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In Britain, Jews are leading the fight against the oppression of China’s Uighur Muslims

New Age Islam News Bureau

22 February 2021

 A Jewish man who identified himself as Andrew protests the oppression of China's Uighurs outside the Chinese Embassy in London, Jan. 5, 2020.

(photo credit: GETTY IMAGES)


• Good treatment with minorities, mandatory part of Islam: Minister

• Mufti urges Centre to start dialogue with Pak after terrorist attack in Kashmir

• Erdogan tells Rouhani he sees window of opportunity for Iran, US on sanctions

• States can formulate laws to prohibit conversion of Muslims, says minister

• Iraqi officials, scholars protest NATO plan to increase troops in Iraq eightfold

• Afghanistan's Ghani sees 'window of opportunity' for peace process

• Somali military kills over 50 al-Shabaab terrorists

• Revelations show FBI, New York police behind killing of US Muslim leader Malcolm X



• In Britain, Jews are leading the fight against the oppression of China’s Uighur Muslims

• UK’s top counter-terror officer backs key strategy amid review row

• Minister under fire for meeting with head of Muslim Council of Britain

• UK's anti-terror chief fears rights group boycott threatens Prevent review

• Kazakh Widow Shares Horror Stories About Life Under Islamic State In Syria

• ‘It’s so unfair’: life on the streets of the French town branded as ‘lost to Islam’



• Mufti urges Centre to start dialogue with Pak after terrorist attack in Kashmir

• Adityanath raises ‘love jihad’ and Sabarimala issues to hit out at Kerala govt

• Emperor Aurangzeb broke process of establishing Hindu-Muslim unity: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat

• Terrorist groups, their handlers trying to shift focus from Kashmir valley to Jammu: Jitendra Singh

• Muslims lend support to farmers, pray at Jind site



• Good treatment with minorities, mandatory part of Islam: Minister

• Pakistani Christians arrested for promoting Christianity

• US urged to play role for peace dialogue between Pakistan and India

• To avoid clash with India, Sri Lanka cancels Imran Khan's speech in Parliament

• Pakistan unlikely to exit ‘grey list' as FATF meets to decide its fate: Report

• Pakistan dubs France's anti-Muslim bill discriminatory

• Rights Group Condemn Threats To Sexually Abused Christian Minor Boy In Pakistan

• Clerics urge govt to fully implement NAP


South Asia

• Afghanistan's Ghani sees 'window of opportunity' for peace process

• Roadside bomb explosions in Afghanistan kill three, wound 20

• UN agency seeks help to find Rohingya boat adrift at sea

• Many killed, wounded in Kabul, Helmand Explosions


Southeast Asia

• States can formulate laws to prohibit conversion of Muslims, says minister

• PAS non-Muslim wing leader quits, cites inability to raise Indian issues

• Ahmad Zahid: Democracy in Malaysia dead after govt suspended Parliament

• Mukhriz hits out at polygamy write-up on govt website

• Defend Malay-Muslim rule to stop DAP, Terengganu PPBM tells Umno

• Malaysia's PM Muhyiddin throws ultimatum at Umno on working together in PN


Arab World

• Iraqi officials, scholars protest NATO plan to increase troops in Iraq eightfold

• Turkey probes pro-Kurdish MP over ‘northern Iraq visit’

• Russia: Terrorists plotting chemical attack in Idlib to blame Syrian government

• US-backed SDF militants steal 140,000 barrels per day of Syrian oil in Hasakah: Report

• Syrian troops open humanitarian corridor for civilians trapped in terrorist-held areas in Idlib



• Erdogan tells Rouhani he sees window of opportunity for Iran, US on sanctions

• Iran-led resistance axis key to defeating US-Israeli project: Hezbollah

• Hamas stresses resistance among best ways to stop Israeli normalization

• Spokesman Dismisses Direct Talks with US on Prisoners Release

• FM: US Revival of N. Deal Undertakings Remains Iran's Precondition

• Iran says UN watchdog visit led to ‘significant achievement’

• Activists fear jailed Iran protester Behnam Mahjoubi died after care neglected

• Iran held ‘fruitful discussions’ with IAEA chief: Official

• UN nuclear chief meets Iranian officials as leaders plan to cut watchdog cameras

• Houthi offensive in Yemen’s Marib is battle against US, its allies: Official

• Court invalidates Balfour Declaration, holds UK responsible for Palestinian plight



• Somali military kills over 50 al-Shabaab terrorists

• At least 35 Algerian pro-democracy activists released, say rights groups

• Bomb blast kills at least 2 in Somali capital

• Nigeria: Boko Haram releases video of seized aid worker

• Algeria reshuffles cabinet on eve of Hirak protest movement anniversary

• Libya’s interior minister escapes assassination attempt: Officials


North America

• Revelations show FBI, New York police behind killing of US Muslim leader Malcolm X

• US communicating with Tehran over American prisoners in Iran: White House

• The Capitol rioters speak just like the Islamist terrorists I reported on

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



In Britain, Jews are leading the fight against the oppression of China’s Uighur Muslims

Cnaan Liphshiz

February 22, 2021

A Jewish man who identified himself as Andrew protests the oppression of China's Uighurs outside the Chinese Embassy in London, Jan. 5, 2020.

(photo credit: GETTY IMAGES)


(JTA) — As the leader of British Jewry’s main human rights group, Mia Hasenson-Gross regularly hears personal stories of loss, grief and helplessness.

But few encounters have affected Hasenson-Gross as profoundly as the one she had in 2019 with Rahima Mahmut, a U.K.-based activist for the rights of Uighurs, a Muslim minority that is the target of what the U.S. State Department and many advocates say is an attempted genocide by the Chinese government.

Mahmut shared that she has not spoken in over four years with the family she left behind in 1997 following an earlier government crackdown on Uighurs called the Ghulja massacre in which dozens were killed. Mahmut does not know whether her siblings are dead or alive, she told Hasenson-Gross.

“I found myself thinking back about my own grandfather, Saul Gun, who left his family in Romania in the 1920s and soon thereafter never really knew what exactly happened to them during the Holocaust,” Hasenson-Gross told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

The director of the London-based Rene Cassin charity, she decided she had to spread the word about what was happening to the Uighurs.

Hasenson-Gross’s efforts added to an unusual mobilization that has turned British Jews — including their chief rabbi, who usually remains aloof from political issues that don’t directly involve Jews or Israel — into some of the most vocal advocates for the Chinese Muslim minority.

“Reflecting upon the deep pain of Jewish persecution throughout the ages, I feel compelled to speak out,” Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis wrote in a Dec. 15 op-ed in The Guardian titled “As chief rabbi, I can no longer remain silent about the plight of the Uighurs.”

For British Jewry, the effort is akin to the fight by American Jews 15 years ago against the genocide in Darfur: a situation so resonant of the Jews’ historical trauma that entire communities are joining in. Unusually, the push to draw attention to the Uighur cause is captivating not just liberal Jews often involved in issues of social justice but Orthodox Jews, as well.

“People in the rank and file of the community are talking about this issue,” said Herschel Gluck, a prominent Orthodox rabbi who has fostered relationships with British Muslims. “This is something that is felt very deeply by the community. They feel that if ‘Never again’ is a term that needs to be used, this is certainly one of the situations where it applies.”

One of the first British Jews to openly join with the Uighurs is an Orthodox Jew named Andrew, who since 2019 has been protesting, mostly on his own, outside the Chinese Embassy in London. At least twice a week, in all kinds of weather conditions, he takes up his position holding a sign reading “3 million Muslims in Chinese concentration camps.”

“As a Jew, knowing what happened to the Jews 80 years ago, the world did nothing for us. I don’t understand how I can sit still and do nothing,” Andrew told The Jewish News of London in 2019. (He declined JTA’s request to feature him last year, saying he preferred not to distract attention from his cause with reporting about his identity.)

Eliyahu Goldsobel, a 33-year-old Orthodox rabbi from London who works with the Rene Cassin human rights group, has organized several “Jews for Uighurs” rallies outside Volkswagen showrooms in London. The German firm, which was complicit in the Holocaust, has facilities in China’s heavily Uighur region of Xinjiang.

Rene Cassin has also engaged young British Jews in connection with the issue by organizing a videoconference on the subject for the Union of Jewish Students.

The Jewish mobilization has risen to the highest level of the organized Jewish community. Earlier this month, the Board of Deputies of British Jews held a news conference to urge Parliament to amend trade laws and make it harder for the government to deal with countries that perpetuate genocides. (The effort was unsuccessful.)

In China, hundreds of thousands of Uighurs have been put in so-called re-education camps, a Chinese government euphemism for what are widely seen as concentration camps. Testimonies of police and army brutality are widespread, and recent accounts of rape and forced sterilization have also emerged.

Mahmut’s brother in their last conversation asked her to stop calling home as it endangers the very lives of her relatives, she said at the Board of Deputies news conference.

“It’s been four years I lost contact with my own family, and in my last conversation with my brother, he said to me, ‘Please leave us in God’s hands. We leave you in God’s hands, too.’ And that is the only way that I cope, is God help us, God help them, please protect them,” she said. “And today I need your help.”

Mirvis in his Guardian op-ed did not use the term genocide, but did call it “a mass atrocity” whose weight is “overwhelming.” Satellite images, leaked documents and survivor testimonies “all paint a devastating picture affecting well over 1 million people, which, for the most part, the world continues to ignore,” he wrote.

The rabbi’s op-ed opened with Mahmut’s story — Mirvis had met with her upon Rene Cassin’s request. It drew several comparisons with Jewish history, including the oppression of Soviet Jews.

Mirvis, who was born in apartheid South Africa, made reference to his native land.

“For so long, any notion of positive change was rendered impossible by the impregnable power and ruthless determination of the apartheid authorities,” he wrote. “And, yet, change did eventually come.”

Unlike Mirvis, the archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of the Church of England, has not addressed the Uighur issue. Neither has Pope Francis in the Vatican, despite repeated calls to do so on both Christian faith leaders.

In the United States, while Jewish groups have expressed grave concern about China’s treatment of its Uighur minority, there hasn’t been the kind of all-hands-on-deck effort that led college students to spend their summers and teenagers to spend their bar mitzvah money lobbying for refugees in Darfur.

Perhaps the most unusual aspect of Mirvis’ intervention is that he recommended to the British government concrete steps for how to address the Uighur crisis. He did not offer such advice even in 2019, when he waded into politics for the first time to comment on the proliferation of anti-Semitic rhetoric within the Labour Party.

“It is clear that there must be an urgent, independent and unfettered investigation into what is happening. Those responsible must be held to account and Uighurs able to escape must be given asylum,” Mirvis wrote.

His op-ed neither mentioned the Holocaust nor drew parallels between the World War II genocide and the oppression of the Uighurs. But Marie van der Zyl, the Board of Deputies president, made those connections explicitly at the news conference.

“As the Jewish community, we are hesitant to consider comparisons to the murder of 6 million Jews and many others by the Nazis,” she said. But, she added, “nobody could fail to notice the similarities between what is alleged to be happening in the People’s Republic of China today and what happened in Nazi Germany 75 years ago.”

Among the similarities, van der Zyl noted the forced transport by train, forced trimming of beards, “women being sterilized and the grim spectrum of concentration camps.”

Ian Blackford, a lawmaker who attended the Jewish group’s news conference, said the amendment on limiting trade would follow the example set by the British government in the 1930s, when it admitted 10,000 Jewish children from Nazi-occupied countries. Van der Zyl’s father was among those young refugees on what were known as Kindertransports.

“The Kindertransport was a fantastic thing,” Blackford said. “We need to show that same generosity and support to those who are suffering persecution today.”

He also acknowledged the strong mobilization within British Jewry to act on the Uighurs’ oppression.

“I’d like to thank the Board of Deputies for its show of leadership in this issue, it has been inspirational,” Blackford said.

That leadership has included more than a dozen media statements and Jewish community events designed to raise awareness about the plight of the Uighurs.

Just how deeply the concern is registering with ordinary Jews has been hard to gauge because of the pandemic lockdown that makes gatherings impossible and has sent events online, said Rabbi Alexander Goldberg, a human rights activist and dean of the college of chaplains at the University of Surrey, south of London.

But, he said, “This has trickled down to some extent to the rank and file.”

The British reaction to the atrocities in Darfur in the early 2000s was far less vocal, involving none of the high-profile actions and coming far later than that of Jews in the United States.

The situation in Darfur was less evocative of the Holocaust for many British Jews, according to Gluck. There were mass killings in Darfur, but with Uighurs, “the parallels to the Holocaust and to the events leading up to the Holocaust are much clearer because of the religious element,” the rabbi said.

Edwin Shuker, vice president of the Board of Deputies, sees another reason that some leaders of British Jewry have mobilized for Uighurs: the perceived increase in anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom in recent years.

Starting in 2015, the British Labour Party, which for decades was the political home for many Jews, was rocked by a series of scandals involving anti-Semitism that British Jewish leaders blamed largely on Jeremy Corbyn, the far-left politician who had been elected to lead the party that year. Corbyn has been replaced by Keir Starmer, a centrist who has promised to reform the party’s handling of the issue.

“It’s a matter of principle,” Shuker said, “but it’s also arriving at the decision that to fight anti-Semitism is to fight for each other rather than just expecting everyone else to join our fight while we just sit there.”

Not everyone on the board shares this attitude, he said, as some deputies have objected to the mobilization on behalf of the Uighurs, saying it falls outside the organization’s core mission.

The Jewish voice on the Uighurs — and the acknowledgment by Jewish community leaders of similarities between their treatment and the Holocaust — have “made all the difference” in raising awareness of the issue in the United Kingdom, Shuker told JTA.

“There’s a taboo on comparing current events to the Holocaust, out of the justifiable desire not to cheapen the Holocaust’s memory,” he said. “But like what happened in Rwanda, this is actually a time when doing so is appropriate. When Jews do this, it lifts the taboo for the rest of society.”


Good treatment with minorities, mandatory part of Islam: Minister

21 Feb 2021

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Narcotics Control Brig (r) Ijaz Ahmed Shah has said all minorities are enjoying full respect in Pakistan, while they are facing atrocities in India.

Addressing a function at Nankana Sahib in connection with Saaka Nankana Sahib, he said good treatment with minorities is a mandatory part of our religion Islam.

Ijaz Shah said the white color in our National flag represents minorities. He said construction work of Baba Guru Nanak University at Nankana Sahib will start soon, and it will bring educational revolution in the area.

He said all construction expenses for this University will be borne by Government of Pakistan.


Mufti urges Centre to start dialogue with Pak after terrorist attack in Kashmir

FEB 21, 2021

 Mufti made these statements when she met the family members of the Police constable Suhail Ahmad who was killed in Friday's terrorist attack.(ANI)


After the recent terrorist attacks in Kashmir earlier this week, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti on Saturday urged the Centre to start a dialogue with Pakistan to stop the bloodshed so as to ensure peace in the Union Territory.

Talking to reporters on Saturday, Mufti urged the Central Government to hold talks with Pakistan and the people of Jammu and Kashmir, saying the government must find ways to resolve the issues afflicting the Union Territory to curb violence.

"Till when will people of J-K, Police and jawans be sacrificed. BJP says repeatedly that Pakistan sponsors violence here (Jammu and Kashmir) then they (Centre) should start the dialogue process -- be it here or with Pakistan," Mufti told reporters.

The BJP government should think and start the process of dialogue so that the bloodshed is stopped, the PDP president added.

Expressing concern over the terrorist activities in the Union Territory, she said, "The government of India must deliberate, for how long the police personnel will be sacrificed in such a manner. This is a big issue which must be resolved for the sake of the people of Jammu and Kashmir."

Mufti made these statements when she met the family members of the Police constable Suhail Ahmad who was killed in Friday's terrorist attack.

"Now look at this young person. He has (left behind) two small children. His father was also killed when he was just four years old. What will they do?" she said.

On February 19, two policemen were killed in a terrorist attack in Srinagar's Baghat area of Barzulla. In another encounter on the same day, three terror associates were also killed in the Budgam area of the Shopian district of Jammu and Kashmir.

One police personnel of Jammu and Kashmir lost his life and another was injured in a separate encounter that broke out between the security forces and terrorists in Budgam district on February 19.


Erdogan tells Rouhani he sees window of opportunity for Iran, US on sanctions

21 February ,2021

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani on Sunday he saw a window of opportunity for Iran and the US on sanctions after recent statements, adding he wanted US sanctions on Tehran to be lifted, the Turkish presidency said.

Tehran said on Sunday the US must first lift sanctions on Iran if it wants to talk about salvaging the 2015 nuclear deal, reiterating it will not make the first move to restore the pact with major powers.

Washington said last week it was ready to talk to Iran about both nations returning to the accord, aimed at preventing Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons, while lifting most international sanctions.

“President Erdogan, who stated that he wished the new US administration would abandon unilateral sanctions on Iran and lift restrictions on the prosperity of Iranian people, said the statements on the issue in recent days had led to a new window of opportunity,” the presidency said in a statement.

“Erdogan said it was the most reasonable course of action for all parties to meet at the point of making the Comprehensive Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action operational again, and that it is important to keep the door for dialog open despite all difficulties.”

