state, expelling “enemies” of Israel - a euphemism for Palestinians - and taking “ownership” of Al Haram Al Sharif, the third holiest site in Islam.

The site, in Occupied Jerusalem, is overseen by Muslim clerics under Jordanian supervision.

The pact between Netanyahu and the Kahanists set off a predictable eruption from liberal Jewish groups like J Street and Americans for Peace, as well as the Union of Reform Judaism, which normally stays out of Israeli politics.

But the outrage was not limited to the left.

On Friday, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the American lobbying group known as AIPAC, and the American Jewish Committee, both of which rarely weigh in publicly on Israeli politics, declared Otzma Yehudit’s ideas “reprehensible.”

They vowed not to have any contact with its leaders even if they become part of the next government.

In an equally extraordinary step, Rabbi Benny Lau of Occupied Jerusalem, a pillar of religious Zionism, repeatedly assailed the merger over the weekend, warning on social media that “the defilement and destruction of the land serves as a guarantee for the loss of the land.”

Lau lamented that the prime minister seemed concerned only with winning re-election, and, from his pulpit at the Rambam Synagogue, likened Kahanism to Nazism and its ideas to the Nuremberg Laws.

“The entry of the racist doctrine into the Knesset is the destruction of the Temple,” he wrote on Facebook on Sunday.

In Israel’s chaotic parliamentary system, small parties, like the ultra-Orthodox Shas, can be essential when it comes to forming a majority coalition after an election, and Netanyahu has routinely struck deals giving them outsize influence.

But this time, he is running with his indictment on corruption charges widely expected, and facing his toughest challenge yet from Benny Gantz, a centrist and popular former army chief.

So desperate to prevent any right-wing ballots from being squandered on a party unable to win its own seats in the Knesset, Netanyahu has pre-emptively stretched his coalition’s margins farther to the right than ever before.

Extremist ideology

The two leaders of Otzma Yehudit who could win Knesset seats, depending on the merged party’s share of the vote in April, are Michael Ben Ari and Itamar Ben Gvir. They are co-founders of Lehava, a group that opposes Jewish-Palestinian relationships and was implicated in a 2014 arson attack on a school for Jewish and Palestinian children in Occupied Jerusalem.

Ben Ari calls Palestinians the “enemy” and advocates expelling them. He was denied a visa to the United States in 2012 as a member of a terrorist organisation.

Ben Gvir, who was a legislative aide for Ben Ari, has acknowledged having a picture in his home of Baruch Goldstein, the Kahane follower who massacred 29 Palestinians while they were praying at a mosque in Hebron in 1994.

He first gained notoriety in 1995, as a radical opponent of the Oslo peace process, when he stole the hood ornament from Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s car and said, “We got to his car, and we’ll get to him, too.” Weeks later, Rabin was assassinated by a member of a group that also had roots in Kahanism.





ISI devises new plan to shield Hafiz Saeed's JuD, splits terror group into 2 parts: IB sources

Manish Shukla

Feb 25, 2019

New Delhi: Days after Pakistan banned the 2008 Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed-led Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and its charity wing Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF), Pak-based ISI formed two news fronts of the terror outfit — 'Jammu Kashmir Movement' and 'Rescue, Relief and Education Foundation', warned the Intelligence Bureau sources. The new factions have been set up to shield JuD from the world amid heightened pressure on Islamabad to act against terror groups.

As per sources, instructions have been given to all the terrorists linked to Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jamat-ud-Dawa to work silently under the new fronts. While JuD has been given the responsibility to look after the 'Jammu Kashmir Movement', its charity wing Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation will see the work related to 'Rescue, Relief and Education Foundation'.

The sources said that the names given to the newly formed groups have been kept in the matter so that everyone should feel it they are charity foundations. The intelligence agencies also claimed that the money collected in the name of charity from other countries will be invested by these Pak-backed outfits to carry out terror activities against India.

The reports come days after Pakistan, succumbing to intense international pressure to rein in militant groups operating from its soil, announced to take over the administrative control of the headquarters of terror-outfit Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), which claimed the February 14 Pulwama terror attack. 

On Thursday, the powerful UN Security Council comprising 15 nations, including Pakistan's key ally China, named JeM in a statement. On the same day, Pakistan also had banned the 2008 Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed-led Jamat-Ud-Dawa and its charity wing Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation.

In the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack, India has up the ante against Islamabad and has been briefing foreign envoys in Delhi and world capital's about Pakistan's involvement in the attack that killed 40 CRPF personnel.



Give peace a chance: Imran Khan to PM Modi

Feb 24, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday asked his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to "give peace a chance" and assured him that he "stands by" his words and will "immediately act" if New Delhi provides Islamabad with "actionable intelligence" on the Pulwama attack.

Khan's remarks came a day after Modi in a rally in Rajasthan said, "There is consensus in the entire world against terrorism. We are moving ahead with strength to punish the perpetrators of terrorism ... The scores will be settled this time, settled for good ... This is a changed India, this pain will not be tolerated ... We know how to crush terrorism."

Recalling his conversation with Khan during a congratulatory call after he became Pakistan's premier, Modi said he told him "let us fight against poverty and illiteracy" and Khan gave his word – saying he is a Pathan's son - but went back on it.

A statement released by the Pakistan Prime Minister's Office said, "PM Imran Khan stand by his words that if India gives us actionable intelligence, we will immediately act."

PM Modi should "give peace a chance", Khan said in the statement.

Earlier on February 19 also, Imran Khan assured India that he would act against the perpetrators of the deadly Pulwama terror attack, carried out by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terror group, if it shares "actionable intelligence" with Islamabad, but warned New Delhi against launching any "revenge" retaliatory action.

India said Khan's offer to investigate the attack if provided proof is a "lame excuse".

"It is a well-known fact that Jaish-e-Mohammad and its leader Masood Azhar are based in Pakistan. These should be sufficient proof for Pakistan to take action," the ministry of external affairs said.

"The prime minister of Pakistan has offered to investigate the matter if India provides proof. This is a lame excuse. In the horrific attack in Mumbai on 26/11, proof was provided to Pakistan. Despite this, the case has not progressed for the last more than 10 years. Likewise, on the terror attack on Pathankot airbase, there has been no progress. Promises of 'guaranteed action' ring hollow given the track record of Pakistan," it said.

Imran Khan said during his meeting with PM Modi in December 2015, "we had agreed that since poverty alleviation is a priority for our region, we would not allow any terrorist incident to derail peace efforts, however, long before Pulwama, these efforts were derailed in September 2018".

Full report at:



Clerics warn of united front if India attacks

FEBRUARY 24, 2019

Representatives of political and religious organisations, on Sunday, unanimously declared that the entire nation was united in the face of any Indian aggression in the wake of the attack in Indian-held Kashmir.

Pakistan Ulema Council Chairman, Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, presided over a press conference at Lahore Press Club, which was attended by a number of religious scholars, including Allama Zubair Ahmed Zaheer, Allama Ziaul Haq Naqshbandi, Allama Tahirul Hassan, Allama Ghulam Akbar Saqi, Maulana Muhammad Hanif Bhatti, Prof. Zakirur Rehman, Allama Tariq Yazdani, Maulana Asadullah Farooq, Maulana Asidur Rehman Saaedi, Maulana Abdul Haqeem Athar, Maulana Zubair Zahid, Qari Javed Akhtar and Maulana Abdul Qayyum Farooqi.

The clerics advised India to address the ongoing atrocities in the occupied region in the light of the UN resolutions on the issue instead of waging menacing threats to Pakistan.

Hafiz Ashrafi relayed that Pakistan had already sacrificed enough to eliminate the menace of terrorism, which should never be forgotten. He believed that both the ruling administration and Pakistanis were united to befittingly respond to any Indian aggression.

The cleric claimed that Kalboshan Yadev majorly validated Indian involvement with the ongoing wave of terrorism hitting Pakistan. He was glad that the international community had acknowledged for the services Pakistan had undertaken to root out the menace of terrorism. The Indian government appeared to use the attack in Pulwama to undermine the success of Saudi Crown Prince, Muhammad bin Salman’s maiden visit to Pakistan, he maintained.

Maulana Ashrafi denied Indian allegations on a seminary in Bahawalpur and claimed that no illegal or terrorism-related activity had taken place in the well-known centre of Islamic education with as many as six hundred seminary students.

The participants underlined the Indian atrocities on the people of Kashmir, which had left them with no other option but to get involved with terrorism. Faithfuls of different religions, including Christianity, Sikhism and Islam, were said to be mercilessly treated by Indian Hindu fanatics, the leaders further maintaining that as many as 160 mosques and 260 churches were set ablaze by fanatic Hindu extremists in India in the last three years.

The religious leaders believed that all Pakistanis endorsed the stance of Prime Minister Imran Khan to retaliate any Indian aggression and stood behind the Pakistani Army.

Hafiz Ashrafi also talked of plans of hold the fourth International Message of Islam Conference on March, 3, at Convention Centre, in Islamabad, which would be attended by 5000 leading clerics across Pakistan as well as representatives from the Islamic world. The conference would proceed with the president of the Palestinian Shariah Court as its chief guest, and strive to come up with a unanimous stance of the Muslim Ummah to eliminate the menaces of terrorism, extremism and sectarian violence, he added.

Maulana Ashrafi also hailed the brotherly ties between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to be grounded in faith, further cemented with the visit of Crown Prince. Saudi Arabia was said to have signed agreements with Pakistan to boost cooperation in different sectors specifically in energy and trade.

Full report at:



Pakistan stations 2 officers at JeM HQ

Feb 25, 2019

Pakistani authorities have appointed two administrators to supervise a seminary and a mosque believed to be the headquarters of the Jaish-e-Mohammad, the terror outfit which claimed responsibility for the Pulwama suicide attack that killed 40 CRPF personnel in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Punjab government appointed the administrators two days after it announced taking over the control of Madrassatul Sabir and Jamia-e-Masjid Subhanallah in Bahawalpur, over 400 km from Lahore.

The seminary and mosque are believed to be the headquarters of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) outfit.

“The Punjab government has appointed Mohammad Ali, district Auqaf administrator and Ghulam Abbas, regional Auqaf administrator to supervise the administrative affairs of Jamia-e-Masjid Subhanallah and Madrassatul Sabir, Bahawalpur, respectively,” said a senior official of the Punjab government.

Jamia-e-Masjid Subhanallah is located in the densly populated industrial area in Model Town-B of Bahawalpur while Madrassatul Sabir is situated on Bahawalpur-Ahmed East highway on the outskirts of the city.

Earlier in a complete U-turn, the Pakistan government dismissed its own claim of taking over the control of JeM headquarters in Bahawalpur and said the complex had no link with the JeM.

In a video message on social media, Pakistan’s Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the Punjab government took administrative control of Madrassatul Sabir and Jamia-e-Masjid Subhanallah in Bahawalpur in line with the decisions taken during the National Security Council meeting held on Thursday and as part of the National Action Plan.

Rejecting his earlier announcement that the complex was JeM headquarters, Chaudhry said, “This is the madrassah (seminary) and India is doing propaganda that it is the JeM headquarters”.

On Friday, the minister told PTI that the Punjab government had “taken over the control of the JeM headquarters in Bahawalpur”.

“The government of Punjab has taken over the control of a campus comprising Madressatul Sabir and Jama-e-Masjid Subhanallah in Bahawalpur, allegedly the headquarters of Jaish-e-Mohammad, and appointed an administrator to manage its affairs,” he had said.

It was the first time in years that the campus, about 430-km from Lahore, had been acknowledged by Pakistan to be the headquarters of the Masood Azhar-led JeM.

A statement issued by the Interior Ministry on Friday also said the crackdown on Jaish “has been taken in line with the decision of the National Security Committee meeting held on Thursday under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Imran Khan”.

The Islamic seminary in the campus has a faculty of 70 teachers and currently 600 students were studying in it, the statement said, adding that Punjab police were providing security and protection to the campus.

Since 2002 when the JeM was banned, different intelligence agencies have been regularly monitoring the mosque and the seminary, the Punjab government official said.

Pakistan on Thursday also banned the 2008 Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed-led Jamat-ud-Dawa and its charity wing Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation.

Earlier, the two outfits were kept on the watchlist of the interior ministry.

The JuD is believed to be the front organisation for the Lashkar-e-Toiba militant group which is responsible for carrying out the Mumbai attack that killed 166 people.

It was declared a foreign terrorist organisation by the US in June 2014.

Forty CRPF personnel were killed and five injured on February 14 in one of the deadliest terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir when a JeM suicide bomber rammed a vehicle carrying a huge quantity of explosives into their bus in Pulwama district.

Tensions between the two countries have heightened after the attack with India asking Pakistan to take immediate and verifiable action against terrorists and terror groups operating from territories under its control.

New Delhi also announced the withdrawal of the Most Favoured Nation status for Pakistan and hiked the customs duty by 200 per cent on goods originating from Pakistan. — PTI

Full report at:



Fazl again threatens to launch million march

February 25, 2019

SUKKUR: Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (F) chief Moulana Fazl-ur-Rehman has said his party is to launch a massive agitation against the incumbent government over the issue of Namoos-e-Risalat and Islamic ideology and threatened to launch a million march against the federal government.

Talking to media persons in Sajawal, Maulana Fazl said common people are having a tough time owing to the price hike of all commodities, including gas and power. He said the main object of the agitation against the government is to protect the Namous-e-Risalat as well as Islamic status and ideology.

The JUI-F chief, while addressing at the Qasmia Seminary in Tando Ghulam Ali, said India could not dare attack Pakistan despite the rhetoric and the hatred debate may disturb the peace of the region. He, however, said Pakistan believes in peace and freedom, and Indian allegation of Pakistan’s involvement in Pulwama attack was baseless.

While criticising the former army chief General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, Maulana Fazl said recognition of Israel could not be accepted. He said conspiracies to exclude Kashmir from priorities are underway and it weakens the Kashmir issue.

The JUI chief said the economic crisis in the country is artificial, while any attempt to amend the 18th Amendment would be unconstitutional. He said the presidential system was illegal and against the Constitution.

Full report at:



Pakistan wants to change, says US envoy for religious freedom

February 25, 2019

ABU DHABI: Pakistan has “a desire to change” its ways and be removed from an American blacklist of countries that infringe on religious freedoms, a US special envoy said on Sunday on a tour of a Middle East.

Sam Brownback, the US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, said he travelled to Pakistan to discuss Islamabad being newly placed on the blacklist, which can lead to a country facing economic sanctions. Pakistan, home to some 200 million people, has blasphemy laws that carry death sentence for convicts.

The US put Pakistan on its religious freedom blacklist in December, though US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held back on imposing sanctions on Islamabad.

Mr Brownback, a Republican who served in the US Senate and later as the governor of Kansas for two terms, said he met Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who promised to appoint a point person to handle the US concerns.

“They’ve had a lot of difficulties as a nation on this topic on religious freedom so what I was there for was to talk about changing,” Mr Brownback said.

The US ambassador criticised Sudan’s government amid protests against longtime President Omar al-Bashir during an interview with The Associated Press. He lauded steps taken by the United Arab Emirates and promises made by Saudi Arabia while acknowledging far more needs to be done in those countries to promote and protect the right to choose one’s faith.

“No, it’s not enough but it’s something,” Mr Brownback said in the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi. “They’re not perfect countries by any means nor is the United States, but what I really think we need to do is to start people on a process and on an engagement moving forward.”

Mr Brownback praised the UAE for hosting the recent visit of Pope Francis. The pontiff’s visit and his Roman Catholic papal Mass both were the first on the Arabian Peninsula.

He also praised an Emirati effort to examine school books for children.

“Even though we’re in a ‘Year of Tolerance’ here in the UAE, and I applaud that, tolerance is too low of a bar,” Mr Brownback earlier told a group of local journalists. “We need respect between the religions. They need to respect each other as this is a legitimate search for God.”

President Donald Trump picked Mr Brownback to serve as the US ambassador-at-large for religious freedom in 2017, though he only became ambassador in 2018. He had faced criticism from Democrats and LGBT groups over rescinding an order as governor that barred discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in Kansas.

Mr Brownback opposes abortion and gay marriage.

As a senator, Mr Brownback paid particular attention to the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region. Asked about the ongoing protests there, the ambassador declined to say whether he personally thought Mr Bashir should leave.

Full report at:



Nothing more sacred than defence of country, says army chief

Feb 25, 2019

RAWALPINDI: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited troops along the Working Boundary near Sialkot on Sunday and appreciated their state of high morale and readiness.

According to ISPR, interacting with troops, the army chief said that there is nothing more sacred than defending the motherland.

He said, “I take pride in leading an army which is ever ready to perform this duty.”

This was the second time the army chief visited troops stationed along the Indian border.

On Friday, he had paid a visit to the Line of Control (LoC) to review the state of preparedness and lauded the high morale of the troops.

Addressing the troops, he said that any aggression or misadventure shall be paid back in the same coin.

“COAS visited Line of Control. Reviewed state of preparedness. Lauded high morale of troops. “Pakistan is a peace loving country but we will not be intimidated or coerced. Any aggression or misadventure shall be paid back in same coin,” said ISPR.


Separately, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan visited the forward operating air bases of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) on Sunday.

Interacting with the combat crew, the air chief said, “We are a peace-loving nation but if the war is imposed on us, we would defend the aerial frontiers of our motherland at any cost.”

“PAF alongside other defence forces is ever ready to take on all kinds of challenges with operational preparedness and immaculate synergy,” he added.

He further said, “PAF would thwart any misadventure by the enemy and is ready to respond with full force as per the aspirations of the nation.”

The air chief showed satisfaction over the operational preparedness of bases and also lauded the high morale of the combat crew.


India has been demanding action against militants that Prime Minister Narendra Modi alleged are from Pakistan and its premier under pressure from his Hindu nationalist base to show firmness weeks before he is set to call elections.

Pakistani premier Imran Khan in response urged the Indian government to refrain from baseless accusations, seeking “actionable evidence” so that his government could act in this regard. And a few days later, Pakistan Army warned India against any “misadventure,” saying it was capable of responding.

The US in recent years has allied with India, seeing common interests with a fellow democracy that has been battling extremists.

The Trump administration last year cut off $300 million in military aid to Pakistan, saying that Islamabad has not done enough to fight extremists at home or close safe havens for militants in neighbouring Afghanistan.

“Pakistan was taking very strong advantage of the United States under other presidents,” Trump said. “I ended that payment because they weren’t helping us in a way that they should have.”

Trump also said the United States has developed a “much better” relationship recently with Pakistan, which has long been at odds with the US over the war in Afghanistan.

Full report at:



FM Qureshi tells India to dismiss thoughts of pressuring Pakistan with ‘war-mongering tactics’

Feb 25, 2019

ISLAMABAD: In light of the heightened tensions between Pakistan and India following Pulwama attack, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Sunday warned India to dismiss any thoughts of “pressuring Pakistan with its war-mongering tactics”.

While addressing the media following a consultative meeting held at the Foreign Office (FO), the foreign minister said, “Pakistan is a peaceful country. But [I have a] clear message for India: if you think we can be pressured, then stop thinking this,” he said, adding, “Pakistan’s military, political leadership, and the entire nation stands united with Kashmiris and their struggle.”

Drawing attention to the plight of the Kashmiris, Qureshi said, “The Kashmiri youth will not be subdued or suppressed,” as he reminded India of the words said by former chief minister of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), Mehbooba Mufti, “you can [put them in prison] but you cannot imprison their thoughts.”

Qureshi regretted the recent deployment of an additional 10,000 Indian soldiers in the valley and the dozens of arrests carried out in the wake of the attack.

“Kashmiri Hurriyet leadership is being expelled, there is fear in the valley, dozens of people are being arrested,” he lamented, as he called on India to end its war-mongering tactics.

“Pakistan is taking steps to ease the tensions. I urge the Indian leadership to exercise restraint and to ends its irresponsible attitude,” Qureshi said.

He also called on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) government to stop “fueling hatred for the purpose of furthering its agenda ahead of the elections”, while condemning the killing of a Pakistani prisoner in India and threats to a bakery in Bangalore named after Karachi.

Earlier, FM Qureshi met former foreign secretaries and envoys to formulate a strategy to navigate developments in the foreign affairs department.

Taking to Twitter, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) official account posted pictures from the meeting and stated that “the consultation was held to discuss the hostile ambitions of India and the deteriorating situation in Kashmir”.

“The consultations with former diplomats were held in order to get their input so that a comprehensive and effective response could be devised to tackle emerging developments,” Qureshi said.

Following the meeting, the foreign minister said that the meeting was successful and helpful, adding that the ministry would try to continue the consultations in the future as well.

Tensions between Islamabad and Delhi have spiked since the February 14 attack that killed at least 49 Indian Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel and injured others when suspected militants targeted a convoy with a car bomb at Awantipora in IOK’s Pulwama district, in what is the worst attack ever on security personnel in the state.

The car bomb attack was reportedly claimed by militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad and carried out by a 20-year-old Kashmiri man.

India has accused Pakistan of facilitating the attack as tensions between the two countries escalated and India announced it would withdraw Pakistan’s ‘Most Favoured Nation’ (MFN) status and lobbied to retain Pakistan on the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) grey list. However, Pakistan has denied all allegations of terror financing.

India has been demanding action against militants that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi alleged are from Pakistan and its premier under pressure from his Hindu nationalist base to show firmness weeks before he is set to call elections.

The Pakistan Army on Friday warned India against any “misadventure,” saying it was capable of responding.

On the diplomatic front, the foreign ministry has established a crisis management cell and the foreign minister has spoken to his counterparts in various countries, besides writing a letter to the United Nations.

The situation has also raised alarm among the international community and United States President Donald Trump who voiced alarm at the “very dangerous situation” between India and Pakistan, warning that New Delhi was considering “very strong” action after an attack in occupied Kashmir.

“It’s a very dangerous situation between the two countries. We would like to see it stop,” Trump said, adding that the United States was seeking talks with Pakistan.

“Right now there are a lot of problems between India and Pakistan because of what happened,” he told reporters as he met a senior Chinese official in the Oval Office.


The foreign minister on Sunday visited the crisis management cell established in light of the heightened tensions between Pakistan and India. He was accompanied by Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua during the visit.

He visited different departments of the crisis management cell and interacted with the on-duty staff. The foreign minister was also given a detailed briefing about the workings of the cell.


FM Qureshi has made a telephone call to his German counterpart Heiko Maas and apprised him about regional peace in the aftermath of the Pulwama incident.

He said that despite unfounded allegations and provocative statements from India, Pakistan has demonstrated utmost restraint and asked the New Delhi to provide evidence, if any to investigate the Pulwama attack.

Both sides expressed satisfaction on the nature of bilateral relations between Pakistan and Germany.

The foreign minister also made a telephone call to European Union Representative for Foreign Relations and Security Policy Federica Mogherini on Sunday and briefed the representative about regional situation after Pulwama incident.

Full report at:





India, France may look beyond Azhar to rein in Jaish, outwit China

Sachin Parashar

Feb 25, 2019

NEW DELHI: Looking to build upon the strong UNSC condemnation of the Pulwama attack, France is likely to bring a proposal in the next few days for a UN ban on Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar. However, to give teeth to the diplomatic offensive against the Pakistan based terror group, India and France are also giving a "cautious" consideration to several other options including bringing similar proposals against Azhar's brother Abdul Rauf Asghar, an accused in the Pathankot attack case, and some other individuals associated with JeM.

The government is preparing dossiers backed by solid evidence for a UN ban on not just Azhar but also Asghar and other acknowledged JeM terrorists, official sources here said.

It remains to be seen though if the names of Asghar and others are included in the proposal for inclusion of JeM leader Azhar in the UNSC 1267 sanctions list or a ban is sought on them in separate resolutions.

Efforts at the UN to designate other JeM commanders too as international terrorists could help India raise the ante on China which has in the past vetoed ban on Azhar claiming that there was not enough evidence against him.

The last time China blocked a ban on Azhar - in 2017 - India responded by saying such "selective approaches" and "double standards" would undermine the international resolve to combat terrorism. By all accounts, China is again likely to take the same position on Azhar. Beijing though could risk some embarrassment if it chooses to do the same with proposals for banning Asghar and other commanders of JeM which remains a UN-designated terrorist organisation.