Ankara, sanctioned by Washington last year for its purchase of Russian defense systems, has repeatedly called for a lifting of US sanctions on Iran and a return to the JCPOA.

Iran began gradually breaching the terms of the agreement in 2019, a year after former US President Donald Trump abandoned it and reimposed sanctions on Tehran.

Washington and Tehran have been at odds over who should take the first step to revive the agreement. Iran insists the United States must first rescind US sanctions, while Washington says Tehran must first return to compliance.


States can formulate laws to prohibit conversion of Muslims, says minister

February 21, 2021

KUALA LUMPUR: The Federal Constitution empowers states to formulate laws to stop conversion of Muslims, including attempts to persuade or coax them to leave their religion, either through preaching, marriage or any other means.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri said Article 11 (4) of the constitution allowed this, adding that the spread of religions other than Islam is subject to this clause.

“The position of Islam is guaranteed under Article 3 of the Federal Constitution, while Article 11 recognises the rights and freedom of religion for Muslims and those from other religions,” he said when commenting on the viral video of a non-Muslim man claiming to have got a Muslim woman to apostatise.

In a statement to Bernama, Zulkifli said police were investigating the matter and urged the public to let them take the necessary action against the man.

Zulkifli said almost all states have the Control and Restriction of the Propagation of Non-Islamic Religions Enactment, which is based on Article 11 (4).

“I understand that the Control and Restriction of the Propagation of Non-Islamic Religions Enactment for the federal territory is currently in the final process of drafting.

“This is one of the government’s priorities in strengthening the shariah law in Malaysia,” he added.


Iraqi officials, scholars protest NATO plan to increase troops in Iraq eightfold

20 February 2021

Iraqi officials and religious scholars have lambasted NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s latest remarks that the US-led military alliance plans to significantly increase its forces in the Arab country, describing the measure as unacceptable and unjustified.

Amer al-Faez, a member of the Iraqi Parliament's Foreign Relations Committee, said on Friday that “the increase in the number of NATO forces in Iraq is unjustified,” stressing that the country “does not need any foreign forces.”

“Iraqi security forces are capable of deterring any aggression against the country, and they have proven this during the war against Daesh,” Faez added.

“Therefore, I do not see any need for the presence of any foreign troops, either from NATO or other forces.”

Faez said the Iraqi parliament will inquire the government about its request for an increase in the number of NATO forces, and the reasons why it has circumvented the legislature in this regard.

Stoltenberg told reporters at the conclusion of a two-day virtual NATO defense ministers meeting on February 18 that the Western military alliance will expand its mission in Iraq.

“The size of our mission will increase from 500 personnel to around 4,000 and training activities will now include more Iraqi security institutions and areas beyond Baghdad,” Stoltenberg said.

“Our presence is conditions-based and increases in troop numbers will be incremental,” he added.

The Union of Muslim Scholars in Diyala said any increase in the number of NATO soldiers in Iraq is unacceptable.

"There is no justification for such a move, especially since our country has large forces capable of thwarting any terrorist attack that would undermine the security of people,” the union’s head, Jabbar al-Ma’mouri, told Arabic-language al-Maalomah news agency on Friday.

“The NATO decision has a multi-faceted agenda, one which is an attempt to occupy Iraq by means of an international alliance formed by America.”

Ma’mouri called on the Baghdad government to clarify its position on the recent NATO announcement.

On Saturday, Iraq's National Security Adviser, Qassim al-Araji described NATO's plan to increase the number of its troops in the country as advisory.

“The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is working in Iraq with the consent of the government, and is coordination with it. Its mission is advisory, training and non-combat,” he wrote in a post published on his Twitter page.

“We are cooperating with countries around the world and using their consultative and training experience to strengthen security. No agreement has yet been reached on the number of consultants.”

Anti-US sentiments have been running high in Iraq since the US assassination of Iran's legendary commander General Qassem Soleimani and his Iraqi trenchmate Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a drone strike in Baghdad on January 3, 2020. The two commanders were key figures in the final defeat of Daesh in Iraq in 2017.

Iraqi lawmakers approved a bill two days later, demanding the expulsion of all foreign military forces led by the United States from the country.

Currently, there are approximately 2,500 American troops in Iraq.


Afghanistan's Ghani sees 'window of opportunity' for peace process

February 22, 2021

Afghanistan's president says there is a "window of opportunity to accelerate the peace process" following Nato's announcement that it has made no final decision on withdrawing troops.

Ashraf Ghani made the comments in an exclusive interview with the BBC.

The Nato military alliance has close to 10,000 troops in the war-torn country. Under a US-Taliban deal, they were due to be withdrawn by May, after 20 years.

But there are concerns that Taliban violence could intensify.

Mr Ghani told the BBC's Lyse Doucet that Nato's announcement provided an opportunity for "all parties to the conflict to recalculate and reach a conclusion that we've long reached, that use of force is not the solution".

"We must reach a political settlement," he said.

He added that there needed to be a "concerted effort" internationally "to send signals that certain types of behaviour are unacceptable".

The Afghan president would not be drawn on how many foreign troops were needed, or for how long, saying it "depends on the intensity of the war".

US President Joe Biden is currently reviewing the deal struck by his predecessor. While most foreign troops now in Afghanistan are not US forces, the Nato operation could find it hard to continue if American support was withdrawn.

The current US presence in Afghanistan dates back to 2001 when soldiers invaded to remove the Taliban from power, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But the movement regrouped and by 2018 was active in more than two-thirds of the country, threatening the elected government.

Mr Ghani, who was shut out of the US-Taliban deal, told the BBC he was "delighted" with his relationship with the new US administration, and a new "coherence" among the international community's approach to Afghanistan's future.

"The force of coherence is what I'm counting on to avoid the tragedies. There's so many fears of collapse into civil war," he said, acknowledging that both sides were preparing for warfare.

But he dismissed fears of a Taliban military victory. "This is not Vietnam. The government is not collapsing."

His comments came amid stalled peace talks between the two sides and high levels of violence in the country.

But Mr Ghani still said the context was "one of hope, not one of despair".

The Afghan leader is now facing growing calls for an interim government to bring the Taliban into power and avoid a descent into chaos and a possible civil war.

He said his five-year term mattered less than peace, but insisted "the future will be determined by the people of Afghanistan, not by somebody sitting behind the desk, dreaming".

He said hard decisions and sacrifices lie ahead on all sides in a year where peace would be won or lost.

"From our side, we have a sense of urgency, we're willing to make the hard decisions, and there are going to be hard decisions required. Forty years of violence in this country is enough," he said.

There's a new confidence in the heavily fortified palace.

After years when President Trump's team seemed to send signals that the Taliban were worthier partners than the government, President Ghani feels he's now being listened to. But "be ready to pay a price" is also the warning conveyed to Kabul by a Washington which still doesn't want to stay a day longer than necessary.

That price could include President Ghani's five-year term and he seems to know that. But he's still insisting on elections - despite their tarnished history here.

His allies and enemies have other ideas on how to move more quickly towards a power-sharing arrangement. Some express cautious optimism a deal could be done in months. Others, including President Ghani, may believe gaps are too big to bridge so they're preparing for a hard fight.

Whatever the change in mood, beyond palace walls Afghans are still losing their lives, day in day out.


Somali military kills over 50 al-Shabaab terrorists

Mohammed Dhaysane  



The Somali National Army (SNA) claimed that it killed more than 50 al-Shabaab members, including two senior commanders, in an operation in the lower Shabelle region.

The military operation against the Somali-based al-Qaeda affiliated terror group took place in Mushaani, Daniga, and Majabta, according to Somali military radio.

Military officials in the region who spoke to Anadolu Agency confirmed the operation.

Army Chief of Staff Odawa Yusuf Rageh told military radio Friday that the terrorist killed included Moalim Bukhari, the group's intelligence chief in lower Shabelle and Sheikh Hasan Ganeey, the commander in the region.

He said al-Shabaab training camps in villages were also destroyed.

At least 20 al-Shabaab terrorists were killed Thursday in a military operation in the region.


Revelations show FBI, New York police behind killing of US Muslim leader Malcolm X

22 February 2021

New evidence about the assassination of prominent US civil rights leader Malcolm X has shown that the New York Police Department participated in a conspiracy with the FBI that led to the 1965 killing of the Muslim leader.

Members of Malcolm X's family made public a letter written by a deceased New York police officer stating that the New York Police Department and FBI were behind the killing of the famed Black activist.

The cousin of former undercover NYPD officer Raymond Wood said his late cousin had confessed to him that he had been pressured by his NYPD supervisors to lure members of Malcolm X's security detail into committing crimes that resulted in their arrest just days before the assassination of Malcolm X in New York Harlem.

"Under the direction of my handlers, I was told to encourage leaders and members of the civil rights groups to commit felonious acts," read the letter composed by Wood in 2011.

"It was my assignment to draw the two men into a felonious federal crime so that they could be arrested by the FBI and kept away from managing Malcolm X's Audubon Ballroom door security on February 21st, 1965," the letter stated.

On February 21, 1965, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, Malcolm X's Muslim name, without the two bodyguards, was gunned down as he prepared to give a speech at a theater in Harlem, in the north of Manhattan.

An estimated 30,000 mourners attended Malcolm X's funeral in Harlem.

Wood did not want his testimony to become public until after his death and maintained that the New York police department and the FBI kept certain aspects of the case secret.

The FBI has not made any comment yet about the new revelations.

Malcolm X’s daughters have called to reopen an investigation into the murder of prominent Black activist following the new testimony that implicates the FBI and the New York police.

"Any evidence that provides greatest insight into the truth behind that terrible tragedy should be thoroughly investigated," said Ilyasah Shabazz, one of Malcolm X's six daughters.

She said she had always lived with uncertainty around the circumstances of her father's death.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance's office told in a statement its "review of this matter is active and ongoing."

The Manhattan District Attorney's office announced last February that it would review the convictions of two of members of Malcolm X's group who were held responsible for the 1965 killing.

Considered alongside Martin Luther King Jr as one the most influential African Americans in history, Malcolm X was an outspoken Muslim advocate of Black rights.

Malcolm X helped define the struggle for racial equality in the 1960s, and was a powerful orator who rose to prominence as the spokesman of the Nation of Islam, an African-American Muslim group.





UK’s top counter-terror officer backs key strategy amid review row

February 21, 2021

LONDON: The UK’s greatest chance of reducing terrorist violence risks being undermined amid a backlash to the official the government has chosen to lead a review of counter-terrorism strategy Prevent, the country’s top counter-terrorism officer told The Guardian newspaper.

The aim of Prevent is to reduce the threat to the UK from terrorism by stopping people from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism.

The appointment of William Shawcross by Home Secretary Priti Patel to lead the review has been met with criticism due to alleged Islamophobic comments he has made in the past.

Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu’s comments to The Guardian come after key Muslim and human rights groups, including Amnesty International, announced a boycott of the official review of Prevent.

Basu said the participation of critics in the official review is vital, and “only when all sides of the discussion are heard can this review achieve what it sets out to achieve.”

He added that Prevent is the most important part of the fight against violent extremism from both Islamists and the far right.

“I have always believed and stated publicly that Prevent is the most important pillar of our counter-terrorism strategy, and counter-terrorism police have long been advocates of an independent review,” he said.

“We will, of course, work with the government’s chosen reviewer, because we believe the process will give our Prevent practitioners the opportunity to share their many years of expertise and insight, with the hope of bringing lasting improvement to this vital strategy,” he added.

“But we also recognize how important the support and trust of our communities will be if we are to continue to protect vulnerable people, and so it is with great disappointment that I read some key groups plan to boycott the review altogether. I would urge them to reconsider, because only when all sides of the discussion are heard can this review achieve what it sets out to achieve.”

In 2019, Basu said Prevent had been the least successful part of the UK’s counter-terrorism strategy, and had at times been “badly handled.”


Minister under fire for meeting with head of Muslim Council of Britain

21 February 2021

By Lucy Fisher

Penny Mordaunt has come under fire over a meeting the leader of an Islamic organisation with which the Government has cut ties.

The minister revealed on social media that she had held talks with Zara Mohammed, the new Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, on Friday and indicated that more meetings would follow.

Ms Mordaunt said on Twitter: “Great to have met with @ZaraM01 today, to wish her every success and hear more about her plans.  Look forward to working with her and her team. #IWD2021 [International Women’s Day 2021] @MuslimCouncil”.

She has since been accused of undermining Whitehall’s long-standing policy of “zero engagement” with the MCB, which has been in place since 2009.

The Government first suspended ties with the organisation, which is Britain’s largest Muslim group representing mosques, schools and charities, after one of its leaders allegedly supported violence against Israel.

Government insiders on Sunday insisted Ms Mordaunt had met with Ms Mohammed in a personal capacity as a constituency MP, rather than on behalf of the Government.

However, other Whitehall sources said she had landed in “hot water” over the move, with one remarking: “You can’t really separate being a minister and an MP.”

Another Government source accused Ms Mordaunt, who as Paymaster General is a minister in the Cabinet Office, of “refusing to stick to the line”.

Dr Alan Mendoza, executive director of the Henry Jackson Society, called for a public explanation, remarking: “Successive governments have imposed a 'no contact' rule with the MCB for many years, and with good reason.”

He added: “For a Minister to breach established policy is therefore shocking, and she needs to explain whether this was a mistake arising from poor advice from officials or her own initiative.”

A Government spokeswoman said: “The UK Government has a long standing policy of not engaging with the MCB and that has not changed.”

A spokesman for the MCB said: “The election of Zara Mohammed - the youngest and first woman Secretary General of the MCB - represents an opportunity for both the MCB and the government to come together and discuss areas where we could work together for the common good.”


UK's anti-terror chief fears rights group boycott threatens Prevent review

22 Feb 2021

Britain’s best chance of reducing terrorist violence risks being damaged amid a huge backlash to the government’s choice of William Shawcross to lead a review of Prevent, the country’s top counter-terrorism officer has told the Guardian.

Assistant commissioner Neil Basu’s comments came after key human rights and Muslim groups announced a boycott of the official review of Prevent, which aims to stop Britons being radicalised into violent extremism.

It was hoped the review would quell persistent criticism that has dogged the government’s counter-radicalisation scheme and undermined Prevent’s legitimacy.

Instead, the appointment of Shawcross by the home secretary, Priti Patel, threatens to leave the review struggling for credibility, with critics saying Shawcross was the wrong choice because of alleged anti-Muslim comments in the past.

Patel chose the writer and broadcaster, who is also a fellow with the rightwing thinktank Policy Exchange, over Nazir Afzal, the former chief crown prosecutor in the north-west who is from a Muslim background.

In a surprise intervention, Basu said the participation of critics in the official review was vital and that “only when all sides of the discussion are heard can this review achieve what it sets out to achieve”.

The boycott of the Shawcross-led review was announced last week by groups including Amnesty International, Liberty, the Runnymede trust, and others from Muslim communities.

For Basu, the stakes could not be higher. He said he saw Prevent as the most important part of the fight against violent extremism from both Islamists and the far right.

Basu, who is highly regarded in Whitehall and seen as a potential next head of Scotland Yard, told the Guardian: “I have always believed and stated publicly that Prevent is the most important pillar of our counter-terrorism strategy, and counter-terrorism police have long been advocates of an independent review.

“We will, of course, work with the government’s chosen reviewer, because we believe the process will give our Prevent practitioners the opportunity to share their many years of expertise and insight, with the hope of bringing lasting improvement to this vital strategy.

“But we also recognise how important the support and trust of our communities will be if we are to continue to protect vulnerable people, and so it is with great disappointment that I read some key groups plan to boycott the review altogether.

“I would urge them to reconsider, because only when all sides of the discussion are heard can this review achieve what it sets out to achieve.

“But it is my hope that even if they do not intend to participate in the review, they will consider working with counter-terrorism policing to try and find some common ground and ultimately help us improve our protection of those who need it.”

The background to why counter-terrorism chiefs think Prevent is so important is the need to slow down the constant flow of those lured by terrorism, with the realisation that more arrests and prison sentences are not enough.

There was a huge growth in terrorist activity triggered by the rise of Islamic State, with counter-terrorism operations increasing by 50% from 2015 to 2017. They have remained high ever since, with the threat from the extreme rightwing also growing.

The Guardian understands there are serious concerns in counter-terrorism circles at Shawcross’s appointment, and the foreseeable hostile reaction to it, which is so strong that the review’s credibility may already be fatally flawed.

The government has struggled for over a year to appoint a chair of the Prevent review.

In August 2019 the government first chose Lord Carlile to chair the review with the aim of boosting the legitimacy of Prevent. The scheme has become a “toxic brand” within Muslim communities, with some viewing it as a state tool for spying.

But in December 2019 Carlile was dropped by the government after criticism that he could not earn the confidence of communities seen as vital to Prevent’s legitimacy and success. It followed a legal challenge that argued he was appointed without a proper process and had apparent bias.

Lord Carlile told the Guardian: “I have full confidence that William Shawcross will produce a well thought-out review and I am very disappointed in the refusal of a number of NGOs to cooperate with this review.”

The chair of the review has a staff of around nine people, who have been waiting for more than a year for a new chair to be chosen.

One other shortlisted candidate was Nazir Afzal, the former chief crown prosecutor in north-west England.

In a 2019 Guardian interview, Basu said Prevent had been the least successful part of the UK’s counter-terrorism strategy and had at times been “badly handled”.


Kazakh Widow Shares Horror Stories About Life Under Islamic State In Syria

By Farangis Najibullah

February 21, 2021

QARAGHANDY, Kazakhstan -- Sabinella Ayazbaeva has her hands full with her five young children, psychology courses at a university, and a part-time job at a youth center in her hometown in central Kazakhstan.

But she makes time to take part in the state-backed, anti-extremism campaign to warn young people against the dangers of terrorist groups that use religion to recruit new members online.

A widow of an Islamic State (IS) fighter, Ayazbaeva is one of around 600 Kazakh citizens the government in Nur-Sultan repatriated from Syrian refugee camps in 2019.

Ayazbaeva, 31, spent five years in Syria, where she says she witnessed brutal killings and “terrible injustices” committed by IS, while living in constant fear of deadly air strikes.

In media interviews, speeches, and meetings, Ayazbaeva talks about the horrors of life under the IS and her disillusionment, hoping her words will stop others from “making the mistakes” she and her husband made in 2014.

How It All Started

Describing her life before Islamic State, Ayazbaeva says that she and her husband had a “happy marriage, successful business, and a private apartment” in Qaraghandy.

Both were practicing Muslims who attended a local mosque and led a quiet life. That is, until her husband made friends with “untraditional” Islamic groups online, she recalls.

In 2014, he convinced Ayazbaeva that they should move to Syria to live and raise their children in an Islamic state.

The couple took their three children -- aged between 1 and 6 years -- and left Kazakhstan, telling their relatives they were going on “a family vacation.”

Within weeks, the young family arrived in Raqqa -- the main stronghold of the self-styled caliphate -- where reality struck the couple almost immediately.

Her husband was made a fighter and wouldn’t come home for days. There were near-daily air strikes that forced her and others to hide in the basement of the building she lived in, thinking, “Is it my turn to get killed?”

She said she would see “the bodies of women and children without limbs being pulled out from under the rubble after air strikes, or someone's insides coming out.”

The couple wanted to leave Syria, but they knew there was no way home anymore, as IS members would “kill anyone who wanted to flee,” she says.

And from Kazakhstan there was the bad news caused by their decision to move: Ayazbaeva’s mother suffered a stroke after she found out that her daughter had gone to Syria.

Ayazbaeva went on to have two more children in Raqqa before her husband was killed in an air strike in 2017.

She and her five children were left at the mercy of IS fighters who were increasingly losing ground to the Syrian Army and Kurdish forces.

“Then a period of big hunger began in [IS-controlled areas] in 2018. It was difficult to explain to children why we don't eat. I would make soup from grass,” she says.

Ayazbaeva and the children eventually ended up in the village of Baghuz, the last area IS still controlled. In early 2019, just weeks before the final defeat of IS in the village, Ayazbaeva made her way to a Kurdish-controlled refugee camp.

It was a turning point in her life.

New Beginnings

In the refugee camp, Ayazbaeva was told by Kurdish officials that Kazakhstan “will send a plane to take its citizens home.” Waiting for the imminent repatriation, Ayazbaeva spent only a few weeks in the camp.

“It was cold, but we now had food and there were no air strikes. Besides, it was a lot easier to endure because we knew that it’s temporary and we’re going home,” she says.

“The plane came on May 6, 2019, and took us all back to Kazakhstan,” Ayazbaeva recalls.

Ayazbaeva says she felt emotional when a Kazakh woman in "a military uniform" told her at the airport: “Let me carry your baby. You’re barely standing on your feet.”

The Kazakh government returned nearly 600 of its citizens in the so-called Operation Zhusan that took place in three stages between January and May 2019.

In a similar operation this year, the government announced on February 4 that 12 more people -- four men, one woman, and seven minors -- had been brought back from Syria.

Authorities says at least 800 Kazakh nationals had left for Syria and Iraq to join militant groups there.

Kazakh officials said in May 2020 that 31 men and 12 women from among the returnees had been jailed on terrorism-related charges after their return, while a handful of others were under investigation.

Ayazbaeva and other returnees were taken to a rehabilitation center in the city of Aqtau, where they underwent a medical checkup and were offered counseling sessions with psychologists and other specialists.

The next step was a stint at the Shans rehabilitation center in her hometown, before being told she was free to resume her normal life.

Mixed Feelings In Society

“For about two months I would still think it was just a dream,” Ayazbaeva said in one of her public speeches. “It was my dream to sleep on a soft bed, under a roof.”

As Ayazbaeva began a new chapter in her old home in Qaraghandy, her priority was to ensure her children made a smooth transition to life in Kazakhstan -- going to school, making friends, and reconnecting to grandparents and other relatives.

She hopes her children will eventually overcome the trauma they suffered in their five years in the war zone.

She lives near her parents and maintains close relationships with her late husband’s relatives, too.

"The reaction from society [toward me] was mostly positive," she says. "For example, I never heard anyone call me a terrorist. But some of my old friends are afraid of being in touch with me again."

But Kazakhstan -- a Central Asian country of some 18.5 million people that is 70 percent Muslim -- is wary of the threat of homegrown terrorists.

The government blamed Islamic extremists for deadly violence in the city of Aqtobe in 2016 when a military unit came under attack. Officials said the assault was carried out by some 20 Islamists who raided two gun stores before targeting the soldiers.

Ayazbaeva seeks to reassure society that people like her are not security threats.

“I understand that some people see us as a security time bomb, but it’s not true,” she insists. “I’ve witnessed those horrors firsthand. I understand more than anyone else that we shouldn’t follow [radical] ideas.”

Ayazbaeva says she is grateful to the Kazakh government for giving her a second chance and believes that all of the countries that have citizens stranded in Syrian camps should do the same. That topic was the focus of a speech she made at the European Parliament in 2019.

Another planned meeting in Switzerland was canceled because of the pandemic, but she continues to participate in anti-terrorism projects and gatherings at home.

Asked about religion, Ayazbaeva said she is still a practicing Muslim who goes to mosque and wears the hijab.

“I’m not disillusioned in my faith,” she says, adding that she doesn’t blame the religion for her “wrong decision to go to Syria.”

Written by Farangis Najibullah based on an interview conducted by RFE/RL correspondent Yelena Veber


‘It’s so unfair’: life on the streets of the French town branded as ‘lost to Islam’

Kim Willsher

21 Feb 2021

The HairCoiffure salon on Rue Jean Jaurès, a short walk from Trappes station, is offering a cut-and-blow-dry for women at €18 (£15.50) and €15 for men, a banal observation at the centre of the latest battle in France’s toxic debate over religious extremism.

Hairdressers and their clients hit the headlines after local teacher Didier Lemaire claimed there were no mixed salons in Trappes – suggesting the town was in the stranglehold of Islamic radicalisation. He also claimed schoolchildren were banned from singing and some women barred from cafes. Lemaire has since been placed under police protection following alleged death threats.

The accusations came on the eve French MPs voted on a controversial bill to combat Islamist extremism, put forward after the brutal murder of teacher Samuel Paty last October.

But the claims have sparked anger and indignation from locals known as Trappists – the most famous of whom are the actor Omar Sy, footballer Nicolas Anelka and popular French comedian Jamel Debbouze. In an interview with the Observer, town mayor Ali Rabeh hit back.

“We are being stigmatised,” he said. “Many of the people spreading lies, exaggerations and unjust accusations about Trappes have no idea what happens here. They have never set foot in the town.

“Yes, there are problems with drugs, delinquency and radicalisation. I have never denied that. But we’re working to resolve them and these sort of attacks don’t help. And of course our children sing: they sing in nursery, primary and secondary schools. We even have school choirs.”

Trappes, in the western suburbs of Paris near Versailles, holds a grim national record after more than 60 local young people left to join Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, making it a soft target in this political and ideological conflict.

It is also in the Yvelines department where Paty was beheaded last October. So when philosophy professor Lemaire, 55, claimed the town was under the yoke of Salafism and “definitively lost” to the republic, he had a captive audience. “There are no more mixed hairdressers, north African women can no longer go to cafés, there’s pressure on women over the veil … Trappes is no longer in France,” Lemaire told French TV. He claimed locals were “living in fear” and laicité – France’s cherished separation of religion and state – was defeated. (Lemaire later admitted his comments on hairdressers were “approximative” but doubled down on the rest).

Rabeh, 36, the son of Moroccan migrants, responded angrily, accusing Lemaire and the media who gave him airtime of stoking division and making life even more complicated for locals. “Young people taking the baccalauréat this year tell me they’re worried sick about how they’re going to get places at good colleges and universities when they say they’re from Trappes,” Rabeh said. “It’s so unfair on them. It’s as if every single time we get our head out of water, someone pushes us back under.” Like Lemaire, Rabeh has also been given police protection.

On a chilly recent Friday, the snow-dusted streets of Trappes were calm. On one side of town, a cluster of men drank outside a bar near the station, on the other worshippers clutching prayer mats streamed from the local mosque. Yards from the Lycée La Plaine de Neauphle where Lemaire taught for 20 years, the window of another hairdressers, Saint Lou Coiffure, was clearly marked “Masculin – Feminin”. The town boasts a modern music and dance school, with subsidised classes for low-income families; the Trappes magazine carries pictures of December’s “Magic of Christmas” illuminations.

Inside the town hall, Rabeh was fuming: “We know there is a problem with Islamism here but we have made progress. We are working to resolve these problems and someone comes along and attacks us with lies, exaggerations and unjust accusations. Sometimes I despair.”

He added: “Would a mayor with a different name be faced with this? Trappes is part of the French republic. It’s absolutely untrue to suggest otherwise.”

It would be easy to dismiss Trappes as yet another rundown, problem-riddled Paris suburb were it not for the fact that it has benefited from a vast urban renewal programme. Most of its dilapidated 1970s high-rise tower blocks have been demolished and the council estates renovated. More mixed private and public housing with flower beds and children’s playgrounds are gradually replacing low-rent housing. The streets are clean, local facilities modernised and Lemaire’s own lycée boasts the best results in the department. Unemployment is running at 5.6% of the active population – half of whom are under 30 – compared with 6.7% for Paris.

The picture is not all rosy, though: more than a quarter of Trappists live under the poverty line and Rabeh says the Islamic radicalisation problem is “complex” and fuelled by a sense that the republic has abandoned local communities like Trappes.

When a TV crew made an unannounced visit locals crowded round to defend their town. Jacques Michelet who runs the Trappes basketball club rejected the suggestion it had been abandoned to Islamic extremism: “We’ve seen all ideologies, we’ve seen extremists and not just Islamists … but it’s a marginal phenomenon in Trappes.”

Father Etienne Guillet, the local Catholic priest, contested Lemaire’s suggestion that non-Muslim inhabitants have fled. His congregation boasts up to 700 people from 45 different countries. “When there are tensions, I meet with the local imams and we sort things out,” said Guillet. “It’s not easy for everyone to live together and there ’s always the temptation for communities to withdraw, but what I see in this town is things going well.”

Rabeh said last week he was stepping back from the row, posting a quote by French socialist leader Jean Jaurès, whose statue stands outside Trappes town hall, on social media. It reads: “Courage is to seek the truth and tell it; it is not to be subjected to the law of the triumphant lie that passes, and not to echo, from our soul, mouth and hands to foolish applause and fanatical booing.”

• This article was amended on 21 February 2021 to correct an error introduced during editing which resulted in Ali Rabeh’s name being misspelled.





Adityanath raises ‘love jihad’ and Sabarimala issues to hit out at Kerala govt

FEB 22, 2021

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath on Sunday invoked “love jihad” and the Sabarimala temple issues to attack the ruling CPI(M) and the Opposition Congress and said both were in a race to implement appeasement politics in the state.

Inaugurating the ‘Vijay Yatra’ led by state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president, K Surendran in north Kerala’s Kasaragod ahead of the assembly elections, the UP CM said that in 2009 when the Kerala high court sought action against love jihad both [the parties] were in a hurry to deny it. “Love jihad was a move to establish Islamic State. When the high court ordered the police to investigate it in 2009 both parties denied it and supported such elements. Appeasement politics was carving Kerala and the BJP will put an end to it. The high court had said love jihad will turn Kerala into an Islamic republic. But the government was sleeping and encouraging these elements. Now many state governments have enacted law to contain the scourge.”

He also criticised the government’s handling of the Sabarimala temple issue. “The government had hurt feelings of believers. I laud BJP workers who stood with devotees. While the state government was trying to destroy Sabarimala; in Uttar Pradesh, we are building a temple...,” he said.

Reacting to UP CM’s statements, CPI(M) leader A Anandan said it did not need a certificate from a leader who always spewed communal venom. “He made such statements earlier too. We don’t expect anything else from him. His utterances will not polarise people here.”


Emperor Aurangzeb broke process of establishing Hindu-Muslim unity: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat


21 February, 2021

New Delhi: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat Sunday said the country was in need of “intellectual warriors” who can introduce it to the rest of the world from “India’s perspective”.

Bhagwat said foreign invaders have broken centres of unity and religious faith in India. “They demolished our thousands of years of education and economy, and imposed their own systems. Therefore, we do not think of becoming a master but a servant,” he said.

The RSS chief was attending an event to release a book titled Aitihasik Kaalgana: Ek Bhartiya Vivechan by Ravi Shankar, director of the Centre for Civilisational Studies in Delhi. The book raises a number of questions on Indian historiography.

“Those who came to India tried to understand ‘Bharat’ through a westernised manner but they could not understand the diversity of ‘Bharat’, its languages, traditions, culture, etc. Though for us there was never a problem in understanding it,” he said.

He also said to rule over Indians, the foreign forces broke the ancient systems of knowledge. “Whether it was education, economy. They replaced it with their own systems, they cut us off from our own languages. They imposed their own definitions there in place of it.

“The system which is in place today to keep the nation united, even that system is abused, to show ourselves as different. This mentality, this limited vision through which we see things, we will have to rid ourselves of that,” he added.

“The first aggressive powers came to India for wealth. But all of them became part of us. Later, Islam came in a different form. Its sense was that whoever is like us, will remain and those who are not like us do not have the right to live. For this, our cultural symbols were broken. The fight lasted for a long time,” he said.

“But fighting is also the cause of a relationship. As a result, the aggressors also started being influenced by the Indian cultural tradition. The process of harmony began, in which people like (Mughal prince) Dara Shikoh, who read, knew, translated the Vedas,” he added.

However, this was not “amenable” to people who believed in invasion, Bhagwat said, and added how Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb broke the process of establishing unity with Muslims. “What Aurangzeb did was to create a feeling of separatism among the Muslims of this country and steer them away from the path of unity.

“This is done even today. The only difference is that there is no foreigner here today. Everyone is a descendant of Bharatiyas and Hindus. But if they are aware of this, then this would end the business of those who try and create differences for political interest. To ensure those businesses flourish that’s why these attempts are made over time. But there is no need to be scared of such attempts,” he added.

Citing Mahatma Gandhi’s example, Bhagwat said India will soon awaken with more energy and illuminate the world. “Gandhiji had said that Hindutva is the name of continuous research for truth, but the Hindu society is tired of doing all this work. That is the reason for its bad time. But whenever it will wake up, it will awaken with more energy than before and also illuminate the whole world.”

He, however, had a word of caution. “But what is a cause of concern is that we should not forget (our knowledge system).”

Bhagwat said at a later stage came the attack of Islam whose aim was to destroy other beliefs. He further added that the British would have faced the same fate as the Islamic attackers. But they realised that the knowledge structure of India will come in the way of their invasion, which is why they “demolished” the knowledge structures.

“That’s why to break our unity they broke our administration, our education, forced their own definitions on us,” he said.

‘Everyone wants to associate oneself with India’

Recounting the glorious past of India, Bhagwat said there was a competition to associate oneself with India, in some way or the other.

“A person like Hitler called himself Aryan because Arya (Bhartiya Aryan) was a respected word in ‘Bharat’. And he stressed how they were the reputed Aryans. Though there was no link at all, he did it for his political interests and selfish reasons,” Bhagwat said.

Bhagwat rued the fact that Indians today struggle to think in their own languages. “They called our system of proof backward and brought in their own system. Today, we can’t think in our own language and on the basis of our own arguments. This is the situation of our scholars today too because they have cut down the base for studying knowledge,” he added.

Commenting on the feeling of “inferiority complex” visible among Indians, Bhagwat said, “We got this feeling that we don’t have anything. Our ancestors never achieved any wealth or anything good. Whatever was done was by the British. The impact of the material in our genes is that we can become good ‘sevak‘ but for becoming a master someone will have to come constantly. At the most, we change our masters but we can never become masters.

“Even today, we have got such a clear proof. No one has come from outside in this country. For the past 40,000 years, all those who have been living in ‘Bharat’ are the same. Our genetic lineage has been going on since then. We are all from here and there is such clear proof but even then these things don’t leave our minds because those things have been cut off from our minds through which we knew those things. Hence, there is a need to remove the barrier of foreign influence and think without it,” he added.