Asghar was not just involved in the planning and execution of the Pathankot attack but, perhaps even more actively than his brother, has in the recent past repeatedly urged and mobilised people to carry out attacks in India. Days before the Pulwama attack, on the 'Kashmir Solidarity Day', he was quoted as having said that he was looking to terrorise India. Ibrahim Athar, another brother of Azhar, and Shahid Latif, who too is an accused in the Pathankot attack, are other JeM terrorists whose names could be considered for a UN ban.

A UNSC ban on Azhar and others will help impose targeted sanctions on these men including assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo. For that to happen though, India must provide, as it has already done in the case of Azhar, enough evidence keeping in mind the listing criteria.

While the US had on the last occasion proposed a ban on Azhar, France is this time leading the efforts with help from some other European countries. Sources here said that probably having sensed the move, Pakistan had started reaching out to its own friends and allies to stall the French initiative.



NIA gets ‘good leads’ from CCTV footage of Dar’s car

Neeraj Chauhan

Feb 25, 2019

NEW DELHI: Inching closer to establishing how the February 14 Pulwama car bombing was planned and executed, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has obtained CCTV footage from the area around Awantipora in which the explosive laden Maruti Eeco car, driven by suicide bomber Aadil Ahmad Dar, can be seen on the day of the attack, highly placed sources said.

The CCTV footage, obtained through some locals who had installed cameras on their buildings and other sources, is being analysed to ascertain which village near the national highway the car came from before entering the highway near Latoo Mode and ramming the fifth bus in the CRPF convoy.

Without confirming if Dar could be seen driving the car towards the convoy or there were others in it, an officer said, “The only thing I can say is we have good leads from the CCTV footage.” The sources said that they had also obtained old videos and pictures of other suspects which were being examined by experts to make sure the voice used in the Jaish-e-Mohammed video, in which the outfit claimed responsibility for the blast, was Dar’s.

Several teams are working on gathering technical evidence and the NIA top brass is learnt to have assured the government that they will unravel the conspiracy very soon.

Forensic experts have confirmed that the explosive used in the blast was military grade RDX, while the NIA believes it was brought to India in tranches through the international border in Jammu.

Overground workers of JeM, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hizbul Mujahideen and others are being intensively interrogated to find out about known suppliers who travel across the border and bring explosive material to India.

A local Jaish cadre, Muddassar Ahmad Khan, who took part in the conspiracy, is at large. TOI had first reported his role in the Pulwama bombing.

Full report at:



DSP & jawan lay down lives, 3 terrorists killed in J&K

M Saleem Pandit

Feb 25, 2019

SRINAGAR: Three Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists were killed in an encounter at Turigam in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district on Sunday afternoon. A deputy SP and an Armyman also died while three soldiers, including a Major, were injured in the same gunfight.

Following credible inputs about the presence of Jaish terrorists in the area, a joint team of Army’s 34 RR, CRPF and SOG launched a cordon-and-search operation in Turigam village in the morning. The encounter erupted when the hiding terrorists opened fire on the joint team.

A police spokesman said DSP (Operations) Aman Kumar Thakur received critical bullet wounds in his head during the encounter and was immediately taken to a nearby hospital where doctors declared him brought dead.

The Army major sustained a bullet wound in his leg and was hospitalized, the spokesman said, adding that his condition was stable.

During the initial phase of the gunfight, a militant was killed and a soldier injured. The police spokesman said that the injured soldier was evacuated to a hospital where he died. The other soldiers received injuries and two more terrorists were killed towards the fag end of the encounter in the afternoon.

The slain DSP, a resident of Gogla in Doda district, was a 2011 batch Kashmir Police Service officer, who was leading this operation from the front. He had been heading the counter-terrorism wing of J&K Police in Kulgam district for the last one-and-a-half year. He had played an instrumental role in killing several dreaded terrorists in the area, the spokesman said, adding that Thakur is survived by aged parents, wife and a six-year-old son.

Soon after the encounter, dozens of youths took to streets and clashed with forces, who used teargas shells, pellets and live ammunition to disperse them. Several protesters were injured and taken to a nearby hospital, reports said, adding that three of them have received bullet injuries.

Full report at:



Pakistan’s house of cards: How its purported aces have been trumped


FEB 25, 2019

tan has used various “trump” cards over the decades to stalk and stall India’s growth fuelled by being an open, democratic and plural society despite some recent challenges.

Some of Pakistan’s purported aces have been trumped by New Delhi over the years, others have been neutralised, and some have outlived their utility. Here are nine cards Pakistan has played against India.

The American Card: Used from the time Pakistan was formed when its leaders quickly allied with Washington even as India stumbled into the Soviet orbit. The end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union, India’s economic reforms and subsequent growth, the Kargil war, and 9/11 (which had Pakistan’s fingerprints on it) resulted in Pakistan losing this hand.

The Afghan Card: Fearful of India’s size and growing heft, Pakistan has long sought “strategic depth” in Afghanistan by installing a friendly, puppet regime in Kabul, a strategy that resulted in the coming to power of Taliban in 1996 (and eventually led to 9/11). But Pakistani overreach built on a Sunni-Wahhabi construct has ruined this card. Except in Taliban pockets, Pakistan is now despised by most Afghans who see it as a malign force.

The Kashmir Card: A card the Pakistan military and its elites have played since 1947 to corner resources. Most poor Pakistanis care squat about Kashmir, which is “cash mere” for the Pakistani military as it dips its hand in the till. The Pakistani establishment continues to lie to its own people about UN Resolution (47) on Kashmir (which actually enjoins that Pakistan should first withdraw from the areas it has occupied before other steps). With the passage of time, changes in demographics etc, the resolution, which was non-binding in the first place, is now infructuous. But Pakistan won’t accept it because peace would mean having to whittle down its military budget.

The Saudi Card: In this petro dollars-for-nuclear cover deal, the House of Saud has long backed and bankrolled Pakistan, acquiring an outsized influence on its domestic politics to the extent that it is a go-to place for Pakistanis in retirement or exile. But Saudis themselves have embarked on a nuclear quest, and India’s growing influence (it has greater number of workers and white collar workers) means Pakistan’s influence is being reduced down despite Ummah solidarity. As Crown Prince Salman suggested to his hosts last week, when living next to the world’s #3 and #2 economies Pakistan would benefit from peace.

The Muslim Ummah Card: Over the years, Pakistan has presented itself as a champion of the Islamic world and has singularly prevented India from acquiring even an observer status in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), whose associates go beyond the 50-Muslim majority countries in the world (Russia and Thailand for instance have observer status). India, which has the world’s second largest Muslim population after Indonesia, has gradually increased its influence in the Islamic world (particularly in the Gulf), and a breakthrough is inevitable. But its task will be made difficult if the Hindutva hotheads at home run amuck.

The Russia Card: As India has gravitated towards the United States and Pakistan has lost traction in Washington, Islamabad has tried to woo countries such as Russia, Turkey and even Iran in the hope of strengthening its China card. But it is a weak hand. Pakistan is so caught up in domestic radicalisation and internecine bloodletting that few countries have any confidence in its long-term prospects. And despite India’s on-again, off-again ties with these countries, New Delhi retains interest and influence on account of its economic heft.

The China Card (and for China, Pakistan Card): China finds it useful to constrain India using Pakistan. The day India begins to use demographic, economic and cultural clout, the usefulness of this card could diminish. Just think of all the Chinese phones we buy, the general size of the Indian market. China will also not want to import Pakistan’s radicalisation into its sensitive Xinjiang province.

The Terrorism Card: Pakistan’s most potent card, an extension of its “death by thousand cut” policy following its defeat in the 1971 war.

India’s weaknesses, including in its security doctrine, and global indifference, had enabled Pakistan to export terror (its principal export) and get away, literally, with murder. New Delhi has failed to sensitise world capitals of Pakistani fingerprints on not just terror attacks in India but in many other places across the world.

The Nuclear Card: Pakistan’s ultimate trump card that gives cover to its terrorism, one that India failed to take care of between 1971 and 1984 by which time it was too late.

Remarkably, Pakistan does not have a Pakistan card. The world’s sixth most populous nation has the sixth largest army (and is a nuclear power to boot), but its economy is ranked 24th in size. Maharashtra has a larger economy, and Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Gujarat will each overtake it soon. Nearly ten times the size of Pakistan’s economy, India is adding one Pakistan to its GDP each year, and will have an economy roughly 40 times larger by 2050. This growing imbalance is actually what makes the Pakistani military reckless in its support of terrorism.

Full report at:



Lucknow: Jaish suspects questioned, photo released

February 25, 2019

Two youths who were arrested for suspected links to Jaish-e-Mohammad, the group which has claimed responsibility for the Pulwama attack, were interrogated by the DIG on Sunday.

The youths were allegedly involved in recruiting for the terror outfit in Deoband of UP’s Saharanpur district, police said. DGP Om Prakash Singh interrogated them for about four hours and later coordinated with his counterpart in Jammu and Kashmir, said an officer of the Anti-Terror Squad (ATS).

Shahnawaz Teli (26) from Kulgam and Aqib Ahmed Malik (28) from Pulwama were on Saturday brought to Lucknow from Saharanpur on transit remand. They were later produced before a local court in Lucknow, which sent them to 10-day police custody.

On Sunday, the ATS released a photograph of the DGP questioning one of the youths. “An analysis of their mobile phones has started… They were using BBM, virtual numbers and an app not available on Google Play Store. It was used for messaging. In their conversation, the movement of weapons and preparations to commit major terror incident were discussed,” Singh said.

Full report at:



Arab World


Iraqi Sources: Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Planning to Organize ISIL in Western Iraq

Feb 24, 2019

Al-Baghdadi, accompanied by a number of his senior commanders, has arrived in al-Hasiniat region in Al-Anbar desert, the Arabic-language Baghdad al-Youm news website quoted an intel source as saying.

The source noted that al-Baghdadi is trying to reorganize the ISIL terrorist group by utilizing al-Anbar desert and turning it into ISIL's new base.

Meantime, strategic expert Hesham al-Hashemi told Baghdad l-Youm that al-Baghdadi is in a region in Raveh Island or West of al-Sarsar in al-Anbar province.

In a relevant development on Saturday, Iraqi sources revealed that the US wants to occupy the Western parts of the country with the help of the ISIL terrorists after transferring them from Eastern Syria to its bases in the region.

Mohammad al-Baldawi, the representative of al-Bana coalition in the Iraqi parliament, told the Arabic-language al-Ma'aloumeh news website that the US forces have transferred all terrorists and their family members, who have recently surrendered at the Syrian borders, to the US bases in Iraq.

He referred to collaboration between the US and the ISIL terrorists, and warned that the terrorist group will be reorganized for operations against Iraq's security.

Meantime, Qusai al-Anbari, the head of Badr organization's office, said that the ISIL militants have been sheltered in the US military bases and the desert areas near these bases, adding that all terrorist operations in al-Anbar are conducted with Americans' direct supervision.

He added that the US forces stationed in al-Anbar want to pave the ground for the ISIL to occupy certain cities and areas in the region.

In relevant remarks earlier this month, Iraq's security experts disclosed that the US Army was training ISIL terrorists in Al-Anbar province after relocating them from Syria to Iraq to prepare them for creating insecurity in the country.

"The US Army troops are preparing and training the ISIL militants in al-Qadaf and Wadi al-Houran regions of Al-Anbar province with the aim of carrying out terrorist attacks and restarting insecurity in Iraq," al-Ma'aloumeh quoted Kazim al-Haaj, an Iraqi security expert, as saying.

He noted that according to the intel obtained from Iraqi security forces in Al-Anbar province, the US had transferred the ISIL terrorists on Apache and Chinook helicopters to Iraq.

Pointing to the occupation of several regions in Western Iraq, including Wadi al-Houran and al-Qadaf, al-Haaj reiterated that the US Army was using this opportunity to deploy the ISIL terrorists after training them in areas where it plans to make hot.



Kurdish Source: US Army Transferring 50 Tons of ISIL's Gold to US

Feb 24, 2019

The Kurdish-language Bas News quoted a Kurdish source as saying that the Americans have transferred tens of tons of the gold ingots they have seized from the ISIL terrorists in Baghouz region in Southeastern Deir Ezzur to their own country and only kept a small portion of the treasure to be given to the Kurdish fighters.