Terrorist groups, their handlers trying to shift focus from Kashmir valley to Jammu: Jitendra Singh

21st February 2021

NEW DELHI: Terrorist groups and their handlers were trying to shift the focus from Kashmir valley to the Jammu region, Union Minister Jitendra Singh said on Saturday.

He called for the "highest level of vigil" on the part of the security forces and alertness among the general public in the wake of these developments.

This and other issues were discussed during a meeting between Jammu and Kashmir's Director General of Police (DGP) Dilbag Singh and the minister during their meeting here, officials said.

The police chief also briefed the minister about the security situation in the Union Territory.

Jitendra Singh said that the security forces had earned all-round appreciation for the way they had thwarted some major terror incidents in Jammu recently.

He, however, noted the "recent phenomenon" of terrorist groups and their handlers trying to shift the focus from Kashmir valley to the Jammu region including the Jammu city, the officials said.

This calls for the highest level of vigil on the part of the security forces and at the same time, alertness and awareness among the general public, Singh said.

The Minister of State for Personnel conveyed his appreciation for some of the major recent breakthroughs and achievements of the Jammu and Kashmir police and the par-military forces.

At the same time, he expressed concern over the selective terrorist attacks like the one on the son of the owner of popular Krishna Dhaba in Srinagar.

The DGP informed the minister that within 24 hours all the three culprits, including the shooter involved in the attack on the Krishna Dhaba proprietor, have been nabbed.

Aakash Mehra, the son of the Dhaba owner, was shot at from a close range and critically wounded on Wednesday evening.

The Muslim Janbaz Force, a terror outfit that was active in the early 1990s, had claimed responsibility for the attack.

Dilbagh Singh thanked the minister for his support in expediting at the Centre the process of the promotion of IPS officers of J-K.

He also sought the minister's intervention for ensuring early and expeditious completion of the induction of officers of the Jammu Kashmir Police Service (JKPS) into the IPS.

Jitendra Singh assured the DGP of the Centre's full cooperation in carrying out timely empanelments and induction.

Unfortunately, he said, the delay had happened on account of irregular cadre reviews done by the erstwhile state government of Jammu & Kashmir.

Singh recalled that even the induction of Jammu & Kashmir Administration Service (KAS) officers into IAS as well as the increase in the number of vacancies could not take place in time even though he, as well as the Union Secretary of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), had in the past repeatedly written letters to the then state government.

The minister regretted that in some cases even the toppers in civil services selection hailing from Jammu and Kashmir could not get their home state or Union Territory cadre because of the absence of vacancies.

He expressed confidence that under the Lieutenant Governor's rule, it would be possible to address all these issues which had accumulated during the earlier governments.


Muslims lend support to farmers, pray at Jind site

Feb 22, 2021

Jind: Members of the Muslim community reached Khatkar toll plaza on Sunday to extend their support to farmers protesting against the three contentious farm laws. They also donated Rs 21,000 to farmers. After announcing their support, they offered Namaz at the toll plaza.

Welcoming the group, farmers provided them space near the dharna site for Namaz. Muslim community members assured the farmers of support till their demands were met. During the protest on Sunday, farmers raised the slogan, “Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Isaai, Bharat ke char sipaahi.”

BKU Jind district president Azad Singh Palwal said, “The BJP government has shattered our fraternity with Muslims in the name of Covid-19 and other issues. Muslims also have equal rights in this country, which were being pushed back by the saffron party by playing a politics of divide and rule. But now every religion and community has come together to fight against the three farm laws. ”

Firoj Khan from Safa Kheri village said, “The government may try to split the agitation by hatching a conspiracy, therefore, farmers need to be alert. Muslim community is standing firmly by the farmers. ”





Pakistani Christians arrested for promoting Christianity

Kamran Chaudhry

February 22, 2021

Activists are demanding the release of two Pakistani Christians recently arrested for preaching the gospel to young Muslims in Lahore.

Muslim student Haroon Ahmad filed a first information report on Feb. 13 against Haroon Masih and Salamat Masih accusing them of insulting Islam.

“We were in the Model Town park when Haroon gave me a book titled The Water of Life. Both of them deliberately started preaching the Christian religion. During this they started blasphemy in front of my three friends and other people,” Ahmad stated.

“He said that Prophet Muhammad is stray and the Bible is a protected book while the Quran is not. The accused are terrorizing the country. The organized group who published and printed this book must be arrested.”

Journalist and human rights defender Marvi Sirmed denied Ahmad’s claim.

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“Haroon and Salamat told this guy that they weren't preaching to anyone and were quietly reading their own sacred book. The Muslims are getting more and more aggressive,” she tweeted.

“Punjab’s government must act sensibly. For a change, support the weaker minority community here and make every possible arrangement to prevent violence against Christians of Lahore.”

Haroon Masih has obtained provisional bail but police at Model Town police station denied knowing the whereabouts of Salamat Masih. Their hearing is scheduled for Feb. 24.

Anjum James Paul, chairperson of the Pakistan Minorities Teachers' Association, visited Model Town police station on Feb. 21.

“Article 20 of Pakistan’s constitution guarantees freedom to every citizen to profess, practice and propagate his religion. It is discrimination to stop propagation of one specific religion. We demand our right of religious freedom as equal citizens,” he said.

Blasphemy is a highly sensitive issue in deeply conservative Pakistan where mere allegations have led to extrajudicial killings and mob violence.

Catholic groups and human rights campaigners have long sought the repeal of draconian blasphemy laws, arguing they are used to victimize religious minorities or settle personal scores

Last month Christian nurse Tabitha Nazir Gill was slapped and stripped for alleged blasphemy at a hospital in Karachi where she had worked for nine years. Gill, a gospel singer, is now living in hiding with her family.


US urged to play role for peace dialogue between Pakistan and India

Anwar Iqbal

February 22, 2021

WASHINGTON: Pakistan has urged the United States to play its role in persuading India to engage with Islamabad for bringing peace and stability to the South Asian region.

“Pakistan is committed to a peaceful neighbourhood, the onus is now on India to create the right conditions,” said the country’s US envoy, Asad Majeed Khan. “We urge the US to play its role.”

Addressing an online forum of a Washington think-tank, Stimson Centre, this weekend, Ambassador Khan also suggested that the new Biden administration should consult the Taliban on any Afghan pullout delay.

Appreciating the Pakistani American community’s contribution to strengthening the national economy, the Pakistani envoy said that the community could also play a key role in improving US-Pakistan ties.

A State Bank report released this week noted that workers’ remittances from the United States to Pakistan reached an unprecedented $1.4078 billion during the last seven months, from July 2020 to January 2021. This is a 45.8 per cent increase from the same period last year.

“We have made repeated gestures and overtures for peace,” said Ambassador Khan while responding to a question about rebuilding the India and Pakistan relationship.

The ambassador recalled that in February 2019, Indian troops were attacked in Pulwama in the occupied Kashmir, which New Delhi tried to blame on elements within Pakistan.

“We challenged the Indian narrative of there being a camp of 300 terrorists. We maintained that this was being done by a government which had gained political mileage by punching Pakistan,” he said.

“We said that they were doing so because Prime Minister Narendra Modi wanted to go to election,” said the Pakistani envoy while explaining how India exploited the attack to merge the occupied territories.

The manipulation allowed Mr Modi to win the election and despite concerns, Prime Minister Imran Khan made that overture of dialogue and peace, Mr Khan said. But the Indians “went and did the Aug 5 unilateral action, followed by a series of other actions,” he said.

“Now, in that backdrop, I don’t know if Pakistan can engage in any relationship with India, let alone building a trade relationship,” said the Pakistani envoy when a participant urged Islamabad to enhance bilateral trade with India.

“For us to have a normal trade relationship, for us to have a normal political relationship, it is really important that India first of all reverses those unilateral actions and then resumes dialogue with the intention of resolving not just Kashmir but all other disputes,” Ambassador Khan said.

“And then we can work for resolving our economic, trade and investment challenges.”

Mr Khan asked the Biden administration to make a new approach to deal with “a new and transformed Pakistan.”

He said that this was a Pakistan which “launched a very successful and determined counter-terrorism effort,” that was “clearly visible” not only in a remarkably improved domestic security situation, but also in counter-terrorism operations “on our border with Afghanistan.”

This change, he said, would be better appreciated by those who had experienced and seen the situation in the past. “So, the present Biden team will definitely be in a better position to appreciate what has changed on the ground as compared to anyone else who had not seen this before,” he added.

“I say this because I have been a part of these conversations with the Obama administration where a number of senior officials in the new administration also held very important positions,” the ambassador said.

One example of the changes that had happened since the Obama days, Mr Khan said, was Fata’s merger with KP.

“The way we have cleared those tribal agencies, building up border fences, integrating Fata into mainstream Pakistan, going after terrorists and proscribed entities. That’s the first reality that they will have to realise, recognise and appreciate,” the ambassador said.


To avoid clash with India, Sri Lanka cancels Imran Khan's speech in Parliament

Feb 22, 2021

COLOMBO: In an effort to avoid confrontation with India, Sri Lanka has cancelled a scheduled speech of Prime Minister Imran Khan in Parliament.

According to a report titled 'Sri Lanka avoids clash with India by cancelling Khan's Parliament speech' by Dar Javed published in Colombo Gazette, the Colombo government cannot risk its relations with India when it is getting stuck in the Chinese debt-trap and India being the saviour for the world for distributing Covid-19 vaccines.

India has recently gifted 5 lakh doses of Covishield vaccines to Sri Lanka.

In past recent months, there have been anti-Muslim sentiments in Sri Lanka as Buddhist people have been protesting on issues such as animal sacrifices in mosques.

It is expected that Imran Khan would have used the Muslim card during his visit to Sri Lanka. He had played the same card during his visit to Afghanistan last year.

Javed said that the Pakistan Prime Minister in 2012 had supported the Taliban saying the terror activities were "holy war" that is justified by Islamic law. "He has used the United Nations General Assembly to rake up Muslim cause, which has often been perceived as interference in the internal matters of the other countries. In October 2020, he urged the Muslim-majority countries to protest after French President Emmanuel Macron expressed concerns over the murder of a teacher by an Islamist radical. He wrote to the leaders of Muslim-majority countries 'to counter the growing Islamophobia in non-Muslim states'," the author stated.

Looking at the past incidents, it is evident that "giving him (Imran Khan) a platform like Parliament to speak would be like to dice with death".

He would use the platform to make statements that will have "serious ramifications" for both the Buddhist people of Sri Lanka and the Rajapaksa government at the international level.

"The way Imran Khan responded to the requests of Sri Lankan Muslim leader's requests; it had become clear that he would rake up minority abuse issue during Parliament speech," Javed pointed.

Earlier, Rishad Bathiudeen, leader of the All-Ceylon Makkal Congress, had urged the Pakistan government to intervene in the matter of forced cremation policy of the Sri Lankan government for people who died due to COVID-19. The Prime Minister publicly remarked on the issue of the burial of dead bodies in Sri Lanka.

While Imran Khan seems eager to raise the issue of the treatment of Muslims in other countries, the United Nations' Commission on the Status of Women report had stated that the religious freedom in the country has continued to deteriorate.

The commission further noted that the minorities in Pakistan are treated as second-class citizens. Besides, several Buddhist heritage sites in Pakistan were recently demolished.

After Organisation of Islamic Cooperation refused to take up Pakistan's proposal to entertain the Kashmir issue, Imran Khan has become desperate to get support from the Muslim countries and portray himself as the champion of the Muslim world.

Amid this, the refusal of the Buddhist populated country to give a platform to Imran Khan in the Parliament has left the Prime Minister red-faced and frustrated.


Pakistan unlikely to exit ‘grey list' as FATF meets to decide its fate: Report

Feb 21, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is unlikely to exit the 'grey list' of the FATF as some European countries have taken the stand that Islamabad has not fully implemented all the points of a plan of action set by it, a media report said on Sunday, on the eve of the plenary meeting of the global watchdog for money laundering and terror financing.

The Paris-based Financial Action Task Force had placed Pakistan on the grey list in June 2018 and asked Islamabad to implement a plan of action to curb money laundering and terror financing by the end of 2019 but the deadline was extended later on due to Covid-19 pandemic.

The virtual FATF plenary will be held in Paris from February 22 to 25 to consider cases of various countries on the grey list, including Pakistan, and a decision will be made at the conclusion of the meetings, Dawn newspaper reported.

In the last plenary held in October 2020, the FATF concluded that Pakistan will continue in its “grey list” till February 2021 as it has failed to fulfil six out of 27 obligations of the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog that include failure to take action against two of India's most wanted terrorists – Jaish-e Muhammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar and Jamaat-ud-Dawah head Hafiz Saeed.

Azhar and Saeed are most wanted terrorists in India for their involvement in numerous terrorist acts, including 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks and bombing of a CRPF bus at Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir last year.

An official source close to these developments told the paper on Saturday that Pakistan had complied with the six recommendations and also submitted details to the FATF secretariat.

The members would now evaluate Pakistan's responses during the meeting, the source said, adding that the decision would be taken after a consensus among the members.

The paper, quoting a journalist covering the FATF, said that some European countries, especially the host France, had recommended to the FATF to continue to keep Pakistan on the grey list and had taken the position that not all points had been fully implemented by Islamabad.

Other European countries are also supporting France, he said.

France was not happy with the recent response of Islamabad on the cartoon issue, he said.

Pakistan has not even posted a regular ambassador in Paris, he said, adding that diplomatic and economic relations between the two countries were not up to the mark.

The US has also expressed concern over the acquittal the accused in American journalist Daniel Pearl's kidnapping and murder case.

It is feared that the US may also lobby for continuation of Islamabad on the grey list at least until June this year.

Pakistan's Supreme Court last month ordered release of British-born al-Qaeda terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and his three aides in the 2002 Pearl murder case, a judgment denounced by the American journalist's family as "a complete travesty of justice.".

An official, who is not willing to be quoted, told the paper that Pakistan had submitted a compliance report to the FATF.

“We can't say what will be their response to it; let's wait for the day,” he said.

The official said Pakistan had already done major legislation regarding punishment of terror financing, which was around one year in the old legislation.

In October 2020, Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar, who is the government's point man on the FATF, announced that Pakistan had made progress across all action plan items and had now largely addressed 21 of the 27 action items.

When the minister was approached for comments on the implementation status of the remaining six recommendations, he said he would make no comment until the plenary was over.

“There is a strict confidentiality rule,” he said.

With Pakistan's continuation in the 'grey' list, it is increasingly becoming difficult for Islamabad to get financial aid from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the European Union, thus further enhancing problems for the debt-ridden nation which is in a precarious financial situation.


Pakistan dubs France's anti-Muslim bill discriminatory

Aamir Latif  


KARACHI, Pakistan

Pakistan's President Arif Alvi urged France on Saturday to desist from entrenching "discriminatory attitudes" against Muslims into laws aimed at fighting so-called extremism.

Paris needs to bring people together instead of stamping Islam in a certain manner to create "disharmony and bias," said Alvi, according to state-run Radio Pakistan.

Alvi was referring to a controversial bill introduced by French President Emmanuel Macron last year to fight so-called "Islamist separatism."

Addressing a seminar on religious freedom and minorities’ rights in Islamabad, he said Pakistan communicated to the West that blasphemy of Prophet Muhammad in the name of so-called freedom of expression is considered an insult to the entire Muslim community.

The bill is being criticized because it targets the Muslim community and imposes restrictions on almost every aspect of their lives.

It provides for intervening in mosques and associations responsible for the administration of mosques, as well as controlling the finances of associations and non-governmental organizations belonging to Muslims.

It restricts the education choices of the Muslim community by preventing families from giving children home education.

The bill also prohibits patients from choosing doctors based on gender for religious or other reasons and makes compulsory "secularism education" for all public officials.


Rights Group Condemn Threats To Sexually Abused Christian Minor Boy In Pakistan

22 February, 2021

Nankana Sahib [Pakistan], February 22 (ANI): The family of a 10-year-old Christian boy, who was sexually abused and sodomised by some locals in the Nankana Sahib area, is facing threats to either leave the area or embrace Islam.

While condemning the threats to the family of the victim, Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP) president Naveed Walter said, "Child abuse is a most serious issue of Pakistan. Often the accused are known to the victims".

He further said that on average about eight to ten children are subjected to sexual abuse every day.

Walter pointed out that social taboos, lack of awareness, culprit's easy access, absence of interaction between the guardians and their children and religious or personal conflicts are among several reasons for such incidents not being reported.

Last year, the Christian boy was reported to have been sexually abused and sodomised by some locals due to some religious conflict among the elders.

On September 26 last year, an FIR was filed but till now no action has been taken by authorities.

The family has informed the HRFP that since the incident, they are being pressurised to either leave the area or embrace Islam. (ANI)


Clerics urge govt to fully implement NAP

Sher Ali Khalti

February 22, 2021

LAHORE: Clerics and representatives of different political organisations and religious schools of thought have called on the government to fully implement the National Action Plan (NAP) and ensure legislation on the draft of 'Paigham-e-Pakistan'.

While addressing Ulema-Mashaykh Convention, which held in Faisalabad here on Sunday under the aegis of Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC), clerics and representatives of different religious schools of thought stated that government had represented emotions of Muslim Ummah on the issue of Namoos-e-Risalat and on the belief in the finality of Prophethood (PBUH). Pakistan Ulema Council Chairman Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi and Special Representative to Prime Minister on Religious Harmony presided over the Ulema-Mashaykh Convention.

The clerics lauded role of the government stating that the ruling government has been playing a responsible role for protection of Masajid and madaris, adding that endeavours are being made to restraint misuse of blasphemy law in the country, which is very imperative.

The clerics also stated that Prime Minister Imran Khan has represented the emotions and whims of entire Muslim Ummah on the issues of Namoos-e-Risalat and belief in the Finality of Prophethood (PBUH).

Religious scholars of different religious schools of thought, while addressing Ulema-Mashaykh Convention, also underlined that mosques and madaris will not become part of any confrontational movement, which aim at fanning chaos and anarchy in the country.

The clerics also urged on political organisations of ruling party and opposition parties to settle their differences amicably through peaceful negotiations without resorting to agitational politics.

Islam and the Constitution of Pakistan are the guardians of the rights of minorities, and incumbent government is making efforts at every level to solve the problems of minorities, said clerics and religious scholars.

The clerics also stated that good news will be made soon regarding the Evacuee Trust Properties Amendment Bill. The clerics also announced that during the month of March, Stability of Pakistan and Ulema-Mashaykh conferences and seminars will be held across the country.

Among keynote religious scholars present at Ulema-Mashaykh Convention include, Maulana Muhammad Rafiq Jami, Maulana Obaidullah Gormani, Maulana Haq Nawaz Khalid, Allama Tahir-ul-Hassan, Maulana Tahir Aqeel Awan, Maulana Muhammad Ashfaq Pataf, Maulana Habibur Rehman Abid, Allama Ghulam Akbar Saqi, Maulana Muzammil Hussain, Maulana Hanif Bhatti, Maulana Nasrullah, Maulana Aminul Haq Ashrafi, Allama Ismatullah Muawiyah, Maulana Izharul Haq, Mian Irshad Mujahid, Maulana Aqeel Rehman Zubair, Maulana Abdul Rauf, Maulana Tanveer Chauhan, Hamza Tahir-ul-Hassan, Maulana Saqib Munir, Maulana Saadullah Ludhianvi, Maulana Shoaib Bukhari, Maulana Yasir Alvi, Hafiz Kifayatullah, Qari Abu Bakr Siddiq Usmani, Qari Usman, Maulana Nawas, Maulana Adnan Abbasi, Maulana Obaid-ur-Rehman, Qari Ashiq Elahi and Others.

The religious scholars, while addressing the convention, stated that every Muslim is a guardian of the belief in the finality of Prophethood and Namoos-e-Risalat. They added that the anti-Pakistan forces are trying to create discord and confrontation among different religious schools of thought in the country.

The clerics stated that all the religious schools of thought and religious sects should deemed respect for one another. Strict action should be taken in accordance of NAP against all those elements making violation of the draft of 'Paigham-e-Pakistan' and those violating the Unified Code of Conduct.

Addressing the convention, Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi said that the state of Pakistan will not allow any group or sect to promote and patronise hateful speech in the country.

Elements, who used to target Blasphemy Law, are raising the names of Namoos-e-Risalat and Belief in the Finality of Prophethood (PBUH) for their political objectives. Today, Masajid and madaris are safer than in previous governments, said Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, adding that problems of seminaries relating registration, bank accounts and their following renewal have been resolved. New examination boards for madaris will strengthen these madaris and reinforce their respective educational mechanism. "We ensured protection of mosques and madaris in the past and will continue to do so today", said Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi.

"Some people are trying to create fear in madaris", Ashrafi said, adding that there would be no change in the religious curriculum of madaris. No one can and will take away the freedom and autonomy of madaris, said Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi.

In another resolution, the clerics and participants of Ulema-Mashaykh Convention strongly condemned the continuous attacks of Houthi rebels on Saudi Arabia and said that the security, stability and defence of the Harmain Al-Sharifain is dear to every Muslim.

It was announced in the convention that Ulema-Mashaykh conventions will also be held in different cities across Pakistan as per following schedule, February 24 in Islamabad, February 28 in Lahore, March 08 in Sargodha and March 16-17 in Karachi.



South Asia


Roadside bomb explosions in Afghanistan kill three, wound 20

21 February 2021

Two separate roadside bomb explosions have killed at least three people including a child and wounded 20 others in Afghanistan as several parts of the war-ravaged country continue to contend with rising violence.

In the first attack, a roadside bomb blast on Sunday targeted a police car in the capital Kabul, killing the driver and a nearby child as well as wounding five other civilians.

The second explosion was caused by a bomb placed in a crowded market in southern Helmand province, killing one civilian and wounding 15 others including two policemen.

The attacks come a day after at least five people were killed after several explosions rocked Kabul Saturday morning

The majority of bomb attacks in the capital Kabul in recent months have been sticky bombs — explosive devices with magnets that are attached to vehicles and detonated by remote control or timer.

Kabul and other major Afghan cities have seen a series of attacks and targeted killings against members of security forces, judges, government officials, civil society activists and journalists in recent weeks.

Afghan and US officials have blamed the string of assassinations on the Taliban militants.

The Afghan government earlier announced  that it arrested members of a militant group behind making and deploying sticky bombs in Kabul and elsewhere across the war-ravaged country.

The developments come as both local security forces and the Taliban are preparing for fresh fighting in the spring.

The surge in violence comes despite the Afghan government and the Taliban negotiating to find an end to years of bloodshed in the country.

The US along with its NATO allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001 under the guise of fighting terrorism and dismantling the Taliban.

The invasion — which has turned into the longest war in US history — removed the Taliban from power, but the militant group has never stopped its attacks, citing the foreign military presence as one of the main reasons behind its continued militancy.

Nearly two decades after the invasion, Washington struck a deal with the Taliban in the Qatari capital of Doha early last year.

Under the deal, all foreign troops were expected to leave Afghan soil by May in exchange for the Taliban to halt their attacks on American forces.

NATO defense ministers on Thursday met in Brussels to discuss the possibility of staying in Afghanistan beyond the May withdrawal deadline agreed between the Taliban militant group and the United States under the administration of former US president Donald Trump.

The former White House tenant reached the accord in February 2020, under which the US and its NATO allies are expected to withdraw all troops in 14 months in exchange for the Taliban to halt attacks on foreign forces.

The administration of President Joe Biden says it is reviewing whether to stick to a looming May 1 deadline to withdraw or risk a acklash from the Taliban.


UN agency seeks help to find Rohingya boat adrift at sea

FEBRUARY 22, 2021

The vessel departed from Cox’s Bazar and Teknaf in Bangladesh 10 days ago and has been adrift for over a week after the engine broke down

A broken-down boat carrying ethnic Muslim Rohingya is believed to drifting in the Andaman Sea with some of them already dying from lack of food and water, the U.N. refugee agency said on Monday, appealing to Southeast Asian governments to rescue them.

The vessel departed from Cox’s Bazar and Teknaf in Bangladesh 10 days ago and has been adrift for over a week after the engine broke down, the U.N. High Commission For Refugees said. It could not confirm the number of people or the location of the boat, but said the refugees reported the vessel ran out of food and water several days ago.

“Many are in a highly vulnerable condition and are apparently suffering from extreme dehydration. We understand that a number of refugees have already lost their lives, and that fatalities have risen over the past 24 hours," UNHCR director for Asia and the Pacific, Indrika Ratwatte, said in a statement.

UNHCR said it had alerted authorities in states surrounding the Andaman Sea and appealed for help to find the vessel and disembark the refugees. It said it is ready to provide humanitarian assistance and quarantine measures if the boat is found.

“The fact that refugees and migrants continue to undertake fatal journeys accentuates the need for immediate and collective regional response to search, rescue and disembarkation," it added.

More than a million Rohingya who fled waves of violent persecution in Myanmar are living in overcrowded, squalid refugee camps in Bangladesh.

Muslim-dominated Malaysia has been a common destination of boats arranged by traffickers who promise the refugees a better life abroad.


Many killed, wounded in Kabul, Helmand Explosions

21 Feb 2021

A police ranger-type vehicle was targeted by an explosion in Baraki square PD4 of Kabul city.

According to police, the incident occurred at around 4:22 pm local time on Sunday.

“Terrorists” detonated a roadside bomb in the area, police told media.

Kabul police stated at least two people including a child worker were killed and five others were wounded in the blast.

A woman and two of her children are also among the wounded individuals.

Meanwhile, an explosion in Lashkargah left one person dead and 10 others wounded in southern Helmand province.

In another incident, Police chief of PD5 was targeted in an roadside bomb blast, he has reportedly survived but a civilian was wounded in the attack.

No group or individual so far claimed responsibility for the attacks.

This comes as National Security Council on Sunday said US-Taliban Taliban deal did not lead to an end to war and bloodshed.

Rahmatullah Andar NSC spokesman tweeted that there were no necessary consultations conducted with the Afghan government during the US-Taliban deal.

The accord to end the long-term war in war-weary Afghanistan was not effective.

Andar said the agreement was not effective and could not stop bloodshed and war and did not put an end to the “dark days for Afghans”.

Security forces have set the protection of Afghanistan their first priority and it is their responsibility to look at matters like peace, war, and other related aspects.



Southeast Asia


PAS non-Muslim wing leader quits, cites inability to raise Indian issues

February 21, 2021

PETALING JAYA: A senior member of PAS’ non-Muslim wing has quit all posts, citing his inability to raise issues related to non-Muslims, particularly the Indian community, with the Islamist party’s leadership.

In a statement, PAS Supporters Assembly (DHPP) secretary S Barathidasan said he actually resigned from all posts, including as the Federal Territories DHPP chief, effective Dec 31 last year.

However, he said the pandemic led to many DHPP meetings being postponed and that it was only after the meeting this morning that his resignation was accepted.

Barathidasan said there were “internal issues” in the DHPP which could not be resolved to the point that he could not bring out the voices of the non-Muslims, especially the Indian community.

“So it is pointless if I cannot carry out my duties and responsibilities to the community. This forced me to resign from all my posts with immediate effect.”

He said he will decide on his political future soon as his struggle for the people and nation was not over.


Ahmad Zahid: Democracy in Malaysia dead after govt suspended Parliament

22 Feb 2021


KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 22 — Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi described the Malaysian democracy as being wrapped in a shroud (kain kafan, used in Muslim burial), and labelled the system as now being dead.

The Bagan Datuk MP said that this was following the government’s decision to suspend Parliament, citing the Emergency Proclamation which was enforced owing to the worsening Covid-19 situation here.

“The voice of the Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker (Azalina Othman Said) was not hers alone but represented all of us.

“What she wrote in her letter to the attorney general was not only about the law and politics but represented the people’s voice,” Zahid said in an interview with Malaysia Post last night.

Zahid was referring to Azalina’s letter to Attorney General Tan Sri Idrus Harun, in which she complained that Parliament had been undermined during the Emergency, which came into effect on January 11.

She also expressed bewilderment that the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) had advised the government to disallow proceedings for all parliamentary committees, even if they were held virtually.

The Pengerang MP also questioned why the country has refused to employ means to facilitate Parliament sittings like other countries, such as reducing the number of MPs present, having flexible sitting hours, and broadcasting the House’s proceedings.

In the letter, Azalina also suggested that the current Cabinet be suspended and replaced with an Emergency Cabinet that would have only limited powers until the Emergency is lifted on August 1.

During the interview, Zahid also reportedly said that despite him being a government backbencher, he still needs to speak up for the people.

“MPs should be in Parliament to represent the people’s voice, but when democracy had been laid to rest, will the people’s voice be silenced?

“Why can’t Parliament sit when night markets and shopping malls can open?

“Are MPs more at risk (in Parliament) than when visiting the night market?” the Bagan Datuk MP asked.

Zahid also sarcastically “congratulated” the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government as new Covid-19 cases remained high, regardless of the current state of Emergency and the movement control order (MCO) being enforced, coupled with various standard operating procedures (SOPs) put in place.

“There are estimates that cases could reach 20,000 a day in March. It is indeed a good achievement and major success for our country.

“Surely the emergency should be extended as it is intended for the pandemic. It gives a reason for the emergency to be extended,” he was quoted saying.

During the interview. Zahid also said that Umno is committed to seeing the voting age lowered from 21 to 18, even though some within Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) were now wavering on this.

Last week, Umno information chief Shahril Hamdan said the government should not change its stand on lowering the voting age to 18, which was passed unanimously by the Parliament in 2019.

On Twitter, Shahril said 18-year-olds must be given a chance to vote since the debate was already settled ahead of the constitutional amendment made that year.

Shahril was commenting on the recent controversy in which a Youth wing leader from a Perikatan Nasional (PN) party reportedly said “Malays are not ready for Undi18.”


Mukhriz hits out at polygamy write-up on govt website

February 22, 2021

PETALING JAYA: Pejuang’s Mukhriz Mahathir has criticised a government portal over its write-up on polygamy, saying it was among the reasons why Islam is misunderstood.

According to MyGovernment, which is a “single gateway to all government online services”, polygamy is required by Islam, among others, due to the husband’s “incredible sense of sexual desire” that the wife cannot fulfil.

“This is among the reasons why Islam is misunderstood,” the Jerlun MP and former Kedah menteri besar said in an Instagram post.

Mukhriz, the son of former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, also wondered where the list of caveats to be imposed on a man intending to practise polygamy was.

Another reason cited by the portal is because the wife is always sick and because she is unable to give birth due to health reasons.

Mukhriz is not the only one who took issue with the post, with some on Twitter also hitting out at MyGovernment for not listing down the other requirements for polygamy.

In 2019, a survey by women’s group Sisters In Islam (SIS) found that 70% of the respondents accept that a husband has the right to practise polygamy, but only if he can treat all the wives fairly.

However, only 32% of those surveyed would allow their husbands to take another wife.


Defend Malay-Muslim rule to stop DAP, Terengganu PPBM tells Umno

Faiz Zainudin

February 20, 2021

PETALING JAYA: To ensure that the Malay-Muslim leadership remains strong and DAP’s chances of returning to power are reduced, PPBM and PAS must do their best to avoid any clash with Umno in the next general election (GE15) in Terengganu, says a party leader.

However, Terengganu PPBM chief Razali Idris said they would be prepared in the event they are left with no choice but to face their allies in Perikatan Nasional (PN).

“As a political party, PPBM is prepared to fight if this cannot be avoided. But we will do our best not to clash in order to preserve the Malay-Islam leadership and to reduce the chances of DAP returning to power,” he told FMT.

He said seat allocation talks between PN and Barisan Nasional (BN) have been left to the national party leaders and the state will accept their decision.

Yesterday, Terengganu Umno chief Ahmad Said said his party will contest all the eight parliamentary and 32 state seats in GE15.

Commenting on this, Terengganu PAS Supporters Congress (DHPP) chief G Balachandran said his party was prepared to face Umno if necessary.

“Ideally, we do not want to go against Umno, but we are prepared for any possibility.

“Let the voters decide eventually,” said Balachandran, who is also special non-Muslim officer to Terengganu chief minister Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar.

He said Ahmad should have discussed the seat allocation with its allies first before making his statement.

“This is why it is important to collaborate. It must be sincere. But now, it seems as if there is a hidden agenda,” he said.

In the last general election, PAS won 22 of the 32 state seats and six out of the eight parliamentary seats.


Malaysia's PM Muhyiddin throws ultimatum at Umno on working together in PN

Joceline Tan

February 22, 2021

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Leaders of Umno have been rather secretive about what went on at their supreme council meeting in Janda Baik, a resort area at the bottom of Genting Highlands, last Friday (Feb 19).

Some of them claimed the meeting in Pahang was a normal one and the highlight of the evening was the musang king durians from an orchard nearby.

But it was one of the most significant meetings in months because of an "ultimatum" from Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin had asked Umno to decide whether the party wants to contest the general election as part of Perikatan Nasional (PN) and he wants an answer by March 1.

This was conveyed to Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi during the "meeting of three presidents" from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), Umno and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) last Monday.

The three parties are the leading factions in the ruling PN alliance of 12 parties that has governed Malaysia for 11 months.

That was the same meeting that resulted in PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang's blood pressure shooting up, and he had to be rushed to the Putrajaya Hospital later in the day.

Datuk Seri Hadi's health has become a matter of some national interest, and when the National Heart Institute (IJN) heard about it, it immediately asked for him to be transferred there because he is its patient.

Mr Hadi had gone all out during the meeting to press for the three Malay parties to reach an electoral understanding in the general election.

When Umno's Zahid explained that the majority of Umno divisions were against working with Bersatu which is led by PM Muhyiddin, Mr Hadi said Umno had said and done worse things to PAS and yet the two parties are able to cooperate.

Mr Hadi even brought up the Memali massacre, when PAS members gathered in the Kedah hamlet were killed by security forces controlled by the Umno government in 1985. The episode, he said, as an example of how Umno had mistreated PAS and recalled how he asked PAS supporters to support Umno in all the recent by-elections.

"My president is committed to the idea of straight fights in the election. He is adamant that the three Malay parties should not contest against each other," said Selangor PAS election direction Roslan Shahir.