The source who spoke on the condition of anonymity reiterated that about 50 tons of ISIL's gold has been sent to the US from the US military base in Kobani in Northeastern Aleppo.

The report comes as the US has been using the airport in Southern Kobani for transferring consignments and military equipment in recent years.

In a relevant development last week, the US Army troops took out a sum of 40 tons of gold ingots belonging to the ISIL in heliborne operations after agreeing with the terrorist group and as Washington is preparing to announce the end of ISIL in Eastern Euphrates.

"The US troops in concordance with the ISIL terrorist group relocated big boxes packed with ISIL's gold treasure on several helicopters from al-Dashisheh region in Southern Hasaka," the SANA news agency quoted  local sources in Eastern Deir Ezzur said.

The sources pointed to boxes containing 40 tons of gold ingots that the ISIL had hidden in the Eastern part of al-Shadadi city, and said that the ISIL had stolen the treasure of gold from the Iraqi city of Mosul and different parts of Syria.

The US troops reportedly took out a group of ISIL terrorist commanders from Eastern Syria in two heliborne operations in Hajin region of Eastern Deir Ezzur and al-Dashisheh in Southern Hasaka and they were directed to the place where the gold treasure was hidden.

In a relevant development earlier this month, the London-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR) said the Washington-backed militants were trying to find and seize millions of dollars and at least 40 tons of gold left behind by the ISIL terrorist group,

The SOHR reported that the ISIL terrorists had stolen about 40 tons of gold and millions of dollars from the population once under their control in Iraq and Syria, which was later transferred to Eastern Euphrates in Eastern Deir Ezzur.

"The US-led coalition forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) deliberately do not target the areas under the control of the ISIL terrorists and commanders in Eastern Euphrates in Deir Ezzur as they are trying to locate this treasure by forcing the ISIL militants to speak about its location after surrendering," it quoted informed sources as saying.

They noted that part of the cash dollars and gold have been transferred from Turkey to the areas under the ISIL control by Turkish brokers and intelligence service who have close ties with the ISIL.

Meantime, an SDF Commander, Adnan Afrin, said that the ISIL is now under the siege of the SDF in an area no larger than one square kilometers in Eastern Euphrates.

In a relevant development on Tuesday, a prominent Syrian military expert revealed that Washington plans to transfer the remnants of the ISIL terrorists from Eastern Euphrates to other regions through Turkey and Iraq.

The Arabic-language website of Sputnik quoted Brigadier General Mohammad Issa as saying that less than 600 ISIL militants are stationed in a 4-km/sq region in Eastern Euphrates who will be soon evacuated from the region to foreign territories.

He added that the operations to transfer these militants will be conducted similar to the operations earlier carried out to evacuate the ISIL terrorists from Raqqa, saying that the US forces will transfer them via Iraq or Turkey to some other Arab states for future operations.

Issa questioned the US forces' claims of fighting against the terrorist groups along with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), stressing that the Syrian army will soon move to retake control over this region.

Media reports said last Sunday that the US army had agreed with the ISIL on the latter's exit from areas under Washington's control in Eastern Euphrates.

The US-led coalition troops and the SDF had reached an agreement with the ISIL terrorists on the militants' retreat from areas under the control of the US and its allied forces, the Arabic-language al-Mayadeen TV news channel reported.

It pointed to the preparations by the ISIL to move its terrorists out of Eastern Euphrates, and said that the ISIL terrorists might be transferred to al-Anbar desert of Badiya al-Tanf in Western Iraq.

The report comes as the SDF claimed that it had started the final battle for uprooting the remaining elements of the ISIL from Eastern Euphrates.

Also the Arabic-language service of RT quoted media activists as saying on Saturday that the US-led coalition forces have carried out heliborne operations in the Eastern Badiyeh of Deir Ezzur.

Full report at:



Kurdish Official: ISIL Terrorists Enter Syria with Turkish Visas

Feb 24, 2019

Mustafa Bali, the director of the SDF's Media Center, released the images of visas issued by Turkey for the ISIL terrorists in the town of Baqouz in Southern Deir Ezzur.

He added that tens of other similar visas have also been discovered, noting that they prove Turkey's collaboration with the ISIL for the free trafficking of its members to Syria.

The visas released by Bali also showed the terrorists' easy trafficking from Turkey to Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had announced last month that Turkey's presence in Syria is legal based on Adana agreement, concluded by Ankara and Damascus in 1998, while one of the most important paragraphs of the deal is preventing the traffic of terrorists to Syria and Turkey by both states.

Relevant reports said earlier this month that hundreds of foreign terrorists had entered Syria under the supervision of a Turkish mediator and with collaboration of the country's gendarme forces.

"A large number of foreign militants have opened their way into Idlib from Sarmada, Atmeh and Bab al-Salam passageway and joined the troops of Tahrir al-Sham Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front) and Horras al-Din terrorist groups," local sources in Idlib reported were quoted by the Arabic-language website of Sputnik as saying.

Full report at:



12 British, Pakistani Forces Killed in Southern Saudi Arabia

Feb 24, 2019

The killed British and Pakistani military officers were conducting a top-secret mission commissioned by the UK, the US, and the UAE, Taez news, a Yemeni news outlet, reported last night.

The source added that the killed officers were experts in planning and managing military operations, and were tasked with commanding the Saudi-hired foreign militants involved in the war against Yemen.

Last week, Britain’s Daily Express reported that two British Special Forces soldiers of the elite SAS regiment deployed on a top-secret joint US-UK mission in Yemen were injured in a roadside bomb blast.

Both soldiers were in a 12-man coalition taskforce which flew into the wartorn country three weeks before that. The SAS is working alongside members of Operational Detachment Alpha, the primary fighting force for the Green Berets. Under US command, the heavily armed Special Forces team flew into Aden from Djibouti aboard a UAE Chinook helicopter and met UAE commanders before heading Northeast in unmarked pick-up trucks.

Both soldiers sustained leg injuries and were evacuated in a Emirati helicopter to the US military base in Djibouti, a small heavily dependent country manipulated by regional and international powers like Saudi Arabia and the US.

Saudi Arabia and its allies, including the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, and Sudan, launched a brutal war against Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall Yemen’s former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

The aggression initially consisted of a bombing campaign but was later coupled with a naval blockade and the deployment of ground forces to Yemen. Around 20,000 people have died since the war began, says Yemen’s Health Ministry.

The Saudi-led war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The United Nations (UN) has said that a record 22.2 million Yemenis are in dire need of food, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger.

Despite Riyadh's claims that it is bombing the positions of the Ansarullah fighters, Saudi bombers are flattening residential areas and civilian infrastructures.

Full report at:



Landmine left by ISIS kills 20 in Syria

24 February 2019

A landmine left by ISIS struck a van packed with workers in eastern Syria on Sunday, killing more than 20 of them, Syria’s state news agency said. The agency earlier reported that 24 people were killed.

SANA said the explosion on Sunday morning near the central town of Salamiyeh was caused by explosives left behind by the extremists when they controlled the area. Another mine exploded in a nearby area earlier this month, killing seven people.

SANA said the workers hit by Sunday’s blast were heading out to pick desert truffles.

ISIS has been driven from virtually all the territory it once held in Syria and neighboring Iraq, but the extremists left behind countless bombs and booby traps, and large areas are yet to be cleared.

ISIS fighters are now cornered by US-backed Syrian forces in a small area near the Iraqi border.

An estimated 300 ISIS militants are besieged in the village of Baghouz, hemmed in by the Euphrates River and the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led militia spearheading the fight against ISIS following an intense push since September.

Thousands of civilians have fled the area held by the extremists in recent weeks.

Full report at:



US-backed Syrian forces hand over another 150 ISIS militants to Iraq

24 February 2019

Iraqi security officials say they have received custody of a second batch of 150 Iraqi ISIS fighters from US-backed forces in Syria.

Two officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of media regulations, said the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) handed over Iraqi nationals on Saturday night.

The fighters will be interrogated about their participation with the extremist group, the officials said.

The SDF has told Iraqi authorities it has captured 650 Iraqi militants in the fighting for Baghouz, an ISIS-held village in eastern Syria, according to the officials.

On Thursday, the SDF handed over 150 militants, in the first significant transfer to Iraq.

Full report at:



Arab, European leaders in joint pledge to fight terror

February 24, 2019

SHARM EL-SHEIKH:  Arab and European leaders pledged at their first joint summit on Sunday to fight terrorism together.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi opened two days of talks at the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh with a speech celebrating what he said was historic cooperation between the Arab League and the European Union.

Leading the Saudi delegation, King Salman said the Kingdom was one of many countries that had suffered from terrorism. He called for even greater efforts to combat terrorist financing and money laundering, and to deny intellectual legitimacy to extremism. The two-day meeting is intended to strengthen Arab-European ties and address a wide range common challenges. Among the issues on the leaders’ agenda are multilateralism, trade and investment, migration, security and the situation in the region.

“State-to-state relations cannot be established without full respect for mutual sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs,” the king said.

He also held talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May, at which they discussed UK-Saudi relations, and the summit agenda. The king also met with the PM of Netherlands, Sweden and the president of Iraq during a dinner on Sunday evening.

In his opening speech, El-Sisi called for a broad plan to combat terrorism that would deprive extremists of funding and “include a strict security offensive to counter the terrorist organizations and other elements of terrorism. And there should also be an effective ideological offensive against their ideological platforms.”

Many summit delegates said Arab and European leaders sitting down together for the first time was an achievement in itself.

“The meeting is the message,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said, and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said: “This summit is, in itself, a deliverable.”

Europe’s migration challenge from the Middle East and North Africa is at the heart of the two-day meeting. The EU wants El-Sisi to order the Egyptian coast guard to pick up migrants leaving Libya and take them back to the African mainland, ensuring they do not become Europe’s responsibility.

“We must work together — countries of origin, transit and destination — in order to break the business model of smugglers and traffickers who lure people into dangerous journeys and feed modern-day slavery,” said EU Council President Donald Tusk.

“I am aware there are differences between us. We are not here to pretend. We agree on everything. But we face common challenges and have shared interests.”

Saeed Sadek, professor of political sociology at the Canadian University in Cairo, said the summit timing was important “because it comes after eight years of instability in the Mediterranean affecting Europe and the Middle East.

Full report at:



North America


Meet Stuart Jolly, ex-Trump staffer now working as DC lobbyist for Qatar

Feb 24, 2019

The Qatari government has hired ex-Trump campaign staffer Stuart Jolly as a lobbyist for the kingdom in Washington, DC.

The former national field director for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign was registered as a foreign agent of Qatar late last year, Politico reported Saturday.

Jolly joined the list of allies of former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski that have forged ties to Doha.

The energy-rich Persian Gulf kingdom is under a Saudi-led diplomatic and trade boycott over alleged support for terrorism.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar after officially accusing it of “sponsoring terrorism.”

On June 9, 2017, Qatar strongly dismissed allegations of supporting terrorism after the Saudi regime and its allies blacklisted dozens of individuals and entities purportedly associated with Doha.

Hiring Jolly could be part of Doha’s efforts to put an end to the Saudi imposed blockade.

According to Politico, “Doha hopes the US government — which maintains a strategically vital airbase in the country — will pressure its neighbors to end the blockade.”

Jolly’s employment at Qatar’s embassy in Washington came as a subcontractor to Gary Silversmith, a Washington lawyer.

“Frankly, they didn’t really need anything,” Silversmith said of his clients. “They never really asked me to do anything."



US senator tweets bloody Gaddafi picture


By Umar Farooq


U.S. Senator Marco Rubio published a graphic tweet on Sunday, showing a before-and-after picture of deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in between messages aimed at the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Gaddafi had been deposed in 2011, after 42 years of rule over the country, following a U.S. led intervention by NATO forces. During the conflict, rebel forces had located the leader and murdered him in public.

Libya has since been locked in a civil war that has divided the country between two rival governments in Tripoli and Tobruk, a conflict that has killed thousands of people and brought continued instability to the country.

The tweet, which did not contain any written message and was posted in between two other tweets condemning Maduro, had been criticized by many as a thinly veiled threat of a military intervention in Venezuela.

"You really have to be a special breed of warmongering, interventionist loon to think this tweet is a good idea. Or to think Libya, Iraq, Syria etc were good and should be repeated," Doug Stafford, a political strategist, tweeted in response to Rubio.