"He has told us many times that if we work together, we can win a two-thirds majority in Parliament."

Hence, the Umno supreme council meeting in Janda Baik was basically to discuss the PM's ultimatum.

There was also an urgency of sorts, because Mr Muhyiddin is believed to have told the three presidents that he may call for a general election before Aug 1 - he may not wait for the state of emergency to end to dissolve Parliament.

He means to seek his own mandate at the earliest possible time, hence the pressure on Umno to come to the negotiating table.

Malaysia last held its general election in May 2018, with the next one not due until 2023, but PM Muhyiddin had indicated the polls would be held once the coronavirus pandemic is deemed as being over.

Umno understands the need for straight fights with opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan, and Umno vice-president Mahdzir Khalid has conveyed this to the PAS leadership.

The three parties will probably face the general election as PN Plus - PN members plus external allies - although it remains unclear how they will carve up the seats to contest.

While Umno leaders are keen to cooperate with PAS, the distrust of Bersatu runs deep.

In the meantime, supreme council member Sharkar Shamsudin said Umno will continue to support the PN government as well as the leadership of Mr Muhyiddin.

He said this arrangement will continue until Parliament is dissolved. "We will cross the bridge when we come to it, " said Datuk Seri Sharkar, as assemblyman from Pahang.

He said the party's earlier decision to use the logo of the Umno-led Barisan Nasional coalition in the coming general election has not changed.

At the Janda Baik meeting, Zahid also addressed the endless speculation over the appointment of a deputy prime minister from Umno.

The Muhyiddin Cabinet has him as the prime minister and four senior ministers, but no deputy prime minister.

Zahid said the matter did not arise because there has not been any official request from the Prime Minister for Umno to propose a name or names.

He told them the party could not simply go to the Prime Minister with a name if he has not asked for it.

"How can we decide on something that is still up in the sky?" said Mr Sharkar.

It was understood that some supreme council members aligned to Umno chieftain and Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein argued that appointing a deputy prime minister would strengthen the party.

But others did not see the point of Umno taking up that post if the general election is just around the corner.

The supreme council members agreed with their corporate tycoon colleague Johari Ghani that Umno is a big party and has to play a dominant role.

"Whether Umno is the government or the opposition, it has to be in charge. It cannot be somewhere in between," said Datuk Seri Johari.

A senior supreme council member also hinted that approaches are being made to Zahid - who is facing a string of graft charges - to persuade him not to contest the election.

However, if he insists on defending his Bagan Datuk (Perak) seat, then they see the need to persuade him to declare that he is not Umno's candidate for the premiership.

It is a terribly delicate situation but a group within the Umno leadership is aware that the party will not do well if their president is the candidate for the prime ministership.

The ball in Umno's court and tough decisions have to be made if the party intends to make a big comeback.



Arab World


Turkey probes pro-Kurdish MP over ‘northern Iraq visit’

21 February ,2021

Turkish prosecutors on Sunday launched a probe into a pro-Kurdish MP suspected of having travelled to a Kurdish-controlled region of Iraq where 13 Turkish hostages were killed in a failed rescue.

Lawmaker Dirayet Dilan Tasdemir “is under investigation for belonging to a terrorist organisation,” Ankara prosecutors said, hours after the interior minister accused her in a TV interview.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said that Tasdemir, who belongs to the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), had been in Gara in northern Iraq, where Turkish troops launched the rescue operation against the PKK group designated as “terrorists” by Ankara and its Western allies.

Turkey said last week that the PKK had executed 13 of its citizens who it had held prisoner, most of them belonging to the security forces.

The PKK acknowledged that a group of prisoners had died, but said they were killed in a bombardment rather than executed.

Their deaths have stepped up pressure on pro-Kurdish political groups in Turkey, especially the HDP.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses the party of being the “political shop window” of the PKK, and dozens of its office holders and party officials have been arrested since 2016.

“The HDP is the party of the terrorist organization. (Its elected officials) have no political personality. They are hostages of the PKK,” Soylu alleged Saturday.


Russia: Terrorists plotting chemical attack in Idlib to blame Syrian government

21 February 2021

The Russian Center for Reconciliation of Warring Parties in Syria says it has received information that Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham terrorists are planning a provocation with the use of toxic agents northeast of the de-escalation zone in Syria’s Idlib Province.

Rear Admiral Vyacheslav Sytnik, deputy chief of the Russian center, said on Saturday that the al-Qaeda-affiliated militants had already delivered truck containers with toxic agents, presumably chlorine, to the settlement of Tarmanin.

"According to our information, militants plan to simulate a chemical attack entailing casualties among local residents in order to accuse the Syrian government forces of the use of chemical weapons against civilians," he added.

Russia has repeatedly criticized the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for ignoring the information about toxic provocations in Syria, saying the body is biased against the Damascus government.

Recently, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya said the OPCW is being used as a political tool by the Western countries to put pressure on the states they deem as "undesirable".

Moscow and Damascus have on many occasions accused the White Helmets of staging gas attacks in a bid to falsely incriminate Syrian government forces and fabricate pretexts for military strikes by the US-led military coalition.

The group claims to be a humanitarian NGO but has long been accused of collaborating with anti-Damascus militants.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Sytnik reported 37 shelling attacks from terrorist positions in the Idlib de-escalation zone.

"The Russian reconciliation center calls on commanders of illegal armed groups to stop armed provocations and embark on a path of peaceful settlement of the situation on territories they control," he said.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. Damascus says the Western governments and their regional allies are aiding the Takfiri terrorist groups that are wreaking havoc in the Arab country.

Russia has been providing Syrian forces with crucial military assistance in the ongoing counter-terrorism battles.


US-backed SDF militants steal 140,000 barrels per day of Syrian oil in Hasakah: Report

21 February 2021

Militants of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is supported by the United States, steal 140,000 barrels of crude oil on a daily basis from oil fields in Syria’s northeastern province of Hasakah, a report says.

Ghassan Halim Khalil, governor of Hasakah, announced the grim news in an interview with the Lebanese al-Akhbar newspaper on Saturday, adding that Syrian oil is being plundered by the SDF militants in various ways, all with the participation and support of American forces deployed to the region.

He stressed that precise intelligence collected and received show that US-backed militants use tanker trucks from Taramish area in the vicinity of Tigris and in al-Malikiyah to smuggle the Syrian oil to neighboring Iraq.

Khalil further noted that many tanker trucks pass through the illegal al-Mahmoudiyah crossing into Iraq every day, adding that the SDF militants also regularly send mounts of stolen oil to their controlled areas in Syria.

The Syrian governor also revealed that the US forces have ordered the SDF militants not to allow the Damascus-controlled areas receive oil.

Khalil added that while the Syrian people are suffering from the cold weather and hunger, these US-supported militants plunder Syria's national oil resources.

The US looting of Syrian oil was first confirmed during a Senate hearing exchange between South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and then US secretary of state Mike Pompeo last July.

During his testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Pompeo confirmed for the first time that an American oil company would begin work in northeastern Syria, which is controlled by the SDF, which is an alliance of Kurdish militants operating against Damascus and currently controls areas in northern and eastern Syria.

The Syrian government at the time denounced in the strongest terms the agreement inked to plunder the country's natural resources, including Syrian oil and gas, under the sponsorship and support of the administration of former US president Donald Trump.

Since late October 2019, the US has been redeploying soldiers to the SDF-controlled oil fields in eastern Syria, in a reversal of Trump’s earlier order to withdraw all troops from the war-torn country.

The Pentagon claims that the move aims to “protect” the fields and facilities from possible attacks by the Daesh Takfiri terrorists, while Trump famously said that the US seeks economic interests in controlling the oil fields.

A US-led military coalition has been pounding what it claimed was positions of Daesh inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate. The strikes have on many occasions resulted in civilian casualties and failed to fulfill their declared aim of countering terrorism.


Syrian troops open humanitarian corridor for civilians trapped in terrorist-held areas in Idlib

21 February 2021

Syrian government forces have opened a new humanitarian corridor in the northwestern province of Idlib for the safe exit of civilians fleeing violence by foreign-backed terrorists.

In coordination with units of Syrian Arab Army and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), the provincial authorities managed to open Trunbeh corridor in Saraqib area in eastern Idlib, Syria’s official news agency SANA reported on Sunday, adding that the corridor will be used on Monday morning.

The new corridor will act as a safe passage for those civilians trapped in militant-held areas to exit and head to their towns and villages that have been liberated from the clutches of the terrorists, it added. 

According to Mohammad Natouf, governor of Idlib, a full medical staff equipped with a mobile clinic and an ambulance are ready to receive the incoming locals. Furthermore, the SARC has equipped its teams to provide aid to these civilians.

He added Idlib authorities also prepared a makeshift center for those civilians wishing to go to al-Sabeel neighborhood in Hama, the capital city of a neighboring province with the same name, asserting that all necessary facilities would be provided to guarantee their return to their homes in the villages liberated from the terrorists.

Mohammad Watti, head of SARC in Idlib and Hama, for his part, said three teams equipped to assess the situation of returning families at the corridor and address their humanitarian needs.

Furthermore, the teams will also secure their access to the makeshift center in Hama, he added.

Last year, the Syrian government troops in cooperation with Idlib authorities opened the corridor to receive students wishing to leave the region in a bid to take their exams for the basic and secondary education certificates, however, the terrorists prevented them from departure.

Parts of Idlib Hama provinces constitute the last major militant stronghold in Syria.





Iran-led resistance axis key to defeating US-Israeli project: Hezbollah

21 February 2021

Hezbollah has stressed that “participation in the Iran-led resistance axis” is the best means of defeating the trend of betrayal of the Palestinian cause, which has seen many regional states normalizing their relations with the Israeli regime.

The Lebanese resistance movement’s Deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Qassem made the remarks on Saturday, addressing a conference hosted by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip that focused on confronting the normalization trend.

“The solution is for everybody to participate in the resistance axis that the Islamic Republic is leading against the American-Zionist project,” he said, according to Lebanon’s al-Manar television network.

“Within the resistance axis, we should all try to acquire all the instruments of power and armament at their highest level,” the official noted.

Last year, the US began mediating détente between some regional countries and the Israeli regime.

The drive saw the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain formally normalizing their ties with Tel Aviv in September. Sudan and Morocco followed suit.

Sheikh Qassem said normalization with Israel equals the abandonment of Palestine, which constitutes the Muslim world’s “central” concern, and also serves as “the green light” to the occupying regime’s expansionist policies by legitimizing its “usurpation-based existence.”

The normalization bandwagon set off after the administration of former US president Donald Trump unveiled a hugely controversial plan that it alleged sought to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The scheme, dubbed “the deal of the century” by its proponents, however, provided Israel with some unprecedented concessions at the expense of Palestinians’ basic rights. Those included recognizing Israel’s claim to the occupied territory on which the regime has been building hundreds of settlements and also its claim over the holy occupied city of Jerusalem al-Quds as its so-called “capital.”

All Palestinian factions and their regional and international supporters strongly repudiated both the US scheme and the normalization spree, calling the trend “a stab in the back” of Palestinians and their cause of liberation from Israeli occupation and aggression.

Apparently referring to Palestinians’ success in rejecting the American plot, Sheikh Qassem said, “However, the Palestinian nation managed to defeat the ‘deal of the century’ from within Palestine [itself].”

This, he added, showed that the Arab nations were capable of playing an important role in confronting the campaign of rapprochement with Israel.

Sheikh Qassem maintained that frustration of the American plot had already foreshadowed the doom of the normalization trend.

“The countries that have entered the trend of normalization with the Zionist regime will not be reaping any outcome other than regret,” the official asserted.

The Israeli regime’s usurpation of Palestinian lands and its expansionism have given rise to regional groupings and movements that have collectively become known as the resistance front.

The Islamic Republic is a leading force within the resistance axis, throwing wholesale support behind the Palestinian cause and the groups that resist the Israeli regime and its patron states.


Hamas stresses resistance among best ways to stop Israeli normalization

21 February 2021

The Palestinian resistance movement, Hamas, has reiterated that resistance to Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories is one of the best ways to stop normalization of some Arab countries’ relations with Israel.

Head of political bureau of Hamas Ismail Haniyeh made the remarks in an address to a conference themed “United against Normalization,” which was held to show the Arab peoples’ popular rejection of normalization with the Israeli regime on Saturday evening.

Haniyeh highlighted three other ways to counter normalization of ties with Israel, in addition to comprehensive resistance against the Israeli occupation.

The second way, he said, is agreeing on a national political program that ignores the Oslo Accords, which were signed between the Israeli regime and the Palestine Liberation organization (PLO) during the early-mid 1990s to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to guarantee the Palestinians’ right of self-determination.

The top Hamas official further said restoring unity among Palestinian factions is the third way to tackle some Arab countries’ forging of ties with the Tel Aviv regime. 

Haniyeh noted that strengthening partnership with Arab and the Muslim Ummah, along with the free people of the world, is other necessary step to face normalization deals with Israel.

He also explained that what happened in the Arab countries in the aftermath of normalization with Israel highlighted the Arab and Islamic people’s common-sense understanding that they reject normalizing ties or any relations with the Israeli occupation.

“The track of normalization with the Israeli occupation has exposed the extent of Israeli penetration into Arab regimes; what makes this track dangerous is that it’s based on a scheme to remap the region and integrate the Israeli occupation,” Haniyeh said. 

On September 15, 2020, former US president Donald Trump hosted a White House ceremony, where Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed normalization agreements with Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani.

Trump later announced on October 23 at the White House that Sudan and Israel also agreed to normalize relations.

Also on December 10, Israel and Morocco normalized relations, making the North African country the fourth Arab state to strike such deal with Israel.

The normalization deals have drawn widespread condemnation from Palestinians, who seek an independent state in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital. They say the deals ignore their rights and do not serve the Palestinian cause.


Spokesman Dismisses Direct Talks with US on Prisoners Release


“The news of direct dialogue between Iran and the US is not true,” Khatibzadeh said in reaction to a claim by the US national security advisor about direct talks with Tehran over the release of American prisoners.

Yet, he stressed that the release of Iranian prisoners in the US, who are being kept in dire conditions, is a priority for Tehran.

“Some messages have been received from new US administration through its interests section in Iran (Swiss embassy) and some foreign ministers from other countries to pursue this issue,” the spokesman noted.

In relevant remarks in May 2020, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that exchange of prisoners between Tehran and Washington would not require any negotiations between the two sides as it could be done via the Swiss embassy which represents the US interests in Iran.

“There is no problem in exchange of prisoners and detainees between Iran and the US and we do not need negotiations and we will not hold any negotiations with the US at all,” former Rapporteur of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Seyed Hossein Naqavi Hosseini quoted Zarif as saying at a session at the legislature.

He said that the Iranian foreign minister had also underlined that the prisoner swap between Iran and the US can be carried out in coordination with the Swiss embassy.


FM: US Revival of N. Deal Undertakings Remains Iran's Precondition


“There is a path forward, with a logical sequence: #CommitActMeet as the offending side, US must take corrective measures,” Zarif wrote on his Twitter page on Sunday.

He added that Washington should abide by its JCPOA commitments if it wants Iran to reverse the course.

In relevant remarks late last week, Zarif said US President Joe Biden has merely rejected Donald Trump’s policy towards Iran in words, adding that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action will never encompass other issues beyond its content.

“US President Joe Biden has spurned predecessor Donald Trump’s Iran policy [only] in words,” Zarif said in an interview with Press TV, stressing that Tehran has roundly rejected the demands of the US and some of its regional allies to include Iran’s missile program and regional influence in the nuclear talks.

“Therefore, with Iran pressure does not work, and ‘maximum pressure,’ in their own words, has led to ‘maximum failure,’” he said.

The foreign minister noted that the Americans should come to their senses and realize that with Iran only respect works.

Zarif reiterated that Paragraph 36 of the JCPOA enables Iran to take reciprocal move against failure by other sides to implement their obligations.

“The Islamic Republic has not violated the agreement,” he stated, adding, “it has simply implemented the remedial steps that it entitled to in line with the deal.”

The senior diplomat referred to a parliamentary law that obliges the government to take the latest step in its retaliation, namely the planned suspension of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s inspections of the country’s nuclear program, saying, “the law holds the government responsible to halt voluntary implementation of the additional protocol.”

“It’s not just signing, it’s the impact,” Zarif said, noting how the US allies failed to implement even a single one of their obligations following Washington’s illegal and unilateral withdrawal from the agreement.

Iranian legislators in a statement on Sunday stressed the need for the government to stop the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol to the NPT, an MP said.

“Today, over 220 lawmakers prepared a statement in which they emphasized that the parliament’s bill (strategic measure to remove sanctions and support the Iranian nation’s interests) should be implemented on February 23 as agreed before,” Javad Nikbin told FNA.

He added that the statement stresses that the government is not entitled at all to delay implementation of the parliament’s law.

The statement was read by member of the parliament’s Presiding Board Seyed Mohsen Dehnavi.

“After the nuclear deal agreement in 2015, it was hoped that the Western parties, including the US and the three European countries of Germany, Britain and France, would treat the great nation of Iran honestly and fulfill their undertakings. Although the International Atomic Energy Agency has confirmed 15 times at different periods of time that Iran has fully complied with its undertakings, unfortunately we have seen that the enemies of the dear nation of Iran have not implemented any of their basic and important commitments,” it said.