It also comes hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Maduro's days in Venezuela "are numbered."

Rubio, a Florida senator of Cuban descent, is one of the most outspoken voices on Venezuela and a supporter of opposition leader Juan Guaido, who declared himself interim leader of the country last month.

Rubio's post also comes after at least four people were killed and 200 others injured during anti-government protests in Venezuela. Fifty-one people were also arrested as they clashed with security forces at the Colombian border.

Venezuela has been rocked by protests since Jan. 10, when President Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for a second term following a vote boycotted by the opposition.

Tensions escalated when Juan Guaido, who heads Venezuela’s National Assembly, declared himself acting president Jan. 23, a move which was supported by the U.S. and many European and Latin American countries.

Full report at:



US strategy in Syria is incoherent and dangerous

February 24, 2019

When US President Donald Trump declared ISIS had been defeated and announced in December last year that he was pulling all 2,000 troops out of Syria, there were fears the withdrawal was ill-advised and premature, would weaken the US’s role in the future of Syria and expose its allies and the Kurdish fighters it supports to attack.

Secretary of defence James Mattis and US envoy Brett McGurk resigned in protest but the president seemed determined to stick to his guns.

But if belligerence is one of his defining characteristics, so is his mercurial temperament and it was the latter which seemingly prompted his U-turn last weekend, when he announced that he would be keeping 400 troops in Syria “for the foreseeable future”.

Amid the confusion and frustration caused by his volte face is one certainty: a smattering of troops and no coherent strategy is the most damaging approach the US could take in Syria – for itself, its allies and for Syrians.

The presence of 400 pairs of boots on the ground – 200 maintaining the safe zone in northeastern Syria and 200 at the military base in Al Tanf – will be tokenistic at best and amounts to a mere representation rather than any effective fighting force. The vastly reduced deployment can only aid America’s enemies and undermine its allies.

America’s wavering over Syria shows the White House fails to grasp what is at stake. Much of Syria is still volatile. ISIS, despite American insistence to the contrary, remains a flame to be fanned. The Syrian Democratic Forces, chiefly Kurdish fighters who have played such a vital role in beating back ISIS, remain as exposed as ever to attack by Turkey, whose hand has been stayed only by the threat of US involvement. Faced with abandonment by the US, in the interests of self-preservation the SDF is already drifting towards alignment with the Assad regime.

If anything, the White House’s chaotic policymaking will only further convince the Kurds that their best hope of survival lies with the Syrian regime.

There are suggestions Mr Trump only decided to stay put in Syria because the UK and France threatened to pull out without a US presence. However, neither European country seems willing to step up their military capability in Syria to replace the severely depleted US numbers, and both are battling with issues on the domestic front – the looming prospect of Brexit in the UK and the ongoing gilets jaunes protests in France.

While a US presence can prompt a greater Nato response, the limitations of its smaller force opens up a regional power vacuum that Iran and Russia are only too ready to fill.

In April 2018, when the US mounted a joint missile strike in response to a regime chemical attack, it seemed that America was willing to defend the Syrian people. Less than a year on, it is clear that the US no longer has the best interests of the Syrian people at heart.

Full report at:



Southeast Asia


More Muslim prayer rooms open in Japan, but relatively few takers


Feb 25, 2019

With an increase in Muslim visitors to Japan, more prayer rooms are being installed in commercial facilities across the country, but the number of users remains limited due to reasons such as lack of awareness and difficulty of access.

The prayer rooms, often equipped with a washing area for cleaning hands and feet before prayers, and a sign indicating the direction of prayer, are mainly designed for those who conduct obligatory prayers five times a day.

According to the operator of a website providing information for Muslims, there are about 170 prayer rooms in Japan, and the number is increasing as more tourists visit Japan from Southeast Asia.

Travelers from Malaysia and Indonesia, which both have large Muslim populations, totaled around 700,000 in 2017, a sevenfold increase from a decade earlier, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.

As more prayer rooms open up, making the most of them remains a challenge, however.

A prayer room installed recently in a shopping mall in Hiroshima Prefecture, western Japan, has been used only two or three times a month.

Some customers misunderstood the purpose of the room and tried to use it as a place to rest. "It is difficult to promote the room," an official of the facility said.

At LaLaport Expocity, a major shopping mall in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, a prayer room there has been used not only by travelers but also people working in the area since the mall opened in 2015. The room is used around 30 times a month.

"The news has spread through word of mouth and the number of users has been rising," said Sachiko Kato, who manages the room.

However, there is room for improvement.

People who want to use the room have to ask staff at the service counter to unlock it, and this instruction is written in English and Japanese only.

"It is hard to leave the room open because it is located where many people come and go," Kato said.

Ken Miichi, an associate professor at the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies of Waseda University, pointed out that it is not enough just to increase the number of prayer rooms.

"First we need to understand why (the rooms) are necessary by learning (Muslim) customs and culture, and then develop an environment where people can use them easily," Miichi said.



U.S. Muslim leaders call on China to end persecution of Uighurs

By Aysha Khan

Feb 25, 2019

More than 130 American Muslim leaders and scholars have signed an open letter condemning the Chinese government’s continued persecution and detention of the mostly Muslim Uighur minority.

The letter, initiated by the Sound Vision Foundation and signed by prominent Muslim leaders, called for the release of detainees from internment camps in Xinjiang, where Uighurs have reportedly been forced to attend indoctrination sessions.

The leaders also called for U.S. consumers to boycott imports produced by the detainees’ forced labor and to join a planned rally on behalf of Uighur people on April 6 in Washington, D.C.

“We call upon fellow citizens to stop buying products produced through slave labor from these camps,” the statement says. “We thank the U.S. government for raising the issue of human rights abuses and detainment in the concentration camps and ask the rest of the world to do the same.”

Signers include prominent civil rights activist Imam Omar Suleiman, who heads the Yaqeen Institute in Texas; Imam Yasir Qadhi of Al-Maghrib Institute and the Islamic Seminary of America; Imam Mohamed Magid, who leads Virginia’s All Dulles Area Muslim Society; as well as several representatives from the Council on American Islamic Relations.

Suleiman said the Uighur crisis, which he called “the world’s most blatant violation of any sense of religious freedom and human rights,” has not received the attention it deserves from world leaders.

“If this was any other religious group, the world would be up in arms,” Suleiman told Religion News Service. “The reality is that Muslims have been so dehumanized that even those who are usually credited as being champions for human rights can turn away without being called out on their double standards."

Members of the United Nations Committee say there are credible reports that the Chinese government had “turned the Uighur autonomous region into something that resembles a massive internment camp,” detaining as many as 1 million Muslims — nearly 10 percent of their regional population — without charge, in order to strip them of their beliefs and religious practices.

Human rights advocates say reports of torture, forced labor and indoctrination are widespread. A massive surveillance program includes streets lined with facial recognition devices and closed-circuit television cameras and government spies living in suspected Muslims’ homes. The crackdown has made many Uighurs too frightened to pray or call family abroad. Avoiding alcohol and pork, both banned in Islamic teaching, is thought to be cause for suspicion.

The signed statement begins a broader effort to call attention to the Uighurs' cause, said Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, founding chairman of Sound Vision Foundation. A number of mosques across the country agreed to read the letter to congregants during Friday prayers on Feb. 6.

“These imams have a far larger following in social media as well as in mosques than all national Muslim organizations together,” he explained. “I am sure the list and the movement will grow.”

The Sound Vision Foundation, based in Chicago, organized the Bosnia Task Force in 1992 to help declare rape a war crime. More recently, it launched the Burma Task Force and the SaveUighur project to advocate for Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims and China’s Uighur Muslims.

On Feb. 7, SaveUighur launched a national campaign to urge Muslims to call their representatives in Congress and demand their support for bills condemning human rights violations against Uighurs.

Uighur activists say they are frustrated by the lack of international condemnation, particularly from the global Muslim community.

Full report at:



Mujahid: Wrong to deny child’s welfare in Islam’s name

25 Feb 2019

PETALING JAYA: It is wrong to kidnap, hide or deny a child his or her welfare in the name of Islam, says Datuk Seri Mujahid Yusof.

The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, who is in charge of Islamic affairs, said he would support efforts by the police to look for 11-year-old Prasana Diksa, who was taken away from her mother M. Indira Gandhi in 2009 by her father K. Padmanathan.

He later changed his name to Mu­­hammad Riduan Abdullah when he converted to Islam.

Prasana remains missing until now.

“This (conversion of Prasana) is the result of having unilateral conversion laws,” Mujahid said.

He was speaking at a press conference after attending a “Muhibbah Chinese New Year” organised by Muslim Chinese Association, Yaya­san Dakwah Islamiah, Islamic Development Department, Federal Territories Islamic Religious Depart­ment (Jawi), Islamic Welfare Asso­cia­tion of Malaysia and the Hidayah Centre Foundation here yester-day.

Mujahid pointed out that in 2016, Clause 88A was retracted from the Bill of the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 2017 before it was passed.

Clause 88A states that the religion of the child “shall remain as the religion of the parties to the marriage prior to the conversion” and that the child can, after turning 18 and with the consent of both parents, convert to Islam.

“What is more interesting is that the courts have decided that underage children cannot be converted and that Jawi had made a mistake when they accepted the conversion.

“So, it has to do with the Standard Operating Procedures that should be followed (in underage conversion),” said Mujahid.

Prasana was allegedly taken away from her mother by her father when she was just 11 months old.

The Federal Court on April 29, 2016, ordered the Inspector-General of Police to execute a warrant of arrest for Riduan, who disobeyed the Ipoh High Court’s order to return Prasana to her mother after granting Indira full custody of her children.

On Jan 29 last year, Justice Zainun Ali of the Federal Court said consent of both parents must be sought in cases of religious conversion and the word “parent” in Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution should not be construed literally.

Full report at:



PAS: ‘Monster’ rally if Putrajaya dithers over anti-Islam provocateurs

25 February 2019

By Debra Chong

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 25 — PAS today demanded the Pakatan Harapan (PH) federal government step up its pace to rein in provocateurs against Islam if it does not want another “monster” rally of the ummah on its hands.

The Opposition party’s information chief Nasrudin Hassan accused the government of being too easy-going against people who have insulted the religion of the majority, citing the case of a Facebook user who was released from police custody after three days despite posting a “rude caricature” of Prophet Muhammad and the latter’s wife.

“Take care of Islamic sensitivities and that of its adherents. If the government is lazy and slow to act, it will cause those who insult this religion to grow bolder.

“If there is no firm action, the people will rise and a Monster Rally will be held to pressure the government to act,” he said in a Facebook post.

Nasrudin said his party was stunned that the police would release the owner of the Facebook account Foo Sing Wai whom he claimed to be a Chinese over the rude act against Islam.

He said the action raised questions among Muslims on the supposed ease at which the person was let go despite the 395 police complaints filed nationwide against the “suspect” and investigations under Section 298A of the Penal Code and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.

Section 298A which criminalises religious disharmony punishes those found guilty with a jail sentence of no less than two years but not more than five.

Those convicted under Section 233 which concerns improper use of network facilities can be fined up to RM50,000 or jail up to a year, or both and a further fine of RM1,000 for every day the offence continues to be committed after conviction.

Nasrudin contrasted the latest treatment to another similar case last year where a woman who insulted Prophet Muhammad was investigated and sentenced to six months’ jail and fined RM15,000 under Section 298 of the Penal Code.

Section 298 is a slightly different provision and prescribes a maximum jail term of one year or a fine or both for those convicted of deliberately uttering or making a gesture to wound the religious feelings of another.

Nasrudin claimed that the rude individual who was arrested in the latest incident does not qualify for release from police custody based on the facts of the case.

“As such, PAS demands an explanation from the authorities to assuage the anxieties of Muslims,” he said.

He said such provocative caricatures against Prophet Muhammad and his wife “cannot be forgiven”.

Full report at:



Let Zakir Naik talk, but with conditions, says Penang mufti

February 23, 2019

GEORGE TOWN: Penang Mufti Wan Salim Wan Mohd Noor today said Indian Muslim preacher Dr Zakir Naik should be given an opportunity to give ceramahs in the state.

However, Naik must follow certain set guidelines so as to not cause “problems” affecting the harmony of Muslims and Malaysians at large.

He said Naik, a well-known preacher and personality, should apply for his teaching credentials (tauliah) to fulfil state Islamic laws and requirements. This usually takes only a short time to approve, he added.

Yesterday, Penang Islamic authorities stated that Naik had yet to obtain his “tauliah” and as such cannot speak in public on Islamic matters.

This followed plans by a group to bring Naik to speak in George Town in June.

Wan Salim said the local Islamic authorities were obliged to follow the laws set as they were responsible for ensuring all religious activities do not cause tensions among Muslim groups or Malaysians of different races.

“So, every person who plans to talk on matters related to Islam has to apply for the ‘tauliah’ before the programme can be held.

“The Islamic authorities can bar any individual from teaching or delivering a religious talk if it is found to have the potential of causing a situation that could be difficult to resolve later on.

“However, it is my opinion that for a well-known preacher such as Naik, he should be given a chance to give talks with a set of guidelines given to him to follow so as not to cause problems,” he told FMT when contacted.

Wan Salim said any decision to let Naik talk is up to the authorities, as they might have their own reasons for allowing or barring a person from speaking.

Full report at:





Israel releases senior Palestinian cleric arrested after al-Aqsa unrest

24 February 2019

Israeli police released a senior Muslim cleric who helps administrate a sacred compound in Jerusalem after he was arrested earlier on Sunday, two days after he re-opened al-Aqsa mosque sealed by Israel during a Palestinian uprising in 2003.

Sheikh Abdel-Azeem Salhab, who sits on the religious council appointed by Jordan to oversee the Islamic sites at the compound, personally reopened the gate leading into the Bab al-Rahmeh mosque on Friday, and hundreds of Muslims went inside to pray for the first time in years.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told Reuters Salhab and another person were arrested on Sunday morning, two days after the incident, for breaching an order, and that they were being held for questioning.

Last Monday, Israeli police arrested five Palestinians for allegedly “causing a disturbance” at al-Aqsa mosque.



Israel bans 2 Muslim clerics from entering al-Aqsa for 1 week

Feb 24, 2019

Israeli authorities have banned two senior Muslim clerics of the al-Aqsa Mosque in the occupied Old City of East Jerusalem al-Quds from entering the holy site for one week.

Sheikh Abdel-Azeem Salhab, the head of the Waqf Council appointed by Jordan to oversee the Islamic sites at the sacred compound, and his deputy, Sheikh Najeh Bkerat, were initially arrested at their homes by Israeli forces in pre-dawn raids on Sunday.

Hours later, the clerics were released under the condition of not entering the al-Aqsa Mosque compound for a week, Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported.

Both clerics had had important roles in reopening a gate leading into the Bab al-Rahma Mosque on Friday, when hundreds of Muslims held prayers for the first time in 16 years. The mosque had been sealed by Israeli authorities.

Bab al-Rahma, with a gate of the same name, consists of a large building and a courtyard that lie east of the 35-acre sacred al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Inside the compound are the two Muslim holy shrines of the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque.

The Bab al-Rahma Mosque was sealed by Israeli authorities in 2003 after they claimed it was being used by Palestinians for political activities. Israeli authorities renewed the restriction order annually until an Israeli court ordered the building closed until further notice in 2017.

Earlier in the day, Palestinian Minister of Waqf (Islamic Endowment) and Religious Affairs Sheikh Yousif Ideis had denounced the detention of the two clerics, saying, “This is a sign of the failure and crisis experienced by the [Israeli] occupation.”

Israeli police also released at least three Palestinian activists later on Sunday after detaining them in the morning for paving the way for worshipers to enter the mosque.

Furthermore, Israeli police threatened on Sunday to carry out more detentions in the upcoming few days over the same matter.

Separately on Sunday, Israeli authorities also handed an order to another Waqf official, Sheikh Raed Daana, banning him from entering the al-Aqsa Mosque compound for six consecutive months. The reason for the ban was not clear.

The reopening of the Bab al-Rahma Mosque followed days of tension between Israeli forces and Muslim religious authorities over access to the compound.

Full report at:



Yemeni Forces Kill Saudi Officer, 5 Bodyguards

Feb 24, 2019

The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported late on Saturday that a high-ranking Saudi officer and the 5 bodyguards accompanying him were killed in Northern al-Hadd region in Yemen.

The official Saudi media added that two other members of the convoy were injured.

Also on Saturday night, a Yemeni military source announced that 9 British special force experts and 3 Pakistani agents were killed in the Southern regions of Saudi Arabia.

Yemeni sources announced that the killed British and Pakistani military officers were conducting a top-secret mission commissioned by the UK, the US, and the UAE, Taez news, a Yemeni news outlet, reported last night.

The source added that the killed officers were experts in planning and managing military operations, and were tasked with commanding the Saudi-hired foreign militants involved in the war against Yemen.

Last week, Britain’s Daily Express reported that two British Special Forces soldiers of the elite SAS regiment deployed on a top-secret joint US-UK mission in Yemen were injured in a roadside bomb blast.

Both soldiers were in a 12-man coalition taskforce which flew into the wartorn country three weeks ago. The SAS is working alongside members of Operational Detachment Alpha, the primary fighting force for the Green Berets. Under US command, the heavily armed Special Forces team flew into Aden from Djibouti aboard a UAE Chinook helicopter and met UAE commanders before heading Northeast in unmarked pick-up trucks.

Both soldiers sustained leg injuries and were evacuated in a UAE helicopter to the US military base in Djibouti, a small coastal nation on the Horn of Africa located across the Gulf of Aden.

Saudi Arabia and its allies, including the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, and Sudan, launched a brutal war against Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall Yemen’s former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

The aggression initially consisted of a bombing campaign but was later coupled with a naval blockade and the deployment of ground forces to Yemen. Around 20,000 people have died since the war began, says Yemen’s Health Ministry.

The Saudi-led war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The United Nations (UN) has said that a record 22.2 million Yemenis are in dire need of food, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger.

Despite Riyadh's claims that it is bombing the positions of the Ansarullah fighters, Saudi bombers are flattening residential areas and civilian infrastructures.

Full report at:



Palestinians demand Abbas resignation at Gaza protest rally

Feb 24, 2019

Thousands of Palestinians have staged a demonstration in the besieged Gaza Strip, demanding that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas step down.

On Sunday, the protesters converged on al-Saraya Square in Gaza City to express their resentment over the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority’s recent decision to cut salaries of civil servants in the impoverished enclave and continue cooperation with the Israeli regime.

The demonstrators also chanted, “Go, go, Abbas, that’s the demand of the people,” as they took part in a rally organized by the Free Gaza Movement, a coalition of human rights activists and pro-Palestinian groups working to challenge the Tel Aviv regime’s 12-year naval blockade.

Members of the movement had reportedly been circulating anti-Abbas content on social media networks over the past few weeks.

Meanwhile, the Popular Movement for National Salvation in Gaza has sent a message to the participants of the forthcoming Arab-European summit in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, stating that "Mahmoud Abbas is no longer a representative of his own people or a legitimate Palestinian Authority (PA) chief."

“We’d like to inform you that Mahmoud Abbas no longer has a legitimate status to represent the Palestinian people and speak on their behalf in accordance with the Palestinian Basic Law, which has limited the term of the president to only four years; accordingly, Abbas’ term of office expired in 2009,” the message read.

It added, “Abbas has been practicing presidential duties for 10 years as a fait accompli…this situation, however, has dismembered the Palestinian political system and excluded active Palestinian factions and political forces from participating in decision-making and playing a role in public life, which has led to deepening of the constitutional and legal crisis that has overshadowed the Palestinian political scene.

“During those years, Abbas has abused the powers granted by the Basic Law to the Palestinian Authority president through issuing more than 200 law decrees…and taking punitive measures against the civilians in the Gaza Strip.”

The movement then held Abbas fully responsible for the lingering Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip.

Earlier this month, the Palestinian Authority reduced the salaries of 263 employees from the Gaza Strip's Ministry of Health, as well as a further 400 employees from the Education Ministry.

Spokespersons for both ministries announced the numbers in separate statements on February 11, denouncing the salary cuts as “flagrant violation” of the rights of public employees.

Full report at:



Yemen’s Houthis to quit two ports Monday under peace deal

February 24, 2019

DUBAI: Iranian-aligned Houthi forces have agreed to draw back from two Yemeni ports on Monday while withdrawal from the main Hodeidah port will occur later alongside a retreat by coalition-backed forces massed outside the city, UN and Yemeni sources said. Houthi forces will withdraw 5 km from the ports of Saleef, used for grain, and Ras Isa, an oil terminal, as a first step agreed with the internationally recognized government, three sources said.

The Houthi withdrawal from Hodeidah port and the pull-back by coalition forces 1 km away from the city’s “Kilo 7” eastern suburb would take place as a second step, they said.

An orderly troop withdrawal from Hodeidah, now a focus of an almost four-year war, is key to UN-led efforts to avert a full-scale assault on the port and pave the way for political negotiations.

The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.

The United Nations has been trying to salvage a truce deal agreed at peace talks in December between the Houthis and the Saudi-backed government. That process has stalled over who would control of Hodeidah, a Red Sea port used to feed Yemen’s 30 million people.

Hodeidah is held by the Houthis while other Yemeni forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition loyal to ousted President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi are positioned on the edges of the city.

Hadi’s top negotiator, Foreign Minister Khalid Al-Yamani, said the initial Houthi redeployment must be verified before further progress can be made and humanitarian corridors reopened.

“This is what was agreed by the Yemeni government: we verify the first step before implementing the second,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in remarks published on Sunday.

A small team of UN observers arrived in Hodeidah after the cease-fire went into effect on Dec. 18 to oversee troop redeployments by both sides.

The deal calls for local authorities to assume control of Hodeidah but did not detail the process, leaving it open to interpretation.

The Western-backed Sunni Muslim coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates intervened in Yemen in 2015 to try to restore Hadi’s government after it was ousted from power in the capital Sanaa in late 2014.

The conflict, widely seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, has been locked in military stalemate.

Full report at:



Hezbollah: US main cause of persisting crisis in Syria

Feb 24, 2019

A high-ranking member of the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement says the United States is the main cause of the persisting crisis in Syria.

In remarks published by Hezbollah’s Media Relations Office on Sunday, Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem said the US had prolonged the presence of foreign-backed militants in the Middle Eastern country.

“The long war in Syria is because of the US, which is now hindering the settlement there,” he said, adding that Washington was also using evil schemes in an attempt to destabilize the Arab country.

However, the US “is moving from one defeat to another, but it doesn’t want to acknowledge that,” Qassem further said.

“Through resistance, we forced Israel out of Lebanon. Through resistance, we managed to impose the equation of deterrence. Through resistance, Lebanon and Palestine managed to confront Israel. Through resistance, we wiped out Takfiri terrorism in the region. Through resistance, we dealt blows to the US and prevented Washington from achieving its goals in our region,” Qassem added.

He also cautioned those who count on the US to resolve the persisting issue of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, saying they were making a losing bet.

Qassem also described the US stance toward the region’s issues as an oppressive one and against the people’s interests. He also lashed out at some Arab countries for destabilizing the region, noting that they were being supported by the White House.

More than one million Syrian refugees are registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Lebanon. The Beirut government estimates that the true number of Syrians in Lebanon stands at 1.5 million.

Tens of thousands of Lebanon-based Syrian refugees have so far returned to their homeland. However, Hezbollah says that the US is spearheading a global scheme aimed at preventing the return of the rest of the Syrian refugees under the pretext that the situation in Syria is still unstable.

An armed conflict began in Syria in 2011. The Syrian military, backed by the Russian air force and Iranian military advisers, has taken back control of most of the areas in Syria that had been held by militant and terrorist groups.

Full report at:



South Asia


Qatar: Taliban political chief to join talks with US in Doha

Feb 25, 2019

Qatar has announced that the Taliban political chief is set to lead a delegation from the Afghan militant group for what would mark the highest-level negotiations yet with the US on ending the 17-year-old conflict in Afghanistan.

The Taliban and Qatari officials said Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar has arrived in the Qatari capital, Doha, to attend the peace talks, which are expected to begin later on Monday.

Doha said Sunday that Baradar will head the Taliban team, despite earlier reports that he could be absent, citing problems in obtaining travel documents.