The statement referred to Iran’s 5-year implementation of the nuclear deal undertakings even after the US withdrawal, and said the parliament decided to approve the important strategic action plan to lift sanctions after the other parties' disloyalty.

“We, the members of parliament, assure the dear people of Iran that we have not made any concessions in defending their rights at all, and we also declare to the enemies of the Iranian nation that, as the Supreme Leader has said, the practical and complete lifting of banking and oil sanctions are among the fundamental conditions of the Iranian nation for the US to return to the nuclear deal and without lifting the cruel sanctions that can be verified by the Iranian nation, Iran will not stop its proud and strong steps of industrial and nuclear progress,” it underlined.

Tehran prepares to stop the voluntary implementation of the additional protocol to the NPT after the US Biden administration refrained from removing the sanctions against Iran in compliance with the terms of UN Resolution 2231 and the nuclear deal.

Yet, Tehran has stressed that IAEA inspections would continue under the NPT similar to the era before the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as Iran is still a signatory to the treaty.

Earlier last week, Spokesman of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Behrouz Kamalvandi had said the visit to Tehran by the UN nuclear watchdog chief is aimed at discussing bilateral ties as well as implementation of the Iranian parliament's law to stop inspections beyond the safeguards agreements.

Kamalvandi said on Wednesday that Grossi will arrive in Tehran on Saturday evening and will hold meetings with the head and the other officials of the AEOI on Sunday.

He said that the visit is about the method to implement the contents of the February 15 letter of Iran to the Agency about the parliament's strategic law of sanctions removal, adding that it takes place at the request of the IAEA.

Kamalvandi said that the law of the parliament mandates that the government should stop inspections beyond the safeguards agreements by February 23.

He added that other issues to be addressed during the visit will be technical issues and cooperation between Tehran and the Agency.

Iran’s Permanent Envoy to the Vienna-based International Organizations Kazzem Qaribabadi announced that Grossi is due to travel to Tehran on Saturday for technical talks.

“The visit will be made at the request of the IAEA director-general and is aimed at technical talks with the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran on how to implement the provisions of Iran's February 15 letter to the IAEA and Article 6 of the Strategic Action Law approved by the Iranian Parliament and how to continue cooperation between the two sides within the framework of the new measures and developments,” Qaribabadi said on Wednesday.

Qaribabadi had said on Monday February 15 that Iran has informed the Grossi of suspension of the country’s voluntary actions under the JCPOA from February 23, 2021.

The measure is based on the Strategic Action Plan approved by Iran’s parliament and due to the lack of commitment of other JCPOA signatories to lift sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran, he added.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday that his government will stop the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol to the NPT as of February 21 in compliance with parliament law.

“The law that the parliament has passed on the nuclear issue will be implemented by the government,” Rouhani said, adding, “One of the paragraphs [of the law] reiterates that we should exit from the Additional Protocol as of February 23; and we will cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency on the basis of the Safeguards.”

He stressed that there is no place for weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, in Iran's defense doctrine as the firm view of the establishment.

"We will not look for nuclear weapons, but for the peaceful nuclear technology that is our right," Rouhani went on to say.

Also, on Tuesday, Iranian Government Spokesman Ali Rabiyee announced on Tuesday that the country will stop the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol to the NPT due to the US and other parties’ disloyalty to the nuclear deal.

“Based on the sixth paragraph of the parliament’s bill and given the fact that sanctions have not been removed so far, the government and the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) are required to suspend the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol which will decrease the supervisions and inspections beyond the IAEA’s safeguards agreements,” Rabiyee told reporters in a press conference.

He noted that the measure does not take time and can be carried out rapidly, but meantime, said Iran is still a member of the safeguards agreements, which means that a major part of the inspections which are not within the framework of the Additional Protocol will continue.

“Therefore, stopping the voluntary implementation of the protocol does not mean terminating cooperation with the Agency. This cooperation will continue and the Islamic Republic of Iran will definitely inform the Agency of all its moves in advance in a letter, as has been the case so far,” Rabiyee said.

“It is clear that this new measure is against Iran’s will and was adopted due to the US lagging in lifting sanctions and fulfilling its obligations under the UN Security Council Resolution 2231. We continue to consider the nuclear deal a creditable agreement and the best possible agreement, and we are ready to immediately reverse all steps taken under paragraph 36 of the nuclear deal to their original status as stated in the nuclear deal provided that the US and other parties to the agreement revive their undertakings,” he added.

Rabiyee expressed the hope that the US and three European members of the nuclear deal (France, Britain and Germany) would take the closing window of opportunity to keep diplomacy alive.

Last month, Iranian Envoy and Permanent Representative to the UN Majid Takht Ravanchi underlined that if Biden decides to return to the nuclear deal, Washington should comply with all its undertakings in exact accordance with the internationally-endorsed agreement.

“We make decision and take reciprocal action considering Biden's moves vis- a- vis the nuclear deal. We have repeatedly demanded the US to return to the nuclear deal and this return should be complete and without preconditions, that is to say, no issue related or unrelated to the nuclear deal should be put forward for discussion,” Takht Ravanchi said.

“It should only be clear that the US international undertakings cannot be half-fulfilled. If they claim to return to the nuclear deal, this return should be accompanied by the full implementation of their undertakings with no hesitation or controversy,” he added.

Takht Ravanchi stressed Iran’s clear position towards the nuclear deal, and said, “We live up to our undertakings.”

He referred to the parliament’s bill to take strategic measures to counter the US sanctions against Iran, and said, “There is a timetable in the parliament’s bill and we are moving in the same direction, so we (at the foreign ministry) are not entitled to specify the period for how long we will wait. In the first place, we make decisions based on national interests, and secondly, we should act on the basis of and within the framework of the parliamentary bill.”

His remarks came after Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi announced that the country is at present producing nearly half a kilo of uranium enriched to the 20% purity level, meantime, saying that Tehran’s steps to reduce nuclear deal undertakings after the West’s disloyalties can all be backtracked.

“Based on the latest news I have, they (the Iranian scientists at nuclear installations) are producing 20 grams (of 20% enriched uranium) every hour; meaning that practically, we are producing half a kilo every day,” Salehi said in an interview with the Persian-language website released last month.

“We produce and store this 20% (enriched uranium) and if they return to the nuclear deal, we will return to our undertakings too,” he added.

Asked about the recent bill approved by the parliament to adopt strategic measures to remove sanctions against Iran, Salehi said that the AEOI is required to implement it.

“It is a reality and both the government and the AEOI have declared that they do not have any technical problems with implementation of the parliament’s bill and we launched 20% enrichment within 24 hours,” he said.

Salehi also underlined the need for Washington to remove all sanctions against Iran, specially those which prevent the country’s oil sales and banking transactions.

Iranian legislators had in January praised the AEOI for restarting enrichment of uranium at 20-percent purity level, and called for the full implementation of the recent parliamentarian law to counter the illegal US sanctions against the country.

In a statement, 190 legislators expressed their support for the AEOI’s resumption of 20% uranium enrichment and urged the body to fully and precisely implement the law ratified as a counteractive move to the sanctions illegally imposed on the country, especially those by the United States.

The lawmakers said the parliament approved the ‘Strategic Counteractive Plan for Lifting Sanctions and Safeguarding Rights of Iranian People’ to highlight Iran’s legitimate right to use peaceful nuclear technology and the importance of lifting all cruel sanctions against the country.

The Iranian parliamentarians in a meeting on December 1, 2020 ratified the generalities of a bill to adopt strategic measures to remove sanctions against the country and defend the nation’s interests.

The lawmakers, in November, had given the green light to the single-urgency of the strategic motion, but the plan turned into a double-urgency on Sunday after the assassination of the Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh's car was targeted by an explosion and machinegun fire in Damavand's Absard 40 kilometers to the East of Tehran on Friday November 27, 2020.

Under the bill, the AEOI is required to start in two months after the approval of the present bill to produce at least 120 kg of 20%-enriched uranium annually at Fordow nuclear site and store it inside the country, increase the enrichment capacity and production of enriched uranium to at least 500 kg per month, start the installation of centrifuges, gas injection, enrichment, and storage of materials up to proper purity levels within 3 months, via at least 1000 IR-2m centrifuges in the underground part of Shahid Ahmadi Roshan facility in Natanz, transfer any enrichment, research, and development operations of IR-6 centrifuges to the nuclear site of Shahid Ali Mohammadi in Fordow, and start enrichment operation via at least 164 centrifuges and expand it to 1000 by the end of 20 March 2021 (end of the Iranian calendar year) and return the 40 megawatts Arak heavy water reactor to its pre-JCPOA condition by reviving the heart (calandria) of the reactor within 4 months from the date of the adoption of this law.

Also, the government is required to suspend the nuclear deal-based regulatory access under the Additional Protocol and beyond within 2 months after the adoption of the law based on the articles 36 and 37 of the nuclear deal.

Iran signed the JCPOA with six world states — namely the US, Germany, France, Britain, Russia, and China — in 2015.

Trump, a stern critic of the historic deal, unilaterally pulled Washington out of the JCPOA in May 2018, and unleashed the “toughest ever” sanctions against the Islamic Republic in defiance of global criticism in an attempt to strangle the Iranian oil trade, but to no avail since its "so-called maximum pressure policy" has failed to push Tehran to the negotiating table.

In response to the US’ unilateral move, Tehran has so far rowed back on its nuclear commitments four times in compliance with Articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA, but stressed that its retaliatory measures will be reversible as soon as Europe finds practical ways to shield the mutual trade from the US sanctions.

Tehran has particularly been disappointed with failure of the three European signatories to the JCPOA -- Britain, France and Germany -- to protect its business interests under the deal after the US' withdrawal.

On January 5, 2020, Iran took a final step in reducing its commitments, and said it would no longer observe any operational limitations on its nuclear industry, whether concerning the capacity and level of uranium enrichment, the volume of stockpiled uranium or research and development.

Meantime, Biden has recently said in a CNN article that he wants a renegotiation of the contents of the deal before he agrees to rejoin the agreement.

“I will offer Tehran a credible path back to diplomacy. If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations. With our allies, we will work to strengthen and extend the nuclear deal's provisions, while also addressing other issues of concern,” he wrote, mentioning that he wants changes to the contents of the nuclear deal and guarantees from Tehran that it would be open for compromise to strike multiple deals over its missile and regional powers as well as a number of other issues that have been the bones of contention between the two sides in the last four decades.

In response, Mohammad Javad Zarif had stressed that the US has violated the nuclear deal and is in no position to ask for any conditions for its return to the JCPOA, adding that it's Tehran that has its own terms to allow the US back into the internationally endorsed agreement.

The foreign minister has reiterated time and again that Tehran would not change even a single word of the agreement, and cautioned the US that it needs to pay reparations for the damage it has inflicted on Iran through its retreat from the nuclear agreement and give enough insurances that it would not go for initiating the trigger mechanism again before it could get back to the deal.

In relevant remarks earlier this month, Kamalvandi said his country enjoys the capability to produce 120 kg of uranium with 20% purity in 8 months, that's 4 months faster than the one-year period required by a recent parliament approval.'s-Precndiin


Iran says UN watchdog visit led to ‘significant achievement’

22 February ,2021

Iran’s foreign ministry said Monday a visit by the UN nuclear watchdog chief resulted in a “significant achievement,” a day before a law limiting inspections comes into force.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi’s meetings “resulted in a very significant diplomatic achievement and a very significant technical achievement”, foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters.


Activists fear jailed Iran protester Behnam Mahjoubi died after care neglected

22 February ,2021

Activists on Sunday expressed fear that an Iranian prisoner jailed over a 2018 protest by a religious sect, who died in custody, perished after authorities failed to care for his medical condition.

Behnam Mahjoubi, a member of the Sufi Gonabadi order and described as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, was imprisoned after taking part in a demonstration the group held in February 2018, and began serving a two-year sentence last June.

Supporters and rights groups have said that he suffered from a panic disorder and alleged he had been subjected to torture and deliberate denial of medical care while in custody.

Iran’s prisons’ organization said he died after being “poisoned” through the consumption of drugs. But when he was hospitalized earlier this month, campaigners had expressed alarm over what had led to the deterioration in his health.

“There are serious allegations of authorities neglecting Mahjoubi’s medical condition for a long time,” said Tara Sepehri Far, Iran researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“Those allegations should be investigated, including for any criminal liability,” she added.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights had said when he was hospitalized it was “gravely concerned by the lack of transparency” after he went into a coma on February 12.

Amnesty International had also previously said he “suffered months of torture including wilful denial of medical care.”

“The reported death of Behnam Mahjoubi is a tragedy that occurred following denial of proper medical care,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the New York-based Centre for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

He described this as “an inhuman state policy that is used to further intimidate and punish prisoners in Iran.”

Reports published by media outside Iran said that after suffering panic attacks, Mahjoubi had initially been taken to the clinic at Evin prison in Tehran where was given medication but then lost consciousness.

He was then transferred to Loghman hospital in the Iranian capital, where relatives were not allowed to visit him.

The prisons’ organization statement said that Mahjoubi’s cellmates claimed he had “willingly, and with no medical consultation, consumed several of his own and other prisoners’ drugs.”

Activists circulated a video that they said showed his mother, where she said she would “not give permission” for his body to be buried until a full autopsy is completed.

The February 2018 protest, sparked by anger over the treatment of the Sufi community, was one of the largest religion-focused demonstrations in Iran in recent years.

Five security personnel were killed and more than 300 people arrested.

Iran has faced growing criticism over its human rights record in recent months, at a time when there is intense diplomacy to revive the nuclear deal ditched by former US president Donald Trump.


Iran held ‘fruitful discussions’ with IAEA chief: Official

21 February ,2021

Iran held “fruitful discussions” with the visiting International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi on Sunday, Tehran’s ambassador to the UN body said.

“Iran and the IAEA held fruitful discussions based on mutual respect, the result of which will be released this evening,” Kazem Gharibabadi, who attended the meeting, wrote on Twitter.

Grossi arrived in Iran on Saturday, the eve of Tehran's deadline for US sanctions to be lifted before it partly suspends inspections by the agency to the country’s nuclear facilities.

“Grossi just arrived in Tehran and was received by the [Iran Atomic Energy Organization] deputy [Behrouz] Kamalvandi,” Iran’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency Kazem Gharibabadi said.

Iran has set Sunday as a deadline for US President Joe Biden to lift sanctions reimposed by former President Donald Trump, or it will halt snap IAEA inspections under the deal, which lifted sanctions in return for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program. Next week is also when the IAEA is expected to issue a quarterly report on Iran's nuclear activities.

Biden’s administration has announced its willingness to return to talks to revive the nuclear deal Former President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018.


UN nuclear chief meets Iranian officials as leaders plan to cut watchdog cameras

21 February ,2021

The head of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog met Sunday with Iranian officials in a bid to preserve his inspectors’ ability to monitor Tehran’s atomic program, even as authorities said they planned to cut off their surveillance cameras at those sites.

Rafael Grossi’s arrival in Tehran comes as Iran tries to pressure Europe and the new Biden administration into returning to the 2015 nuclear deal, which President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from in 2018.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who under President Hassan Rouhani helped reach the nuclear deal, said the cameras of the International Atomic Energy Agency would be shut off despite Grossi’s visit to follow a law passed by parliament.

“This is not a deadline for the world. This is not an ultimatum,” Zarif told the government-run, English-language broadcaster Press TV in an interview aired during Grossi’s visit. “This is an internal domestic issue between the parliament and the government.”

“We have a democracy. We are supposed to implement the laws of the country. And the parliament adopted legislation — whether we like it or not.”

Zarif’s comments marked the highest-level acknowledgement yet of what Iran planned to do when it stopped following the so-called “Additional Protocol,” a confidential agreement between Tehran and the IAEA reached as part of the nuclear deal. The IAEA has additional protocols with a number of countries it monitors.

Under the protocol with Iran, the IAEA “collects and analyzes hundreds of thousands of images captured daily by its sophisticated surveillance cameras,” the agency said in 2017. The agency also said then that it had placed “2,000 tamper-proof seals on nuclear material and equipment.”

In his interview, Zarif said authorities would be “required by law not to provide the tapes of those cameras.” It wasn’t immediately clear if that also meant the cameras would be turned off entirely as Zarif called that a “technical decision, that’s not a political decision.”

“The IAEA certainly will not get footage from those cameras,” Zarif said.

The Vienna-based IAEA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Zarif’s comments. The agency last week said the visit was aimed at finding “a mutually agreeable solution for the IAEA to continue essential verification activities in the country.”

Grossi met earlier Sunday with Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s civilian nuclear program.

Iran’s parliament in December approved a bill that would suspend part of UN inspections of its nuclear facilities if European signatories do not provide relief from oil and banking sanctions by Tuesday.


Houthi offensive in Yemen’s Marib is battle against US, its allies: Official

21 February ,2021

Tamara Abueish

The latest Houthi offensive in Yemen’s city of Marib is a battle against the United States and its allies, the group’s top military official Abdullah al-Sharifi told the militia’s al-Masirah TV.