The American delegation will also be led by US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad.

Mullah Baradar, who spent eight years in a Pakistani prison, was released in October last year.

Kai Eide, a former UN envoy to Afghanistan, who was involved in some of the earliest peace contacts with the militant group, described Mullah Baradar’s arrival to join the negotiators as an encouraging sign the Taliban’s top leadership was directly engaging in talks.

“Baradar’s participation certainly means that the Doha team will become more of a decision-making body than before,” he said.

“From my own experience 10 years ago, I believe that he was already, before his arrest, the most prominent Taliban leader in favor of finding a political settlement,” Eide added.

The latest round of talks between the Taliban and the US were held in the Qatari capital last month, during which they agreed on a framework truce deal that would lead to the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan and end the war there.

The new round is expected to revolve around the agreements reached last month. US officials said the two sides remain at odds over the timing of the ceasefire.

The talks have so far excluded the Afghan government because the Taliban view it as illegitimate. The militant group has rejected a government bid to attend the talks as well as an offer to open an office in Kabul, urging, instead, international recognition of its office in the Qatari capital.

US officials, however, said any final agreement would require that the Taliban meet with Afghan officials.

Khalilzad said formerly that he would be pushing the Taliban figures to agree to joint steps with the Afghan side.

There are still “unsolved matters,” according to a spokesman of the militant group, which has said it will not engage in direct talks with the Afghan officials unless they agree on a firm date for the withdrawal of US troops from the county.

White House officials said last December that the administration of President Donald Trump was planning to withdraw about half of the 14,000 troops deployed to Afghan soil.

US Army General Joseph Votel, the head of the US military’s Central Command, also confirmed the reports in a visit to Oman earlier this month.

The Taliban's five-year rule over at least three quarters of Afghanistan came to an end following the 2001 US-led invasion, but 17 years on, Washington -- having failed to end the Taliban’s militancy campaign – is seeking truce with the militants.

The Taliban have strengthened their grip over the past three years, with the government in Kabul controlling just 56 percent of the country, down from 72 percent in 2015, according to a US government report released last year.

An annual UN report said Sunday that civilian deaths in 2018 jumped by 11 percent from 2017, with 3,804 people killed, including 927 children, both all-time highs since the world body started recording figures in 2009.



Bangladesh police say suspected plane hijacker had carried a toy pistol

February 25, 2019

DHAKA: A Bangladeshi man who was shot dead after he tried to hijack a plane had carried a toy pistol and did not have any explosives on him, police said on Monday.

“The pistol with the suspect was a toy pistol and he had no bomb attached to his body,” Kusum Dewan, additional commissioner of police in the southeastern city of Chittagong, told Reuters.

“He appeared to be mentally imbalanced. We heard he had a personal issue with his wife and demanded to speak to the prime minister. But we are still investigating. We don’t want to come to any conclusion right now.”

Full report at:



Taliban’s shadow district chief killed in NDS Special Forces raid in Nangarhar

24 Feb 2019

The shadow district chief of Taliban for Lalpur district of eastern Nangarhar province has been killed during a raid conducted by the Special Forces of the National Directorate of Security.

The provincial government media office in a statement said Sunday that the shadow district chief of Taliban for Lalpur district Sher Zaman was killed during a raid of the NDS Special Forces on Saturday night.

The statement further added that another comrade of Sher Zaman was also killed during the operation and two others were arrested.

The NDS Special Forces also confiscated some weapons, munitions, and drugs during the operation, the provincial government said in its statement.

Full report at:



Taliban militants and commanders suffer heavy casualties in a premature IED explosion

25 Feb 2019

At least 15 Taliban group members and their commanders were killed or wounded in a premature explosion triggered by an Improvised Explosive Device in northern Kunduz province.

The Ministry of Interior in a statement said Monday that nine Taliban group memebrs including their four commanders were killed in the explosion.

The statement further added that six other Taliban group members also sustained injuries in the explosion.

According to the Ministry of Interior, the incident took place in Jaga Aaraq Qazaq area of Qala-e-Zal district on Sunday as the militants were busy planting an Improvised Explosive device.

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

Full report at:



Top Taliban commanders among 9 killed, wounded in Sar-e-Pul operations

25 Feb 2019

At least nine Taliban group members including two of their senior commanders were killed or wounded during the operations in northern Sar-e-Pul province of Afghanistan.

The 209th Shaheen Corps of the Afghan Military in the North in a statement said the Afghan forces have cleared Gozar, Landji, and Bazar-e-Taghai villages during Pamir-38 operations in Sancharak district of Sar-e-Pul province.

The statement further added that two Taliban militants were killed during the operatins and two of their senior commanders, including the shadow district chief of the group for Sancharak Mawlavi Noor Ul Haq and the group’s military commission chief Mullah Noor Ahmad alias Khalid were critically wounded along with five other Taliban group members.

The 209th Shaheen Corps also added that the armed forces also discovered and detonated 5 improvised explosive devices during the same operations.

Full report at:



More than 20 militants killed in Afghan Special Forces raids across the country

24 Feb 2019

More than twenty anti-government armed militants were killed during the operations conducted by the Afghan Special Forces in various provinces of the country in the past 24 hours.

According to the informed military sources, the Afghan Special Forces conducted a raid in Khogyani district of Nangarahr province killing a Taliban commander, Shir Zaman, and one of his fighters.

The sources further added that the Afghan Special Forces conducted a multi-day operation in Qarabagh district of Ghazni province, killing 7 Taliban fighters. Over 50 Taliban fighters have been killed in Ghazni this week.

An air strike killed 1 Taliban fighter in Sayyidabad district  of Wardak province, the sources said, adding that 11 fighters were killed in Wardak last week.

The sources also added that the Afghan Special Forces conducted a raid in Tarin Kot district of Uruzgan killing 3 Taliban fighters while a similar air strike in Zurmat district of Paktia province killed 4 Taliban fighters and wounded another.

The Afghan Special Forces conducted a raid in Sabari district of Khost province killing 2 Taliban fighters while the 215th Corps Brigade is conducting a multi-day clearance operation in Helmand killing 3 Taliban fighters and destroying 3 roadside bombs, the sources added.

Full report at:



Afghanistan launches new export route to India through Iran

February 24, 2019

KABUL: Afghanistan began exports to India through an Iranian port on Sunday, official said, as the landlocked, war-torn nation turns to overseas markets to improve its economy.

Officials said 23 trucks carrying 57 tons of dried fruits, textiles, carpets and mineral products were dispatched from western Afghan city of Zaranj to Iran’s Chabahar port. The consignment will be shipped to the Indian city of Mumbai.

At the inauguration of the new export route, President Ashraf Ghani said Afghanistan was slowly improving its exports in a bid to reduce its trade deficit.

“Chabahar port is the result of healthy cooperation between India, Iran and Afghanistan this will ensure economic growth,” he said.

The Iranian port provides easy access to the sea to Afghanistan and India has helped developed this route to allow both countries to engage in trade bypassing Pakistan.

Last year the US government granted an exception to certain US sanctions that allowed development of Chabahar port as part of a new transportation corridor designed to boost Afghanistan’s economy and meet their needs of non-sanctionable goods such as food and medicines.

India has sent 1.1 million tons of wheat and 2,000 tons of lentils to Afghanistan through Chabahar.

Full report at:





Russia parades Syrian war trophies on a nationwide tour in a bid to sell intervention

Jonathan Brown

February 25, 2019

Russia is flaunting the trophies of its war in Syria with a nationwide exhibition of armoured vehicles, drones and weapons its army says it captured from militant groups in the country.

A rail car carrying the war spoils will travel across Russia’s 11 time zones over several months. The display, consisting of around 500 pieces of military equipment that includes tanks, assault rifles a wide array of drones and armoured vehicles repurposed by ISIS for use in kamikaze attacks.

The exhibition, dubbed “Syrian Breakthrough”, is being organised by the Defence Ministry and is said to have received the approval of President Vladimir Putin.

The dates that the exhibition will traverse the country are symbolic. The rail-car museum opened in Moscow on Saturday, a national holiday in Russia called “Defender of the Fatherland Day,” when Russians celebrate the country’s armed forces. It has been timed to end ahead of May 9, when Russia celebrates its victory over Nazi Germany in 1944 with a large military parade through Red Square.

The tour is scheduled to make 61 stops across Russia, from Vladivostok near the border with China down to Crimea, annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014.

Some of the armoured vehicles being paraded through Russia, which include a T-55 tank, bear the markings of the Free Syrian Army and the United Nations. Russian Deputy Defence Minister Andrei Kartapolov said in Moscow on Saturday that the hardware originated in countries including Georgia and China.

"Everything here is real,” said Major General Alexander Yaroshevich at the opening of the exhibition in Moscow. “Displaying these items produced in European countries and America shows visitors everything that we deal with in Syria."

Russia’s intervention in the Syrian war in late 2015 on the side of embattled president Bashar Al Assad, is widely credited with having turned the tide of the war favour of the Syrian regime.

The Kremlin said its air campaign was launched to rout terrorists, including ISIS, but war observers say Russian airstrikes have been responsible for the deaths almost 20,000 civilians.

The tour is an extension of how the Kremlin has sold its military role in Syria as a revival of the army and of Russia’s greatness, says Andrei Kolesnikov, Senior Fellow and Chair of Russian Domestic Politics Program at Carnegie Moscow Centre. “This campaign had an effect — in the eyes of Russians it is one of the rare examples of victory,” Kolesnikov told The National.

But its impact is limited, he warned, saying that the exhibition may not boost Mr Putin’s overall approval ratings, which have plummeted to historic lows in recent months over Russia’s economic performance.

“Russia’s role in Syria doesn't mobilize people or help boost the president’s ratings,” he said. “This event is simply one more attempt to revitalise militarisation of the mass consciousness.”

The exhibition comes are Mr Putin and his counterparts from Iran and Turkey are working to find a political solution to the nearly eight-year conflict. Earlier this month, Mr Putin met Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani in the Black Sea town Sochi to agree on how to wrest control of the last pockets of opposition for Mr Al Assad.

Mr Putin has sought to minimize Russia’s footprint on the ground in Syria by deploying a small contingent of military servicemen alongside fighters from private mercenary groups with links to the Kremlin.

However, the conflict has served as an important training ground for the Russian army. Around 200 pieces of new military equipment were tested on the ground in Syria and according to a senior military officer, 60 per cent of the Russian military police have participated in special operations in Syria.

Some of those officers who were deployed to Syria will accompany the “Syria Breakthrough” exhibition across Russia as guides.

“War experience in Syria has been invaluable to the officers,” Lieutenant General Vladimir Ivanovsky, the chief of Russia’s military police, told Russian media this week.



UN: 2018 saw highest number of Afghan civilian deaths

24 February 2019

More civilians were killed in Afghanistan last year than in any of the previous nine years of the increasingly bloody conflict, according to a UN report released Sunday, which blamed the spike in deaths on increased suicide bombings by ISIS and stepped up aerial attacks by US-led coalition forces.

In its annual report, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said 3,804 civilians were killed last year, the highest number since the international organization began tallying figures in 2009. Another 7,189 were wounded.

The report comes amid efforts to find a peaceful end to the 17-year war, which have accelerated since the appointment in September of US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who is to begin another round of talks with the Taliban on Monday in the Gulf state of Qatar, where they maintain a political office.

UN envoy Tadamichi Yamamoto called the spiraling number of civilian casualties “deeply disturbing and wholly unacceptable.”

Tens of thousands of Afghan civilians live as refugees in their own country after fleeing fighting in their home provinces. Tens of thousands more have fled their homeland, seeking safety in neighboring countries and in Europe.

According to the report, 63 percent of all civilian casualties were caused by insurgents, with the breakdown blaming the Taliban for 37 percent of the dead and wounded, ISIS for 20 percent, and a collection of other anti-government groups for the remaining 6 percent.

The government and its US and NATO allies were blamed for 24 percent of the dead and wounded civilians caught in the crossfire, many of them killed in stepped up aerial attacks, most of which are carried out by the US and NATO.

The report said civilian casualties at the hands of Afghan and international forces were up significantly in 2018 compared to 2017.