“The fight now is not with our brothers, but it is between us and infidelity, America and its allies,” he said.

New clashes between Yemen’s internationally-recognized government and the Iran-backed group erupted earlier this month after weeks of relative calm in the region.

The group has also targeted Saudi Arabia several times in recent weeks, striking Abha International Airport, and attempting to hit civilian areas with missiles and drones.

Iran backs the Houthis in their war against the Yemeni government, supplying the group with weapons, such as drones and missiles, that are often used to target civilians.

The UN’s envoy to Yemen last week condemned the group’s offensive in Marib and called for negotiations.

“The conflict in Yemen has taken a sharp escalatory turn with [the Houthis’] most recent offensive in Marib governorate. I have condemned this many times since early last year when this offensive operation started, and I will repeat my call now: the attack on Marib must stop. It puts millions of civilians at risk,” Martin Griffiths told the UN Security Council on Thursday.


Court invalidates Balfour Declaration, holds UK responsible for Palestinian plight

22 February 2021

A Palestinian court has declared as invalid the Balfour Declaration, a document issued by the British government in 1917 that paved the way for the creation of Israel, as it violates the rules of international law.

The Court of First Instance in the city of Nablus in the occupied West Bank on Sunday also held Britain legally responsible for the consequences of the Balfour Declaration, demanding an apology to the Palestinians.

The Balfour Declaration came in the form of a letter from Britain’s then-foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour, addressed to Lionel Walter Rothschild, a figurehead of the British Jewish community. It was published on November 2, 1917.

The declaration was made during World War I (1914-1918), and included in the terms of the British Mandate for Palestine after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.

It is widely seen as the precursor to the 1948 Palestinian Nakba, when Zionist armed paramilitary groups, who were trained and created to fight side by side with the British in World War II, forcibly expelled more than 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland, captured huge swathes of the Arab land, and proclaimed existence of Israel.

The lawsuit was filed by Palestinian lawyers in October last year on behalf of the National Assembly of Independents, the International Foundation for the Follow-up of the Rights of the Palestinian People, and the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, against the British government.

“Britain and its foreign minister at the time, Arthur James Balfour, from whom the 'Balfour Declaration' was issued at the time, neither owned Palestine nor did they have the right to determine the fate of its people,” the court ruled Sunday.

Britain's acts violate “the rules of international law, local laws, international norms and the decisions of the United Nations League and the United Nations during the period of its occupation of the Palestinian territories throughout the period of the British Mandate, including its implementation of the Balfour Declaration,” it said.

The ruling said the declaration deprived “the Palestinian people of their legal, human and political rights, and prevented them from their right to self-determination on their Palestinian lands”.

The court's decision was welcomed by the Palestinians, with the head of the Supreme Islamic Authority, the preacher of the al-Aqsa Mosque, Ikrimah Sabri, saying it “came to expose the crimes of the occupation”.

The head of the National Assembly of Independents, Munib al-Masri, also described the ruling as “historic”, saying it was a fair trial.

He noted that the next step would be bringing the case to the British courts.

Deputy governor of Nablus Anan al-Atire said, “What we are witnessing in terms of legal battle confirms that our people will not forget the historical injustice, and we will not forgive those who put us under this colonial occupation.”

Palestinians, she said, “will only accept independence, an independent state with Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital, the return of refugees, and the expulsion of these colonists from our land.”

“We will continue the battle of struggle and resistance in all its forms.”





At least 35 Algerian pro-democracy activists released, say rights groups

21 February ,2021

Algerian authorities released at least 35 pro-democracy activists from jail in the past 24 hours under presidential pardons issued ahead of the second anniversary of a popular uprising, rights groups said.

The Hirak protest movement, which swept strongman Abdelaziz Bouteflika from power in 2019, marks its second anniversary on Monday, with calls on social media for demonstrations to mark the day.

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On Saturday, rights group the National Committee for the Liberation of Prisoners (CNLD) said at least 35 people had been released from jail in the past 24 hours.

The justice ministry had reported Friday the release of 33 detainees held over acts linked to “the use of social media networks,” adding that procedures were underway for others.

The CNLD estimates that around 70 people were in prison over their links with the Hirak or other peaceful opposition political activity.

Among those pardoned on Friday was prominent journalist Khalid Drareni, a correspondent for French-language TV5 Monde and press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

He was jailed for his coverage of the Hirak protests, and like many other detainees, accused of incitement.

“My fight (for freedom of the press) will continue,” Drareni told TV5 Monde after his release from the Kolea prison west of Algiers.

TV5 Monde hailed his release after 11 months in detention.

“He was detained and sentenced for doing his job as a journalist,” network head Yves Bigot said in a statement on Saturday.

RSF secretary general Christophe Deloire called the release a step “in the right direction” after “11 months of injustice.”

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune announced on Thursday dozens of pardons in a gesture of appeasement, as the Hirak movement – which had suspended its rallies in March last year amid coronavirus restrictions – gathers momentum again.

Tebboune said 55 to 60 Hirak members would benefit from the amnesty.

The United States and the European Union welcomed the releases and voiced support for freedom of expression in Algeria.

“We hope to see positive steps like these continue,” a State Department spokesperson said.

EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, described the pardons in a tweet as a “decision that recognizes the importance of freedom of expression and pluralism in the democratic process.”

On Thursday, Tebboune also announced early elections, calling for the dissolution of parliament and declaring a government reshuffle within 48 hours.

Legislative elections had been scheduled to be held in 2022, but Tebboune wants polls to take place before year’s end.


Bomb blast kills at least 2 in Somali capital

Mohammed Dhaysane



At least two people were killed in the Somali capital on Sunday and several others – including civilians – wounded when a bomb blast targeted a vehicle carrying a local government official.

The attack took place near Bal'ad, where a main security checkpoint into Mogadishu is located, Ahmed Dahir, a local police official, told Anadolu Agency over the phone.

In the attack, an improvised explosive device targeted the local government official, Dahir added.

"At least two people including a civilian were killed and several people including a civilian driving a moto rickshaw were wounded in the attack," he said.

Residents who spoke to Anadolu Agency over phone said they heard a huge explosion.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the bomb attack but Somali-based al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group, has been responsible for many deadly bombings in the Horn of Africa country.

Later, a roadside bomb targeted a vehicle carrying police officers in Tarabuka in Mogadishu's Hodan neighborhood.

Somali police spokesman Sadaq Adan Ali told Anadolu Agency over the phone that one police officer was wounded and the vehicle was slightly damaged.

Local media also reported that at least three people, including civilians, were wounded in the attack, the second bomb blast in Mogadishu in less than four hours.

Al-Shabaab also claimed on Sunday that it had attacked several bases of African Union peacekeeping forces in southern Somalia overnight.


Nigeria: Boko Haram releases video of seized aid worker

Olarewaju Kola  



An aid worker abducted by Boko Haram terrorists on a major highway in northeast Borno State pleaded Saturday on video for authorities to secure his release.

"As Salamu Alaykum [Peace be unto you]. My name is Idris Aloma. I am a worker with UNHCR [United Nations High Commission for Refugees]. I am pleading with the commission to liaise with the government for my freedom," he said in a video message released by terrorists.

Colleagues identified Aloma as the person kidnapped Jan. 3 by terrorists on the northeast Maiduguri-Damaturu highway, which is an epicenter for terror attacks.

Boko Haram has claimed responsivity for most terror attacks in the region for more than a decade and has abducted nearly one dozen aid workers in the area.


Algeria reshuffles cabinet on eve of Hirak protest movement anniversary

22 February ,2021

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune announced a highly anticipated, but ultimately limited, government reshuffle on Sunday, the eve of the second anniversary of a protest movement that is regaining momentum.

The reshuffle saw few major changes, according to a list published by the presidency.

Among those keeping their posts are under-fire Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad and Justice Minister Belkacem Zeghmati, seen as a symbol of Algeria’s judicial crackdown on protesters and opposition activists.

Those on the way out include industry minister Ferhat-Ait Ali, who had attracted criticism for his handling of a relaunch of the auto sector.

A handful of other ministries, including the energy, water, tourism and public works portfolios will also change hands in the limited reshuffle.

Tebboune Sunday also “signed a presidential decree dissolving the People’s National Assembly,” whose mandate is set to expire in 2022, state television reported.

A date for the early polls has yet to be set, but the vote should take place within three months, according to the constitution. The deadline can be extended once for another three months.

During an address to the nation Thursday, Tebboune had called for the dissolution and said he would reshuffle the government.

He also declared dozens of pardons for pro-democracy activists in a gesture of appeasement, as the Hirak protest movement, which swept former strongman Abdelaziz Bouteflika from power in 2019, gathers momentum again.

The movement’s weekly rallies had been suspended in March last year amid coronavirus restrictions.

Tebboune’s initiative comes ahead of the Hirak’s second anniversary on Monday, with calls on social media for demonstrations to mark the day.

At least 35 detainees have since been released, according to rights activists.


Libya’s interior minister escapes assassination attempt: Officials

21 February ,2021

The powerful interior minister of Libya’s unity government survived an assassination attempt Sunday on a highway near the capital Tripoli, an official from his inner circle told AFP.

Fathi Bashagha’s convoy “was fired on from an armored car while he was on the highway. His police escort returned fire. Two of the assailants were arrested and a third is in hospital,” the source said, adding that “the minister is fine.”

Bashagha, a heavyweight in Libyan politics, was returning from a routine visit to a new security unit overseen by his department, the same source said.

The 58-year-old has served as interior minister in the Government of National Accord since 2018 and has staked his reputation on battling corruption.

Libya has been riven by violence since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Two rival administrations, backed by an array of militias and foreign powers, have vied for control of the oil-rich country.

Bashagha had been seen as a favorite to lead a new interim government under UN-led peace efforts following an October ceasefire last year.

The post finally went to businessman Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, a 61-year-old engineer, who has called for reconstruction, democracy, and reunification in Libya.



North America


US communicating with Tehran over American prisoners in Iran: White House

21 February ,2021

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Sunday the United States had begun to communicate with Iran over the country’s detention of American citizens, calling the matter a “complete and utter outrage.”

Iran has arrested dozens of dual nationals, including several Americans, in recent years, mostly on espionage charges. Rights activists accuse the country of trying to use the detentions to win concessions from other countries, though Tehran dismisses the charge.

Sullivan told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” that it was a “significant priority” of President Joe Biden’s administration to get those Americans “safely back home.”

“We have begun to communicate with the Iranians on this issue,” Sullivan said when asked if the administration had started hostage negotiations with Iran.

“We will not accept a long term proposition where they continue to hold Americans in an unjust and unlawful manner,” he said, calling it a “humanitarian catastrophe.”

Sullivan added that Biden was “determined” to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and that diplomacy was the best way to do that.

The United States said last week it was ready to talk to Iran about both nations returning to a 2015 accord abandoned by the Trump administration that aimed to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons while lifting most international sanctions.

“Iran has not yet responded,” Sullivan said.

The two countries have been at odds over who should take the first step to revive the deal. Iran’s Foreign Ministry reiterated earlier on Sunday that the United States will not be able to rejoin the nuclear pact before it lifts sanctions. Washington says Tehran must first return to compliance.

Sullivan also told CBS that the United States will respond to the SolarWinds hack that hit several government agencies last year in “weeks, not months,” as the United States investigates the suspected Russian cyberattack.

He said the response will include a mix of tools seen and unseen, and it will not simply consist of sanctions.

“We will ensure that Russia understands where the United States draws the line on this kind of activity,” Sullivan said.


The Capitol rioters speak just like the Islamist terrorists I reported on

By Jim Sciutto

Feb. 19, 2021

In July 2005, while working as a foreign correspondent in London, I was alarmed to learn that two terrorists lived right down the street from me. The men had attempted to blow themselves up on the London transit system two weeks after the deadly “7/7” subway bombings that killed 52 commuters. Watching the failed suicide bombers being arrested at their apartment complex — stripped down to their underwear to ensure they weren’t wearing explosive vests — launched me on a reporting journey to answer a question: What had led these young men, living in Europe with Western freedom and opportunity, down the same path to terrorism I’d reported on so many times in the Middle East? In interviews with well-educated, often middle-class and seemingly moderate young men, I documented what was then the new and growing appeal in the West of Islamist violence built on false history and a deep, debilitating sense of victimhood.

Last month, I recognized many of the same forces driving my fellow Americans into extremism. I’m not equating the Jan. 6 rioters with those fighting to unite the world under a caliphate via a global campaign of terrorism. But domestic radicalism has deep parallels to jihadist terrorism: Both movements are driven by alienation from the political system and a resulting breakdown in social norms. For some groups and individuals, this breakdown leads to violence they see as justified to achieve political ends. Law enforcement officials are taking notice. The Department of Homeland Security now identifies American extremist violence, particularly among white-supremacist groups, as “the most persistent and lethal threat” on our shores. And, at least in recent years, violent acts by right-wing extremists have exceeded those of Islamist terrorists. Since 9/11, 114 people have been killed in attacks by right-wing terrorists in the United States vs. 107 by jihadist terrorists, according to data compiled by New America.

The similarities between domestic and Islamist terror groups are hard to avoid. Followers of both are drawn to a cause greater than themselves that gives them a shared identity and a mission to correct perceived wrongs, by whatever means necessary. At the core of this cause is a profound sense of victimization and humiliation. The terrorists I met from Afghanistan, Somalia, Saudi Arabia and West London all believed that their pride and purpose had been stolen from them — by, in their case, the United States and its allies — and so were drawn to a movement that promised to restore that pride and purpose, even by violence. Today’s American extremists think (because they’ve been told by the former president and other leaders) the system is rigged against them and is bent on dismantling everything they believe in.

For both groups, their sense of oppression is built on fantasy. I interviewed many Islamist terrorists with middle-class upbringings, steady jobs and graduate degrees. Among the rioters who assaulted the U.S. Capitol were doctors, business owners and real estate agents — more victors than victims of the system. “The militants often experience their humiliations vicariously — ‘our religion is supposedly under attack’ for the jihadis, ‘our race is purportedly under attack’ for the Proud Boys,” says Peter Bergen, who has written and reported on terrorism for more than 20 years. “It feeds into a sense of grievance that they then feel they need to act upon, even though it’s not like they themselves have suffered personally.”

Just as I had countless debates with Muslim extremists convinced that every event and institution (currency movements, the 2004 Iranian earthquake, the CIA, the United Nations) was diabolically conspiring against them, I now find myself having similar mind-numbing arguments with Americans about “deep state” plots, best exemplified by the “stolen” 2020 election and the Mueller investigation.

In both cases, adherents no longer believe that government or institutions will solve their problems. (Annual polling by Gallup shows that confidence in Congress, the presidency, the criminal justice system, newspaper and television news, banks, and big business is at or near historical lows.) So they feel compelled to take matters into their own hands, even by acts of violence. Invoking the spirit of the American Revolution, domestic extremists see themselves as performing their patriotic duty. Justice Department filings on several Capitol rioters noted their social media posts: “This is our 1776!” and “1776 has commenced.” When police searched the home of one of the rioters, they found not only weapons, but an American flag altered to add the slogan “Don’t Tread on Me” and signed by fellow members of the mob like a crude Declaration of Independence.

Similarly, during the “war on terror” in the Middle East, U.S. officials lamented the lack of public confidence in institutions and promised to fix them, in part to divert recruits away from extremism. Winning “hearts and minds,” they assured us, was as essential as winning gun battles. Who can claim that the U.S. political system is winning the hearts and minds of the American people today?

In July 2016, during a presidential campaign marked by Donald Trump’s already aggressive attacks on government, I asked then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper if he ever applied the intelligence community’s metrics for failed states to the United States. “If you apply those same measures against us, we are starting to exhibit some of them, too,” he told me. “We pride ourselves on the institutions that have evolved over hundreds of years, and I do worry about the ... fragility of those institutions. He described legal institutions, the rule of law, protection of citizens liberty, privacy as under assault.”

Five years later, Clapper tells me he sees those same trends worsening. “I wish it wasn’t true, but it is hard not to objectively observe those trends are continuing,” he said. “We have armed fanatic mobs attacking the seat of our democracy. This is what happens in unstable countries.”

The United States is not the Middle East, but Biden administration officials have told me they view the domestic terrorist threat with increasing alarm, particularly after the Capitol insurrection. Law enforcement officials worry that the Capitol assault was the beginning of a new phase of domestic terrorism, with extremists emboldened by the attack’s scale and impact. Yet, many GOP lawmakers are attempting to move on from Jan. 6, downplaying the threat the rioters posed to Congress or dismissing efforts to investigate the attack as detrimental to unity — a push that would be impossible to imagine in the wake of an Islamist terror attack on the homeland.

Trump was acquitted in the Senate, which his most hardcore supporters surely saw as a vindication of the riot, too. Trump himself was emboldened to interfere more, not less, in the political process after his first impeachment acquittal. It seems likely that America’s domestic terrorists will feel the same. “Hardcore extremists consider January 6 not a day of infamy but a day of victory,” says Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who was at the Capitol at the time. In that belief, they have one more thing in common with those failed terrorists from my old neighborhood in London: Violence, for the most extreme and most lost among us, is both a means and an end in itself.



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