“For the first time since 2009 when it began systematically documenting civilian casualty figures, UNAMA recorded more than 1,000 civilian casualties from aerial operations,” the report said.

The US military says it carried out 6,823 sorties last year in which munitions were fired – the highest number in the last six years.

Last year “witnessed the highest number of civilian casualties ever recorded from suicide attacks and aerial operations,” according to the report.

Since the UN began documenting civilian casualties 10 years ago, more than 32,000 civilians have been killed and another 60,000 wounded.

“It is time to put an end to this human misery and tragedy,” said Yamamoto. “The best way to halt the killings and maiming of civilians is to stop the fighting. That is why there is all the more need now to use all our efforts to bring about peace.”

The US and the Taliban have openly embraced a strategy of talking while fighting, with the Taliban carrying out near-daily attacks on Afghanistan’s beleaguered security forces.

Full report at:



EU, Arab League to hold 1st joint summit amid tensions

Feb 24, 2019

The European Union (EU) and the Arab League are to kick off their first-ever joint summit in Egypt, amid internal and mutual tensions.

The two-day conference is to go underway at the International Congress Center in the Egyptian Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh on Sunday.

Migration, security, climate change, economy, and regional conflicts are expected to be discussed during the event.

On the European side, the summit is overshadowed by internal differences arising from Britain’s controversial push to break away from the EU. The Arab states, on the other hand, have had tense relations among themselves over a Saudi Arabian-led blockade of Qatar.

EU relations with the Arab states have also partially suffered over a Saudi-led war on Yemen — which has prompted sporadic protests from European states due to its huge civilian casualties — and the state-sponsored murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul last October.

Saudi crown prince avoids event

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, whom Turkey has hinted ordered Khashoggi’s assassination, is also avoiding the summit.

“Mohammad’s attendance at the weekend summit in Egypt would have put the Europeans in an awkward position as they try to strengthen cooperation with their Arab partners,” the DPA said in a report.

“Many confirmed their attendance only after it became clear” that neither Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir nor the Saudi crown prince would show up, Reuters reported.

Bashir is subject to an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court and is facing domestic protests, which have taken a deadly turn.

The ailing Saudi King Salman will be leading the kingdom’s delegation to the summit.

Qatar sends low-level delegate

Qatar is also sending a lower-ranking representative to the Arab League, according to London-based paper al-Araby al-Jadeed.

The decision by Doha came after “unprofessional” behavior by Cairo to send the invitation to “the Greek Embassy in Doha instead of submitting it to the permanent representative of Qatar to the Arab League.”

Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain are three of the four countries that have imposed the blockade on Qatar under Saudi leadership since June 2017.

Despite the tensions, the EU and the Arab League are attempting to enhance relations by holding the event anyway.

Former Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa has warned that Arab nations need to assert themselves. “If the Arab side weakens itself, Europe will impose its agenda,” he has said.

Full report at:



Sisi urges joint Arab-European action on terrorism and migration

Hamza Hendawi

February 24, 2019

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi made a strong appeal for a joint strategy against terrorism as he opened a landmark Arab-European summit on Sunday.

Mr El Sisi also called for a framework allowing “organised and safe” migration to Europe, for the benefit of both regions.

“We need a joint vision to deal with the dangers since it is clear that it’s difficult to do so unilaterally,” he told the leaders of Arab League and EU states gathered at the Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh for the two-day meeting.

Mr El Sisi, who has invested significant time and effort since taking office in 2014 to cultivate close economic and security ties with Europe, said the summit was proof that what brings the two regions together outweighs what separates them.

The unprecedented, 50-nation meeting is the fruition of more than a decade of talks between representatives of the Cairo-based League and the EU, with the first round taking place in 2008.

The Saudi delegation is led by King Salman, while the UAE's representatives are led by Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi, Ruler of Fujairah.

Representatives from the EU side include European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and heads of government from Germany, Britain and Italy, among others.

Mr El Sisi said the two regions must agree on a joint strategy to counter terrorism, warning that anything short of that was destined to fail.

“Regrettably, terrorism has become a tool used by some nations to create chaos in their neighbours to gain a stature that comes at their expense,” he said, in a thinly veiled reference to Qatar and Turkey, which have long been accused of supporting extremists.

Mr El Sisi said failure to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict would also have bad ramifications for both regions.

He said settling that conflict would deny the “forces of extremism and terrorism” the chance to recruit youths raised amid strife and violence.

And leaving the conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Libya without a settlement "constitutes a failure that future generations will hold us accountable for”, he said.

Mr El Sisi's international standing has steadily grown in the nearly five years since he was first elected.

This month, the former military leader assumed the rotating, one-year presidency of the African Union.

Mr El Sisi said that since 2016, Egypt had prevented illegal migrants from leaving its shores to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.

But he also proposed that illegal migration, a pressing domestic problem for most of the EU’s member nations, must be dealt with “not as a challenge but as a chance for co-operation”.

The surplus of labour in the Arab world could be a perfect fit for the needs of industrialised Europe, Mr El Sisi said.

“Organised and safe migration to Europe could achieve mutual interests when done side by side with combating human trafficking,” he said.

The Arab League-EU summit comes at a time when both regions are plagued by internal differences over a range of major issues.

Its agenda covers a wide range of topics and stresses the significance of the gathering as a mostly symbolic, but important event that could be a prelude to deeper co-operation between the regions.

Egypt has for years been fighting an insurgency by militants in the Sinai Peninsula while struggling to revive its economy.

The civil wars in Yemen and Syria have raged for years, while Libya has become a haven for militants in a country ruled by rival administrations backed by armed militias.

Full report at:





French PM urges joint stand to drive back extremists in Sahel

February 24, 2019

GAO, Mali: French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Sunday urged partners to commit to stand with Paris in driving back jihadi violence in the Sahel.

“We require everyone’s commitment to progress toward durable stabilization. Nobody can boast of being able to do without the backing of others,” Philippe said, citing a Malian proverb at his troop’s headquarters at Gao.

He was speaking days after the African Union’s peace and security chief Smail Chergui urged member states to tackle the root causes of extremism in the Sahel region.

France is backing a 5,000-man joint mission among the five nation G5 Sahel force on the front line: Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad.

But Chergui voiced disappointment in difficulties faced in financing and equipping the force at a time when the future of the current UN mission MINUSMA is uncertain.

The Islamist revolt in the Sahel took off after chaos engulfed Libya in 2011. Militant attacks erupted in northern Mali as Boko Haram emerged in northern Nigeria.

Large areas of Mail remain out of contril, and the extremists have gained ground in neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger, while Chad is battling unrest on its borders.

“It is the action of all, with (French-led anti-insurgent Operation) Barkhane, alongside Malian forces, which will drive back jihadism,” said Philippe, who arrived in Mali late Friday for a two-day visit.

On Sunday he addressed French, Malian, British and Estonian forces saying he wanted to salute the troops’ “remarkable and decisive” results to date, including the recently announced deaths of extremist leaders Amadou Koufa and, last Thursday, Algerian Djamel Okacha, alias Yahya Abou El Hamame.

“Every day our enemies are suffering important losses, reducing their capacity to cause trouble,” said Philippe, though he conceded the threat has not disappeared.

Saturday he said 2,700 French forces in the region since 2014 “will remain as long as is necessary.”

While in Gao, Philippe, accompanied by Defense Minister Florence Parly, visited a monument to 24 French soldiers who have died in Mali to date.



US says 4 airstrikes in Somalia kill 2 al-Shabab fighters

Feb 25, 2019

JOHANNESBURG – The United States military says it has killed two al-Shabab extremists in four airstrikes in Somalia.

The attacks eliminated checkpoints and facilities used by al-Shabaab to collect taxes to fund their violent campaign in Somalia, said a statement Sunday from the U.S. Africa command.

"In addition to creating enhanced security, airstrikes help to disrupt al-Shabaab operations and the network while preventing future attacks by this terrorist group," said Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Gregg Olson, U.S. Africa Command director of operations.

According to the statement, two airstrikes on Saturday hit the Kunyow Barrow area, about 250 kilometers (155 miles) southwest of the capital, Mogadishu. Another strike was in the Awdeegle area, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) west of Mogadishu and a fourth was near Janaale, about 75 kilometers (46 miles) southwest of Mogadishu.

No civilians were injured or killed in the attacks, said the statement.

With these four airstrikes, the U.S. military has carried out at least 16 such airstrikes this year in Somalia against al-Shabab, the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa and which is linked to al-Qaida.

Full report at:



Nigerian elders should speak on Boko Haram

25 February 2019

Sir: We must thank God that the Vice-president, Yemi Osinbajo and his co-travellers did not die in the helicopter accident in Kogi State.

Yet I cannot but think of the innocent people being killed in the unjustifiable war against Boko Haram and protection of the Fulani herdsmen terrorists and Osinbajo is comfortable with it all.

When we say President Muhammadu Buhari is the most corrupt and expensive, it is an all round fact regarding his health which led him to be going to London and spending up to more than forty days and more than hundred days before protests in Nigeria and London embarrassed him out of habitual recourse to seeking health and rest in London.

How much altogether did Buhari’s romance with London cost Nigeria? The answer is blowing in the wind, as a top official secret.

Second, Buhari is the worst liability because it took him more than five months after his own inauguration as the President before installing his ministers.

So, what happened in the ministries in about half a year when no minister was overseeing the affairs of the ministries? The answer is blowing in the wind.

Third, Buhari promised to defeat Boko Haram in six weeks, and he repositioned the Army, at the end of which he degraded Boko Haram, the northeast populations, the military personnel, and the economy.

What are the total costs of the war against Boko Haram in human lives and economic resources? The answer is blowing in the wind. Buhari added protection of the Fulani herdsmen terrorists to the war against Boko Haram, ravaging agrarian communities throughout Nigeria.

Can you estimate the costs of the Fulani herdsmen terrorism in human lives and economic resources? The answer is blowing in the wind.

What is Nigeria’s gain as Buhari doubles himself as the Petroleum Minister, increased fuel price from N87 to N145, and he is recovering looted funds without accountability for anything to anybody? Nigeria has gained unprecedented hyper inflation and widespread penury.

Why are all the answers blowing in the wind? It is because there is no accountability. Buhari shrouds everything in secrecy, yet claiming to be fighting corruption oh!

Full report at:



Buhari beats Atiku in seven Borno LGAs displaced by Boko Haram

February 24, 2019

Abdulkareem Haruna

The All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, is in clear lead ahead of his major challenger, Atiku Abubakar of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in seven local government areas that have been displaced by Boko Haram insurgency.

Despite the reclaim of most local government areas that were once under the control of Boko Haram fighters, many of the displaced persons still live in camps. These camps are either located in Maiduguri, the state capital, or at various local government headquarters.

Analysts expect that the opposition parties, especially the PDP, might be able to make some inroads in these displaced local governments, especially over residents’ fixation on the ruling party’s inability to effectively degrade the insurgents.

But despite the impressive presidential campaign rally that Mr Abubakar had in Maiduguri about three weeks ago, the voter return in his favour does not seem to be commensurate with the promises made to Mr Abubakar.

According to results so far announced at the Borno state presidential collation centre, Mr Buhari continues to maintain a comfortable lead in all the seven council areas that were brought in.

In Nganzai local government, Mr Buhari polled 6,804 votes, while Atiku got 975 votes. The local government had 8,058 votes while about 335 ballots were rejected.

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In Magumeri LGA, with a total registered vote of 50, 991 and 14, 364 accredited voters, Mr Buhari polled 12,079 votes, while Mr Abubakar got 692 votes out of a total the 13,738 total valid votes.

In Mobbar local government, Mr Buhari polled 13,112 votes to beat Mr Abubakar who got only 280 votes.

Mr Buhari won Gubio local government area with 10,207 votes to beat Mr. Abubakar who got 510 votes.

In Dikwa, Mr Buhari got 17,805 votes to defeat Mr Abubakar, who managed to get only 100 votes.

In Abadam local government where there was a serious voter aparthy, the displaced people who had challenges with their voting centres gave Mr Buhari 5,907 votes with only 270 of them thumbprinting their ballots for Mr Abubakar. Abadam has a total of 45,707 votes.

In Guzamala, another local area with low voter turnout, only 6,284 votes were received. And of that figure, Mr Buhari swept 5,370 votes and left only 521 votes for Mr Abubakar.

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